By Dan Rivoli
A city task force has announced recommendations to public benefit agreements, in which a developer does something positive for the neighborhood in exchange for the ability to build larger or get a subsidy.
Comptroller John Liu, who convened the task force, believes these agreements can be unenforceable and are often done on a project-by-project basis.
“Too often… the promises fail to materialize long after the private developers have received their special subsidies,” Liu said in a statement.
On the Upper West Side, these agreements are often negotiated through the land use process. Community Board 7, for instance, is trying to get the developer of Riverside Center to fully fund a new school.
Liu’s task force calls would change community boards’ role in extracting concessions from developers. The recommendations call for allowing the community boards to hire planners to help craft public benefits agreements from developers. City Council members and the borough president should jointly convene a forum with a community board to discuss the project and create a negotiating team.
Mel Wymore, chair of Community Board 7, emphasized the need to ensure that developers’ public amenities come to fruition.
“Where community benefit agreements tend to fall down, in one sense, is the enforceability of these agreements over time,” Wymore said. “Enforcement can be very complex.”
Wymore is holding off on commenting about the recommendations until the board reviews the report.
The task force also suggests that the community benefit be in proportion to the size of development.
The report also recommends boosting Liu’s influence on development—often the realm of City Council members and borough presidents—by having the comptroller monitor all benefit and development agreement. The comptroller would also draft an annual compliance report card on these benefits.
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