Posts tagged with "Donald Trump":

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Border wall construction could destroy 22 archaeological sites across Arizona

A new 123-page report by the National Park Service (NPS) has detailed the potential loss of ancient artifacts at the southern border as the United States continues to construct an extensive border wall. The culmination of a project conducted by NPS archaeologists at Arizona’s Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, the report highlights up to 22 endangered archaeological sites along a short stretch of the wall's path. The report, obtained by The Washington Post via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), is especially significant because of its authorship; the internal report shows concern coming directly from a sector of the federal government. The Organ Pipe Cactus area, which is also a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, received U.S. National Monument status in 1937. The area covers 330,688 acres of desert land southwest of Phoenix, and the 11.3-mile strip along the border has already seen significant physical damage from increased traffic of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents using all-terrain vehicles. The proposed plan to replace the existing 5-foot-tall vehicle barrier with a 30-foot illuminated steel wall has the potential to cause irreparable damage to archaeological fragments spanning the area’s 16,000 years of inhabitation. Concerns also stem from the ecological implications of dropping such a towering structure in a designated biosphere reserve. Environmentalists have repeatedly fought the federal government’s plans to run the wall through protected areas like the this, citing impositions on wildlife migration and the neglect of critically endangered species. Of particular concern is the Quitobaquito Springs area, an oasis 200 feet from the barrier that is inhabited by a number of threatened and declining species. The identification of these risks comes at a time when CBP is scrambling to complete 500 miles of barrier before the 2020 election at the request of President Trump. As the president continues to share the wall’s progress on social media, his administration continues to fight off lawsuits over construction on protected lands. Construction on the Organ Pipe Cactus reserve-area border wall officially began last month, as construction geared up for part of a 43-mile fence span that also cuts through Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Regufe. Kevin Dahl, Arizona’s senior program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association, described how the time constraints are eliminating steps in the careful process of protecting Arizona’s archaeological sites: “Archaeology takes time, and they have a deadline,” Dahl told The Washington Post. “Putting a wall there is insane. This is just one more reason why ramming this wall through, using illegal, unconstitutional money, is damaging to these public resources. We’re destroying what the wall is supposed to protect.”
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Trump's Grand Hyatt New York will be demolished, replaced with offices

The Grand Hyatt Hotel in Midtown Manhattan, once owned and reclad by President Trump, is headed for the wrecking ball. A new joint development by TF Cornerstone, RXR Realty, and MDS Capital has been announced in its place and will feature 2 million square feet of office and retail space, as well as a brand new identity for the Grand Hyatt. Located at 109 East 42nd Street, just southeast of Grand Central Station, the 26-floor structure wasn’t always a Trump hotel. In fact, it’s 100 years old. Built in 1919 by the Bowman-Biltmore Hotels group, the Commodore Hotel was originally a brick-clad building with over 2,000 rooms and a world-renowned lobby. In the late ’70s, the Trump Organization purchased and remodeled the entire structure for $100 million, redoing the facade with its now-signature all-reflective-glass curtain wall. It then reopened in 1980 as the Grand Hyatt New York. AN’s editor in chief Bill Menking wrote that the story behind the hotel revamp and the addition of the sign-slash-restaurant that hovers above the sidewalk on 42nd Street is a prime illustrative tale of negative development in New York.  Construction on the new building is expected to cost $3 billion. It will include 500 rooms for the luxury Grand Hyatt New York and state-of-the-art office space. Major transit upgrades could also come with the development, enhancing the pedestrian experience near Grand Central and offering better circulation and connectivity to the currently congested subway beneath it. A new entrance has also been discussed.  No architect has been chosen for the design project yet, though the development team aims to announce one soon. When complete, the new structure will join a handful of other commercial office towers in the area that have popped up since the 2017 rezoning in Midtown East. Progress on One Vanderbilt by Kohn Pedersen Fox, Tower Fifth by Gensler and Adamson Associate Architects, and JP Morgan Chase’s 270 Park Avenue by Foster + Partners is already underway. 
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What do architects think about Related Companies' Stephen Ross fundraiser for Trump?

