Search results for "Mayor de Blasio"

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Excellence in Design Awards

Bomb squad building, verdant library, and others score NYC design awards
Today officials revealed winners of New York's annual Awards for Excellence in Design, a recognition of the city's best civic projects. Timed to NYCxDESIGN, the city's annual celebration of all things design and architecture, the projects being recognized contribute to the city's public life, preserve its history, and exemplify sustainable approaches to buildings and landscapes. The awards, now in their 35th year, are presented by the Public Design Commission, an 11-member group of designers and representatives from New York's cultural institutions that reviews art, architecture, and landscape architecture on city property. "The best public projects are purposeful and use design to build a sense of community and civic pride," said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, in a prepared statement. "We commend the teams behind these critical and creative projects that will help build a stronger, more equitable city and improve services and recreational activities for every New Yorker." Tonight, the mayor, along with Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, Public Design Commission President Signe Nielsen and Executive Director Justin Moore, will present awards to this year's and last year's honorees at a City Hall ceremony. Get a sneak peek at the eight winners below (unless otherwise noted, all images and project descriptions in quotes are from the Mayor's Office): AWARD WINNERS Greenpoint Library and Environmental Education Center Marble Fairbanks; SCAPE Landscape Architecture Greenpoint, Brooklyn Brooklyn Public Library "Exceeding LEED Silver goals, the center will become a demonstration project for innovative approaches to sustainable design, and an environmental learning tool for the community." Double Sun Mary Temple Williamsburg, Brooklyn Department of Cultural Affairs’ Percent for Art Program and Department of Parks & Recreation "Gracing the interior of McCarren Park Pool’s dramatic archway entrance, Mary Temple’s paintings create a subtle and elegant visual disturbance." Downtown Far Rockaway Streetscape  W Architecture and Landscape Architecture Far Rockaway, Queens Department of Design and Construction, Department of Transportation, and Department of Parks & Recreation "Incorporating Vision Zero strategies, this comprehensive streetscape design will foster a safer, more inviting, pedestrian experience in this central business district and transportation hub." Bomb Squad Building Rice + Lipka Architects; Liz Farrell Landscape Architecture Pelham Bay Park, Bronx Department of Design and Construction and New York Police Department "The simple and smart design of this resilient office and training facility elevates critical program elements above the floodplain and allows flood waters to flow through without damaging the building." Treetop Adventure Zipline and Nature Trek  Tree-Mendous The Bronx Zoo Department of Cultural Affairs, Department of Parks & Recreation, and Wildlife Conservation Society "Two new adventures provide unique perspectives at the zoo—visitors can zip across the Bronx River and navigate a series of bridges with narrow beams, obstacles, and climbing wiggling surfaces." FIT New Academic Building SHoP Architects; Mathews Nielsen Fashion Institute of Technology Agency: Department of Education and the Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York "The first newly-constructed building on the FIT campus in nearly 50 years has an NEA award-winning design that reflects FIT’s commitment to openness, community engagement, and the robust exchange of ideas across many platforms." Woodside Office, Garage, and Inspection Facility TEN Arquitectos; W Architecture and Landscape Architecture Woodside, Queens Agency: Department of Design and Construction and Taxi and Limousine Commission "Serving as the central inspection location for over 13,500 taxis, this facility will provide a welcoming and dignified experience for drivers, reduce queuing times, and increase inspection capacity by more than 200 cars per day." The Cubes Administration and Education Building LOT-EK Astoria, Queens Agency: Department of Parks & Recreation and Socrates Sculpture Park "Constructed of 18 shipping containers, the Cubes will be Socrates Sculpture Park’s first permanent structure in its thirty-year history and a manifestation of the organization’s emphasis on reclamation and adaptive re-use, as well as a reference to the neighborhood’s industrial roots." SPECIAL RECOGNITIONS: The Department of Environmental Protection, for the agency’s thoughtful design of green infrastructure in the watershed to help protect the city’s water supply. "DEP’s use of green infrastructure in its upstate properties not only results in resilient and innovative designs, but is a critical component of the agency’s ability to maintain the high quality of New York City’s drinking water supply." Conservation and Relocation of three WPA-era murals EverGreene Architectural Arts; Fine Art Conservation Group; Morphosis; Weiss/Manfredi Roosevelt Island, New York Economic Development Corporation and Cornell Tech "Commissioned in the 1940s by the Work Projects Administration (WPA), these murals were painted over and forgotten for decades. As part of the new Cornell Tech campus, the murals were uncovered and conserved and will be integrated into new campus buildings for public enjoyment." Tottenville Shoreline Protection Stantec; RACE Coastal Engineering Staten Island Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery, the Department of Parks & Recreation, the Department of Transportation, and the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York "In tandem with ReBuild by Design’s Living Breakwaters Project, this shoreline initiative will increase public access by creating an interconnected and seamless waterfront trail, incorporating wetland enhancement, eco-revetments, hardened dune systems, shoreline plantings, maritime forest restorations, and earthen berms."
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Culture Wars

