Posts tagged with "Bill de Blasio":

Federal investigation will look into Brooklyn Heights Library development plan

Subpoenas have been sent to multiple developers that bid on a project to redevelop the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL)'s Brooklyn Heights branch after real estate developer Hudson Companies Inc. won the project with a $52 million offer. Their bid, selected by the library with the help of the city's Economic Development Corporation, was not the highest nor did it offer to build the largest amount of affordable housing. Hudson Companies' plans to redevelop the BPL's Brooklyn Heights branch on Clinton Street would include a 30-story skyscraper with 114 units of off-site affordable housing, according to an online article by the New York Post. A new, 21,500-square-foot library would be located at the base of the triangular-shaped building. The Hudson Companies’ bid, in addition to not being the highest, also did not offer the largest amount of affordable housing. For example, one bid from Second Development Services offered $6 million more than Hudson and also included three more affordable housing (117 to Hudson Companies' 114).  Allegations have been made that the bidding process was rigged to benefit the winners: both Hudson and Marvel Architects, the design firm for the project, contributed money to the Campaign for One New York shortly after de Blasio was sworn in as mayor. The charity, which promoted the mayor's agenda, also received two $25,000 donations from Toll Brothers. The Post also reports that Hudson Companies President David Kramer was also known to say that Hudson was going to win the Brooklyn Heights project, no matter what. A spokesman for de Blasio has denied that the bidding process was unfair. US Attorney Preet Bharara and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance are conducting the investigation. The Post article states that Kramer has not yet received a subpoena.

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.  

$336 million now going towards New York City’s Water Tunnel No. 3

There was a big surprise this week in New York City, infrastructure-wise. This Wednesday, NYC learned of slightly terrifying news: should there be a breakdown, disaster, or other emergency, parts of Brooklyn and Queens could be left without water for at least three months. (See New Yorkers, just because Seattle may be earthquake-prone, we aren't the only city that needs to worry about these things.) New York City currently relies on two aging water tunnels that date back to the early twentieth century: one for Manhattan and the Bronx, while the other serves Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island. The New York City Department of Environmental Protection has been building a third tunnel—Water Tunnel No. 3—since the 1970s to supply reservoir water if the first two fail. The tunnel section that serves Manhattan and the Bronx is finished, but there are two tunnel shafts that have yet to be built that would connect the third tunnel to Brooklyn and Queens. According to reporting by The New York Times, the de Blasio administration had no budget set last year for the project, nor a timeline: “The entire Brooklyn-Queens leg of the new tunnel was scheduled to be finished by 2021, with $336 million included in the capital budget in 2013 by Mr. de Blasio’s predecessor, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, for whom completion of the third tunnel was the most urgent and expensive undertaking of his tenure,” The Times explained. “But last year, Mr. de Blasio’s administration, eager to keep a lid on water and sewer rates that had grown by an average of 8 percent annually under Mr. Bloomberg, moved financing for the third tunnel to other projects.” But now the city has spoken again, and in an awkward response hours later after The Times article was published, Mayor Bill de Blasio told the newspaper that his administration did in fact have a timeline and budget set—and that it was all just a big miscommunication: “The mayor’s announcement came just hours after The New York Times reported that his administration last year had removed all money to pay for the tunnel and had also replaced the announced 2021 deadline for completion with a commissioner’s “guess” that it would be ready for service sometime in the mid-2020s. Those actions and statements, the mayor said, had been misunderstood as postponing the work. ‘There are times when my team does not do a good job of explaining something,’ he said.” Now $336 million is earmarked to finish Water Tunnel No. 3.

Mayor de Blasio’s $2.75-per-ride ferry service to begin summer 2017

Expanding on the East River Ferry system, Mayor de Blasio will see his $55 million plan for a five borough ferry network come to fruition summer 2017.  At $2.75-a-ride, the system will be managed and operated by a California company, Hornblower, that has a proven track record in the industry, having run services in New York for ten years. Currently, the ferry caters to Manhattan residents and those on the shoreline between DUMBO, Brooklyn and Long Island City, Queens. The network will be expanded to escort people to Astoria, Queens; Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn; and the Rockaways, Queens. Come 2018, Soundview will service the Upper and Lower East Side. Another proposal looks to extend the service further to Staten and Coney Island, though no completion date has yet been penned in. The cost of a ferry trip will align with the price of a single subway ride. Bicycles may be carried on for an extra dollar. This is less than half of what it costs for a standard weekend ferry fare at the moment. Such a pricing scheme is no accident, either, as de Blasio has his eyes on integrating the network with the rest of the MTA system. According to de Blasio, commuters will be able to enjoy the "fresh air, harbor views, and a fast ride on the open water" on the 20-minute journey between Astoria and Manhattan's East 34th Street, as well as being able to make the most of the ferry on the hour-long commute between the Rockaways and Wall Street. “Today I applaud Mayor de Blasio for his $55 million capital commitment to a 5-borough ferry system and declaring that New York City’s waterfront will be open for all. The ripple effect from this service will be felt throughout the entire city from Bay Ridge to Bayside; from Staten Island to Soundview,” said Councilman Vincent Gentile. “Access to a true 5-borough ferry system will be just another jewel to add to our crown here in southwest Brooklyn, one that will be a boon to small businesses and real estate alike.”

