September 18, by Nathaly Pesantez
The Department of City Planning, which has been holding a series of public workshops over the summer to gather community feedback on the needs of a 50-block section in the Queens Plaza/Court Square neighborhood, has done a poor job of organizing them, which has resulted in low public turnout at the workshops, according to a key Community Board 2 member.
The workshops, part of City Planning’s LIC Core Study, are meant to give residents an opportunity to communicate the needs of the area to multiple city agencies. The feedback is expected to be used by City Planning when issuing a recommendation for the possible rezoning of the neighborhood to the mayor.
Lisa Deller, chair of CB2’s Land Use Committee, said City Planning’s handling of the public workshops has been far from stellar. She said the agency has been late to notify the public as to the meeting dates, since the department itself has been slow in organizing them due to issues with finalizing dates and agreeing on workshop locations.
City Planning disputes these claims.
“I don’t think there were more than 50 people at the meetings,” Deller said. Given the implications of the project for the future of Long Island City, Deller characterized the meetings as alarmingly poor in attendance.
Community participation was further affected by the fact that the bulk of the public workshops, with multiple city agencies and organizations involved in topics ranging from open space, retail, and housing affordability of the area, were held over the summer, a time that Deller said was not “optimal” for most people of the area.
“There’s a huge amount at stake,” Deller said about the meetings. “This is an effort to engage various agencies in the process of planning, such that it’s not just rampant development [in Long Island City]. They include community improvement and things that the people are demanding.”
Deller said the first meeting of the summer held more agency people and note takers than community participants, a sight that “disappointed” her. Other workshops had the same makeup, and during the Aug. 8 meeting on housing affordability, land use, and climate resilience attendees called for better notice for future events.
Aside from the lack of public notice caused by organizational issues, Deller also believes that the workshops lack representation from senior members of the various city agencies at play in the LIC Core.
“I think it’s important for the people to have senior staff there listening, and I felt like there were a lot of junior staff at these sessions,” Deller said.
The methods that city agency representatives used to organize feedback at the meetings, like placing post-it-notes on large-scale maps, also troubled Deller.
“They may be gathering information, but if they don’t feed it back in a constructive, hard way, then people just feel like it’s not productive,” Deller said.
City Planning has provided better notification for its upcoming Sept. 28 LIC Core session on workforce development, according to Deller. Ultimately, she says the workshops are crucial for the public to attend, as issues that have been continuously raised by the neighborhood, including open space, housing affordability, retail, and infrastructure, may be worked into the potential rezoning of the area.
City Planning, however, disagrees that the meetings have been sparsely attended, and assures that the public workshops have been promoted well before their dates.
“Throughout this past summer, the Department of City Planning held several well-attended community meetings on its LIC Core Study, as part of its extensive outreach strategy. To notify the public of these events, we sent calendar items to local Queens newspapers, posted flyers and reached out directly to community organizations to help us spread the word,” said Joe Marvilli, a press officer for DCP.
“For those who couldn’t make these meetings, DCP will cover all of the topics that we discussed this summer in a series of upcoming meetings…we intend to hold several more yet-to-be-scheduled meetings throughout the fall and next year,” he added.
City Planning says they have completed 16 outreach activities so far this year, including the three public workshops over the summer and the more recent one that took place during the Ravenswood Houses Family Day on Sept. 9.
The next meeting will be held on Sept. 28 at the Long Island City Community Library on 37-44 21st at 7 p.m. The topic of discussion will be workforce development.