Ahead of today’s planned fundraiser for President Donald Trump in Southhampton, organized by the billionaire CEO and chairman of The Related Companies Stephen Ross, people have taken to Twitter to denounce their support of any and all things that Related owns, including Hudson Yards. Even celebrity chef José Andres, who has a new food hall inside the mega-development, took to the social media platform asking Ross to cancel the event. As this conversation grows louder and louder—and people continue to boycott companies like Equinox, SoulCycle, and Bluestone Lane Coffee (the two former fitness groups have facilities in 33 and 35 Hudson Yards respectively), it's fair to ask: Will architects join in the discussion? And if so, when? Related owns a slew of properties in the United States, from New York to Miami, as well as in London and Abu Dhabi. Phase one of Hudson Yards on the far west side of Manhattan’s opened earlier this spring to mixed reviews and is successfully attracting throngs of people who are spending countless hours and dollars shopping around the $25 billion site. The Shed, the transformative arts venue designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Rockwell Group, was built on city-owned property and is not directly affiliated with Hudson Yards, but no doubt the recent news may rock its fall season of already-planned performances. In fact, one fashion designer, Prabal Gurung, announced he's canceling a show that was in talks to be located at the Vessel after hearing about Ross's ties to Trump. New York Fashion Week was supposed to be hosted at Hudson Yards in the coming years.  Buildings aren’t necessarily something one can boycott or at least totally ignore. They are a basic human necessity and provide tangible shelter. But the towering monoliths at Hudson Yards weren’t conceived to shelter your average New Yorker. What’s done is done and Hudson Yards is here, and a number of prominent firms contributed to the project's first phase, including Kohn Pederson Fox, Skidmore Owings & Merill, Elkus Manfredi Architects, and Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects The next few years of construction, set to start late next year, will see the build-out of designs by Gehry Partners, Santiago Calatrava, Robert A.M. Stern, and more by Heatherwick Studio. So this leads us to ask: Like Jose Andres, artist Jerry Saltz, and other figures who've laid bare their frustrations with Ross in the last 24 hours, will architects vocalize their political views and become part of this conversation? AN has reached out to a number of firms who’ve worked on Hudson Yards and will update this story when we hear back. 
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Trump’s offshore drilling plan—and his new Secretary of the Interior—are treading water

President Donald Trump’s plan to open much of the American continental shelf to oil exploration has been put on hold after a federal court recently ruled in favor of maintaining existing restrictions against drilling for oil off of the Alaska and Virginia coasts. In March, The New York Times reported that a federal judge for the United States District Court for the District of Alaska ruled against the president’s efforts to revoke an Obama-era executive order that withdrew 120 million acres of Arctic Ocean and about 3.8 million acres of Atlantic Ocean areas from oil exploration initiatives. The judge stated that Trump’s efforts to revoke the drilling ban are “unlawful” and “exceeded the president’s authority,” according to the report, and that the ban will “will remain in full force and effect unless and until revoked by Congress.” In response to the ruling, Department of Interior (DOI) officials have more or less scrapped plans that could have opened up the entirety of America’s coastline to increased oil exploration initiatives, The New York Times reported this week. Molly Block, a spokesperson for the Interior Department, told The Times, “Given the recent court decision, the [DOI] is simply evaluating all of its options to determine the best pathway to accomplish the mission entrusted to it by the President.” The ruling could be appealed to the Ninth District Circuit Court and could potentially reach the United States Supreme Court, but not for several years. It is unclear how either President’s actions will be interpreted by the court, as both Obama’s efforts to protect these areas and Trump’s push to repeal those protections are considered to have taken place according to what is considered, at best, shaky legal precedent. It is expected that the legal setback for President Trump could also precipitate further legal action from environmental groups who seek to turn back a controversial 2017 plan that shrunk the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. The ruling comes as a new Secretary of the Interior, David Bernhardt, takes the helm of the department. Bernhardt was recently confirmed to his position after fierce opposition from Democrats amid accusations of ethics violations. Though Bernhardt took office only two weeks ago, several inquiries into the secretary’s connections to previous employers have taken shape. The DOI Office of Inspector General (OIG) recently confirmed active investigations into potential ethics violations by six senior DOI officials.
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Elizabeth Warren unveils plan to reconnect Americans with public lands

