Search results for "NYC Department of Housing, Preservation and Development"

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Hunts Point

Former Bronx juvenile prison to become 740-unit affordable housing development
The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) have unveiled renderings for plans to redevelop a former Bronx juvenile prison into a mixed-use development centered on affordable housing. WXY architecture + urban design (WXY) are collaborating with Body Lawson Associates (BLA) to transform the notorious Spofford Juvenile Detention Center into The Peninsula, a $300 million project that will create 740 units of "100 percent" affordable housing. Along with typical deliverables—retail, community, and green space—for a project this size, the Peninsula will bring 49,000 square feet of light industrial space to the Hunts Point neighborhood. The project is one of many mixed-use complexes cropping up in the borough: In May, Mastermind Development broke ground on a $117.7 million project in East Tremont and FXFOWLE's La Central in Melrose is moving forward. The development team—Gilbane Development Company, Hudson Companies, and Mutual Housing Association of New York (MHANY)—was chosen through a 2015 request for expressions of interest (RFEI). The team is working with longtime neighborhood stakeholders like the Point CDC, BronxWorks, Casita Maria Center for Arts and Education, Urban Health Plan, Sustainable South Bronx, and others. In 2014 Majora Carter, the urban revitalization activist and founder/former executive director of Sustainable South Bronx, partnered with AutoDesk to imagine alternatives to the Spofford site, which operated as the Bridges Juvenile Center when it was shuttered by the city in 2011 over appalling conditions and inmate abuse. DNAinfo reports that a development team spearheaded by Carter was rejected in favor of the winning proposal. "The lack of diversity on the team chosen by NYCEDC to develop Spofford is not indicative of Mayor de Blasio’s much-publicized commitment to including minority businesses in the city’s contracting," Carter told DNAinfo. "Instead EDC selected a typical team composed exclusively of white men 'partnered' with uncompensated minority nonprofits to whom no transformative capital benefits will accrue." The five-building development is nevertheless coming online in three planned phases: Phase one is expected to be complete in 2021, with phase two coming online the year after, and the third and final phase set to open in 2024. In addition to providing housing, those facilities will host a business incubator, job training facilities, school space for pre-K (an on-site Head Start will be incorporated into the project) and higher ed, 52,000 square feet of open space, and an 18,000-square-foot health and wellness center operated by Urban Health Plan. Food is key to the Peninsula: According to the NYCEDC, in addition to a 15,000-square-foot supermarket, local favorites like Il Forno Bakery, Soul Snacks, Bascom Catering, and Hunts Point Brewing Company will be setting up shop in the development.
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Manhattan Transfer

