Search results for "Mayor de Blasio"

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MTA Woes

Governor Cuomo’s transportation panel releases final report, suggested fixes
As New York City’s subways continue to crumble and traffic congestion increases, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo have been at odds over the best way to fund mass transit improvements. That may all be about to change, as Governor Cuomo’s Fix NYC Advisory Panel has released their final report and called for the creation of congestion pricing zone in Manhattan. Mayor de Blasio has historically supported a “millionaire’s tax” on the city’s richest residents, while Governor Cuomo has proposed a congestion pricing scheme for vehicles crossing Manhattan’s 60th Street in either direction. In light of Fix NYC’s findings, Mayor de Blasio has seemingly shifted his position and voiced a willingness to implement some form of congestion pricing, if the funds were locked into improving the city’s transit network. Originally formed in October of last year, the Fix NYC panel invited policymakers, real estate developers, planners, MTA employees and other stakeholders to come up with policy fixes to improve mobility across the New York City region. The panel has ultimately recommended splitting any improvements across three phases. Phase one would see a focus on realistic, short-term reforms at the ground level. These range from studying transportation improvement opportunities across the outer boroughs and suburbs, to improving traffic law enforcement, and most importantly, beginning the installation of “zone pricing” infrastructure. This infrastructure would encircle a certain area and allow drivers to be charged for entering or leaving a certain area at specific times or days of the week. Phase two leans heavily on implementing congestion pricing. A central business district would be established as everything south of 60th Street in Manhattan, and for-hire vehicles and taxis would be charged every time they crossed the district’s border. Phase three would ramp up the second phase’s congestion pricing plan, first for trucks, and then to all vehicles entering the district by 2020. While trucks would pay $25.34, for-hire cars would likely only pay $2 to $5, with the overall affect of reducing traffic congestion during the busiest times of the day. Personal vehicles would have to pay up to $11.52 to travel through Manhattan during the busiest times of the day. Drivers would be offered some relief, however. “The Panel believes the MTA must first invest in public transportation alternatives and make improvements in the subway system before implementing a zone pricing plan to reduce congestion. Before asking commuters to abandon their cars, we must first improve mass transit capacity and reliability,” reads the report. It’s estimated that the pricing scheme could raise an additional $1.5 billion a year for the city’s ailing MTA. Governor Cuomo’s response to the report’s findings was muted, and in a statement, he promised to study the proposal more in-depth. Congestion pricing plans have never taken off in New York City despite being proposed regularly since the 1970s, and it remains to be seen whether the mayor’s office or state legislature will seriously take up the issue.
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Moon Shots

NYCx tackles climate change and urban design challenges with tech
The NYCx initiative, a collaborative effort between the tech industry and the New York City’s mayor’s office, has announced the names of the 22 tech leaders who will be advising the program’s efforts to use smart city ideas to tackle urban issues. First announced in October of last year by Mayor Bill de Blasio, NYCx was designed to tackle pollution, income inequality, climate change, transit issues and more by connecting local startups with global tech companies. New York’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Miguel Gamiño and Deputy CTO Jeremy Goldberg are leading the program, with help from the newly formed 22-person Technology Leadership Advisory Council. The program has hit the ground running, and awards for all four of NYCx’s current initiatives will be distributed in the first half of 2018. The most ambitious problems being tackled have been categorized as moonshot projects, which partner with global entities, while another set of challenges, the co-lab challenges, are designed to collect community-specific solutions for localized problems. The most ambitious of these questions might be the Climate Action Challenge, as the city is seeking proposals to transition fully to electric vehicles in every borough in only five to ten years. Split between two “tracks,” the challenge wants to simultaneously develop new ways of charging electric vehicles, as well as make charging stations ubiquitous across the city. Winners will be announced on April 30th, 2018, and each selected team will receive up to $20,000 and work with the city to implement their ideas. On the co-lab side, the mayor’s office wants to create safer nighttime corridors and activate public areas in Brownsville, and wire up Governor’s Island with 5G wireless internet by this May. Both challenges involve changing how the local community interacts with public space, and could provide a template for future urban planning and development throughout NYC. The Technology Leadership Advisory Council, which will be evaluating these projects, has attracted members of the country’s largest tech companies. Microsoft, Ford, LinkedIn, Google and more have all contributed talent and will continue to work with the city government on projects “from drones to blockchain,” according to the mayor’s office. This partnership makes sense on its face, as several of these companies are already developing their own smart city models. The full list of 22 advisory members can be read here.
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Read the Plaque

