Posts tagged with "Michael Bloomberg":

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Willets Point Brings Retail Revelry, Puts Housing on Back Burner

Mayor Bloomberg evoked Fitzgerald today when he announced the deal between Sterling Equities and Related Companies to revamp Willets Point. "Today the 'valley of ashes' is well on its way to becoming the site of historic private investment," the mayor said in a statement, referring to the gritty midpoint between Gatsby's West Egg manse and Manhattan. The plan pegs its success to a  mega entertainment/retail hub just west of the stadium, that sounds very much a part of a trend in projects that used to be called malls, but are now called retail/entertainment attractions (see also the aptly named American Dream in NJ). Willets West, as the new complex will be called, promises to convert a former parking lot into more than one million square feet of retail, movie theaters, restaurants, venues, and, of course, parking. But before that the city will spend $100 million east side of the site in demolition and cleanup of the former auto repair shops and junk yards, and then install much needed basic infrastructure. The city is already installing $50 million worth of sewers. Also east of the stadium, the Sterling/Related partnership, called the Queens Development Corporation, will begin developing the 126th Street corridor, where a 200 room hotel will abut 30,000 square feet of retail and a twenty acre interim parking lot. After all that is done, then comes the housing. The Willets Point Community, as it is to be called, will have 4.5 million square feet of mixed-use development. This phase of the project will include construction of the Van Wyck Expressway's access ramps that city got approval for in April. Another 900,000 square feet of street level retail will meet 500,000 square feet of office space, another hotel, and 2,500 units of housing, of which 35 percent will be affordable. That the housing comes so late in the game has got more than few politians up up in arms. The Daily News reported early this week that City Coucilmember Karen Koslowitz was not pleased. It's a pretty sensitive topic that was initially raises in The Wall Street Journal last month, which cited Willets Point and Atlantic Yards as examples of where housing was used to win favor with the locals but ends up being the last component of the project scheduled for completion.  
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Ten Thousand Blue Citibikes to Hit New York Streets

Beginning this July, thousands of bright-blue Citibikes will begin swarming the streets of Manhattan and eventually Brooklyn and Long Island City, Queens. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and NYCDOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan made the formal announcement today that Citibank has signed on as the official sponsor for the city's new bike share system. Ten thousand Citibikes located across 600 stations will be deployed across the city over the following year, making the system the largest in the United States. Citibank has committed $41 million over the next five years to jumpstart the program, with MasterCard chipping in another $6.5 million, meaning no public money will be required to launch the system. "We're getting an entirely new transportation network without spending any taxpayer money," Bloomberg said. "Who thought that could be done?" An annual pass for the system will cost $95.00, with weekly passes at $25.00 and daily passes $9.95. A map of official station locations will be released soon and additional information can be found on the Citibike web site.
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Willets Point to Rise from Ashes

In Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby the billboard eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg kept watch over the ash heaps near Willets Point. For the past four years Mayor Bloomberg has had his eyes steadfastly fixed on the site and it looks as though he may realize his vision of the area as a mixed use development. Today Crain's reports that a key part of the redevelopment plan, ramps connecting to the Van Wyck Expressway, was approved by the Federal Highway Administration.

In Gatsby, the area served as a brutal reality check between Gatsby's West Egg fantasy and the glitz of the Plaza Hotel.  For urbanism buffs a trip to Willets Point is a must. The many auto repair shops, junk yards, and recycling plants provide an unfettered look inside the belly of the urban beast. But like so many other dirty bits of business (see Fresh Kills), the city seems intent on exporting the unattractive aesthetics that come with it. "It may not look pretty, but its work that needs doing," said Roberta Brandes Gratz, author of The Battle for Gotham and Jane Jacobs protege. "If it's not clean work, does that make it blight?"