Hudson River Park/Pier 40 deal reveals the tangled web of calculated collusion that shapes NYC
“Follow the money” is the immortal, if apocryphal, phrase uttered by Deep Throat, offering the key to unlocking the mysteries of Watergate. Understanding cities requires similar forensics. Urban morphology maps the flow of cash with concrete precision and the New York skyline is a literal bar graph of investment and return. The manufacture of real estate (what some quaintly refer to as “architecture”) is our leading industry and the art of the deal the epicenter of our creativity. Money not only talks, it designs and “planning” in most American cities is almost entirely devoted to refining the process of spatial arbitrage. There’s a project underway on the Manhattan waterfront that spins this tangled web with a remarkable combination of clarity and opacity, exposing the freakish calculated collusion of intentions and outcomes that shapes the city. The story begins in September 1985, when the death knell was sounded for Westway, a lunatic land manufacturing scheme to shove the Manhattan shoreline four hundred feet into the Hudson all the way from 40th Street to the Battery. Beneath this massive fill was to have been embedded an Interstate—the most expensive per mile ever constructed—replacing the terminally rusted West Side Highway. Planners were looking for the most extravagant scheme possible and were strongly supported by public officials (including Rockefeller, Koch, Cuomo the Elder, and Moynihan), the development community, and the construction unions. Visionary rhetoric and seductive greensward images notwithstanding, it was all about the money: The Feds would have picked up 90% of the $2.1 billion ($10 billion in today’s dollars) price-tag and the resulting 220 acres of new real estate—100 for a park and the rest a free-fire development zone—and would have been the most spectacular piece of physical fiscalization in the city’s history. But if the magnitude was singularly impressive, the impetus was widely shared. Cities all over the country had been committing urban suicide—ramming highways through their yielding tissues (often of color)—to get their hands on that government cash and New York—cresting in the Robert Moses era—had been an absolute champ. Westway was opposed by a coalition of environmentalists, mass transit advocates, community activists, and progressive pols but was finally killed by a Federal court ruling that its sponsors had failed to consider the landfill’s potentially adverse impact on the Hudson’s striped bass population. This narrowly-decided opinion nevertheless proved a turning point in the urban highway wars: In its aftermath, Bella Abzug–sponsored legislation allowed a trade-in of highway money for mass transit (to the great benefit of our subways, busses, and pedestrians) and other cities—from San Francisco to Seattle—began tearing down the waterfront highways, a continuing trend. Today, instead of Westway, we have a surface “boulevard” that—if billions cheaper, tree-lined, and lit by ornamental luminaires—is still too much of a surrender of this precious edge to traffic. Along the road’s waterside, though, runs the lovely, if incomplete, Hudson River Park which—while far from big enough to meet demand— offers great pleasures as it struggles towards durability and completion. Instrumentally, the park both reproduces and inverts the Westway principle. Westway proposed to use public funds simultaneously for public benefit (a highway and a park) and to create opportunities for the accumulation of private wealth, which would, in theory, yield further public return in the form of income from land sales and real estate taxes. The current park, on the other hand, although built substantially with public funds for public use, is not exactly a public work, inasmuch as it is obliged to finance its own future by directly attracting private capital. This parlous paradigm of the “public-private partnership” has, in our Republican age, become the default strategy for “public” development and has deeply embedded the culture of the trade-off (literal pay to play in the case of the park) in our civic life. The genius of progressive taxation for “general revenue” is that, in theory, it embodies that equitable proposition, “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” If the U.S. system is wildly distorted on both collection and distribution sides, ability and need are nominally meant to be determined democratically. Unfortunately, when democracy lurches towards plutocracy, the distortions on both ends grow to the inevitable detriment of public needs. As the system becomes more and more regressive, the question of public benefit is increasingly situated in the elective territory of philanthropy—optional altruism—rather than collective responsibility. A tax code designed to favor private fortunes (with the corollary commonweal reliant on trickle-down) begs the question of their public disposition: ceding this to individual interest, itself answerable to charity, guilt, avarice, deductibilty, and political power in varying degrees, depending on whether the fortune belongs to the Koch Brothers, Bill Gates, Andrew Carnegie, sundry Rockefellers and Fords, or the Clinton Foundation. The demonization of shared—“redistributed”—wealth is a trope as abiding as it is rank: one reason that Bernie was ultimately unsuccessful is our generalized hostility to high-tax. Scandinavian-style “welfare states” (every citizen a welfare king or queen!) and the sapping canard of the individual initiative-killing effects of “hand-outs” from big nanny. Even in “liberal” New York, we’ve long since internalized Trumpism as policy: Everything’s a deal. “Return” on public investment must not simply be quantifiable (gross municipal happiness anyone?) but literally monetized. This calculus undergirds the arcane systems of swaps and bonuses that radically territorialize and delimit our practices of urban planning and improvement, with the result that we now insist that virtually every public enterprise (save, of course, warfare—although Trump’s neo-imperialist, spoils-to-the-victor, proposals might bring this too under the umbrella of self-finance) demonstrably pay for itself. Thus, instead of public construction of housing we have inclusionary zoning, instead of public education we have charter schools and rising college tuition, and instead of public healthcare we have the confusions and insufficiencies of a rapacious marketplace. And, littering New York, we have those oxymoronic POPS—“privately owned public spaces”—a sad archipelago of plazas and lobbies (Trump Tower’s among them!), purchased in a currency of lost light, air, revenue, equity, and pride. Any trade begs the question of who gets the better of it. Are the view-blocking luxury apartments now built in its midst too high a price for the excellent Brooklyn Bridge Park? The conundrum lies less in the answer than the question, with its predicate in a fragmented, discontinuous, idea of public space. Its further, and all too legible, implication is that the location and quality of such spaces depend on their realization in places where they can graft values from already successful environments. Precisely because the investment is both self-serving and easily recouped in a rising gyre of adjoining real estate prices, private money pours into Central Park, those condos rise in Brooklyn, the High-Line flourishes, and Barry Diller wants to build a Fantasy Island on piles in the Hudson—just beyond the window his office—in the “undeveloped” waters between the piers of the park. Like Brooklyn Bridge Park, Hudson River Park is administered by a trust, a legal arrangement in which someone’s property—in this case New York City’s and New York State’s—is managed by someone else. The Hudson River Park Trust was created by the State Legislature in 1998—during the Pataki administration—and is nominally controlled by a thirteen-member board of directors, five appointed by the Governor, five by the Mayor, and three by the Manhattan Borough President. The Trust’s board, however, is backed by another larger and perhaps more important one: the self-perpetuating “Friends of Hudson River Park,” charged with fund-raising for on-going construction and maintenance and largely comprised of investment bankers and real estate types (as well as—for cultural leavening—Martha Stewart and David Chang, of Momofuku fame). Both boards are dominated by Madelyn Wils, the Trust’s President and CEO since 2011, a shrewd and well-connected operative with long executive service on the city’s Economic Development Corporation, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, and—as Chairman—Community Board One, in lower Manhattan. It has fallen to Wils to deal with fact that the park, legally obliged by the terms of the trust to self-finance, is stone-broke. Her duties thus include not simply supervising the operation of the park but, most crucially, fulfilling the Trust’s mandate to “ensure the park’s future financial self-sufficiency by developing the remaining commercial nodes.” These “nodes” include both the actively commercial piers under its control (the Chelsea Piers sports complex, the New York Waterway ferry terminal, the Intrepid Air and Space Museum, etc.) as well as the unrealized potential of other undeveloped piers (or deals for new ones like Diller’s island). Its largest such asset is the fifteen-acre Pier 40, former terminus of the Holland America line, which occupies a charismatic spot between Greenwich Village and Tribeca, west of burgeoning “Hudson Square,” an area recently rebranded and rezoned to incite development and supersede its industrial past by attracting “creative” and tech uses, luxury housing, and a froth of Portland-sur-Hudson amenities to go with. Pier 40 currently accounts for approximately 30% of the Trust’s revenue—mainly from parking nearly 2,000 cars (a truly idiotic use for one the city’s most wonderful sites)—but is crumbling and urgently needs extensive rehabilitation. It’s best known by locals for holding several large—and much beloved—playing fields in an area that is one of the most underserved with recreational space in the city. Cash must somehow be milked from this alpha cow. Thus, on her arrival, Wils and Board Chair Diana Taylor took control of the then moribund “friends,” loading it with wealthy donors. This move was not without turbulence, including the 2012 purge of uber-developer Douglas Durst (who did not go quietly), nominally over a fight about the Trust’s intention to build housing on Pier 40, which Durst thought might be more profitably exploited by something more commercial. Indeed, over the years, a variety of contentious schemes for the pier have been mooted, including construction of offices, housing, shopping malls, theme parks, a permanent home for Cirque du Soleil, more parking, the expansion of NYU, and other not-exactly-park-like uses. However, this being New York, the pier also offers possible monetization through the sale of its very lack of development: by cashing in on its air rights. The main impediment to this has been that New York’s air rights regulations restrict their transfer to another site within a single block or zoning lot, technically obliging the pier’s rights to be fully exploited on the pier itself. Re-enter the State Legislature. In 2013, the Hudson River Park Act was amended to permit the transfer of the park’s air rights (in toto around 1.5 million square feet) to “receiving sites” within a zone a block deep on the other side of West Street, the park’s landside boundary, running from 59th Street to Canal Street. This amendment was crucial both in establishing the park’s most potentially lucrative revenue stream and in enabling a particular deal already in the works between the Trust, the city, the state, and a consortium of developers (one of whom—Michael Novogratz—who subsequently and profitably sold his share—just happened to be the chair of the park’s “friends”): the transfer of 200,000 square feet of development rights to a site directly across West Street, now occupied by the ginormous, three-block-long, St. John’s Terminal Building, erstwhile end-point of the High Line (and, interestingly enough, with Bloomberg LC its major tenant). Throughout this multi-party negotiation, the key intermediary was the PR firm of James Capalino. Capalino is a long-time donor, fundraiser, bundler, and pal to Bill de Blasio who, in 2015, somehow made more money ($12.9 million) than any other lobbyist representing clients to the city. Capalino’s much in the news these days, implicated as the fixer in the lifting, by the city, of a deed restriction on the (now former) Rivington House AIDS Nursing Home on the Lower East Side, allowing it to be converted to upmarket condos. Capalino represented the building’s owner—VillageCare, a non-profit—which sold the building to the Allure Group, a for-profit nursing home company, which, with the restriction lifted, flipped the building to the Slate Property Group, realizing (per The Wall Street Journal), a profit of a cool $72 million. Capalino now works for the Chinese developer Dalian Wanda, itself a partner of China Vanke, part of the consortium that bought Rivington. At the end of August, de Blasio—although claiming to know nothing about the deed deal approved by his administration—cut his erstwhile fundraiser loose: “I have not been in touch with Mr. Capalino….I do not have contact with him anymore.” According to a timeline put together by the excellent Danielle Tcholakian of DNAinfo, Capalino e-mailed First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris in late January 2014 (just after the mayor’s inauguration) with a copy to Carl Weisbrod, who was himself appointed Commissioner of City Planning a week later! The e-mail: “Tony, for the past twelve months, my firm has been working with Madelyn Wils on a proposal to secure a $100 million contribution by our client, Atlas Capital, to the Hudson River Park Trust to fund the cost of rehabilitation/stabilizing Pier 40 for continued recreational use. We are in discussions to have the residential project over St. John’s Terminal become an ESD (Empire State Development) project through a State sponsored general project plan.” In fact, the Trust, the ESD, and the developer had already inked a secret Memorandum of Understanding in December of 2013 that fixed the scale of the project and the $100 million price for the enabling air rights. According to Crain’s, this had been signed-off on during the waning days of the Bloomberg administration by Robert Steel, the Deputy Mayor for Economic Development. Bloomberg (as well as Wils and Weisbrod) apparently also supported the use of the “general project plan” to be overseen by the ESD, a process which the developer was eagerly seeking (via copious lobbying by Capolino’s firm) as a means of circumventing the city’s more rigorous Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP), an end-run the developer believed could save many years (and bucks) in obtaining approvals. Negotiations between the state, city, Trust, and developer—lubricated by the continuing ministrations of Capalino—were proceeding briskly in camera until May of 2015 when the secret MOU became public. Consternation from Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer (“Shocked is an understatement for how we all felt”), Assembly Member Deborah Glick (a leader in the fight against building housing on the pier itself but also an original sponsor of the Albany transfer legislation, believing it the only hope for saving the pier), the media, and the public, resulted in an about-face by the de Blasio administration—with the immediate agreement of the developer (who clearly knew who his friends were)—to renounce the MOU and the General Project Plan route and to go through ULURP. ULURP—now nearing its conclusion—runs a statutory 200 days from the submission of the developer’s plans and Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). During ULURP, these are reviewed, successively, by the affected Community Board (CB2), the Borough President, the City Planning Commission (which is obliged to hold a public hearing and did so on August 26), by the City Council (which may hold a public hearing), and finally by the Mayor. The Community Board and the Borough President are authorized to make recommendations (including rejection) but these are entirely non-binding. The Planning Commission, the Council, and the Mayor have actual power but, in the case of this project, the Planning Commissioner, the ambitious local Council Member, Corey Johnson (who now has great power over the endgame), and the Mayor have long since come out in strong support of the deal and it’s unclear whether push-back from CB2, Borough President Brewer, a few members of the Planning Commission, and many in the community (including the energetic Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation which has been trying hard to use the deal to leverage its own struggle to preserve a large swathe of Greenwich Village just north of the site) will materially affect the final outcome. Indeed, their concerns had little impact on the Planning Commission which, on October 17, voted to approve the project without substantial modification. Since the proposed development departs radically from the site’s existing zoning, the Department of City Planning (a government agency that reports to the politically appointed City Planning Commission) prepared a revised zoning map to define a “Hudson River Park Special District” that could receive—and advantageously use—the transfer by greatly increasing allowable bulk, changing designated uses, permitting additional parking, and building in exceptions to the “contextual” strictures that govern the scale and character of construction nearby, including those revised to create the Hudson Square Special District a block away. The parameters of the new receiving site, to the administration’s credit, would also bring the project under the Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning regime, which obliges the developer to provide a meaningful percentage of affordable housing in the mix but which also further ups the site’s permissible bulk. The end-point of ULURP is approval, rejection, or modification of these zoning changes, which—if passed—will provide the legal space for the deal to be consummated. And the project? Its design is a particularly ripe variation on the “form follows finance” mentality at the core of the way New York City plans and is larded with bluff (a big box store, vast amounts of parking, extremely tall towers, and a truly grotesque “as of right” alternative scheme (a standard-issue developer threat that could be built without special approvals should this deal come a cropper). The plans have been skillfully reverse-engineered from the Trust’s primary imperative to realize the $100 million from the deal and are driven by its better-get-it-done-now recognition that public resistance to any further transfers into CB2 will be strenuously opposed, ditto possible transfers to other communities elsewhere along the waterfront. Indeed, recent push-back to the plan from CB2 and the Borough President has specifically demanded that transfers from the park to the adjacent neighborhood be strictly capped at 200,000 feet. Architecturally, the plan (albeit the work of good architects) is a bad one, both in its general outlines and in its particulars. Most strikingly wrong is the almost complete disconnection of the special district—on which would rise by far the largest project ever constructed in CB2—from its surroundings (including Pier 40 itself) and its total failure to anticipate and conduce to future changes, including the much-wished restoration of the street grid obliterated by the St. John’s Building and by the equally long, single-story, UPS facility running parallel in the blocks behind it. The vigorous development taking place on all sides (as well as future advances in logistics technology) will eventually create pressures on UPS (and nearby FEDEX) and provision should surely be made to restore the streets now erased, and to think about—to plan for—what will happen on these newly created blocks, including parks and schools. The plan placed on the table was clearly an opening gambit, stuffed with calculatedly negative capability in the form of too much stuff but also with a series of artful deficits that might open avenues for more positive demonstrations of cooperation. For example, the public space component is, by the developer’s own arithmetic, so sparse that the project will produce a net decrease in local public space per capita. The DEIS is also deeply suspect and blithely concludes that this humongous erection will have virtually no seriously adverse impacts on traffic, solar access, public services, and other critical infrastructure. Equally irresponsible is the developer’s long-standing resistance to including a school to serve the kids among the thousands of new residents. Finally, the plan is non-committal about its internal distribution of the mandatory affordable dwellings (as well as the actual degree of their affordability), although it appears they’re going to be primarily small units for seniors and concentrated in a single building, facing the UPS garage (the presentation package—full of street level perspectives rendered to obscure the mammoth bulk of the buildings looming out of frame—disingenuously depicts a rare apartment at the back of the building with a water view through a wee gap in the surrounding condos). All of these issues might be addressed in a revised proposal and both CB2 and Borough President Brewer have demanded a number of adjustments. But there’s a sad, deckchairs on the Titanic, quality to even the strongest of these, which, in the end, fall for the plan’s artful misdirection. The salient, undeniable, fact is that the project is vastly over-scaled. The tallest of its towers—at 420 feet—is three times the height of the surrounding built texture and certain to have a deeply deleterious and distorting impact on the neighborhood that it and its companions will overwhelm. The complex will also irrevocably alter the profile and rhythm of the Hudson riverfront as a whole, a contemptuous interruption in a continuous—and historic—low to mid-rise skyline that now stretches uninterrupted from Chelsea to Tribeca. An authentically “contextual” solution would simply extend the scale of the existing street wall, which tops out at around fifteen stories. Urbanistically speaking, this is clearly the right way to go. In the report issued by her office, Brewer tellingly—if somewhat wistfully—observes that, given the city’s reliance on private development for the direct financing of public facilities, “the developer has a private interest that is paramount to any public interest.” Yes, and? Alas, no public body or official seems willing to walk away from the specific public return on this expression of private interests: the $100 million for Pier 40 repairs, the “up to” 476 units of affordable housing, the now rejected curb on further bulk transfers into CB2’s backyard, and support for land-marking the nearby South Village, a decision that rests with another, nominally independent, agency. As the negotiations enter their end-game, a variety of predictable gambits are being played. Westbrook Partners, the majority stakeholder (Atlas still holds a minority share), has just let it be known that it’s “rethinking” the project because of a weakening in the residential market and might be forced to revert to a purely commercial, as-of-right, scheme. More, Crain’s reports that Westbrook is actively looking for an equity partner for the site, which both suggestively reinforces the threat to abandon residential use entirely and almost certainly reveals the real plan beneath the plan: to get approvals for the maximum project and then flip the whole thing and walk away with the cash. The public-private daisy chain keeps yielding moments of delirious, if nauseating, irony. The City Planning Commission (Chairman, Carl Weisbrod) held a hearing on September 19, during which a few minutes were devoted to listening to the responses of the City Planning Department (Director, Carl Weisbrod) to questions raised about the project at their August meeting. A visibly nervous planner from the Department was obliged to present her answers to a body presided over by her boss, the man who had been most instrumental in structuring the deal now under review! And, while we’re still in ironic mode, there’s another I find especially hard to overlook: The projected cost of Barry Diller’s little entertainment island has now reached $200 million. The design (by Thomas Heatherwick) is tasty enough but the money would surely be better spent (and the island’s entertainment program easily accommodated without displacing the ball fields) were it to be used on Pier 40—100 million for repairs, 100 for theaters and trees. And, Diller would have an irresistible counter to Doug Durst, who has been biliously bank-rolling lawsuits to thwart Barry’s plans, out of some truly pathetic billionaire pique. I make this suggestion seriously as one of a number of ways to manage and coordinate both direct investment in the park and the sale and use its air rights. Another would be to expand the Hudson River Park Special District to encompass Hudson Square (and the UPS site which will surely be transformed at some point) and to radically disaggregate the 200,000 square feet into much smaller increments that could be added as a series of bonuses to the on-going wave on construction in the area. Yet another would simply be to gerrymander a 1.5 million square foot skyscraper (or add just a few additional stories to several already proposed) into the thicket of towers under construction in Hudson Yards further uptown, an area already given over to large-scale building and one that has a huge underbuilt perimeter (including the Javits Center) into which even these enormous numbers could easily be made to disappear. Our representatives should steel themselves and fight for the big picture, for something much better than this too-many-eggs in one basket contrivance. The project is far, far, too big for the bearing capacity and character of its site and nibbling at the edges of the design—reducing parking, slightly shrinking a tower, 86-ing the big box that everyone knows is only there to disappear, redistributing bulk a bit, getting a few more affordable units, adding a wee plaza at grade—will make little real difference. If public money cannot be made available for maintaining the public park (or housing the poor), the question of the fungibility of air rights—if that is to be the Trust’s primary asset—must be regulated with much greater invention and subtlety: Having crossed the West Street Rubicon, there’s no reason this conjured property “right” cannot be more broadly and appropriately distributed. Indeed, the question of the creation and deployment of these rights lies at the very core of the way in which we define public space. It’s our air, after all! The complete failure of the DCP, the Trust, or any other public (or quasi-public) body to formulate a rigorous, sustainable, and beautiful plan for this part of town is simply dereliction. Not simply have they acquiesced in a completely barse-ackwards mode of defining and financing genuine and general public interests and slighted a truly collective—and expansive—vision of community needs, benefits, rights and desires, their “spot” planning mentality totally ignores a truly mammoth elephant the stalks the room: the inevitability of sea level rise that will almost certainly inundate this low-lying place, piers, special districts, underground parking, twee little shops, and all. While our public servants blithely order another cup of bouillon, an iceberg looms on the horizon. Time to change course! It’s not too late! While the City Planning Commission has voted to approve the plan almost entirely as originally presented, the Council (which tends to defer to the local member) and the Mayor can still intervene, although de Blasio in unlikely to oppose a creature he was so instrumental in stitching together. The Commission altered the scheme only in cosmetic or predictable ways: the Big Box is now gone as are the “public” bridges over Houston Street. The developer has also agreed to provide 10,000 square feet of subterranean recreational space that would be publicly “available” on unspecified terms. A little more open space is to be squeezed in at grade. However, no modification of the project footprint was demanded to reconnect the street grid, no guarantees were offered about a cap on transfers into CB2, no reduction was made in height, and nothing was said about the larger context of the project, including the form and use of Pier 40 or the character of the extended neighborhood. As part of the deal, however, the South Village Historic District has been placed on the Landmarks Commission’s agenda at its regular November 1 meeting for a vote to “calendar” it, launching a process of hearings, deliberations, and possible designation that can last as long as two years. It’s likely to be fewer as the professional staff at Landmarks is expected to offer a strongly favorable recommendation to the Commissioners. Although the precise manner by which the exquisite timing came about remains murky, the agreement to hear the case was surely the result of strong—and long—advocacy by the Greenwich Village Historic Society (GVSHP), CB2, Councilperson Johnson (who now holds a great many cards), and others, and Andrew Berman, the energetic Director of GVSHP (with Johnson’s apparent support) has threatened to fight to derail the project should the South Village landmarking fail to go forward. Courage to them both! And to those who are opposed to dumping any further FAR into CB2 and to all who advocate for more public space, affordable housing, and rational planning. Yet, whatever the outcome of the landmarking gambit, the fundamental contradiction at the heart of both project and process looms huge, both literally and conceptually. I’ve met virtually nobody with a non-financial stake in the new building who supports it as a piece of architecture or planning, simply as the formal resultant of a negotiation for something else. This is the heart of the deal, the inevitability that there will be winners and losers. The developer wants to build a gigantic project and has surely calculated its return with precision, using a knowable metric of profit. The city—in all its roots and branches—is obliged to a far more notional heuristic for determining the cost of our benefit. Would it be a good deal if it only produced the hundred million for the pier? The hundred million plus the affordable housing? Pile repair and housing plus the South Village Historic District? Should the developer be offered another 100,000 square feet to build a school? To decrease the building footprint by going higher still? That we have tipped so far to inducement rather than obligation as a planning strategy is a tragic, indeed Trumpian, marker of the decay of the commons. This collusive failure of imagination, responsibility, and democracy is staggering, if all too typical. Time to demand a vision that grows from our shared “right to the city”, planning that looks beyond a contracting, bottom-line, approach to the possible and sees our architecture not simply as an outcome but an aspiration. No deal!
Michael Sorkin is the President of Terreform, the Principal of the Michael Sorkin Studio, Distinguished Professor of Architecture and Director of the Graduate Program in Urban Design at CCNY. A planning and architectural study of this site has been prepared by Terreform and may be downloaded from its website. Comments are greatly welcome.
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Elizabeth Street Garden

