Legislation is accompanied by the Council’s new “Planning Together” report on failures of City’s long-term planning process 

New York, NY – New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson today issued the Planning Together report, which details the failures of the City’s long-term planning processes and explores trends and national best practices for long-term planning. The report also proposes a new comprehensive planning framework for New York City, which is the basis for accompanying legislation that will be sponsored by Speaker Corey Johnson. The report can be found on the Council’s website.

The legislation will be introduced at the Council’s Stated meeting on Thursday, Dec. 17.

This planning framework is designed specifically to help correct neighborhood disparities and decades of disinvestment in communities of color and support equitable growth to create a more resilient and inclusive City. The new legislation would amend the Charter to create a new ten-year comprehensive planning cycle for New York City consistent with the recommendations of the report.

The legislation requires the city to streamline its planning mandates into a single process. The City’s strategic planning, budget, and land use planning process is now currently spread out over a dozen documents, reports, and plans already required by local law.

The legislation will also require the City to connect its policy and land use planning to the City’s budget priorities.

As documented in the report, the City’s affordable housing and homelessness crisis, neglected aging infrastructure, and vulnerabilities to the impacts of climate change are all worsened by the failures of the City’s current long-term planning processes.

This comprehensive planning legislation can help us address these challenges.

Comprehensive planning is a world-recognized planning process in which a city or a region holistically examines its existing conditions, identifies challenges, opportunities, and goals, and proposes policies to achieve them.  New York City is the only major American city that does not engage in some form of comprehensive planning.

“Our planning process is completely broken. As we seek to recover and rebuild in the wake of COVID-19, our increasingly contentious and unproductive planning regime will continue to undermine our ability to equitably respond to the challenges we face. We must adapt and grow It’s time for a new approach. Comprehensive Planning will bring a cyclical and fully integrated framework for us to work with that balances citywide and community needs to take on our challenges together. This is how we get things done,” said Speaker Corey Johnson.

The report identifies seven key issues with the City’s current planning processes:

  • The City’s planning mandates are insufficient and scattered across over a dozen siloed plans and reports, raising issues of public transparency and accountability.
  • A lack of coordination across City agencies creates inefficiencies in how the City operates and limits multi-disciplinary policy making.
  • A lack of proactive planning for our neighborhoods has forced communities into reactionary and defensive positions, contributing to a contentious land use review process that fails to sufficiently invest in communities suffering from decades of disinvestment or support the equitable growth we need in order to solve our City’s housing crisis.
  • The City’s piecemeal approach to planning responds best to the neighborhoods with resources to agitate for change, which has resulted in an uneven, unequal, and unfair distribution of zoning policy–and the deprioritization of the needs of low-income people, immigrants, and people of color.
  • The City’s long-term budget planning bears very little meaningful relationship to the City’s policy or land use planning, undermining our City’s ability to achieve citywide goals of sustainability and equity. 
  • The long-term planning that the City does complete with respect to capital infrastructure is unrealistic and does not align with the City’s demonstrated ability to execute capital projects, making it difficult to accurately track performance or effectively prioritize the City’s short- and long-term spending.
  • Budget decisions remain divorced from assessments of capital needs, which are incomplete and insufficient.

To address these issues, the report proposes a ten-year comprehensive planning framework, which is the basis for the legislation.   

Specifically, the ten-year comprehensive planning framework, which will be mandated by legislation, will: 

  • Center racial and economic justice within a full range of budget, land use, and policy tools;
  • Meaningfully connect the City’s budget, land use, and strategic planning processes;
  • Streamline and increase the utility of more than a dozen planning and budget related documents, reports, and plans already required by the City Charter;
  • Require the City to regularly review and report on the current conditions of the City, including an assessment of short- and long-term risks, economic and racial disparities, the impacts of recent development and investment decisions, and a thorough assessment of current infrastructure needs;
  • Integrate citywide and community-based planning, through requirements for on-going robust public engagement and the creation of new representative decision-making bodies;
  • Set measurable citywide and district-level targets for housing, jobs, open space, resiliency infrastructure, schools, transportation, and other infrastructure;
  • Develop a proactive land use plan for all of New York City’s neighborhoods in partnership with communities, prioritizing any projected growth in areas with high access to opportunity and low risk of displacement; 
  • Identify and prioritize communities’ urgent budget needs, regardless of whether or not those neighborhoods will be rezoned;
  • Require the City to regularly review and update zoning policy in response to the successes, failures, and unintended consequences of the City’s rezoning decisions;
  • Require the City to produce a Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) to evaluate the impacts of the Long-Term Plan and incentivize development that is consistent with the plan by reducing developers’ projects costs; 
  • Incentivize rezonings, development, and infrastructure spending that align with the City’s Long-Term Plan;
  • Increase and improve coordination across City agencies to create efficiencies in government to achieve citywide goals; and
  • Implement strong reporting and oversight measures to hold every Mayor accountable to the Long-Term Plan’s commitments and priorities.

