Posts tagged with "Center for an Urban Future":

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New York City parks hobbled by age, underinvestment according to new report

Nonprofit, nonpartisan policy group Center for an Urban Future (CUF) has released a new report outlining the dire conditions that many New York City parks are grappling with, and it doesn’t look pretty. A New Leaf: Revitalizing New York City's Aging Parks Infrastructure tracks the climbing costs of required maintenance throughout the parks system, as well as the cracks (both literal and physical) that are starting to show in park assets. A New Leaf thoroughly documents the capital needs facing New York’s nearly 1,700 parks and paints a picture of the parks system through interviews with officials from the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR), community board members, elected officials, park volunteers, landscape architects, and other nonprofit groups. CUF additionally visited 65 parks city-wide to get an on-the-ground snapshot of the most common problems plaguing NYC’s parks. The results paint a picture of an aging system in dire need of repair. The average age of Manhattan’s 282 parks is 86 years old, while the last major upgrade was on average conducted in 2002. The Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens don’t fare much better, each having parks averaging in their 70’s, which largely have not undergone major renovations since the mid-1990’s. Letting the city’s urban landscapes fall into disrepair isn’t just an issue for park-goers, it also hampers the parks’ ability to sequester stormwater. The more stormwater that New York’s green spaces are capable of sucking up, the less runoff that can find its ways into the surrounding waterways. Much of the infrastructure in those same waterways, including the esplanades and accompanying seawalls, piles, and retaining walls fall under DPR’s jurisdiction and are facing the same maintenance challenges. According to the CUF, “The Parks Department’s expense and state of good repair capital budgets have been chronically underfunded, weakening infrastructure and boosting long-term costs.” As the cost of repairs has risen from $405 million in 2007 to $589 million in 2017, the capital allocated to the Parks Department has ultimately remained steady at 15 percent of the required amount: $88 million in 2017. CUF has proposed a multipronged approach for tackling the maintenance and staffing deficit. The group has proposed directing more capital funding to city parks as a preventative measure to minimize future repairs, making direct investments in struggling parks, capturing more revenue from the parks themselves, and fostering more park-involvement at the community level. Compounding the problem is a recent audit from city Comptroller Scott Stringer, where 40 percent of DPR projects surveyed were found to be behind schedule, and 35 percent were over budget.

"This administration has invested in strengthening the City’s parks system from top to bottom," said a Parks Department spokesperson in a statement sent to AN. "Capital programs including the $318-million, 65-park Community Parks Initiative and the $150-million Anchor Parks project are bringing the first structural improvements in generations to sites from playgrounds to large flagship parks. Further, as the CUF report notes, Commissioner Silver’s streamlined capital process is bringing these improvements online faster.

"Looking forward, initiatives like the newly funded catch basin program and an ongoing capital needs assessment program will ensure that NYC Parks needs are accounted for and addressed in the years to come."

 
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Report reveals staggering new details on NYC capital project delays

The Center for an Urban Future (CUF), a nonpartisan policy organization, released a report in April of this year purporting that internal practices within several New York City agencies are partially to blame for the deficiencies of public construction projects. Titled Slow Build, the document outlines a variety of findings related to the schedule and budget of capital projects, including the revelation that the median duration for a cultural project is seven years and costs nearly $930 per square foot to build.

The Department of Design and Construction (DDC) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) oversee capital projects for the city. According to the report, these agencies utilized inefficient systems and protocols that are in need of a policy overhaul to improve project delivery.

The report, produced in collaboration with Citizens Budget Commission, analyzed the details of 144 library and cultural buildings that were completed between the 2010 and 2014 fiscal years, supplemented by dozens of expert interviews. Among the claims made, the report found that “86 percent of delays occur before construction begins, with many projects getting tripped up in the initial scoping and design phases.” This suggests that extensive reviews for public projects and inaccurate cost-procurement processes are a major source of the problem. The report also identifies city-initiated scope alterations, which often lead to costly and prolonged change orders during construction, as contributing factors to the delays.

In addition to the bureaucratic logjam, the report also draws attention to certain state laws “that both mandate a low-bid procurement system and prevent city projects from adopting a design-build process.” While many of the report’s recommendations include streamlining municipal procedures, CUF also suggests a loosening of state laws to accommodate less restrictive procurement practices for public buildings.

