Council bill seeks to bring transparency to Public Design Commission

Agency would be required to issue annual reports

Jimmy Van Bramer and Justin Garrett Moore
Jimmy Van Bramer and Justin Garrett Moore

A new City Council bill is seeking to crack open the enigma that is the city’s Public Design Commission.

The proposed legislation would require the agency to issue an annual report detailing the projects it reviews, Politico reported. The agency is often criticized for its lack of transparency and for holding up projects.

“They operate in this really small sort of secret attic office in City Hall where few people even venture to go up there,” Council member Jimmy Van Bramer, the bill’s sponsor, told Politico. “It has great power, and yet few people know who they are, what they do.”

The commission’s executive director, Justin Moore, has acknowledged the agency’s perception but said that most public projects are approved within one or two meeting cycles. He said delays and cost-overruns are due to a “lack of early interagency coordination.”

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The commission is charged with reviewing the design of projects — big and small — on city-owned property. It has a budget of $535,000 and employs six staff members and has 11 non-paid members including a landscape architect and a sculptor.

Officials have tried — and failed — in the past to disband the commission.

In 2012, former Council member Lew Fidler tried to abolish the agency when it didn’t approve a roof he wanted to install over bocce courts in Marine Park in Brooklyn. Another Council member, David Greenfield, told Politico that the commission has the power to delay even the simplest of projects, like the design of public toilets. [Politico] — Kathryn Brenzel