Search results for "Mayor de Blasio"

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Piering Ahead

Mayor de Blasio asks Douglas Durst to stop funding lawsuits against Pier 55

Update 7/21/17: This story has been updated with additional information on the City Club's recent activity, and the Army Corps of Engineering permitting process has been clarified.

Just when waters seemed calm, a new player has waded into the public spectacle that is the fight over Pier 55. To move the pricey project forward, Mayor Bill de Blasio has asked developer Douglas Durst to stop funding lawsuits against it.

The $250 million project is spearheaded by the Hudson River Park Trust, the public benefit corporation that manages Hudson River Park. The group, backed by substantial contributions from financier Barry Diller, asked London's Thomas Heatherwick to design a whimsical public space programmed for entertainment back in 2014. But almost since its inception, Pier 55, which is sited near Manhattan's West 13th Street, has been dogged by lawsuits from the City Club of New York, a once-dead civic organization that resurfaced in 2013 to challenge initiatives like the Midtown East rezoning.

But the Mayor's call to Durst last week may be paving the way for talks between the City Club and the Trust.

Through its lawyer, the City Club said it's open to negotiation but it's not backing off the courts. “In all likelihood,” Richard D. Emery told The New York Times, “we’re going to file a new challenge and then sit down and negotiate with them.”

Emery told the Times his client won't go to the table unless the park agrees to greater transparency in the future, giving stakeholders with divergent viewpoints space to discuss projects like Pier 55. (The Trust maintains its public review process for the project was above-board.) Right now, it's not clear what a settlement would include.

Durst wasn't always a foe of the group: He served on the board of Friends of Hudson River Park, a fundraising team that supports the Trust, but quit in December 2012. This May he confirmed rumors that he has been funding the City Club's lawsuits all along.

None of those cases were successful until March of this year, when U.S. District Court Judge Lorna G. Schofield ruled that the pier would negatively impact the rivers estuarine sanctuary, and thus countered the Trust's mission protecting the Hudson. After the Trust addressed the issues Judge Schofield cited in her decision, the Army Corps of Engineers issued a new pier permit in May.

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CreateNYC

Mayor de Blasio unveils New York City’s first cultural plan
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled the city’s first ever cultural plan, CreateNYC, which has been in the works for months.

CreateNYC is a blueprint for expanding the Big Apple's cultural sector; it mainly focuses on increasing diversity across museum boards and addressing historically underserved communities.

The plan was built on feedback from nearly 200,000 New Yorkers and focuses on growing the cultural community across all five boroughs. 97 percent of respondents said that arts and culture are vital to the overall quality of life in the city, and 75 percent of New Yorkers said that they wish they could attend arts and cultural activities more often.

“New York City is the world capital of art and culture,” said de Blasio in a press release. “If we are going to continue to live up to that title we must use every tool we have to ensure that every resident, in every neighborhood, has the same access to cultural opportunities. CreateNYC is the first comprehensive roadmap to lifting up arts and culture across the city.”

Speaking at a news conference today, de Blasio also emphasized the city’s cultural institutions need for diversity and inclusion, according to the New York Times. “There is still the assumption among New Yorkers about where they belong and where they don’t belong,” he said. Sixty-seven percent of New York City residents identify as people of color, but only 38 percent of employees at cultural organizations are people of color, according to the press release.

Funding will come from the mayor’s office, with an additional $5 million from City Council to be allocated. The majority of it will go towards less prominent arts groups—especially those that lay outside of Manhattan. Approximately $1.5 million will be directed towards increasing support for low-income communities and underrepresented groups, while $4.5 million will be used to support the Cultural Institutions Group (CIG) in low-income communities.

A long-term goal of CreateNYC is the inclusion of public art in both public and private spaces, as well as increased support for the Percent for Art program. Again, the plan emphasized arts programming in public spaces in underrepresented communities.

A fair chunk of the funding—$5 million—will be used to help the cultural institutions achieve OneNYC sustainability goals of an 80 percent reduction of all emissions by 2050. The Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) will create a new position specifically to work with cultural organizations to help them reduce their energy consumption.

