Brooklyn Law Review


Alia Soomro


Despite more than half a century since urban renewal programs were first established throughout the United States, these urban development programs are still negatively associated with the destruction of communities, displacement, and poor urban planning practices. While many jurisdictions continue to utilize state urban renewal legislation, few of these jurisdictions have actually addressed the future of urban renewal programs. This note focuses on urban renewal in New York City, where many of these plans are about to expire, and asks whether urban renewal programs—with its infamous history—can be utilized in an equitable and sustainable way. Analyzing Local Law No. 40 of 2018, which was enacted to provide more transparency and notice to communities about urban renewal plan expiration, this note argues that merely disclosing information is insufficient to fully address and develop a future sustainable strategy for these programs. Rather, this note advocates what strategic and legal protocols should be in place in order to have consistent planning strategies and substantive community input before an urban renewal plan expires. To ensure the mistakes of the past are not repeated, this note calls for something many urban renewal plans originally omitted: the voices of community members. Local Law No. 40 should be amended to implement bottom-up, community-focused strategies in the urban renewal process, such as mandating a city-wide public engagement process and providing technical planning assistance to communities within urban renewal areas. Doing so will ensure that the legal structures in place will be used as a tool to empower local residents in today’s high-cost city centers by implementing legally-binding, decades-long plans which promote affordable housing and citizen-led sustainable development.