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.
Posts tagged with "Bill de Blasio":
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.
The de Blasio Administration has unveiled new details for one of the most significant pieces of its ambitious affordable housing plan: the rezoning of Brooklyn’s East New York neighborhood. As New York YIMBY reported, the administration announced that it would “upzone” a stretch of Atlantic Avenue to create what it calls a “growth corridor” that could accommodate residential development up to 12 stories. Moderate density development for surrounding blocks is proposed to support “affordable and mixed-income housing, retail, businesses, and community facilities near transit.” On smaller-scale side streets, the administration hopes to preserve the neighborhood’s existing character by continuing to allow “low scale duplexes, single-family homes and rowhouses.”
Last year, in his first State of the City address, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he would use every tool at his disposal to address economic inequality. He twice repeated a campaign refrain that New York had become a "Tale of Two Cities" where the wealthy do extraordinarily well and everyone else struggles to get by. To change that, the new mayor laid out a host of legislative priorities including an ambitious affordable housing plan that would build or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing over the next decade. One year later, we have an update. With 17,300 affordable units already financed (1,300 more than scheduled), the mayor came back before New Yorkers to say he would do even more to try to keep their rents in check. Most notably, De Blasio plans to boost the city's overall housing supply by creating a taller, denser New York. In addition to his 200,000 unit affordable housing plan, he aims to build 160,000 market-rate units to decrease overall demand. "We are not embarking on a mission to build towering skyscrapers where they don’t belong," De Blasio, who will certainly face development backlash down the road, said today. "We have a duty to protect and preserve the culture and character of our neighborhoods, and we will do so." A key piece of creating new units, both affordable and market-rate, will be rezoning neighborhoods. The mayor said his administration plans to do just that "from East New York to Long Island City; from Flushing West to East Harlem; from downtown Staten Island to the Jerome Avenue Corridor in the Bronx." Per the mayor's mandatory inclusionary zoning requirement, all new market-rate development would have to include affordable housing as well. What percentage of units would be designated affordable has not yet been announced. Along with these rezonings, the mayor said he will continue working with local stakeholders to study ways to build a 200-acre, mixed-use development on top of a rail yard in Sunnyside, Queens. And without offering many specifics, he also called to reform the Department of Buildings to speed up development overall. As part of his push for increased development, de Blasio directly addressed concerns about gentrification. "If you ask 8.4 million New Yorkers what they think of gentrification, you’ll get 8.4 million different answers," he said. To limit the type of displacement that is currently occurring in New York City, the mayor will continue to push for stronger rent laws at the state level. Barring cooperation from Albany, De Blasio said the city will act on its own. "In any of the areas in which the city rezones, if we find evidence that tenants are being harassed, we will supply those tenants with legal representation, at no cost, to take their case to Housing Court," he said. Along with new development, the mayor wants to see big investments in transportation, including a citywide ferry service that will be operational in 2017. For the cost of a Metrocard swipe, said the mayor, residents of the Rockaways, Red Hook, and Soundview could take a ferry ride to Manhattan. The mayor also said his administration plans to complete 20 bus rapid transit routes over the next four years.
Given the current state of relations between the NYPD and Mayor Bill de Blasio (spoiler: terrible, horrible, no good, very bad), the mayor has been quick to thank the police force for its strong support of Vision Zero—the mayor's plan to entirely eliminate traffic fatalities in New York City. The effort is obviously an ambitious one, but a year after it went into effect, de Blasio is able to tout some big successes. The administration recently announced that in 2014, pedestrian fatalities dropped to their lowest level since 1910: 134 deaths, down from 180 the year before. (Two caveats: over the last decade, before Vision Zero was implemented, New York City has seen an overall downward trend in traffic fatalities; and, second, 20 cyclists were killed in 2014, up from 12 the previous year.) De Blasio’s Vision Zero plan has three main components: reduce the city's default speed limit, redesign dangerous streets, and curb dangerous driving through increased traffic enforcement. The first of those three can already be checked off the list; last year, New York City's speed limit was decreased from 30 miles per hour to 25. The second is very much in progress; the city announced that in the first year of Vision Zero, it completed more than 50 major street design projects. And the third big piece of the plan—increasing enforcement—appears to be in swing as well. Streetsblog recently went precinct by precinct, crunching NYPD traffic enforcement numbers and found that, for the most part, officers are issuing more tickets for dangerous driving. “Tickets for speeding and failure to yield last year were up 54 percent over the year before, and up 82 percent over 2012′s numbers,” reported the site. “Importantly, the focus of NYPD’s speeding enforcement is shifting somewhat from highways to surface streets, but the pace of change was still very slow in 2014.” In its first full year, the city’s growing speed camera system also issued 445,000 violations. And failure to yield tickets in 2014 were up 116 percent over the previous year. As Streetsblog noted, the NYPD’s stepped-up traffic enforcement is being felt across the city as every single precinct issued more speeding and failure to yield tickets than it did the year before.
Affordable housing has been a critical part of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s agenda since taking office, promising to create or preserve 200,000 affordable units over the next decade. At a press conference last week, the mayor announced that his administration has made headway toward achieving this ambitious goal, financing over 17,300 affordable homes in the last year (whether his predecessor, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, should have received some credit for this accomplishment has spurred debate). But even with this good news, the demand for affordable housing continues to grow. To help fix this shortage, the administration might want to take a cue from Dutch developer, Heijmans ONE, which has come up with its own win-win idea for alleviating the housing crunch in the Netherlands: putting vacant land to good use with temporary, portable housing. Heijmans ONE designed a one-bedroom prefab house that can be easily assembled in just one day. The house, which rents for 700 euros or $900, kills two birds with one stone: provides an affordable dwelling and activates empty land while construction is stalled on a project. These sleek, pentagonal-shaped homes are designed to have a small carbon footprint, using sustainable wood and solar panels. Once constructed, the house can be connected to the city’s water and sewage, but also designed to operate off the grid. New York City, with its paucity of affordable housing and glut of vacant land, could benefit from this model. Mayor de Blasio and the Department of Housing Preservation & Development have already started rolling out a plan to develop over a 1,000 city-owned properties. In the meantime, why not bring some temporary, affordable housing to sites waiting for long-term development?
