The fight to bring down an antiquated elevated highway in Syracuse, New York, is among the controversial issues being highlighted in the race for one of the state’s U.S. Senate seats. On Monday, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., told The Post-Standard she supports the effort to replace a portion of Interstate 81 with a street-level grid—a position she’s never spoken out on before. “Given where the stakeholders are—and given what I have heard from the community in the last several years,” she said, “ I really think the community grid is the better approach to not only revitalization, but to support all members of our community.” For years, higher-level politicians have shied away from taking a stance on the decade-long debate to fix one of Syracuse’s greatest transportation issues. The 1.4-mile highway viaduct cuts through the heart of the city’s downtown, segregating the community physically and economically. As of last year, it reached the end of its functional lifespan and is no longer safe for the thousands of cars that traverse it each day. Syracuse-based community groups, university leaders, and local politicians have spoken out about the dire need to address I-81. Some have come out in favor of any of the three proposed options—an underground tunnel, street grid, or rebuilt overpass—while some have stayed quiet. So far, Gillibrand is the most influential person to state her opinion. Senator Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Representative John Katko, R-Camillus, have declined to comment. “I disagree with the tunnel folks because I think you’re just going to have a bypass of downtown,” Gillibrand told The Post-Standard. “Unfortunately, when you don’t invest in a downtown long-term, your city becomes less attractive. If you create thoroughfares and routes to skip downtown, what you get is boarded up storefront and you get a hollowing out of cities.” It’s no coincidence Gillibrand is speaking out just weeks away from the Tuesday, November 6, election for her U.S. Senate seat. Her Republic challenger, Chele Farley, criticized her decision to pick a proposal. “I think it’s a little offensive for me to make a decision for Syracuse,” Farley said in a reactionary statement. “Let Syracuse decide, but then it’s my job to get the money and bring it back so the project could get funded quickly and it could happen.” Of all three options, the underground tunnel could prove the most expensive at $3.1 billion—another reason why Gillibrand doesn’t back it. A new elevated highway would be around $1.7 billion, while a boulevard, or community grid, would cost $1.3 billion. Most of the funds will be supplied through the federal government via President Trump’s recent infrastructure rule that places priority on interstate highway projects. But some worry Syracuse’s failure to unite on a decision will prevent the city from getting the money it needs on time. Gillibrand and Farley will face off in a televised debate this Thursday at 1:30 p.m. on WABC-TV. Whoever wins the Senate seat will take on the task of pushing the project forward based on the community’s final decision. The New York State Department of Transportation is now working on a new environmental impact study surveying the three options. It’s set to be published in January when a public commentary period will open.
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Parks Without Borders
NYC Parks Commissioner talks policy, parks, and breaking down barriers
Over the next three months, The Architect’s Newspaper will feature a series interviews with Susannah Drake, founding principal of DLANDstudio, and leading public space advocates about the meaning, design, and development of public space. Up first, New York City Parks and Recreation Commissioner Mitchell Silver will discuss New York's Parks Without Borders initiative to make parks and open space more accessible. Borders are a hot topic in our current politically volcanic world. Some are geographic, most are political, and many have to do with resources and strategic control. Robert Frost’s poem titled Good Fences Make Good Neighbors is often misinterpreted as suggesting that defined boundaries between people or societies are positive. In practice, defined borders can lead to violence, social isolation, inefficiency, and habitat loss. The classic phrase, “living on the other side of the tracks,” was taken to the extreme in the United States after World War II as new highway systems, elevated transportation structures, slum clearance, and dehumanized public housing towers transformed cities across the United States. Today, cities including Cleveland, New York, Philadelphia, and St. Louis are working to break down physical and perceived boundaries to make a healthier living environment for all. In New York City, the efforts of three groups, one public and two nonprofit, demonstrate how smart urban planning and design can make the city healthier, safer, and more democratic by improving underutilized public lands. Mitchell Silver, commissioner of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, is the visionary behind the city’s Parks Without Borders program. As a native New Yorker who spent his formative years in the city before traveling the country and the world as a planner and thought leader, his vision as head of the public parks agency has been to expand the availability of park space by breaking down physical barriers, jurisdictional boundaries, and site lines into city parks. AN: What is the origin of the Parks without Borders program? MS: The origins came from two sources. Growing up in New York, I was always bothered by the big berm that separated Flatbush Avenue from Prospect Park. The road seemed like a raceway defined with so many fences and barriers. Through professional and personal experience, I encountered different forms of public space around the world and saw far fewer barriers. Public space was seamlessly connected to the city. Of course, fences are needed for sports and steep slopes but in many cases, they are unnecessary. When I became commissioner of the Parks Department, I remembered something that Frederick Law Olmsted said about parks: “The sidewalk adjacent to the park should be considered the outer park.” What I recognized was that the sidewalks around parks, such as Fort Greene Park and Prospect Park, were under the jurisdiction of the Parks Department but felt separate. The land from the park to the curb should feel like part of the park. The public realm should be seamless. The public doesn’t know or care who owns the land. The New York City Police Department needed to own the idea of crime prevention through community design. I submitted the idea to the Mayor as part of OneNYC and through a partnership between City Planning, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Environmental Protection, and our agency, and a $50 million pilot was launched. There were two components: $40 million was dedicated to eight showcase projects, determined through the extensive public process that received over 6,000 nominations. In addition, $10 million was dedicated to parks and playgrounds across the city already under development to enhance the park design. The key principles are to make a seamless public realm by rethinking the edges, entrances, and adjacent spaces of parks across the city. Open space should be open. Growing dense urban centers need vital