Manhattan Borough President Stringer Looks to Initiate Land Use Policy and Community Board Reform

Since taking office in January 2006, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer has set land use policy and community board reform as priorities.

Stringer hired Anthony Borelli as his Director of Land Use, Planning and Development. Before joining the Borough President’s office, Borelli studied urban planning at Columbia University and worked with the university’s Urban Technical Assistance Project, which provides urban planning consultation to distressed communities. Borelli then served as District Manager of Community Board 4 for five years, where he dealt with the highly complex Hudson Yards and High Line/West Chelsea rezonings and large developments like the John Jay College expansion.

CityLand interviewed Borelli to discuss Borough President Stringer’s land use agenda.

ULURP Recommendations. Borelli commented that the Borough President’s ULURP recommendations will attempt to address Manhattan planning issues holistically, considering a proposal’s local impact as well as the borough-wide implications that could emerge from the project. Through its role in the ULURP review process, Stringer’s office will push for land use policy changes and rezoning initiatives.

In his first four months in office, the Borough President implemented this approach in his recommendations on special permit applications for parking garages. Borelli, testifying in opposition to a parking garage permit at 325 Fifth Avenue, requested that City Planning work with his office to set policy for parking below 110th Street. 3 CityLand 26 (March 15, 2006). Borelli explained to CityLand that the Borough President would like to see more statistics, such as the number of existing spaces and the number of drivers, to address parking garage applications more comprehensively. In response, City Planning Director Amanda Burden has directed Planning staff to provide the Borough President’s office with data, including the current number of accessory and public parking garages in Manhattan. With this data, Borelli intends to develop guidelines for evaluating future Manhattan parking garage applications.

Borelli mentioned affordable housing as an additional target. According to Borelli, Stringer will advocate application of the inclusionary housing templates created for the Hudson Yards rezoning in other areas of Manhattan to create incentives for the increased development of affordable housing. Stringer plans to use his role in the ULURP process to obtain the Planning Commission’s cooperation in addressing affordable housing.

Community Board Reform. Upon taking office, Stringer, a former community board appointee, formed an independent committee made up of various government watchdog groups, such as the Regional Plan Association and NYPIRG, to oversee board appointments and revamp recruitment efforts. Stringer, in reforming Manhattan’s community boards, seeks to increase participation and depoliticize the process. Stringer’s staff presented to local churches and clubs to educate them about community boards and the land use process. So far, over 120 new members have been appointed to Manhattan’s community boards, filling all vacancies.

Community Board Resources. Stringer’s office plans to be a resource for community boards, providing training sessions and planning assistance. Borelli is developing a fellowship program that will match Manhattan Community Boards with an urban planning student who will assist in planning issues for the district, specifically in drafting 197-a plans. Borelli said that the program would provide much needed planning expertise to the boards.

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