Search results for "Mayor de Blasio"

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The Rent is Too Damn High
Courtesy RKTB

In his mayoral campaign, Bill de Blasio often pointed to New York’s lack of affordable housing as an example of how the city had become a “Tale of Two Cities.” He cited the fact that 50,000 New Yorkers sleep every night in shelters and that “almost one third of the city’s households spend at least half of their income on rent.” If elected, he promised to build or preserve “200,000 affordable housing units over the next decade.” But unlike fifteen or twenty years ago, when the city had blocks of open land in Brownsville, East New York, and the South Bronx on which to build, the city is today essentially fully occupied with only scattered empty lots. It will take some thoughtful planning to achieve the 50,000 new units he is calling for, but a new project by architecture firm RKTB could be an innovative model for how to fulfill this affordable housing quota.

The project, Monsignor Anthony J. Barretta Housing, is located on Pacific Street in East New York beside the architecturally impressive church Our Lady of Loretta, which is abandoned. The church was built for an Italian American community in the early 1900s, apparently on land farmed by the first Italian settler in America. Several years ago, the diocese of Brooklyn tried to raze the church and build 88 units of desperately needed housing for low-income residents in the neighborhood. Though the area is now primarily Latino and African-American, the Italian American community who passed though the church rallied to save the building—at least temporally. The group, which included New York builder Frank Sciame and his cousin Joe Sciame, the president of Italian Heritage & Culture Committee, developed a plan with a local developer to preserve the church structure and tear down the adjacent church buildings.

Enter RKTB and architect Carmi Bee, who has been building infill affordable housing in New York for several decades. Together with the archdiocese and the Community Preservation Corporation as developer, RKTB designed a building with 64 units of housing for $185 per square foot. The project, said Bee, “takes advantage of the constraints in the building code,” thereby lending affordability to each project. A single stair eliminates not only the need for an elevator, but also a second means of egress, and the sloped roof means an additional flight of stairs up to the roof is not needed. Another energy and cost saving feature of the prototype plan is the double-exposure layout, which provides cross ventilation. Careful material selection also helped keep costs low while achieving LEED-certification. Part of the RKTB model for affordable housing involves working “as of right” under the existing zoning and building codes with the intention of filling in vacant lots, specifically within districts that would yield 50–110 dwelling units per acre. Within the first week of the project’s opening, 5,000 families applied for 64 apartments. This statistic brings home clearly the pressing need that New York City has for good quality affordable housing.