public space for all races, genders, and ages across the board. What barriers have you met in implementing the project? Resistance encountered? As with all projects of this nature, we met with all of the community boards via borough board meetings and held public meetings in each of the five boroughs to explain the program and ask the public to nominate a park for the program. We communicated our theory that good uses tend to push out bad uses. In other words, plan for what you want to see and not what you don’t want to see. Feedback was split along demographic lines. Older people perceived fences as safeguards and that reducing the height of fences and opening up parks invited crime and homelessness to take over. But we have had early success. At McDonald Playground in Staten Island where Parks Without Borders money was dedicated to a Community Parks Initiative project, the community was initially concerned about lowering fences. The park feels so open now that people ask if we added more land. And, while the plan for Fort Greene Park in Brooklyn is greatly supported by the community, there has been resistance related to the planned removal of some large, invasive, non-native trees, and the mounds constructed in the 1970s as part of the project. What is the schedule of implementation? Over 20 parks are in the pipeline. The showcase projects will be completed by 2020. They include Prospect Park, Seward Park, Jackie Robinson Park, Corona Park, Fort Greene Park, Faber Park, Van Cortlandt Park, and Hugh Grant Circle. How does the program align with other DPR/Administration initiatives? NYC Parks is advocating for Equity, Access, Placemaking, and Healthy Living. One of the programs, Walk to a Park, is intended to reduce the time it takes to get to a park. Reducing barriers and moving entrances helps increase access to parks. DPR planners conducted a thorough planning process examining the location and attributes of parks across the city and determined where residents might be underserved. Using GIS, they mapped a five-minute walk from parks, playgrounds, and trails across New York City and then used the analysis to prioritize capital expenditures. Does the DPR Parks without Borders program impact all communities across NYC regardless of demographics? Yes, with multigenerational, ADA access. At McDonald Playground, a woman hugged me suggesting that I changed her life because she can now sit with her daughter in a quieter area of the park and watch the kids play ball. She said I extended her life. Beyond physical fences and walls, what other kinds of borders have you seen in your time as commissioner? Rules create barriers. We don’t want to engage in anti-planning which can exclude rather than include people. Including more people in more existing parks is one example. Anti-planning, or planning to prohibit a certain group is not fair. For example, some of our playgrounds have a sign that states: “Adults prohibited unless accompanied by a child.” That means a senior citizen is prohibited from using a public space or must walk to another park that doesn’t have that rule. To address this inequity, NYC Parks in 2017 evaluated all city playgrounds and installed new signs at locations that would allow adults in a park or playground, but only prohibited adults in fenced off areas where children’s play units were located, like swings, slides and climbing structures. This one change allows more adult New Yorkers and visitors to enjoy green space like sitting under a tree or using a comfort station. As a planner what is your perspective on borders that might exist because of climate or geographic lines that are mapped but not always perceived by the public? Rockaways? In places where public safety is an issue such as around water, clearly there need to be rules and physical barriers to keep people safe. Environmental conditions can also require limited access. For instance, the habitat for piping plovers needs to be protected by limiting beach access. This reduced the walk score but was an important trade-off. In natural areas, controlling beach erosion is important. Sometimes these barriers are jurisdictional, particularly in coastal areas. New York City is doing a better job than in the past. What is your perspective on urban and transportation design decisions in the direct post-war period, in the '60s and today in relation to race, demographics, and urban living? White flight of the '60s, urban renewal with its characteristic superblocks, and highways dividing neighborhoods were not the highlight of good planning. Cities were perceived as unsafe and as a result, many parks were surrounded with high walls to create defensible space. Now Parks Without Borders is changing this situation by moving from defensible space to open and inclusive space. Prospect Park is a great example. Programming by the Alliance activated the park. They designed for what we want to see rather than what we don’t want to see. There are so many users in our parks that space needs to be very inclusive. Our parks are our outdoor living rooms and reflect those that use them. While DPR does not have purview over public housing, it would be great to get your perspective on the landscape of housing projects in New York City as well as their overall relationship to the city. The “tower in the park” model is somewhat right. The park part is not right. Residents assume that the landscape is off limits because it is fenced off. Design organizations are now engaging NYCHA Tenant Associations about opening-up the green space within the NYCHA housing campus. For example, some NYCHA Houses have converted open space to community gardens, so the trend of better using NYCHA green space is moving into the right direction. Digital access to information creates places where people collect in the city. Beyond these spheres are dead zones that might be considered another form of border. Are there any efforts by DPR to expand digital access? I’d love to see WiFi in parks. We currently have charging stations at some beaches and WiFi in some parks. Lack of funding for maintenance and operations is an ongoing issue for public space. How will Parks Without Borders impact maintenance needs of parks? Maintenance practice of 21st-century parks warrants reexamination. More funding and more staff are welcome but aren’t the answer. We need to be innovative with resources. The agency is now using a zone approach with analytics to optimize the work of maintenance crews. We are also employing new design approaches and adding horticultural staff. One example is having park cleaning seven days per week. This seems like an addition, but the change is cutting down Monday absences because those crews were not unfairly burdened with the weekend trash. This created a better team ethos. Utilization of staff is as important as getting more staff. Working smarter with specialized teams with more training that can troubleshoot issues system-wide (catch basin team, green infrastructure team) is helping. Any final words? With limited resources we are forced to think about what is important and how to be innovative, which I base of the 3 S’s of management: You must have the right organizational structure to achieve your vision and mission. You must have the right systems in place to be successful. You must have strong management and operation standards across the five boroughs to function as one agency.