Residents rally to save beloved Little Italy garden from development
In a downtown neighborhood with sparse green space, residents are fighting to save a cherished garden on city-owned land from development. Elizabeth Street Garden, a green pocket between Elizabeth and Mott Streets in Little Italy, is a block-through plot that residents have developed into a tranquil space for relaxation and community programming. The garden was started in 1991 by real estate developer and resident Allan Reiver, who leased the debris-strewn lot from the city to plant flowers and install the first of many sculptures that populate the garden's lawns (Reiver now owns the Elizabeth Street Gallery next door to the garden.) Three years ago, nonprofit group Friends of Elizabeth Street Garden worked with Reiver to open the garden to the public year-round. Now, the city is calling for a total overhaul of the space: This month, the New York City Department of Housing Preservation & Development (HPD) issued a Request for Proposals to develop the garden into affordable senior housing. Although the RFP contains a provision for a 5,000-square-foot garden that would emulate the design of the original, neighbors are not happy about the possibility of a scaled-down space. Friends of Elizabeth Street Garden has enlisted the support of the local community board, Manhattan CB2, and a host of advocacy groups and state representatives. At a midday rally and press conference today, supporters gathered in the garden to address the development threat. Noticeably absent was council member Margaret Chin, a supporter of the garden's redevelopment. In 2012, the deal for the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (SPURA) set aside this plot for affordable senior housing. One senior, Friends of Elizabeth Street Garden board member Renee Green, lives across the street and is a garden regular, especially when her arthritis makes it too painful to walk to the Chinatown YMCA for her exercise classes. "How lucky we are to have this oasis in the midst of Little Italy and Soho," she told the crowd. "I would be devastated if the garden is destroyed." The area has lost nine community gardens in the last year, and has some of the least green space per capita in all of New York. "We want a livable city, and a livable city needs opens space," said Deborah Glick, the New York State Assembly member whose district includes the garden. So far, residents have submitted around 4,500 letters of support to keep the garden from being developed. CB2 has identified a city-owned site at Hudson and Clarkson Streets in the West Village that it claims could provide five times more housing—350 units—than the Elizabeth Street Garden site. This site is, however, out of Chin's City Council district and is not being considered for housing development by the city at this time. At press time, HPD could not be reached for comment on the alternative site. Chin's office says that there "are many seniors in the district in deep need of safe, appropriate, affordable housing," adding that the area has some of the nation's oldest housing stock, including many walk-ups that are hard for seniors to navigate. At the event, Allan Reiver himself brought archival photographs from 1991 that depict the space, which he calls a garden, just after completion. Though for many years primarily accessible from his private property next door, the garden's strong axia that connect Mott and Elizabeth Streets invite passerbys when the gates are open. The controversy over the Elizabeth Street Garden comes at the same time the City Council is holding hearings on The Housing Not Warehousing Act, a set of bills that would require, among other provisions, a more comprehensive index of vacant, government-controlled property suitable for affordable housing development.
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La Central

