Posts tagged with "City Council":

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New York City might limit the number of drivers using ride-hailing apps

Last week, the New York Times reported that New York City officials are “moving to cap the number of vehicles driving for Uber and other ride-hailing services,” amid concerns over congestion, the exploitation of drivers' wages, and the livelihood of the city’s iconic yellow cab drivers. If passed, the legislation would make New York the first major American city to limit the number of for-hire vehicles. A recent report by Schaller Consulting titled The New Automobility: Lyft, Uber and the Future of American Cities suggests that shared ride services such as UberPOOL and Lyft “while touted as reducing traffic, in fact add mileage to city streets.” They are reported to increase congestion on city streets by up to 160 percent. The Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) in total added 5.7 billion miles of driving in the nation’s nine largest metro areas. The rivalry between taxi and Uber drivers has pushed down the price of riding in the city, and there are increasing concerns over the dwindling wages of Uber drivers and the estimated 70,000 app drivers who earn less than the minimum wage. TNCs are known to recruit more drivers than needed to minimize their customers’ wait time. Taxi drivers aren't faring much better; as customers have flocked to app-based rides, drivers have felt the weight economically. Since December, six taxi drivers have committed suicide over their failing businesses. As the city debates the merit and harms being done by app-based car companies, the cap had been suggested by the City Council as a potential solution to these problems. However, the cap may not work as intended. As Streetsblog NYC theorizes, “an Uber ceiling will encourage permit-holders to rent their idle vehicles to other drives who want in.” It is believed that the cap could further dilute driver earnings. Uber and Lyft recently offer an alternative by proposing to create a $100 million fund for the medallion drivers in exchange for doing away with the cap. The Verge reported on the “hardship fund,” which was “summarily rejected” by the City Council and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office. The TNCs are expected to continue to scramble to rally against the bill. The City Council will vote on it next week.
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A tale of two flood zones: NYC nabes rezoned for new building and buy-outs

Two New York City neighborhoods heavily affected by Hurricane Sandy received City Council go-ahead for two new (and very different) rezoning plans last Thursday, September 7. The first was the approval of Mayor Bill de Blasio administration's proposed rezoning of Far Rockaway, a historically under-served coastal neighborhood. This is the neighborhood's first rezoning since 1961. The plan committed around $288 million to commercial development, public amenities, schools, and affordable housing in the downtown area. This includes more than 1,000 affordable housing units, 250,000 square feet of commercial space to attract new businesses and jobs, the neighborhood's first new library since 1976, and its first new park since 1960, according to local City Council member Donovan Richards. Additional funds will renovate and build new parks as well as improve open space at the public housing complex. This development plan is the result of two years of community engagement. For Staten Island's East Shore, the City Council approved the creation of a new Special Coastal Risk District. This plan, a response to flood vulnerability, will buy out two swaths of land – including parts of the Oakwood Beach, Graham Beach, and Ocean Breeze neighborhoods – and tightly restrict future development. Any land re-use will be restricted to the creation of open space. The goal of creating the Coastal Risk District is to form a storm surge barrier between the coast and developed areas. Of the 10 neighborhoods identified by the Bloomberg administration for rezoning after Sandy, the Staten Island's East Shore is one of only three neighborhoods that has advanced to City Council with an actual proposal addressing flood risk. In the plan, homeowners in the two areas of the Coastal Risk District will be offered a voluntary buyout of their homes at pre-storm values, and those who choose not to participate will be very limited in how they rebuild their homes. Those in affected areas now face the question: continue on living in a designated flood zones under the new, restrictive ordinances, or move to a more secure inland location but lose their home? For many, this is not an easy choice, and voluntary retreat is disproportionately skewed to affect low- and middle-income households. As New York approaches the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Sandy and watches Houston and Miami begin the process of recovering from Harvey and Irma, it's clear that the need to build resilient cities is more urgent than ever.
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Work to begin on Cincinnati’s Central Parkway bike path

Cyclists in Cincinnati will soon have a separated bike lane along Central Parkway—a major connector between neighborhoods including Downtown, the West End, and Over-the-Rhine—following a narrow City Council vote last week. On April 30th, City Council members voted 5-4 to approve the city plan with a modification, adding $110,000 to the $625,000 project. Chris Wetterich of the Cincinnati Business Courier reported the city now will pave a tree-lined right-of-way near a building in the 2100 block of Central Parkway, responding to concerns from building owner Tim Haines and his tenants. As Wetterich reported, the bike path will still be built, but it’s unclear what implications the move could have for the project’s future:
Councilwoman Yvette Simpson reluctantly supported the measure but said she fears that council set a precedent by which other businesses will expect the city to provide free on-street parking in front of their buildings.
Portions of the pathway—which will run through Downtown, the West End, Over-the-Rhine, University Heights, Clifton, and Northside—have been fine-tuned before. Community feedback led to some tweaks in the design between Elm Street and Ludlow Avenue, scaling back plans to widen the street in favor of a re-striped bikeway. Construction on the protected bike lane is supposed to begin soon. The city's website says, "Spring of 2014."
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Cincinnati City Council Puts Brakes on Streetcar Construction

cincy_streetcar_01 In what the Cincinnati Enquirer called “a meeting filled with fire and suspense,” City Council voted 5-4 to halt construction on its $133 million streetcar project. The Enquirer has a breakdown of how and why, in their own words, each council member voted:

“We don’t want to waste money,” said Councilwoman Amy Murray, who voted with the majority. “This is really hard. (But) I don’t feel confident of the numbers I have.”

Councilwoman Yvette Simpson nearly salvaged the plan with a proposal to keep going with $35,000 per day of streetcar construction while an independent analysis was done. Vice Mayor David Mann was ultimately unmoved by that bid. The project was a focal point in Mayor Mark Mallory's State of the City address last year, which came shortly after the 18-stop line broke ground. The route was to run from the river front through downtown and past Findley Market in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. Before work began, however, Ohio Governor John Kasich moved to strip the project’s funding. Cincinnati voters ultimately voted down a ballot measure that would have banned rail funding in 2011, and the light rail line was back on track. Streetcar supporters will “regroup” on potential legal action to keep the streetcar project alive.
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City Council Gives Staten Island’s New York Wheel the Green Light

It is official. The world's tallest Ferris wheel will rise on Staten Island's waterfront. Today, New York City Council approved the New York Wheel, a mixed-use development project, designed by Perkins Eastman. The project will include a 100,000-square foot Terminal building in addition to retail, restaurants, open space, entertainment, and a 950-parking garage. The structure will implement green design strategies and  feature wind turbines and solar panels. Construction will commence in 2014 and be completed by 2016.

 
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Zoning Change will Open Door for Sprawling Residential Development in Queens

Astoria may soon rival its neighbor, Long Island City, as the next major residential waterfront community in Queens. In a unanimous vote, the City Planning Commission has given developer Lincoln Equities Group the green light to move forward with a $1 billion residential housing development on Hallets Point peninsula. DNAinfo reported that the project would include 2,161 market-rate and 483 affordable apartments as well as a public esplanade along the East River, retail, supermarket, and possibly a public school in NYCHA's adjacent Astoria Houses campus. According to the Daily News, some government officials have voiced concerns that the infrastructure cannot support the surge in population that will come with this seven-building project.  Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. is worried about the strain this development will put on the local transportation. “There’s going to be thousands of people moving into this development and future developments,” Vallone (D-Astoria) told the Daily News. The proposal still has to win the support of City Council before the developers can proceed with construction. The project is anticipated to be completed by 2022.
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NYC Passes Zoning For Commercial Development on Governors Island

Governors Island (Courtesy of The Trust  Governors Island) Yesterday City Council green lighted new zoning to allow commercial development in 40 historic structures on Governors Island. This change will introduce restaurants and retail establishments to the sleepy, mostly park-filled island, and also help to generate revenue for the upkeep and operations of the island's parkland. One stipulation of the rezoning is a commitment from The Trust for Governors Island to use union labor for all construction projects. (Photo: Courtesy Trust for Governors Island)
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Final Decision: City Council Votes for 10-Year Permit for MSG

MadisonSqGarden This afternoon City Council voted 47-1 to limit Madison Square Garden's permit to 10 years. The arena, sitting atop Penn Station, had requested a permit in perpetuity, but a coalition of government officials, preservationists, and transportation advocates protested and pushed for a truncated 10-year renewal. Critics hope this term limit will ultimately encourage the re-location of the Garden to allow for a complete overhaul of the train station and an improved arena. According to DNA Info, the station is "North America's busiest rail station," and many have argued that it is beyond capacity and poses a safety risk for commuters. (Photo: doriandsp/Flickr)      
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Downtown Brooklyn Mulls Putting Empty Parking Spaces to Better Use

Downtown Brooklyn has an unusual situation on its hands: it has a surplus of parking spaces. But soon developers may get the green light to put that space to other use. As AN reported this summer, the city’s zoning rules require new residential developments to build large garages, most of which have remained half empty. With a plethora of transit options in the area—including 13 subway lines, seven subway stops, more than a dozen bus routes, and a commuter rail to boot—there is little demand for parking, which is why the Department of City Planning (DCP) and developers are advocating for new zoning. Yesterday the New York City Council considered a proposal from the DCP that suggests reducing the minimum parking requirements from 40 percent to 20 percent of new residential housing units, which would free up those spaces for other uses whether it be mixed-income and affordable housing or public parking. City Council will likely hold a vote on the proposal on December 4th.
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New York City Council Approves Mega Expansion at Chelsea Market