“It may be the least sexy of all the recommendations,” Cultural Affairs Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl said to the Times, “but it could be the most significant.”

CreateNYC's full plan can be read on their website.
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Universal Design

Mayor de Blasio announces the Second Edition of the Inclusive Design Guidelines
The second edition of the Inclusive Design Guidelines (IDG)—a set of parameters that assist designers in ensuring their work is fully usable by any and all—has been announced by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. The Office for People with Disabilities published the first edition seven years ago. This latest version will expand on the minimum requirements laid out in the 2010 edition, which consolidated design guidelines from around the world. The publication has also been distributed across the globe, allowing New York to be seen as a city striving to make itself accessible to all. That said, as many of those with disabilities will tell you, the city still has a long way to go, especially with regards to its transportation services. According to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), fewer than 20 percent of subway stations are accessible to all. Change is coming, albeit slowly. A 1979 lawsuit means that by 2020, 100 stations must include elevators. That still only means that less than a quarter will be wheelchair accessible. The problem persists above ground, too. In 2014, a report by the Center for Independence of the Disabled found that 806 curb cuts of 1,066 sites surveyed south of 14th Street in Manhattan were inaccessible. Crumbling concrete, potholes, barriers, and damaged slopes (or no slopes) were the main issues. If you find somewhere that has inadequate disabled access, you can file a complaint by calling 311. (Note: Buildings built before 1987 are exempt). More information on that can be found here. However, the new IDG will continue to foster multisensory environments that, according to the Mayor's office, will "accommodate a wide range of individuals with physical and cognitive abilities of all ages." De Blasio's announcement comes in the month marking the 27th anniversary of the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), the first legislation passed in the U.S. that sought to provide rights to those with physical and cognitive disabilities. “New York City is a place of inclusion where every single person who resides here should be able to navigate daily life without accessibility being a concern,” said Mayor de Blasio in a press release. “We are excited to launch this 2nd edition of inclusive design guidelines as a tool to help make our city even more welcoming, convenient, and enjoyable for ALL New Yorkers.” Meanwhile, Victor Calise, commissioner of the Office of People with Disabilities, added: “The IDG is proving to be an important tool for designers to create welcoming, Comfortable and usable environments.... Locally, the IDG is helping to make New York City the most accessible city in the world.” The IDG Second Edition can be found here.
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Will Take Years

Mayor de Blasio unveils plan to close Rikers Island for good
Mayor Bill de Blasio has unveiled a plan to close Rikers Island, the city's troubled jail complex. Over the next few years the city intends to shutter the multi-jail facility, located on a hard-to-access island in northern Queens, and replace it with neighborhood detention centers. Facing ongoing problems of overcrowding, inmate abuse, and backlogs in the courts that strand poor inmates for months (almost 80 percent of people on the island have not had their case seen by a judge), the 8,000-person jail has come to represent dysfunction in the criminal justice system locally and nationally. Three months ago, thanks to ongoing efforts by activists behind the Close Rikers campaign, the mayor agreed to shut the facilities down incrementally. Last week the mayor's office outlined an 18-point plan for a slate of services, including expanded pre-trial diversion and re-entry support, special housing units for acutely mentally ill inmates, and professional development for corrections officers, all while pouring $30 million over the next three years into the physical infrastructure of the island to "accelerate safe reductions in the size of the jail population." The plan, officially called “Smaller, Safer, Fairer: A Roadmap to Closing Rikers Island,” offers a way forward as the new jail system is put in place. Its goal is to reduce the citywide jail population by 25 percent, from 9,400 to 7,000 people, over the next five years. In addition to revamped social services to cut down on recidivism, the Roadmap calls for repairs to facilities over the next five years to meet the demand for re-entry and education programs, improve fire safety, add A/C to more of the jail complex, and upgrade ventilation systems. The plan also calls for more housing with support services for inmates with serious mental illnesses, as well as tech upgrades that go beyond security cameras (though there will be more of those, too). The mayor has selected a Justice Implementation Task Force, a 30-person team that includes Rosalie Genevro, the executive director of The Architectural League of New York and Feniosky Feinosky Peña-Mora, the outgoing head of the Department of Design and Construction, to lead the effort.
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Mind the Gap

