In the decade since it was rezoned, Downtown Brooklyn has grown up in a big way. Just look at its skyline and the new apartment towers and hotels that call it home. The open air between those buildings will soon be filled because development isn't slowing down—it's just getting started. But the next decade of change in Downtown Brooklyn could offer much more than the first. That's because as new buildings rose, the area’s street-level never kept pace: public space is still scarce and underused, streets are hard to navigate and dangerous, and educational and cultural institutions have been disconnected. Today, however, Mayor de Blasio announced strategies to change all that by injecting the booming district with new (or refurbished) parks, redesigned streetscapes, new retail, and better connections between its many cultural and educational institutions. These investments could be transformative in their own right, but are especially notable given Mayor de Blasio’s hesitancy to talk about the importance of urban design. To be clear, New York City’s commitment to safe, livable streets did not die when Mayor Bloomberg walked out the door. In de Blasio's New York, there have been new bike lanes and the like, but the mayor doesn't speak about these issues with the force of his predecessor. That seemed to change today as this plan goes all in on urbanism. “This is one of the city’s great success stories, and we have an incredible opportunity to take these stunning communities, parks, and institutions and knit them together,” Mayor de Blasio said in a statement. “The investments we are making will help Downtown Brooklyn continue its rise, generate good jobs, and make this a more dynamic neighborhood to live and work.” The plan starts where Downtown Brooklyn starts—at the mouth of the Brooklyn Bridge. The City plans to transform the 21-acre patchwork of underused parks and public plazas between the bridge and Borough Hall into a “great promenade and gateway into Brooklyn.” The renovated space, known as the "Brooklyn Strand," will be designed to better connect with the area's transit hubs and the celebrated Brooklyn Bridge Park, designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates. This strategy follows a study commissioned by the Brooklyn Tech Triangle - a cluster of tech companies in Downtown Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and DUMBO. It was led by WXY. While not mentioned explicitly, Vision Zero factors into this plan though the City's strategies to make certain corridors more bike and pedestrian friendly. This includes a multi-million dollar transformation of the Brooklyn side of the Brooklyn Bridge—a plan that was conceived under Bloomberg and is slated to break ground next year. Over on Willoughby Street, the City will "explore non-traditional roadway design that recognizes and accommodates the heavy use of the area by pedestrians." ARUP is working with the city on that redesign. The City has also pledged to build a new one-acre public park in Downtown Brooklyn and refurbish two others—Fox Square and BAM Park. The latter has been closed to the public for decades, but will be spruced up by WXY. Fox Square will be renewed by AKRF, with Mathews Nielsen. To boost business in Downtown Brooklyn, the City will offer-up some of its own ground-floor space to retail tenants. It may also consolidate its 1.4 million square feet to provide affordable office space for businesses. And there are plans to launch a consortium between Downtown Brooklyn’s 11 colleges to “better connect the tech, creative, and academic communities.” This is intended to best prepare students for jobs at Brooklyn’s Tech Triangle. The Economic Development Corporation will provide $200,000 in seed funding to kickstart that initiative. As part of this plan, the emerging Brooklyn Cultural District, which straddles the blurry border between Downtown Brooklyn and Fort Greene, could get its very own Businesses Improvement District (BID). The City said it will work with the over 60 cultural groups in the district to market the area as a preeminent cultural hub. Of course, at this point, these are all fairly vague proposals—just ideas on paper unbound by hard deadlines. But this announcement shows that as Downtown Brooklyn builds toward the sky, the City will refocus on the people walking, biking, studying, and working on the streets below.
