Search results for "Mayor de Blasio"
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is taking steps to deliver on his campaign promise to stop what he calls an “epidemic of traffic fatalities” and serious injuries on New York City’s streets.
In a press conference held on January 15, de Blasio announced the formation of an interagency working group to implement “Vision Zero.” Leaders of the New York City Police Department, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and the Taxi and Limousine Commission will report to the Mayor by February 15 with concrete plans for how to achieve the initiative’s goal of zero deaths.
Plans will include dedicating sufficient NYPD resources and personnel to deter the most dangerous behavior, particularly speeding and failing to yield to pedestrians; improving at least 50 dangerous corridors and intersections annually; reducing the speed limit to 20 miles per hour on a number of city streets; and developing a legislative agenda for traffic safety that includes continuing to fight for the home rule right to install additional red light and speed enforcement cameras wherever data shows that they will make the streets safer.
Immediate measures have already been taken to address the public safety problem on the streets. Some speed cameras have been installed and are issuing tickets to enforce the speed limits on some of the city’s most dangerous streets. NYPD Commissioner William J. Bratton, alongside the Mayor at his Vision Zero announcement, reported that the NYPD was increasing the number of officers in its highway division by 50 percent, to 270 officers.
Since the mayor’s press conference, the NYPD has been cracking down on traffic violations. The Brooklyn Paper reported that in a two-day period from January 23 to 24, police from the 78th precinct “handed out 16 summonses, one sixth of the 96 they gave out over all of 2013, and nearly two thirds of the 26 they wrote in December.”
The police are not only ticketing drivers, but also pedestrians. “We find it troubling that one of the police commissioner's apparent priorities is to ticket pedestrians,” Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, told the Guardian. "The first order of business is to focus on those road users who do have the capacity to do harm. That is of course drivers of cars and trucks, multi-ton vehicles, that should be the first and foremost priority for enforcement and ticketing," he said.
Safe street advocates will be watching to see whether de Blasio can deliver on his promise to address the public safety problem. As of the mayor’s press conference, eleven New Yorkers had already been killed in traffic fatalities this year—seven of them pedestrians.
Just before New York City’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio, moved into city hall, City Planning took steps to implement lasting changes to the land use process, leaving a final stamp on the city it has drastically reshaped over the last 12 years under Mayor Bloomberg’s governance.
This updated process is designed to accelerate the time it takes for applicants seeking approval for new developments. The agency’s new rules target the period when a project is first introduced to City Planning, leading up to an applicant’s certification to enter the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure. This phase, often delayed by redundancies, has historically been vague and unstructured, putting a strain on both the developers carrying the projects and on the architects trying to solidify designs.
“Before we had formal standards, you would get one piece of advice and then it would shift in the next application. Now that we have formal standards, we know what we’re aiming for: transparency of where they are in the process. What will happen next and what we will have to do next to move the project forward. Not just call up a planner,” said Carol Samol, director of BluePrint and City Planning Bronx Borough Office.
Before instituting these changes, the agency conducted a voluntary pilot program with 90 applicants over 16 months to test out the new rules of reviewing land use and environmental review applications.
“The regulatory process in New York was traditionally and until recently the most complicated in the nation. It is a combination of things—which comes from both the nature of individual agency and the successive reviews from agencies,” said Rick Bell, Executive Director of the American Institute of Architects New York. “We have been trying to concentrate our efforts in the AIA on the cumbersome nature of the process.”
Bell, among other stakeholders and practitioners, was asked by City Planning to provide their feedback on the review process.
To simplify and speed up the pre-certification process, City Planning has launched a formal tracking system to follow an applicant from the “moment an applicant walks in the door” to make sure all requirements are being met. There is also a set of new standards to create reasonable time frames to help guide the projects along. For instance, a new rule stipulates that if the agency fails to act at a certain point, the project is allowed to proceed to the next stage with the application.
“The worst possible scenario for an architect is to realize that something isn’t possible,” said Bell. “How early in the game can you get a sense of the general shape and form the building will take? The idea is that you don’t wait until the end of the process to find out that what you’re doing.”