Mayor de Blasio unveils new East River esplanade
The Hudson River Greenway will soon meet its other half. Mayor Bill de Blasio has confirmed plans to extend the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway along the East River between 61st and 53rd Street. The Greenway has been in development since 1993 and connects the majority of Manhattan’s waterfront with pedestrian and bike paths. The last upgrade connected two legs along the Hudson River Greenway between West 81st and 91st streets and it is now the busiest bikeway in the U.S., according to the Mayor’s Office press release and an article in USA Today. The Mayor has allocated $100 million in City capital for the project in the Mayor’s Executive Budget, the entirety of which will be announced April 26. “The Hudson River Greenway has vastly improved quality of life on the West Side, and we want families in every corner in the borough to have that same access to bike, walk, and play along the water,” said Mayor de Blasio in a press release. “This is the first of many big investments we’ll make as we bring the full Greenway to reality.” Along with the new esplanade, the Mayor has also set aside $5 million to conduct studies of other sections of the Greenway that have yet to be connected to the main loop. As cycling continues to grow in popularity as both a leisure activity and viable form of commuting, the City continues to push for a completed 32-mile Greenway, which would encircle the entire island of Manhattan. When asked whether the city would hire an architect for the esplanade, the Mayor's Press Office said the city was still assessing the best approach to the project. For the time being, the new esplanade is moving into the design phase and is expected to be open and ready for cyclers, runners, and walkers alike in 2022.
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Prison Break

Mayor de Blasio backs ten-year-plan to remove prisons from Rikers Island
Rikers Island could cease to hold inmates in ten years time if a plan, backed by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, goes ahead. The penal colony is the largest in the world, housing a daily population of around 10,000 inmates. The mayor and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito are supporting a plan that will be put forward by former chief judge Jonathan Lippman, part of a report that, according to multiple news outlets, is to be released this weekend. Run by the New York City Department of Correction, the Rikers Island complex has annual runnings costs of $860 million. 9,000 officers and 1,500 civilians administer and manage approximately 100,000 admissions a year. 85-to-92 percent of the inmates are awaiting trial, but cannot afford bail. According to Politico, Lippman has spent months exploring the possibility of shuttering Rikers. Lippman was the head of a commission investigating the issue. The New York Times has said that this is the commission's report's top priority, shifting inmates into smaller, more local jails—a move which would cost $10.6 billion. "The commission believes that the use of Rikers Island must be phased out over the next 10 years and its facilities demolished," the report supposedly recommends. However, this money, the report continues, would be recouped in savings of $1.4 billion per year brought around by massive reductions in staff—down 3,700. “Closing Rikers Island also provides a unique opportunity to redevelop the island,” the report also observes. Jim Venturi, planning advocate and head of urban planning design firm ReThink Studio, Jim Venturi penned an Op-Ed in The Architect's Newspaper in 2015 calling for the expansion of La Guardia into Rikers Island. "They are within 200 feet of each other, but otherwise a world apart. The abuses at Rikers show New York at its worst, but an expanded LaGuardia could be the world’s leading airport," he said, adding: "The closing of Rikers would allow LaGuardia to expand its flight capacity and add long-haul flights to global destinations to meet a growing regional demand." "We’re ecstatic to hear that this long-overdue closure will be initiated. We should take full advantage of this once-in-a-century opportunity to transform a human rights disaster into a new, world-class gateway for our city," said Venturi AN after the news that Rikers could be closing. "Instead of being the shame of New York, Rikers Island would become something we could be proud of." Speaking to the New York Times, Mayor de Blasio’s press secretary Eric Phillips said the mayor has “always been publicly and privately supportive of the goal behind the closure movement.” He went to say that “it’s no secret that City Hall has been working diligently behind the scenes for some time to test whether closing the facility at some point in the future is feasible. We expect to share results of the mayor’s focus on these significant challenges very soon.” If the plan is enacted, Rikers Island will require a new name to match its new image, a notion put forward by the report that did not supply any alternatives. UPDATE, 3/31: Mayor de Blasio has released the following statement elaborating on Rikers Island:
New York City has always been better than Rikers Island. I am proud to chart a course for our city that lives up to this reality. Our success in reducing crime and reforming our criminal justice system has paved a path off Rikers Island and toward community-based facilities capable of meeting our criminal justice goals. There is no doubt that the road to Rikers Island’s closure will be long and arduous. It will require that local officials and stakeholders stand up and support facilities that meet our moral obligation to thousands of New Yorkers whose lives we will never turn our backs on. It will require that our state government, and each component of our criminal justice system, contribute to the reform efforts critical to reducing our jail population and improving re-entry services and educational programming. The length of this process will also require continued investment in the facilities and conditions on Rikers Island that remain key to rehabilitation efforts for thousands of New Yorkers in the years ahead. This moment would not be possible without the work of Speaker Mark-Viverito, who has helped fuel the progress toward a more just criminal justice system.
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Shelter from the Storm