NYC arts groups nervous as city hashes out new funding plan

Mayor Bill de Blasio is rethinking the city's cultural funding plan, a move that could impact not just major institutions like the Met and Lincoln Center, but smaller, outer-borough arts organizations, too.

Large organizations, many of them based in Manhattan, are worried about getting less money for their programming, while grassroots groups, especially those working in lower-income neighborhoods, are hoping to get a bigger slice of funding with the Mayor's proposed changes.

The city allocates $178 million annually for its arts budget, so that funding comes from a pretty big pie. Especially in the face of cuts to the National Endowment for the Arts, the city's changes, the New York Times reports, "could be setting the stage for an art-world version of class warfare, with cultural giants and their well-heeled patrons pitted against smaller, less-glamorous institutions that focus chiefly on serving racially and economically diverse local audiences."

Right now, the Metropolitan Museum of Art gets $26 million, the largest single grant at almost 15 percent of the budget, while the Bronx Historical Society gets less than $200,000 from the city. The Cultural Institutions Group, a coalition of 33 arts organizations, gets 63 percent of the budget, and the rest is distributed through grants.

So far, 20,000 residents have weighed in on where the funding should go, and why. Those findings will be released in summary next week, while Mayor de Blasio's team has until July 1 to submit a cultural plan to the City Council for consideration.

“There will be something that says there are parts of New York City that are under-resourced, and that’s going to be something we want to address,” Tom Finkelpearl, the commissioner of cultural affairs, told the Times. "It’s also going to say that there is great recognition on the part of this administration of the value of major cultural institutions. These are very important, not just for tourism—which we do care about—but also to the spirit of the city.”

Some practitioners think it's time to expand the pool, investing more in arts and culture so all institutions, big and small, can sustain themselves and their missions. To that end, the city last year added $10 million to its arts budget and set that money aside for smaller organizations specifically, and gave larger groups a six percent increase.

