Posts tagged with "Bill de Blasio":

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How New York City plans to make affordable housing taller and more architecturally interesting

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.
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De Blasio administration unveils East New York rezoning to promote affordable housing

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.”
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In second State of the City address, Mayor de Blasio focuses on New York City housing

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.
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In first year of Vision Zero, NYPD steps up traffic enforcement

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.
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Could New York learn from these temporary affordable prefab homes in the Netherlands?

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?
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New York City to remove 96 sites from landmark consideration

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.
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New York City to get 10,000 free public Wi-Fi portals

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.
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Tonight> AIANY presents A Changing Landscape: Public Space and the New Administration

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!
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Mayor de Blasio signs legislation to lower New York City's default speed limit

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.
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Faith Rose tapped as Executive Director of New York City's Public Design Commission

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."
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Wait, what? New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has never been on the High Line

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.]
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Mayor de Blasio announces $28 million plan to install solar panels on New York City schools

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.