NYC monuments commission decides to move one statue and contextualize Columbus
Following months of public comments, New York City’s Mayoral Advisory Commission on City Art, Monuments and Markers, formed last September by mayor Bill de Blasio, has finished its review. The commission was created as response to the rising fervor around removing contested monuments around the country, as local activists pointed out that New York has its fair share of statues that celebrate problematic historical figures. The most contentious of the monuments under review was the Christopher Columbus statue that anchors the Columbus Circle roundabout on the southwestern corner of Central Park. New York’s Italian-American community slammed the possibility of removing the statue when the commission was first announced, while others decried celebrating a figure whose actions directly led to the killing of native peoples and the seizing of their land. Instead of removing the iconic statue, de Blasio has announced that plaques will go up explaining historical context, as well as the creation of a monument celebrating the achievements of indigenous peoples near Columbus Circle. Citing the “layered legacies” of each of the items under review, the commission’s report recommended a number of changes for several other highly public monuments, which the mayor has already signed off on. The statue of Theodore Roosevelt on horseback in front of the Museum of Natural History, recently doused in red paint by activists, will stay put. Instead, the museum will be offering educational programs on both Roosevelt’s history of conservation as well as his views of colonialism. Additional markers will be installed around the statue to the same effect. The J. Marion Sims statue at 5th Avenue and 103rd Street bordering Central Park was also under deliberation. Known as the “the father of modern gynecology,” Sims’ legacy has come under fire for his well-known experimentation on unanesthetized slaves. Citing the lack of contextual relevance for the statue’s current site the commission voted to relocate it to Green-Wood cemetery, where Sims is buried. While the original pedestal will remain in place in East Harlem, a plaque will be installed that discusses the issues Sims’ legacy raises. Finally, a marker for Marshal Philippe Pétain has been left in place on Lower Broadway’s “Canyon of Heroes”, which denoted a stretch from the Battery to City Hall where ticker-tape parades are typically held. The marker was installed in 2004, when the Downtown Alliance installed a series of 206 granite markers along the avenue, each representing a ticker-tape parade that had been held on Broadway. The Frenchman had been hailed as hero after returning from WWI and honored with a parade in New York, but later became a top figure in the collaborative Vichy government during WWII. In light of his eventual conviction for treason, the commission recommended installing signage that would re-contextualize the markers, as well as stripping the “Canyon of Heroes” name from Lower Broadway. The committee’s full report is the culmination of months of public hearings and thousands of public comments.
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ICYMI

NYC inaugural 'cultural impact' grants partner arts nonprofits with city agencies

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl have announced seven partnerships for the inaugural Mayor’s Grant for Cultural Impact (MGCI). The selected initiatives are meant to equitably enhance existing services or public assets while addressing issues like urban planning, literacy, public heath, and criminal justice.

"Our CreateNYC cultural plan called for thoughtful, innovative ways to integrate our [city]'s creative energy into public service. Today, we continue to put that into action," said Mayor Bill de Blasio, in prepared remarks. "When [city] government works hand in hand with community anchors, we can deliver the cultural access and equity which all New Yorkers deserve." MGCI grows out of CreateNYC, the city's cultural blueprint. That initiative found "major potential" for these types of government-nonprofit collaborations across the arts. The participating organizations were selected through an application process and an open call. Each collaboration garners $50,000 in cash from the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) and $25,000 in matching funds or in-kind services from the partnering group. Taken together, the collaborations are worth over a half a million dollars. In East New York, Brooklyn, neighborhood nonprofit ARTs East NY is teaming up with the Department of City Planning (DCP) for CivLab, a project to activate an underused public space in Success Garden, a slice of green on Williams Avenue between the Livonia L and Pennsylvania Ave 2/3 trains. While building off of the city's rezoning of the neighborhood for higher density and more affordable housing, the project will try to integrate the arts into civic life.

"We are excited to take part in this extension of the CreateNYC Cultural Plan. This initiative will allow us to deepen our work with community members in revitalizing vacant spaces in the East New York community, replacing them with reflective beauty and pride," said Catherine Green, founder and executive director of ARTs East New York.

Like the six other teams, ARTs East NY and DCP have until June 30—the end of the fiscal year—to carry out their program.

Other partnerships include the Bronx Documentary Center's collaboration with the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, and a joint Carnegie Hall–Department of Probation initiative. A full list and project descriptions can be found here.

