Search results for "Mayor de Blasio"

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Fill It Up

Mayor de Blasio backs tax on vacant New York City storefronts
New York City mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Wednesday his support for a tax on vacant storefronts. The measure would be a response to the unusually high storefront vacancy rates across Manhattan. The New York Post reported that in an appearance on WNYC and at a subsequent press conference the mayor called vacant storefronts "a blight on neighborhoods." The mayor and proponents of such a tax argue that landlords are choosing to let storefronts sit empty for months and sometimes years at a time rather than rent the spaces to tenants at a lower rate. The Post has previously reported that many landlords would rather hold out and wait for a high-end tenant rather than lock in a cheaper tenant on a long-term lease. The result is that thriving parts of the city like Soho and the Upper West Side have storefront vacancy rates of 20 percent or more, well over the standard 5 percent. Proponents of the tax argue that landlords of vacant storefronts are hurting small local businesses that can't afford the extremely high rates that owners are demanding. After a first term with its fair share of ups and downs, de Blasio was reelected in 2017 with the promise to continue pushing for a progressive vision for the city. Many have criticized the mayor for spending too little time focused on city issues and spending too much time trying to raise a national profile with visits to Iowa and other trips. His turbulent and often unproductive relationship with New York State governor Andrew Cuomo, an ostensible ally in the Democratic party who is also competing for national attention, has not helped his standing in the eyes of New Yorkers eager for substantive improvements on local issues like city housing and transit. De Blasio's recent State of the City address announced progressive initiatives on many of those issues wrapped up in a campaign to make the city the #FairestBigCity in the country. While it remains to be seen whether or not de Blasio will join the 2020 presidential race, such moves may help burnish his reputation as a progressive government executive.
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#FairestBigCity

Mayor Bill de Blasio announces plan to protect New York City tenants
Tenants' rights are top of mind in New York City right now in a big way. As affordable housing stock increases throughout the five boroughs, it seems as though the city government is taking a lead on ensuring the safety and financial wellbeing of local residents. Today in his sixth annual State of the City address, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed an executive order to establish the new Office of Tenant Protection, a group that would act as a liaison between different housing and building agencies in the city. It will launch at the end of this year and receive an operating budget of $450,000, according to The Real Deal Once up and running, the office will review city data and tenant complaints in order to determine which landlords need more oversight. In some cases, the city will be able to assume control of buildings entirely.  “When a landlord tries to push out a tenant by making their home unlivable, a team of inspectors and law enforcement will be on the ground to stop it in time,” said de Blasio in his address. “If fines and penalties don’t cut it, we will seize buildings and put them into the hands of a nonprofit that will treat tenants with the respect they deserve.” The plan is part of a set of initiatives the mayor is touting to make New York the #FairestBigCity in the nation. In recent years, the city has set up similar offices dedicated to helping tenants, such as the Office of Tenant Advocate, which came online in mid-2017 and is operated through the Department of Buildings. As New Yorkers experience serious disturbances or harassment from construction, they can call upon the OTA for assistance. The city's Department of Housing Preservation and Department now provides equal help through the new Tenant Anti-Harassment Unit. In addition to these new direct-help government groups, de Blasio announced in December a multi-billion plan to fix and preserve the struggling New York City Housing Authority, an agency that had a particularly bad year providing quality affordable housing for its low-income residents.  Other steps outside the mayor’s office are being taken to crack down on private and public tenant protection. In November, the New York City Council began reviewing 18 big bills to halt abusive practices made by local landlords regarding bad buyouts, false documentation, and incorrect permit filing. Learn more about the individual bills here.
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Trump in a Slump

Petition aims to rename the block in front of Trump Tower after Obama

As of today, over 3,900 people have signed an online petition to name a stretch of Fifth Avenue in Manhattan after former President Barack Obama. The petition comes shortly after a portion of Rodeo Road was renamed "Obama Boulevard" by the L.A. City Council in August.