Gratz compared the city's plan to Robert Moses' neighborhood clearance projects.  She questioned the elimination of businesses that pull in more than $1 million in real estate taxes, despite being unconnected to basic services such as sewer and waste water systems. "It costs the city nothing, yet its collecting tax revenue," said Grantz. "Where are those businesses going to? Jersey, Connecticut, Nassau?" There's no questioning that the city has begun to appreciate its decayed industrial aesthetic, so lovingly and nostalgically preserved on the High Line. The city has even found ways to reclaim former trash heaps (see Fresh Kills again).  A statement from New York City Economic Development Corporation frames  the Willets Point project in similarly ambitious terms:  "Building upon the off site infrastructure work on which we broke ground last fall, today, we are literally laying the foundation for the site and unlocking its long-term potential for future generations of New Yorkers." But the gritty industries that created the sites may not be as welcome in future plans. Instead, $3 billion worth of hotels, residences, and retail along with nearly  80,000 vehicle trips a day will take their place.  "Adding new highways is no longer considered reasonable and an off ramp will increase traffic," said Gratz. "What ever gets built there would car oriented. I thought the city was trying to be green!"
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@MikeBloomberg: #SocialMedia is Complicated! SMH

Mayor Bloomberg was in Singapore last Wednesday to accept the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize for sustainable planning, but it was the mayor's comments on social media got the most play in The New York Times and the New York Post. “I think this whole world has become a culture of 'me now,' rather than for my kids later on," he was quoted as saying. "Social media is going to make it even more difficult to make long-term investments. We are basically having a referendum on every single thing that we do every day, and it’s very hard for people to stand up and say, ‘No, no. This is what we’re going to do’ when there’s constant criticism and an election process.” Indeed. Two of the projects that Lee Kuan judges called out were conceived in a pre-social-media atmosphere: the High Line and Brooklyn Bridge Park.  The third example, "re-purposing the right of way" (i.e. bike lanes and pedestrian plazas), evolved under the glare of social media. But as the mayor said in the speech, the High Line was just one court decision from being torn down when his administration took over in 2002.  One can't help but wonder how much easier activist mobilization might have been if social media were around. Instead, activists relied on community outreach and coverage in print media to save the endangered rail bed. Though Brooklyn Bridge Park began with traditional community mobilization, by the time park officials got around to proposing a hotel and residential towers within the park's boundaries,  opponents had found plenty of friends on Facebook. But among the three initiatives/projects cited in Singapore, none played out in social media more than the bike lanes. Interestingly enough, it's here that the mayor got the most support. If you can find the wordy "No Bike Lane on Prospect Park West Neighbors For Better Bike Lanes" Facebook page, compare its closed group of 288 members to the 3,397 'likes' on Transportation Alternatives public page.  Transportation Alternatives has another 4,081 following them on Twitter under the handle @TransAlt. Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes isn't on Twitter. It’s not difficult to understand the mayor’s concern. In the last month alone, social media has had a profound effect at the city’s pubic hearings and meetings. The young bucks from the AIDS Memorial Competition nearly upended the land use process for the Rudin’s plan for St. Vincent’s when they tapped into Architizer’s 450,000 Facebook fans to hold the competition mid-ULURP.  Normally quiet sub-committee meetings of Community Board 2 had to scramble to find more room for the NYU 2030 Expansion Plan after Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP) digitally got the word out.  And the very staid—and sometimes dull—Design Commission meeting turned into a sideshow when Save Coney Island informed their 5,300 Facebook friends of the time and place of the meeting. Regardless of how the mayor (with his own 240,000 followers on Twitter) feels about social media, it's here to stay. Even though the city closed down Zuccotti Park, Occupy Wall Street continues to make its presence felt online, where they plan flash demonstrations held all over town. The question is: how does the city integrate this vital new participation into the process? There are platforms on that allow citizens to see what's going on, but few to interact. Researchers at NYU's Polytechnic Institute have been developing Betaville, an online, open-source platform where residents can do a 3-D fly-through of proposed projects and make comments. At the GVSHP kickoff meeting to oppose the NYU2030 expansion plan, one gray-haired woman said to another gray-haired woman that there was just too much gray hair in the room. As the various CB2 subcommittee meetings progressed through the month of February, more and more students who opposed the plan began to show up, as did their NYU professors. How did they get the younger turnout? Word of mouth, flyers, and, of course, social media.
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Brooklyn Skyscraper District Clears Key Council Vote

