At issue was the Council’s role in approving development projects that require changes in the city’s zoning ordinances — changes that would have to occur frequently if Mr. de Blasio is to reach his ambitious affordable housing goal. The mayor has repeatedly said he is willing to allow developers to build taller, denser buildings in exchange for setting aside units for low- and moderate-income renters.
Under the city’s charter-mandated land use process, known as the Uniform Land Use Review Process, a developer whose project would exceed the size permitted under existing zoning regulations must first get the proposal certified by the city’s Planning Department.
From there, projects go before the local community board, the borough president, the Planning Commission and finally the City Council — with a public hearing at every step. Approvals are required only from the Planning Commission and the Council.
When the mayor’s office negotiates with developers for public benefits — parks, plazas or low-priced apartments — it typically does so where the administration has the most leverage: before certification, or before the Planning Commission’s vote.
As it stands, members of the Council get to negotiate with developers for even more where they hold power: before the Council votes. For a single project, individual council members can hold great sway; traditionally, the full Council defers to the member or members who represent the affected neighborhoods before even bringing it to a vote. Developers say the Council’s ability to take a second bite of the apple leads them to hold back in talks with City Hall, so that they still have something to give when they come before the Council.
In recent days, according to a Council official aware of the talks, aides to Mr. de Blasio proposed that council members raise their concerns at the beginning of the process — before certification — rather than at the end. The administration would then negotiate on the Council’s behalf and reach what the mayor’s aides suggested could be a better deal for the city as a result.
But at a meeting of the Council’s leadership on Thursday morning, a member briefed on it said that David Greenfield, a councilman from Brooklyn and the chairman of the Land Use Committee, had argued forcefully that Mr. de Blasio was trying to undermine the land use process in a way that would erode the Council’s charter-granted powers. The council member said Mr. Greenfield had warned that he expected the mayor to bring up the idea in a meeting later that day and that he would vigorously oppose it.