In his inaugural speech Mayor Bill de Blasio repeatedly used the phrase “tale of two cities.” It remains to be seen how the new Mayor will reshape New York City as one, but his recent appointments suggest how his administration will steer the city forward.
Prior to the New Year snowstorm, de Blasio had named several appointees to agencies that oversee the city’s built environment: Alicia Glen as Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development; Polly Trottenberg as Commissioner of the Department of Transportation; and Kyle Kimball to continue as President of the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC).
“I'm very excited about these three appointments—their sophistication, and balanced perspectives... they each know how to get things done—and are each progressive and realize the city needs innovative approaches to ensure and enhance livability and resilience going forward,” wrote Vin Cipolla, President of the Municipal Art Society, in an email.
“Alicia Glen’s job title—housing and economic development—sends the signal that the creation of affordable housing comes first,” said Rick Bell, executive director of the American Institute of Architects’ New York chapter. Glen is tasked with carrying out the new mayor’s goal of creating and preserving 200,000 units of affordable housing. “Alicia understands how money works and how things get financed,” continued Bell. “This is music to the ears of architects who are building housing and to those of us who have long been concerned about community development.”
For the past twelve years Glen headed the Urban Investment Group at Goldman Sachs, which committed over $2.8 billion in low-income development projects in cities throughout the country. She was also instrumental in raising over $40 million to help finance New York’s Citi Bike bicycle share program. From 1998 to 2002 Glen was the assistant commissioner for housing finance at the Department of Housing Preservation and Development under Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani.
Polly Trottenberg replaces Janette Sadik-Khan as Commissioner of the Department of Transportation. Since January 2014 Trottenberg served as the Under Secretary for Policy at the U.S. Department of Transportation, where she worked on TIGER, the grant program that helped fund many multi-modal projects. “She brings a keen understanding of how mass transit works,” said Bell. In a statement the de Blasio transition emphasized that Trottenberg will advance the “ambitious agenda to expand Bus Rapid Transit in the outer boroughs, reduce traffic fatalities, increase bicycling, and boost the efficiency of city streets.”
A veteran of the Bloomberg administration, Kyle Kimball will continue as President of NYCEDC, a position he has held since August 2013. He has been with the organization since 2008 and has worked on the Applied Sciences NYC initiative, creating four new graduate science and engineering campuses. He has also been involved with outer-borough economic development projects, including the transformation of the Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx.
De Blasio has yet to fill a host of positions including commissioners of City Planning, Building, Design and Construction, Parks and Recreation, Landmarks Preservation, Cultural Affairs, Public Design, and Long-term Planning and Sustainability.
In related news, Holly Leicht has been appointed to serve as Regional Administrator of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Region II, which comprises New York and New Jersey. Leicht, who was Executive Director of New Yorkers for Parks, will oversee ongoing Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts.
The recent conference at the Storefront for Art and Architecture, “Since Now From Then,” celebrated the 30th anniversary of the minuscule but influential space on Kenmare Street. It made clear the far-reaching impact the Storefront has had on the culture of architecture but also how much New York City has changed around the gallery.
The first public exhibition at the original Storefront on September 18, 1982, then at 51 Prince Street, was a month-long series of performances titled A-Z, with a different artist featured each day. Many of these artists in the 1980s lived in the blocks surrounding Prince Street except Tehching Hsieh whose prescient performance was to live “homeless” on the streets of the city for a single year.
Today when the Storefront presents a group of emerging artists it is doubtful that any of them could afford to live anywhere near gentrified Kenmare Street. They are more likely living in Crown Heights or Bushwick, Brooklyn. In fact Kyong Park, one of Storefront’s founders, made an off-hand comment during the conference that if anyone today wanted to do what he did at the Storefront in the 1980s “they should leave New York City.” Park, who hails from Detroit and now lives in L.A., may have been thinking of the particular challenges and opportunities for young urbanites in post-industrial landscapes like Detroit.
But New York City officials would do well to heed Park’s advice and begin thinking about strategies for creating affordable housing, not just for the young creative class, but for all New York residents.
