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Land Use Process > Community-Based Planning Printer Friendly Version
Community-Based Planning
Overview | 197-a Plan | Inter-agency / Community Action Strategy

Group Meeting
Community-based planning is essential to the city's vitality. People who are close to neighborhood issues can clearly identify community needs and advocate passionately for local concerns. Community-based planning comes in many forms. It can range from participation in local organizations to the preparation of a comprehensive community-based plan for official adoption. Community-based planning may seek to address a variety of issues including preserving neighborhood character, promoting affordable housing, facilitating new development and/or encouraging local employment. These goals may be pursued through rezonings, local plans and/or task force efforts.

The Department of City Planning (DCP) provides technical assistance and advice to individuals and community-based organizations at all levels of planning. The Department has a central office at 22 Reade Street in Manhattan and borough offices located in each borough. DCP borough offices are usually the first place to contact for local concerns. The DCP central divisions (212-720-3300) may be contacted about citywide questions (population, housing, economic development, and the waterfront). Zoning information may be obtained at 212-720-3291.

The city is divided into 59 community districts, each represented by a community board. Community-based planning often begins at the community board level. DCP's website contains a wealth of information, including data organized by community district, land use, population, housing, community facilities much of which is included in  maps. The website also includes an explanation of zoning, parts of the Zoning Handbook, a basic guide to New York City zoning and the Zoning Resolution text and maps. Demographic information, data from the 2000 Census is provided for New York City, the five boroughs and other geographic areas. Updated 2010 data is also posted. The Census FactFinder provides easy access to population information for a selected area.

Descriptions about land use and environmental review processes, and the status and details about DCP initiatives and other land use applications are also found on the Department's website. DCP offers a variety of data products, including base map files and land use data, for free download or by a license agreement. Printed copies of reports and maps are available at the City Planning bookstore.

Community organizations need to determine which community-based planning strategy is most appropriate for addressing any particular issue. Problems that are service related (such as clogged drains, broken street lights, park maintenance problems, etc.) can be brought to the attention of the community board district manager's office; these may be dealt with at the community board's monthly District Service Cabinet meeting attended by representatives from city agencies (Police, Parks and Recreation, Sanitation, etc.). To address broader issues, community-based organizations may want to utilize one of three common options:

1 . A local zoning proposal developed in collaboration between the community and DCP

If a community-based organization seeks to change permitted land uses and/or building scale or density in a particular area, then a proposal developed in collaboration between the community and the Department of City Planning may be appropriate. DCP's  borough offices can provide technical assistance to community boards and civic associations exploring such zoning solutions. Communities sometimes conduct their own field surveys to develop and support these strategies and expedite the process. Most often, the Department conducts the analysis, files the rezoning application and prepares the environmental review documents, at no cost to the community organization or the community board. There are many examples of DCP/community collaborative rezoning efforts.

Numerous neighborhood rezonings have been initiated by DCP in response to local requests.

2. A 197-a Plan, usually sponsored by a community board

Long range and complex development issues may call for a comprehensive planning approach to identify goals and prepare a planning framework to achieve them. A 197-a plan may be appropriate.

View more details about 197-a plans

197-a Plan Status Map


3. Inter-agency/Community Action Strategy utilizing a task force made up of local representatives, city agencies and elected officials

DCP has joined with other city agencies, community groups and elected officials in task forces to advance neighborhood objectives in a coordinated approach.

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