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Don't Stop Believing

What’s going on with the Brooklyn-Queens streetcar?
With the recent revelation that New York City’s proposed Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX) streetcar project had missed its deadline for launching the public review process at the end of December, new questions have arisen over how feasible the project is. As the city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) has instead chosen to begin a review of the streetcar’s cost and feasibility this year, it’s worth looking back at the BQX’s bumpy ride through 2017. The last time AN wrote about the BQX, it was to report on the release of a leaked memo from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s advisory team to Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen in April. While the 16-mile-long BQX line was originally envisioned as a way to transport residents up and down a revitalized Brooklyn-Queens waterfront by April 2024, the memo called into question the rising costs of relocating below-grade utilities along the line’s route. It was additionally suggested that the use “value-capture” for the $2.5 billion project, which would finance the BQX through rising waterfront property values, might not be enough. Fast forward to November 9th, when two anonymous sources with connections to the project told the New York Post that “It’s going to die.” Citing the contentious relationship between Mayor de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo, and breaking with the mayor’s assertion that the BQX would require no state-level intervention, the sources broke down why the streetcar relied on the governor’s approval. Several parcels of land along the BQX’s proposed route are owned by the state government and would need permission to build over, and the MTA has stated that it would not cross-honor BQX tickets for the bus and subway systems. Killing the “last mile” aspect of the streetcar is especially important, as the project was initially pitched as linking neighborhoods that lacked mass transit options. Four days later on the 13th, the nonprofit group Friends of the Brooklyn-Queens Connector unveiled a life-sized streetcar prototype at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The mockup featured enough room for 150 passengers and open gangways, while Friends of the BQX have promised that the streetcar would have an average speed faster than the busses it would share the street with. As December drew to a close, the BQX missed a major milestone in failing to launch the public review process. As the EDC begins an in-depth review of the project, Crain’s has noted that the review would save taxpayers $35 million if plans for the streetcar were scrapped, but would delay the project’s launch another six months, potentially costing up to $100 million every year that it’s delayed. Only a few days after, on December 28th the Post reported that the Department of Transportation would need to repair the decaying Brooklyn-Queens Expressway directly over the proposed streetcar route, potentially delaying the project further. While the Friends of the BQX and the mayor’s office have remained adamant that funding for the project can be found, there are still significant hurdles in the way. A route has to be finalized, some sort of agreement between the city and MTA must be worked out, and protection measures for flooding will need to be discussed as the entire line runs along the most climatologically vulnerable part of the waterfront. As 2018 progresses, it will be worth keeping an eye on whether the BQX can meet its original 2019 groundbreaking date. A Friends of the BQX spokesperson gave AN the following statement in regards to the project's future. "The BQX will dramatically increase opportunity for the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers along the Brooklyn-Queens waterfront who are clamoring for better access to jobs, education, healthcare and recreation. We're optimistic that the project will take significant, concrete strides forward in 2018."
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Parks and Rec

New York City pledges over $100 million to fill East Harlem greenway gap
Following the city council’s approval of a comprehensive, sometimes contentious East Harlem rezoning earlier this month, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito announced yesterday that the city will be committing $83 million towards creating a new waterfront park in East Harlem. The seven-block-long, seven acre-park will feature new bicycle and pedestrian paths, connect the East River Esplanade from East 125th to East 132nd Street, and create an unbroken greenway from East 51st Street to East 145th Street. On top of the newly pledged $83 million in capital, the city had already promised $18 million to restore that same area and another $15 million to fix up the section of the esplanade between East 96th  and East 125th Street. All of this follows an announcement by the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) that the $100 million riverfront stretch between East 53rd and East 60th Streets was inching towards a construction date. The greenway, a 32-mile-long strip that runs around the edge of Manhattan, will eventually become both an unbroken loop for both bikers and pedestrians, as well as a buffer from coastal flooding. “The East River Esplanade is a major public open space asset that offers wonderful views and a chance to relax for New Yorkers up and down the east side of Manhattan,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito in a press release. “As El Barrio/East Harlem neighborhoods have witnessed, however, part of this greenway has been neglected for far too long. That’s why the Council prioritized investing in this important open space as part of the recent East Harlem Rezoning. We are proud to welcome this $101 million capital investment for the construction of a brand new waterfront promenade.” The EDC, in conjunction with the Parks Department, will also be responsible for designing and permitting the revitalized section of East Harlem Esplanade, while Starr Whitehouse Landscape Architecture is the prime consultant for this section of the greenway link. A renewed investment of capital and attention in the upper half of the East River Esplanade has been sorely needed. This year, sections of the promenade’s seawall have sloughed off into the river, shipworms continue to eat away at the wooden piles underneath, and sinkholes keep forming as a result of gaps between the underlying concrete slabs, according to the Parks Department. Construction on the new park is expected to begin in 2020, when work on the adjacent the Harlem River Drive is completed. The EDC is expecting that the work will take approximately three years, and finish in 2023. As for the section between East 96th and East 125th Street, the EDC is expected to re-survey the area in 2018 and present their recommendations afterward.
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Outrageous!