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Mind the Gap

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

NYC acquires last parcel needed for new Bushwick Inlet Park
8Yesterday, Mayor de Blasio announced that New York City had acquired, for $160 million, a large parcel needed to create the new Bushwick Inlet Park, located on the East River shoreline of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The parcel in question is the 11-acre CitiStorage storage facility, which was ravaged by a seven-alarm fire back in 2015. The site's owner had been demanding up to $250 million for the land, and there were rumors the city would use eminent domain, though that appears to not have happened. “Today’s acquisition is proof positive that we keep our promises,” said Mayor de Blasio in a press release. “We are one step closer to realizing the vision of the completed Bushwick Inlet Park North Brooklyn deserves.” “On a per capita basis, Brooklyn Community Board 1 has one of the city’s lowest ratios of open space," said Brooklyn Community Board 1 Chair Dealice Fuller, also in a press release. "Since the 2005 rezoning our community has added tens of thousands of new residents, but the creation of new open space has not kept pace with the influx of new people. We are highly pleased that the Administration finally lived up to its promises and acquired the parcels that comprised the CitiStorage site. With the NYC Parks now leading the charge, we can begin moving forward to make this park a true reality.” This final parcel is just one of six that will go into the new 27-acre park; 3.5 acres are already finished and open to the public. The already-completed section, designed by Brooklyn-based Kiss + Cathcart, features a multi-purpose sports field, viewing platform, and community activities building, in addition to other amenities. Many ideas have been floated for the new park's design, including a "Maker Park" that would make sure of derelict industrial facilities near the inlet, though the City and NYC Parks have not released final plans. Four other parcels are currently in various stages of environmental remediation and development; the CitiStorage site must also go through a similar evaluation and remediation process. Once such an evaluation is complete, the City said in a press release, it will formulate a timeline for development. (The article's first image was taken from a 2005 Greenpoint – Williamsburg master plan created by Mayor Bloomberg's administration.)
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BQX-ed Out?

Leaked memo suggests Brooklyn-Queens streetcar might not pay for itself
Picture the Brooklyn-Queens waterfront, seven years from now: There will be a new garment district, design fairs, and expanded ferry service, but the city wants residents to see a streetcar, carrying passengers between the neighboring boroughs. Leaked information suggests, though, that plans for the brand new line may have to wait. Politico this week released a draft of a confidential memo from the Mayor Bill de Blasio's BQX advisory team to Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen that outlines some of the challenges behind its developer-driven financial model, among other issues. The mayor officially declared the Brooklyn Queens Connector (BQX) a priority project during his February 2016 state of the city address. The proposed 16-mile, $2.5 billion streetcar line would run along the waterfront, connecting Sunset Park, Brooklyn, to Astoria, Queens. Unlike a new subway line under Utica Avenue or phase two of the Second Ave Subway, supporters say BQX could be built without financing from the MTA, which is run by the state, not the city. Instead, local backers like Doug Steiner and the Walentas family have endorsed a value-capture model, where the project would be financed by rising property values along the streetcar route. Another selling point was its tight timelines. The city estimated that the project could break ground two years from now and begin ferrying passengers up and down the waterfront by 2024. At one community meeting, a representative from Sam Schwartz, the project's transportation consultant, noted that relocating below-grade utility lines would be a challenging (and costly) aspect of the project, but it turns out the city is having serious second thoughts about the feasibility of relocating gas, water, and sewer mains: "Utility relocation continues to be the biggest single cost factor and if policies cannot be implemented to limit the impact, it has the possibility to make the project unaffordable and render implementation timelines unfeasible," the memo states. The letter outlines three possible timelines, fast to slow, to gauge the costs and benefits of breaking ground sooner rather than later. The memo suggests taking more time to study and review the project before making a final decision, though that would delay the groundbreaking, now set for 2019. But, the memo cautions, every year the project is delayed adds tens of millions more to the bill. Construction on the line was initially expected to take five years, but if the city chooses a longer timeline, construction costs will rise approximately $100 million per year. Ouch. The BQX team, according to Politico, meets bimonthly to discuss the project. If value-capture won't work and the streetcar proves too costly, the city may look into other financing models, or the BQX may be abandoned.
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421-a Redux

"Affordable New York Housing Program" revives affordable housing tax breaks for developers
New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has secured the State Legislature's approval of the “Affordable New York Housing Program," essentially an update of the "421-a" initiative which had been in place for 50 years and encouraged city developers to build more affordable homes incentivized through tax breaks. As part of the “Affordable New York Housing Program," developers in charge of residential projects that have 300 or more units will be eligible for a full property tax break lasting 35 years. The tax abatement, however, will only apply to developments in specific areas of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. Further checkboxes for developers wanting in on the action regard worker pay and the number of affordable units. Under the scheme, projects will only be eligible if they pay construction workers a newly imposed minimum wage (specific to the profession) and allocate 25 to 30 percent of the development as affordable rental units. Subsequently, construction workers on sites below 96th Street in Manhattan must earn $60 an hour, on average, through benefits, wages, and payroll taxes. For those working within a mile radius of the East River waterfront, that sum comes down to $45 per hour. To ensure developers are being true to their word, the New York Times reports that the city comptroller will act as a watchdog. Efforts, though, may be hampered by the fact that wages splayed out across the construction site range significantly. Specialized jobs such as cement pourers, crane operators, and plumbers are very well-payed whereas standard laborers are not.

