Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Reform ULURP

The Gateway Mall application is also a case study in the need to reform the entire ULURP process. After all, isn't this supposed to be an environmental review? If so, than how do we account for the fact that the council never once bothered to even glance at the EIS. In fact, there is no one on the council staff who is qualified to review the traffic and air quality data that is supposed to the foundation of the ULULP review.

All of this was underscored in the 2 1/2 hearing that was held by the council's Zoning and Franchises subcommittee. The developer wasn't asked a single question about the mall's potential to generate traffic congestion in an area of the city that has been labeled "asthma alley."

Making a bad situation worse was the short shrift given to the Alliance's traffic expert, Brian Ketcham. Brian, who has described the developer's analysis as the worst he's seen in 30years, was allowed to make a three minute presentation and wasn't asked a single question. Ketcham's evaluation has been echoed by the non-partisan Tri-State Transportation Campaign.

Given this less than honest evaluation of the data that is supposed to be essential for any fair and comprehensive environmental review it is beyond funny to read in today's NY Daily News that the Gateway application "meets all the technical land use criteria required for Council approval." This is much like the joke about the guy who said that the thermos was the greatest invention of all time. When asked , "Why?" he said , "Because when you put something hot in it it stays hot, and when you put something cold in it it stays cold." (The punch line of course is, "How does it know?").

Let's end this hypocrisy once and for all. The ULURP process is a response to the impact of the environmental movement of the 1970's. It led to the passage of the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR). All land use review procedures flow from this. Are they anachronistic? Or do we need to make this review adhere more closely to the non-partisan evaluation that SEQR's founders undoubtedly intended it to be?

What is clear, however, is that the current ULURP process has been rendered a politicized, partisan joke by the Gateway example. To keep it as it is would be a disgrace, and not in the larger public interest.