Mayor de Blasio unveils new plan to fight homelessness in NYC
At a press conference last Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced his plan to fight homelessness, aiming to decrease by 45% the number of hotels and cluster apartments being used to temporarily house the homeless over the next five years. (The latter are apartments rented by the city to house the homeless). As part of a more community-based approach, the city aims to create new neighborhood-specific shelters to help manage the transition. According to a representative from the Mayor’s Office, these new, larger shelters will keep the city’s overall homeless shelter capacity constant. New York City’s homeless population is at an all-time high, with about 60,000 people living in shelters, cluster apartments, and hotels around the city. The Mayor stated that rent has increased in the city by 19 percent since the economic recession while the average household income has decreased by 6.3 percent, leaving many families in a bind. These displaced families make up for 70 percent of people living in shelters, according to de Blasio. Because of the city’s legal obligation to house anyone who asks for shelter, it has been forced to move people into cluster apartments and even hotels, racking up a bill of $400,000 a day, according to The New York Times. These statistics are a large part of why the de Blasio administration has struggled to combat homelessness and income inequality; related tactics have included rent stabilization initiatives and rental assistance to those who are at risk of becoming homeless. The city currently has 647 buildings operating to accommodate the homeless, and de Blasio proposes to vacate a majority of those sites, predominantly cluster housing and hotels, within the next five years. The end goal is to have 364 total sites operating in the city. In order to do this, the system will become more dependent on shelters, adding 90 new shelters and expanding on 30 existing sites to accommodate for the shift. A representative from the Mayor’s press office said that 18 to 20 new shelters will be completed each year, several of which would be purpose-built new construction, over the same five-year span. The remainder will be existing buildings, and in some cases, empty cluster housing sites that will be repurposed and renovated to become new shelters. On top of the goal to decrease the number of shelter sites, the city also hopes to decrease the number of homeless in shelters by 2,500 in the next five years. The representative emphasized that despite the decrease in sites, the city is not decreasing its capacity to house the homeless, just reallocating it. The city also plans to refurbish existing shelters in poor condition. “We’re going to do a comprehensive effort around the city to bring all shelters to a better standard of quality,” said de Blasio. These renovations will create more appropriate spaces for the shelter’s occupants to stay during the day to participate in training and education programs. The city hopes this will keep residents off of the streets, a benefit for the community, and help get them back on their feet faster. Another major crux of de Blasio’s new strategy is to keep the homeless in their communities, where they are closer to their jobs, schools, and houses of worship. This community-based shelter system would place new shelters in neighborhoods with a high number of homeless currently in the system. The first of those facilities will open this April in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, which is home to 132 families currently in shelters and scattered throughout the city. de Blasio plans to continue pushing for more affordable housing, with 200,000 new and preserved affordable apartments on the way, providing options for seniors, veterans, and low-income families. The city would also increase supportive housing initiatives, which provide on-site support for substance abuse and mental illness, to help the homeless regain independence. The Mayor reiterated that these strategies are long term and iterative and that this process is something that will require patience. “We will be at this a long time,” said the Mayor. “We will make progress, but it will be incremental. It will be slow, and I hope and I believe it will be steady.” Meanwhile, on the other side of the country in Honolulu, Hawaii State Senator Josh Green introduced a bill that would allow doctors to prescribe housing to homeless patients that suffer from mental illness and addiction. In a study quoted by The Guardian, research has shown that healthcare spending for homeless patients, particularly those struggling with mental illness and addiction, decreases by 43 percent when they become housed and are provided with supportive services. These new initiatives suggest a change in the way governments are viewing and treating homelessness and, hopefully, will open the conversation to new and innovative solutions. To read more about Mayor de Blasio’s plan, click here.
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Fast-Track It Back