“We request the New York City Mayor and City Council do the same by renaming a block of Fifth Avenue after the former president who saved our nation from the Great Recession, achieved too many other accomplishments to list, and whose two terms in office were completely scandal-free,” wrote Elizabeth Rowin, the author of the petition.

The clear controversy surrounding the appeal stems from the fact that the famed Trump Tower occupies the block, located on Fifth Avenue between 57th and 58th Streets, which petitioners want to dub “President Barack H. Obama Avenue.” If the name change were to be approved, President Trump would be constantly reminded of the president before him, a president who Trump has falsely accused of a variety of offenses over the years, ranging from lying about his citizenship to spying on Trump's campaign.

With 3,975 signatures and counting, the MoveOn.org appeal is a little ways away from reaching its goal of obtaining 4,000 signatures total.

To the dismay of the petitioners, the City Council holds that in order to get a street renamed after an important figure, the honoree must have had a meaningful connection to the community and must no longer be alive. While Obama does not meet at least one those prerequisites, petitioners and local residents hope to deliver the online form to Mayor Bill de Blasio for approval.

The New York City Council frequently votes on street co-namings, with 164 streets renamed within the past year. In December, the council voted to co-name streets after three of New York's greatest musical icons: Notorious B.I.G., the Wu-Tang Clan, and Woody Guthrie.

h/t 6sqft
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Run-In on the Row

Judge delays construction of proposed homeless shelter on Billionaires’ Row

Last week, plans to open a new homeless shelter at the former Park Savoy Hotel in Manhattan’s “Billionaires’ Row” were temporarily halted after a judge hearing a case brought by a group of residents granted more time for a panel to investigate the issue. The group of residents, known as the “West 58th Street Coalition,” claims that the homeless population would bring crime and loitering to the upscale block while decreasing property values. They also argue that the shelter is a massive fire hazard with its narrow, winding staircases and limited exits and sprinklers.

Disputes over the proposed shelter have culminated over the past year after Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that 150 homeless men would be relocated to the 70-room hotel, which is within walking distance of Central Park. The $60 million plan is part of a larger program to open 90 new shelters throughout the five boroughs within the next five years.

Supreme Court Justice Alexander Tisch initially ruled against the protesting residents, claiming that their argument regarding loitering and decreased property values “does not form a sufficient basis for granting a preliminary injunction," but on December 26 First Department Appellate Judge Jeffrey Oing issued a temporary halt on construction so that an appeals panel could fully investigate the complaints. Arguments from both sides are due this month, and the future of the shelter should become clearer thereafter.

Billionaires’ Row, located just below Central Park between Sixth and Seventh Avenues, is home to Manhattan’s ultra-luxury residential skyscrapers and boasts some of the tallest and most expensive apartment buildings in the world. No one yet occupies the shelter site on the extravagant block, but city lawyers have announced that it could open any day now. The New York City Law Department also stated that it believes that the appeals court would ultimately refute the activists’ claims.

“We believe the lower court was correct in denying the injunction and once the appeals panel gets a full briefing that decision will stand,” a spokesman said in a statement to the New York Post. “The City remains focused on opening this site as soon as possible so that we can provide high-quality shelter and employment services to hard-working New Yorkers experiencing homelessness as they get back on their feet.”

