Understanding the Role of the New York City Planning Commission in Zoning and Land Use

Produced on: October 27, 2017

Course Format On Demand Audio

Taught by

Categories:

Course Description

Time 54 minutes
Difficulty Intermediate

The New York City Planning Commission plays a central role in zoning and land use in New York City. The Commission’s approval is required for applications under the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (“ULURP”) and for amendments to the Zoning Resolution, and no application or amendment may begin the formal public review process until the Commission certifies it as complete.     

Until 1989, the Commission consisted of seven members appointed by the Mayor. The Commission’s actions were subject to final approval by the Board of Estimate, an eight-member body consisting of representatives of the Mayor, Comptroller, City Council President, and each Borough President.  In 1989, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the Board of Estimate violated the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution (one person, one vote) and the City Council assumed its responsibilities for land use. At the same time, a City Charter amendment increased the number of City Planning Commissioners to thirteen, with a Chair and six commissioners appointed by the Mayor, one appointed by each Borough President, and one appointed by the Public Advocate.

This course, presented by land use attorney and former Deputy Counsel to the Commission, Howard Goldman, offers an overview of the Commission and its evolving role in the City’s zoning and land use process.


Learning Objectives:

  1. Review the history of the City Planning Commission
  2. Comprehend the role of the Commission Chair and the Department of City Planning
  3. Discuss the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, particularly actions subject to ULURP and the ULURP process
  4. Develop best practices for completing applications under the ULURP
  5. Analyze the relative powers of the Commission and City Council, including:

    1. Council veto and modification of Commission approvals
    2. Mayoral override of Council veto 

Faculty

Howard Goldman

GoldmanHarris LLC

Following his introduction to land use while practicing law in Alaska, Howard Goldman has been a full-time zoning and land use attorney in New York City since 1980. Prior to co-founding Goldman Harris LLC, he was the Deputy Counsel to the New York City Planning Commission, a partner at two large Manhattan law firms, a partner at a medium-sized Manhattan firm, and a solo practitioner. Howard understands land use from public and private, as well as large and small business perspectives, and enjoys working with all parties in achieving his clients’ goals.  

Goldman Harris LLC is a boutique with practice limited to land use in New York City.  Howard’s law partner is his wife, Caroline Harris, who has a similar legal background, including at the Counsel’s Office of the Department of City Planning and experience at major law firms. Goldman Harris strives to combine the high standards of a large firm with the flexibility afforded by a small one. The firm’s work ranges from advising clients with respect to “as-of-right” projects not involving discretionary approvals to applications for zoning changes, special permits, variances, landmarks approvals, and interpretations of the Zoning Resolution. Along with experienced attorneys, the firm includes professionals having expertise in architecture, project management and the Building Code.  

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