RONALD H. SILVERMAN
The future of New York City depends in important ways on the use and abuse of local real estate. Even if the federal courts had not required a revision of the New York City charter, the great development wars of the 1980s would have drawn public and professional attention to a variety of fundamental quality‐ of-life issues. In more generalized terms: At what point does development become overdevelopment, even in densely populated New York City? When does a residential development for profit unjustifiably depreciate neighborhood values? How are the city's growing needs for homeless shelters, jail barges, waste disposal, and other public facilities to be reconciled with the competing interests of vulnerable neighborhoods? In more specific terms: How are we to mitigate the undesirable spillover effects of megaprojects like the redevelopment of the Times Square area and the substantial Metrotech office park project in Brooklyn? Is public access to the East River to be forever barred by a wall of luxury buildings and expanding hospitals? Should private houses in quiet middle-class areas of Queens and Brooklyn be leased or purchased by the city for the care of abandoned infants?
To resolve such contentious quality-of-life issues, the New York City charter has long provided the cornerstone for an ambitious and complicated decision‐ making system that allows the city to engage in a wide variety of planning, zoning, and other regulatory actions. Because this land-governance system is both difficult to understand and often imperfect in its operations, it has become a special subject of interest for those most concerned with the revision of the current New York City charter.'
A comprehensive introduction to the current New York City land-governance system invites historical, "formal," and "functional" descriptive efforts. Even the briefest historical overview identifies a long history of debate and collective am