In an effort to supposedly streamline New York City’s landmarking process, the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) will drop 96 buildings and sites from consideration for historic preservation. These sites span all five boroughs and include Union Square, Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn, and the Pepsi-Cola sign in Long Island City (above). Of the nearly 96 sites (94 structures and two historic districts), 80 have been calendared for more than 20 years.“The buildings considered for this action were placed on the Commission's calendar, public hearings were held, and they currently remain inactive,” explained the LPC in a statement. While being calendared is kind of like landmarks limbo, it comes with significant protections. “Calendaring means that no demolition, construction, or alteration permits can be granted for a site without first notifying the LPC and allowing them up to forty days to designate the structure or negotiate a change or withdrawal of the permit applications,” explained Andrew Berman, the executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP), in a statement. The Society has called upon the LPC to drop its so-called "mass de-calendaring." Landmarks West!, a committee to promote historic preservation on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, has also slammed the LPC’s planned action, saying the commission is “essentially sentencing [the buildings and sites]to death by bulldozer.” The LPC contends that removing the sites will make the landmarks process smoother. "Cleaning up that backlog will ensure the LPC can much more effectively fulfill its mission of responding to the landmarking issues of today in real time," de Blasio spokesperson Wiley Norvell told DNAinfo. The Commission adds that this action would not stop it from reconsidering landmark status for any of these sites or buildings. After some pressure from DNAinfo and the Manhattan Borough President's office, the LPC has made the list of sites available to the public. The Commission will vote on its "administrative action," this upcoming Monday.
New York City is a city like no other. It’s lousy with things to see: architectural icons, world-famous parks, A-list celebrities, pigeons, food carts, and pigeons eating off of food carts. With so many sites, it's a real bummer that so many New Yorkers walk around the city staring directly into the hollow glow of their phones. This isn't going to change anytime soon, especially with the de Blasio administration announcing that, starting next year, the city's dated payphone system will become "the world’s fastest municipal Wi-Fi network." The system, called LinkNYC, includes 10,000 individual portals—called "Links"—that offer free Wi-Fi (up to 150 feet away), connections to city and emergency services, charging ports, and city information via a digital screen. These kiosks can even make national calls, just like the good 'ole days. The program is being overseen by CityBridge, a group of technology, design, and advertising firms, and will be entirely funded by advertising. So, from a distance at least, Links will likely appear as an ad for a cologne or an airline. (Links in residential neighborhoods are more slender and feature less prominent ad space.) The plan to replace New York City's aging payphone infrastructure with a more 21st century alternative dates back to the Bloomberg years. Almost two years ago, the former mayor announced the Reinvent Payphones Design Competition "to rally urban designers, planners, technologists and policy experts to create physical and virtual prototypes that imagine the future of New York City’s public pay telephones." That following spring, Sage and Coombe Architects’ NYFi portal won the Popular Choice Award. And then a year later, de Blasio issued an RFP to get the next generation payphone actually up and running. That's where we are now: CityBridge has been selected by the city and installation should start early next year. The system could ultimately include up to 10,000 Links. The de Blasio administration said the LinkNYC program will provide reliable, high-speed Wi-Fi across the five boroughs, and plugs into its underlying fight against inequality. “This administration has been committed to expanding affordable access to broadband for all New Yorkers from the outset," Mayor de Blasio said in a statement. "It's essential for everything we need to do to be a fair and just city, because we can't continue to have a digital divide that holds back so many of our citizens.” But, according to a Daily News report, not all Links will perform the same way, at least not as currently planned. "The speedier systems are flanked by advertising—and advertisers prefer wealthier eyes," explained the publication. "As a result, all of the 2,500-plus locations in Manhattan are high speed, giving the borough with 20 percent of the city’s population fully 65 percent of all the fast kiosks. Meanwhile, the Bronx will get speedy Wi-Fi at 361 kiosks—just 6 percent of the fast Wi-Fi stations in the city. The borough will have slower service at 375 non-advertising kiosks, which replace old payphones." An administration official told the Daily News that they are working to rectify the discrepancy.
What is New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's position on design and public space? Does he care about design or think it is simply a prerogative of the city’s middle class populations? It is one the conundrums of the current administration that it wants to create 200,000 units of affordable housing but does not seem to care about the architecture of the buildings or or how they might affect their surrounding neighborhoods. There is much that is laudable in the mayor's push for new affordable housing, but will all this new construction be a step back from the progressive attitude of the Bloomberg administration concerning the physical and spatial aspects of the city? These issues—and others of great concern to the city's design community—will be the topic of discussion tonight at the AIANY's Center for Architecture on LaGuardia Place in a panel discussion called "A Changing Landscape: Public Space and the New Administration." The principal presenters are all architects and landscape designers closely involved in current city projects and proposals for the future: —Susannah Drake of dlandstudio. —Gonzalo V. Cruz of AECOM Landscape Architecture Studio. —Adam Yarinsky of Architecture Research Office. They all have their own positions and thoughts on city government, public policy, and urban design so the roundtable will be a highly entertaining event. I will be moderating the panel and keeping it lively and on point. It starts at 6:00p.m. (More info here.) See you tonight!