Developments outside the specified zones have the chance to "opt in" to the scheme so long as the aforementioned prerequisites are met. Governor Cuomo, in a press release on the budget, estimated that the Affordable New York Housing Program will create roughly 2,500 new units of affordable housing each year. The scheme will end in 2022 at the earliest.

As per The Times, New York City Mayor, Bill de Blasio had lambasted the old 421-a as “a giveaway to developers.” His administration estimates Cuomo's plan will cost $82 million a year more in unrealized taxes than it would have under the previous year's proposal. The Times also reported that the 421-a tax breaks cost the city about $1.4 billion a year.
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#TeachTrump

Trump Tower teach-ins highlight the often perilous state of publicly-owned private spaces
Yesterday, activists associated with Our Climate and the #PutAPriceOnIt Campaign gathered on the rain-soaked fifth-floor terrace of Trump Tower, an elusive privately-owned public space (POPS), to host a teach-in on climate pricing. The attendees, many college students, were critical of President Trump’s policies related to climate change and initially had to ask the building supervisors to unlock the space which—by law—must be freely accessible to the public between 8am to 10pm daily. This is not the first challenge activists have experienced gaining access to the space: recently The Architect's Newspaper (AN) reported that a similar teach-in was almost thwarted by building officials who cited the un-shoveled snow and icy conditions as hazardous. As stewards of the garden, Trump Tower is responsible for the maintenance of the space, which includes de-icing walking surfaces and shoveling the snow. Some participants noted that the sidewalk on street level was free and clear of similar hazards.  To illuminate these issues further, AN sat down with Michelle Young, founder and publisher of Untapped Cities and an adjunct professor in urban planning at Columbia University. AN: As part of a deal with the city of New York that allowed for the construction of Trump Tower, then-businessman Donald Trump agreed to maintain what is called “privately-owned public space,” which includes the multi-level indoor plaza and a couple of the building’s roof terraces. What can you tell us about these POPS and the political role they play in our public discourse? Michelle Young: I wrote a piece last year after the election on Privately-Owned Public Space (POPS) because I was curious what would become of them—most people don’t even know they are out there. In the case of Trump Tower, it really feels like just the lobby of the Tower. It is very unclear from the street that it is actually a public space. [During development] Trump received over 105,000 square feet in additional area in exchange for pedestrian spaces and two landscaped terraces in Trump Tower. And then he received about the same amount again, not for adding public space, but for providing retail opportunities in the building. [This was common along fifth avenue in the 1970s and 80s.] Jerold S. Kayden, who wrote a book about POPS in New York City, approximates that one of those bonuses was about 8 stories.... So that means he got 28% of the FAR in additional square footage for zoning bonuses [POPS and retail]. Has Trump treated these POPS differently than other developers? All over the New York City there are POPS out of compliance, which includes: retail spaces that slowly take over public spaces (“retail creep”), or retailers' signs in POPS that say “Customers Only,” or when gates are closed at a time when they are supposed to be open, and smaller things like not having a garbage can, bathrooms, etc. I think if we took the total aggregate of problems, the Trump Tower POPS are fairly well-maintained except for one of the terraces that is almost never open. I think one of the reasons there has been a lot of attention is the type of violation that Trump Tower has incurred. A specific case is a bench across from the elevator bank which has had a lot of controversy over the last couple of decades. First, the bench was replaced with flower pots, which was a fine.  