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Monumental Gains for Women

Brooklyn is slated to erect two statues in honor of Shirley Chisholm
In a city boasting nearly 150 monuments of different men, pioneering politician Shirley Chisholm is set to get not one, but two statues in her honor. Both Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office and New York City Council Member Robert E. Cornegy, Jr., (D-36) have announced separate efforts to erect public artworks in Brooklyn memorializing the legacy of Chisholm, the first black woman elected to Congress. As a former educator and decades-long state legislator, the Brooklyn-born Chisholm inspired a whole generation of women to seek public office. She served New York’s 12th congressional district in the House of Representatives from 1969 to 1983 and was the first women to seek the Democratic Party’s nomination for president in 1972. The mayor’s effort to celebrate her life is spearheaded by She Built NYC, an initiative developed to honor the trailblazing historic women who’ve made an impact on New York. After being nominated during an open call this summer, Chisholm was chosen as the first woman in the program to be honored with a statue. It will be installed outside the Parkside entrance of Prospect Park in 2020. The artist who will design the project will be unveiled early next year.  Council Member Cornegy’s move to commemorate Chisholm’s work is part of a community cultural initiative aimed at highlighting people of color who’ve specifically influenced the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Bedford Stuyvesant, where Chisholm grew up, and northern Crown Heights. This statue, unveiled in a maquette, will be designed by renowned artist Sterling Brown, Jr., in conjunction with the Crown Heights North Association. It’s set to be installed by July 2019 in Brower Park by the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, a two-mile walk from the larger, Olmsted Vaux–designed Prospect Park. Hers will be one of four statues that honor some of the community’s iconic leaders. Once erected, Chisholm’s monuments will make her the city’s fifth female figure to be memorialized in bronze or stone. The Department of Parks announced in August that suffragette leaders Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony will receive a statue together in Central Park next fall.
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The Neverending Story

Amazon’s new Queens campus might displace 1,500 affordable units
Amazon’s confirmation earlier this month that it would be dropping one half of its future campus in Long Island City (LIC), Queens, immediately drew condemnation from state representatives and a group of New York City’s elected officials. As the furor grew over Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan to rezone a portion of LIC for the tech giant’s campus, Cuomo released an op-ed today where he hit back at critics of the plan and touted the economic growth that Amazon would bring to New York. Housing affordability had been a point of contention among critics of the $3 billion in subsidies that Amazon will be receiving, and a new report from Politico shows that Amazon’s campus will preclude the creation of 1,500 affordable housing units. Amazon’s investment in the city won’t be insignificant. According to the Office of the Mayor, the online retail behemoth is expected to create 25,000 new jobs by 2029, going up to 40,000 in 2034. In 2019, Amazon will take half-a-million square feet of office space at One Court Square (the Citigroup Building) while their 4-million-square-foot headquarters on the LIC waterfront is under construction. Once work wraps up in 2029, Amazon is expecting to potentially add another 4 million square feet to their campus by 2034. The site of this future development? Anable Basin, an industrial enclave currently owned by the plastic company Plaxall. Plaxall had been gearing up to enact a WXY-master-planned redevelopment of their 15-acre site that would have created 5,000 new residential units, 1,250 of them affordable. Developer TF Cornerstone was also set to build their own 250 affordable apartments on an adjacent site owned by the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), but that project has also been subsumed. An Amazon spokesperson has confirmed to Politico that the no housing will be built on their Queens campus. Long Island City is home to the Queensbridge Houses, the largest public housing development in the Western Hemisphere, but the official line from the de Blasio administration is that the Amazon campus will only be a net positive for the area. A spokesperson for the NYCEDC told Politico that HQ2 will buoy the neighborhood economically, and Mayor de Blasio seemed to agree. “One of the biggest companies on earth next to the biggest public housing development in the United States—the synergy is going to be extraordinary,” said de Blasio.
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Look on the Sunnyside

