On a day when the MTA announced that its budget shortfall may now surpass $400 million as last year's payroll tax is bringing in even less revenue than expected, Mayor Michael Bloomberg began his day underground. He and MTA chief Jay Walder were touring a new station underway at 34th Street and 11th Avenue, the terminus of the underway 7-Train extension. At least during boom times, the project was seen as a boon to residential development on the Far West Side. Now, with construction limited and the MTA in desperate need of money, transit advocates like the Straphanger's Campaign and the City Council continue to call for tapping capital funds—namely stimulus set-asides—to help cover the gap. And if two recent projects are any indication, maybe that's not a bad idea. Perhaps, on their way to today's photo op, Bloomberg or Walder picked up a copy of amNY. Therein, they would have seen reports by Heather Hadon detailing leaks at two recently completed MTA projects, South Ferry and Cortlandt Street stations, both of which are said to be leaking. If this is where all that capital money is going, perhaps we'd be better off with more trains, albeit dingier ones. The MTA and others insist that using capital funds is only a stop gap solution, while the MTA needs real, sustainable reform. This may be true, but it would help if the work that was getting done weren't so shoddy. What'll people think when the Starn brother's mural starts to run. Or the fancy new BRT buses catch a flat?
Posts tagged with "Michael Bloomberg":
UPDATE:The mayor called. See more below. It should come as no surprise that a local government supported the Superfund designation of one of its most polluted waterways. Unless that government happens to be the Bloomberg administration, which has vehemently opposed "blighting" the Gowanus Canal and environs by naming the polluted Brooklyn waterway a Superfund site. That opposition remains firmly in place. What is surprising, though, as the Brooklyn Paper reported Friday, is that the administration, in testimony submitted to the EPA on December 23, came out in favor of designating Newtown Creek, a place in constant competition with the Gowanus for most reviled in the borough. The big difference, it would appear, is that the Gowanus' northerly sibling has but award-winning poop processors lining its banks, and not the prospect of condos. Though that prospect could be fading fast. Curbed informs us that Toll Brothers may be trying to back down from its plans to build a 450-unit mixed-use, mixed-income project on the canal, as the developer owes money for the purchase of its three-acre property. The $21.5 million deal was contingent on Toll getting the area rezoned from industrial to commercial, which they did back in the spring. But because of the pending Superfund decision—likely to come down this spring—the developer has been dragging its feet, resulting in a series of suits between them and the former owners of the land. Which brings us back to the mayor's office. Mark LaVorgna, a Bloomberg spokesperson, defends the city's seemingly contradictory positions to the Paper thusly: “They are different situations and we evaluate each one independently. Each situation is not the same.” But if the process is too slow and litigious for Gowanus, shouldn't that be the same case for Newtown Creek as well, condos or no condos? This could have as much to do with repeated fears that the city is attempting to avoid a Superfund suit of its own from the EPA for various violations, from stormwater overflow to a DOT cement plant, as there are no known problems of the sort on the creek. The (open) question remains whether the city can get the job done. It reminds us of another piece of pre-Christmas news, the cleaning of the "Bronx Swamp," where the city pumped 625,000 gallons—five times the amount of water originally expected therein—out of a mile-long, below grade railroad passage. At first, it appears the city is more than capable of undertaking such work, given that the administration got the job done. But at the same time, the amount of work was grossly underestimated—fivefold, even—and what's worse, the city's been left holding the bag, having been unable to find responsible parties to charge the $350,000 cleanup cost. And yet this is exactly what city officials claim to be able to do on the Gowanus, which is expected to cost, at a minimum, $1 billion. UPDATE 1/14: LaVorgna phoned us late yesterday to to take issue with our supposition of the Paper's innuendo that the administration was being sneaky in submitting its testimony on December 23. Initially, we wrote that "the administration ever so quietly—on the eve of Christmas Eve, to be exact, December 23—submitted testimony." LaVorgna pointed out that that is simply when the public comment period ended. "We didn't set that date, the EPA did," he told us by phone. As for the assertion that there was something to the city's differing positions on Newtown and Gowanus, LaVorgna reiterated what he told the Paper, that the city cannot, at Newtown, utilize the expertise of the Army Corps for the cleanup nor are there willing parties to pay for it. "If we could, we would, but they're totally different situations," he said. Meanwhile, the Daily News looked into the Toll suit today, the Brooklyn Paper wrote a scathing editorial on the city's bifurcated position, and it looks like the Creek will need a serious clean after all, as a local company has been accused of illegal dumping into the waterway.
