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.
Posts tagged with "Bill de Blasio":
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
As part of Mayor de Blasio’s mission to eliminate traffic deaths in New York City, his administration has committed $250 million toward its “Great Streets” initiative to redesign four of the city’s most dangerous arterial roadways: 4th Avenue in Brooklyn, Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn and Queens, Queens Boulevard, and Grand Concourse in the Bronx. On 4th Avenue in Brooklyn—which is known as “the canyon of mediocrity” for its lackluster architecture—the Department of Transportation is making permanent a temporary road diet it put in place in recent years. Street adjustments like wider medians and banning left turns at certain intersections have paid huge dividends: On a 15-block stretch of the remade roadway, pedestrian injuries decreased 61 percent. The DOT did not include bike lanes in its road diet, instead opting for 13-foot-wide parking lanes. Construction has also just begun on the DOT's "Great Streets" remake of Queens Boulevard, a harrowing roadway dubbed the “Boulevard of Death." This transformation has been widely lauded in transportation circles for its inclusion of pedestrian pathways and protected bike lanes. But now the DOT has unveiled its $60 million plan to remake two miles of Atlantic Avenue, and like many recent street-calming measures undertaken by the department (Queens Boulevard excluded) it does little—if anything—to protect the city’s cyclists. On the dangerous section of Atlantic, most of which is in East New York—a neighborhood de Blasio wants to rezone to create affordable housing—the DOT plans to replace existing medians with longer and raised medians that have space for plantings and benches. The design would also implement left turn bays, high-visibility crosswalks, ban left turns at some intersections, and create mid-block crossings. The DOT says these strategies will calm traffic and reduce speeding. “The design proposed by DOT will make Atlantic look nicer and probably yield a marginal improvement in safety,” wrote StreetsBlog, “but it does not fundamentally alter the geometry of the street.” As part of its Vision Zero rollout, the DOT had previously re-timed traffic lights on Atlantic Avenue, and stepped-up traffic enforcement. It was also one of the first streets to have its speed limit dropped from 30 miles per hour to 25. The absence of any bike infrastructure in this “Great Streets” project is especially notable given the fatal bicycle crash that recently occurred just off Atlantic Avenue in Downtown Brooklyn. After the cyclist was killed, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams held a press conference at the intersection calling on the city to fast-track a redesign of the dangerous intersection. Adams also brought reporters on a bike ride along Flatbush Avenue to underscore the harrowing conditions cyclists have to contend with on many city streets. Last year, pedestrian fatalities in New York City fell to their lowest level in over a century, but cyclists' deaths rose from 12 in 2013 to 20. The DOT says it will finalize this plan with the Department of Design an Construction by August 2016 and start construction the following spring. It remains to be seen what the department has planned for the Grand Concourse.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray have appointed Paul Gunther the executive director of the Gracie Mansion Conservancy. Gunther will ensure that "not only are the historic fabric and contents of the great 1799 landmark well preserved, but that it thrives in today’s modern society," according to a statement from the mayor's office. In addition to his role as a frequent contributor to AN, Mr. Gunther has served as Vice President of Institutional Advancement and Director of Development at The New York Historical Society, Director of Development and American Liaison at The American Center in Paris, and the Director of Development and Public Affairs at The Municipal Art Society, and President of the Institute for Classical Art and Architecture.
Eight years ago, in the face of rapidly rising carbon emissions, PlaNYC—New York City's sustainability and resilience blueprint—set a goal of reducing emissions 30 percent citywide by 2030 compared to a 2005 baseline. "Enormous progress has been made thus far: the growth has been stopped and emissions have substantially decreased—by 19 percent," observed Laurie Kerr, Urban Green Council's Director of Policy. "But as impressive as that is, we need to do more, faster." Enter One City: Built to Last, the city's ten-year building upgrade plan aimed at helping reach Mayor Bill de Blasio's ambitious "80 x 50" goal: 80 percent citywide reductions by 2050. Kerr and John Lee, Deputy Director for Buildings and Energy Efficiency at the NYC Mayor's Office of Sustainability, will be on hand next week at Facades+ NYC to outline the initiative with special reference to the design and construction of high performance building envelopes. The AEC industry holds the key to the 80 x 50 mission, said Kerr. "There are tricky technical, financial and logistical issues to solve. The cutting edge will need to push the craft and the supply chain to arrive at solutions that are efficient, scalable, and appealing to tenants." But the answer to the environmental challenge will necessarily entail behind-the-scenes work as well as splashy innovation, she noted. "The rank and file will need to become proficient in new techniques, such as PassivHaus, that require dramatically greater vigilance on un-sexy issues like thermal bridging and infiltration." Much of the burden for improved performance falls on the building exterior. "High performance envelopes are going to play a major role in achieving 80 x 50—we're simply not going to get there without them," said Kerr. "This will be true for new buildings, but it will be even more important for the existing building stock, which may need everything from sealing, to better windows, to re-wrapping or interior insulation on some properties." The call for upgrades on a large scale is sure to benefit the AEC industry financially, she pointed out, but its members will have to work for their money. "It will entail considerable creativity and craftsmanship to develop and deliver the cost-effective strategies for each facade type—from midcentury modern to brownstones to brick towers in the park," said Kerr. To hear more from Kerr and Lee on One City: Built to Last, register today for Facades+ NYC.