In spite of angry protests from neighborhood advocates and preservation groups, New York City Council unanimously approved plans Tuesday afternoon to upzone Chelsea Market. The developer, Jamestown Properties, intends on building 300,000-square-feet of office space designed by Studios Architecture that will sit right on top of current Chelsea Market. To move things along in their favor, Jamestown had agreed to give around $12 million to the High Line and $5 million to a fund to build affordable housing, in addition to another $1 million to help launch an internship program at the nearby Fulton Houses. Jamestown called this decision a win for the city’s economy: “As approved today by the New York City Council, the expansion of Chelsea Market will provide an important economic boost to New York City, creating more than 1,200 long-term jobs and 600 construction jobs.” Several local organizations, however, are upset with the outcome.  In an email sent to Chelsea Now, Andrew Berman, Executive Director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, released this statement: “It’s deeply disappointing that they are allowing a beloved New York City landmark to be disfigured and one of the city’s most congested neighborhoods to be further overdeveloped. In spite of the pleas of the vast majority of this neighborhood’s residents, once again the interests of real estate developers have won out.”
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NYU to Take Another Shave on Last Lap of ULURP Process

The Zoning Committee of the New York City Council is holding a hearing today for NYU's proposed expansion. It is the last stop on the ULURP tour that has garnered some of the most contentious debate in a neighborhood that has seen more than its share of zoning upheaval over the past year. Usually the council votes in agreement with the council member representing the district. As such, all eyes were on Council Member Margaret Chin, whose Downtown district includes the Washington Square area where the expansion is being proposed. While Chin said that the plan is "unacceptable as it stands" she didn't outright reject the plan. According to The Wall Street Journal, Chin is casting a critical eye on the so-called Zipper Building on the southern super block. As the university agreed with City Planning to eliminate a hotel in that building, it seems likely that's where the ax will fall. Borough President Scott Stringer, whose role is advisory, said that he had already negotiated a reduction in the Zipper Building, but City Planning set aside his suggestion. This morning Chin added affordable housing to the list of her desires, opening up yet another round of arm twisting for NYU.  Whether the housing would be included on the site or within the district is unclear and whether that agreement would be binding will probably be a sticking point for the ever-vigilant Villagers. Open space was also on the Council Member's radar, but her mention of preserving park space along the DOT strips along Mercer and Laguardia streets was already mapped out by Planning. However, Chin's mention of the "thousands" of jobs that the project will bring indicates another mildly altered version of the plan will move forward. For their part, NYU stuck to the script. As an example of a university busting at the seams, President John Sexton noted that the university's library should seat 8,000 but could only accommodate 3,000. He countered claims that expansion was an attempt to fill college coffers with cash from more students, saying the expansion was physical in nature and would not correspond with a substantial growth in the student body, which he predicted would only increase by half a percent annually. He also defended the contention that the university couldn't afford the project. "We wouldn't be taxing our budget any more than we have over the last then years," he said.
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Walmart, Wages War in Chicago (Guess Who Won)

After years of trying to land a second Walmart in Chicago, the world's largest retailer succeeded in a big way yesterday when the City Council unanimously endorsed a Supercenter on the Far South Side, the anchor of a 270-acre mixed-use development. While only a few months ago the outcome of that store seemed uncertain, it all broke last week, when the unions reached a tentative agreement with Walmart to pay $8.75 an hour in its stores, more than the current minimum wage but less than was initially sought. On top of that, the retailer has cast doubt on whether a surefire deal has been set. Meanwhile, the city is bracing for the prospect of dozens of stores, through a deal arranged by Mayor Richard Daley, both a bane and a boon as it could mean an investment of $1 billion though also a costly one if it undercuts current retailers. The Sun-Times' incomparable Fran Spielman spells it all out for us:
An Olympic dream denied, with no other job- and revenue-generator on the horizon. Aldermen weary of being squeezed from both sides. A retailing behemoth thwarted in other cities desperate to advance its urban strategy. All of those factors--and a site change to a Far South Side ward whose alderman is more popular than his Chatham colleague--helped to bring the long-running Wal-Mart saga to a successful conclusion. But the six-year battle over Wal-Mart's plan to expand its foothold in the Chicago market ultimately came to a close because it was too big to pass up and because the world's largest retailer blinked.
How an agreement for 21 stores is considered blinking is news to us, even if Walmart has made wage agreements (or not!) for the first time in its history. With this one settled, how long before Brooklyn is next?