Posts tagged with "Michael Bloomberg":
At a recent transportation forum hosted by the New York Building Congress, New York City Transportation Commissioner, Polly Trottenberg, laid-out her agenda for the city’s streets. She said implementing Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero plan to reduce traffic fatalities remains the department’s first priority, but made clear that, under her leadership, the NYCDOT will be doing more than safety upgrades. Trottenberg praised her predecessor, Janette Sadik-Khan, for “cracking some eggs” and fighting for bike lanes, bikeshare, Select Bus Service, and pedestrian plazas when it was not politically popular to do so. She explained that Sadik-Khan’s commitment to these types of programs—and the Bloomberg administration’s ability to realize them—makes her job that much easier. The challenge now is keeping up with the demand for new public space. According to Trottenberg, the NYCDOT is actively pursuing ways to expand these initiatives around the city—especially farther out into the boroughs. The department's wildly popular pedestrian plazas, though, could be more difficult to implement outside of Manhattan and hotspots in Brooklyn. In places like Times Square and Herald Square, explained Trottenberg, the plazas' construction and maintenance can be supported by Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) and deep-pocketed interests. This type of financial backing may be harder to secure in more middle-class and working-class neighborhoods. But while the most high-profile plazas are in Manhattan, this program has already been successfully implemented in parts of the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens. The commissioner also expressed support for congestion pricing, but did not explicitly endorse any plan. When asked about recent polling on the issue—which found modest support for the idea—she dismissed the numbers outright, saying poll respondents will always say "no" when asked about paying more for something. For congestion pricing to happen, she said, it will take politicians who can see past the politics. “If you’re waiting for a magical poll where people say, ‘yes, I’ll pay,’ it’s not going to happen,” she said. While Sadik-Khan broke significant ground on New York’s public space—physically and metaphorically—continuing to change the streetscape will not be easy. “We make things in New York very complicated,” said Trottenberg. A big reason for that is what she called the “Byzantine nature” of how the city’s infrastructure is divvied up between agencies and jurisdictions. It can be difficult, even for her, to know who oversees what road or bridge, and why exactly that is. Still, the city is in a much better place to make the case for public space than it was just a few years ago, back during the infamous bike lane wars of 2011. Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Sadik-Khan blazed the path, and now their successors seem intent to pave it forward.
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.
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.
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.”
Just one month after leaving office, Michael Bloomberg (pictured) has been appointed a United Nations special envoy for cities and climate change. According to Reuters, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Bloomberg will help “raise political will and mobilize action among cities as part of his long-term strategy to advance efforts on climate change.” The former mayor is Johannesburg, South Africa this week for the fifth biennial C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group Mayors Summit. Bloomberg is the President of C40’s board, which is a “a network of the world’s megacities taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” This year’s conference is focused on creating liveable and sustainable cities. (Photo: Spencer T. Tucker )
[beforeafter] [/beforeafter] New York City has been adjusting to its new Mayor Bill De Blasio, who took office at the beginning of the year. The new mayor has been slowly revealing his team of commissioners who will guide the city's continued transformation. As AN has noted many times before, De Blasio's predecessor Michael Bloomberg and his team already left a giant mark on New York's built environment. With little more than paint, planters, and a few well-placed boulders, Bloomberg and former Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan's street interventions have been some of the most evident changes around the city. Whether it's at Brooklyn's Grand Army Plaza, above, or at Snøhetta's redesigned Times Square, these road diets shaved off excess space previously turned over to cars and returned it to the pedestrian realm in dramatic fashion as these before-and-after views demonstrate. As we continue to learn more about our new Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, take a look back at 25 of the most exciting road diets and pedestrian plaza conversions across New York City from the Bloomberg era. [beforeafter][/beforeafter] Location: Allen and Pike Streets in the Lower East Side. [beforeafter][/beforeafter] Location: Holland Tunnel Area. [beforeafter][/beforeafter] Location: St. Nicholas Avenue & Amsterdam Avenue. [beforeafter][/beforeafter] Location: Allen and Pike Street in the Lower East Side. [beforeafter][/beforeafter] Location: Harlem River Park Gateway. [beforeafter][/beforeafter] Location: Herald Square. [beforeafter][/beforeafter] Location: Harlem River Park Gateway. [beforeafter] [/beforeafter] Location: Broadway at Times Square. [beforeafter][/beforeafter] Location: 12th Avenue West at 135th Street. [beforeafter][/beforeafter] Location: Holland Tunnel Area. [beforeafter][/beforeafter] Location: Louis Nine Boulevard. [beforeafter][/beforeafter] [beforeafter][/beforeafter] Location: Delancey Street in the Lower East Side. [beforeafter][/beforeafter] Location: Prospect Park West. [beforeafter][/beforeafter] Location: Broadway at Times Square. [beforeafter][/beforeafter] Location: Broadway & West 71st Street. [beforeafter][/beforeafter] Location: Union Square. [beforeafter][/beforeafter] Location: Columbus Avenue. [beforeafter][/beforeafter] Location: Union Square. [beforeafter][/beforeafter] Location: Water and Whitehall Streets. [beforeafter][/beforeafter] Location: Union Square. [beforeafter][/beforeafter] Location: Randall and Leggett Ave. [beforeafter][/beforeafter] Location: Grand Army Plaza at the entrance to Brooklyn's Prospect Park. [beforeafter][/beforeafter] Location: Hoyt Avenue at the RFK Bridge. All photos courtesy New York City Department of Transportation.
