Posts tagged with "Andrew Cuomo":

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NYC to get $300 million more for affordable housing this year

Thanks to some high-level maneuvering between feuding leaders, New York City is set to increase its capacity to build affordable housing. Last Friday, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the state would grant $300 million in bonds to build or refurbish low- and moderate-income housing. The governor's okay raised the city's 2016 tax-exempt bond capacity to $771 million, the largest increase in a decade. "Homelessness is exploding and affordable housing is all but disappearing,” Cuomo said in a statement. “New York City needs this help from the state which will provide thousands of units of safe, clean, affordable housing and will help alleviate this crisis.” In another instance of state-city tensions, the state, per federal law, controls bond capacity, and that control has escalated tensions in the perpetual rivalry between Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio. Yesterday, though, the mayor's administration got to celebrate. "This funding is critical to keeping our affordable housing engine in high gear,” de Blasio spokeswoman Melissa Grace told the Daily News. “With so many vital projects lined up—including homes for low-income families and homeless seniors—we are grateful the State is coming forward with this additional $300 million allocation." Last year, the state gave the city $694 million in bond capacity, which was less than the city expected and delayed construction of affordable units, the mayor said. Friday's announcement comes on top of last week's deal between the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) and the Building and Construction Trades Council that seems set to revive 421-a (even after they temporarily reneged over a misunderstanding on the agreement's wage rates). Although housing advocates say the new exemption could cost New York billions in lost revenue each year, REBNY says the housing tax credit is essential to building affordable housing in the city.
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New York unveils flashy upgrades for disaster-proof bridges and tunnels

New Yorkers will soon be traveling through flood-resistant tunnels and over earthquake-proof bridges, complete with jazzy, customized LED installations. Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled plans this week for infrastructure upgrades geared towards maintaining the safety, efficiency, and security of the MTA's bridges and tunnel. "By investing in New York's transportation network today and equipping it to meet the challenges of tomorrow, we are cementing our state's position as a national leader in 21st-century infrastructure and cutting-edge innovation," Governor Cuomo said, in a statement. "From speeding up commutes and reducing emissions on key roadways with automatic tolling to bolstering resiliency on our bridges and tunnels and increasing security at key checkpoints, this transformational project will revolutionize transportation in New York and ensure that our state is built to lead for generations to come." The governor's initiative covers travel routes high and low: On the ground, the New York Crossings Project will bring flood-control barriers to tunnels to prevent the catastrophic water damage unleashed on underground infrastructure by Hurricane Sandy. Previously built to prevent the impact of 100-year floods, the new barriers are capable of withstanding those 500-year deluges. The plan also calls for the bearings on all bridges to be replaced with seismic isolation bearings to protect against earthquakes and other adverse natural events. Bridge columns and piers will be reinforced, while concrete armor units will be installed to on the underwater part of bridge piers to provide further protection. On those seven bridges and two tunnels, the state will install automatic toll booths to boost traffic flow and decrease congestion, saving commuters an estimated 21 hours of driving and a million gallons of fuel each year. Sensors and cameras will be installed on gantries above the road so monitors can record passing cars and bill E-Z Pass or invoice drivers of non-E-Z Pass vehicles. The cameras won't be watching license plates alone: In an effort to ramp up security, Albany plans to test emerging face-recognition software on drivers. (The Orwellian technology will also be used at the just-announced Penn-Farley Complex.) Invoking civic buildings—Grand Central Terminal, the original Penn Station—that are also nice to look at, the governor aims to create "modern transportation gateways" from the humble toll plaza. Tunnel plazas will be redesigned with LED-enabled "veils," while gantries for the new toll booths will sport "wave" designs that also provide soundproofing. An all-day light spectacle on the George Washington Bridge, the governor explains, will provide a festive, Instagram-ready tableaux for visitors (and boost the sale of blackout shades for anyone living in a 10-block radius of the bridge). The first phase of the installation will begin this January, with all project being funded through the MTA's $27 billion capital plan.
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MTA seeks to develop its property any way it wants, regardless of local laws