SCAPING up to Boston
Boston taps SCAPE for a resilient harbor vision
The city of Boston has unveiled a new vision for protecting the city’s 47 miles of shoreline and has used New York’s SCAPE Landscape Architecture to visualize the vision plan. The plan, "Resilient Boston Harbor," was presented yesterday by Mayor Martin J. Walsh before the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce. It builds off of the Climate Ready Boston 2070 flood maps and existing district-level plans, coastal resilience neighborhood studies, and the work done under the Imagine Boston 2030 initiative. The ultimate goal is to reinforce Boston’s public spaces, buildings, and infrastructure against the encroach of rising sea levels, the strengthening of storms that climate change will bring, as well as heat waves, drought, and worsening blizzards. With Boston’s population approaching 700,000 for the first time since the 1960s, catastrophic flooding would affect more residents than ever. “We’re not just planning for the next storm we’ll face, we’re planning for the storms the next generation will face,” said Mayor Walsh. “A resilient, climate-ready Boston Harbor presents an opportunity to protect Boston, connect Boston, and enhance Boston, now and for the future. As we enter a new era in our Harbor’s history, Boston can show the world that resilience is not only the ability to survive adversity, but to emerge even stronger than before. That’s the promise of a Resilient Boston.” To meet that ambitious goal, the city has broken down its plan into separate chunks for each neighborhood. The final goal involves opening up public access to the waterfront by raising portions of the coastal landscape, installing strategic flood walls, elevating infrastructure, and flood-proofing buildings, representing a synthesis and consolodation of the prior resiliency work done in the city. In East Boston and Charlestown, Wood Island and Belle Isle will be reinforced to prevent the loss of Boston’s only remaining salt marsh, and the most important transportation corridors will be elevated. The Schrafft Center waterfront will also be redeveloped to incorporate elevated parks and boosted economically by the addition of new mixed-use buildings. In South Boston and Fort Point, Fort Point Channel is currently a major floodway that will need to be redesigned, and a string of parks, dubbed the “Emerald Necklace,” will sop up excess floodwater along Columbia Road. In North End and Downtown, the Harborwalk and Long Wharf are slated for renovations, and the city is planning to kick off a Climate Ready Downtown study to pinpoint further optimizations. Similarly, Boston will launch Climate Ready Dorchester to study improvements to the Dorchester Waterfront. A redesign of Morrissey Boulevard to buffer it against flooding, and the opening of the waterfront along Columbia Point, have already been singled out as potential strategies. The cost won’t be cheap, but Mayor Walsh rationalized the expense as preventative. “In East Boston, we could invest $160 million in resilience or we could do nothing, and expect damages of $480 million," Walsh told the Chamber. "In Charlestown, we could invest $50 million now or pay over $200 million later. In South Boston, we could invest $1 billion or we could pay $19 billion in citywide damages, when Fort Point Channel and Dorchester Bay meet and flood the heart of our city. “We either invest now, or else we pay a much bigger price later. And we’ll pay that price in more than dollars. We’ll pay it in jobs lost, small businesses that never recover, homes destroyed, and families displaced.” The city will start by investing millions at each of the above sites and ten percent of all future capital funding towards resiliency initiatives. Still, the north-of-a-billion-dollar estimates will require funding from Massachusetts, the federal government, and private, non-profit, and philanthropic organizations. Besides hitting the goals outlined in Resilient Boston Harbor, the city is also committed to going completely carbon neutral by 2030.