This suggestion is not out of the question as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo did sign into law design-build protocols for infrastructure-related projects in 2011. However, these changes to architectural contracts would require stronger advocacy by city leaders, political capital which has not yet materialized. Not only is 2017 a mayoral election year, but recently the former DDC Commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora was forced to step down amid controversies related to delays in Hurricane Sandy–rebuild efforts that have long been overdue. It is unlikely that this issue will attract much attention in the coming months.

It is critical to note, however, that this survey includes projects largely shepherded by the Bloomberg administration and did not review the policies, initiatives, or funding practices of the current administration. The Hunters Point Community Library by Steven Holl, for instance, has been in the pipeline since 2008 and just recently experienced another delay regarding an unforeseeable glass shipment fiasco from Spain.

For its part, the city appears to be making moves to rectify some of the concerns raised in this report. A spokesman for the DDC cited that since July 2014 procurement durations have been reduced from an average of one year to nine months, and that project durations have shortened by up to 40 percent. The spokesman also highlighted a new division of the DDC called Front End Planning Unit that “[ensures] that the scope of work and budget meet necessary requirements” before a project is accepted.

When it comes to awarding public design contracts, the DDC announced in 2016 a change to its proposal-solicitation program, launching the Design and Construction Excellence 2.0 (DCE 2.0) initiative, a revamp of the DDC’s exclusive on-call list for NYC architecture firms. Though the CUF report does not mention this program, the DDC stated that the shift was necessary to “encourage the development of perceptive solutions that enhance performance ranging from minimizing emissions of greenhouse gasses to design that engages groups who may feel left out.”

The program was originally launched in 2004 and has included firms such as Bjarke Ingels Group, Steven Holl Architects, and Diller Scofidio + Renfro. Now the list of 26 companies is subdivided into four sections by project scale allowing for more competition among the firms, ensuring that the right team can handle the scope of the projects. DCE 2.0 is an effort by the agency to address not only the quantifiable metrics of project delivery addressed by CUF, but also the qualitative role that architects play in the delivery of public buildings.

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Brooklyn’s design sector is booming

In a report by the Center for an Urban Future, figures show that Brooklyn has seen a significant spike in the design sector with architecture and design employment figures growing by some 86 percent during the period from 2010-2014. The report was published to coincide with NYCxDesign, New York City's design festival that closes today. Its statistics pertain to most realms within the creative industry, including "architecture, landscape architecture, interior design, industrial design, graphic design and other specialized design (including fashion, costume, and jewelry design)." Data and analysis was taken from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW). Back to Brooklyn: growth in the sector significantly outdoes Manhattan (at 19 percent) and the rest of the city where growth averaged out at 23 percent. Despite Manhattan lagging behind, however, that borough remains New York's stalwart home for creatives, accommodating 89 percent of all jobs related at architecture and design companies within the city. During the four year period, the city saw more than 5,000 jobs added in the sector, making New York City home to 27,037 design jobs, though Brooklyn can still only boast 1,954 compared to Manhattan's 24,045 majority share. The figures though show the early roots of Brooklyn as an emerging alternative base for creative companies. Landscape architecture jobs witnessed the sharpest increase of 376 percent jumping from 21 to 100. Meanwhile, other growing industries saw jobs in "industrial design" and architecture rise by 90 percent (from 67 to 127 and 387 to 737 respectively) and graphic design jobs by 94 percent from 285 to 552. As for the other boroughs, the Bronx was the only one subject to negative growth, losing 11 jobs (down 17 percent) whereas Queens saw 42 percent growth (260 jobs) and Staten Island just over over 4 percent (4 jobs). Over the scope of ten years from 2004-2014, Brooklyn has more than doubled in job accumulation in every industry of the design sector, outperforming its counterparts by a considerable margin. In Manhattan for example, there was even a 10 percent decline in the graphic design industry. During this period Staten Island in fact suffered a net loss of 43 jobs across the board equating to a 30 percent decrease. Moreover, Queens and the Bronx achieved only marginal growth in the same time span. "Our new data brief highlights the growing importance of the design sector to New York City’s economy, and details that a disproportionate share of the growth in the sector is now occurring in Brooklyn," said the authors of the report.