Could pneumatic tubes on the High Line help New York achieve zero waste by 2030?

When New York City's massive, visible-from-space Fresh Kills landfill closed in 2001, the city began trucking its garbage—around 14 million tons annually—to other states. Former Mayor Bloomberg tried to soften this unsustainable solution with a 2006 plan to transport waste by train and barge instead of trucks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 192,000 tons per year. Now, with Mayor de Blasio's ambitious "zero waste" plan for landfills by 2030, the need for revamped waste management systems is pressing. Could old-school pneumatic tubes help the City meet its goal? Pneumatic tubes seem like a futuristic waste disposal technology, but they are widely employed in Europe and parts of the U.S., including New York's Roosevelt Island and Disney World. Indeed, some parts of New York used to get mail delivered by pneumatic tubes. How could this system work on a large scale today? ClosedLoops, an infrastructure planning and development firm, has been researching this question for five years. The team hopes to create a pneumatic tube system, the High Line Corridor Network, underneath the High Line park on Manhattan's Far West Side. Now in the pre-development phase, the team chose the High Line to test their prototype because its height eliminates the need to tunnel beneath the streets. Waste would be sucked from the park and nearby buildings and deposited in a central terminal for overland carting to landfills outside of New York. As of December 2015, NYS Energy Research and Development Authority and NYS Department of Transportation (DOT) are on board, and the DSNY (plus the NYC DOT) have offered to support the grant proposal for the project. If trash tubes were installed citywide, it would be possible to track who produces the most (and least) waste, and mete out fee-for-service accordingly. The project will take a few more years to come fully to fruition. In the meantime, there are plenty of places to see pneumatic tubes in action, including your local drive-thru: https://www.flickr.com/photos/benfrantzdale/5022238452

Back to the Future: New York City explores streetcar transit route linking outer boroughs

Remember the New York City streetcar? Unless you're a New Yorker of a certain age, you definitely don't. Advances in transportation technology (what die-hard conspiracy theorists refer to as Great American Streetcar Scandal) drove streetcars all over the U.S. straight to the last stop. Yet, it's now very possible that two neighboring boroughs, Brooklyn and Queens, will be reunited once again via a new streetcar line of their very own. The streetcar plans legitimate what transportation planners (and Michael Kimmelman) have known for years: commuting patterns in the city have changed, and the hub-and-spoke model no longer serves diffuse, inter- outer-borough commuting patterns. In his State of the City address last week, Mayor de Blasio proposed a 16-mile waterside streetcar route, the Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX), that would run through 14 neighborhoods, from Brooklyn's Sunset Park through Astoria, Queens. These areas have seen swift transitions from their industrial origins and rapid population growth as the waterfront settles comfortably into its post-industrial future. Renderings are credited to a nonprofit called the Friends of the Brooklyn Queens Connector. According to The Daily News, members include "transit experts, community leaders and business giants like Doug Steiner of Steiner Studios, investor Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures and Helena Durst of the Durst Organization real estate firm." When the plan was announced in January, AN reached out the the nonprofit repeatedly for comment to confirm stakeholders and received no response. With backers like these, concerns about gentrification and potentially developer-driven policy have been raised. Some see the streetcar idea as a way to spur already-high land values along the waterfront, although the streetcar could also provide the more than 40,000 residents of waterfront NYCHA complexes with better access to public transportation. Others have raised concerns about locating the line in a flood zone. Still others have questioned why the city needs to spend billions on a new form of transportation, one that moves at a pokey 12 miles-per-hour, when bus service could be offered along a similar route. There is time to debate: Although energy around the plan is high, the groundbreaking is a long way off. The plan's timeline states that construction is expected to begin in 2019, and service could begin in 2024. The city pegs the cost at around $2.5 billion, although earlier estimates ran $800 million lower.