The 12 best architecture controversies of 2017
As 2017 fades away, we look back at some of the controversies and debates that stirred up the waters. Here are our most memorable, outrageous topics of the year. We love it when our readers respond and add to the conversation! (See the rest of our Year in Review 2017 articles here.) Pier 55 It was dragged through the courts. It lived. It was taken back in, only to be killed again. Less than two months later, Pier 55 was resurrected for good, ending one of the most entertaining public spectacles of 2017, an epic troll-fest that had two of the city's richest men running to almost every New York paper to leak informationdrop disses, and escalate their mutual antipathy with a vigor rivaled only by Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio’s pettiness. An October deal between stakeholders and opponents assures that key parts of Hudson River Park will be rebuilt, and the governor has promised state money for these projects. Zillow's legal crusade against McMansion Hell Back in June, real estate site Zillow told Kate Wagner, creator of popular architecture blog McMansion Hell, that she had violated Zillow's terms of use on her blog and warned she had just days to delete all offending images from McMansion Hell. When Wagner posted the shocking letter online, architecture Twitter brought the roof of wrath crashing down on Zillow. Just two days and one threat later,  Zillow backed off its legal claims, allowing us to resume laughing at and learning from the nubs and weird turrets of suburban America's mega-homes. The fake architect This year, Paul J. Newman, 49, president and sole employee of architecture firm Cohesion Studios, pled guilty to posing as a licensed New York state architect for work on multiple projects, including an Albany, New York senior center and townhouse developments in the Capital Region. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office dubbed its two-year investigation “Operation Vandelay Industries,” a nod to the fake company George Costanza invented on Seinfeld to collect unemployment benefits. In September, Newman was sentenced to a maximum of seven years in prison in Saratoga County, New York, with more arraignments to follow. Building Trump's border wall In late February, the Department of Homeland Security announced it was accepting bids for a U.S.-Mexico border wall, and the first prototypes for this highly controversial project were revealed in October. Beyond its dubious efficacy and shaky moral foundation, the wall's construction will also destroy wildlife preserves and homes in Texas and possibly other states. Trump tax plan guts Historic Tax Credit The House’s tax plan eliminates the Historic Tax Credit (HTC), an important revitalization tool for municipalities across the country. The Senate’s rules are only slightly better: Its bill would spread out the current 20 percent credit for recognized historic structures over five years, and eliminate the ten percent credit for buildings erected before 1936. When the bill (officially known as Tax Cuts and Jobs Act) went into conference early this month, the AIA said it would lobby hard against the proposed HTC cuts. The sinking Millennium Tower The 58-story Millennium Tower, designed by Handel Architects, has sunk nearly 17 inches since its opening in 2009. Recently, engineers with Arup—employed to work on the currently under-construction Salesforce Tower designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects next door—inspected the Millennium Tower’s rooftop height and found that the tower had sunk an additional 2 ½ inches beyond the initial 14 ½–inch drop recorded last year. Troublingly, the tower is not only sinking, but it is sinking unevenly, resulting in a measurable slant to the 645-foot-tall complex. As the muddy and sandy soils beneath it give way, it continues to tilt precariously toward the Salesforce Tower. Whoops. The Oculus leaks Last year, we asked architects what they thought of Santiago Calatrava's Oculus, the train station in a mall near the World Trade Center. Besides its grand spindly dino bone shape and horrific interior detailing, leaks in the ceiling deposit puddles on the marble floors, and these slippery surfaces have sent multiple people to the hospital. Not only that, a malfunctioning escalator injured two passengers in April. It may prove to be an iconic transit hub, but watch your step for now. The Raiders hoof it to Las Vegas This year, National Football League (NFL) owners approved the Oakland Raiders' relocation to Las Vegas, heralding what could be the final play in the nearly two-year-long drama that has unfolded as several West Coast teams reshuffle hometowns. Las Vegas city officials courted the Raiders for months, offering $750 million in public financing for the team’s Manica Architecture–designed $1.9 billion (yes) stadium proposal. The 65,000 seat stadium—a recycled scheme left over from the team’s attempt to move to Carson, California last year—features a large-scale, retractable side wall that would allow the stadium to become partially open-air. In May, the team purchased a 62-acre site for their future stadium, but it can't move into its new digs until 2020, an awkward situation given the emotionally fraught pre-move negotiations. Zumthor's LACMA scheme The Los Angeles County Museum of Art's (LACMA) $600 million expansion by Atelier Zumthor's will demolish the entirety of the existing William Pereira–designed campus, including a 1986 addition by Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer done in the postmodern style. The proposed changes would leave in place the 2008 Renzo Piano-designed Broad Contemporary Art Museum addition as well as the Japanese Pavilion by Bruce Goff from 1988. Despite the 390,000-square-foot expansion's hefty price tag and the sacrifice of several key works of late modern and postmodern architecture, Zumthor’s proposal will generate a net loss in gallery space for LACMA. Instead, the new museum will be designed as a singular mega-gallery carved up into differently-sized rooms. Plans call for the proposal to undergo further review over the next several months, and construction is expected to begin sometime in late 2018. Monument removal After white nationalists provoked violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, and amid a national climate of heightened bigotry, cities and towns across the county are re-evaluating their public monuments. With little fanfare, under the cover of night, the City of Baltimore took down four Confederate monuments in August. After protests, New York City established an independent commission this fall to review the city’s public monuments for "symbols of hate." Other monuments are being tried in the court of public opinion: Is Christopher Columbus an Italian hero, or an imperialist monster? What about Teddy Roosevelt? The weight of history bears heavily on these questions. Zaha's sidelined Manhattan supertall The major redevelopment of the Kushner Companies' 666 Fifth Avenue building by Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) is stalled for good. Kushner’s partner on the project, Vornado Realty Trust, has decided to simply renovate the site’s existing structure. Kushner’s original plan with ZHA called for stripping the current building down to its steel core and extending it up into a 1,400-foot-tall slender cigarette of a tower. 'Hands off my Johnson' Architects took to the streets to protest changes to the AT&T Building, Philip Johnson and John Burgee’s iconic postmodern tower. Among other changes, the Snøhetta-led redo would glass in the building's signature 110-foot-tall arched stone entryway. Denise Scott Brown, Sean Griffiths, Adam Nathaniel Furman, Paul Goldberger, and others took to AN's pages to weigh in on the design (TL;DR glassing in the base is clearly a bad idea). Thanks to activists' efforts, the pomo marvel on Madison Avenue is now up for landmarking.
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Harlem Rezoned