Mayor de Blasio expedites Build It Back construction work
Mayor Bill de Blasio this month signed legislation that will expedite approval of demolition and construction work performed by New York City–procured contractors under the Build it Back program. This bill will help to fast-track the city's rebuilding efforts that continue four years after Hurricane Sandy. Build it Back is a city initiative that provides funds to rebuild areas devastated by the historic storm. “We are pushing every day to accelerate construction, cut red tape and get people back into their homes. I want to thank Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito for her leadership, the bill’s sponsor, Council Member Mark Treyger, and the rest of the City Council for passing this essential bill,” de Blasio said. The bill, known as Intro. 1341, offers two ways for the City to speed up construction: First, it expedites the demolition process by allowing necessary paperwork to be completed after the demolition, given that the work is supervised by licensed safety professionals. Second, it allows projects that were not allowed to move forward because of violations pre-dating the Build It Back program to proceed while simultaneously protecting the safety of those homes and their homeowners in Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island, many of whom are ready to get back to their daily lives. The goal is to get those people back in their homes, but also to plot a path forward for resilient neighborhoods that can withstand future storms. Previously, the de Blasio administration and the city council have provided tax relief for property owners affected by the 2012 storm and have also helped to remove unnecessary zoning restrictions on both elevation and construction. “Four long years after Hurricane Sandy, many New Yorkers are still waiting to be able to return home. We cannot allow red tape or sluggish bureaucracy to continue to delay the full recovery of the families enrolled in the Build it Back program. I am proud to have sponsored this long-overdue legislation, in partnership with the Mayor, and prouder still to see it signed into law. This bill is designed to remove unnecessary obstacles that have prevented the Build it Back program from moving forward while ensuring that rigorous safety standards are upheld,” said Councilmember Mark Treyger, chair of the Committee on Recovery and Resiliency.
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Five Sites

Mayor de Blasio announces $150 million in funding for city’s “anchor parks”
Mayor de Blasio has announced $150 million in funding for major improvements to five New York City "anchor parks." The mayor chose one large park per borough—Highbridge Park in Manhattan, Betsy Head Park in Brooklyn, Freshkills Park on Staten Island, Saint Mary’s Park in the Bronx, and Astoria Park in Queens—to receive $30 million to upgrade facilities. Together these parks are within walking distance of 750,000 residents, but have suffered in years past from under-investment. The city has designated the five sites as anchors because they are community resources in densely populated, lower-income areas that have strong development potential. Parks Department commissioner Mitchell Silver told PIX11 that the chosen parks are a "stabilizing force in neighborhoods and offer more diverse resources than smaller community parks." “New Yorkers deserve to have the greatest parks in the world steps from their homes. That’s why our administration is focused on park equity, which brings fair access to and development of parks across the city. The Anchor Parks program, joined with the Community Parks Initiative and Parks Without Borders, marks another major step in advancing park equity for all New Yorkers,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. In the fall, Parks officials will outreach the surrounding communities to determine the best improvements to make. The announcement follows the Parks Department's groundbreaking on its first Community Parks Initiative (CPI) project last week. The mayor started CPI in 2014 to improve green space in low-income neighborhoods. City officials gathered at Thomas Boyland Playground in Bushwick, Brooklyn to celebrate the start of construction on the first 35 sites that will be built in CPI's first phase (an additional 12 parks are in design, with more sites to be announced soon). The $3 million renovation at Thomas Boyland will add a natural turf baseball field, basketball court, fitness equipment for adults, new landscaping, and a redesigned children's play area with a cooling spray shower. Last fall, de Blasio announced that CPI will receive $285 million in capital funds through 2019.
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Sherman Plaza Defeated