Then, last year Kayden himself launched new complaints against Trump Tower for removing the whole bench and replacing it with a retail kiosk that was selling “Make America Great Again” hats and other campaign merchandise. It’s a different issue altogether than neglect which is typically the problem in some of these POPS. Several organizations and political activist have been using the terrace of Trump Tower to host so-called teach-ins operating under the hashtag #teachtump. What is the effect of events like these when they happen in all communal spaces but especially at Trump Tower? I spoke at the first event and I think it was great to have it at Trump Tower, not just for political reasons, but also because of the level of security that is present there. The activists knew in advance that there might be some trouble so there was a careful staging of how and when people would enter the space. There was a lawyer on site who was knowledgeable of the issues and had all of the zoning documents on hand. Also, councilman Mark Levine was at the event and helped smooth things over when the New York Police Department and the Secret Service showed up. However, at the end of the day, it is a little bit... ridiculous that one needs a councilman and a lawyer to facilitate an event that was peaceful in a public space. The fact that this organization is currently holding protests there, I think, is a great thing. Originally it was supposed to be a one-time teach-in but I encouraged them to do it regularly because I think the symbolism of Trump Tower is effective. I think it’s a great way to highlight this issue of POPS and keeping developers accountable the rules of these spaces. A few months ago during the Women’s March in New York, Trump Tower was protected by a one block buffer on all sides and pedestrian traffic was limited in the area, bring into focus the entangled reality that comes with having a president with such extensive real estate holdings. What do these instances of exceptional spatial conditions illustrate about the privatization of public space? I think that one of the POPS that is particularly affected by privatization is 6 ½ avenue, which is a public space that runs through streets and buildings. It’s a really great initiative for New York City to support. The problem, again, is compliance and perceived inaccessibility. The lobby of the Parker Meridian hotel, for instance, is a part of 6 ½ Ave and was originally built as a POPS, but the owners installed a cafe at the entrance off of 57th street that is not welcoming to people who are not ordering food or coffee. There have been reports that people have been kicked out of the cafe for not buying something. That to me is a true privatization of public space. The area around Trump tower is like de facto privatization but is is not exactly the same. We hope that after these four years there will be a normalization but increased security has created disruptions in the public space especially the flow of people into and around the building’s POPS. And design plays a role? Yes, to that end New York City has updated their design principles for these space; in 2007 it released an update. So it is not a lack of effort on the part of New York City but obviously many of these places were built in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, far before this update, so there is a big range in quality. Many have debated the role that President Trump’s background as developer and businessman will play in his presidency, especially with regard to urban development and infrastructure policy. What future do you see for shared space in our cities over the next four years under President Trump’s leadership?  I haven’t yet seen a direct threat to public space because of the Trump administration. Mayor de Blasio remains very good about supporting public spaces, public amenities, and policies for the people. There are definitely concerns on the federal level that can impact New York City. For instance, the Jamaica Bay area is part of the Gateway National Recreation Area which is managed by the National Parks Service (NPS) so any cuts to the NPS could reach New York CIty.
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Prison Break