Plans for massive South Bronx affordable housing project move forward
A New York City Council committee has approved La Central, a major affordable housing development that heralds change for the South Bronx. Designed by New York–based FXFOWLE, La Central is a one-million-square-foot, 992-unit complex on city-owned vacant land in Melrose that will be built under the auspices of New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development in collaboration with private and nonprofit developers, as well as community-based social services organizations. The five-building complex, organized around a village green–type square, includes retail space, 160 units of supportive housing for homeless veterans and people with HIV/AIDS, plus a plethora of mixed-use projects: Television studios for Bronxnet, a new YMCA, and an urban farm "training garden" operated by GrowNYC. The area is alight with new development: La Central is adjacent to a Bjarke Ingels Group-designed police station, the future home of the 40th Precinct. At a September 8 meeting, the City Council Committee on Land Use approved five land use modifications to allow the development to move forward. The committee sanctioned the designation of an urban development action area for the parcels between Bergen and Brook Avenues; waived open space, yard, height, and setback requirements for the mixed-use development; allowed a C6-2 district to replace existing M1-1 and C4-4 districts; and applied Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) to the lots that will host apartments. The complex will be the largest so far to utilize MIH, which requires developers to provide a certain number of permanently affordable units and is a key part of Mayor de Blasio's plan to build or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing in the next decade. Despite ostensible support in the council, MIH has faced opposition in practice: Last month, the City Council defeated a privately developed MIH project in Inwood. Nevertheless, hopes for affordable housing development remain high at City Hall: “I believe La Central is a project that can truly help to move the South Bronx forward,” the mayor told the Daily News. The project is expected to be complete in 2017.
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RPA Affordable Housing

