Posts tagged with "Bill de Blasio":

Justin Davidson Warns of Looming Shadows at St. John the Divine Development

Rendering for the site. (Courtesy DNA Info /  Emily Frost) New York Magazine’s Justin Davidson has called on Mayor De Blasio to protect the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine from being overshadowed by new apartment towers (massing diagram pictured). The site adjacent to the Cathedral has been cleared and construction seems imminent, but Davidson believes the mayor can get involved to stop the current Handel-designed plans. Instead of two towers, Davidson proposes one taller and more slender tower that's sited farther from the street, more affordable units, and landmark status for the rest of the property. (Image: Courtesy DNA Info / Emily Frost)

De Blasio Appoints Dr. Peña-Mora as New York City’s Design & Construction Commissioner

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has tapped civil engineer Dr. Feniosky Peña-Mora as Department of Design and Construction Commissioner. Peña-More comes to the DDC from Columbia University, where he teaches civil engineering, environmental engineering, engineering mechanics, and computer science. According to a press release from the mayor's office, "Dr. Peña-Mora will be charged with building public works big and small, ranging from making streets safer as part of the Vision Zero initiative, to renovating and constructing municipal facilities." At the announcement, the incoming commissioner said, “Our standards will continue to be high. We will strengthen resiliency, efficiency, and safety in every project we oversee. We hope to build a new generation of streets, public works, and buildings that weave our diverse communities closer together and enrich the fabric of this city.” Before he was a professor at the university, Peña-Mora led the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science. While in that role, he faced criticism for his leadership style. In 2012, he was forced to step down. At the time, the New York Times reported, “A majority of the faculty members and the department chairmen who served under him complained that he was expanding the engineering school too fast, overloading professors with too many students, making promises he did not honor and prioritizing fund-raising over research.”

Video> 48 Crazy Hours In the Life of a Citi Bike

While Citi Bike is publicly bleeding money and senior staff, the program continues to be extremely popular on the streets of New York. The blue bikes have woven themselves into the city’s urban fabric like yellow cabs, or halal carts, or rats eating shwarma that fell off a halal cart. New data released by Citi Bike shows that the bikes aren't just being used by tourists pedaling from MoMA to the High Line—they are a viable transportation option for the city's commuters. Sarah Kaufman of NYU’s Rudin School of Transportation, Juan Francisco Saldarriaga from Columbia’s Spatial Information Design Lab, and designer Jeff Ferzoco took some of Citi Bike's data and translated it into a video to show general patterns of the program. The map represents about 75,000 rides taken over a two-day period in September. Their work, which shows purple dots zipping around Brooklyn and Manhattan, isn’t too surprising: ridership is up dramatically around rush hour and is most concentrated in the financial district and Midtown. Researchers at NYU also discovered that Citi Bike has become a viable transit alternative—especially when the MTA is experiencing delays. So, Citi Bike has become a valuable transit alternative. “For the month of September, there is evidence of ‘reactionary biking,’ in which subway riders encountering delays likely switched modes to bike share for that trip,” they explain. And as the map shows, most people using the system are yearly members. That's great for New Yorkers—a one year membership sets them back less than a month on the MTA—but it is killing Citi Bike's bottom line. The program needs to up the yearly membership fee or boost sales on daily passes if it wants to stay solvent and continue to expand. That's because, unlike other bike share programs, Citi Bike receives no public money; and New York City Mayor de Blasio says that’s not going to change. If only there was a bank—perhaps one whose name is plastered all over the bikes—that could just write another check. If only.