In a sharp blow to Mayor de Blasio’s affordable housing plan, city council votes “no” on Inwood rezoning

In a sharp rebuke of Mayor de Blasio’s affordable housing plan, the city council voted down a zoning change that would have allowed a 15-story development on a prime corner in the northern Manhattan neighborhood of Inwood.

The council’s August 16 vote followed a decision earlier in the day from the Committee on Land Use, which voted against a proposed rezoning brought forth by Washington Square Partners, the developer of Sherman Plaza, a mixed-use structure designed by New York–based Kenneth Park Architects at 4650 Broadway.

Sherman Plaza was slated to be the first individual development zoned for Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH), a key provision of the mayor’s plan to build or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing over the next decade. The development would have offered 20 percent of the units at 40 percent of the area median income (AMI) or 30 percent of units at 80 percent of the AMI, which in 2015 was $86,300 for a family of four. Residents believed that the development’s affordability was not deep enough for the neighborhood.

The community is now mostly zoned R7-2, a moderate density designation that encourages five- to eight-story structures with generous street setbacks. The proposed change would have established a higher density R8X and R9A district plus a C2-4 district within that R8X-R9A district at the corner of Broadway and Sherman Avenue.The City Planning Commission (CPC) approved a proposed rezoning of that site that would set a height limit of 175 feet.

Residents praise the architectural character of Inwood’s art deco apartment buildings. The neighborhood’s features, though, are conditioned by height factor zoning: The FAR is tied to the height of the building, so tower-in-the-park–style buildings have larger setbacks and a higher FAR, while shorter buildings earn a lower FAR and sit closer to the curb.

The project caught heat in the lead-up to the August meeting from residents and civic groups concerned about its impact on the neighborhood. Sherman Plaza was originally conceived as a 23-story, 375,000-square-foot development with 350 units and ground floor retail. In May, Community Board 12 quietly okayed the plans without alerting residents. The Municipal Art Society testified against the development at a City Planning Commission meeting that same month, citing its high affordability thresholds and out-of-context aesthetics. Neighbors were worried that, because of the sloping topography, Sherman Plaza would plunge adjacent Fort Tryon Park into shadow.

Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez represents the neighborhood, and didn’t take a public position on Sherman Plaza until a groundswell of community opposition forced him to come out forcefully against the development the day before the city council meeting. His office released a statement that acknowledged a lack of affordable housing in the district and outlined his position on new development: “[Developments] must be 50 percent affordable, have ample space for community cultural and nonprofit organizations and be supportive of our small businesses, and with key assurances in place that it will go forward as posed [sic].”

At the committee meeting, Rodriguez explained his position before voting down the proposed rezoning: “I was listening to the community for months. It’s important to preserve the landscape of the community.” He added that under Mayor Bloomberg, only 250 units of affordable housing were added to the neighborhood, and that many renters, his household included, receive preferential rents that could increase dramatically if Inwood’s housing market heats up.

Council members from the Committee on Land Use and the Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises followed Rodriguez’s lead to vote 15-0 in opposition to the rezoning. Council members traditionally have first pass on developments in their district, and other members defer to the decision of the official from the affected district.

Community activists from an array of local groups in the room cheered the committee’s decision.

Donovan Richards Jr., chair of the Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises, offered a thinly veiled rebuke of Rodriguez’s position. “It’s very easy to say no, it’s harder to build consensus on land-use issues,” he said.

