April 26, 2011
By Vanessa DeSantis
Laborers took a crash course in land use on Friday, March 10th, at the SEIU building in Lower Manhattan. The workshop encouraged members to get involved with New York City’s local community boards. These public boards provide a way for union members to support union projects that also serve their communities.
“It’s a way to create more jobs at union wages,” said Anthony Williamson, Market Development Department Auditor at Local 79, who organized the event. Public involvement is also a way to build a bridge between the local community and the labor movement.
“This way the community will no longer see labor as the problem. They will see us as part of the solution,” Williamson told a roomful of roughly 100 attendees, seated in classroom-style rows. Each member was given a packet of information pertaining to land use and the City’s procedure for reviewing construction projects.
Brian Cook, the director of land use at the Office of the Manhattan Borough President led the workshop. Beginning with an overview of the origins of city zoning, he walked members through the five basic stages of a building project under the laws of Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). Community boards review and make recommendations on ULURP applications. Their decisions are considered in the final stages of the review process.
Currently New York City is divided into 59 community districts, each with a community board. The corresponding borough president appoints the board members. Community boards allow the City Planning Commission an opportunity to hear from the public. Although community boards don’t get the final word on whether or not a project gets built, they still have an influence on the decisions that get made and play a significant role.