Just in time for Earth Day, Democratic presidential contender Elizabeth Warren has unveiled an ambitious plan that aims to reconnect the American people with the nation’s public lands. The plan, published in a Medium post by the Massachusetts senator, takes aim at the starkly pro-industry policies supported by President Donald Trump by proposing to, among other efforts, ban new fossil fuel exploration on public lands, make admission to every National Park free, and restore the Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments that President Trump shrank upon taking office in 2017. Describing her intention to push back against the current administration’s policies, Warren said, “As president, I will use my authorities under the Antiquities Act to restore protections to both [Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears] and any other national monuments targeted by this administration,’’ adding that she would also “fully fund our public land management agencies and eliminate the infrastructure and maintenance backlog on our public lands in my first term.” According to the National Parks Service, America’s National Parks currently suffer from an $11 billion maintenance backlog that has snarled operations across the parks system. Warren plans to address this deferred maintenance by creating a new 10,000 member Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) that would be tasked with carrying out the needed repairs. The original CCC was created as a part of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal following the Great Depression, and although workers were segregated by race, the program ultimately put over 3 million unemployed and unmarried young men to work improving federally-held lands during its nine-year lifespan. In a nod to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal, Warren also proposes to increase the amount of renewable energy produced on public lands with the goal of providing 10 percent of the U.S.'s overall electricity generation through this initiative. Warren’s plan would also work to increase access to the roughly 10 million acres of public lands spread out across western states that are currently inaccessible due to convoluted ownership and access issues. The plan, Warren hopes, will boost America’s booming “outdoor economy,” which, according to the senator, “accounts for $887 billion in consumer spending each year and creates 7.6 million sustainable jobs that can’t be exported overseas.”
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President Trump threatens to cancel California’s high-speed rail funding

Why did California Governor Gavin Newsom stir up the proverbial hornets' nest with his vague and confusing comments regarding the state’s high-speed rail (HSR) plans last week? That’s become the $920 million question many are asking themselves now as President Donald Trump has threatened to—perhaps illegally—cancel a sizable grant already allocated to the project following days of confusing debate over the future of the high-speed line. During a “state of the state” speech last week, Newsom provided unclear backing for completing the full project as approved by California voters in 2008 when they passed Proposition 1A, a ballot measure that allocated $9.95 billion in general obligation bonds for the planning and construction of an 800-mile high-speed rail system connecting San Francisco to Los Angeles. During his speech, Newsom said:
The project, as currently planned, would cost too much and take too long. There’s been too little oversight and not enough transparency. Right now, there simply isn’t a path to get from Sacramento to San Diego, let alone from San Francisco to L.A. I wish there were. However, we do have the capacity to complete a high-speed rail link between Merced and Bakersfield. I know that some critics will say this is a ‘train to nowhere.’ But that’s wrong and offensive. The people of the Central Valley endure the worst air pollution in America as well as some of the longest commutes. And they have suffered too many years of neglect from policymakers here in Sacramento. They deserve better.
The comments were widely interpreted as a death knell for the L.A. and San Francisco spurs of the line, a characterization the governor disputed in the aftermath of the speech. Newsom spokesperson Nathan Click, speaking to the press, offered the following clarification: “The state will continue undertaking the broader project—completing the bookend projects and finishing the environmental review for the [San Francisco] to L.A. leg—that would allow the project to continue seeking other funding streams." But by that point, the damage had been done. Speaking via Twitter, President Trump said, “California has been forced to cancel the massive bullet train project after having spent and wasted many billions of dollars,” adding, “They owe the Federal Government three and a half billion dollars. We want that money back now. Whole project is a ‘green’ disaster!" It only gets worse from there. The Los Angeles Times reported that an additional $2.5 billion in additional federal grant funding has been thrown into question as Trump Administration officials are “actively exploring every legal option” for taking the money back in light of slow progress as well as the governor’s statements. The funds are currently being put to use building the 119-mile route that Newsom has pledged to finish. The Times reported further that Ronald Batory, the chief of the Federal Railroad Administration who issued the grants to California in 2009 and 2010, penned a legal analysis of the situation to California High-Speed Rail Authority chief executive Brian Kelly stating that California “has materially failed to comply with the terms of the [grant] agreement and has failed to make reasonable progress on the project.” Batory further alleged that California had failed to deliver $100 million in matching funds for the project that were due in late 2018. Batory’s missive also referenced Newsom’s speech directly, saying that the governor has instigated a “significant retreat from the state’s initial vision and commitment.” Experts disagree whether the federal government can legally take back money that has already been allocated or spent, but that has not stopped President Trump from continuing his attacks on the state’s rail plan this week. Either way, the long-held and hard-fought vision of California high-speed rail has been thrown into doubt. The uncertain news has reverberated across the state, including in San Francisco, where the structurally damaged Salesforce Transit Center sits vacant, with an entire subterranean level laying in wait for a high-speed rail line that now might never come.
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Is the Trump administration holding the Gateway tunnel hostage for political reasons?