In the final days of the state legislative session, it's common practice for participating parties to play Supermarket Sweep with the budget bill: Hundreds of special-interest items are piled into the document at the eleventh hour when legislators don't necessarily have the time to scrutinize each one. At the end of the last legislative session, the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) snuck a major item into the budget that would allow the agency to develop land it controls any way it chooses, regardless of local zoning. Senate Bill 8037, sponsored by Senator Jack M. Martins, a Democrat from Eastern Long Island, would repeal the problematic language. The bill maintains that the definition of "transportation purpose" is too broad, and could have "unintended consequences" for local governments. Martins's bill passed the Assembly and the Senate, and is waiting for a signature from Governor Andrew Cuomo. The Architect's Newspaper reached out to one of the bill's co-sponsors, Senator Liz Krueger, a Democrat who represents part of Manhattan's East Side, for comment on the legislation. A representative from Senator Krueger's office stated that there's no word yet on when the governor will take action on the bill.
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Governor Cuomo takes first steps to bring back 421-a

Governor Andrew Cuomo's administration is working to revive 421-a with a novel idea: Wage subsidies for non-union construction workers.

The program that saved land owners millions in taxes and created thousands of apartments for low- and middle-income New York City residents expired in January of this year. Without the program, industry insiders feared that, with high land costs, rental housing construction would grind to a standstill.

Cuomo's one-page proposal would set wages for projects that use non-union labor and receive government assistance in Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan with some caveats, the New York Times reports. There would be a two levels of minimum wage for projects with 300 or more units in desirable areas—in this case, on the Brooklyn/Queens waterfront and in Manhattan. On the outer-borough waterfront, projects would pay $50 per hour, benefits included, with 30 percent ($15) of that hourly wage reimbursed by the state. In Manhattan, any project south of 96th Street looking for an abatement would pay no less than $65 per hour, benefits included. In return, developers would set aside 25 to 30 percent of units for below market rents.

It's not clear from the memo how the state will subsidize the wages, or what form the new program will take. 421-a lapsed when real estate industry leaders and union officials could not compromise on the balance of union and non-union labor for residential construction projects. In June, the two groups debated wage rates, but again couldn't agree on a plan. Unions leaders have criticized developers who reaped generous public subsidies but avoided union labor. The program used to offer a 20-year tax abatement for developers who offered one-fifth of units at below-market rates. In 2014, 150,000 apartments qualified for 421-a tax abatements, for a tax jubilee of $1.06 billion.

The memo emphasized that residential projects in these areas would not have to pay prevailing wage, and was sent to leaders in the building trades and construction industry, including Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council, and John H. Banks, president of the real estate industry's lobby and advocacy group Rebny. Bringing back 421-a would allow the governor's $2 billion housing plan to move forward.

A spokesperson for the governor made a statement last week on the negotiations: “It is clear through ongoing discussions with Rebny and the labor unions that the city’s original proposal does not provide the economics that would allow for union labor, and that it is unacceptable to the governor and Legislature. We are working on and considering new and various proposals with all stakeholders, but at this point there is no agreement on anything.”

Mindful of that criticism, Mayor de Blasio proposed several reforms in 2015 designed to extract more affordable housing for taxpayer subsidies. That proposal—made in coordination with the real estate board—would have made condominiums ineligible, while requiring developers to devote up to 30 percent of the units in a project for poor and working-class tenants, in return for a longer tax abatement. But that proposal was rebuffed by the governor.

A spokeswoman for the governor made a statement last week on the negotiations: “It is clear through ongoing discussions with Rebny and the labor unions that the city’s original proposal does not provide the economics that would allow for union labor, and that it is unacceptable to the governor and Legislature. We are working on and considering new and various proposals with all stakeholders, but at this point there is no agreement on anything.”