New York City's Institute for Public Architecture (IPA) will celebrate its 6th annual Fall Fête on October 24 at the Plaxall Art Gallery in Long Island City, Queens. The benefit will honor Margaret Newman, FAIA, principal at Arup Planning, and the Queens Museum. Janette Sadik-Khan, former commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation, and Bevin Savage-Yamazaki, senior associate at Gensler will give introductory remarks. The IPA describes its mission by saying, "We address urgent issues of design and policy by mobilizing our network of activists, professionals, government officials, and community stakeholders." In a statement, they said that the fundraiser will help fund its residency program and expansion of the organization's activities beyond New York City.
Tickets for the event are available here.
At an awards ceremony at Manhattan’s Center for Architecture on October 8, representatives from AIA New York (AIANY) and the New York chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLANY) gathered for the first annual Transportation + Infrastructure Design Excellence Awards (T+I Awards). The winners, winnowed down from a pool of 67 entrants, showed excellence in both built and unrealized projects related to transportation and infrastructure, with a heavy emphasis on work that integrated sustainability and engaged with the public. Outstanding greenways, esplanades, and transit improvement plans were lauded for their civic contributions. A variety of merit awards were handed out to speculative projects, and the Regional Plan Association (RPA) was honored a number of times for the studies it had commissioned as part of the Fourth Regional Plan; it was noted that many of the solutions proposed in past Regional Plans had eventually come to pass. The jury was just as varied as the entrants: Donald Fram, FAIA, a principal of Donald Fram Architecture & Planning; Doug Hocking, AIA, a principal at KPF; Marilyn Taylor, FAIA, professor of architecture and urban design at the University of Pennsylvania; David van der Leer, executive director of the Van Alen Institute; and Donna Walcavage, FASLA, a principal at Stantec. Meet the winners below:
Best in CompetitionThe Brooklyn Greenway Location: Brooklyn, N.Y. Designers: Marvel Architects, Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects, WE Design Landscape Architecture, eDesign Dynamics, Horticultural Society of New York, and Larry Weaner Landscape Associates Now six miles long and growing, the waterfront Brooklyn Greenway project kicked off in 2004 with a planning phase as a joint venture between the nonprofit Brooklyn Greenway Initiative (BGI) and the RPA. The 14-mile-long series of linear parks has been broken into 23 ongoing capital projects under the New York City Department of Transportation’s purview—hence the lengthy list of T+I Award winners. Funding is still being raised to complete the entire Greenway, but the BGI has been hosting events and getting community members involved to keep the momentum going.
HonorHunter's Point South Park Location: Queens, N.Y. Park Designers: SWA/Balsley and Weiss/Manfredi Prime Consultant and Infrastructure Designer: Arup Client: New York City Economic Development Corporation With: Arup The second phase of Hunter’s Point South Park opened in June of this year and brought 5.5 new acres of parkland to the southern tip of Long Island City. What was previously undeveloped has been converted into a unique park-cum-tidal wetland meant to absorb and slow the encroachment of stormwater while rejuvenating the native ecosystem. Hunter’s Point South Park blends stormwater resiliency infrastructure with public amenities, including a curved riverwalk, a hovering viewing platform, and a beach—all atop infill sourced from New York’s tunnel waste.
MeritRoberto Clemente State Park Esplanade Location: Bronx, N.Y. Landscape Architect: NV5 with Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects Client: New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation With: AKRF, CH2M Hill
CitationSpring Garden Connector Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Landscape Architect: NV5 Client: Delaware River Waterfront Corporation With: Cloud Gehshan, The Lighting Practice
MeritThe QueensWay Location: Queens, N.Y. Architect: DLANDstudio Architecture and Landscape Architecture, and WXY Architecture + Urban Design Client: The Trust for Public Land Could a High Line ever land in Queens? That’s what The Trust for Public Land set out to discover, tapping DLAND and WXY to imagine what it would look like if a 3.5-mile-long stretch of unused rail line were converted into a linear park. The project completed the first phase of schematic design in 2017 using input from local Queens residents, but fundraising, and push-and-pull with community groups who want to reactivate the rail line as, well, rail, has put the project on hold.
MeritNexus/EWR Location: Newark, N.J. Architect: Gensler Client: Regional Plan Association With: Ahasic Aviation Advisors, Arup, Landrum & Brown
MeritThe Triboro Corridor Location: The Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens, N.Y. Architect: One Architecture & Urbanism (ONE) and Only If Client: Regional Plan Association Commissioned as part of the Fourth Regional Plan, Only If and ONE imagined connecting the outer boroughs through a Brooklyn-Bronx-Queens rail line using existing freight tracks. Rather than a hub-and-spoke system with Manhattan, the Triboro Corridor would spur development around the new train stations and create a vibrant transit corridor throughout the entire city.