East Harlem set to lose 25 percent of affordable housing stock, Regional Plan Association says
A new report from the Regional Plan Association (RPA) suggests that East Harlem may lose one-quarter of its affordable housing stock. The Manhattan neighborhood has one of the highest concentrations of affordable housing, and has long been a haven for people who could not rent or own in other neighborhoods because of institutionalized discrimination. The neighborhood is becoming less welcoming, however, especially to low-income New Yorkers: Between now and 2040, Harlem could lose between 200 and 500 units of rent-stabilized and public (NYCHA) housing per year. Right now, there are an estimated 56,000 affordable units in the neighborhood. The study, "Preserving Affordable Housing in East Harlem," was produced with long-time collaborator Community Board 11. Any new affordable housing, the report concludes, should be made permanently affordable by "restructuring existing programs, or supporting community and public ownership models including community land trusts, land lease agreements and expanded public housing." The neighborhood is slated for rezoning under Mayor de Blasio's intensive plan to create or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing over the next decade. Unlike East New York, Brooklyn, the first neighborhood to undergo rezoning under de Blasio's plan, East Harlem has gentrified palpably in recent years: When the New York Times includes your neighborhood on its "next-hottest" list, some say widespread residential displacement is not far behind. Using the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development's (HPD) Office of Asset and Property Management, the city has managed to lengthen individual buildings' affordability reactively, though the process would need to be restructured so buildings are designated permanently affordable as a matter of course. The East Harlem Neighborhood Plan coalition, which includes Community Voices Heard, CB 11, and the office of New York City Council Speaker (and district representative) Melissa Mark-Viverito, incorporated RPA's work into their plan, which The Architect's Newspaper covered when it was revealed last fall.
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Staten Island Life

A torrent of new projects on Staten Island are reshaping the once-forgotten borough

Staten Islanders have a name for the impatient dance that visitors do when they get off the ferry at St. George to wait for the next boat back to Manhattan: The “Staten Island Shuffle.” The name reflects the perennial difficulty of getting newcomers to venture beyond the island’s welcome gate.

