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.
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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.
As AN covered earlier this month, Mayor de Blasio’s plan to bring affordable housing to Brooklyn Bridge Park has received steep opposition from local groups in neighboring Brooklyn Heights. They contend new housing development will eat up public space and that under-market housing would not provide necessary funding for park maintenance. Under a Bloomberg-era plan, revenue from private, market-rate development would help cover upkeep at the Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates-designed park. Under de Blasio, 30 percent of the two proposed towers for the park–one 31 stories and the other 16–would be subsidized. The groups opposing that plan have now formalized their opposition against it. According to the Wall Street Journal the park neighbors opposing the project filed a motion in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn on Friday to stop the city from selecting a developer for the project. The publication reported, "the suit being heard Friday cited the enormous popularity of the park, the growth of the surrounding neighborhoods, increasing traffic and overcrowded schools. It seeks to force the park corporation to redo a required environmental impact statement that dates to 2005. The suit also said the original plans required that housing be developed only if it was needed to pay for the park." In the meantime, Gothamist reported that the rising condos designed by Marvel Architects are already blocking views of the Brooklyn Bridge and Midtown Manhattan.
In the decade since it was rezoned, Downtown Brooklyn has grown up in a big way. Just look at its skyline and the new apartment towers and hotels that call it home. The open air between those buildings will soon be filled because development isn't slowing down—it's just getting started. But the next decade of change in Downtown Brooklyn could offer much more than the first. That's because as new buildings rose, the area’s street-level never kept pace: public space is still scarce and underused, streets are hard to navigate and dangerous, and educational and cultural institutions have been disconnected. Today, however, Mayor de Blasio announced strategies to change all that by injecting the booming district with new (or refurbished) parks, redesigned streetscapes, new retail, and better connections between its many cultural and educational institutions. These investments could be transformative in their own right, but are especially notable given Mayor de Blasio’s hesitancy to talk about the importance of urban design. To be clear, New York City’s commitment to safe, livable streets did not die when Mayor Bloomberg walked out the door. In de Blasio's New York, there have been new bike lanes and the like, but the mayor doesn't speak about these issues with the force of his predecessor. That seemed to change today as this plan goes all in on urbanism. “This is one of the city’s great success stories, and we have an incredible opportunity to take these stunning communities, parks, and institutions and knit them together,” Mayor de Blasio said in a statement. “The investments we are making will help Downtown Brooklyn continue its rise, generate good jobs, and make this a more dynamic neighborhood to live and work.” The plan starts where Downtown Brooklyn starts—at the mouth of the Brooklyn Bridge. The City plans to transform the 21-acre patchwork of underused parks and public plazas between the bridge and Borough Hall into a “great promenade and gateway into Brooklyn.” The renovated space, known as the "Brooklyn Strand," will be designed to better connect with the area's transit hubs and the celebrated Brooklyn Bridge Park, designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates. This strategy follows a study commissioned by the Brooklyn Tech Triangle - a cluster of tech companies in Downtown Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and DUMBO. It was led by WXY. While not mentioned explicitly, Vision Zero factors into this plan though the City's strategies to make certain corridors more bike and pedestrian friendly. This includes a multi-million dollar transformation of the Brooklyn side of the Brooklyn Bridge—a plan that was conceived under Bloomberg and is slated to break ground next year. Over on Willoughby Street, the City will "explore non-traditional roadway design that recognizes and accommodates the heavy use of the area by pedestrians." ARUP is working with the city on that redesign. The City has also pledged to build a new one-acre public park in Downtown Brooklyn and refurbish two others—Fox Square and BAM Park. The latter has been closed to the public for decades, but will be spruced up by WXY. Fox Square will be renewed by AKRF, with Mathews Nielsen. To boost business in Downtown Brooklyn, the City will offer-up some of its own ground-floor space to retail tenants. It may also consolidate its 1.4 million square feet to provide affordable office space for businesses. And there are plans to launch a consortium between Downtown Brooklyn’s 11 colleges to “better connect the tech, creative, and academic communities.” This is intended to best prepare students for jobs at Brooklyn’s Tech Triangle. The Economic Development Corporation will provide $200,000 in seed funding to kickstart that initiative. As part of this plan, the emerging Brooklyn Cultural District, which straddles the blurry border between Downtown Brooklyn and Fort Greene, could get its very own Businesses Improvement District (BID). The City said it will work with the over 60 cultural groups in the district to market the area as a preeminent cultural hub. Of course, at this point, these are all fairly vague proposals—just ideas on paper unbound by hard deadlines. But this announcement shows that as Downtown Brooklyn builds toward the sky, the City will refocus on the people walking, biking, studying, and working on the streets below.
