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!
Posts tagged with "Bill de Blasio":
Mayor Bill de Blasio has signed legislation to lower New York City’s default speed limit from 30 miles per hour to 25. The measure was recently passed by the City Council and is one of the central policy pieces of Vision Zero—the mayor's plan to eliminate traffic fatalities in the city. “We’re here today to make good on a commitment to save lives in this city,” the mayor said at the top of the press conference, which was held on the Lower East Side near where 12-year-old Dashane Santana was struck and killed by a car in 2012. Dashane's grandmother, as well as other families who have lost loved ones in traffic accidents, stood behind the mayor as he put pen to paper. According to the mayor’s office, come November 7th, about 90 percent of the city’s streets will have a speed limit of 25 miles per hour or lower. To inform drivers of these changes, the NYC DOT has launched a public awareness campaign and will be installing 3,000 new speed limit signs over the next year. The five mile per hour change may seem minor, but an individual hit by a car traveling 30 miles per hour is twice as likely to die than from one traveling 25. Citing numbers from "last year" (which actually appear to be from fiscal year 2011–2012) Mayor de Blasio noted that 291 people were killed in traffic accidents in New York City. "That's almost as many people lost to traffic fatalities that were lost to murder," he said. Of those killed in traffic accidents, 115 were drivers and 176 were cyclists or pedestrians. In 2013, according to city data, 286 people died in traffic accidents in New York, but according to the New York State DMV, that number is actually higher, 294. "Part of the discrepancy may come from the fact that often people who sustain life threatening or critical injuries may not die for many months after being hit," said Alana Miller, Transportation Alternative's policy coordinator, in an email. The NYC DOT did not respond to AN's request for more information on the numbers mentioned by Mayor de Blasio. These recent figures, though, follow about 10 years of dropping traffic fatalities. "The significant decline in traffic deaths over the last decade is not an accident," said Miller. "It is the result of smart traffic safety policies that have redesigned dangerous streets, installed protected bike lanes, widened sidewalks and put in pedestrian islands, created safer speed limits around schools and slow zones where communities have identified speeding problems, and installed cameras to deter driving behavior." Now, thanks to early Vision Zero interventions, Mayor de Blasio said the rate is once again decreasing. "As of last Thursday, citywide pedestrian fatalities were down over 20 percent from the same point last year," he said. "Overall traffic-related fatalities were down nearly seven percent. Vision Zero has just begun, but look at that progress." At this point, it's hard to say if that reduction is from Vision Zero, or if the numbers are reverting to the early-2000's trends. Despite this year's reduction in traffic fatalities, the numbers are still quite grim—especially for cyclists. According to data compiled by WNYC, as of mid-October, 200 people have been killed in traffic accidents this calendar year. The rate is down slightly from last year, but WNYC noted that 17 cyclists have been killed since January 1st, which is more than twice as many were killed last year.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has appointed Faith Rose, a former senior design liaison at the Department of Design and Construction (DDC), to lead the city's Public Design Commission. According to the mayor's office, in her new role, Rose "will be charged with building on the Public Design Commission’s history of prioritizing the quality and excellence of the public realm, enhancing and streamlining the Commission’s review process, and fostering accessibility, diversity and inclusion in the City’s public buildings and spaces." The commission's incoming executive director holds a masters from the Yale School of Architecture and cofounded the Brooklyn-based O'Neill Rose Architects in 2008. In July, AN covered the young firm's interior renovation of an Upper West Side townhouse, which is pictured above. "Our early interests in sculpture, fairytales and literary theory bring a richness and diversity to our work," explains O'Neill Rose on its website. "Our architecture seeks balance between the everyday and the unexpected, by exploring materials and exploiting methods of construction." "Faith is an excellent choice for the Design Commission," David Burney, the former DDC commissioner, told AN in an email. "From her work at DDC where she was the agency liaison with the Commission she has seen the process from the agency side. This perspective will enable her to ensure a smooth process for projects through the review process. Faith’s background in supporting the Design & Construction excellence program is also vital. The Design Commission may now be the only part of the new administration where design quality is in real focus, so the role of the Commission is vitally important."