As AN recently reported, a fire that destroyed a warehouse in Williamsburg, Brooklyn has rekindled questions about a long-promised waterfront park. Back in 2005, Michael Bloomberg rezoned much of Williamsburg and Greenpoint leading to a surge in glassy towers. With those towers was supposed to come Bushwick Inlet Park, a 28-acre green space along the East River. But in the decade since, only parts of the park have been completed. That is partly because when the city rezoned the waterfront, it didn't purchase the 11-acre Citistorage property that sits in the middle of the planned park. Now, with one of the warehouses destroyed, local residents and elected officials are urging the de Blasio administration to finally acquire the lot and deliver more green space. But with the property reportedly valued between $75 million and $100 million, the de Blasio administration says it has no plans to do so. In spite of that, over the weekend protesters used "light graffiti" to urge the administration to change course. Gothamist reported that images were projected on the side of a storage facility next to the charred site that read: "The city mapped it, designed it, and promised it and we need it more than ever," "Hey de Blasio Where's Our Park?" and "This Right Here is Supposed to be a Park." There were also details displayed about an upcoming rally planned outside City Hall on Thursday. The event in Williamsburg brings us back to 2011 when Occupy Wall Street protesters projected so-called "bat signals" on the side of the Verizon Building next to the Brooklyn Bridge.
Last year, at an event inside David Adjaye’s Sugar Hill affordable housing development in Manhattan, AN asked New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio how architecture and design factored into his overall housing plan. The mayor—who doesn’t elevate public design the way Michael Bloomberg did—said he wants to see new affordable housing buildings that are both “beautiful” and “contextually appropriate.” But, he added, design is about more than aesthetics, it is a tool to be wielded to create dynamic, mixed-use properties. “I think the design question really is about, to me, the functionality—meaning, what we can achieve in a site,” said the mayor. Now, roughly eight months later, the Department of City Planning (DCP) has unveiled zoning changes to make it easier and cheaper to develop the type of affordable housing the mayor was talking about—buildings with function and architectural design. And by rewriting the rules, the de Blasio administration thinks it has a better shot at delivering the 120,000 new units of affordable housing it has promised. First, the city addresses burdensome parking requirements for affordable and senior housing developments. Within a so-called “Transit Zone”—areas in Upper Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens that have good access to mass transit—the city will eliminate parking requirements for senior housing and low-income or inclusionary housing developments. And, on a “case-by-case” basis within this zone, the city could slash parking minimums for new mixed-income buildings. Outside of the zone, the city says it will “simplify or reduce” parking requirements for affordable housing and senior housing. On the design front, the city hopes that updating “Contextual Zoning” controls from 1987 will give rise to less generic housing.“The tightness of contextual zoning controls constrain housing production and raise costs, and too often results in buildings that are flat and relate poorly to the street,” the DCP said in its report. A lot has changed in the AEC world since the 1980s and the city wants to allow designers and builders to take full advantage of all their new tricks and tools. This could mean more buildings like The Stack (above), a modular building in Inwood that was designed by Gluck+ and assembled in less than a year. The city is not touching existing floor-to-area (FAR) ratio limits with this proposal, but hopes that by loosening zoning controls and boosting height limits (between 5–15 feet in medium and high density areas), developers can take better advantage of allowed buildable space; current limits tend to force developers to produce boxy, boring buildings. "To fit full FAR," explained the DCP, "ceiling heights are reduced, building facade is flat and upper‐story layouts are awkward.” Boosting height limits would also open up more interesting massing and programmatic options with possible building setbacks and courtyards, and ground-floor retail and community spaces. As for building facades, the DCP only lays out some vague bullet points about how it will "update and clarify regulations to support traditional types of building variation” and “make transparency and design requirements consistent" for ground floor spaces. While this package of proposals has the potential—again, the potential—to create more architecturally interesting buildings, it is ultimately a means to make it easier to build and develop affordable and senior housing. The DCP expects to kick off a public review of its plan this summer.