It’s no secret that the Trump administration has been much more hostile to the Amtrak Gateway Project than its predecessor. President Obama's team had hashed out a 50/50 funding agreement between the federal government and New York and New Jersey officials to replace the aging tunnel under the Hudson River, but the Trump administration quickly moved to quash the deal last year. According to NBC New York, the nonprofit National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is now suing the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) over concerns that the administration has unduly canceled the project. A federal Environmental Impact Statement for the project was supposed to have been completed by March 30, 2018, but the DOT has failed to produce any materials or answer the Freedom of Information Request (FOIA) filed by the NRDC in September. The suit alleges that progress on the Gateway tunnel is being stymied so that the administration might use it as a bargaining chip to help grease construction of a U.S.-Mexico border wall. The 108-year-old, two-track rail tube that runs between New Jersey and New York services approximately 200,000 Amtrak passengers daily but was severely damaged by saltwater during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. With the looming possibility that one of the tunnels would fail (which Amtrak expects would reduce traffic by up to 75 percent), both New York and New Jersey had upped their commitments to the project to $5 billion out of the required $12.7 billion. The Obama administration’s pledge to fund half of the project would have largely been doled out in loans to the two states, a common method of funding infrastructure.

The alleged quashing of the environmental review isn’t the first time the current administration has been accused of playing hardball with the project to achieve its political aims. In March of last year, President Trump was reportedly meeting with congressional Republicans to kill the project in retaliation against Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Democratic leaders in the affected states. The NRDC suit alleges that USDOT has been intentionally delaying any progress on the project and has gone so far to refer to the project under the codename “mushroom” to thwart FOIA requests. USDOT has denied impeding the Gateway Project for political reasons or using a code word to obfuscate its documentation and has chalked up the delay to what it calls an untenable funding model. The agency also issued the following statement: “It is false to say that DOT is blocking the Hudson Tunnels project, when in fact the project as it stands is actually ineligible to proceed.” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo had scheduled a sit down with president Trump at the White House over the state of the project in November of last year, as well as several high-profile, live-streamed tours of the crumbling tunnels. It appears that, for the time being, those overtures were for naught. Lending fuel to the NRDC's allegations is the recent decision by the Trump administration to demand the return of $2.5 billion in transportation grants given to California for their high-speed rail project, along with the possible cancelation of another $968 million grant. California's Governor Gavin Newsom has argued that the move is purely political and a result of the state's decision to sue the administration over its recent state of emergency declaration.
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Trump declares national emergency to force border wall construction