Amazon to split HQ2 between New York and Virginia, but can they handle it?
Only hours after the news leaked that Amazon was considering Crystal City, a suburb in Arlington, Virginia, that bounds D.C. for the site of its second headquarters, sources are reporting that two cities will actually be taking home a shiny new HQ2. Long Island City in Queens and Crystal City in Northern Virginia will both be getting a mini-HQ2 of sorts and the accompanying 25,000 employees, raising concerns that both neighborhoods will soon face an influx of wealthier residents that will further strain already stressed housing and transportation systems. Although the Chicago Tribune noted that Amazon’s decision to split up its headquarters may have been to head off criticism that it would overburden any city that HQ2 landed in (echoing complaints of Seattle residents), it may not be enough. Over the last year, 1,436 new residential units were built in Long Island City during a time when New York is already struggling—and using increasingly novel means—to hit affordable housing goals. The decision appears to have been weeks, if not months, in the making. Both Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio have met with representatives of Amazon in the past few weeks, with the mayor’s office leading tours of the Queens neighborhood. Just last week, the city announced that it would be infusing the waterfront neighborhood with $180 million in investments toward improving schools, infrastructure, transportation, and open space; it now appears that the announcement’s timing was more than coincidental. The city may also be banking on the future development of Sunnyside Yard, the 180-acre active rail yard situated between Long Island City and Sunnyside, to soak up some of the expected influx of new residents. Although Long Island City, directly across the East River from Midtown Manhattan, is served by eight subway lines, the Long Island Railroad, and easy connections to both John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports, New York’s subway and bus systems are already in the middle of a crisis. Sky-high ridership in recent years, overcrowding, cascading mechanical failures, and struggles to find the funding necessary to fix the subways’ most pressing issues have all contributed to a decrease in the quality of New York’s transportation network. Governor Cuomo, for his part, has been quiet on whether the incentives offered to Amazon include money to improve, or at least fortify, the subway system, though to this point, the administration has already pledged hundreds of millions of dollars in tax incentives. Yesterday, the governor joked that he’d go as far as to “change my name to Amazon Cuomo if that's what it takes." We’ll see if he follows through.
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15 Years of The Architect's Newspaper

A brief history of architecture in the 21st century
To celebrate our 15th anniversary, we looked back through the archives for our favorite moments since we started. We found stories that aged well (and some that didn’t), as well as a wide range of interviews, editorials, and other articles that we feel contributed to the broader conversation. We also took a closer look at the most memorable tributes to those we lost, and heard from editors past and present about their time here. Check out this history of architecture in the 21st century through the headlines of The Architect's Newspaper:

2003

Protest: Michael Sorkin on Ground Zero

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

Crit: AIA Convention (“No more weird architecture in Philadelphia”)
Crit: Spring Street Salt Shed (“In praise of the urban object”)
How institutionalized racism and housing policy segregated our cities
Chinatown residents protest de Blasio rezoning
Roche-Dinkeloo’s Ambassador Grille receives landmark designation
Q&A: Jorge Otero-Pailos: Why the Met Breuer matters
Comment: Ronald Rael on the realities of the U.S.-Mexico border
Detroit Zoo penguin habitat opens
Chicago battles to keep Lucas Museum of Narrative Art from moving
Martino Stierli on the redesign of MoMA’s A+D galleries
WTC Oculus opens
Letter: Phyllis Lambert pleads for Four Seasons preservation
Q&A: Mabel Wilson
#NotmyAIA: Protests erupt over AIA's support of Trump
Snøhetta’s addition to SFMoMA opens
DS+R’s Vagelos Education Center opens
Baltimore’s Brutalist McKeldin Fountain pulverized