“The committee has heard countless difficult and controversial applications,” Committee on Land Use chair David Greenfield added. “Our city’s challenge is not if, but how, we grow.Despite the enthusiasm from the chairs [assembled citizens], today is not a happy day.”

Mayor de Blasio, too, chided opponents of Sherman Plaza after the vote. At a Bronx press conference the next day, he lamented that the development could move forward with fewer units and no affordable housing. “Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face,” De Blasio told MIH supporters in the council— including Rodriguez—who oppose MIH developments in their neighborhood.

The developers were predictably unhappy. Washington Square Partners issued the following statement post-vote:

“We are disappointed with the decision not to vote in favor of our application to rezone Sherman Plaza but want to thank Community Board 12, Borough President Brewer, the City Planning Commission and the Mayor for working with us over the last two years in support of the project. The project was an opportunity to develop 175 affordable apartments and we are disappointed the local council member did not agree with us.”

A spokesperson for the developer said her client was “surprised by how much attention” Sherman Plaza received, but noted that next steps for the project are under wraps. WNYC reported that Washington Square Partners may move forward with a plan that includes no affordable housing.

Inwood resident and architect Suzanna Malitz applauded the committee’s decision. While Malitz and fellow members of Uptown for Bernie in attendance opposed Sherman Plaza, she supports contextual development east of 10th Avenue along an industrial strip that fronts the Harlem River. There’s “plenty of space” there for denser developments that include affordable housing, she explained.

Rezoning this area is a top priority of the Inwood NYC Neighborhood Plan, a coalition of city agencies, nonprofits, and community groups working through the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) to envision the neighborhood’s future growth, with an eye towards developing the largely industrial areas east of 10th Avenue. Although the plan’s study area extends north from Dyckman Street and doesn’t include Sherman Plaza, if realized, its key provisions will most likely affect surrounding areas, the Bronx included.

New York–based Studio V collaborated with NYCEDC to make the vision more tangible. “Inwood is extraordinary. It has unique conditions—the grid shifts between the east and west sides, it’s bounded by two rivers, and has old growth forests in Inwood Hill Park. There’s a huge opportunity to develop the waterfront along the Harlem River and Sherman Creek, so the area goes from being an edge to being a center,” said Jay Valgora, Studio V’s founding principal. The firm’s renderings show an array of towers that could be developed on both banks of the Harlem River if the east side is upzoned. The east side can support greater density without cutting into the neighborhood’s beloved deco fabric, Valgora explained. 

Cheramie Mondesire attended NYCEDC-led meeting but was dissatisfied with the proceedings. At the second meeting she attended “it was all scripted. They couldn’t answer questions that were not on the script.” The Metropolitan Council on Housing was there to organize residents, and Mondersire, who has lived in the neighborhood for 42 years, attended their meetings to learn how MIH could be applied in Inwood. She agreed that the area east of 10th Avenue would be better suited for dense development than the middle of the neighborhood’s fabric.

Pat Courtney of Inwood Preservation added that the transportation infrastructure is not equipped to serve an influx of new residents, especially with a lack of local bus routes. “Thecommunity is beautiful, well-coordinated, and well-planned. New development should be scaled to existing buildings.”

State assemblymember Guillermo Linares opposed Sherman Plaza, noting that developments like these accelerate the process of gentrification. “You see what happened in lower Manhattan and Williamsburg. In my district, there’s a high concentration of low and middle-income families who cannot afford the housing that’s being built.” Linares cited Sherman Creek as a potential area for “100 percent affordable housing” that includes ground floor retail to enliven the streetscape.