Earlier this week, Manhattan Borough President and City Controller candidate Scott Stringer announced his $1 million pledge to restore a historic Harlem fire watchtower at the heart of Marcus Garvey Park. In the 19th century, the 47-foot tower served as a lookout point and the bell was raised in case of imminent danger. Today, the tower no longer protects the community but threatens it, showing substantial signs of decay and neglect. Running a tight race against Eliot Spitzer, Stringer lags behind the former governor in terms of African American votes and is thus seeking to salvage one of the community’s most valued landmarks. The past few days, he has generated good publicity from his ability and desire to fund this restoration project.The $1 million provided by Stringer, along with the $1.75 million contributed by Councilmember Inez Dickens and $1.25 million by Mayor Bloomberg will be used to preserve the tower. The project includes a full restoration of the tower’s cast-iron structure, the removal of deficient parts, and the additional construction of a stainless steel support system. As the 157-year-old tower continues to deteriorate, with parts of it falling from its structure each day, Stringer assures that the restoration project will contribute to a safer environment for Harlem inhabitants. Stringer plans on working collaboratively with the Mayor’s Office, the Department of Parks and Recreation, the Marcus Garvey Park Alliance, and the Mount Morris Community Improvement Association in order to protect a historic component of Harlem’s culture and history. The fire tower is the only surviving one of eleven cast-iron watchtowers placed throughout New York City since the 1850s. The project will ensure the preservation of one of the city’s most treasured historical remnants and will ultimately lead to a safer environment within the Harlem community.
It has been several years in the making, but now the industrial strip along Brooklyn's polluted Gowanus Canal will finally be transformed into a lush and porous green space aptly named The Gowanus Canal Sponge Park that will soak up and filter rainwater to help improve the overall water quality along the waterway. This $1.5 million project, a collaboration between the Gowanus Canal Conservancy and landscape architecture firm dlandstudio, will finally get off the ground with the help of city, state, and federal funding. While a full esplanade was initially planned for the 1.8-mile stretch along the EPA Superfund site, Bloomberg recently announced that the city's first step will be a scaled-down park right where the canal intersects with Second Street. The park takes its name from its "working landscape." Dlandstudio plans on using plants and soils to soak up toxins and heavy metals from the water. The firm will also employ strategies to reroute storm water run-off to keep the sewer system from overflowing and spilling back into the mucky canal. Floating wetlands will also be implemented to absorb contaminants and toxins from sewage. The Daily News reported that the city plans on breaking ground on the park by 2014, and hopes to open it to the public by summer of 2015.