Sweeping East Harlem rezoning greenlights a wave of new development
After rounds of contentious public hearings and protests from those on both sides of the debate, the New York City Council unanimously approved a wide-ranging rezoning for the East Harlem neighborhood on November 30th, as well as the 750,000-square foot, mixed-use Sendero Verde development. The latest rezoning plan covers a 96-block area from East 106th Street to East 138th Street and is meant to address the looming affordable housing crisis facing the neighborhood. Proponents of the move have said that East Harlem, where half of all residents are rent-burdened, or spend more than one-third of their income on rent, will lose 200 to 500 units of affordable housing per year without intervention. Officials from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development have argued that, by allowing higher density development, mandatory inclusionary housing requirements will be triggered and necessitate that 20 to 25 percent of the units in new developments will be affordable. After Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Viverito formed a neighborhood plan in 2015 that laid out what the community wanted out of a potential rezoning, neighborhood groups and Community Board 11 later pushed back after they felt their recommendations had been ignored. A new deal, struck by City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Mayor Bill de Blasio before the final vote, now caps building heights at a maximum of 325 feet along the neighborhood’s transit corridors, to limit density and address pushback from East Harlem residents. Other than the new development limits, city officials included a $222 million investment into improving the lives of current residents, including a $50 million concession for New York City Housing Authority’s (NYCHA) East Harlem buildings and $102 million for a new public park between East 125th Street and East 132nd Street. Still, some residents feel that the new deal doesn’t hew closely enough to the Neighborhood Plan, that the city should have taken rent-stabilized buildings out of the rezoning area, and that the definition of “affordable housing” will need to be more reflective of a neighborhood with a median income of $30,000 a year. Also on the City Council’s docket was the approval of the Handel Architects-designed Sendero Verde project, a 680-unit, fully affordable mixed-use development built to passive house standards. Anticipating that the rezoning would pass, Sendero Verde will occupy an entire block, from East 111th to 112th Street, between Park and Madison avenues. Although the development will replace four existing community gardens, it also includes a DREAM charter school, grocery store, YMCA, restaurant, and Mount Sinai-run health facility. East Harlem is already changing rapidly, with several new projects from well-known studios, such as Bjarke Ingels Group’s (BIG) Gotham East 126th Residential having broken ground in recent months. The full, finalized list of changes made to the East Harlem rezoning plan can be read here.
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Sandy Legacies