De Blasio Taps Queens Museum President for New York City’s Cultural Affairs Commissioner

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has selected Tom Finkelpearl, the Queens Museum president and executive director, as the city’s next cultural affairs commissioner. De Blasio made the announcement at the museum, which recently underwent a significant renovation led by Grimshaw Architects. “With his decades of experience in fortifying the city’s cultural institutions, Tom has developed a deep understanding of the powerful role art and culture play in moving our city forward, and the necessity of increasing access to our creative landmarks for all New Yorkers,” de Blasio said at the announcement. “With Tom at the helm of [the Department of Cultural Affairs], I’m confident that New York City will not only continue to thrive as a global cultural hub, but also make the arts more accessible to New Yorkers in every neighborhood.” As commissioner, Finkelpearl will oversee a $156 million budget and become a key player in the future of the city's world-famous arts institutions. In this capacity, he will also help decide the fate of currently stalled projects like the beleaguered  World Trade Center Performing Arts Center. Arts and cultural programming were a key focus for Mayor Bloomberg, and those in the arts community have been skeptical of his successor's commitment to their field. It should be noted that this appointment comes more than three months after the mayor took office. 

De Blasio Appoints “Tenant-Friendly” Members to New York City’s Rent Guidelines Board

Some much-needed rent relief could be in store for over one million New Yorkers. The New York Observer reports that Mayor Bill de Blasio has appointed five “tenant-friendly” members to the city’s Rent Guidelines Board, which oversees rent increases for rent-stabilized units. During the mayoral campaign, then-candidate de Blasio was quite critical of the Board. At the time, he called for a rent freeze on some units and slammed their decision to allow 4 percent increases on one-year leases. As with most of his appointments thus far, de Blasio is signaling a clear break from his predecessor, Michael Bloomberg. A spokesperson for the de Blasio Administration told The Observer “we plan to undertake an ambitious agenda that confronts the affordability crisis facing the city’s tenants.”

Tenants Drop Lawsuit Over New York City’s Controversial Plan for Private Towers on Public Housing Land

Tenants have officially withdrawn a lawsuit over a Bloomberg-era plan to allow developers to build residential towers on New York City public housing land. The Land-Lease Plan, as it is known, would have allowed the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) to essentially infill open land at their housing developments with new market-rate and low-income apartments.

Since these new towers would replace public parks, playgrounds, and gardens, the plan received strong pushback from the public, and from Democratic mayoral candidates who were running hard against Mayor Bloomberg. This plan, though, certainly had its supporters as it could have been quite lucrative for NYCHA—and for developers as well. The Tenants’ Association, attorneys from the Urban Justice Center, and NYCHA residents recently withdrew the suit given Mayor de Blasio’s intent to ditch the plan—at least in its current form. But, last fall, The New York TimesMichael Kimmelman explained why he thought the plan didn't need to be scrapped entirely. In his “to-do list” for the next mayor, Kimmelman wrote, “these ideas are still worth exploring, if focused on improving and diversifying neighborhoods and knitting them into the fabric of the city — and if done in collaboration with, and to benefit, residents.” We'll see if de Blasio can pull any of that off. [Via The Real Deal.]

Maps Visualize the Challenge of De Blasio’s Vision Zero Plan

With Bill de Blasio making traffic regulation a priority of his fledgling administration, new visualizations of traffic injuries across New York City illustrate what the new mayor is up against in attempting to make such incidents a thing of the past. Statistician and Pratt professor Ben Wellington has used open data documenting traffic fatalities and cyclist injuries to generate heat maps of where in the city such events tended to occur in 2013. The resulting images, published on Wellington's blog I Quant NY, paint a somewhat grim image. A map that simply locates each of last year's 3800 reported cyclist injuries is so swarmed as to be rendered largely uninformative when zoomed out. The heat map generated from this diagram points to the Lower East Side of Manhattan and its cross-river neighbor, Williamsburg, as accident hotbeds. Despite these clear visual trends, such developments do not necessarily indict these two areas as more explicitly dangerous for bikers and then other parts of the city as they do not incorporated ridership density. Thus it is possible that these neighborhoods appear swathed in red simply because their streets play host to a higher amount of two-wheeled traffic than other portions of the city. Williamsburg maintains its scarlet presence in a map depicting 2013 traffic deaths. The East Side makes a slightly less conspicuous appearance while northern parts of Manhattan and the Bronx also reveal a proclivity for such incidents. Wellington identifies Brooklyn's Broadway, Queens Boulevard, and Grand Concourse in the Bronx as particularly deadly roadways. If the mayor gets his wish, generating 2014's iterations of these maps will be a far easier task. Nonetheless the images only reinforce the idea that Vision Zero—and the heat-free maps it would create—appears to be quite a lofty goal.

