New York City will become the first large municipality to post diagrams of new buildings or major enlargements online so the public can view the size and scale of a project. But a new 30-day formal public challenge period that will also be implemented has many community leaders concerned.
While the development diagrams would give the viewer a better idea of what the project will look like before they begin challenging it, the announcement by the Department of Buildings and Mayor Bloomberg calls for a rigid time window, after which it might be more difficult, or impossible, to challenge a new building project.
Bloomberg and DOB commissioner Robert Limandri announced the plan on Monday, February 2.
“The reforms we are detailing today will inject a much-needed dose of transparency and accountability into a critical area of construction and development – zoning compliance,” Bloomberg said. “The reforms center on the public’s right to challenge any approved development if they think it violates zoning regulations.”
Nowhere in the reforms is there any mention of the issue of self-certification of architects, a point of contention that many area community leaders say is the real problem with many of the developments they deem unworkable and not in compliance with zoning.
According to a statement coming from the mayor and the DOB, part of the reform –the 30-day window for the community to voice objections – provides an orderly way for the public to challenge projects.
“The 30-day public-challenge process establishes a defined and organized means for the public to challenge zoning decisions by the DOB they believe are incorrect,” the statement read.
Area civic leaders contend that the DOB is shifting the burden of having city qualified plan examiners look over architects’ proposal to the public.
“My first reaction to the news is asking why are they making the public do a job that should be done by the DOB,” said Mary Jane Musano of the Waterbury-LaSalle Community Association.
“The website will make things more organized as everyone will have a place to go to review plans. However, it seems like they are putting a statute of limitations on any dissent the community may have.”
Ferry Point community advocate Dotti Poggi agreed, saying that it is really a lack of investigation on the part of the DOB into various plans submitted that is at the root of the community’s frustrations.
“I am glad that the DOB is making an honest effort to bring all architects and builders’ plans to light, but it is the job of DOB plan inspectors to make sure that buildings comply with zoning requirements,” Poggi said.