A New BluePRint: City to Speed Up Land-Use Reviews

143608432 A New BluePRint: City to Speed Up Land Use Reviews

BluePRint pulls back the curtain on development. (Getty)

One of the more onerous aspect’s of developing in New York City is the public review process, known as ULURP, a seven-month gauntlet of meetings and votes and editorializing about one’s baby. But just as troublesome can be the act of getting to ULURP, a pre-certification process at the Department of City Planning that can take months, and sometimes even years, as city officials and planners get a project into the shape they want it and running environmental and economic analysis on the project.

The city just popped an aspirin on this development headache, or rather an Aleve, for a new program known as BluePRint, the Business Process Reform. It is meant to streamline the pre-certification process, Deputy Mayor Robert Steel announced at an ABNY breakfast this morning.

“These improvements will save applicants up to $100 million per year in soft costs and carrying costs,” Mr. Steel said. “More development means more jobs for New Yorkers, and BluePRint simplifies the way applications are reviewed so those jobs can be created as soon as possible.”

Since pre-certification takes place largely behind doors, with many moving parts, there is no set timeline for it, unlike ULURP, which has a seven-month clock for all the parties to act. This has much to do with the size of the projects and how much attention they need, the complexity of a site (over transit or a brownfield and so forth), and other factors.

Still, the Department of City Planning predicts certification will happen up to 50 percent faster for projects and provide a level of certainty for developers by codifying the steps in the process. “The pre-ULURP process has been the most problematic aspect of the public review process for real estate development,” Real Estate Board president Mary Anne Tighe said in a statement. “It has been time-consuming, costly and unpredictable.”

No longer. An entirely new per-certification review process has been created, which will launch in July. It has fewer steps with published templates and materials meant to help developers and their associates put together their applications. There will also be a new electronic system to increase coordination within the Department of City Planning as well as with outside agencies, a system that will also help developers track their projects.

The program will also aid the city in executing public projects, as well.

Many planners and developers believe that the ULURP process itself needs an overhaul, either because the community group has too little or too much power, but this first step should have developers in a better mood to proceed on these projects. They might even accede to some community demands if so.