De Blasio and Domino Sugar Factory Developer At Odds Over Affordable Housing

The $1.5 billion redevelopment of Brooklyn's Domino Sugar Factory has reached a potential breaking point just days before a vote to seal its fate. It’s New York Mayor Bill de Blasio against developer Jed Walentas in what can best be described as an old-fashioned standoff. The lines are drawn—here’s where things stand. The New York Times reports that Mayor de Blasio has insisted that Walentas increase the amount of affordable housing units at the site. In return, his administration will grant approval for taller towers at the SHoP-designed site. Specifically, de Blasio’s team asked for an additional 50,000-square-feet of affordable housing, which would be used for larger units to accommodate families. But Walentas says he’s already done more than enough. The current proposal sets aside 660 of the total 2,300 apartments for low- and middle-income tenants. In fact, Walentas is reportedly so distraught over the mayor’s request that he has threatened to scrap the whole thing altogether. According to the Times, “Mr. Walentas is balking, and has even threatened to revert to the older, unpopular plan.” That plan only includes only 440 affordable units. While that seems unlikely, some affordable housing advocates are worried de Blasio’s gamble could backfire. Rob Solano, a local community board member and executive director of Churches United for Fair Housing, told the Times, “It’s a delicate balance between pushing as hard as you can and a break… If we get to the point where nothing is built, or there are more delays, that’s another day without affordable housing.” If that were to actually happen, it would be a major blow to the de Blasio administration, which has promised to “preserve or construct” 200,000 units of affordable housing over the next 10 years. Ultimately, this back-and-forth foreshadows the development battles to come as the mayor sets out to achieve his ambitious goal.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio Unveils “Vision Zero Action Plan”

After promising to “end the tragic and unacceptable rash of pedestrian deaths” in his State of the City speech, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has officially unveiled his “Vision Zero Action Plan.” On Manhattan’s Upper West Side, near an area where three pedestrians have been killed in the past month, the mayor promised to address the scourge of traffic fatalities across the city. Mayor de Blasio was joined by Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton as he laid-out the sobering statistics on traffic-related fatalities. “Being struck by a car is the leading cause of injury-related death for children younger than 15,” said de Blasio. “It’s the second leading cause of injury-related death for our senior citizens.” And, according to the most recent data, the mayor said there were nearly as many traffic fatalities in New York City as there were homicides last year. The “Action Plan” includes 63 specific initiatives that will span across many city agencies, from the NYPD to the Taxi and Limousine Commission to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The plan proposes redesigning dangerous streets, adding more “slow zones” across the city, and increasing traffic enforcement with more red light and speeding cameras. The most notable part of the plan is likely the mayor’s goal to reduce the city speed limit from 30 miles per hour to 25. This, initiative, though would have to be approved by the State Legislature in Albany. What is not included in this plan is a city-wide crackdown on jaywalking. Tickets issued for jaywalking have risen dramatically under de Blasio, but the mayor says that does not reflect a larger initiative. While dispelling the notion that he is out to get jaywalkers--which has inspired some provocative headlines--the mayor defended precinct commanders' right to issue tickets they deem appropriate. “[The Action Plan] is about much more than speed bumps and the issuing of violations,” said de Blasio. “It’s also about all of us taking greater responsibility every time we get behind the wheel, and every time we step out on the street. Our lives are literally in each other’s hands.” But just two days after the mayor called for safer streets, his own NYPD-driven caravan was caught speeding and blowing through stop signs by CBS 2.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio Appoints Housing Team

