Tuesday, August 03, 2010

From Bad to Worse

According to the NY Observer, EDC is looking for a consultant to examine the possibility of, "streamlining," the ULURP process-a situation that will make an already bad, and flawed to the bone, system that much worse: "The real estate development world, which is full of complaints about government, rarely throws around the term "efficient" when speaking of the Department of City Planning. One of the biggest complaints is that most every developer embarking on a big project must go through what can be a months-long "pre-certification" process (though it can even be measured in years sometimes) of putting together an application with DCP, adding costs and uncertainty."

Oh yes, that long and arduous pre-certification phase that, at least in regards to Flushing Commons, actually took weeks! But seriously, as we have already commented, it is precisely the pre-certification phase that needs more time-but especially more sunlight so that communities can be apprised of exactly what is being planned for them. For these communities, and the small businesses in them, "more efficient," means a faster steamroller for the edifice complexes over at EDC.

As the Observer points out: "Now, the Bloomberg administration is looking for a consultant to streamline bureaucracy at DCP, part of a broader effort to cut down the cost and time that it takes to get things built in New York. Earlier this month, the city's Economic Development Corporation put out a request for proposals, seeking a consultant to recommend ways to become better, stronger, faster, etc., especially on the subject of pre-certification. From the RFP: [T]he Consultant shall recommend a series of initiatives and optimal strategies for DCP that will improve its management of key business processes, in particular the land use review process and environmental review process and reduce costs (both real and perceived) for applicants."

You'll notice that there is nothing here about making the process more transparent for those who will have to live with the impacts of any particular project-as we have seen, collateral damage is not even in the EDC lexicon. And the Bloombergistas want to change things so that the deck is further stacked in its own favor: "This speaks to the Bloomberg administration's desire to cut the red tape under its own power, and not, notably, by changing the City Charter. On that subject, which is currently up for review by the Charter Revision Commission, the Bloomberg administration has shown no desire to engage in major changes to the land use process."

Of course it hasn't, because such changes may increase transparency-something that might impinge on EDC's steamroller status. Isn't the deck stacked enough in the administration's favor? And if we were the council-an interesting but frightening thought-we would pay close attention to this particular Bloomberg maneuver because it smacks of an attempt to diminish the ability of that body to do its proper oversight role.

We'll give the Observer the last word on this latest Bloomberg sleight-of-hand: "In sum, this essentially means that if the city does indeed cut red tape to speed development, it will come from finding efficiencies within DCP—not from changing the public debate-heavy ULURP."