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

See the shovel-ready Vision Zero projects changing NYC streets this year
Today Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a slate of shovel-ready or in-progress projects meant to move the city ever closer to its Vision Zero goals. The program, designed to dramatically reduce traffic fatalities through speed limit reductions and streetscape improvements, is now in its fourth year. So what is getting done? According to the Mayor's office, the city is breaking ground on wider sidewalks, more protected bike lanes, new crosswalks, and medians on busy roadways large enough for pedestrians to take refuge. The improvements, part of a five-year, $1.6 billion initiative, will target dozens of projects in the five boroughs. “Dangerous streets have to change,” said Mayor de Blasio, in a prepared statement.  “We want to get the word out: we’re moving lanes, adding new space for pedestrians and making it safer to cross intersections—all to keep your family safe. These changes have helped make each of the last three years under Vision Zero safer than the last.” The city says existing Vision Zero improvements have lead to eight fewer lives lost in the first quarter of 2017 compared to the same period last year. Still, New York has a way to go towards zero fatalities—40 people have died in traffic-related incidents so far this year Here are a few highlights from the improvements planned so far for this year: In Brooklyn, along Borinquen Place, South 4th, and South 5th streets, this summer city will enhance pedestrian and bike access to the Williamsburg Bridge in advance of the 15-month L train shutdown. The Brooklyn Bridge, meanwhile, is a commuter cyclist's special hell. The Department of Transportation (DOT) is widening pedestrian-bike entrances at Tillary Street to allow seamless coexistence between selfie-snapping, Citibiking tourists and New Yorkers who are just trying to go somewhere. Plans will add 50 trees and better crosswalks; improvements are underway and are expected to be complete this summer. (President Trump's proposed budget cuts, however, could jeopardize funding for this project.) On the Manhattan side, a "sister project" to the one on Tillary Street will improve bike and pedestrian access, while riders will enjoy a two-way protected bike lane in front of City Hall by this spring. By this summer, cyclists and walkers in Mott Haven will have easier access to the Madison Avenue Bridge, the slice of roadway that connects 138th Street in the Bronx to Manhattan. Over in Queens, two new Select Bus Service routes and safety improvements to Woodhaven and Cross Bay boulevards build on similar efforts to boost the pedestrian experience along Queens Boulevard. In notoriously car-dependent Staten Island, the city will add five miles of bicycle lanes to connect the North Shore neighborhoods of Tompkinsville, Stapleton, Concord and Park Hill. For residents and visitors, bike connections to the ferry terminal in St. George are coming online this summer.
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DD-Geez!

DDG Partners’ development on the Upper East Side continues to raise eyebrows

In late December, Christmas came early for DDG Partners as work started again on its controversial development on Third Avenue and East 88th Street. The project, though, has become embroiled in a zoning furor with neighbors, experts, politicians, and the Department of Buildings (DOB). And the battle, despite workers being back on-site, doesn’t appear to be over.

Local resident group, Carnegie Hill Neighbors (CHN), has been feverishly fighting the development since it was given the go-ahead in summer 2015. In March 2016, CHN enlisted the services of planning expert George M. Janes to help the cause.

After looking at the zoning drawings, Janes said he noticed a “tactic to subdivide the lot” so that DDG’s building would no longer face on to East 88th Street. By avoiding this, the firm escaped further zoning laws triggered by coming up to the street’s edge.

Two months later, councilmember Ben Kallos and Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer penned a letter to the city flagging the issue and calling for construction to be halted. They succeeded and work stopped in May.

The case is complex. Janes’s argument in the zoning challenge outlined the following: If the building did fall flush with East 88th Street, then this portion of the structure—known as the “sliver”—would be limited to 60 feet tall. Along the edges of this sliver running perpendicular to the street, however, no “legal windows” for habitable apartments would be allowed, thus wasting floor space.

“I understand why they did what they did from a design standpoint,” said Janes. “That doesn’t make a difference in terms of the law though.” Janes, in fact, is sure DDG’s updated plans still break the law. “It’s just a matter of whether the DOB will enforce the law,” he said.

In a statement, the DOB said: “The side lot on 88th Street increased in size from 4 by 22 feet into a 10- by 22-foot developable parcel. DOB’s action reduced the size of the new building by 1,200 square feet. The developer will be required to build two means of egress on Third Avenue.”

Interestingly, even though the building’s base does not face East 88th Street, the developer’s listing of condos names the address as “180 East 88th Street” as seen on 180e88.com. The DOB meanwhile, refers to the development as “1558 Third Avenue.”

Janes has submitted another zoning challenge on behalf of CHN, including a letter signed by Kallos, Brewer, New York State Senator Liz Krueger, and Lo van der Valk, president of CHN. The modifications are “really very small,” said Janes. “The lot is still in common ownership, there are still the same issues.”