Adoption by the City Council of the Long-Term Plan will ensure that it represents a vision for New York City shared across mayoral agencies, elected officials, and the New Yorkers that they represent that sufficiently addresses citywide needs.  agencies, elected officials, and the New Yorkers that they represent that sufficiently addresses citywide needs.

An accompanying requirement that the Council only review and vote on individual land use applications that are inconsistent with the comprehensive plan—consistent applications would only be subject to a vote if the Council voluntarily “calls up” the application—will help streamline development that builds on this robust process.

“This planning proposal set forth by Speaker Corey Johnson today is a bold step towards creating meaningful change to address the issues plaguing our land use and capital planning processes. Our current system disproportionately deprioritizes the needs of marginalized communities while prioritizing the needs of neighborhoods with greater access. With the completion of a new physical needs assessment for our infrastructure, we will prioritize our capital dollars in the neighborhoods that need it most while creating new jobs for the economy. New Yorkers deserve fairness, accountability, transparency, and elected officials, city agencies, and other pertinent stakeholders working together to address the disinvestment in communities of color. I want to thank Speaker Corey Johnson for this plan and his commitment to a more equitable process that will benefit all New Yorkers,” said Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson, Chair, Subcommittee on Capital Budget.

“It’s no secret that New York City’s planning framework is outdated and in need of significant overhaul. At a time when local and national conversations are providing governments with a mandate to reform our policies, Speaker Johnson’s Planning Together report and corresponding legislation takes up that call to action. Using the platform of the Committee on Land Use, I look forward to partnering with Speaker Johnson to streamline our city’s most antiquated planning, zoning and housing frameworks,” said Council Member Rafael Salamanca, Chair, Committee on Land Use.

“NYC is grappling with many challenges today and in the years to come, and it’s important we look at issues like building resiliency and adapting to climate change from a citywide perspective. This work will not be easy but I want to thank the Speaker for highlighting the need to plan for the pressing issues of our time in a more holistic way,” said Council Member Francisco Moya, Chair of the Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises.

“The most effective way to improve our City’s future is to plan and coordinate proactively. Whether it is increasing and improving coordination in all our City agencies or streamlining long-term planning processes for better efficiency, creating a new ten-year comprehensive planning will be crucial to making New York City the best city it can possibly be over for every resident over the next decade. Thank you Speaker Corey Johnson for prioritizing long-term planning and focusing on real oversight and accurate reporting,” said Council Member Ben Kallos.

“New York City’s piecemeal and reactive approach to planning has left us with a deeply unequal city that is woefully unprepared to address the challenges of rising temperatures and sea levels, public health crises, aging infrastructure, and rampant unaffordability. At this critical juncture in our city’s history, developing a comprehensive planning framework together can help us set course for a just and durable recovery. By looking at the data with experts and talking to each other as neighbors, we can address the discriminatory disinvestment of the past and prepare for the climate crises that we know are on the horizon. By balancing the needs of our communities and of the city as a whole, we can secure a more vibrant, equitable, and sustainable city to share with generations to come,” said Council Member Brad Lander.

“It is time to stop repeating the old ways of doing things, especially our zoning process. With this bill and long term plan, built on best practices, the city planning process will have vision and purpose. Land use and zoning decisions will be connected to the city’s budget priorities and long term housing and affordable housing goals, centering equity and racial and economic justice. Development and land use will be planned with the needs of communities and the whole city in mind. This is a new way forward and it is long overdue,” said Council Member Stephen T. Levin.