Local stakeholders hope that a spate of new development on the shoreline—and inland—will smooth the shuffle into a full sidewalk ballet that draws residents and visitors alike through the pizza-slice-shaped island, population 472,000. Here are some new projects that are changing the landscape of the forgotten borough:

Riverside

“I think the opportunity is all in the outer boroughs right now,” enthused Jay Valgora, founding principal of New York–based Studio V. “Don’t get me wrong, Manhattan’s great, but for creative architecture, Staten Island is the next frontier. I think it’s possible to do incredibly creative things on Staten Island that would be difficult to do in Manhattan.”

In the shadow of the Outerbridge Crossing on the island’s West Shore, Studio V is building a verdant mall on the banks of the Arthur Kill. The Riverside Galleria connects 490,000 square feet of retail, including a cinema and grocery store, to High Line–like catwalks and bridges that channel visitors in front of stores and toward a waterfront public park and beach.

Staten Island’s industrial and natural heritage converges at the waterfront, and Riverside’s program unifies these two landscapes with green roofs and soft edges that work vigilantly to protect the development from rising seas. The mall’s sloped roofs “fold into the landscape” to capture and treat stormwater, while a rain garden extends into the parking garage to soften the edge between the natural and built environments. New York–based landscape architect Ken Smith is collaborating with the studio on the project, which is gearing up for the final phase of its ULURP.

For some, building on storm-vulnerable Staten Island would prove daunting, but Studio V literally wrote the book on coastal construction: The firm collaborated with nonprofit advocacy group the Waterfront Alliance to create Waterfront Edge Design Guidelines (WEDG)—“LEED for the waterfront,” Valgora quipped—in 2015. At Riverside, a 10-acre restored wetland provides the first line of defense, although the entire site is lifted above the floodplain. Commercial spaces are elevated above parking for additional protection.

With “automobile access that works beautifully,” the project’s green inclinations defer to Staten Island’s entrenched car culture, although demand for mass transit in this neighborhood is growing. Riverside Galleria is a 10-minute walk from a train station that the MTA is currently rebuilding. More exciting still, Studio V, in a separate project, is in talks to build a stop for high-speed ferry service at an adjacent site. Borough president James Oddo is very supportive of the project, as are locals who have been pushing for broader access to mass transit on the West Shore.

On the North Shore

On the trip from Manhattan, commuters can almost feel the island’s famous ferry keel starboard as tourists cozy up for Lady Liberty selfies. Despite connections to the Staten Island Railroad, bus links, and the attractive hillside neighborhood of St. George just beyond the ferry landing on the Staten Island side, it has been a perennial hurdle to lure visitors out of the terminal.

“What so many of those passengers do is the ‘Staten Island Shuffle’: They get off the ferry and mill around in the ferry terminal until the next ferry arrives, and they never actually set foot on Staten Island. Right now, there’s not a lot that’s immediately visible there, so you can understand why people do that,” explained Munro Johnson, vice president of development at the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC).

In response, Staten Island is changing its salutation. An array of flashy new developments set to open in the next few years will radically expand entertainment, dining, and shopping opportunities immediately adjacent to the St. George Terminal. The New York Wheel, a 630-foot-tall observation wheel, will give 1,440 riders at a time a dramatic view of the New York Harbor. Designed by New York–based S9 Architecture and Perkins Eastman, (and manufactured by Starneth, creators of the London Eye) the New York Wheel will be the largest of its kind when it opens next year.

Soon, New Yorkers won’t need to travel to the Catskills or Jersey for classic suburban-style outlet mall shopping. Empire Outlets, a 1.1-million-square-foot mall, is under construction next to the ferry terminal. The SHoP–designed storefronts reference an Italian hill town, playing on St. George’s elevation to allow visitors progressively better views of the harbor as they ascend upland on wide stairways and glass elevators. Parking is hidden below ground, while a waterside public plaza draws visitors toward the waterfront.

Mixed-used Lighthouse Point combines 65,000 square feet of retail with a 175-room hotel, including a restaurant and entertainment area, plus a 12-story, 94,000-square-foot residential space, a workspace for local start-ups, and outdoor offerings, such as a beach that offers views of the New York Wheel.

From the 1860s to the 1960s, Lighthouse Point was the site of the U.S. Lighthouse Service Depot, the epicenter of lighthouse service operations in the United States. The development strives to preserve the site’s 19th-century character by integrating historic buildings, which are listed on both the State and National Register of Historic Places, into new retail, hotel, and residential development.

Ten years ago, NYCEDC selected Triangle Equities to develop the site, and construction on the $200 million project is expected to be complete in 2017. Brooklyn-based Garrison Architects is executing the design.

Collectively, these North Shore projects total over $1 billion in investment, Johnson explained, making them the largest group of projects on Staten Island. Key to their success is a network of waterfront esplanades, parkland, and planning initiatives that connect the neighborhoods of Tompkinsville, Stapleton, and St. George to each other and to their waterfronts.

After decades of decline, the industrial waterfront in nearby Stapleton is being developed as public space and opened up to new investment. The New Stapleton Waterfront Park is a six-acre green space with a central esplanade that draws pedestrians south from St. George and toward the water from Bay Street, the neighborhood’s main drag. The park is finished, while a tidal wetlands cove will be complete this summer. Phase two is set to begin later this year or early 2017.

The low-slung buildings along the waterfront belie Stapleton’s vibrant commercial past, although the opening of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in 1964 channeled development into the island’s interior, hastening the area’s decline. The U.S. Navy maintained a small base in the neighborhood; when it was decommissioned in 1995, no large-scale plans were enacted to stitch the neighborhood back to its shore.

Johnson calls Stapleton’s new open space one of “the most exciting” examples of projects that reconnect neighborhoods to their waterfronts. The park, in concert with NYC Planning’s Bay Street corridor revitalization, is central to spurring the neighborhood’s regeneration: The city is investing $130 million in public infrastructure connections, parks, road reconstruction, and other improvements. Connector streets that bring traffic from Bay Street are being refurbished to improve the flow of people from downtown to the water, two blocks away. The hope is that improvements to Stapleton and Tompkinsville’s main thoroughfare will promote mixed-use development.

One of those developments is URBY, a 900-unit apartment complex by Ironstate Development marketed to young people. The rental-only waterfront complex, designed by Amsterdam-based Concrete, boasts over 35,000 square feet of commercial space, including a cafe and a fancy bodega. The first phase—571 units—debuted February 2016.

To plan ongoing development, NYCEDC meets regularly with the Bay Street Local Advisory Committee, “the eyes and ears on the street,” said Emma Pfohman, senior project manager at NYCEDC. “People are still nervous about the influx of tourists, but most see investment on Staten Island as a good thing.” There are lingering concerns about how the projected increase in visitors will affect transit, although NYCEDC is working out logistics with agency partners like the NYC DOT.

To Johnson, it’s not clear if escalating development on the North Shore will set a precedent for urbanization elsewhere on the island, although he reflected on the intrinsic marketability of the location itself. “You’ve got this amazing free ferry that carries 22 million passengers per year, including two million tourists annually. That’s a lot of market exposure already.”