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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio Appoints Housing Team
Over the weekend, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced four key appointments to his housing team. The mayor selected Shola Olatoye—a former vice president at the affordable housing non-profit Enterprise Community Partners—to chair the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). He also announced that Cecil House will stay on as the authority’s General Manager. Vicki Been, the director of NYU’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, will become commissioner of the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development. And Gary D. Rodney, an executive at the affordable housing developer Omni New York, will run the Housing Development Corporation. “We are going to take a new approach to this crisis that holds nothing back. From doing more to protect tenants in troubled buildings, to innovating new partnerships with the private sector, to forging a new relationship with our NYCHA communities,” said de Blasio in a press release. “Every decision we make will focus on maximizing the affordability of our neighborhoods.” This team—along with newly appointed City Planning Commissioner Carl Weisbrod—will be tasked with implementing de Blasio’s aggressive affordable housing agenda. The mayor has pledged to preserve or create 200,000 affordable housing units over the next decade.
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In State of the City, New York City Mayor de Blasio Promises Affordable Housing
In his first State of the City address, Mayor Bill de Blasio promised to tackle the “inequality gap that fundamentally threatens [New York City’s] future.” At the LaGuardia Community College in Queens, the new mayor spoke of the “Tale of Two Cities” that has taken root in America’s largest city, and he promised to address it head-on. One of the main weapons in fighting inequality, explained de Blasio, will be creating more affordable housing. He spoke of “New Yorkers crushed by skyrocketing rents” and repeated his campaign pledge to “preserve or construct 200,000 units of affordable housing.” In a break with his mayoral predecessor, de Blasio said he won’t just incentivize developers to include affordable housing units, he’ll require it. “We want to work with the real estate industry to build. We must build more to achieve our vision,” said de Blasio. “But the people’s interests will be accounted for in every real estate deal made with the City.” While de Blasio offered no new details about how he plans to achieve this ambitious goal, he said his newly-appointed housing team will present a plan by May 1st. And following a string of pedestrian deaths, de Blasio pledged to “end the tragic and unacceptable rash of pedestrian deaths on our city streets,” through Vision Zero. The mayor, though, made no further mention of a transportation agenda—bike lanes, pedestrian plazas, or otherwise.
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De Blasio Names Carl Weisbrod Chairman of NYC Planning Commission
This afternoon, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that Carl Weisbrod, a real estate consultant and co-chair of the mayor’s transition team, will be the city’s next planning commissioner. De Blasio said Weisbrod “understands exactly how the city can shape development to stoke the most growth, the strongest affordability, and the best jobs for New Yorkers. He is ready to take these challenges head-on.” Weisbrod is currently a partner with the real estate consulting firm HR&A and has a long history in the city’s real estate scene, dating back many mayors. Weisbrod was born and raised in New York City, and, according to the New York Times, upon graduating from NYU Law School, he started advocating on behalf of the city’s squatters and families in welfare hotels. Under Mayor Ed Koch, Weisbrod is widely credited for successfully cleaning up Times Square in the 1970s. In 1991, Weisbrod became the founding president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation—and in 1995 he held the same title at the Alliance for Downtown New York. In the latter role, Weisbrod was tasked with transforming Downtown Manhattan into a mixed-use neighborhood. De Blasio said Weisbrod “led the way” in revitalizing the neighborhood after September 11th. Before joining HR&A in 2011, Weisbrod spent five years as the president of the real estate division for Trinity Church—an organization which oversees six million square feet of property. All of this experience—and this is an abbreviated resume—will be critical as Weisbrod steps into an exceptionally complex role in determining the future of New York City. There will be many challenges ahead—from the redevelopment of the Domino Sugar Factory to the possible re-zoning of Midtown East, to creating a more storm-resistance city, to micro-apartments—all of which will fall within de Blasio’s ambitious push to create more affordable housing. At the press conference, de Blasio said that his administration would look at projects like Midtown East Rezoning and a proposed Major League Soccer stadium in the Bronx “with fresh eyes.” The mayor added that he is approaching development projects like these with “an entirely different set of goals” than his predecessor, Michael Bloomberg.
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When Will New York Mayor de Blasio Finally Appoint a Director of City Planning?
With important, large planning projects—like the Domino Sugar redevelopment in Brooklyn—still awaiting approvals from the agency, and with heads of the Department of Design and Construction and Landmarks Preservation gone or on the way out, New York City desperately needs leadership from these city departments. But, when will New York's new Mayor Bill de Blasio finally appoint a director of city planning? While we've patiently awaited word about a new planning commissioner, there have been rumors that the mayor might look to Washington, D.C. and name the city's current planning director Harriet Tregoning; or stay closer to home and pick Anna Hayes Levin, a member of the City Planning Commission; or former member Karen Phillips; or just hand the job to his transition co-director Carl Weisbord from HR&A and Trinity Real Estate. With so many names in play, who knows? It is clear that de Blasio has made affordable housing a key component of his mayoralty, but this initiative and other brick-and-mortar projects desperately need competent people who understand how to merge new projects into the existing urban fabric. Finally, should we take this slowness to pick directors as a sign that de Blasio is not interested in the physical city, or that he doesn't understand the importance of architecture in moving the metropolis forward? For all his emphasis on helping the more privileged parts of the city—at the expense of the struggling poorer fringes—Former Mayor Bloomberg left a legacy of built projects and public spaces that changed the city for the better more than any time since that of Robert Moses and the WPA. Let's hope Mayor de Blasio will not let the creative energy of building begun under Bloomberg languish, but will take it to the poorer fringes of the city that he wants to help.
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Countdown to Zero
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio reflects with Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg at an intersection where an 8-year-old child was killed walking to school.
Rob Bennett / Office of Mayor Bill 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.

