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Land Use, Housing & Zoning

City Planning proposed text amendments to the regulations governing urban plazas

WHEREAS, On June 4, 2007 the City Planning Commission referred, for a 45 day period, a proposed text amendment regulating the use of urban plazas to affected Community Boards and Borough Presidents for review and comment; and

WHEREAS, A text amendment is not subject to a ULURP, but Community Board Five, having many public plazas within its boundaries, appreciates the opportunity to comment on the proposed text changes; and

WHEREAS, The Zoning Resolution was amended in 1961 to permit additional bulk in high density residential and commercial areas in exchange for public, outdoor plazas, subsequently amended in 1975 and 1977, and has resulted in about 250 public plazas throughout the city; and

WHEREAS, The proposed changes primarily (a) replace the existing residential plaza definitions and urban plaza standards with a single plaza type called the public plaza, (b) revise and update the design standards for public plazas, while ensuring that substantial architectural flexibility remains for unique and exciting open space design, and (c) streamline and consolidate provisions related to open air cafes and kiosks within plazas, nighttime closing of plazas, and the process for modification of plaza design guidelines; and

WHEREAS, The proposed changes will increase the accessibility of the plaza from the street, broaden the variety of seating while ensuring greater comfort, permit wider landscaping choices, clarify information available on signage, and increase hours the plazas are open; and

WHEREAS, The proposed changes are limited to design and operational standards and make no changes that relate to bulk, permitted floor area, the amount of floor area generated through the provision of bonus plazas or to locations where the plaza bonus is available; and

WHEREAS, The process for approval of a public plaza remains a Certification by the Commissioner of City Planning, and the proposed change provides for an Owner’s Notification of Compliance every three years; and

WHEREAS, Enforcement of violations of plaza regulations are conducted by the Department of Buildings, and carry only three types of penalties: Environmental Control Board (ECB) fines, denial of applications for changes to the plaza or revocation of a building’s Certificate of Occupancy; and

WHEREAS, ECB fines are very low and are often considered a cost of doing business, denial of new application is only available when an owner wishes to change a physical or operational aspect of his plaza, and revocation of a C/O is a very harsh penalty; therefore be it

RESOLVED, That Community Board Five applauds the City Planning Commission in creating design guidelines that will make future public plaza more attractive, diverse and integrated with the streetscape; and be it further

RESOLVED, That Community Board Five urges the Commission to consider more effective methods of enforcement of the plaza standards, including, but not limited to increasing fines or requiring periodic recertification; and be it further

RESOLVED, That Community Board Five encourages City Planning to promote the creation of self-cleaning bathrooms whenever possible.

The above resolution passed with a vote of 35 in favor, 1 opposed, 1 abstention.  

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