Supporting Communities Responding to Developer-Initiated Land Use Applications: Contacts and Protest

TakeRoot supports community organizations resisting private development by providing strategic and legal advice on the environmental review and the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). 

ULURP requires that applications to rezone an area be reviewed by the relevant Community Board and Borough President, and be approved by the City Planning Commission and the City Council.

Attempts to rezone an area for the sake of private development can be fought and won through organizing residents can make sure that the City Council member representing the area opposes the rezoning. In other cases, tenants and other local organizations may reach an agreement with the developer to allow the rezoning to go through in a modified fashion, or in a manner that provides benefits to people already living or working in that area. These agreements can be formalized into CBAs, which, if structured correctly, are effective means to guarantee that developers will stick to the terms; if developers deviate from their agreement, communities can sue to enforce the contract.

TakeRoot helped Queens Neighborhoods United (QNU) stop a proposed rezoning in Elmhurst that would have allowed a 13-story development on top of a Target department store; after resistance from QNU and local residents, Council Member Francisco Moya withdrew his support for the project, and the developer subsequently withdrew the application. Likewise, the owner of Lenox Terrace withdrew its application to rezone to add buildings to the Harlem super block campus in response to resident organizing before and during ULURP.

TakeRoot also supports organizing in response to developer-initiated applications by filing actions to enforce land use law. Here are some examples:

In other cases, TakeRoot has worked with community organizations in negotiating and enforcing contracts for community benefits that mitigate the effects of private development, which are often called community benefits agreements (CBAs) or cooperation agreements.

In Brooklyn, we worked with BrooklynSpeaks, a coalition of local organizations, to demand the affordable housing that was promised as part of the massive Atlantic Yards development, securing an enforceable CBA that requires the affordable housing to be built on a specific timeline, which the developer has so far honored. We also helped community organizations secure an agreement that controls the redevelopment an Urban Renewal Plan site where a grocery store was mandated by the URP.

On the Lower East Side, TakeRoot represented the tenants’ association of the Burdick, an affordable apartment building, negotiate a CBA with the developer of a luxury hotel to be built next door. When the developer failed to follow through on its obligations, TakeRoot helped the tenants’ association enforce the CBA, ensuring that the benefits the tenants had bargained for were actually realized.