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Governor Cuomo announces plan for $20 million food hub to support NYS agriculture at Hunts Point

Yesterday Governor Andrew Cuomo served up plans for a food safety program and a new $20 million Greenmarket Regional Food Hub in Hunts Point, the Bronx. The program, New York State Grown & Certified, is a response to spurious "organic" and "natural" food labelling that does more to market food than show the conditions under which it was produced. New York State Grown & Certified will tout farmers who meet state standards for sustainability and food safety, promoting their foodstuffs by brokering relationships between certified farmers and buyers like the city's Department of Education. "You go into a store now, everything has marketing on it that suggests that it is natural or that it is healthy," Cuomo told DNAinfo. "Cage-Free Eggs. Chickens That Roam the Landscape Eggs. Chickens That Have Never Seen a Cage, Happy Chicken Eggs." The state will put $15 million towards the total cost of the 120,000-square-foot food hub, which will include processing facilities and a farmer's market. The state estimates that the project will create 95 permanent jobs and support more than 100 New York State Grown & Certified participants. Empire State Development president, CEO & commissioner Howard Zemsky outlined the benefits of the hub in a press release: “The new Greenmarket Regional Food Hub will not only increase access to fresh, healthy foods in NYC’s underserved neighborhoods, it will create new jobs and provide a great opportunity for our hardworking farmers to distribute local produce and expand their businesses throughout New York State.” While Hunts Point Cooperative Market has always been the center of the region's food distribution system, food is becoming a driver of economic development in the surrounding neighborhoods. Keith Rubenstein’s Somerset Partners announced plans for Bruckner Market, a food hall and beer garden, last month. There are no renderings of the project available at this time.
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New York’s enormous Javits Center could grow $1 billion larger with Cuomo’s plan and FXFOWLE’s design

As part of a package of proposals for his 2016 agenda, development on Manhattan's West Side will intensify. Governor Andrew M. Cuomo recently revealed a $1 billion plan to expand the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. The expansion, designed by New York–based FXFOWLE, calls for adding 1.2 million square feet of event and meeting space, as well as a four-story, 480,000-square-foot parking garage to house the 20,000 or so tractor-trailers that bring event supplies to and from the venue each year. The Javits Center, between West 34th and West 40th streets along 11th Avenue, is one of the nation's busiest convention centers. The state estimates that the convention center generated $1.8 billion in economic activity in 2014. Cuomo's proposal would add 1.2 million square feet of space to the 2.1 million-square-foot venue, increasing its size by 50 percent. Upgrades include 500,000 square feet of uninterrupted event space, as well as a 60,000-square-foot ballroom. The parking facility will improve pedestrian safety by diverting trucks from the streets surrounding the Javits Center into a central delivery area with 35 loading docks. The venue is aiming to up its current LEED Silver certification to LEED Platinum with energy-saving upgrades. 2014 renovations added a 6.75 acre green roof, new flooring, and a new facade. A 34,000-square-foot solar energy array, the largest on any public building in New York, will be installed to complement these upgrades. Additionally, a terrace with a 2,500 person capacity will be built to take advantage of sweeping Hudson River views. Construction is expected to begin in late 2016. See the gallery below for more images of the planned renovations.
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Governor Cuomo unveils ambitious plans to overhaul New York’s Penn Station