Five years later, AN considers Hurricane Sandy’s impact on New York’s built environment
Hurricane Sandy pummeled New York City almost five years ago today. Since then, the built environment has undergone substantial changes. The Architect's Newspaper (AN) reflects on those first few months post-Sandy, and looks at some initiatives that are reshaping the city to withstand future storms. Shortly after the storm, AN editors reflected on the extent of the infrastructural damage in a heatless Tribeca office. Though uncomfortable, the office was more habitable than many coastal neighborhoods, including Red Hook, Brooklyn, and Breezy Point, a Queens neighborhood at the tip of the Rockaway peninsula that was gutted by fire. In NYCHA developments citywide, 80,000 tenants were without heat or electricity for weeks, the result of floodwaters that topped 11 feet. After assessing the scale of destruction, FEMA updated its flood maps, a reflection of the epic scale of destruction, adding 35,000 structures to Zone A, areas most likely to be impacted in a major storm. The total scale of the loss was great; in New York and New Jersey, 182 people died, and the Northeast coastline sustained $65 billion in damages. In the months afterward, the Department of City Planning presented a guide to storm-proofing buildings. A little more than a year later, the Department of Buildings released building codes for new residential construction and apartments over five stories to make it easier for people to stay in their homes in the event of a severe storm. Architecture for Humanity and AIA New York rallied designers to help with relief efforts, and Garrison Architects was just one firm to answer the call to action. The architects, known for sustainable modular buildings, erected a prefabricated emergency housing prototype in downtown Brooklyn that still stands today. In June 2013, state, local, and national stakeholders launched Rebuild By Design, a federal competition to design more resilient coastline in New York City and the tri-state area.  In August 2013, then-HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan announced 69 rebuilding initiatives designed to stitch New York's built environment back together and prepare infrastructure for future floods. Flooding put the subways out of commission, and repairs to the heavily damaged L train tunnel will suspend Brooklyn-to-Manhattan service for 18 months, starting next year. The storm exposed the vulnerability of New York's aging infrastructure, but it also created a space for art and reflection. Situ Studio salvaged boardwalk planks from New York and New Jersey for Heartwalk, its Times Square Valentine's Day installation. MoMA PS1 opened a pop-up geodesic exhibition space in the Rockaways in April 2013 as part of EXPO 1: NEW YORK, showing museum-solicited ideas on transforming the city's waterfront.  Architect Roderick Wolgamott-Romero built a massive treehouse from Sandy-felled oaks at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

. . .

This is by no means a comprehensive look at the thousands of initiatives, local and national, that have shaped the city in the five years after Hurricane Sandy. Below, we scan some initiatives that are remaking the built environment. For housing, Build It Back is one of the city's key programs to quickly rebuild dwellings in waterside neighborhoods post-Sandy. So far, the city reports its Build It Back program has completed repairs on around 7,200 structures, or 87 percent of the housing in the program. Since its launch in 2013, the program has rebuilt almost 1,400 of the most severely damaged homes, raising them on stilts above the floodplain. Another 6,500 homeowners, many without flood insurance, received reimbursements for repairs and technical support. “As we near the end of the Build It Back program, we are continuing to make steady progress," Mayor Bill de Blasio said, in prepared remarks. "We have succeeded in getting more than 10,000 families back in safe and resilient homes and stronger communities. We have more work to do, and this program will not be done until every family is home.” Though the city is close to reaching its goals, last year the program's creator slammed Build It Back as a "categorical failure," largely because it didn't get residents back in their homes quick enough. "After the multi-billion dollar rebuilding process ends, neighborhoods will see a hodgepodge of housing types: elevations, demolitions, in-kind repairs—is that the best outcome?"asked Brad Gair, former head of the mayor's Housing Recovery Operations, at a July 2016 hearing. "Have the billions invested in infrastructure projects to reduce flood risk made our coastlines safer?" DNAinfo reported that Gair questioned the government's capacity to set up "what amounts to a multi-billion dollar corporation" in a few months to speedily re-home people. At that time, Mayor de Blasio stated that the program's work would be complete by the end of 2016. Today the Daily News reported that almost one-fifth of the 12,000-plus families in the program are still waiting for a buyout or work to wrap up on their properties.