Rush hour construction crane collapse in Tribeca injures two, kills one

During the height of rush hour this morning, a construction crane collapsed on Worth Street between Church Street and West Broadway in Tribeca, mere blocks from AN's New York headquarters. One person is dead and three others are injured in a collapse that occurred around 8:25 AM, the FDNY reports. The collapsed crane also damaged surrounding buildings and crushed cars parked on the street. As firefighters, police, and personnel from the NYC Office of Emergency Management (OEM) assess the scene, there is no 1 train service at Franklin and Chambers streets until further notice. The OEM notes that there will be significant gridlock surrounding the affected block.     https://twitter.com/FDNY/status/695622838988963840   Sadly, the accident today is not the first New York crane collapse in recent memory. Bay Crane, the Queens–based company that owns the crane, was also implicated in a 2015 crane collapse that injured ten people in Midtown, The New York Post reports. New York Crane and Equipment Corporation's crane collapsed on a Long Island City job in 2013, injuring seven.

New York City to receive $176 million in federal funding for East Side coastal resiliency project

New York City will receive $176 million in federal funding for disaster recovery. The funding would be put towards a section of the project extending from the northern portion of Battery Park City to Montgomery Street on the Lower East Side. The money is part of $181 million in funding for recovery projects in New York and New Jersey. The funds came from the National Disaster Resilience Competition, a U.S. Department Housing and Urban Development–sponsored competition to rebuild communities affected by natural disasters, The New York Times reports. The BIG–designed East Side Coastal Resiliency Project (scaled down, but known in former incarnations as the DryLine or the BIG U) calls for sea walls, retractable flood barriers, and grass berms that would double as riverside recreation areas, opening up the waterfront to create a shoreline comparable to the recreation-rich shores of Manhattan's West Side. The East Side Coastal Resiliency Project arose from Rebuild by Design, a 2014 competition to solicit ideas for six large-scale flood protection and resiliency measures in the tristate area. Rebuild by Design awarded New York City $335 million in federal funds for the East 23rd Street to Montgomery Street section. Mayor de Blasio has committed $100 million in capital funding to the project already.

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.

Aim High, Get Low: New “Lowline” linear park eyed in the Bronx

Call it High Line fever: since the first leg of James Corner and Diller Scofidio + Renfro's High Line debuted in 2009, High Line–like projects have popped up all over the city and across the country. Now, not ten miles from the original, the Bronx may be slated for its very own rail-to-park conversion. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. has asked Mayor Bill de Blasio to transform an unused slice of below grade train track in Mott Haven into a "lowline." The block-long site, bounded by Brook Avenue, East 156th Street, St. Ann's Avenue, and East 150th Street, is owned by CSX. In order to reclaim the space for parkland, the city would need to buy or seize the land from the railroad company. On a visit to the site in September, Mayor de Blasio deplored the condition of the trash strewn corridor, which doubles as a homeless encampment. Soon after the mayor's visit, city workers cleared out the belongings of the residents and removed debris from the site. Sandwiched between schools and their athletic fields, the lowline would be adjacent to mixed income housing projects Melrose Commons and Via Verde.

Highly anticipated rezoning for East New York to be revealed next week

There are big changes planned for Brooklyn's East New York. On Monday, September 21st, the Department of City Planning will unveil the full East New York Community Plan. The plan is part of Housing New York, Mayor de Blasio's ten year plan to stabilize existing affordable housing supply and build 80,000 new units.  The plan's goal is to increase public investment and catalyze private development in select East Brooklyn neighborhoods, including Ocean Hill, Cypress Hills, and the eponymous East New York. Compared to other community plans, there's one key difference: the East New York Community Plan will be the first to apply mandatory inclusionary zoning. This designation requires the construction of permanent affordable housing. One of the affordable housing provisions approved by Albany in June 2015, mandatory inclusionary zoning requires developers to set aside at least one quarter of their units for low-income individuals, though there are some exceptions to the rule. It typically takes around one year to vet Community Plan proposals. After the ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, a mandated public comment period), plans must be approved by each of the city's 59 community boards, all five borough presidents, the City Planning Commission, and the City Council.

New York City Mayor De Blasio and Cardinal Dolan working on plan for affordable housing on church properties

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio had some face-to-face time with Cardinal Timothy Dolan this week, and among the topics the duo discussed was affordable housing. In a city of nosebleed-inducing housing prices, Dolan said creating and maintaining affordable housing was "God's work," according to AM New York. The city and the archdiocese are working out a plan to use the church's extensive real estate holdings in the city to provide affordable housing and shelters for the homeless. "We still got some meat and potatoes to work out, but I think it's a go," Dolan was quoted in the newspaper. "And if you ask me, I don't have a choice because Jesus told me to do this. I didn't need the mayor to tell me to do this." Dolan added that he and De Blasio report to the same constituency: "namely God's people, the people of this city." "Amen, beautifully said," the mayor replied.