Despite a very public effort by the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) to stop City Council's landmarks subcommittee from approving Downtown Brooklyn's skyscraper district, the measure passed, paving the way for a full Council vote on February 1.  As the proposed district always had full support of Council Member Stephen Levin and Borough President Marty Markowitz, it wasn't likely that REBNY's shot across the bow would make much of a difference. But it may point to a more assertive stance by the group which has been decrying layers of regulations from Lanmarks and ULURP. REBNY sent out a full color flier that portrayed a dumbstruck cartoon figure looking at bland Court Street edifice with a banner reading "Is this a landmark?" According to the Daily News, it's the first time the group has had done a direct mail campaign in response to landmarking. Just last week REBNY's senior VP Michael Slattery told AN that he found the landmark districts "problematic." With Mayor Michael Bloomberg promising to streamline City Planning's land use applications, and with a regulatory-fatigued industry grumbling a lot louder, REBNY's public stance against Landmarks has all the markings of a campaign.  The group's loud opposition against the 21-block historic districting accompanies a gathering storm of anti-ULURP opinions from high-profile developers like Jonathan Rose who called for an overhaul of the review process at Planning''s Zoning the City conference last November. But as Landmarks trumps zoning on many levels, the campaign, if it can be called that yet, seems to be starting on the ground floor.
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Zoning and you

Green markets, bike lanes, the design of street life—New York City zoning aims to impact your quality of life. "In the Bloomberg administration, as wielded by the New York City Planning Commission and its director, Amanda Burden, zoning has assumed a more activist role than ever before," writes AN Executive Editor Julie Iovine about the ambitions of zoning 50 years after the New York Zoning Resolution was passed. Read the full article, "Zoning Grows Up," in The Wall Street Journal.  
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Cornell Wins: Next Stop Roosevelt Island

With his hand essentially forced by a hasty withdraw of Stanford on Friday, and the hugely enticing carrot of a $350 million gift from Duty-Free billionaire and Cornell alum Charles Feeney, Mayor Bloomberg announced on Monday that the Cornell team will be building the NYC Tech Campus on Roosevelt Island. The terms "game changer" and "transformative" were bandied about with regularity throughout the mayor's midday press conference, which was streamed live on the net to the delight of Cornell's partnering campus, Technion—Israel Institute of Technology. The Israeli students' digitally lapsed cheering added a techy touch. The mayor said the plan was the boldest and most ambitious of the entries. Ultimately, the two million square foot campus will include housing for 2,500 students and 280 faculty members. A 150,000 square foot net-zero building just south of the Queensboro Bridge on the 10-acre site of Goldwater Hospital promises to be “the largest net-zero energy building in the eastern United States.” The effort was praised for its community inclusiveness with over a half a million square feet of open space to be designed by Field Operations, $150 million in start up capital for spin-off businesses, and public school programming for 10,000 students. SOM's green roofed net-zero building may have been the engineering coup de gras that put the other teams out of the running, but the waterfront access won over many. For now, inclusiveness may have to stand in for connectedness. The island has one subway stop on the F line and a somewhat recently upgraded air tram. The Queensboro bridge sweeps right over it.  A 2009 report on Roosevelt Island's accessibility (AccessRI) commissioned by NY State Senator Jose Serrano and conducted by the Hunter College Department of Urban Affairs and Planning found that the existing infrastructure is in need of repair and already stretched to capacity. Infrastructure upgrades by the city to the tune of $100 million are part of the competition offerings. Noting that the current residents on the island "are struggling with a myriad of issues that range from problems caused by aging and neglected infrastructure to demographic and social changes" coupled with  "perceptions of inadequate governance that result in the feeling that their concerns are ignored and will never be addressed," AccessRI called for legislation not only to improve the island's physical connections on and between the island and the city but also to restructure its governance. Currently, the island is owned by the city but operated by a state-chartered corporation, the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC), a set-up that island residents complained lacked transparency and accessibility. At Monday's press conference, Mayor Bloomberg joked that he looked forward to seeing increased water taxi service on the East River and all around Roosevelt Island. But it will take more than water taxis to make Roosevelt Island and the NYTech Campus a tangible success story. With additional reporting by Tom Stoelker.
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Event> Zoning the City

