Preservation Issues

Planning, Preservation and Community Participation Panel Discussion

-General Society of Mechanics & Tradesmen of the City of New York was founded in 1785 by the skilled craftsmen of the City.

-Founded in 1820, The General Society Library is the second oldest library in New York City.

-Majora Carter, Angel Ayon, Liz Krueger, George Janes, and Steve Levin.

-Liz Krueger, George Janes, Steve Levin, and Peg Breen.

April 6, 2017

The Conservancy held the second panel in a three-part series on “Planning, Preservation and Community Participation” at the Mechanics and Tradesmen’s Library. It was a lively discussion on How do we balance preservation and development? Do New Yorkers have enough say in planning and zoning? How can citizens help shape their community’s future? One answer was to get out and vote.

The recommendations came from a diverse panel that included State Senator Liz Krueger, Council Member Steve Levin, architect Angel Ayon, Bronx activist and real estate developer Majora Carter, and planning consultant George Janes.

Senator Krueger’s East Side District and Council Member Levin’s Brooklyn district face enormous development pressures.

“There are twelve buildings either built or in the ground in my district that will be taller than the Empire State Building,” Krueger said. “I really don’t think that selling out Manhattan and turning it into Singapore is a good plan for the City.”

Listen to the Entire Discussion

Click here to see more photos from the event

The panelists agreed that the City does not pay enough attention to community plans or concerns when proposing zoning or development plans. They also called for strengthening community boards so they could hire experts to assist them. And they emphasized that residents need to be active and vote to ensure that public officials do pay attention to community character and needs. The conversation will continue with our third panel scheduled for June 15. The aim is to come away with practical suggestions for ways residents can have a greater say in how the City and their neighborhoods evolve.

Highlights from the discussion – Panelists had some concrete proposals for residents to achieve a greater say in the City’s development.

1. Community Boards need greater resources to have, or hire, land use and zoning expertise.

2. People need to vote. It’s up to citizens to make community input an issue elected officials can’t ignore.

3. Every panelist agreed that the City needs to pay more attention to community concerns.

Councilmember Levin said that in his seven years on the Council “there was never a time when a major development in my district wasn’t in process.” “No one is ever satisfied with the current zoning,” he added. ”Every developer wants to build bigger than the zoning allows.”

“The Bronx has a chance to do development right,” Carter stated. “We don’t want Bronx residents to have to leave our neighborhoods to live in a better one.”

Carter gained a national reputation working to improve environmental and living conditions in the Bronx. She now focuses on development that will add local jobs and community improvements.

Ayon argued for greater protections of community character and more landmark districts in Harlem. “When planning is top down and the City says ‘we know what is good for you,’ people become disengaged.”

Janes said City Planning often only certified community plans it liked, “letting the gas out of real community planning “.

Janes held up East Harlem as a good example of community planning because the elected officials became engaged and supported it. “There’s a real passion for community planning,” he added.

Janes also said that community boards are often “outgunned” by real estate professionals and called for larger budgets to hire staff or consultants with the right expertise.

Listen to the AUDIO ONLY portion of the panel discussion below.

Planning, Preservation and Community Participation Panel Discussion – April 6 from New York Landmarks Conservancy on Vimeo.