HonorFulton Center Location: New York, N.Y. Design Architect: Grimshaw Architect of Record: Page Ayres Cowley Architects Client: NYC Metropolitan Transit Authority With: Arup, HDR Daniel Frankfurt, James Carpenter Design Associates Fulton Center was first announced in 2002 as part of an effort to revive downtown Manhattan’s moribund economy by improving transit availability. Construction was on and off for years until the transit hub and shopping center’s completion in 2014, and now the building connects the 2, 3, 4, 5, A, C, J, and Z lines all under one roof (the N, R, and W trains are accessible through an underground passage to Cortlandt Street). Through the use of a large, metal-clad oculus that protrudes from the roof of the center, and the building’s glazed walls, the center, which spirals down from street level, is splashed with natural light.
MeritNumber 7 Subway Line Extension & 34th Street-Hudson Yards Station Location: New York, N.Y. Architect: Dattner Architects Engineer of Record: WSP Client: MTA Capital Construction With: HLH7 a joint venture of Hill International, HDR, and LiRo; Ostergaard Acoustical Associates; STV
MeritMississauga Transitway Location: Ontario, Canada Architect: IBI Group Client: City of Mississauga, Transportation & Works Department With: DesignABLE Environments, Dufferin Construction, Entro Communications, HH Angus, WSP
MeritDenver Union Station Location: Denver, Colorado Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) Landscape Architect: Hargreaves Associates Client: Denver Union Station Project Authority (DUSPA) With: AECOM, Clanton & Associates, Kiewit Western, Tamara Kudrycki Design, Union Station Neighborhood Company
StudentTurnpike Metabolism: Reconstituting National Infrastructure Through Landscape Student: Ernest Haines Academic Institution: MLA| 2018, Harvard Graduate School of Design Anyone’s who’s ever cruised down a highway knows that equal weight isn’t necessarily given to the surrounding landscape. But what if that weren't the case? In Turnpike Metabolism, Ernest Haines imagines how the federal government can both give deference to the natural landscapes surrounding transportation infrastructure and change the design process to allow nature to define routes and structures.
Missed some of our articles, tweets, or Facebook posts from the last few days? Don’t sweat it—we’ve gathered the week’s must-read stories right here. Enjoy! AN tours the Glenstone Museum's new Pavilions AN toured the $200-million addition to the Glenstone Museum, a new set of galleries and an additional 130 acres of restored natural woodlands in the suburbs outside of Washington, D.C. After a decade-long fight over I-81, Syracuse inches toward a decision As the battle to run Interstate 81 through the heart of downtown Syracuse drags on, community groups and the state's department of transportation are all jockeying for solutions that won't disrupt the city. Opinion: It’s time to recognize Pereira’s LA Times building The current proposal to bisect the Los Angeles Times’ buildings facing City Hall on First Street would delete a key chapter from the city’s collective memory. That's it! Enjoy the end of September.
West Side Wonderland
New renderings revealed for western expansion of Hudson Yards park
Finally, we have a visual of what the rest of the rail yards at New York City's Hudson Yards will become. CityRealty reported that new renderings have been revealed of the expansion of the 17-million-square-foot megaproject, detailing how the development will take over the entirety of the Amtrak railyard. Phase two of construction on Hudson Yards’ intertwining parkland will add winding stone paths, a lush open lawn, food kiosks, and a bright children’s playground overlooking the Hudson River next to the High Line. Manhattan-based landscape architecture firm Nelson Byrd Woltz (NBWLA)—which also designed the currently-under-construction Public Square and Gardens at Hudson Yards—will bring more, much-needed green space to the West Side enclave that’s recently gotten flack for its record-breaking price tag. The expansion also includes the final build-out of Michael Van Valkenburgh (MVVA)’s Hudson Boulevard Park that runs directly through the site from 33rd to 36th Streets. Once complete, the extension will bring it up to 39th Street. MVVA finished the first phase of the elongated greenway in 2015, which included the MTA’s 7 train extension in what’s known as Eastern Yards. Together with the boulevard and far West Side parkland, the long-awaited landscape at Hudson Yards will cover a total of 12 acres. NBWLA’s renderings show that the park will sit on the same level as the adjacent High Line, meaning the team will likely use the same engineering to construct a ventilation cover for the rail yard below and a deck to support the landscape. Officials say groundbreaking on the second phase of parkland at Hudson Yards will begin in late 2020 and is slated to open in winter 2023. Once complete, Hudson Yards Development Corporation, which is building out the plan, will transfer care of the parkland over to the city’s parks and transportation departments.