In a blistering report published today, the AP contends that the roughly $20 billion in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, né the Stimulus, dedicated to road and infrastructure spending did nothing to help create jobs over the past 10 months. The news is particularly damning because the House has proposed another $28 billion in road work in its latest jobs package, and in light of this news, those critical infrastructure projects—which are easily pegged as pork to begin will—could become the next health care debate. To wit:
An Associated Press analysis of stimulus spending found that it didn't matter if a lot of money was spent on highways or none at all: Local unemployment rates rose and fell regardless. And the stimulus spending only barely helped the beleaguered construction industry, the analysis showed. [...] Even within the construction industry, which stood to benefit most from transportation money, the AP's analysis found there was nearly no connection between stimulus money and the number of construction workers hired or fired since Congress passed the recovery program. The effect was so small, one economist compared it to trying to move the Empire State Building by pushing against it.And yet the White House and even a few economists in the article have begun to push back. Ken Simonson, chief economist for the Association of General Contractors, points out that road work only accounts for 5 percent of the construction economy, a sector in desperate need as it is, and calls the AP's assumptions "flawed." "It is virtually impossible to measure the impact of $4 billion by looking at overall employment figures for an industry experiencing a $137 billion drop in activity—especially when only one in twenty construction workers stand to benefit from those stimulus funds," Simonson says. Meanwhile, conservatives declared "Toldya so!" Locally, things may be a little better, where the Bloomberg administration has fought for New York's (more than?) fair share of the stimulus pie. Marc LaVorgna, a spokesman, told us in an email today that the city will receive roughly $1 billion over the next two years, which will account for roughly 1/20th of the annual $10 billion spent on infrastructure, no small amount. And, according to the city's numbers, it's doing a good deal to keep people employed as well. "We submitted reports to the federal government based on their requirements and its done quarterly," LaVorgna wrote. "The last report showed 28,526 jobs were created or retained through stimulus funding." Lucky us.
Rarely are New Yorker cartoons anything more than esoteric—which is why we love them, right?—but this one, from last week's issue, struck a particular chord. We still can't decide if its more Duany or Grimshaw. We do hope Mayor Bloomberg saw it, though, as it could provide an example for the happy future development of Willets Point or the Gowanus Canal, both of which are fighting for their futures as industrial areas. And then, while looking this cartoon up, we stumbled across another good one, which you can find after the jump. If we had a penny for every time we heard about a contractor doing this...
The good news continues for mass transit, as the MTA announced today that the first phase of construction on the extension of the 7 Train has been completed, stretching from 26th to 34th steets, where trains will be housed as they shuttle back-and-forth between the West Side and Flushing, Queens. The Bloomberg administration, which is paying for the $2.1 billion project, put together this nice video to help demonstrate the subterranean, and thus often invisible, work. It's the kind of stuff New York mag is calling in its annual roundup a reason to love the city: our perseverance on such mighty projects, past falterings be damned. And yet, these are exactly the kinds of capital expenditures some transit advocates are hoping to cut into to stave off the MTA's budget crunch. Will the next stop be to stop?
On Monday, we reported on the Bloomberg administration's continued vociferous resistance to Superfund listing for the Gowanus Canal. While the main complaint by the mayor was that the Superfund stigma would poison the area for development for decades to come, we did not mention—at least not this time—that a major concern is also that the city could be held liable for some portion of the Superfund cleanup because of a number of polluting properties on the canal. That seems all the more likely now—as does the potential for listing—as the Post reported yesterday that the city has been sent a notice for its liabilities. According to the tab, "The city’s responsibility comes through previous/current ownership of an asphalt plant, incinerator, a pumping station, storage yard, and Department of Transportation garage." In an interesting new twist, the Navy was also served with a notice for at least nine "facilities where the Navy directed and oversaw government contractors which owned and/or operated facilities adjacent to the canal."