In the letter obtained by The Architect's Newspaper, the signatories collectively state their objection “to the developer’s absurd efforts to gerrymander its tax and zoning lots to avoid zoning requirements for buildings facing East 88th Street, which the DOB has apparently accepted in approving the project.”

The letter also reads:

The policy implications of this approach for the City are huge. Developers seeking to avoid zoning restrictions that are triggered by street frontage can merely carve off a tiny tax lot, obtain an access easement, and continue to reap all the benefits that the tax lot might offer, other than the tiny amount of floor area these micro-lots produce—a trade-off many developers will embrace given the premium price for height and high-floor apartments.

This was submitted on December 8 and Janes was initially optimistic given the lack of immediate reply that usually comes when a challenge is declined.

Additionally, van der Valk spoke of his desire to curb building heights on the Upper East Side in the wake of the project. “The long-run solution is to impose some building height restrictions in the area,” he said. “This building has some very tall floors, some of the tallest we’ve seen.”

DDG Partners’ tower will rise to 467 feet (excluding mechanicals), using only 32 floors. According to The Real Deal, DDG purchased the site in 2013 for about $70 million and has an estimated sellout of $308 million for the 48 condos on offer.

In a statement, DDG spokesperson Michele de Milly said: “We are pleased that the Stop Work Order was lifted following the Department of Building’s comprehensive audit. Most importantly, hundreds of construction workers can now get back to work on the site in order to meet our completion goal for late 2018.”

The developer also contributed nearly $20,000 to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Campaign for One New York, a nonprofit that supports the mayor’s social initiatives. DDG declined to comment on the donations when asked in May 2016. It said, however, that it “has and will continue to support public officials with a positive economic development platform that allows New York City to remain a beacon and attraction for the rest of the world.” 

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Vital Brooklyn

Governor Cuomo unveils Central Brooklyn revitalization plan that's big on ideas
New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has unveiled a sweeping plan to revitalize Central Brooklyn, the latest in a spate of ambitious, big-budget projects he has proposed for the state's airports, trains, bridges—and election year 2020, possibly. The $1.4 billion initiative positions itself as a "national paradigm" for addressing health, violence, and poverty in low-income communities. Called Vital Brooklyn, the proposal will target Brownsville, East New York, Flatbush, Crown Heights, and Bedford-Stuyvesant, communities where residents face persistent barriers to health, education, and employment equity as well as the rising threat of gentrification. Targeting eight investment areas, Vital Brooklyn aims to augment the supply of affordable housing; build resilience infrastructure; invest in community-based violence prevention, job creation, and youth employment; tackle open space and healthy food availability; and improve healthcare access with an emphasis on preventative care.
“For too long investment in underserved communities has lacked the strategy necessary to end systemic social and economic disparity, but in Central Brooklyn those failed approaches stop today,” said Governor Cuomo, in a prepared statement. “We are going to employ a new holistic plan that will bring health and wellness to one of the most disadvantaged parts of the state. Every New Yorker deserves to live in a safe neighborhood with access to jobs, healthcare, affordable housing, green spaces, and healthy food but you can't address one of these without addressing them all. Today, we begin to create a brighter future for Brooklyn, and make New York a model for development of high need communities across the country.” The lion's share of the plan—$700 million in capital investments—will go towards healthcare, followed by $563 million for affordable housing. The remaining money is split between Vital Brooklyn's six other initiatives, with food access getting the smallest portion of the funding. So far, Cuomo's plan is heavy on ideas but short on specifics. The healthcare component calls for more community health care facilities to fulfill current demand and provide additional preventative and mental health care services. To achieve this, a 36-location ambulatory care network will partner with existing providers, and to complement the health focus, the state will spend $140 million to ensure that all residents live within a ten-minute walk of parks and athletic facilities, and revamp existing facilities through grants. Vital Brooklyn also calls for building five-plus acres of recreation space at state-funded housing developments. Mindful that health outcomes and housing are linked, the governor confronts Brooklyn's affordable housing shortage with plans to build, build, build. With more than half of Central Brooklyn residents spending more than half of their income on rent, Cuomo's plan calls for the construction of more than 3,000 new multifamily units at six state-owned sites, with options for supportive housing, public green space, and a home-ownership plan. On the resiliency front, the state's projects aim to meet growing demand for electricity while shoring up the low-lying area's resistance to extreme weather. Under the plan, there could be 62 multi-family and 87 single-family energy efficiency initiative, plus almost 400 solar other projects in the pipeline. The initiative also calls for equipping Kings County Hospital, SUNY Downstate Medical Center and Kingsboro Psychiatric Center with backup power through the Clarkson Avenue microgrid project. Linked to the resiliency, Vital Brooklyn features a partnership between the Billion Oyster Project and the State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Environmental Justice program to expose area youth to habitat restoration practices on Jamaica Bay by adding 30 environmental education sites to the area. Through these sites, the Billion Oyster Project aims to reach 9,500 students who will learn about the benefits of oysters through the bay and SCAPE's Living Breakwaters Project on Staten Island. Not everyone is bullish on the plan, though. New York City Mayor (and Cuomo rival) Bill de Blasio, for one, is skeptical about the governor's follow-thorough. "Show us the money, show us the beef, whatever phrase you want," de Blasio said on WNYC las week. "I don't care what a politician does to get attention. What I care about is actual product." The state legislature has until April 1 to decide on the governor's budget, and negotiations may change the plan's final funding and form.
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Homeport