2017

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Making Waves

New York City’s coastal protection plan receives a redesign
Manhattan's East River Park is expected to receive a massive facelift—and sooner than expected. Last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration announced an update to nearly 70 percent of the design for the long-awaited East Side Coastal Resiliency Project (ESCR). The new $1.45-billion-plan will not only speed up the construction process and shift heavy construction work away from residential areas and closer to the waterline, it will also improve access to East River Park while transforming it into a world-class parkland. According to a press release, the purpose of the redesign is to allow flood protection to begin one year ahead of schedule. In addition, the entire project is now slated to be completed six months earlier than previously determined. By pushing back the flood walls from FDR Drive toward the East River along the water's edge, there will be fewer barriers between East River Park and the local community, giving the 40-acre green space a more open and welcoming appearance. The flood walls will be directly integrated with the bulkhead and esplanade. Plans are also underway to create a spacious entry plaza at Houston Street with a direct passageway to the water, where pedestrians can stumble upon views of the East River with ease. The new plan will also add 12 tennis courts, eight baseball fields, four basketball courts, three soccer fields, a multipurpose field, and a running track to Lower Manhattan’s largest park. The ESCR is a $335-million proposal to construct flood barriers along the coast of Manhattan, from Midtown East to the Lower East Side. Bjarke Ingels Group and One Architecture & Urbanism conceived the idea in the wake of Hurricane Sandy in 2013. ESCR is only the first of three stages of Ingels’ vision for the Big U, which in total comprises a 10-mile-long flood barrier that doubles as public space, extending from West 57th Street to East 43rd Street, curving around the southern tip of the Financial District and Battery Park. The radical plan for flood-prevention will protect the most vulnerable, low-lying areas of Manhattan, while also providing residents with public spaces to relax, socialize, and sightsee. Construction on ESCR is expected to begin in spring 2020.
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A Bit of Polish

CitizenM used modular construction for its newest NYC hotel
CitizenM, the boutique hotel company founded in Amsterdam that prides itself on offering affordable luxury lodging, is opening its second hotel in New York and in the United States this week, on the Bowery on the Lower East Side in a building designed by Stephen B. Jacobs Group. The new hotel will be the brand’s first in the U.S. to use its prefabricated construction system, which no doubt helps make its luxury affordable. According to Rob Wagemans, the brand’s creative director who is also the founder of Concrete, an Amsterdam-based design firm, many citizenM hotels feature modular guest rooms that are prefabricated in a factory north of Gdansk, Poland, and then shipped by sea in containers to the hotels’ location. The Bowery hotel’s 300 165-square-foot prefabricated guest rooms, made of steel, with concrete floors covered with a wood laminate. were shipped containing most of their furniture, all pieces attached to the rooms’ walls or floor. The furniture includes a California king-size bed that is placed directly below the guest room’s window, which is located in one of its walls, and that lies flush against two other walls facing each other; an HD TV, with wiring done in Poland, that is located at the foot of the bed, mounted on the wall; a table next to one wall that contains the room’s iPad, which controls its lighting, blinds, and TV; a Corian vanity on the opposite wall that contains a sink, minibar, and mirror; and table lamps and a George Nelson lamp above the bed. The room’s frosted glassed-in combined shower and toilet space is also prefabricated; appliances here were made in Germany by Hansgrohe and shipped to Poland for installation Not sent by container is the rooms' movable furniture, such as a red-upholstered Eames chair from Vitra with an accompanying bench; decorative and visual art; and toiletries and toilet paper. Each modular unit consists of two guest rooms connected by a hallway, and 210 units were shipped to New York for the Bowery hotel. The hallway carpet here is decorated with local landmarks and was installed on-site. Wagemans said citizenM’s first hotel in the United States—located in Times Square—was not constructed with modular rooms because when it opened in 2014, the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) would not permit installation of a sprinkler system that was built overseas and not been inspected locally. Robin Chadha, citizenM’s chief marketing officer, said that the administration of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio now looks favorably on prefabrication and is permitting DOB inspectors to go to Europe to inspect sprinklers in citizenM’s modular guest rooms. CitizenM declined to quantify savings afforded by guest room prefabrication, but said the units’ small size means they “generate up to 35 percent more hotel keys per property than a traditional hotel” and undoubtedly more revenue. Not all of the new Bowery hotel was prefabricated. Spaces that were not include the lobby, a ground floor cafe, a “living room” one floor below the first floor, and a rooftop bar with 360-degree views of the city. CitizenM, which owns and operates its 13 hotels worldwide, constructed the 246-feet-tall building the Bowery hotel occupies and claims it is one of the highest in its Lower East Side neighborhood. Eight of the brand’s 13 hotels feature modular guest rooms.
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Basement Boom

