New York state has been described as having the most dysfunctional legislature in the country. Gerrymandering that keeps the houses continually in the hands of opposing parties, and rules that give far too much power to the “three men in a room” (governor, assembly speaker, senate majority leader) can make it feel impossible to get anything done.
And indeed, plenty of things didn’t happen this session, including passing accountable development reforms to the state’s industrial development authorities — something that had been a high hope of labor and urban advocates.
But a few things of interest to sustainable communities and healthy cities did make it through both the Assembly and Senate, thanks to the leadership of Assemblyman Sam Hoyt of Buffalo:
- Clarification that certain highway funds can in fact be spent on bike paths and pedestrian improvements.
- Establishment of a set of smart growth principles, with the direction that state agencies implement them in all their grantmaking and decisionmaking (whether this means anything will, of course be entirely in the implementation).
And last but certainly not least:
- The ability to create county-level land banks. This will provide a powerful tool for a few counties to manage the tide of abandoned properties and reduce some of the negative effects of the foreclosure crisis. But we better hope they do it well, because the compromise that got the legislation passed only allows for three (yes, three) to be created. Apparently, those maverick land banks are going to have to prove their worth before they are allowed to run rampant across the state.