Mayor Bloomberg promised to focus on creating 165,000 units of affordable housing and claims to be meeting this target. He may believe this was enough new affordable units for this enormous city, but the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development analyzed Bloomberg’s housing program and came to another conclusion. Not only did tens of thousand of affordable units go off-line as landlords exited subsidized programs and regulated apartments went market rate, but in Harlem, to pick one neighborhood, property values have jumped 222 percent and in East Harlem, median market rents went from roughly $1200 in 2002 to $1900 in 2011.
Further, “it’s not only that rents are rising; it’s also that a growing part of the population is trying to live in New York City on very modest incomes. According to the city’s own poverty measure, roughly 46 percent of New Yorkers were what is considered “near poor” in 2011. For a family of four, that means earning under $46,000 annually.” Thus the Furman Center says that nearly a third of New Yorkers were what is called “severely rent burdened” in 2011, which means they were spending more than half their monthly income on rent.
The association admits the Mayor’s initiative is on track to meet its housing goal but these units too often do not meet the actual affordability needs of the neighborhoods in which they were built. Further, “one-third of these units have an upper income limit above the actual New York City median income and in half the city’s community districts, the majority of units built are too expensive for a household earning the local median income for the neighborhood.” The association claims that “starting in 2017, New York will be at risk of losing an annual average of 11,000 units built with city subsidy and by 2037, the city could also lose many units as were built by Bloomberg, greatly undermining the value of the City’s efforts.” Bloomberg can point to two recent housing projects that illustrate—if they were replicated ten times over—the kind of new housing that can and should be built in the city. The Lower East Side project called Essex Crossing will replace a forty year old urban renewal site with 1,000 units of new housing which the city claims will be 50 percent “permanently affordable for low, moderate, and middle-income households and senior citizens.” In addition, the project includes a 15,000-square-foot open space, a new and expanded Essex Street Market, a school, a community center run by Grand Street Settlement, a rooftop urban farm, the Andy Warhol Museum, 250,000 square feet of office space, and a diverse mix of retail space. In addition the Mayor recently announced a new housing facility in downtown Brooklyn as part of the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s expanding district that will have 42 units of affordable housings built above a large cultural space and restaurant. It is clear that New York City has run out of easily and cheaply developable land in vacant neighborhoods like the South Bronx and Brownsville, so finding sites for new affordable housing will not be easy.
It is important to point out that in the deeply flawed 2030 Plan for New York City identified vast areas for new housing above open areas over the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and Sunnyside Yards, but these would require massive public investment in infrastructure and will not likely yield any truly affordable housing.
The next mayor will have an enormous challenge to build enough units to meet the pressing demand for housing that always seems to be part of life in this city. Aside from protecting NYCHA and its 230,000 units of affordable housing and maintaining rent control, which helps thousands of middle income New Yorkers, the next mayor will need a new and different approach if more housing is to be built. This is an absolute necessity if New York is not to become a victim of its own success. Bill de Blasio, the apparent next mayor, claims to be a progressive politician. This will mean nothing unless living here is a possibility for the sort of person who wants to start the next Storefront.
Duarte Square on Sixth Avenue and Canal Street is the site of a pop-up speaker’s corner-cum-town square called the Talking Transition Tent (TTT). The “transition” is to the administration of New York City mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, and the “talking” is voicing the hopes, aspirations, and desires of and by a broad spectrum of New Yorkers for their city. It is a happy coincidence that the square is named for Juan Pablo Duarte, founding father of the Dominican Republic, who aspired to a self-sufficient nation based on liberal ideals.
Event production company Production Glue under Tom Bussey and Jen Kurland designed the tent. The opposite of politics behind closed doors, it features transparency and openness with glass and clear plastic walls and ceilings that create an inviting, approachable place where the community can come together. Built in just two weeks, all materials were cheap and readily available. Plastic milk crates form the large letters spelling “TALK” that greets you outside, the backdrop to the main stage Town Hall, hanging ceiling fixtures and table tops. They are complemented by plywood sheets with cutout letters spelling TALKING TRANSITION and for tables inside. A plastic-strip curtain at the entry is borrowed from bodega vocabulary.
