Three nominees for the New York City Planning Commission (CPC) were grilled yesterday at a city council committee hearing and expressed divergent views on everything from housing to zoning to discriminatory practices.
The nominees included two Mayor Eric Adams nominees – David Gold and Rasmia Kirmani-Frye, and one Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso nominee – Juan Osorio.
The City Planning Commission is a 13-member appointed body that wields far-reaching influence over the city’s new construction and land-use related projects. Seven commissioners are mayoral appointments, including the chair. The five borough presidents and the city’s Public Advocate are each allotted one appointment.
Along with the city council, the commission issues a binding vote on proposed projects. In effect, all new housing must be approved by the CPC.
City Council Minority Leader Joseph Borelli (R-Staten Island) captured the divergent views on how to tackle housing when he asked each nominee how in areas of low density where there is an effort to rezone for higher density, if the rezoning should come first or if the infrastructure required to handle populations should should come first?
Osorio, a professor at Pratt’s Center for Planning and PhD candidate at MIT, deflected in saying that building infrastructure improvements is first “a matter of principle.”
“We have to take into account histories of disinvestment, segregation, and other forms of discriminatory planning practices that have left several communities in New York City behind,” said Osorio.
Neither of Adams’ appointments stated conclusively one way or the other and expressed support for a case-by-case approach.
“Rezoning has taken a really long time. Are there aspects of rezoning that can happen in tandem? It’s less sequential and linear,” said Kirmani-Frye, a former director at NYCHA’s office of public/private partnerships.
The mayor’s nominees are expected to share his administration’s development-forward mindset, most recently encapsulated in his “City of Yes” plan, that wants to change certain zoning regulations in the hopes to make building new housing easier.
The nominees all said they will seek and respect the input and recommendations from the local community.
“I think about it as community first and should have the loudest voice and the [local] council member that they put forward also really has that on-the-ground knowledge to help bring it home,” said Gold, an attorney, former Wall Street analyst, licensed real estate broker and partner at consulting firm, AdvisIRy Partners Group.
The city council member who represents where the project would be located is traditionally afforded deference where the council will vote in accordance with that member’s determination.
However, this norm of council member deference is something Mayor Adams and CPC Chair Dan Garodnick are willing to challenge in order to achieve their overarching goals to encourage economic growth and attract business.
Adams also nominated Christine Yoon to the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) and the City Council presented Nicole Yearwood and Ngozi Okaro as their candidates to the Equal Employment Practices Commission. All were also questioned before the Committee on Rules, Privileges and Elections.
All the nominees are expected to move forward.