The lead-up to New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo's State of the State address feels like a government-backed encore of "The Twelve Days of Christmas." Instead of lords a-leaping and swans a-swimming, Cuomo brings infrastructure upgrades a-plenty in his 2016 Agenda. The governor promised funds to the Gateway and East Side Access tunnels, the Javits Center, new Metro-North stations in the Bronx, the MTA (wi-fi a-comin'!), and an airport on Long Island. Arguably the biggest proposal is the Empire State Complex, a $3 billion redevelopment of New York City's Penn Station and its surroundings. The plan seeks to make Penn Station, which sits beneath Madison Square Garden, less of a hellhole—nice, even. Built to accommodate 200,000 daily riders, the station now serves 650,000 people per day. Channeling public sentiment, the governor ripped on Penn Station in his announcement. "Penn station is un-New York. It is dark, constrained, ugly, a lost opportunity, a bleak warren of corridors. [It's] a miserable experience and a terrible first impression." The governor's plan calls for enhancing connectivity between the station and the street; providing wi-fi; and reducing congestion by widening existing corridors, creating better wayfinding, and improving ticketing areas. As hinted at in previous proposals, the massive, neoclassical James A. Farley Post Office, at Eighth Avenue between 31st and 33rd streets, could be converted into the "Moynihan Train Hall," a sun-drenched waiting area for Amtrak, Long Island Rail Road, New Jersey Transit, and MTA passengers. A pedestrian tunnel underneath Eighth Avenue will connect the train hall with the main station. With this 210,000-square-foot addition, the size of the station will increase by 50 percent. The governor reviewed possible redesign scenarios. In one, Madison Square Garden Theater would be demolished to make way for a block-long entrance to Penn Station, facing the post office. In another, a glassy entrance, with skylights, would be constructed on 33rd Street. The street would be closed and converted into a pedestrian plaza. A third, more minimal scenario would add entrances at street corners and mid-block. In 2013, the Municipal Art Society (MAS) hosted a competition to rethink Penn Station. MAS highlighted designs four firms—Diller Scofidio + Renfro, H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture, SHoP Architects, and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM)—for an improved Penn Station. In addition to improved passenger flow, each proposal imagined the station as a civic hub and neighborhood anchor. The governor said that this would phase of the project would be completed first. The rest of the overhaul could be complete by 2019, an amazing feat in a city where infrastructure improvements can drag on for decades. The Empire State Development Corporation, the MTA, Amtrak and the LIRR will parter with private developers to spearhead the project. $2 billion will go towards the Empire State Complex, while $1 billion will go towards "retail development" on 7th and 9th avenues. $325 million is expected to come from state and federal governments. The rest of the project will be privately funded, in exchange of revenue generated by commercial and retail rents. Cuomo will be issuing invitations to private developers, with an April 2016 due date. Currently, Vornado Realty Trust manages land around Penn Station, though it's unclear whether this relationship will continue.
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New York state parks to see a billion dollar influx of maintenance funding by 2020

After years of disinvestment, the New York park system is receiving the funding it needs to address more than a billion dollars of neglected maintenance across the state’s 213 parks and historic sites. Despite the much needed $89 million of funding received in 2012, thanks to a push from Governor Andrew Cuomo and an audit from the state controller’s office which found sections in the park in such disrepair that they had to be closed to the public, many parks are unable to operate in their full capacity due to crumbling amenities. The state plans to spend upwards of $900 million on improvements by 2020. This is a much-needed turnaround after 2010 when the state budget allotted no new money for improvements in the park system, triggering a report to be issued with the Alliance for New York State Parks called, Protect Their Future: New York State Parks in Crisis. However, most of the funding allotted to date is desperately needed to repair bathrooms, fix electrical issues, and pave roads—critical amenities—rather than to advance and improve the century-old park system. Compare this current situation to that of the 1950s and '60s, when a federally sponsored program called Mission 66 spent more than $1 billion between 1956 and 1966 to create modern infrastructure and improvements in the parks. The program created the concept of visitor centers and built more than 100 of them during its decade-long run. Architects like Eero Saarinen and Richard Neutra were commissioned to make parks a destination for architecture as well as landscape, and explore how the built and natural environments could play off of each other. That is not to knock the recent bout of funding, though. Letchworth State Park in Castile, New York, received a $5.75 million nature center in addition to a new electrical system and amenities; Niagara Falls has $50 million budgeted for upgrades to pedestrian walkways, lighting, and landscaping; and Jones Beach, on Long Island, is renovating a historic bathhouse and preparing the area to adapt to rising sea levels. Additionally, in January, the Excelsior Conservation Corps will launch its first group of 50 young volunteers who will work and live in the park system in exchange for a stipend. There are hopes that this movement is the beginning of many to usher in an era of the park system.
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Can the latest plan to salvage LaGuardia take flight? New York Governor Cuomo unveils ambitious $4 billion airport redesign scheme