 
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Intro 775-A

Mayor de Blasio signs controversial landmarks bill into law
Mayor de Blasio has signed Intro 775-A into law. Intro 775-A provides new decision timelines for the designation of landmarks. The law gives the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) one year to landmark or pass up calendared individual, scenic, or interior landmarks. The commission has two years to decide on historic districts. If action isn't taken on an item, the law stipulates that it must be de-calendared. When the law takes effect, any item on the LPC's calendar has to be voted on within 18 months, or it will be de-calendared. A one-year extension may be granted with permission from the property owner. Intro 775-A is a response to the 95-item backlog on the LPC's calendar. LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan explained at a September 2015 public hearing that the commission will streamline its process if the bill became law, but that they would strongly prefer to establish procedure internally. Critics of the commission pointed out that some items had languished on the calendar for years, sometimes decades. In response, the LPC is in the process of voting on older calendar items. In the days leading up to the City Council vote in early June, preservation groups, including the Historic Districts Council (HDC), Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, MAS, Landmark West!, and Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts, came out forcefully against the bill. The timeline, opponents say, could limit the designation of challenging items or items with difficult histories. The LPC prepares a dossier on each item, and some items, like historic districts, can contain hundreds of individual structures. It can take many months to negotiate a district's boundaries, and time to do quality research. The new law, critics say, puts negative pressure on these activities. “In many instances these designations required time for the Landmarks Commission to reach out to the widest possible community and perform the in-depth research necessary to properly regulate the area,” the HDC said in a statement. “In other cases, external schedules such as municipal elections and changes in city administration affected the agency’s ability to expeditiously consider designations. Landmark designation is a permanent change in legal status and there are many examples where allowing the agency extra time to complete its process (if necessary) makes sense in helping to ensure equitable and transparent decision-making.” Then there's the money question.  A landmark can be expensive to maintain: Owners who privilege cost considerations over cultural patrimony could refuse to have their item re-calendared, and the item could lose out on landmark designation. Sometimes the commission works with the owner to secure maintenance funds, but deadline pressure could eliminate this crucial assistance. Except for the paid chair, LPC commissioners are volunteers who meet weekly. The law asks commissioners to do more work in less time with no additional resources. Today, HDC released a somewhat glum statement announcing the new law and thanking members for their efforts in opposing it:
HDC wishes to thank the preservation community for its vigilance in opposing this legislation, and for reaching out to your City Council representatives. It is important to remember that it is only through the efforts of the hundreds of individuals and organizations who raised their voices that the worst part of this bill, the 5-year moratorium on designation (included in the original Intro. 775 bill in 2015), was removed when this bill resurfaced.
 
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Mayor de Blasio’s $2.75-per-ride ferry service to begin summer 2017
Expanding on the East River Ferry system, Mayor de Blasio will see his $55 million plan for a five borough ferry network come to fruition summer 2017.  At $2.75-a-ride, the system will be managed and operated by a California company, Hornblower, that has a proven track record in the industry, having run services in New York for ten years. Currently, the ferry caters to Manhattan residents and those on the shoreline between DUMBO, Brooklyn and Long Island City, Queens. The network will be expanded to escort people to Astoria, Queens; Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn; and the Rockaways, Queens. Come 2018, Soundview will service the Upper and Lower East Side. Another proposal looks to extend the service further to Staten and Coney Island, though no completion date has yet been penned in. The cost of a ferry trip will align with the price of a single subway ride. Bicycles may be carried on for an extra dollar. This is less than half of what it costs for a standard weekend ferry fare at the moment. Such a pricing scheme is no accident, either, as de Blasio has his eyes on integrating the network with the rest of the MTA system. According to de Blasio, commuters will be able to enjoy the "fresh air, harbor views, and a fast ride on the open water" on the 20-minute journey between Astoria and Manhattan's East 34th Street, as well as being able to make the most of the ferry on the hour-long commute between the Rockaways and Wall Street. “Today I applaud Mayor de Blasio for his $55 million capital commitment to a 5-borough ferry system and declaring that New York City’s waterfront will be open for all. The ripple effect from this service will be felt throughout the entire city from Bay Ridge to Bayside; from Staten Island to Soundview,” said Councilman Vincent Gentile. “Access to a true 5-borough ferry system will be just another jewel to add to our crown here in southwest Brooklyn, one that will be a boon to small businesses and real estate alike.”