New York City's bike share system, Citi Bike has had a rough first year. The bikes are in bad shape, the docking technology is glitchy, and the system has been plagued with financial troubles for months. To make matters worse for the beleaguered program, New York City is asking Alta Bikeshare—the company which oversees Citi Bike—to cough up $1 million to cover lost parking revenue from the parking spaces the bike stations occupy. According to the Wall Street Journal, a provision in Alta’s contract states that the company must reimburse the city for revenue lost from turning parking spaces into bike docking stations. That provision was part of Mayor Bloomberg’s commitment to make the program entirely free of tax payer dollars—a commitment that Mayor de Blasio plans to keep. But because of ongoing negotiations between Alta and REQX Ventures—an investment firm that could provide Citi Bike with much-needed capital—this $1 million check may never be written or cashed. The two entities are reportedly trying to remove this parking provision from a revised contract. The Journal reported, "cutting Alta a break on lost parking revenue could be construed as an effective public subsidy, and could raise political and philosophical questions about whether taxpayers should support New York City's bike-share.” As with all Citi Bike news, though, what happens next is anyone's guess.
Posts tagged with "Bill de Blasio":
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has issued an RFP to create a network of free, outdoor Wi-Fi hotspots across all five boroughs. The network would become one of the largest in the country, and have a significant impact on the city’s streetscape. That's because the plan transforms New York's aging system of payphones—commonly known today as al fresco "toilets"—with what are being described by the city as public connection points. "By using a historic part of New York’s street fabric, we can significantly enhance public availability of increasingly-vital broadband access, invite new and innovative digital services,” said Mayor de Blasio in a statement. This RFP dates back to last year's Reinvent Payphones Design Challenge, which asked designers to envision ways to make payphones useful in the 21st Century. Sage and Coombe Architects won that competition with a proposal for a sleek communications portal called NYFi (pictured at top). According to the city, designs received through the RFP “will be evaluated on the basis of functional efficiency, aesthetics, security, durability, adaptability for various environments around the city—including historic districts and individual landmarks—and accommodation of people with disabilities.” While the 10,000 portals will certainly impact the city’s physical landscape, it will truly transform its digital landscape—whether or not we see it happening. Thanks to a pretty incredible visualization project called Immaterials: Light Painting Wifi, we can get a sense of the spatial realities of Wi-Fi. It is simultaneously profound, stunning, and invisible. Responses to the RFP are due by the end of June and the city plans to sign a contract by the end of this year.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has been promising to “preserve or construct” nearly 200,000 units of affordable housing since his days as the most unlikely of mayoral contenders. Since stepping into City Hall, the mayor has repeated that pledge nearly every chance he gets. But while the affordable housing plan is one of his central policy issues, it’s still not clear how the city can hit the mayor’s magic number. That should change this week when de Blasio’s housing team releases their detailed plan of action. Before that plan is released, however, AN asked some of the city’s leading architects, advocates, and planners what they hope to see in the team’s path forward. David Burney Former Commissioner Department of Design and Construction “While we all expect the mayor to focus on mandatory inclusionary zoning as a means of increasing the supply of affordable housing, I am hopeful that other possibilities will not be overlooked. We need affordable housing, but in the right places—in the neighborhoods that need it. We also need to develop that housing near to transit. One unfortunate policy of the Bloomberg administration was the down zoning of neighborhoods close to public transit—where we need more density not less. Hopefully the new administration will take a fresh look at that downzoning. Another proposal that deserves attention is the one from Michael Lappin and Mark Willis to help small builder/developers build affordable rental housing on small lots, using a participatory loan program.” Karen Kubey Executive Director Institute for Public Architecture “Affordable housing is at the core of a livable city and design in the public interest. New Yorkers need an ambitious, achievable housing plan, one that provides not only more affordable apartments, but also a wide range of housing models and an investment in quality, lasting architecture. In line with this, the Institute for Public Architecture recently launched ‘Total Reset,’ a long-term initiative supporting efforts to improve public and affordable housing in New York. We applaud Mayor de Blasio for making affordable housing