Sunday, July 25, 2010

Queens Civic Congress - Statement of Principles for Charter Revision...

The Queens Civic Congress met at the Queens Farm on June 21 for the first and only borough-wide civic forum in the entire city on the City Charter Revision Commission.

Attached is a Statement of Charter Principles (see below) that QCC members agreed are key issues for the City Charter Revision Commission The Statement includes core issues addressed in the Queens Civic Congress Platform 2030 that member organizations adopted in 2009.

At the QCC forum, Queens civic leaders were clear in their demands for term limits, retention of the borough presidents and community boards--a message that the Commission heard.

Early on in the Charter Revision Commission's deliberations, the CCRC
decided to limit its proposals for this year's election.
 They decided to make term limits and voter participation major issues for the electorate this year.

And they decided to postpone consideration of complex land use issues and the structure of city agencies for future election cycles.

CCRC heard QCC and citizens who stood up for open, transparent city
government We will learn on August 2, when the Commission issues the
proposals for the November election whether the CCRC listened to us.

The final open meeting in Queens will take place at Queens Borough Hall on Wednesday July 28 at 6PM.

Meantime, please read the Principles and share them with your neighbors and friends.



Queens’s residents are passionately attached to their neighborhoods. Whether we live in Dutch Kill, Hawtree Creek or Maspeth, we want to be known by our neighborhoods’ names. We are the only New Yorkers who identify themselves by the place where we live and not by the borough. So it should come as no surprise that many of our neighborhoods have organized effective civic organizations—or that more than 110 of those civics have created a thriving coalition, Queens Civic Congress.

QCC members have adopted a response to the Mayor’s appointment of the City Charter Revision Commission, a Statement of Principles for Charter Revision that reflects the opinions of Queens’s civic leaders at QCC’s charter forum on June 21 and the QCC Platform (, which the organization adopted in 2009.

The Queens Civic Congress strongly recommends that the Charter Revision Commission limit the questions it presents to the public in November 2010 to major policy issues that have engaged the public’s interest. The Commission should defer consideration of more complex issues like land use to 2011. Community boards, civic organizations and many New Yorkers are on hiatus for the summer and not available to consider or contribute to the Charter discussion that will take place over the coming weeks.

QCC also urges the Commission to place major proposals on the ballot separately.


New Yorkers have voted twice in favor of term limits only to have their vote overturned by a City Council and Mayor who knew “better” than the voters.

The Queens Civic Congress recommends two-term limits for citywide officials and the Council.

QCC strongly recommends that the Commission include an “ironclad “provision requiring any future changes in term limits be made only by referendum.


Queens Civic Congress wants voters to be able to recognize the values and priorities of candidates, which they can best do when they know a candidate’s party affiliation. QCC is concerned that extremely wealthy individuals could buy election—which some New Yorkers would argue that we have already experienced.

Voters rejected non-partisan elections. When will supporters of non-partisan elections understand that NO means NO?

QCC recommends that the CCRC reject suggestions for non-partisan elections.


Voters declared their support for the Office of Public Advocate in 2005. Why keep asking? The recent series of hearings demonstrated continued support for the Office of Public Advocate. QCC agrees. .


Mayors have been trying to curb the borough presidents’ limited authority since the 1989 City Charter eliminated the Board of Estimate. Over the past eight years, City Hall has reduced the Borough Presidents’ operating funds only to have the Council restore funding. In recent years, the Mayor has cut staffing funds for the Borough Presidents until most of them have less than half what they had in 2001. The Queens Civic Congress recommends that the Commission provide the Borough Presidents with sufficient funding so that they can carry out their responsibilities under the Charter.

Year after year the Mayor has cut the borough presidents’ discretionary funding which they use to supplement agency funding for youth and senior programs and essential local programs. The Queens Borough President, for example, has sponsored community based planning resulting in the rezoning of more than forty neighborhoods; sponsored more than twenty senior center programs; worked tirelessly with south Queens communities to obtain critical infrastructure; and established educational, cultural and recreation programs for the borough’s diverse immigrant communities.

City Hall’ s formula for base lining funding for Queens cultural institutions and libraries fails to reflect the Borough’s population or special needs

The Queens Civic Congress recommends that the Commission establish a funding formula that will provide for the equitable distribution amongst the boroughs of funds for libraries and cultural institutions.

The Queens Civic Congress recommends that the CCRC provide that the five borough presidents receive 50% of the City Council’s budget to be distributed on an equal per capita basis so that the Borough Presidents can continue to support programs and services their constituents require.


Community boards are neighborhoods’ first—and often the only—voice at City Hall. The community boards track service delivery; articulate local funding needs and are a key element in defining local development needs and aspirations.

QCC recommends base lining Community Board funding.

QCC recommends providing support for local planning through the Borough President’s office.


QCC recommends that CCRC divide the Department of Buildings into two entities-one responsible for issuing permits and a second to be responsible for
enforcing the building code, safety requirements and the Zoning Resolution.


QCC recommends that members of the City Council serve full time.

QCC recommends that salary increases for Council members shall not become effective for one full term.

QCC recommends that funding be apportioned equally to each Council district.

Developers and so-called “free marketers” love to hate ULURP and its companion CEQR. Their model city is a place devoid of human scale.

Three decades and more of holding back the tide of uncontrolled development tells us that ULURP is key to a democratic city. Without the means to control and regulate development, New York would soon be unlivable.

The Queens Civic Congress recommends that ULURP retained.

QCC further recommends that additional actions be subject to ULURP—including legislative review:

  • Zoning text amendments

  • Transfer of air rights

  • Lot mergers

QCC recommends that Community Benefit Agreements be subject to public review and legislative oversight.


The Queens Civic Congress recommends that the Borough Presidents have resources to provide planning assistance to community boards.


BSA for years has been the maker of ad hoc zoning regulations. Communities around the city have secured comprehensive zoning reforms of their neighborhoods only to see their efforts canceled by BSA decisions.

The Queens Civic Congress recommends expanding the BSA to include six appointees of the Mayor and five appointees of the Borough Presidents.
QCC recommends that a super-majority be required to override decisions where the Borough President and community board reject a variance application.

The Queens Civic Congress recommends making BSA decisions on variances subject to City Council review.


QCC recommends that a super majority be required to override decisions where both the community board (s) and the Borough President have agreed on a land use issue.


QCC recommends that the Landmarks Commission establish an appeals process to the City Council.



At least five mayors have tried, without success, to reform the Department of Buildings.

The Queens Civic Congress recommends that the agency be divided into separate entities-- that promote development and those that enforce the Building Code and Zoning Resolution. QCC recommends using the sheriffs as inspectors to enforce building code and zoning rules.

QCC strongly recommends that the Department of Buildings be required to refer projects needing interpretation of the Zoning Resolution to the Department of City Planning for review and sign off.


The Queens Civic Congress recommends that the Franchise and Concessions Committee be reorganized into a commission with five members appointed by the borough presidents and six by the mayor. QCC recommends that the Commission establish criteria for major concessions.