Attention Zoning Wonks! In honor of the 50th anniversary of the 1961 Zoning Resolution, City Planning is hosting the Zoning the City Conference on November 15.  Mayor Bloomberg will open the conference, while planning commissioner Amanda Burden will moderate with Harvard planning guru Jerold Kayden (a recent AN commentator). AN plans to blog live from the event and City Planning will be tweeting away @ZoningTheCity. The event, co-sponsored with Harvard and Baruch’s Newman Institute, has already been dubbed “the Woodstock of Planning” by one at least one registrant. Yesterday, Planning got the ball rolling by placing the original 1961 zoning resolution online, along with a dozen other related manuals and public testimony as part of the DCP History Project. The city’s—as well as the nation’s—first zoning manual from 1916 hints at just how far the process has come, from broad brushstrokes to highly specific overlays and special purpose districts. A few of the documents have anecdotal tidbits, such as a 1916 business district that lists some of the businesses as fat rendering, rag storage, smelting, and horseshoeing. A 1950 study commissioned by Planning begins with a cover letter salutation that would never fly today: “Gentlemen, …” Most of the documents are a pretty dry read, but the public testimony is downright riveting. The 1960 transcripts provide much-needed colloquial voices to balance out the graphs and charts. It’s no surprise that some of the zoning trailblazers down in the Village weighed in. Robert Jacobs, whose wife Jane would soon release a book related to the subject, lobbied the commission to consider rezoning “a fairly mixed up area” in the Far West Village to allow residential construction to replace decaying industrial buildings. If he could see it now!  Zoning the City speakers and panelist: Rohit T. Aggarwala, Hilary Ballon, Rick Bell, Matthew Carmona, Vishaan Chakrabarti, Daniel L. Doctoroff, Paul Goldberger, Toni L. Griffin, Rosanne Haggerty, Errol Louis, Thom Mayne, Jack S. Nyman, Peter J. Park, John Rahaim, Jonathan F. P. Rose, Kairos Shen, Robert K. Steel, Robert A. M. Stern, Mary Ann Tighe, Harriet Tregoning, Carol Willis.
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Quick Clicks> Archi-Photos, Julius Shulman, Birds, and Solar Trash

Don't Shoot! The New Republic's Sarah Goldhagen takes on architectural photography. Her piece doesn't exactly add much new material to a debate that's as old as photography itself. Much of the piece reads like sage advice from the art history professor who tells students to get their butts down to The Met because the slides don't come close to the real thing. Still, she's no-holds-barred on much maligned medium: "They lie" and  "photographs and the photographers who take them unwittingly and willfully misrepresent", etc. Shoot! Once you get through Goldhagen's piece, then segue on to Architect for advice from PR maven Elizabeth Kubany on how to hire an architectural photographer. Mixed in with standard practice procedures (have a preproduction meeting) Kubany dips into current trends, which she refers to as "point of view" photography, i.e.-"chilly modernist perfection" is out "less tidy perspective" is in. Even Goldhagen will love it. Shulman! Enough talking about architectural photography, it's time to take a look at some classics. AN's own Sam Lubell just published a book with Douglas Woods, Julius Shulman Los Angeles: Birth of a Modern Metropolis. (If you're in New York this evening, stop by the Rizzoli Bookstore -- 31 W 57th St. -- at 5:30 for a book signing with Sam!) Architizer has a preview. Killer buildings. LEED certification may have to go the way of the birds. At least that's the way some conservation groups see it. With millions of migrating birds crashing into tall buildings, The Chicago Tribune reports that an extra layer of netting may help LEED buildings stay sensitive to their environmental mission. Solar Heap. The ever morphing PlaNYC has realized yet another initiative. Mayor Bloomberg announced the latest version today (the law requires the plan be updated every four years) and old city landfills get slated for new use. Not another park, not new bike lanes---we're talking solar panel fields. DNA's got the details.
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Quick Clicks> Scanning, Aedas, Retro, Epic Growth