After a decade-long fight over I-81, Syracuse inches toward a decision
A small sliver of urban infrastructure has been both the bane and blessing of one city in Central New York for 60 years. Interstate 81, an 855-mile-long highway stretching from Tennessee to the U.S.–Canadian border, sliced through downtown Syracuse upon its completion, sparking generations of socioeconomic segregation. Today, the viaduct that hovers over Syracuse’s urban core has reached the end of its functional life, spurring residents and the state’s department of transportation (NYSDOT) to consider next steps for the consequential corridor and how reimagining the site might transform the city in dramatic ways. This isn’t a new transportation tale, but the decisions made in Syracuse could have a major impact on the health and wealth of its locals. For nearly a decade, conversations have centered around three options for the deteriorating viaduct: replace it with a new overpass, build an underground tunnel, or design a street grid that slows traffic through downtown Syracuse and thereby spurs development and a more walkable city. One grassroots group calling for the street grid is Rethink81. They’ve created a digital narrative that paints a clear picture of the city’s wrought history with the highway and what its future could look like. Renderings of the street grid site show new buildings, a green street, and a bike path that extends south on Almond Street in between downtown and University Hill. The street grid seems like the eco-friendliest and fiscally responsible option at $1.3 billion, but many are against it. The DOT estimates that a new elevated highway will cost $1.7 billion but take nearly ten years to complete. Some upstate members of the state legislature even favor the tunnel despite its hefty price tag of $3.6 billion, according to consulting firm WSP Global. The latest discussions—from Albany to Syracuse—center around whether the tunnel idea is still truly on the table. "It's the million dollar question," said Jason Evans, associate principal at Ashley McGraw Architects and member of ReThink81. "The tunnel seems like an excessive investment to make for what would essentially be a duplicate route for traffic to bypass downtown.” Both the tunnel and rebuilt viaduct would allow cars to zip through the city at the same rapid pace as they do today. But that’s just the problem, says Syracuse University architecture professor Lawrence Davis. The city’s biggest issues stem from the fact that hardly anyone lives, works, or plays in downtown. The mass exodus of white residents to the suburbs after World War II caused investment to be drawn away from downtown. To this day, the suburbs remain Syracuse’s wealthiest districts. “This is a vitally important thing to study because a lot of American cities are going through a similar thing and are taking a cost-benefit analysis of their infrastructure,” said Davis. “I’m arguing that the city of the future isn’t so much a concentric city but a multicentric city that’s built in the interest of everybody and provides a variety of neighborhood types.” When the viaduct was built, it cut off Syracuse’s lowest-income residents, members of the largely African American 15th Ward, from the new developments that have risen over the last several decades. This has contributed majorly to the city’s rising poverty rates. Ranked the 13th poorest city in the nation in 2016, it’s also one of the worst places for black Americans to live, according to data from 24/7 Wall Street last year. These stark realities date back to the decision made to build the highway in 1957. Yusuf Abdul-Qadir, Central New York chapter director of the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), helps educate the local community and university students on the multilayered segregation that’s resulted, and how this modern moment in Syracuse’s history could help end the physical and financial isolation so many people feel there. “A highway isn’t naturally discriminating against everybody, but it creates a number of issues,” he said. “The car has literally split the city and made parts of it less desirable for development. If you look at these constituencies and their effective income, they are living this way because nothing’s been done to provide equitable opportunities for housing choice, economic mobility, or inclusion. It’s caused generational poverty.” Abdul-Qadir and the NYCLU are putting together an expert team of lawyers, urban planners, and project councilors that will continue to fight on behalf of Syracuse’s underrepresented populations as the I-81 debate moves forward. “This isn’t just an urban movement or a policy movement,” he said. “It’s a human rights movement and we’re trying to build momentum.” As of July, the NYSDOT was working on a new environmental impact statement that details how the three options will affect the city. A draft is expected to be complete by early 2019, at which time the public will be able to weigh in with commentary.
Seems Fishy to Me
SCAPE highlights the importance of oysters on Staten Island
Sorry aquarium lovers, but the two massive fish tanks at the St. George Ferry Terminal on Staten Island in New York City are no more. The tanks have been drained, the tropical fish distributed to private collectors, and an installation detailing SCAPE Landscape Architecture’s Living Breakwaters project has gone up in their stead. The change isn’t permanent. The tanks will reopen in 2019 with an as-of-yet undecided educational display curated by a committee of marine biologists, designers, educators, fishery and aquarium experts, and museum curators. Whatever changes eventually come to the tanks will be heavily influenced by the Billion Oyster Project (in partnership with the New York City Department of Transportation, Division of Ferries). The nonprofit is seeking to reseed one billion oysters over 100 acres of reefs across New York Harbor by 2035, which would filter the water and break up oncoming waves. Enter SCAPE, which has partnered with the Billion Oyster Project (BOP) to help realize the Rebuild by Design–winning Living Breakwaters project. As part of the project, a series of offshore breakwaters would be installed off of Staten Island in Raritan Bay that would both buffer the shoreline and create a habitat for marine life. The SCAPE team has been working with the BOP and the Harbor School (a water-centric high school on Governor’s Island) to turn the project into an educational opportunity in the form of the newly installed infographics at St. George. Information about the sea life under the route of the Staten Island Ferry, a breakdown of the schools and restaurants the BOP is working with, the ecological impact of Living Breakwaters, and more will greet ferry straphangers at the terminal for the next few months. SCAPE founder Kate Orff was on hand at the unveiling of the terminal on September 12 and discussed how the two installations were divided into education and design—the confluence of the two being how large landscape architecture projects can move from concept to completion. The temporary installations were funded with a grant from the Northfield Bank Foundation.
