A derelict sugar refinery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the world's largest indoor ice-skating complex in the Bronx and a 63-story Ferris wheel on Staten Island are among a crush of projects that developers are trying to get through the Department of City Planning before the pro-development Bloomberg administration comes to a close on Dec. 31, and its powerful chairwoman, Amanda Burden, steps down.
Adding to the pressure on the department, the mayor himself is looking to win approval on a number of his own legacy projects, including a massive rezoning of midtown east.
The reason for the frenzy is simple: The planning commission, along with the City Council, has the final say on the shape of all land-use projects. Without City Planning's approval now, dozens of projects will need to start from square one with a commission headed by the new mayor's appointees—seven of the 13 members—a prospect that will add great uncertainty, and potentially months or even years of work.
The projects now heaped at the department's downtown door at 22 Reade St. roughly fall into three categories: city-led developments, private projects and those being pursued by private developers on public property. For many, it almost feels like now or never.
In an effort to meet its titanic obligations, the department recently added four temporary planners at its Manhattan headquarters.
"Mayor Bloomberg has asked all city agencies to get as much done as they possibly can in the next 134 days, and the Department of City Planning is working hard to do just that," said a spokesman for the department.
Some developers are going so far as to throw together provisional plans for upcoming projects and then try to get preliminary approvals for these project outlines.