City Wants Consultant to Streamline City Planning

The real estate development world, which is full of complaints about government, rarely throws around the term “efficient” when speaking of the Department of City Planning. One of the biggest complaints is that most every developer embarking on a big project must go through what can be a months-long “pre-certification” process (though it can even be measured in years sometimes) of putting together an application with DCP, adding costs and uncertainty.

Now, the Bloomberg administration is looking for a consultant to streamline bureaucracy at DCP, part of a broader effort to cut down the cost and time that it takes to get things built in New York.

Earlier this month, the city’s Economic Development Corporation put out a request for proposals, seeking a consultant to recommend ways to become better, stronger, faster, etc., especially on the subject of pre-certification. From the RFP:

[T]he Consultant shall recommend a series of initiatives and optimal strategies for DCP that will improve its management of key business processes, in particular the land use review process and environmental review process and reduce costs (both real and perceived) for applicants.

This speaks to the Bloomberg administration’s desire to cut the red tape under its own power, and not, notably, by changing the City Charter. On that subject, which is currently up for review by the Charter Revision Commission, the Bloomberg administration has shown no desire to engage in major changes to the land use process.

City Planning Commission chairwoman Amanda Burden has made clear that she does not want to see the main tool for land use approvals—the seven-month Uniform Land Use Review Process—tinkered with in a review of the charter. And a preliminary report for the Charter Revision Commission recommended against pursuing any suggestions that would significantly alter ULURP (the report is here, with land use discussed on p. 66).

In sum, this essentially means that if the city does indeed cut red tape to speed development, it will come from finding efficiencies within DCP—not from changing the public debate-heavy ULURP.

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