On Thursday, June 19th the Senate passed S.7384--legislation sponsored by Senator Perkins to require the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) to give 30 days notice of a public hearing to ensure that the general public, communities and specifically affected parties have adequate time to actually learn of public hearings-and subsequently mobilize, deliberate, draft and execute meaningful public participation (in the form of comments, testimony and proposed alternative considerations) in situations that have direct consequences for their lives.
The full remarks of the Senator follow:
"I rise to speak on behalf of a number of local merchants who decided to make a personal and professional home on 125th Street decades ago. Pioneers such as Ron Walton and Tounkara Massamakan have offered the gifts of African Fabrics and Caribbean Food to the Harlem community for well over a generation and have become beloved institutions in our neighborhood. So, last Summer—when a massive redevelopment project was designated—one which would take a wrecking ball to their longstanding businesses and forever displace them—they were the last to know about it.
That’s because the public outreach provisions of the Urban Development Corporation Act (UDC Act) are entirely inadequate in terms of informing, engaging and empowering the community that will be affected by major projects. Right now, UDC only has to give ten days notice of a public hearing—and they do not have to disseminate this notice widely. Thus, as UDC’s Chief of Staff has candidly admitted—it is a common occurrence that no one attends their public hearings.
The legislation before us establishes a thirty day window between notice of a project and the public hearing. This will allow Community Boards, advocacy organizations, elected officials and other stakeholders to spread the word in our communities that substantial projects are pending and everyone’s voice must be heard.
Massive projects that are rubber stamped in silent halls is antithetical to democracy and to the intent of the UDC Act. It is not the case that people do not want to participate at these meetings—it is the case that the current system thrives on keeping the public in the dark. Last fall, with just three weeks notice we brought 300 people out to give UDC hundreds of pages of feedback. Subsequently, we brought the affected merchants before the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB) and for the first time in the four decade history of the PACB, regular hardworking folks from the community gave testimony before the Board. Shadow government exposed to the light for the first time.
In sum, as it relates to projects all across this State, a community planning process born of and enriched by the actual folks who have lived, worked and invested in the community for generations is the only way to proceed.
We get a little bit closer to that goal today. I thank Assemblymember Jim Brennan for carrying and passing this legislation in the Assembly and I appreciate the support received from Chair Ranzenhofer and members of the Corporations Committee as well.
I enthusiastically vote AYE.”