When the final phase of the High Line opened in September, Mayor de Blasio was not there to celebrate—neither was his Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver, reported the New York Times. The mayor was off to Pittsburgh that day and Silver apparently had a scheduling conflict so deputies for both men were sent instead. But if the mayor would have made it to the opening, it would have been his first time on the High Line. Ever. "I am a fan of it,” the mayor reportedly said when asked about his absence at the park. “I think it’s done a lot of good for the city, but I haven’t visited.” This is surprising for two reasons. First, the obvious: he’s the mayor of New York and the High Line is one of the city’s most celebrated and beloved destinations. It's even featured in his administration’s promotional video for the city's bid to host the 2016 Democratic National Convention at the Barclays Center. And, second, if you’ve visited the High Line recently, you know the place is packed—it seems that every single human being on planet earth is up there alongside you. Last year, nearly five million people strolled across the old rail line. So why wasn't the mayor among the millions? It partly comes down to politics. As the Times explained: “[The High Line] is also associated with the themes Mr. de Blasio railed against in his campaign for mayor, when he denounced the 'almost colonial dynamic' between a gentrifying Manhattan and the city’s other boroughs. The park has attracted a string of luxury buildings to the Far West Side and is a cherished cause of wealthy Manhattanites in Mr. Bloomberg’s circles." [h/t Curbed.]
Last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled his plan to reduce New York City’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent over 2005 levels by 2050. Needless to say, that's a pretty ambitious target, but this mayor seems to like ambitious targets—his plan to build or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing over the next decade comes to mind. But back to his latest plan, the climate plan. While this decades-long strategy will certainly evolve, it is focused around retrofitting the city’s building stock to reduce emissions. A key focus of these retrofits, at both city-owned and privately-owned buildings, will be installing solar panels. To kick-off that piece of the plan, the mayor is starting with schools. Speaking on Monday at the John F. Kennedy campus in the Bronx, where solar panels have been installed on nine schools, de Blasio announced that 24 additional schools would also be going solar. "These 24 projects we’re talking about today are part of a larger commitment," said the mayor. "They’re going to be an important part because they’re going to help lead the way in our efforts to use much more renewable energy in New York City." The mayor said that this investment would triple the amount of solar power collected on the roofs of city buildings. The city will cover $23 million of the $28 million investment, with the rest being covered by a grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. Over the next decade, the mayor wants to install solar panels on over 300 city-owned buildings, which would generate about 100 megawatts of power, according to the administration.
By 2019, two new Staten Island Ferry vessels should be crisscrossing the New York Harbor. Outside of the Whitehall Ferry Terminal this morning, United States Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced that New York City had been awarded a $191 million grant to design and construct these vessels that will be more agile and storm-resilient than what's in the ferry's current fleet. These funds will also allow the city to invest in resiliency measures at the ferry's terminals and at surrounding public transit systems. This federal grant was just one component of the U.S. DOT's latest round of Sandy-related funding, which provides over $3 billion for resiliency measures for the East Coast's public transit systems. Roughly 90 percent of this money is allocated for projects in New York State and New Jersey. “The projects we are funding aren’t exactly what you would call glamorous projects,” said Secretary Foxx at the announcement, “many of them will be invisible to many riders, but they will give this region a fighting chance to withstand the kind of punishment that mother nature can mete out.” To prevent the type of catastrophic flooding seen at the South Ferry subway station during Hurricane Sandy, Foxx said street-level vents would be sealed and pump rooms would be flood-proofed. As the city and state continue to rebuild after Sandy, though, there are difficult questions about whether areas that are especially vulnerable to rising sea levels should be rebuilt at all. When asked about that issue by AN, New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said the city would not stop building in threatened areas. “This region is home to 15 million people and clearly we are here to stay," she said. "I think our job is to make wise decisions about where to make investments, but, certainly, I think you can see from where we are in Lower Manhattan, which is one of the financial capitals of the world, we’re going to be rebuilding, and we’re going to making it stronger than ever.” Today’s press conference comes a day after roughly 400,000 people marched through the streets of Midtown, Manhattan in the People's Climate March—the largest climate march in history. Event organizers hope the massive showing will pressure global leaders to take action on climate change at the UN Climate summit this week. Ahead of that march, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that New York City will attempt to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050, based on 2005 figures. To achieve this very ambitious goal, the city said it will retrofit its 4,000 public buildings and incentivizing private building owners to increase energy efficiency. Specifically, the city pledged to invest in on-site, green power generators, install 100 megawatts of solar capacity on over 300 public buildings, and to “implement leading edge performance standards for new construction that cost effectively achieve highly efficient buildings, looking to Passive House, carbon neutral, or ‘zero net energy” ‘strategies to inform the standards.” Mayor de Blasio's climate plan builds upon Mayor Bloomberg's, which set out to reduce the city's greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2030.
