Posts tagged with "Bill de Blasio":

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Amid Horse Carriage Debate, Nostalgic New Yorkers Ponder a 21st Century Horseless Carriage

In what sounds like a flashback to the turn of the 20th century, curious New Yorkers peered inquisitively at a new horseless carriage model on display at the New York International Auto Show. The old-timey vehicle is actually a high-tech electric vehicle at the center of the heated fight to ban horse carriages from Central Park in New York City. Just feet from the buffed and polished BMWs and Aston Martins, the eight-seat “Horseless eCarriage” made its global debut. The prototype is designed as an homage to brass-era vehicles, with plenty of brass detailing, tufted leather seats, and an over-sized windshield. It even sported some classic books on New York City history tucked into a vintage glove compartment. “My distinct honor and challenge has been to design a vehicle that celebrates the nostalgia and romance of the early 1900s, while eliminating a lot of the not-so great qualities of that time,” said Jason Wenig, who designed the vehicle. He said he took the style of the time, but created a car that has the comfort and technical capabilities of today’s automobile. This prototype was commissioned by New Yorkers for Clean, Livable, and Safe Streets (NYClass), a group which has been leading the charge to ban horse carriages, and just happened to donate $1.3 million to Bill de Blasio’s mayoral campaign. As mayor, de Blasio has pledged to ban the carriages and replace them with something like the eCarriage. But doing so won’t be easy. He’s facing sustained backlash from carriage drivers, the press, locals, and even Liam Neeson who expressed his support for horse carriages in a recent New York Times op-ed. And, for now, all that backlash has reportedly stalled the mayor’s plans. De Blasio still contends that the carriages will be gone by year's end. If that does happen, it still remains to be seen if the over-size wheels of the Horseless eCarriage—or something like it—will follow in the horse’s footsteps.
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Second “Arterial Slow Zone” Arrives in the Bronx

Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero is coming to another dangerous New York City corridor. NYC Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and city officials announced that the Grand Concourse in the Bronx will become the second of the city’s 25 planned “arterial slow zones.” The speed limit on more than five miles of the busy road will be lowered to 25-miles-per-hour, and traffic signals will be retimed to protect pedestrians. The announcement comes weeks after an eight-mile stretch of Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn and Queens was given the same treatment.
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De Blasio, Schumer Announce A Flood of Cash for Sandy Relief

Seventeen months after Superstorm Sandy pummeled New York City, Mayor de Blasio and U.S. Senator Charles Schumer announced major changes to the city’s Sandy relief efforts. At an announcement in late March in the Rockaways, Mayor de Blasio said that $100 million of federal money has been reallocated into the city’s Build it Back program, which will help storm victims regardless of their income or priority level. The mayor’s office says that funds from this program are already being sent out. In an effort to further cut red tape, the mayor also announced new staffing and policy changes to accelerate the delivery of resources to those impacted by the storm. “Today’s announcement is a down payment, and I look forward to this administration taking additional steps to ensure Sandy victims who went into their pockets to pay for repairs themselves will be quickly made whole. The De Blasio administration deserves major credit for tackling this problem quickly and making necessary changes to a program that wasn’t working well at all,” said Senator Schumer in a statement.
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New York City’s Vision Zero Arrives on Atlantic Avenue with “Arterial Slow Zones”

Vision Zero is coming to Brooklyn and Queens' Atlantic Avenue. Nearly eight miles of the notoriously dangerous thoroughfare will be transformed into the first of 25 planned “arterial slow zones.” Last Wednesday—at the busy corner of Atlantic and Washington avenues—Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg announced that the city is taking immediate steps to save lives by reducing the street's speed limit from 30MPH to 25. The city will also be re-timing traffic lights, increasing speeding enforcement, and adjusting medians to increase pedestrian safety. According to the commissioner, there were 25 traffic fatalities on Atlantic Avenue between 2008 and 2012. The change on Atlantic Avenue is a significant step in Mayor de Blasio’s ambitious goal to reduce traffic fatalities to zero. As part of his Vision Zero plan, he has also proposed installing more speed cameras and reducing the city’s default speed limit from 30-miles-per-hour to 25; but both of these initiatives require approval from Albany. And while five new speed cameras have issued 14,500 tickets since January, new  cameras aren't coming to Atlantic Avenue just yet. At the announcement, Commissioner Trottenberg said “we have some pretty tight restrictions from Albany on how we can deploy speed cameras.”
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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)
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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.”
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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.
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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. 
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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.”
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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.]
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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.
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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.