After a record 35-day-long government shutdown over funding for a southern border wall was put on hold for lawmakers to hash out a continued spending bill, it now appears that the Trump administration will declare a national emergency to appropriate funds for the wall. The president is in Washington, D.C., to sign a massive $328 billion bipartisan spending bill that would have only allocated $1.4 billion for the construction of 55 miles of fencing, well short of the $5.7 billion he had previously demanded. As the New York Times and other sources are reporting, the president is expected to sign the bill as well as declare a national emergency. The government was set to shut down again on February 15 if no compromise over the issue had been reached by then. On the Senate floor today, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced Trump "is prepared to sign the bill" and that "he will also be issuing a national emergency declaration at the same time." Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed Senator McConnell's comments, and added that the president would also take unspecified "other executive action."  The president had been threatening to fund the border wall through alternative means for months, but any plan to do so could face a legal challenge from Democratic lawmakers and nonprofit groups, as well as the possibility that the Senate would rescind the declaration via a two-thirds majority vote. A national emergency would allow the Trump administration to pull funds from other accounts, such as disaster relief spending (including reconstruction money designated for Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria), and the military budget. Update: On February 15, president Trump officially declared a national emergency and will direct $8 billion towards the construction and repair of 234 miles of wall along the U.S.'s southern border. That figure includes the previously allocated $1.375 billion, as well as $3.6 billion diverted from military projects, $2.5 billion from the Pentagon's drug prevention program, and $600 million claimed from the drug forfeiture program.
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FEMA's flood insurance program continues through shutdown after lobbying by real estate industry

The night before President Donald Trump announced the federal government shutdown, he signed into law a stopgap bill that would reauthorize FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). "Adversarial journalism" outlet The Intercept reported on the bill and its potential connections to the nation's real estate interests.  Enacted in 1968, the NFIP was established in order to protect homes built on federally designated floodplains. Getting insurance through the program is a prerequisite for banks in providing mortgages to individuals buying relevant property. When FEMA announced on December 26 that it could not continue work, enter into contracts, or spend federal dollars because of the shutdown, many real estate interest groups got upset about the NFIP interruption. The Intercept reported the president and Congress essentially forced FEMA to carry on issuing certifications after these parties cried out over the estimated 40,000 coastal home closings that would be lost per month without the service. The National Association of Realtors, among others, made it clear that shuttering this program during the shutdown would be a detrimental loss to the real estate business in the U.S.
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Architects crowdfund money for border fence prototype around Mar-a-Lago

Following an unsuccessful attempt at floating a line of Pink Floyd-style golden pigs in front of the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago, architecture studio New World Design has turned its attention to a new piece of protest art. The group is now crowdfunding on GoFundMe to build a 30-foot-tall, golden wall “prototype” outside of the president’s Mar-a-Lago compound and golf course in Florida. As the government shutdown over $5.7 billion in southern border wall funding has dragged on to become the longest shutdown in history, New World Design is looking to raise $570 million for U.S.-Mexico Border Wall: A Study in Absurdity. The project is a tongue-in-cheek response to the viral, but unsuccessful, campaign to crowdfund the border wall. The 30-foot-tall, ornamented picket fence would be plated in gold and “lethally” electrified. Six new coal-fired power plants across the U.S.-Mexico border would power the barrier. The group has proposed first installing it at Mar-a-Lago as a “legitimate constructibility test,” a callback to the eight border wall prototypes built and tested in Otay Mesa, California. This project is much less tangible than Flying Pigs on Parade: A Chicago River Folly, and the group expects that it won’t hit its sky-high goal; any of the money raised will instead be donated to the International Refugee Assistance Program.
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The Senate starts its search for a new Architect of the Capitol