For New Yorkers and visitors alike, LaGuardia Airport is a confusing maze of disconnected terminals. Beset with delays, chaotic transfers, poorly designed wayfinding, and congestion for both passengers and planes, the airport was recently, not undeservingly, characterized by Vice President Biden as feeling like a “third-world country.” Now the facility is slated to get a much-needed, and long overdue redesign. Governor Cuomo presented a far-reaching plan to overhaul the tired facility, which would cost roughly $4 billion, and be completed over a 5-year period. Once the Board of Directors of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey green light the plans, construction will commence, with the goal of opening the first half of the project to passengers by early 2019, and then finishing up the second half 1.5 years later. The proposal was guided by the Governor’s Advisory Panel with recommendations from Dattner Architects, PRESENT Architecture, and SHoP Architects. It would bulldoze the airport's Terminal B building and essentially replace an existing series of small terminals with a single unified structure situated closer to Grand Central Parkway. According to the Governor’s website, the redesign would include new terminal space, a new arrival and departures hall, and a connection to Delta’s Terminals C and D. In addition, the Governor detailed plans to add transit with a new AirTrain and ferry service, as well as address potential flooding by elevating infrastructure. “New York had an aggressive, can-do approach to big infrastructure in the past—and today, we’re moving forward with that attitude once again,” said Governor Cuomo in a statement. “We are transforming LaGuardia into a globally-renowned, 21st century airport that is worthy of the city and state of New York.” Few can argue that LaGuardia, the smallest of New York’s three airports, needs to be re-imagined, but the question is whether this proposal is a band aid solution to a much more complicated problem that requires a greater comprehensive strategy. “The Governor's intentions are good, but the proposal is disappointing because it does not attempt to deal with the main problems plaguing LGA. Its runways are too short, which causes safety issues, delays, and limitations on destinations. It's in a flood zone and its level needs to be raised to deal with future storms. Furthermore, the proposed rail connection is terribly convoluted,” explained Jim Venturi, the principal designer of ReThinkNYC. “With people finally speaking seriously about closing Riker's Island, and with the airport's proximity to the Northeast Corridor, it is disappointing that the Governor did not take the advice of Vice President Biden and choose a more ‘holistic’ approach to solving the region's transposition problems. There are many opportunities that this plan does not take advantage of and we would urge them to rethink their approach.” Venturi recently detailed his own proposal for doing just that in a recent edition of The Architect's Newspaper. LaGuardia isn’t the only airport in line to be revamped. The governor stated that he will soon issue an RFP for a redesign of JFK International Airport. In the meantime, the iconic Eero Saarinen–designed TWA Flight Center will be transformed into a LEED certified hotel, consisting of 505 guestrooms, 40,000 square feet of conference, event and meeting space, and an observation deck. This will be JFK's first airport hotel.
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Governor Cuomo proposes AirTrain to LaGuardia, but would it actually help?