Framing the Issues
Trump's timber tariffs divide the construction industry
Last November, the U.S. Department of Commerce under President Trump announced an average of 21 percent import duties on Canadian timber products entering the U.S. The announcement was greeted with mixed reactions within the construction industry; builders claimed that the tariffs would increase the cost of construction, and American suppliers argued that the domestic timber industry would benefit, expand, and keep wood prices low. Single-family home construction in the U.S. relies heavily on Canadian softwood for roofing and framing. In 2017, Canadian lumber yards supplied 28 percent of the U.S. softwood lumber market, and home builders have been the first to raise concerns about the new duties, which were in effect by January. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) claims that the imposed tariffs have added approximately $9,000 to the cost of single-family homes and up to $3,000 on multi-family homes. The NAHB doesn’t believe U.S. domestic production is capable of meeting the current market demand and that the tariffs only hurt native manufactures by forcing them to increase their lumber prices. The NAHB is calling for the Trump administration to resume talks with Canada to secure a more mutually beneficial long-term agreement. David Logan, director of tax and trade policy analysis at the NAHB, says that historically, the U.S. lumber field has never been able to support rapid housing growth. “Buyers are still buying from the distributors they’ve always sourced from despite the tariffs,” he said. “Domestic lumber production has increased marginally in the last year, but it’s not kept up with the housing demand in terms of percentages, so it’s hard to say that we’re meeting the challenge. This has always been the case. We can’t meet that need...not even close.” Logan also argued that larger lumber companies in the U.S. are profiting unfairly from the deal, citing the Seattle-based Weyerhaeuser, which owns 12.4 million acres of forest in the U.S. alone and manages 14 million acres in Canada, as well as West Fraser, a Vancouver-based company that operates 48 mills across both countries. The NAHB claims that these companies are able to reap the benefits of both markets under the current trade agreement and likely won’t be affected if things change again. “We say over and over again that we need predictable and stable supply. That means using Canadian lumber,” Logan said. “Diversification of operations in the biggest mills on both sides of the border has really hampered any progress towards talking further about this issue because they’re able to increase production and do well. Prices have been so high there’s not really room for anyone but the big players to have a seat at the table, whether they’re Canadian or American.” The U.S. Lumber Coalition (USLC) rejects these claims. “Since the duties were implemented," the USLC wrote in a statement last week, "U.S. lumber shipments have increased by about 1.4 billion board feet, roughly filling the gap left by the decrease of Canadian imports. U.S. companies continue to invest in expanding their production capabilities to mill lumber from American trees by American workers to build American homes.” Pleasant River Lumber, a small milling company based in Maine, isn’t experiencing the negative side effects that the NAHB claims is coming out of the current tariffs on timber. In fact, the company is on track to complete a $20 million expansion at two of its four sawmills in the next 18 months. As part of the USLC, Pleasant River Lumber sources 95 percent of its lumber within the state of Maine and takes a bit from New Hampshire and Canada as well. Owner Jason Brochu is pleased with the country’s newfound focus on local production and plans to take advantage of it. “Increased demand due to forest fires and hurricanes in other states, spiked prices from the duties, heightened transportation costs, and a strong housing market all factor in to establish a level playing field for lumber production in the U.S. right now,” said Brochu. “We can’t compete against the government or any larger mills without things being equal.” Pleasant River Lumber is capitalizing on the growing lumber market by adding 50 percent more capacity to its production facilities and hiring 40 new employees as quickly as possible. They plan to boost production of their dimensional lumber from 200 million to 300 million board feet annually with the upgraded equipment. More importantly, they’re investing in their framing mills to address the increased demand within the housing market. “We believe we’re pretty typical of most mills in the country at this time,” Brochu said. “Most mills in Maine specifically are adding shifts or putting more money into mills to increase volume. We’re confident that the duties protect our rights as producers in the U.S. and we feel like the laws are working the way they should.” Brochu also emphasized how “relatively insignificant” framing lumber is in housing construction. USLC said the same thing stating that lumber makes up only 2 percent of the cost of a new home—which in 2018 stands at $368,500. Framing lumber isn’t the only wood material that’s used to construct new homes. Plywood, which has zero duties imposed on it, flooring, and other timber products are also increasing in price. New York-based specialty wood-product manufacturer Hudson Company said the niche wood market has been affected as well. Two of its most popular reclaimed-wood products, both of which feature Canadian imported lumber, have both been impacted dramatically, says owner Jamie Hammel. Sales of silver pine siding are down by 60 percent, while hand-hewn beams are down 40 percent. “The reason our business is not down by 60 percent,” he said, “is because we sell other things. But we've had to limit the amount of volume we import because of the tariffs and we’ve had to diversify our product line to adjust and will continue to do. We’ve had to source more products locally which I guess was the administration’s goal.” The timber tariffs against Canada were among the first official duties placed on another country by the U.S. government since Trump took office. In the ten years since the Softwood Lumber Agreement (SLA) was established in 2006, the U.S. Commerce Department has allowed Canadian companies to sell lumber to the U.S. market at subsidized prices, lifting previously countervailing and anti-dumping duties as long as prices stayed above a certain figure. The SLA expired in 2015 and since then both countries have been unable to negotiate a new deal. On behalf of the NAHB, Logan said that his organization doesn't foresee a new Canada-U.S. deal happening in the near future. “We don’t think the dialogue will reopen any time soon as long as the North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations are ongoing. If history repeats itself...the last time this happened it took around 5 years to settle,” he said referring to the original SLA. “Hopefully I’m wrong and this is done very quickly. Until then, prices will maybe get a bit higher, but volatility will certainly increase.”