To the south though, one under-the-radar project is emphatically geared towards vigorous locals. Ocean Breeze Indoor Athletic Facility is located within a 110-acre South Beach park developed under former Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC, an open-space initiative whose objective was to bring massive parks to every borough. Designed by New York–based Sage and Coombe for the NYC Parks Department, the 135,000-square-foot complex is in its final phase of construction, although the track has been open for events since last November. Like most major public works, the project was managed by the New York City Department of Design and Construction (DDC) from design to build. 

The facility is one of the most high-tech in the region: The six-lane, 200-meter, hydraulically banked track can convert to an eight-lane flat track for practices. The 2,500-seat arena boasts photo-sensor lighting control and a “cool” roof, which can be upgraded to accommodate photovoltaic technology, while fritted glass windows, superimposed with images of runners, flora, and fauna, double as sunscreens. The structure sits above one of the last patches of native coastal grassland on Staten Island to provide a natural buffer against storm surges.

Inland

At one historic site, stakeholders are working quickly to draw ferrygoing tourists inland.

In addition to their collaboration on Riverside Galleria, Studio V and Smith are creating a master plan for New York City’s only restored historic town, in the core of Staten Island. The plan will preserve and reuse Richmond Town’s existing structures, as well as add density to the site with new buildings. The hope is to create a destination within the city: “We describe the project as a little bit Williamsburg, Virginia, and a little bit Williamsburg, Brooklyn,” said Valgora. The nonprofit that administers the site would like to see food vendors, shops, and possibly a brewery, to draw out-of-towners and New Yorkers to a verdant living-history museum.

Two miles away, developers are giving seniors,  or “active adults,” in developer parlance, an opportunity to age in place.

By 2020, Staten Island’s senior population will reach 78,000, a 31-percent increase over today’s numbers, and by far the largest percentage increase of any borough, according to NYC Planning’s Staten Island division. In response to growing demand for senior living facilities, the Landmark Colony is a full-scale residential redevelopment of the 45-acre New York City Farm Colony, once a publicly owned home for the city’s indigent population where residents had to harvest vegetables to earn their keep. Today, the site is landmarked but in ruins, a magnet for graffiti artists and wildlife that roam over from the adjacent Staten Island Greenbelt. Local firm vengoechea + boyland architects (v + b) is transforming six of the site’s 11 buildings into residences with 350 units. A clubhouse with an outdoor swimming pool, retail, and a restaurant at the development’s periphery will round out the program. One structure will be preserved as a ruin.

On a recent site visit, the air was chlorophyll-saturated, deer roamed the property, and vines crept up inside Dutch farmhouse–style structures with gambrel roofs that were last occupied in the 1970s. v+b principal Pablo Vengoechea served as vice chair of the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission, so v + b’s plans incorporate the contextual, adaptive reuse that the commission views favorably for landmarked, but deteriorated, structures: v + b intends to reuse fieldstone from some structures for new buildings, including residences styled after carriage houses, lofts, and cottages that  will be integrated into existing historic structures.

With seniors in mind, most entrances are at-grade, and few residences have true second stories, although many feature lofts that could double as guest bedrooms or as storage. (Residents with two-story homes will have the option to customize their homes with interior elevators.)

The landscape plan, executed in collaboration with New York–based Nancy Owens Studio, will keep the grounds lush and parklike, centered around an Olmstedian center green that references classic New York City park design. The landscape, a green core with a green periphery, complements a low-density development, principal Tim Boyland said. “We used half the allowable FAR for the site.”

Landmark Colony is now preparing for design development.

Although major projects nearing completion on the North Shore, and new developments taking shape inland and elsewhere, Staten Island is poised to maintain its status as New York City’s most bucolic borough for a long time to come. This, however, is no excuse for hardcore urbanites to do the Shuffle: Get on a bus, walk to the water, and take a look around.

