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Thread: Lack of SEQR knowledge/experience: dealbreaker for planning work in New York state?

  1. #1
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Lack of SEQR knowledge/experience: dealbreaker for planning work in New York state?

    For personal reasons, I'm trying to return to upstate/western New York.

    Last week, I had an interview for a PD position for a town in the Finger Lakes region. Despite having a personal connection to the town, complements on my knowledge and experience, and an interview that went quite well, today I found out I didn't get the position.

    I hit one snag during the interview: "What is your knowlege of and experience with SEQR?" (SEQR = State Environmental Quality Review; similar to CEQA in California.) I had to admit it was my Achilles heel; I'm somewhat familiar with it, and it's something that I can probably pick up, but I didn't have any firsthand experience with it, having never worked as a planner in New York. I think that might have been what did me in.

    Despite getting my undergraduate and graduate degrees in New York, SEQR was never part of the course of study. I've never seen classes or seminars on SEQR. Despite there being plenty of good information about SEQR on the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation web site, I don't know if it'll be enough for future employers.

    Will my lack of experience with and formal study of SEQR lock me out of the planning job market in New York state? Please be honest.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    Didn't you just start working in Texas?
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

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  3. #3
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by nrschmid View post
    Didn't you just start working in Texas?
    Reread my post.

    Quote Originally posted by Dan
    For personal reasons, I'm trying to return to upstate/western New York
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

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    Cyburbian Rumpy Tunanator's avatar
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    I know the town you are talking about.

    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    Will my lack of experience with and formal study of SEQR lock me out of the planning job market in New York state? Please be honest.
    For that type of position and pretty much all other planning positions, yes. There, that was honest.

    Knowledge of SEQR is pretty much required if your going to work in this state (which is a joke of a state and is going bankrupt). Read up on it on the DEC website and know the types of actions (for development projects, plans, ordinances, routine construction projects, etc.) such as Type I & II actions and Unlisted actions, the determination of significance, lead agency solicitation/status, "239" referral, public comments/public hearing requirements, short form/long form EAFs, Draft Environmental Impact Statements (DEIS) and Final Environmental Impact Statements (EIS), negative or positive declarations, etc., etc. etc.

    http://www.dec.ny.gov/regs/4490.html

    There is a small amount of black and white pertaining to the law and then a whole lot of gray areas when determining what some projects fall under. Sometimes a similar project will require a lot more analysis due to certain aspects of a project. Its a continuing learning process.

    Other jobs might not make it that much of a requirement if you are not dealing with it on a day to day basis.

    Hope that helps. A lot of times for government jobs around here its not how much experience you have but who you know and are connected to. Case in point the recent political appointment of the Erie County E&P Commissioner. I could list others but what is the point. This state needs a major overhaul of its politicians (I won't go on any further, just be prepared to pay taxes out the a-hole for everthing you can think of and if you do move back and are driving up the 90 from the PA line, you might want to watch out for burning tires ).
    A guy once told me, "Do not have any attachments, do not have anything in your life you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you spot the heat around the corner."


    Neil McCauley (Robert DeNiro): Heat 1995

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Mud Princess's avatar
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    Other states, like Massachusetts, have their own SEQR equivalents, and there's also NEPA. I don't see why comparable experience wouldn't be acceptable, unless there is stiff competition for the position (which may be the case, given the current state of the economy ).

    Dan, are you only looking at western NY? Or are you applying for positions in other areas of the state as well?

    There are a couple other Cyburbanites from upstate NY who should be encouraged to chime in... I'm not as qualified to answer the question b/c of the nature of what I do, and being in the private sector.

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    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    Will my lack of experience with and formal study of SEQR lock me out of the planning job market in New York state? Please be honest.
    Absolutely not, at least it shouldn't. SEQR's not a convoluted set of growth management rules like you'd find in FL or CA that take some familiarity with to understand, it's really just a simple procedural rule. There are legal intricacies for sure, but you would be worried about these as a planner (that's what lawyers are for). This really shouldn't be a deal-breaker.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian MacheteJames's avatar
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    It's not a dealbreaker. I was hired into a job as a staff planner here in NY without knowledge of SEQR. I picked it up along the way. Now, you would be coming in at a director level, so you would need to know more. SEQR is just another one of the mini-NEPAs and if you've had to deal with EISs and such in the past, you're fine. Maybe at some point we'll get some more info as to why you're looking to leave Austin? It seems like you just can't get a break.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Plus dandy_warhol's avatar
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    I was hired as a Senior Planner with no knowledge of SEQR. I told them that in the interview but also told them that I was willing and eager to learn it.

    They sent me to a Lorman Seminar on SEQRA. And now, I'm one of the two internal experts on SEQR. Scary!

    If it is any consolation, my previous Planning Director had no clue about SEQR, he relied on me.

    *waves at Rumpy*
    In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. -Martin Luther King Jr.

  9. #9
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Just a quick note to thank everyone for their responses! I'll be reading the SEQR Cookbook to get more familiar with the process.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
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    Just put SEQR on your resume as well. Several HR firms have "keywords" they scan for whether they are truthful or not. I have a friend who is an IT recruiter and they get applicants all the time that put the latest software and programming languages on their resume, even though they may be vaguely familiar with it. The thing is those resumes get "plucked" and others dont. In todays market you have to extend the truth, its brutal out there. If you dont put it down, someone else will. The last 3 gigs I've had I look at the position description and what I was actually asked to do. A big difference I noted. Employers claim they want honest employees, but several employers are not even honest themselves. I think its ok to lie if you know you can do the job. As seen before on this forum 99.9% is not good enough in this economy.

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