Know any architects looking for an extremely high-profile government job? Okay, so maybe not everyone wants to work for the federal government right now (thanks, 31-day government shutdown). Nevertheless, the search for a new Architect of the Capitol (AOC) is officially underway, reports Roll Call. Anyone who seeks to fill the position will be responsible for overseeing a multitude of preservation and maintenance projects on the Capitol’s campus. A few of those include the $752 million renewal of the Cannon House Office Building, the oldest structure on site, as well as updates to the Beaux Arts–style Russell Senate Office Building, also built over a century ago. The AOC will also be in charge of rehabilitating the Senate Underground Garage and Senate Park, both under construction through 2020, as well as overseeing the continued facade work on the Capitol Building itself. Not only that, he or she will manage all upgrades and maintenance to the Capitol Visitor Center, the Supreme Court Building, the Library of Congress, the U.S. Botanic Garden, and the Capitol Grounds. That’s 18.4 million square feet of federal facilities including 190 structures and 580 acres of landscape sprawled across Capitol Hill. Did we mention it’s full-time? The position is a 10-year term, currently held by Stephen T. Ayers. Nominated in 2010 by President Obama, Ayers oversaw the three-year, $59.5 million restoration of the Capitol Dome, which wrapped up in 2016. Ayers announced his retirement in late November and is leaving behind over $1 billion of deferred maintenance work and a $733 million budget for the new AOC to takeover.  The hunt for a new leader is being spearheaded by the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, a 14-person group that includes the Speaker of the House, the President pro tempore, the majority and minority leaders from both chambers, the chairs and ranking members of the House Administration and Senate Rules Committees, as well as the Appropriations Committee members from both chambers. The group is working with an executive search firm to find three candidates to recommend to President Trump. Once the president makes his pick, the Senate must officially confirm his or her appointment. The confirmed nominee will become the 12th Architect of the Capitol in U.S. history. Several past officeholders were actually not registered architects, which still isn’t a requirement to fill the position.
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All eight border wall prototypes fail basic penetrability test

As the Trump administration prepares to potentially declare a national emergency to jumpstart construction of a wall along the U.S.’s southern border—as well as possibly using storm aid funds to do so—the viability of the wall itself has come under fire. In a photo obtained by NBC News, one of the steel bollard border wall prototypes in Otay Mesa, California, was easily breached using an off-the-shelf saw. The eight border wall prototypes in Otay Mesa (directly across from Tijuana in Mexico) were assembled in early 2017 after an executive order directed the Department of Homeland Security to design and build a southern border wall. Four concrete wall segment mockups, and four from mixed materials, were assembled in the desert. The 30-foot-tall prototypes were graded on their aesthetic qualities in August 2018, but testing in late 2017 has revealed that all eight may be easy to penetrate. On “Pogo Row”, a testing area near the California-Mexico border, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents were instructed to try to breach the eight border wall segments—and eventually broke through all eight. Using saws and other hand tools, teams were able to cause holes “larger than 12-inches in diameter or square,” the DHS standard definition of breaching. According to a redacted version of the CBP report obtained through a freedom of information request from the San Diego-based KPBS, replicas of each prototype’s first ten feet were tested for breaching. One (redacted) technique proved so destructive during the first test that further experimenting was postponed, as officials feared it would destabilize the structural integrity of the other models before they could be thoroughly assessed. No testing on how well the walls were able to resist tunneling appears to have been conducted, despite that being a major design criterion in the Request for Proposal. Additionally, none of the eight designs met the requirements for adaptability across the thousands of miles of the border’s rugged, varied terrain. For its part, the DHS has argued that no wall is impenetrable and that by slowing migrants trying to breach it, Border Patrol agents are given time to respond. DHS spokeswoman Katie Waldman told NBC that the prototypes were only meant to inform the final design moving forward. When asked about the photo obtained by NBC yesterday, President Trump responded that, “that’s a wall designed by previous administrations.” While previous administrations have used steel bollards at the border, the prototypes tested were built by the Trump administration.