 
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Tremont Renaissance

Groundbreaking for Bronx mixed-use affordable housing development
Before the Memorial Day weekend, city officials posed with shovels for the groundbreaking of Tremont Renaissance, a long-planned affordable housing development in East Tremont, the Bronx. The groundbreaking for the 265-unit, mixed income structure at Webster and East Tremont avenues is the latest spate of affordable housing development in the northernmost borough. The project is part of de Blasio's plan to build or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing over the next ten years: A little less than half of the apartments will be reserved for low-income families, with the rental floor for three-bedrooms set at $1,224 per month. Units for middle-income households will be available to those making up to $97,920 for a family of three. The 12-story building will include 40,000 square feet of street-level retail, as well as a fitness center, play space for children, an internet lounge, a yoga/dance studio, and landscaped roof terraces. The site was formerly home to a 1930s bank, and the bank's facade will be incorporated into the building's lobby. “Even though thousands of new housing units have been built in the Bronx, our community board, and other community districts remain with a shortage of affordable rental housing and quality retail space,” noted Ivine Galarza, district manager of Community Board 6, in a statement. “This development will definitely stand out as a good example of creating housing that is affordable for all types of families in the heart of our borough.” Bronx–based Mastermind Development is behind the $117.7 million project, in collaboration with the New York City Housing Development Corporation (HDC) and Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) One block over, Mastermind is also developing adjacent 4215 Park Avenue, a 256-unit, mixed-use development, as part of a suite of parcels it owns in the neighborhood. Over 60 of the units in this development will be categorized as Inclusionary Housing.
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NYC City Council approves neighborhood-wide zoning changes for Brooklyn’s East New York
East New York is officially the first neighborhood under de Blasio to be totally rezoned. Yesterday, the New York City Council approved the East New York Community Plan (ENYCP) by a 45-1 margin. Because the ENYCP abides by the mayor's just-passed affordable housing and zoning initiatives, the eastern Brooklyn neighborhood is viewed by many as the first proving ground for the mayor's ambitious reforms. The primary goals of the plan are to create more affordable housing and spur economic development. The ENYCP is part of Housing New York, the mayor's initiative to build or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing. ENYCP covers 190 blocks and is the first plan to apply Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH), a suite of new zoning rules that require a certain percentage of new housing be designated as permanently affordable. In East New York, however, affordability would go deeper than MIH minimum thresholds: NYC Department of Housing, Preservation and Development (HPD) says that any project it backs in the neighborhood will be entirely affordable. Units will be available to families making between 30 and 90 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI): $23,350 to $69,930 for a three-person household, respectively. 1,200 apartments will be constructed over the next two years, and HPD anticipates that more than half of the approximately 7,000 units developed in the neighborhood over the next decade will be permanently affordable. Lured by new housing, the city estimates that more than 19,000 new residents could move to the neighborhood in the next 15 years. The plan that sailed through the City Planning Commission, the penultimate approval body, in late February is slightly different than the one that the council passed. The council's modifications added more protections for displacement of current residents, tenant protections from harassment, promises to secure housing for the homeless, and additional community services like job skills training. The city will also spend $267 million on infrastructure improvements, including a new park and school.  
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In gentrifying Brooklyn, illicit luxury housing is sprouting from community gardens
Larceny and deed fraud are on the rise, and those with a mind for leaving confusing trails of paperwork are profiting from illegitimate purchases of land. A classic case of this can be found on Maple Street in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Brooklyn. https://vimeo.com/6258261 According to a report by The Nation, the area became a tranquil community space in the summer of 2013. Using a lot no bigger than one-eighth of an acre, local residents constructed vegetable patches and seating areas that successfully brought people together to make use of a shared space. The residents' retreat however, was short-lived. The owners,  Joseph (Joe) and Kamran (Mike) Makhani, apparently have a history of using illegitimate signatures to gain property and have even been to prison in the past for selling homes they did not own. Their company name, H.P.D., LLC, is quite similar to the government agency, NYC Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). When questioned in the video above, Joe Makhani said, "if the client is stupid, that's not my problem." Cut to 2014 and the Makhanis show up and start destroying the lot that the residents had carefully made. Ignoring calls to stop, they only do so when the police turn up demanding a court order to prove ownership. The Makhanis promptly left after no document was produced. So what of the significance of this debacle? The sad truth is that these ordeals are cropping up more and more with cases being becoming increasingly complex with name irregularities making documented selling and purchasing of land harder to find. "No one is talking about it, but we're seeing this every day," said Sonia Alleyne told The Nation on behalf of the Department of Finance. "I don't think anyone realizes how big this story is." The ordeal features all the tell-tale signs of larceny and deed fraud. The initial purchase of land from the nephews of the deceased owners for $5,000 (an incredible and questionably low price); Social Security numbers failing to match up; spelling "mistakes" (McKany rather than Makhani); illegible notary names and the fact that the license number isn't even present; traits that, in the City of New York Sheriff Joseph Fucito's eyes, scream fraud. Anyone attempting to investigate ownership/sale history of the land, it seems, is lead down rabbit hole after rabbit hole. Sheriff Fucito stated that 15 deed-fraud arrests were made in in the last year, and that (as of August 2015) his office was on the trail of over 1,000 cases. Gardens in Bushwick and Crown Heights have likewise found themselves embroiled in similar conflicts. Fucido believes that many fraudulent cases go undetected and that the real number of cases is much higher. Why the sudden rise in deed fraud? Gentrification may be partly to blame. Brooklyn residential prices are increasing at an alarming rate, and land with debatable ownership is the perfect target for fraudsters. Experts such as Christie Peale, executive director of the Center for New York City Neighborhoods, say that paperwork is deemed legitimate all too easily. "The problem is this open process that allows people to just walk in and file false instruments," said Peale.
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NYC Retrofit Accelerator to help building owners reduce greenhouse gas emissions
To avoid total inundation and more of those hot, sticky summer days, New York City is trying hard to forestall the impact of global warming. While tackling coastal resiliency, the city is turning its focus to buildings, the source of 75 percent of the city's greenhouse gas emissions. To address the issue, last month Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled the NYC Retrofit Accelerator, a program that will provide consulting and support, for free, to building owners who would like to conserve electricity and water, and upgrade to clean energy systems. Officials hope that, in addition to slashing emissions, energy retrofits will reduce building owner's operating costs. This program builds on the success of 2012's NYC Clean Heat, a component of PlaNYC that was introduced by the Bloomberg administration. The program works towards goals outlined in 2014's One City: Built to Last, which set a goal of reducing emissions 80 percent by 2050. By 2025, officials hope the accelerator will serve over 1,000 buildings per year, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by one million metric tons each year. This would save property owners $350 million per year in utility costs. The biggest climate offenders are buildings that burn heavy heating oil. Consequently, the program primarily serves these buildings, as well as any building that participates in a Housing Development Corporation (HDC) or a Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) program. Efficiency experts at the Retrofit Accelerator will help owners select appropriate retrofits, conduct energy audits, apply for related permits, get financing, apply for tax credits, train maintenance staff, measure energy efficiency over time, and comply with local laws. Interested property owners can visit the Retrofit Accelerator's website or call 311 to determine their eligibility.
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Piece by piece, Watch as New York City’s first micro-unit housing complex by nArchitects takes shape
New York City's first-ever entirely micro-unit housing complex is being stacked together on Manhattan's East Side. Back in February, we wrote that the modules for the nARCHITECTS-designed building were being assembled at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and now we can report that they have begun arriving at their permanent home in Kips Bay. https://vimeo.com/129103128 The project, which is being developed by Monadnock, won Michael Bloomberg's adAPT NYC Competition in 2013 and was originally known as My Micro NY. It has since since been given the more conventional-sounding name: Carmel Place. Each of Carmel Place's units measure between 260 and 360 square feet and offer nine-and-a-half-foot-tall ceilings. If tenants are feeling a bit cramped, they can lean over their Juliette balconies for some air, or step into one of Carmel Place's (non-micro) communal spaces like the gym, lounge, or terrace. "While there are currently micro-apartments in buildings throughout the city, regulations do not allow an entire building to be comprised only of micro-units," the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development said in a statement. "This pilot project will help inform potential regulatory changes that could allow the development of micro-unit apartment buildings in appropriate locations." The 11-story building is slated to be completed by the end of the year and will have a mix of market-rate and subsidized units, and housing for veterans. The market-rate units will be listed between $2,000–3,000. You can watch the installation process in the video above, made by Lloyd Alter of Treehugger.
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Could New York learn from these temporary affordable prefab homes in the Netherlands?
Affordable housing has been a critical part of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s agenda since taking office, promising to create or preserve 200,000 affordable units over the next decade. At a press conference last week, the mayor announced that his administration has made headway toward achieving this ambitious goal, financing over 17,300 affordable homes in the last year (whether his predecessor, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, should have received some credit for this accomplishment has spurred debate). But even with this good news, the demand for affordable housing continues to grow. To help fix this shortage, the administration might want to take a cue from Dutch developer, Heijmans ONE, which has come up with its own win-win idea for alleviating the housing crunch in the Netherlands: putting vacant land to good use with temporary, portable housing. Heijmans ONE designed a one-bedroom prefab house that can be easily assembled in just one day. The house, which rents for  700 euros or $900, kills two birds with one stone: provides an affordable dwelling and activates empty land while construction is stalled on a project. These sleek, pentagonal-shaped homes are designed to have a small carbon footprint, using sustainable wood and solar panels. Once constructed, the house can be connected to the city’s water and sewage, but also designed to operate off the grid. New York City, with its paucity of affordable housing and glut of vacant land, could benefit from this model. Mayor de Blasio and the Department of Housing Preservation & Development have already started rolling out a plan to develop over a 1,000 city-owned properties. In the meantime, why not bring some temporary, affordable housing to sites waiting for long-term development?