The federal Department of Transportation has issued its latest round of its Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants for cities and states around the country. The grant program was created in 2009 through President Obama’s economic stimulus package and has since provided $3.5 billion to 270 projects. While the DOT has not officially announced the recipients of these new grants, which total $600 million, multiple politicians have been touting the money heading to their districts. Here are some of the projects we know about so far. In New York, Senator Chuck Schumer and Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the New York City Department of Transportation will receive $25 million for its Vision Zero agenda to reduce pedestrian fatalities. According to the city, the money will fund 13 projects aimed at traffic calming, safety improvements in school zones, new public spaces, and “pedestrian and bike connections to employment centers.” Specifically, the money will be used to extend the Brooklyn Greenway and make 4th Avenue in Sunset Park, Brooklyn safer to pedestrians. In Philadelphia, $2.5 million has been awarded to support the city’s effort to create a bus rapid transit system along Roosevelt Boulevard. “Planned developments on Roosevelt Boulevard include modifications to provide safe pedestrian crossings, transit access, and effective separation of express traffic from local traffic accessing neighborhood destinations,” Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey said in a statement. In Virginia, U.S. Senator Mark Warner announced that nearly $25 million has been allocated for a bus rapid transit system in the city of Richmond. The Times Dispatch reported that for this project to happen, the federal money must be matched with about $17 million from the Department of Rail and Public Transportation and another $8 million from Henrico County and the City of Richmond. In St. Louis, $10 million will go towards a new Metrolink station in the city’s emerging Cortex innovation district. The funding will cover almost all of the $13 million project which is expected to be complete in 2017. On the other side of the state, in Kansas City, $1.2 million has been awarded for the Mid-America Regional Council’s Workforce Connex planning to study to better connect the city’s workers with public transit.
The New York City Department of Transportation recently broke ground on the second phase of Fordham Plaza's reconstruction in the Bronx. The revamped space will have all the standard-issue pieces of a New York City pedestrian plaza—the planters, benches, seating, trees, lights, and kiosks—but, ultimately, the plaza represents a significant investment in existing transportation infrastructure. Along with the new seating and the new café, the renovation of Fordham Plaza also includes a new canopy and ticketing machines for the adjacent Metro North station, as well as a new bus loop, seating, and shelters for commuters. The project also incorporates elements of Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero agenda through shortened pedestrian crossings, new direct crossings, and an overall increase of pedestrian space by 25 percent. “This project will significantly improve transit riders’ access to the area’s 12 bus lines and rail transportation while also taking advantage of the more than 80,000 pedestrians and potential customers that walk through the area daily,” Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said in a statement. Streetsblog reported that WXY completed a conceptual design for the plaza in 2010, but documents from the Department of Design and Construction show that Grimshaw, with Mathews Nielsen, is behind the updated site plan. The $10 million project is funded through a TIGER Grant from the federal Department of Transportation and is expected to open next fall. According to the NYC DOT, there are currently 46 pedestrian plazas in the city with 18 more in the works. Four of those already-open plazas are in the Bronx and there are three more on the way.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed a bill that allows New York City to lower its default speed limit from 30 miles per hour to 25. The legislation, which is expected to go into effect within 90 days, is part of the city's ongoing effort to reduce traffic fatalities. Specifically, reducing the city's speed limit has been one of the central pieces of Mayor de Blasio's Vision Zero agenda. "This is another vital step toward making New York City streets safer for every family," Mayor de Blasio said in a statement. "Our Vision Zero initiative’s mission is to save lives, and that is precisely what this legislation accomplishes."