Vox populi. Complaining just got easier for neighborhood watchdogs in NYC. This week Mayor Bloomberg announced that building permits posted at construction sites will soon have QR (Quick Response) codes that can be scanned by smart phones. A wave of the wrist will bring up all the particulars of the construction site online and allow passers-by to report anything amiss or just find out more about project. More details about digitization of the buildings department on the mayor's website. Gardens grows. The Architect's Journal reports that Aedas, Glenn Howells, and Jestico + Whiles have been selected to design the replacement for Robin Hood Gardens housing complex in east London. The plan for the £500 million development includes the demolition of the early 1970s buildings designed by Alison and Peter Smithson. Midlife crisis. Owners of mid-century modern homes in Massachusetts are retrofitting aging residences designed by TAC and other firms, equipping them for the future and saving them from the wrecking ball in the process, writes Kathleen Burge in the Boston Globe. Before and after, epic version. Web Urbanist presents the rise of the modern metropolis through a series of eye-popping images. (Shenzen, China wins for most dramatic transformation, while New York 1954 and New York 2009 look eerily similar.)
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Breaking Bricks at Moynihan Station

Moynihan Station might not be welcoming its first passengers for years to come, but a heavy-hitting group of officials gathered at the James A. Farley Post Office to sledge-hammer a cinder block wall and declare Phase I ground officially broken. When complete, Moynihan Station will offer relief to the adjacent Penn Station (whose predecessor was regrettably demolished in the mid-1960s) and its 550,000 daily commuters. The brainchild of late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the project has been planned for almost two decades. Among the political celebrities gathered on the 100th anniversary of the original Penn Station were Mayor Bloomberg, Governor David Patterson, Senator Charles Schumer, and Secretary of Transportation Ray Lahood who brought tidings to the tune of $83 million in Recovery Act TIGER funding.  The first phase is estimated to cost $267 million, jointly funded by State and Federal governments. Phase I construction will puncture two new entrances into the Farley Post Office to expand Penn Station and provide a larger West Concourse to accommodate Amtrak trains. It's slated to take about six years to complete the project as work is relegated to nights and weekends, a time span the NY Daily News points out is only two years shorter than the construction time for the original Penn Station and 5-miles of tunnels. Planning is currently underway for Phase II which includes a grand hall in the center of the Farley building.

Parks Department Coopting NYC Skaters?

On Tuesday, the Parks Department cut the ribbon on the River Avenue pocket parks in the Bronx. It is the latest piece of the sprawling, long-overdue parks system promised by the Bloomberg administration in exchange for the parks sacrificed and taxes forgone in the name of the House That Steinbrenner Built (God rest his soul). But that is not what is truly interesting about the River Avenue park. What is is that it contains a skatepark. The fourth one to open this summer, in fact, preceded by new ramps and half-pipes at Hudson River Park (above), Flushing Meadows, and Robert Venable Park in Brooklyn’s East New York neighborhood. A very popular park opened last year as the first piece of the McCarren Park pool’s redevelopment. (This reporter saw young scalawags jumping the fence to get in even before it was finished, so eager were they to ollie about.) The Parks Department now has 11 skateparks under management, with more on the way. Meghan Lalor, a Parks spokeswoman, said evolving tastes were to thank for the explosion in skateparks. “While there is no formal initiative to build more skate parks per se, we’re always attentive to ways to provide what New Yorkers want and need as their interests in sports and recreation evolve, and we’re delighted to offer them the opportunity to perfect their skills on inline skates, skateboards, and bikes in safe, designated areas,” Lalor wrote in an email. And yet it still seems like a startling idea, city-sanctioned skating. After all, this is the administration that would not even tolerate ancient (and famous!) graffiti along the High Line, even as all this new gnarly pavement seems akin to putting up canvases around the city for the express purpose of tagging. Perhaps skating has gone so mainstream that it is no longer subversive, and thus nothing to worry about. Or perhaps the Parks Department is herding all the skaters together to keep them off the streets and out of the parts of the parks where they are not welcome. Now wouldn’t that be truly subversive?