Day One: New Yorkers rejoice as their governor,  Andrew Cuomo, announces his intent to bring AirTran service to LaGuardia Airport. Day Two: Well-respected transportation blog The Transport Politic digs into the $450 million plan and shreds apart some of its ambitious goals, namely the time savings it takes to get to the airport. Using the LaGuardia AirTran would actually be a less convenient way to get to the airport than the slow and unreliable options that currently exist. The plan, which is in its early stages, would mean building an AirTran station by Citi Field, between an existing Long Island Rail Road stations and a 7 line subway station; the elevated train would then connect to LaGuardia via the Grand Central Parkway. The Cuomo Administration says the distance traveled is 1.5 miles, but Transport Politics puts it closer to 2.3. Since the new rail line would travel alongside a highway, it would cause minimal disruptions for existing neighborhoods, making this whole thing a much easier pitch for Cuomo, at least politically and financially. Cuomo says the state has the money to pay for the plan through existing funds. But if the LaGuardia AirTran is built as currently proposed, it would actually mean a longer ride to the airport from many major population centers. Travelers heading to LaGuardia from Midtown, Downtown Brooklyn, Central, Queens, and the South Bronx would be better off taking one of the bad public transit options that already exist. The new AirTran would, of course, be faster for anyone living near Citi Field, and would shave a few minutes off the ride from Penn Station for those taking the Long Island Rail Road. This is not the first time that the city has looked into ways to make New York City’s closest airport not feel so far, far away. A 1990's plan, for example, would have extended the N subway line from Astoria, Queens right to LaGuardia. But as Transport Politic noted, the extension was squashed by neighborhood opposition because people apparently didn't want an elevated rail line cutting through their neighborhood. Check out Transport Politic's handy chart below that compares travel times of that 90's plan, Cuomo's plan, and an alternate plan for a connector from Jackson Heights, Queens.  
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Vice President Biden and Governor Cuomo announce design competition for New York City’s airports

If you’re not a fan of Auntie Anne’s Pretzels, then LaGuardia Airport really has nothing to offer you. Besides travel-friendly food options like “jalapeño and cheese pretzel dogs" the aging, dirty, sometimes-leaking airport is by all accounts a disaster. Just ask Vice President Joe Biden who once said that if he blindfolded someone and took them to LaGuardia they would think they were in “some third world country.” The Vice President adding, "I'm not joking." A few months after the Veep made that non-joke, he appeared alongside New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to announce design competitions to revamp LaGuardia and JFK, as well as the smaller Republic Airport on Long Island and Stewart Airport in the Hudson Valley. Those competitions will be launched in 30 days and last for 60 days; three finalists will be awarded $500,000. The New York Observer reported that the governor wants to see better retail and restaurant options at the airports (move over Auntie Anne's!), a Long Island Railroad link and ferry connection to LaGuardia, faster rail connections to JFK, and tax-free zones around Republic and Stewart airports. At LaGuardia, at least, the results could possibly look like the totally non-official rendering above. How would any of these changes be funded? That’s a question the governor did not address at the event. According to the Observer, "[Cuomo] did not tell reporters how the cash-strapped state, Port Authority or Metropolitan Transportation Authority would pay for these upgrades, but told reporters all options ‘were on the table,’ including new tolls on bridges.'” Cuomo later told the New York Times that designs had to be selected before financing could be secured, and he deflected criticism that his competition would get in the way of the Port Authority's multi-billion-dollar plan to overhaul LaGuardia's main terminal. There's no word yet on who will oversee that project, or what it will entail, but the Port Authority's very announcement of its plans earlier this year led to the exciting, but entirely unsolicited, completely non-official rendering at top.
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Buffalo breaks ground on largest solar panel facility in the Western Hemisphere

Manufacturing is returning to Buffalo, New York in a big way. In late September, SolarCity broke ground on a 1.2-million-square-foot solar panel manufacturing plant that will be the biggest facility of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. The company, which Elon Musk chairs, is investing $5 billion into the project that will rise on the site of a former Republic Steel factory. When fully operational, the panels produced at the factory are expected to generate one gigawatt of energy, that's roughly enough power to power 145,000 homes. New York State has also put forth significant funds for the project. "Under the deal with SolarCity," explained the Buffalo News, "the state will spend $350 million to build the sprawling factory on South Park Avenue and provide $400 million in funding for equipment, with the state following the economic development model that it used to build up the semiconductor industry in the Albany area. Under that model, the state invests in state-of-the-art facilities and equipment that typically are too costly for companies to acquire on their own and then signs agreements with companies, like SolarCity, that want to access it." The facility is expected to open in 2016 and provide 3,000 jobs for the Buffalo region, according to the Cuomo administration.