Winners of the 32nd Annual Awards for Excellence in Design were announced last night at the Thomas Leeser–designed BRIC Arts Media House in Brooklyn’s emerging Cultural District. Mayor Bill de Blasio was on hand to honor the winning projects, which were selected by the city’s Design Commission. "While Brooklyn is my home borough, I am proud to be awarding a diverse group of projects representing all five New York City boroughs," the mayor said in a statement. "This year's winners exemplify the Design Commission's mission to enhance every New Yorker's quality of life through public design, regardless of their size or location of the project." The 10 winning proposals are all unbuilt, but two special recognition awards were awarded to Tod Williams Billie Tsien’s LeFrak Center in Prospect Park and Louis Kahn’s Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island. Cornell Tech's First Academic Building According to the New York Design Commission:
Cornell Tech's first academic building establishes an inspiring atmosphere for graduate-level research that will foster interdisciplinary collaboration with shared work areas and flexible learning spaces. The dynamic facade features bronze-colored perforated metal panels with strategic openings to the glass curtain wall beneath to control natural lighting and capture views of Manhattan and Queens. A monumental stair tower extrudes from the main structure above the lobby space to unmistakably mark the entrance along the central pedestrian walkway. The expansive undulating canopy does double duty in shading the roof surface to reduce thermal load and supporting an array of photovoltaic panels. At the ground level, an outdoor cafe offers views south to the central plaza and lawn, which will ultimately form the heart of the campus.Four Directions from Hunters Point According to the New York Design Commission:
Whether tucked between book shelves, pushing up through the roof deck, or peeking out of the Q in the library's sign, Julianne Swartz's portal lenses serve to engage, orient, and disorient the viewer. Each lens presents a different optical distortion of the vista beyond-capturing a wide angle of the sky, inverting the Manhattan skyline, or multiplying focal points of the library's garden. Taken together, the portals mirror the fundamental purpose of a library, where visitors seek out information, find themselves transported to new realities, and come away with a different perspective.Sunset Park Playground Reconstruction According to the New York Design Commission:
This sensitive playground reconstruction maximizes play value while respecting the aesthetic established in the 1930s, when Robert Moses included the original playground as part of the Works Progress Administration reconstruction of Sunset Park. Within an enlarged footprint, undulating pathways define the perimeter, separate play spaces by age group, and unite all users at a central spray shower with in-ground jets. By incorporating grade changes, these paths double as play features-challenging children to climb, balance, and explore. The planting palette adds multi-stem trees, shrubs, and groundcovers to complement the mature shade trees and incorporate seasonal interest.Peace Clock According to the New York Design Commission:
Located across First Avenue from the United Nations headquarters, Lina Viste Grønli's sculpture celebrates the legacy of Trygve Lie, the first Secretary-General of the United Nations. The Peace Clock is a 17-foot-diameter brass kinetic sculpture that functions abstractly as a clock. Twice a day, the hands of the clock form the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament Symbol-more colloquially known as the Peace Sign. Inspired by the history of the UN's formation and Lie's dedication to peace and fundamental human freedom, Grønli's clock stands as a reminder that time is both fleeting and infinite, always offering the opportunity to achieve world peace.Joseph A. Verdino Jr. Grandstand According to the New York Design Commission:
Since its inception 60 years ago, the South Shore Little League has been a vibrant community institution, enriching the lives of thousands of children. The new grandstand, named in memory of a young player, is formed by a series of glue-laminated bents clad in a perforated metal screen with white painted supergraphics and a standing seam metal roof. With covered seating for 275 spectators, an elevated press box, a conference room, and protected dugouts, this simple yet elegant structure is a home run!Conference House Park Pavilion According to the New York Design Commission:
Perched at the water's edge, not far from the 17th-century stone Conference House, the pavilion presents a simple yet contemporary complement to the historic structure. Set atop piles to raise it out of the floodplain, the structure forms a light and airy overlook and event space. The pavilion's arched canopy layers translucent fiberglass over naturally moisture-resistant, glue-laminated cedar rafters to maximize natural light while shielding visitors from sun or inclement weather. A series of stone walls set into the upland lawn offers an attractive seating option but also works to control runoff along the slope.New York Botanical Garden's East Gate Entrance, Edible Academy, and Family Garden According to the New York Design Commission:
The redesign of the east entrance literally bridges the gap from the neighboring community to the Botanical Garden's horticultural collections and programming. Visitors follow a winding path through a verdant slope and cross a domestic hardwood pedestrian bridge over the valley to find the state-of-the-art Edible Academy and Family Garden. Employing simple shed structures, the design showcases sustainable features, including a greenroof system, solar panels, and geothermal heating and cooling. With classrooms featuring glass hangar doors for easy access to the garden plots and a decked overlook with views of the Bronx River, the Edible Academy and Family Garden promises to be an engaging and bucolic learning space.Alley Pond Environmental Center According to the New York Design Commission:
Set back from the busy thoroughfare of Northern Boulevard, the environmental center is nestled at the edge of Alley Pond Park. The redesigned center nearly doubles the size of the current facility, enhancing the staff's ability to serve the 50,000 schoolchildren who visit annually. While a glazed brick facade presents a buffer to the road, the classrooms have large windows providing views into the park, and access to an exterior deck. The two facade treatments are unified by a sloped standing-seam metal roof, which folds down to drain water into an adjacent rain garden. By incorporating good environmental building practices, the Center's new home is itself a teaching tool, helping the Center achieve its mission to preserve the city's natural landscape.SPECIAL RECOGNITION FOR COMPLETED PROJECTS FDR'S Four Freedoms Park According to the New York Design Commission:
Four Freedoms Park commemorates President Franklin D. Roosevelt and celebrates the freedoms articulated in his famous 1941 State of the Union speech: Freedom of Speech and Expression, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want, and Freedom from Fear. Designed by Louis I. Kahn, the project was only realized nearly 40 years after his death. The design capitalizes on the island's thin, triangular tip with a tapered lawn extending from the top of a grand entry stair, flanked with allées of littleleaf linden trees. The symmetrical plan focuses the visitor's gaze toward the threshold of an openair room partially enclosed with monumental slabs of granite, which contain an excerpt from Roosevelt's speech. A master statesman and a master architect have, between them, given us a remarkable public space in which to contemplate these four essential freedoms.LeFrak Center at Lakeside According to the New York Design Commission:
Constructed of rough-hewn granite and cloaked in earthen roofs, the LeFrak Center maintains a respectful low profile within the surrounding landmarked park. The one-story structures are linked with a bridge at roof level and frame an open-air elliptical skating rink and a regulation sized hockey rink. The hockey rink's monumental canopy features a midnight blue ceiling carved with silver shapes inspired by figure skating footwork. In the warmer months, the rinks are thawed out for roller skating, special events, and a water play feature for children. Combined with the restoration of the lakeside landscape, the construction of the LeFrak Center is the most ambitious capital project in Prospect Park since the park was completed in 1867.
In his ongoing effort to eliminate traffic fatalities through Vision Zero, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has signed 11 new traffic safety bills. According to Streetsblog, the bills “suspend the licenses of dangerous taxi drivers, require the installation of 20 mph Slow Zones, and make it a misdemeanor to strike a pedestrian or cyclist with the right of way, among other changes.” These bills were signed at PS 152 in Queens, where 8-year-old Noshat Nahian was struck and killed by a truck in December. It was at that school, one month later, where Mayor de Blasio announced his Vision Zero plan to dramatically improve street safety throughout the city. At the signing on Monday, the mayor also said that legislation recently passed by the state senate, which lowers New York City’s default speed limit from 30 miles per hour to 25 MPH, will go into effect this fall.
At a recent transportation forum hosted by the New York Building Congress, New York City Transportation Commissioner, Polly Trottenberg, laid-out her agenda for the city’s streets. She said implementing Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero plan to reduce traffic fatalities remains the department’s first priority, but made clear that, under her leadership, the NYCDOT will be doing more than safety upgrades. Trottenberg praised her predecessor, Janette Sadik-Khan, for “cracking some eggs” and fighting for bike lanes, bikeshare, Select Bus Service, and pedestrian plazas when it was not politically popular to do so. She explained that Sadik-Khan’s commitment to these types of programs—and the Bloomberg administration’s ability to realize them—makes her job that much easier. The challenge now is keeping up with the demand for new public space. According to Trottenberg, the NYCDOT is actively pursuing ways to expand these initiatives around the city—especially farther out into the boroughs. The department's wildly popular pedestrian plazas, though, could be more difficult to implement outside of Manhattan and hotspots in Brooklyn. In places like Times Square and Herald Square, explained Trottenberg, the plazas' construction and maintenance can be supported by Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) and deep-pocketed interests. This type of financial backing may be harder to secure in more middle-class and working-class neighborhoods. But while the most high-profile plazas are in Manhattan, this program has already been successfully implemented in parts of the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens. The commissioner also expressed support for congestion pricing, but did not explicitly endorse any plan. When asked about recent polling on the issue—which found modest support for the idea—she dismissed the numbers outright, saying poll respondents will always say "no" when asked about paying more for something. For congestion pricing to happen, she said, it will take politicians who can see past the politics. “If you’re waiting for a magical poll where people say, ‘yes, I’ll pay,’ it’s not going to happen,” she said. While Sadik-Khan broke significant ground on New York’s public space—physically and metaphorically—continuing to change the streetscape will not be easy. “We make things in New York very complicated,” said Trottenberg. A big reason for that is what she called the “Byzantine nature” of how the city’s infrastructure is divvied up between agencies and jurisdictions. It can be difficult, even for her, to know who oversees what road or bridge, and why exactly that is. Still, the city is in a much better place to make the case for public space than it was just a few years ago, back during the infamous bike lane wars of 2011. Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Sadik-Khan blazed the path, and now their successors seem intent to pave it forward.