Over the weekend, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced four key appointments to his housing team. The mayor selected Shola Olatoye—a former vice president at the affordable housing non-profit Enterprise Community Partners—to chair the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). He also announced that Cecil House will stay on as the authority’s General Manager. Vicki Been, the director of NYU’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, will become commissioner of the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development. And Gary D. Rodney, an executive at the affordable housing developer Omni New York, will run the Housing Development Corporation. “We are going to take a new approach to this crisis that holds nothing back. From doing more to protect tenants in troubled buildings, to innovating new partnerships with the private sector, to forging a new relationship with our NYCHA communities,” said de Blasio in a press release. “Every decision we make will focus on maximizing the affordability of our neighborhoods.” This team—along with newly appointed City Planning Commissioner Carl Weisbrod—will be tasked with implementing de Blasio’s aggressive affordable housing agenda. The mayor has pledged to preserve or create 200,000 affordable housing units over the next decade.

In State of the City, New York City Mayor de Blasio Promises Affordable Housing

In his first State of the City address, Mayor Bill de Blasio promised to tackle the “inequality gap that fundamentally threatens [New York City’s] future.” At the LaGuardia Community College in Queens, the new mayor spoke of the “Tale of Two Cities” that has taken root in America’s largest city, and he promised to address it head-on. One of the main weapons in fighting inequality, explained de Blasio, will be creating more affordable housing. He spoke of “New Yorkers crushed by skyrocketing rents” and repeated his campaign pledge to “preserve or construct 200,000 units of affordable housing.” In a break with his mayoral predecessor, de Blasio said he won’t just incentivize developers to include affordable housing units, he’ll require it. “We want to work with the real estate industry to build. We must build more to achieve our vision,” said de Blasio. “But the people’s interests will be accounted for in every real estate deal made with the City.” While de Blasio offered no new details about how he plans to achieve this ambitious goal, he said his newly-appointed housing team will present a plan by May 1st. And following a string of pedestrian deaths, de Blasio pledged to “end the tragic and unacceptable rash of pedestrian deaths on our city streets,” through Vision Zero. The mayor, though, made no further mention of a transportation agenda—bike lanes, pedestrian plazas, or otherwise.

De Blasio Names Carl Weisbrod Chairman of NYC Planning Commission

This afternoon, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that Carl Weisbrod, a real estate consultant and co-chair of the mayor’s transition team, will be the city’s next planning commissioner. De Blasio said Weisbrod “understands exactly how the city can shape development to stoke the most growth, the strongest affordability, and the best jobs for New Yorkers. He is ready to take these challenges head-on.” Weisbrod is currently a partner with the real estate consulting firm HR&A and has a long history in the city’s real estate scene, dating back many mayors. Weisbrod was born and raised in New York City, and, according to the New York Times, upon graduating from NYU Law School, he started advocating on behalf of the city’s squatters and families in welfare hotels. Under Mayor Ed Koch, Weisbrod is widely credited for successfully cleaning up Times Square in the 1970s. In 1991, Weisbrod became the founding president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation—and in 1995 he held the same title at the Alliance for Downtown New York. In the latter role, Weisbrod was tasked with transforming Downtown Manhattan into a mixed-use neighborhood. De Blasio said Weisbrod “led the way” in revitalizing the neighborhood after September 11th. Before joining HR&A in 2011, Weisbrod spent five years as the president of the real estate division for Trinity Church—an organization which oversees six million square feet of property. All of this experience—and this is an abbreviated resume—will be critical as Weisbrod steps into an exceptionally complex role in determining the future of New York City. There will be many challenges ahead—from the redevelopment of the Domino Sugar Factory to the possible re-zoning of Midtown East, to creating a more storm-resistance city, to micro-apartments—all of which will fall within de Blasio’s ambitious push to create more affordable housing. At the press conference, de Blasio said that his administration would look at projects like Midtown East Rezoning and a proposed Major League Soccer stadium in the Bronx “with fresh eyes.” The mayor added that he is approaching development projects like these with “an entirely different set of goals” than his predecessor, Michael Bloomberg.