. . .

All along the city's 520 miles of coastline, new dunes, bulkheads, and sea walls are intended to prevent the catastrophic flooding that characterized Sandy. Even with the latest interventions, is New York City really prepared for another superstorm? While offering hope for a more resilient future, new climate projections sow doubt on the city's viability over the next century and beyond. A new study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that floods that with a high-water mark of 7.4 feet could hit the city once every 25 years, and the same level of floods could come as frequently as every five years between 2030 and 2045. Superstorms could be more intense, but modeling indicates that they would move further offshore. In response, the city is tackling the Lower Manhattan Coastal Resiliency Project, a plan to flood-proof Manhttan's east side. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is erecting flood protection on Staten Island's east shore, and it is planning to build a barrier in Jamaica Bay, Queens. The Governor's Office of Storm Recovery is spearheading the Tottenville Shoreline Protection Project and Living Breakwaters, two resiliency strategies at the southern tip of Staten Island. None of these massive projects have yet broken ground.
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Bezos Bids

New York City's bid for Amazon offers up four neighborhoods, but no extra incentives
Last night, major buildings and billboards around New York City, including the Empire State Building and One World Trade, were lit in orange, the color of Amazon's logo, in support of the city's bid to host Amazon's HQ2, its headquarters outside Seattle. Overall, the application submitted by the New York City Economic Development Corporation is unremarkable. It points out that Amazon can hitch on to the tech industry already in the city, and highlights the talent, the city's infrastructure as a "proven ecosystem for innovation" and its track record of implementing grand plans. The application also underscores New York City as a bastion of higher education and a host to thriving industries beyond tech, including fashion, media, and manufacturing. What the bid did not do is provide a plan for how the company would integrate with a single neighborhood in the city. Unlike other candidate cities, it did not offer extra subsidies or tax breaks for the tech giant. Four neighborhoods are forwarded as potential sites for HQ2: Midtown West, Lower Manhattan, Brooklyn Tech Triangle, and Long Island City. All of these neighborhoods applied for inclusion in the EDC's application through an RFP released by the city, and were selected largely due to their access to public transit lines and housing markets ripe for expansion. New York's application was accompanied by a letter to Jeff Bezos, the Chairman and CEO of Amazon, co-signed by more than 70 elected officials from New York. The letter focuses on the city's role as a transportation hub for the East Coast and Mayor Bill de Blasio's commitment to sustainability through the city's OneNYC plan. In the EDC's promotional video accompanying the application, a mouse scrolls through a faux Amazon page for the city, listing "product details" like 2.3 million residents with bachelor's degrees or higher, the largest number of Fortune 500 companies of any city, and 9,000 startups. Near the end of the video, Mayor Ed Koch is even resurrected in the form of a customer review dating from 1986: "New York is the city where the future comes to rehearse." Rehearse for what exactly, we wonder. HQ3?
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zero emissions

NYC releases major climate change plan aligned with Paris Agreement
This morning, Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration released the 1.5ºC plan – a far-reaching new plan intended to align New York City with the principles established during the 2016 Paris Climate Agreement. "In the Trump era, cities have to lead the way when it comes to fighting climate change," Mayor de Blasio stated in the plan's announcement. The 1.5ºC plan – a name drawn from the Paris Agreement's goal of limiting global warming to a 1.5º Celsius increase – is focused on six areas of action: recycling, waste, buildings, energy, transportation, and carbon neutrality. The plan marks the latest development in a series of commitments made by the city to reduce emissions. Last fall, the administration released the 80 X 50 Roadmap, which outlined a commitment to reduce the city's greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050. Earlier this summer, Mayor de Blasio signed an executive order opposing President Trump's intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement and outlining the City's commitment to upholding it. At the beginning of September, the de Blasio administration released a plan to update the aging infrastructure of existing buildings over 25,000 square feet by 2030, with strict penalties enacted afterward for those who don't comply. As the 1.5ºC plan states, the administration will apply emissions requirements to new construction and renovations across the five boroughs, and "adopt 'stretch' versions of the energy code in 2019 and 2022." "Stretch" here refers to leniency toward the developers' approaches – the City will reportedly provide metrics on energy efficiency but not stipulate how developers should meet those targets. As with earlier plans, the city will use Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing programs adapted for commercial and residential buildings, allowing utility upgrades to be paid off through property bills rather than out-of-pocket. Enacting 100 percent renewable energy in city government operations and buildings is another key aspect of the plan. The emissions of city agencies alone account for eight percent of the city's total greenhouse gas emissions from electric appliances, and 1.5ºC aims to replace all energy infrastructure used by the city with renewable alternatives. Their timeline for this? "As soon as sufficient supply can be brought online." In the near future, the City has stated their intention to commence 50 new solar projects on public buildings sometime this fall, which would bring it a quarter of the way towards its goal. With regard to the transportation sector, the plan reiterates a proposal Mayor de Blasio made in early August to create a tax on millionaires generating up to $800 million in funds to upgrade the NYC subway system. It also includes a proposal to expand infrastructure for bicycles (including protected lanes) and electric vehicles (including charging stations). Notably, the plan also outlines a goal of establishing a carbon neutrality protocol in partnership with other cities around the world including C40 – a network of 90 international cities already committed to climate leadership – meant to establish common definitions for the reduction of global warming and greenhouse gas emissions. In a public statement about the plan, New York Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg stated that with New Yorkers' heavy use of mass transit, bicycles, and walking, "New York City produces the fewest greenhouse gas emissions per capita of any U.S. city." A statistic like this should be used as a baseline rather than a benchmark. As the 1.5ºC plan evolves, hopefully the administration will release more specifics on the methodology they intend to apply to new developments to modernize energy use citywide, and clarify whether any penalties will be applied for those who don't comply. This morning's announcement has probably piqued the ears of a number of developers who may be wondering the same.
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Hikers and Bikers