NYC's new Citywide Ferry Service will be based in the Brooklyn Navy Yard
Yesterday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio released major details concerning the new Citywide Ferry Service, whose new routes are coming online the summer of 2017 and 2018. The Brooklyn Navy Yard, already the hub of extensive development, will be the Service's "homeport" and feature a 56,000-square-foot storage and maintenance facility with berths for 25 ferries. This is where ferries will be cleaned, restocked, repaired, and fueled, and will also serve as a new stop on the East River route that runs from E. 34th St. to Wall St./Pier 11. In a press release, the Mayor's office added that the new facility will be elevated to comply with FEMA flood standards and fully operational by 2018. The Citywide Ferry Service is part of a broader plan from the Mayor's Office to increase underserved New York City communities' access to Manhattan and create an overall more robust and evenly-spread public transportation system. New routes will run from Manhattan to: Southview in the Bronx, Astoria and the Rockaway in Queens, and Bay Ridge and Red Hook in Brooklyn (just to name a few). The Mayor's Office estimates that the Service's 20 ferries, working across 21 landings and six routes, will make 4.6 million trips per year. “A more connected city—and the jobs that come along with it—are just on the horizon,” stated Council Member Stephen Levin in a press release. “I applaud the Mayor taking the challenge of transportation and turning it into an opportunity. The new homeport at the Brooklyn Navy Yard continues the trajectory of Brooklyn as a leader in innovation and inclusive economic development. Whether it’s more jobs or better transportation options, Citywide Ferry has the potential to substantially improve our community.” Job seekers and transportation enthusiasts alike will also be excited to hear that the homeport brings with it 200 new openings for captains, deckhands, concessions operators, and other related roles. Applicants can inquire through the Brooklyn Navy Yard's Employment Center or Workforce1 Career Centers. The best news of all? The Citywide Ferry will be just $2.75 a ride. “For the price of a subway ride, Citywide Ferry service will connect millions of riders to jobs and homes all along New York City’s waterfront. As we prepare to launch this summer, we are focused on the finishing touches, and hiring captains, deckhands, engineers and maintenance workers who will operate these boats,” said Mayor de Blasio. (It should be noted, however, that riders will have to purchase tickets separately and cannot use their MTA cards.) For more details on the Citywide Ferry Service, see their website here.