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Before & After> 25 of New York City's Most Transformative Road Diets
[beforeafter]dot_changes_16b dot_changes_16a[/beforeafter] New York City has been adjusting to its new Mayor Bill De Blasio, who took office at the beginning of the year. The new mayor has been slowly revealing his team of commissioners who will guide the city's continued transformation. As AN has noted many times before, De Blasio's predecessor Michael Bloomberg and his team already left a giant mark on New York's built environment. With little more than paint, planters, and a few well-placed boulders, Bloomberg and former Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan's street interventions have been some of the most evident changes around the city. Whether it's at Brooklyn's Grand Army Plaza, above, or at Snøhetta's redesigned Times Square, these road diets shaved off excess space previously turned over to cars and returned it to the pedestrian realm in dramatic fashion as these before-and-after views demonstrate. As we continue to learn more about our new Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, take a look back at 25 of the most exciting road diets and pedestrian plaza conversions across New York City from the Bloomberg era. [beforeafter]dot_changes_02adot_changes_02b[/beforeafter] Location: Allen and Pike Streets in the Lower East Side. [beforeafter]dot_changes_01bdot_changes_01a[/beforeafter] Location: Holland Tunnel Area. [beforeafter]dot_changes_22bdot_changes_22a[/beforeafter] Location: St. Nicholas Avenue & Amsterdam Avenue. [beforeafter]dot_changes_03bdot_changes_03a[/beforeafter] Location: Allen and Pike Street in the Lower East Side. [beforeafter]dot_changes_14bdot_changes_14a[/beforeafter] Location: Harlem River Park Gateway. [beforeafter]dot_changes_11bdot_changes_11a[/beforeafter] Location: Herald Square. [beforeafter]dot_changes_13adot_changes_13b[/beforeafter] Location: Harlem River Park Gateway. [beforeafter]dot_changes_10b dot_changes_10a[/beforeafter] Location: Broadway at Times Square. [beforeafter]dot_changes_04bdot_changes_04a[/beforeafter] Location: 12th Avenue West at 135th Street. [beforeafter]dot_changes_05bdot_changes_05a[/beforeafter] Location: Holland Tunnel Area. [beforeafter]dot_changes_06bdot_changes_06a[/beforeafter] Location: Louis Nine Boulevard. [beforeafter]dot_changes_07bdot_changes_07a[/beforeafter] [beforeafter]dot_changes_08adot_changes_08b[/beforeafter] Location: Delancey Street in the Lower East Side. [beforeafter]dot_changes_09adot_changes_09b[/beforeafter] Location: Prospect Park West. [beforeafter]dot_changes_12bdot_changes_12a[/beforeafter] Location: Broadway at Times Square. [beforeafter]dot_changes_15adot_changes_15b[/beforeafter] Location: Broadway & West 71st Street. [beforeafter]dot_changes_17bdot_changes_17a[/beforeafter] Location: Union Square. [beforeafter]dot_changes_18bdot_changes_18a[/beforeafter] Location: Columbus Avenue. [beforeafter]dot_changes_19adot_changes_19b[/beforeafter] Location: Union Square. [beforeafter]dot_changes_20adot_changes_20b[/beforeafter] Location: Water and Whitehall Streets. [beforeafter]dot_changes_21adot_changes_21b[/beforeafter] Location: Union Square. [beforeafter]dot_changes_23adot_changes_23b[/beforeafter] Location: Randall and Leggett Ave. [beforeafter]dot_changes_24adot_changes_24b[/beforeafter] Location: Grand Army Plaza at the entrance to Brooklyn's Prospect Park.   [beforeafter]dot_changes_25adot_changes_25b[/beforeafter] Location: Hoyt Avenue at the RFK Bridge. All photos courtesy New York City Department of Transportation.
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Cutting Red Tape
Erik Daniel Drost / Flickr

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.”

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De Blasio's In Crowd
Alicia Glen has been selected to serve as Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development.
Courtesy Goldman Sachs

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.

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Affordability & The Future of New York
Mayor Bloomberg cuts the ribbon to mark the official opening of the Via Verde affordable housing development in the South Bronx.
Edward Reed

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.

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Speak Your Piece
Bryan Pace / Talking Transition

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.

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Could de Blasio Choose Anna Levin as NYC's Next City Planner?
01-deBlasio-archpaper After a campaign insisting differentiation from his predecessor, New York City Mayor–elect Bill de Blasio (above) is not likely to choose a Bloomberg-elected official as his Chief of the Department of City Planning. The Real Deal reported that three current members of the City’s Planning Commission—Anna Levin, Michelle de la Uz, and Kenneth Knuckles—are speculated as replacements for current commissioner Amanda Burden. Levin, elected by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, is a front-runner. Her previous experiences as a commissioner and Community Board 4 Member give her grassroots appeal backed by political savvy. (Photo: Courtesy NYC Public Advocate)