On the roof of a construction site in Greenpoint, Brooklyn Monday, U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan announced the release of a new report outlining 69 rebuilding strategies designed to both help Hurricane Sandy–ravaged communities and to serve as a model for coastal regions across the country that are vulnerable to storm surges and rising sea levels. Close to the waterfront, the site overlooked the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant—one of the few sewage treatment facilities to survive Sandy intact. It was a fitting place for Secretary Donovan, who also serves as chair of the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, to introduce this bundle of new recommendations that address both immediate and long-term needs of coastal communities, including resilient and region-wide approaches to rebuilding and infrastructure investment. A number of the initiatives in the report, such as HUD's "Rebuild by Design" competition, are already underway. "And today, less than a year after the storm, we've already provided help to over 250,000 families, and thousands and thousands of businesses across the region," Secretary Donovan said at the announcement. "FEMA alone has provided more than $12 billion of help. But we are not just focused on speeding relief to families and communities, we're also focused on protecting communities from the risks of a changing climate." While the task force has mapped out a range of far-reaching initiatives, it will refrain from dictating how local communities should use those resources. Secretary Donovan recalled that President Barack Obama told him, "No big foot," in one of their first post-Sandy meetings. "And what he meant by that, this is not about the federal government coming in and telling communities what they should build or how they should build. It is about us supporting local visions," Secretary Donovan continued. The funding, which is tied to different recommendations in the report, will come from the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act (Sandy Supplemental) and will be allocated and managed by various agencies and federal departments. Secretary Donovan said that the next "tranche" will focus primarily on infrastructure and is to be used at the city's discretion. A buyout program will be available to residents who live in coastal areas that are at particularly high risk, but the secretary said that this group makes up a small minority and most waterfront communities will be able to safely rebuild.
Spreading out across 10,000 acres of parkland, Jamaica Bay in Queens, New York will now serve as the focus of a new science and resilience institute spearheaded by the City University of New York (CUNY) to understand how urban ecosystems respond to changing weather patterns and global warming. The CUNY-led research consortium, temporarily housed on Brooklyn College's campus, will collaborate with other leading New York institutions to study the efficacy of natural flood protections, such as dunes and salt marshes, in safeguarding New York's coastline. These findings will benefit and be applicable to other cities and regions that are vulnerable to flooding as sea levels rise and storms become more frequent and powerful. “In the City of New York, we have a powerful and dedicated partner to promote visitation, education programs, scientific research and opportunities for recreation in our urban parks,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell at the announcement of the new program yesterday. “And now, in CUNY and their academic partners, we have a consortium of world-class institutions to advance our understanding of climate change and its impact on our natural systems. Working together, we will develop and coordinate approaches to coastal resiliency for Jamaica Bay that can serve as a model for communities around the world threatened by climate change.” The institute will formally launch in October with the "Urban Resilience in an Era of Climate Change: Global Input for Local Solutions" symposium, which will investigate and come up with strategies to make urban areas more resilient. Mayor Bloomberg also introduced a new public-private partnership, called Jamaica Bay—Rockaway Parks Conservancy, founded to support the development and operations of the parklands and waters in the Jamaica Bay area. The Conservancy will also be responsible for programming and amenities including, boat rentals, food trucks, and biking.
In just a few years, visitors will stand atop an 80-foot-tall hill on Governors Island and enjoy sweeping vistas of New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty, and the Manhattan skyline. Today Mayor Bloomberg broke ground on The Hills, a new 11-acre stretch of green space, that is part of Governors Island Park, and one feature of landscape architecture firm West 8's expansive 30-acre Public Space Master Plan that was first unveiled in 2010. The Hills will, as its name so clearly suggests, will consist of a series of rolling hills: a 25-foot-tall hill offering views of of the island and city skyline; a 40-foot hill, dubbed Slide Hill, featuring 4 slides; a 60-foot hill called Discovery Hill that will exhibit site-specific art installations; and lastly, Outlook Hill, peaking at 80-ft and providing 360-degree panoramic views of New York City. The sloping park will be made of debris from old parking lots and from the recent demolition of the island's vacant coast guard apartment buildings. These materials will be recycled and turned into fill that will form the center of the Hills. Bloomberg also announced Eric and Wendy Schmidt's donation of $15 million to the construction of the Hills, which marks the official launch of the Trust for Governors Island’s capital campaign to raise a total of $70 million. So far the campaign has raised $36 million from a number of private donors including The Lauder Foundation, Joan H. Tisch and Family, and the Tiffany & Co Foundation. Construction commenced on the new 30-acre park in May 2012, and several sections—including Hammock Grove, Play Lawn, and Liggett Terrace—are slated to be completed by this year.