Once inside, there are 32 iPads to register, fill out a survey (you can also do this online via social media, or at one of the mobile tent vans roving around the five boroughs), a digital soapbox where you can record your standup, sticky labels and markers to post “In Your Neighborhood” comments, a TV-studio-like area with cameras and director’s chairs, a cafe with refreshment and free tap water, a Town Hall space, and breakout rooms. With a Citibike station, number 1-train subway entrance, the Holland Tunnel, and two major avenues nearby this really is a crossroads.
The brainchild of Chris Stone, president of the Open Society Foundations, the tent was implemented by deputy director Andrea Batista Schlesinger along with HR&A Advisors under Danny Fuchs. The activities in the tent are programmed around 9 topics: arts and culture; public safety and law enforcement; jobs and the economy; health and social services (youth, immigration, seniors, etc.); education; transportation; parks and public spaces; housing; and environment. New York City organizations planned the individual events. Week one included, “A Path to ‘Real’ Affordable Housing” (NY Communities for Change), “The New Resilient City: Big Infrastructure Meets Community Fabric,” (MAS and HR&A), “What is Affordable Housing” (CUP), and “Sustainable, Healthy, and Resilient Construction” (Urban Green Council). Week two included “Rethinking Regulation: New Priorities for City Building” (MAS), “Innovative Ideas for Preserving Affordable Housing” (Center for NYC Neighborhoods), and “Protecting the Waterfront” (Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance).
The results of all these efforts, honed down to 4 or 5 issues, will be presented—hopefully—to Mayor-elect de Blasio on November 23 at a Town Hall meeting in the tent, and compiled into a report by December. Citizens do want to be heard. As of November 17, there were already 30,000 people who had filled out the digital survey. But can TTT get in front of de Blasio? Chances are good since HR&A Advisors partner Carl Weisbrod is co-chairing de Blasio’s transition team.
With the support of incoming mayor Bill de Blasio, City Council has squashed the Bloomberg administration’s plan to allow for the development of taller buildings in East Midtown. The decision marks the end of Mayor Bloomberg’s 12-year term, leaving behind a legacy that will likely be remembered for reshaping the cityscape with large-scale development.
“We are obviously disappointed in this decision. This plan would have created tens of thousands of good paying jobs for New Yorkers in every borough and resulted in tens of millions of dollars in private sector funding for public infrastructure,” said Steven Spinola, president of The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY).
The proposal, ambitious in both scope and scale, pushed for the rezoning of the 73-block swathe around Grand Central Terminal with the intention of spurring the construction of new office towers that would ultimately replace the existing outdated building stock. This move, Bloomberg argued, would be critical in sustaining and growing the area into a robust business hub and attracting the right corporate tenants to keep this slice of midtown competitive with other global cities. City Council, however, said that the plan didn’t garner enough votes, and would ultimately be shot down by members, prompting Bloomberg to withdraw the application for the proposal.
“We should rezone East Midtown, but only when we can do so properly. After extensive negotiations, we have been unable to reach agreement on a number of issues in the proposed plan,” said speaker Christine Quinn and council member Dan Garodnick in a joint statement.
The duo pinpointed the Council’s specific issues with the plan, including the process, price, and timing of the air rights, the funding required for infrastructure improvements, and the feasibility of the public realm improvements suggested.
In a statement, Bloomberg said that a financing agreement had been reached to allocate $100 million in funding to transit and public realm improvements, but it was contingent upon the development piece of the plan moving forward.
“We are withdrawing the application for the rezoning of East Midtown. This will unfortunately cost the area hundreds of millions of dollars in badly needed subway and street improvements and $1 billion in additional tax revenue—as well as tens of thousands of new jobs that would have been created,” said Bloomberg in a statement.
Throughout the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, critics and community members expressed concern that larger development would bring more people to midtown, putting a strain on the area’s infrastructure.
The plan will likely be revisited. Mayor-elect de Blasio has spoken in favor of City Council’s decision, but said that he plans to eventually pursue the rezoning of midtown. “I applaud the City Council for pressing the pause button in order to ensure these concerns are adequately addressed,” he said in a statement. “We must continue this process in earnest upon taking office, and I commit to presenting a revised rezoning plan for the area by the end of 2014.”