New York City pilots basement housing program to expand affordability
For the past two years, the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (DHP), the Department of Buildings, the Fire Department, and the Department of City Planning have been working with city council members to legalize more basement apartment rental units, and this June the city took a major step forward. According to City Hall, “The City is using innovative strategies to unlock more affordable housing at every level – including the basement.” Currently, thousands of people are occupying basement and cellar apartments deemed not fit for habitation. According to Council Member Rafael Espinal, “In East New York, I can comfortably estimate that over 75 percent of the basements are being rented illegally.” Also, they haven't been properly registered with the Department of Finance. Following an initial feasibility study, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Council Members Brad Lander, Rafael Espinal, and Inez Barron proposed legislation this summer to establish a three-year pilot program to facilitate the creation and renovation of apartments in the basements and cellars of certain one- and two-family homes in Brooklyn Community District 5. This demonstration program intends to provide clearer guidelines for landlords looking to make qualifying basements legally habitable. The de Blasio administration has invested $11.7 million in the new program. According to a City Hall press release, “This innovative program will provide safe and legal housing options to more New Yorkers.” Modifications of existing construction codes are designed to improve health and safety standards for occupants while reducing the overall cost of conversions. Barron said, “This bill will enable landlords to make necessary structural adjustments to their basements so that these potential living spaces can be legalized and legitimized.” The DHP is seeking a qualified community-based organization (CBO) to administer the program. The DHP will fund the CBO to assist landlords with completing low-interest loan applications and selecting approved contractors to complete the work. To qualify as a landlord, a homeowner must have an income at or below 165 percent of area median income and occupy the one- or two-family home as their primary residence. If the pilot program succeeds it will potentially expand to all five boroughs.
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Wheel of Misfortune

New York City’s massive Staten Island ferris wheel may never spin
For the past six years, the St. George neighborhood of Staten Island in New York City has been anxiously awaiting the arrival of what would be one of the city’s greatest landmark attractions: the giant, 630-foot New York Wheel with views of the New York Harbor, Statue of Liberty, and New York City skyline. While over $400 million has been sunk into the project since its conception, little has been done to get the ball rolling. Construction has barely begun, and Mayor de Blasio recently signaled that it may not ever happen. The main problem is the cost. The New York City Economic Development Corporation reported that the estimated cost of the Wheel has skyrocketed from $250 million when the project was first proposed in 2012 to a devastating $999 million under the de Blasio administration. When the Wheel’s developer, New York Wheel LLC, asked the city for $140 million in support, de Blasio rejected their pleas, refusing to bail out the floundering project. His administration told New York 1 that the city government is “clear-eyed about the risks of putting public money into an expensive, speculative project.” The New York Wheel promised to transform the humble yet densely packed neighborhood of St. George into a world-class, waterfront destination. Aside from the Wheel itself, whose 36 spacious and climate-controlled pods would provide visitors with fine food, drink, and breathtaking views of the city, the site also comprises five acres of publically accessible grass space for events, a state-of-the-art children’s playground, and a terminal building with restaurants, shops, and boutiques. The project would have potentially revitalized Staten Island, a borough that has long been neglected by New York City tourists. Yet the government’s decision to oppose the funding of the New York Wheel comes after a surge of similar projects in cities like Berlin and Beijing that eventually failed due to a lack of support and income. “Despite many recent conversations with the Wheel developer, we remain convinced that public funds are too scare and valuable to be leveraged for this venture,” an official with the Economic Development Corporation told New York 1. Since the Wheel’s developer and former contractor, Mammoet-Starneth, hoped to rely on the city for financial provision, the two parties were forced to craft a new deal that would give the development team until January 7, 2019 to hire a new contractor and complete the project. According to Staten Island Advance, a hearing on a motion to approve the agreement has been set for September 21. Until then, the fate of the Wheel remains unknown.