a priority again for New York City.” Bill Stein Principal Dattner Architects “From a design point of view—while maintaining all the regulations and requirements—any way that the approval and review process by various agencies can be simplified and streamlined would go a long way toward developing more affordable housing more quickly. From a broader perspective, I hope the plan encourages some degree of innovation and experimentation in building types and housing types. … Finding sites is a key challenge for affordable housing in New York City. Sites that are available tend to be more difficult and expensive to develop: irregular dimensions, significant topography, other environmental factors, etc. The administration’s housing plan can help address this challenge by the creative use of underutilized land, whether through a program for NYCHA sites, rezoning where appropriate or enhanced incentives for mixed use/mixed income developments.” Adam Friedman Director Pratt Center for Community Development “There are three things that we are particularly focused on: First of all, mandatory inclusionary housing, which we would argue should be citywide above a certain density. Second, a strategy for legalizing what are now accessory dwelling units. Third, something we would not want to see is more rezoning of manufacturing to residential. A lot of that has already been done under the Bloomberg Administration and we want to understand why so much of that hasn’t been developed. And we would want to make sure the prospect of those zoning changes includes a strategy for retaining those jobs.” Andrew Berman Executive Director Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation “The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation strongly supports efforts to keep our neighborhoods and New York City a diverse and affordable place to live. We hope that the Mayor’s plan will do that while respecting the scale and character of our communities and those qualities, which draw people to our neighborhoods and make them wonderful places to live. We hope that the Mayor will not buy into the REBNY canard that unfettered development and a weakening of historic preservation and zoning protections will somehow make New York City more affordable, as opposed to simply lining developers’ pockets and destroying some of our city’s most beloved landmarks and neighborhoods.” Jaron Benjamin Executive Director Metropolitan Council on Housing "We're hoping the mayor targets, one, preserving our existing affordable housing. Two, he’s looking looking at responsible ways to involve the NYCHA communities in what happens. And three, we’re hoping that Mayor de Blasio, unlike his predecessor, really looks at responsible ways to build affordable housing. And finally, we’re going to look at how he plans to reduce the ranks of the homeless."
After a long and heated fight to save Brooklyn’s Long Island College Hospital from demolition, the site’s future as a medical center has been cemented. But along with the full-service hospital could come two residential towers that are significantly taller than anything in the predominantly-brownstone Cobble Hill neighborhood. According to Crain’s, “the would-be real estate developers of the medical campus are counting on high-rise residential towers of a scale never before seen in the heart of brownstone Brooklyn in order to make the deal pencil out, according to emails among executives involved in the bid.” Brooklyn Health Partners—a company created to participate in the bidding process for the project—is reportedly planning two 40–50 story towers at the site, one condo and one rental. The scale of these towers was not included in the team’s winning bid. The group's spokesperson told Crain’s they’re not yet focused on that part of the project. To get this plan approved, the development team is also adopting what Crain's called the “Domino approach”—a reference to the winning strategy for the redevelopment of the Domino Sugar Factory. At that site, the developer, Two Trees, was granted zoning changes in exchange for an increase in affordable housing. Plans for the towers at the Long Island College Hospital site call for 20 percent affordable units in the condo tower, and 40 percent in the rental. As the with Domino, this plan requires approval from the de Blasio Administration and City Council. Updated 4/30/2014: Sources tell the Daily News that Brooklyn Health Partners' plan to maintain a hospital on the Long Island College Hospital site has likely collapsed. The News reports, "De Blasio, state officials and two powerful healthcare unions all but acknowledged that the winning bidder for the site, a group called Brooklyn Health Partners, has little ability to follow through on its pledge to maintain a hospital there." A spokesperson for Brooklyn Health Partners rejected this report, saying, "On May 5, BHP will make a $25 million non-refundable payment and show it has the financial means to complete the entire project." Watch this space.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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)
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.”
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.
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.