Calling for Land Use Decisions to be Made through an Equity Framework

In 2017, the Equitable Neighborhoods practice joined our clients, elected advocates Councilman Antonio Reynoso and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and the Regional Plan Association to create a platform for reforming the processes through which private development is approved in our neighborhoods. Together, we released Inclusive City, calling for:

  • Dramatically increasing the amount of proactive planning in New York City by applying an equity-based planning framework and creating an office of Community Planning to steward its application,
  • Increasing communication, participation, and transparency in development decisions before and during formal procedures,
  • Improving accountability, oversight, and enforcement in the City Environmental Quality Review process, and
  • Updating the City Environmental Quality Review technical manual to ensure accuracy.

The platform is transforming into legislative efforts and served as the foundation for TakeRoot’s advocacy before the 2018 and 2019 N.Y. City Charter Revision Commissions.


Letter from TakeRoot, CAAAV, GOLES and TUFF-LES to the Racial Justice City Charter Commission (November 29, 2021): “Next fall, NYC’s voters should be presented with the option to change the charter to create an independent Office of Community Planning, distinct from the existing City Planning Commission (CPC) and Department of City Planning (DCP), to provide direct support to community organizations seeking to make changes to land use law. Such an independent office could be housed within the Office of the Public Advocate or it could be its own new stand-alone agency. We are making this recommendation based on our direct and specific experience as applicants proposing the creation of a new Special Lower East Side and Chinatown Waterfront District, which would include Manhattan’s Two Bridges neighborhood.”

Testimony before the New York City Council Committee on Land Use and Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises (May 7, 2019): TakeRoot testified in support of Resolution 009-2018 and Intro 252, both addressing inadequacies in the city’s current environmental impact review processes for development projects. State and City environmental review laws require agencies to consider the impact of proposed development on the surrounding environment; the New York Court of Appeals has ruled the potential for secondary displacement of vulnerable residents is a factor that must be included in environmental review. TakeRoot advocated for changes in the CEQR Technical Manual, which provides guidelines for preparation of environmental impact statements, in order to make sure that issues like secondary displacement are taken into account by lead agencies evaluating development proposals. Watch TakeRoot’s testimony here (testimony starts at 2:54:21) or read the transcript here; members of the United Auto Merchants Association and Make the Road New York also spoke in support of reforming environmental review and studies on the effects of rezonings on displacement.

Testimony before the New York City Council Committees on Governmental Operations, Economic Development & Transportation (April 17, 2019): TakeRoot submitted testimony on the subject of Intro 982-2018 regarding the creation of a Citywide office of waterfront development. Our testimony was informed by the work and ideas of our community partners, such as CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities, Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES), Tenants United Fighting for the Lower East Side (TUFF-LES), the Staten Island Coalition for Wetlands and Forests. TakeRoot proposed amendments to the bill to mandate that the office, which would control waterfront permitting, be in direct contact with local community-based organizations and community boards, and that any permits or other approvals that the office facilitates must be consistent with community-generated plans. TakeRoot also suggested wetlands be added to the office’s jurisdiction, and for the office to be given broader jurisdiction over developments that impact the waterfront.

Testimony to the 2019 Charter Revision Commission (9/17/2018): TakeRoot testimony at a public hearing in the initial agenda-setting stage of the 2019 City Charter Revision Commission. Read the transcript of the hearing here.

Testimony to the 2018 Charter Revision Commission in response to the Staff Report (7/25/2018): The Staff Report recommended that the 2018 Commission leave amending the ULURP process to a later Commission due to the complexity of the undertaking. TakeRoot testified about non-ULURP land use changes that the Commission should put on the November ballot. Read the transcript of the hearing here.

Testimony on the Land Use Panel Before the 2018 New York City Charter Commission (6/19/2018): TakeRoot provided expert testimony about the need for charter reform to improve the City’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). Among other recommendations, TakeRoot urged the Commission to support community-based planning and early disclosure of plans and potential alternatives, and to make all development on NYCHA property subject to the ULURP process. Watch the testimony here or read the transcript here.

Testimony to the 2018 Charter Revision Commission (5/7/2018): TakeRoot testimony at a public hearing in the initial agenda-setting stage of the 2018 City Charter Revision Commission contributed to the expansion of the Commission’s mandate and the scheduling of a Land Use Panel.  Read the transcript of the hearing here.