Thriving Communities Coalition Launches Campaign Platform Tying City Land Use Decisions to Equity Planning Precepts

The Thriving Communities Coalition launches a new platform of demands to transform New York City's approach to land use and planning from one that reinforces systemic racism and inequality to one that helps create a fairer future for all.

For Immediate Release: October 30, 2020
Contact: Emily Goldstein, emily.g@anhd.org

 

#PlanforEquity - Broad 'Thriving Communities Coalition' Launches Campaign Platform Tying City Land Use Decisions to Equity Planning Precepts

After years of contentious development battles leaving nearly everyone dissatisfied with how New York City evolves, a growing coalition of community and advocacy groups kicked off a campaign to center equity in the land use planning process.

New York, NY -- On Wednesday evening, before a virtual audience of several dozen community leaders engaged in neighborhood activism across the city, the Thriving Communities Coalition launched a new platform of demands to transform New York City's approach to land use and planning from one that reinforces systemic racism and inequality to one that helps create a fairer future for all.   

“We cannot afford to continue the status quo approach to planning, which consistently reinforces a geography of ever-deepening racial and economic inequality. We believe the Thriving Communities Coalition platform will advance the systemic changes to New York’s land use and budgeting processes that are needed to build an equitable future for our City,” said Emily Goldstein, Director of Organizing & Advocacy, Association of Neighborhood and Housing Development.

Goldstein co-hosted the launch with Spencer Williams, Director of Advocacy at the Municipal Art Society. The two opened the event with an indictment of the local planning status quo, in which inequality continues to deepen in the nation's fourth most segregated city. Noting that COVID disparities had only sharpened the impact of prior inequitable planning, speakers called for a decisive shift away from the de Blasio's administration's focus on rezoning low-income communities of color with high displacement risk.

“New York City is one of the most segregated cities in the nation, and ad hoc, head-in-the-sand decision-making around land-use and zoning is one of the main reasons it stays that way.  We are proud to stand with the members of the Thriving Communities Coalition to advocate for intentional planning that will address our city’s history of racist land-use planning and segregation and that will balance citywide and local needs in a fair and transparent way,” said David Tipson, Executive Director, New York Appleseed.

Member of the coalition articulated a set of six principal demands:

  • Capital Investment & Budget Equity

  • City Environmental Quality Review (CEQR) reform  

  • Comprehensive Planning

  • Equitable Access to Community Planning

  • Inclusive, Equitable Climate Resiliency Planning

  • Shift power to NYCHA residents in local planning and land use decisions that impact them

“New Yorkers need land use equity, and our communities deserve a genuine, influential role in land use planning," said Paul Epstein, Co-chair, Inwood Legal Action.
"New Yorkers need an equitable voice in the decisions that affect our ability to thrive and access our city," said Riders Alliance Policy & Communications Director Danny Pearlstein. "That starts with recognizing the disparate influence that individuals and communities now have in planning and politics. Only once we recognize existing inequity can we plan for authentic participatory decision-making processes and outcomes. As we rebuild from COVID, we must center equity as we determine how to make the most and best of our public space and basic infrastructure."

Grassroots leaders who spoke at Wednesday evening’s event spoke directly to their experience with local rezoning battles. Highlighting impacts such as increasing speculation and lack of truly affordable housing, and frustration with City agency opposition to community plans, they called for the need to organize for changes at the neighborhood and in citywide coalitions.

"In order to give communities a seat at the table in the planning process, we need to overhaul how we plan, what questions we ask along the way, who we include in crafting a community vision, and how we prioritize the benefits of land-use decisions" said Spencer Williams, Director of Advocacy, Municipal Art Society of New York.

"This pandemic has only further revealed what our partners have experienced in neighborhoods throughout New York City: communities of color are disproportionately negatively impacted by land use and planning decisions, resulting in increased poverty, displacement, and poor health outcomes. We are proud to be part of Thriving Communities Coalition, strengthening efforts to ensure that planning is firmly rooted in anti-racist and equitable action, by shifting power to communities of color to chart their own futures,” said Tara Duvivier, Senior Planner, Pratt Center for Community Development.

“New York City continues to grapple with critical land-use challenges that intersect with climate change, infrastructure, economic development, transportation, and housing, while the COVID-19 pandemic has placed more burdens on New Yorkers already facing disparate impacts. We need to find a way to align community needs and values with citywide and regionwide priorities if we’re going to address the inequities that too many communities continue to grapple with. Regional Plan Association is proud to work with members of the Thriving Communities Coalition in advocating for a more comprehensive, equitable land-use framework to undo historical injustices and help rebuild trust and accountability in the planning process,” said Maulin Mehta, Senior Associate for State Programs & Advocacy, Regional Plan Association. 

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