Peters Brovner Sues City to Require Planning Transparency
Feb 24, 2020
Lawsuit Challenges De Blasio Administration’s Proposal to Curb Hotel Development in New York City
Administration Acted in “Bad Faith” by Attempting to Hide the Economic Impact of the Proposal by Restricting Public Analysis to Only One Area of the City Despite Plans to Apply Proposal Citywide
Plaintiff Seeks Full Public Accounting of the Impact of the Administration’s Citywide Plan to Require Special Permits for All Future Hotel Construction
Late last year the De Blasio administration green-lighted a proposal to require that new hotels in the Union Square district obtain “special permits” prior to construction. This is the latest step in what the Mayor, during a rally at the Hotel Trades Council, admitted was a plan to require such special permits for all new hotels to be built anywhere in New York City. The special permit process is so onerous – requiring ULURP review and City Council approval – that it will essentially preclude any new hotel construction.
Over the past three years, the country has witnessed an erosion of democratic norms in Washington, the president’s recent refusal to allow witnesses to testify at his impeachment trial being just one prominent example. Unfortunately, we may be seeing this disturbing trend play out in local government here in New York as well.
Earlier this month, the de Blasio administration came out in opposition to a proposed law that would require New York City officials who testified before the City Council to correct the record if they subsequently discover that their testimony was inaccurate. The bill was designed to close a loophole that exists because, while the law clearly prohibits making knowingly false statements during testimony, it does not create an obligation to correct false statements that might have been made unknowingly.
Last week the City of Newark sued New York City over New York’s placement of more than a thousand homeless individuals and families in Newark, through the city’s Special One Time Assistance (SOTA) program. Under the program, New York City employed private brokers to find homes for the families in New Jersey and elsewhere, and, without checking to see if the homes were habitable, paid a full year’s rent in advance and left families to live there. The result was thousands of families sent out of the city into homes that were uninhabitable.
In response to the murders of four people in Chinatown and the subsequent violent attack on a 6-year-old boy in Queens, both allegedly by mentally ill homeless men, Mayor de Blasio announced a 30-day review of how the city uses intensive mental health interventions to make sure potentially violent people struggling with serious psychological problems receive the treatment they need.
If the mayor is serious about meaningful reform here are some of the fundamental issues the review must consider.
In late July, it was revealed that the Federal Aviation Administration had functionally outsourced safety checks on the doomed 737 Max to the airplane’s manufacturer, Boeing. The FAA relied on Boeing to conduct safety analyses on the new planes and failed to rigorously oversee the process. Moreover, the FAA never fully understood the intricacies of the safety issues involved. The tragic results, two crashes and a grounded fleet, have been well documented.
Also last month, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli issued a report that found the “MTA’s homeless outreach program didn’t do much outreach.” While the Metropolitan Transportation Authority spent millions to have a nonprofit provide services to homeless people who live at Grand Central Terminal and Penn Station, the nonprofit workers did an average of only 2.2 hours of outreach per shift, spent most of their time in an office, which they often kept closed, and filed false and incomplete daily reports. The comptroller’s office found that the MTA did little to oversee the program, resulting in failures that posed dangers to both homeless people and commuters.
Last week the federal NYCHA monitor issued his first quarterly report. It was a scathing indictment of the agency, describing “putrid liquid” spilling into a laundry room and rats scurrying through a 14-floor high garbage compactor. As one resident explained, “we are hostages in our own homes at night…due to rats that are the size of cats.”
But as disturbing as these examples are, the most important finding was less graphic but ultimately more dangerous: A systemic culture of failing to take responsibility. NYCHA, the monitor found, was simply unable to proactively recognize and tackle problems, and in many instances showed little interest in even making the attempt.
Last month, a New Jersey appeals court overturned an egregiously bad decision by a family court judge who had refused to try a 16-year old rapist as an adult because he came from a “good family” and attended an “excellent school.” The judge further downplayed the rape because the victim knew her attacker and it did not occur “at gunpoint.” The judge went on to inexplicably observe that he felt it important to “distinguish between a sexual assault and a rape.”