All the top names in New York City architecture are vying for a piece of Brooklyn Bridge Park, but whether any of their designs will be realized still remains to be seen. As community groups try to block Mayor de Blasio’s controversial plans to bring affordable housing to Michael Van Valkenburgh's celebrated park, the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation has unveiled 14 design proposals for two coveted development sites on Pier 6. Those proposals were unveiled just hours before a Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation meeting that was packed with community members voicing their strong opposition to any new development in the park. The RFP that the corporation issued in May called for two towers—one 315 feet and the other 155—that are 30 percent affordable. This plan has been met with plenty of opposition, and even a lawsuit, from local groups who claim the towers will block views, eat up green space, and not provide appropriate funding for the park. Under a Bloomberg-era deal, revenue from private development at the park is intended to cover its upkeep and maintenance costs. At the meeting, local residents asked the corporation to reevaluate that plan and pursue other forms of funding. Most were adamantly opposed to new residential towers at the 85-acre park. "This is about developer's greed," shouted one woman during the meeting who was quickly met with applause. There were two individuals with signs that read "Parks for All / Not Condo$ for a Few" and even kids stationed right in front of the corporation's members with homemade signs that read "Save Our Park" and "We Love Our Park." Ultimately, the corporation voted 10-3 not to revisit the funding plan. It will, however, complete a new environmental review of the site. As the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday, if the lawsuit can be resolved, a decision on the site should be made by the end of the year and construction could start about year after that. The proposals for the pier, which were barely mentioned at the meeting, came from architects including Morris Adjmi, Pelli Clarke Pelli,Bjarke Ingels, Davis Brody Bond, and Selldorf Architects, among others. You can check out all 14 proposals in the slideshow below, which reveal a wide variety of tower aesthetics rendered with most of the standbys we've come to expect in modern visualizations—hot air balloons, regular balloons, and plenty of birds. Surprisingly, not a single kayak.
In the past week, those two words—"poor door"—have quickly come to signify the vast inequality embedded in New York City’s housing market. At issue is a separate entrance for tenants living in subsidized rental units in a luxury condo building on the Upper West Side known as 40 Riverside. The property, developed by Extell, was financed through the city’s inclusionary housing program, which grants a tax abatement and additional bulk to developers who include a certain portion of “affordable” units in a project. At 40 Riverside, that means 55 units—or 20 percent of the building—will be rented to families earning between $35,280 and $50,340, according to the New York Times. Those permanently affordable units will be on lower floors and will not face the river. And, of course, there’s the matter of how the tenants get to those units in the first place. The plan for the “poor door” was revealed last summer, but it has received a fresh round of criticism this week after the New York Post reported that the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development gave it the go-ahead. The story got an extra push when comments made by David Von Spreckelsen, senior vice president at Toll Brothers, last summer resurfaced. “No one ever said that the goal was full integration of these populations,” he told the Real Deal. “I think it’s unfair to expect very high-income homeowners who paid a fortune to live in their building to have to be in the same boat as low-income renters, who are very fortunate to live in a new building in a great neighborhood.” After the story broke, the de Blasio administration, which has made fighting inequality its major focus, quickly laid the blame on Mayor Bloomberg. "This specific project was given a green light by the previous administration and had multiple stories already built by the time we walked in the door. The previous administration changed the law to enable this kind of development,” an administration spokesperson told Newsweek. “We fundamentally disagree with that approach, and we are in the process of changing it to reflect our values and priorities." The administration, and a host of local pols, are vowing to end the practice once and for all by changing the city’s zoning code. Obviously, the optics of all of this are pretty awful. Gary Barnett, the