“For decades, New York City’s haphazard, piecemeal approach to development has left a trail of economic inequality and racially disparate impacts in its wake. I have long advocated for the City of New York to take a comprehensive approach to planning, one that examines the holistic needs of a community, including open space, transportation, housing, healthcare, and resiliency measures. I applaud Speaker Johnson for taking legislative action to implement a comprehensive planning process that partners with communities citywide to truly assess and deliver on their unique needs. As a city grappling with extreme challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we must begin to rebuild, but we cannot move forward until we establish a process that is equitable and addresses past injustices toward marginalized communities. I am incredibly excited to work with communities and my colleagues on passing this legislation and building a New York City that works for all of us,” said Council Member Antonio Reynoso.

“I’m proud to join leaders in affordable housing and planning, like ANHD and the Pratt Center, in introducing this legislation with Speaker Johnson for a new comprehensive planning system in New York City. It’s clear that New York City’s planning system has failed to generate the numbers of affordable housing units and community resources that our City needs, and this legislation would fix that while providing an opportunity for the community to proactively engage in the long-term vision for their own neighborhoods,” said Council Member Carlina Rivera.

“ANHD and our members have fought for years to promote equitable access to thriving neighborhoods for all New Yorkers, and we have seen over and over that the status quo approach to planning and land use in New York City serves to perpetuate and reinforce racial and economic inequality. We believe equity-centered comprehensive planning is a key part of the solution, and we applaud Speaker Johnson for helping to advance that goal with this report and legislation,” said Emily Goldstein, Director of Organizing and Advocacy, ANHD.

“The decades-long trend of widening racial and economic inequality, now overlaid with the stark challenges of public health crises and climate change, will not be addressed by the piecemeal status quo patchwork of the current planning system. To overcome the “tale of two cities” we must plan for one – with racial and economic justice goals that are explicit, investments toward equitable outcomes that are funded, and progress that is measurable.  This proposal for a comprehensive planning process represents leadership that is forward-thinking, sensible, and grounded in what communities – especially communities of color – have been saying about the city we need. We look forward to working with Speaker Johnson, the City Council, the Administration, and community-based partners citywide to realize this vision,” said Elena Conte, Deputy Director, Pratt Center for Community Development.

“We applaud Speaker Johnson for proposing a path towards coordinated planning that leads with equity. Comprehensive planning holds the promise to embody a balanced approach to the allocation of limited resources and address unique neighborhood challenges as a means to manage growth, increase access to opportunity, and expand housing choice. We need a planning process that can outline the needs of our changing city, while also responding to communities. Together, we must confront enduring, systemic inequality and meaningfully prepare for pressing challenges like climate change, economic instability, and racial justice,” said Elizabeth Goldstein, President, Municipal Art Society of New York

“Comprehensive planning – done by many big cities across the country – would be a proactive way to develop our City. Done right, it could create an equitable framework – one that aligns citywide and community values to establish shared targets, ensuring prudent planning for existing and new communities,” said Tom Wright, President & CEO, Regional Plan Association.

“For far too long, our city has treated planning as an afterthought.  We have been told that New York City is too large, too complex, and too dynamic to have any sort of comprehensive planning framework.  The results of that mindset are painfully evident in the challenges we currently face: segregation and racial inequality, inadequate infrastructure, disinvested neighborhoods, and a crisis of affordable housing and homelessness that seems insurmountable.  Ascendant Neighborhood Development has spent over three decades tackling these challenges in Northern Manhattan.  We wholeheartedly endorse the City Council’s Planning Together report and its recommendations to help us build a strong, equitable, and resilient New York City,” said Christopher Cirillo, Executive Director, Ascendant Neighborhood Development Corporation.

“New York’s piecemeal planning has shortchanged transit riders and everyone else who depends on our common infrastructure for too long. In this bill, Speaker Johnson and his team build on the holistic vision of last year’s Streets Master Plan law to tackle enduring racial and economic inequity across city government and build a fairer New York,” saidRiders Alliance Policy and Communications Director Danny Pearlstein.

“New York City’s piecemeal approach to planning and development has predictably yielded a segregated and unequal landscape.  Ours is the only major city in the nation without a comprehensive planning process. We commend the City Council for taking up this long-overdue and critical task, and we look forward to working with the Council in the month ahead,” said David Tipson, Executive director of New York Appleseed.