Toning Down Transit
Federal Transit Administration cuts funding for mass transit projects
This week the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) opened up an online survey inviting state transportation departments, transit agencies, transit operators, and other stakeholders—meaning you, the American public—to offer their opinions on what constitutes a "federal project." Through August 17, the transportation authority wants to gather these opinions in order to redefine which projects the federal government, as opposed to state and local governments, should be funding. According to the FTA, the dialogue is meant to help the agency better understand how a "federal project" definition affects project delivery and solicits opportunities to improve the process of deciding when a project, project phase, or project element is subject to federal requirements. It's important to reevaluate the definition, the FTA says, because sometimes not every element of an overall project is federally funded. The FTA hopes this effort will help it streamline and expedite investment in transit infrastructure. News has been buzzing recently surrounding the Trump administration's $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan released in February and how it's seeking to cut the number of transit infrastructure projects that it's funding, going so far as declining to distribute money already approved by congress for spending. Part of the administration's plan is to shrink the FTA's Capital Investment Grants (CIG) program, which provides money for "federal projects," and the spending plan indicates that the administration would like a narrower definition of what constitutes a "federal project." In turn, many projects or project elements previously covered will now be declared ineligible for the CIG program. The idea is to speed up federal investment on certain transit infrastructure, like roads and highways that cross state lines, while handing off the responsibility of paying for public transportation projects that facilitate intra-city movement, to local government agencies. According to the FTA's recently released annual recommendations for 2019, only $1.046 billion will be granted for capital investment projects next year, which is half of what was approved for 2018 and one-third of what the FTA recommended during Obama’s last year in office. As of May, the FTA had only released $1.3 billion of the $2.6 billion already approved by Congress for 2018 through the CIG program and is now suggesting that it may not appropriate the rest of the money. If the money is not distributed by the end of 2019, it will be returned to the federal treasury. This year the FTA has approved two projects for full construction grants and executed smaller grants for eight others, including Phase 2 of New York City’s Second Avenue Subway, Phoenix’s South Central Light Rail, Seattle’s Center City Connector, and Los Angeles’s Purple Line Extension. The FTA has announced that “future investments in new transit projects would be funded by the localities that use and benefit from these localized projects.” This means that many critical projects already in the works within the CIG program may either suffer from significant delays due to lack of or decreased funding, or be stalled altogether if cities or private investors can't pay for them. The FTA is asking stakeholders to respond to this narrowing of the definition of "federal projects" by completing their online survey.
Saint Paul, Minnesota has set an ambitious goal to reduce its carbon footprint by making all public buildings carbon neutral by 2030 and all private buildings carbon neutral by 2050, as first reported by Twin Cities Pioneer Press. St. Paul officials found that 52 percent of all carbon emissions were related to structures and the energy needed to power, heat, and cool buildings, according to Pioneer Press. Another 37 percent derived from transportation-related emissions. In an effort to encourage a reduction in a building’s carbon footprint, St. Paul has created a competition for private building owners called “Race to Reduce”. Participants monitor and compare their energy use to comparable structures across the city. The city council also recently approved a resolution that outlines general goals such as inspiring a culture of energy stewardship, working with major institutions such as colleges to set energy goals that align with the city, and promoting efficiency in large buildings. Another key aspect is lowering the energy burden on low-income households, ensuring that no household spends more than four percent of its income on energy costs, said Russ Stark, St. Paul’s chief resilience officer, to Pioneer Press. Small changes such as switching off air conditioning at night, as well as buying more renewably-sourced energy from community solar gardens, will help the city achieve its goal. Under the Trump administration and its decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement, cities around the U.S. have been setting their own clean energy goals and emission reduction projections. St. Paul joins cities like Seattle and Boston, which have both declared a goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has pledged $4.5 million to help cover the U.S.’s commitment to the Paris climate agreement.