founder of Extell has said as much. “Separate entrances doesn’t sound good,” he told the New York Post. Making matters worse for Barnett is that his company is developing some of the city’s most expensive and controversial towers, including the 1,000-foot-tall Christian de Portzamparc–designed One57, where a penthouse reportedly sold for $95 million. Extell is also behind a 1,775-foot-tall tower just down the block on 57th Street that will become the “tallest residential building in the world.” Apartments won’t be cheap there either—paging the one percent... Yes, even within the framework of the “Tale of Two Cities,” (which de Blasio repeatedly evoked on his rise to City Hall), the very notion of a “poor door”—whether you call it that or not—sounds too farfetched, too immoral to ever be dreamt up, let alone designed, built, and left ajar. Many have been quick to mention the racial component of having a door for the rich and a door for the poor—noting that more black and brown people will be passing through the latter. The “poor door” would also seem to go directly against the very housing policy that made it possible. The whole idea behind inclusionary zoning is to create mixed-income buildings in very desirable (read: expensive) neighborhoods. Because, from a purely financial standpoint, inclusionary zoning is not the most cost-effective way to actually create affordable units. But what Extell is doing at 40 Riverside is not unprecedented. There are poor doors in the glassy, government-subsidized luxury buildings lining the Williamsburg waterfront. And, thanks to Bloomberg, this is perfectly allowed within the city’s zoning code, at least for the time being. As the Nation explained, “projects making use of [inclusionary zoning incentives] have tended to be large, and the affordable apartments provided have either been mixed in with the market units or else located in separate portions of the buildings, even in separate buildings. Of course, separate buildings require separate entrances, hence the ‘poor door.’” Developers, like Barnett, say they have no choice, but to stick the subsidized units in less desirable parts of a luxury building. “If you say that in any project getting an inclusionary bonus zoning, the affordable units would have to take up some of our best views and units, nobody would build them,” he told the Post. At 40 Riverside, the subsidized units are essentially in a separate building, which explains the two doors. But in cases where two doors exists, one of them is typically not exclusive to the wealthy tenants, as noted by the Real Deal. It’s not surprising that the "poor door" has received so much attention in the past week. For one, “poor door” makes for great copy and it's easy to pile on to developers in cases like this. And it's not surprising that people have had such a visceral reaction to what has been called a "separate but equal" arrangement. But, ultimately, the “poor door” is just a blatant symptom of the city’s housing crisis. And the housing crisis is a reflection of extreme inequality in New York City and around the world. How bad is it exactly? As condos in luxury towers built by Extell and the like repeatedly sell for tens of millions of dollars, nearly half the city lives in poverty. And, according to the city comptroller, from 2000–2012, median rents in the city rose 75 percent while median household income fell nearly 5 percent. This is the context in which something like the “poor door” can even exist. The context in which people have to enter a lottery for an affordable place to live. Given the international reaction this story has received—and the elected officials who have pledged to end the practice—the next “poor door” could very well close before anyone walks through it. The same cannot be said for the harsh reality that made it possible in the first place. That is a thorny, complicated, global issue, but one that deserves just as much passion and outrage directed at the doors on Riverside. Unfortunately, that issue cannot be packaged in the same way. If only it rhymed.
There's a game of musical chairs and commissioners happening in New York City politics right now. With former Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) chair Meenakshi Srinivasan now heading the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), Mayor de Blasio has nominated Margery Perlmutter to fill the vacant role. Perlmutter—who would go to the BSA from the LPC where she is a commissioner—is a registered architect and a lawyer who focuses on land-use issues. The mayor also announced two new picks for LPC commissioners including Adi Shamir Baron, the former executive director of the Van Alen Institute, and John Gustafsson, chairman of the Board of the Historic House Trust of New York City.