The Regional Plan Association wants to connect 1,650 miles of trails in the tri-state area
Last week the Regional Plan Association (RPA) released a report proposing the creation of a 1,650-mile trail system linking Manhattan to the outer boroughs and tri-state area. The report, Accessing Natureis part of RPA's Fourth Regional Plan, which is slated for release later this fall. If the entire plan came to fruition, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut residents would be able to hike and bike a combined distance equal to that between New York and Colorado. The plan links new trails to existing ones and puts over 80 percent of the region's residents within two miles of a trail while unifying the tri-state area's existing natural resources into a contiguous network. By connecting regional rail lines to trail networks, knitting together 141 parks, and transforming underused energy corridors (like power line route) into pathways, RPA hopes to encourage outdoor recreation and economic growth in adjacent communities. The plan targets almost 300 municipalities that would become "trail towns" connected to a whole system. RPA hopes that the developing infrastructure could support tourism and hospitality industries in smaller locales. Equitable access to trail systems and outdoor resources has also been proven to promote physical and mental health, creating opportunity for nearby residents to be active. Partnerships with local stewards and organizations will be integral to realizing the plan. At its Urban Core scale, the proposal includes 111 miles of trails within New York City limits alone, including an entire ring around the city harbor linking Jersey City to Staten Island to Brooklyn, then up along Lower Manhattan. A north-bound trail running directly up Broadway (aiming for the eventual total pedestrianization of the street) would connect Upper Manhattan to the waterfronts in Queens and the Bronx—part of which would only be possible if Rikers Island was closed and consolidated. The proposed trailways in New Jersey come out to a 417-mile system, still largely incomplete. The trail system would extend westward from New York down the Morris Canal into Lehigh Valley, wrap around the D&R Canal, and branch out to cover the entire length of Jersey Shore at the high-water mark. At almost 600 miles, the Mid-Hudson circuit is the largest part of the plan, but also the section with the most existing trail infrastructure. Large swaths of this connector provide sweeping views of the Hudson Valley, connecting existing pathways all the way up to Albany. Ideally, this would create a direct route for New York City residents to upper valley trails (and westward to the Erie Canal), as well as bridging directly into the Appalachian Trail. The Connecticut extension, at 170 miles, rounds up a 1994 RPA proposal for a greenway along Merritt Parkway and the East Coast Greenway, stringing together near-coastal cities of the Long Island Sound to inner-state agricultural landscapes and smaller towns (the Parkway, which is gorgeous, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991). Another connector links the East Coast Greenway to the Appalachian Trail to the north. The proposal for Long Island stretches out at 318 miles, repurposing the former Long Island Motor Parkway as a trail spanning the entire length of the island from the New York Harbor to Montauk. Coastal trails bridge out to the Long Island Greenbelt on the Sound side and to the Long Island Seashore Trail on the coastal side from Jones Beach to Fire Island. The RPA and its partners are currently moving forward on fundraising and implementation, which will require a long-term commitment to trail maintenance – no small task for such an extensive system.