If there was any question Howard Roberts' resignation yesterday was forced, it can be put to rest, as his replacement atop New York City Transit, the MTA division that runs the subways and buses, was announced today. Thomas Prendergast will be returning to the agency—after a hiatus atop Vancouver's public transit system—where he used to run the Long Island Railroad, and before that was VP for subways. Though only 57, Prendergast has more than 30 years experience in the field, having begun at the Chicago Transit Authority out of college, then the Federal Transportation Authority, before joining the MTA in 1982. While Gene Russianoff, head of the Straphanger's Campaign, said authority hopping is the norm, it is worth noting that like his new boss, Jay Walder, also came from a system outside the country, arguably freer from the culture war that at times dogs mass transit in America. "Tom's work running one of the most technologically sophisticated systems in Vancouver will be invaluable as we take the MTA to the next level in performance and customer service," Walder said in a release. Beyond technology, Prendergast's time in Vancouver may have prepared him all too well for his job at the MTA, where he will be faced by high expectations but a budget crunch. According to local Vancouver radio station News 1130, Prendergast never received the full support or funding for the ambitious projects he and others had proposed during his five years in the Great White North, though the TransLink board member Gordon Price tells the station that his colleagues departure "tragic" is tragic and his "resignation means we can kiss transit expansion goodbye." And already innovative programs are falling away—in a way. At a event yesterday to unveil 311 calling for the MTA, the Times asked Mayor Bloomberg about his plans for transit improvements he touted during his reelection campaign, such as Express F service and, most notably, free cross-town buses. Well...
“I thought it was a good idea, although, the real issue there, there’s two things we’re trying to do: one is to make it easier for people to go back and forth, but two is also to stop the delays from getting on and off the buses,” the mayor said. “That’s another one of these things down the road. I think there’s a whole bunch of things that we laid out that we can explore together."Good luck, Tom. You're gonna need it.
If there is one thing the recession has taught New York, it's not to put all the eggs in one basket. While Wall Street may not have collapsed as much as everyone feared—just look at those Goldman Sachs bonuses—the Bloomberg administration has been determined to diversify and strengthen the city's economy in industries beyond FIRE. Programs in media and fashion have been unveiled recently, and yesterday, green collar jobs took center stage as the mayor announced 30 initiatives to create a foundation for sustainability jobs in the city. The mayor has already taken steps in this direction with the well-known PlaNYC and the April announcement aimed at greening the building code. Now the city's Economic Development Corporation will offer a range of incentives [full list, PDF], from tax credits to training programs to green business incubators, many of them targeted at the city's building stock. There are tax abatements for green tech, "Solar Zones" where permitting will be easier, a wind turbine demo program, and educational opportunities for designers, contractors, amd building operators to create, install, and run such installations. The most visible of these 30 initiatives is a massive solar array that the EDC will build atop the Brooklyn Army Terminal, a 4 million square foot industrial building on the Sunset Park waterfront. When completed, the 500 kilowatt will generate 750,000 kilowatts per year, according to the EDC, enough to power 150 homes and save the city $120,000 on energy costs in its Sunset Park buildings. But the real hope is that it will prove the viability of PVCs to the private sector so they will begin to proliferate across the city. An RFP for the project is expected in December.
New Yorkers, grab your paint brushes and rollers. That's the message from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, as he and Mr. Global Warming himself, Al Gore, kicked off NYC Cool Roofs, part of the city's new service program that gets volunteers to paint city roofs white. A cheaper and less intensive alternative to green roofs, white roofs help keep buildings cool by reflecting the suns rays back from whence they came—though they don't address stormwater issues like their verdant cousins. “It’s such a simple concept—anyone who has ever gotten dressed in the summer knows it—light-colored surfaces absorb less heat than darker surfaces do,” Bloomberg said from a factory rooftop in Long Island City earlier today. “Coating rooftops with reflective, white paint can reduce roof temperatures by as much as 60 degrees and indoor temperatures by 10 to 20 degrees." Gore thanked the mayor for keeping the city "at the forefront of enacting innovative policies that reduce our carbon footprint.” While the Times calls white roofs a stop-gap measure, and more green roofs would obviously be the ideal, they're gaining in popularity, particularly with the Obama administration. The city's program is currently in the pilot stages, with plans to cover 100,000 square feet of LIC rooftops over the next two weeks. The area was chosen for its expansive industrial buildings that make it one of the hotter spots in the city—as well as easier to paint. While the Building Code now requires many new buildings to have white roofs, the city's sustainability czar, Rohit Aggarwala, noted that 85 percent of buildings that will exist by 2030 are already built. "As a result, we must include existing buildings in our efforts to cool the City," he said. "The NYC Cool Roofs program, combined with the building code requirement that re-roofing projects include reflective coating, is critical to meeting the City’s goal of reducing citywide greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2030.”
That would be Dutch for "Happy Birthday Sol Lewitt!" For you see, the Dutch have arrived in the city this week to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the voyage of Henry Hudson and the subsequent founding of New Amsterdam. As part of the week-long festivities, they have unveiled a Ben Van Berkel-designed pavilion (above) down on the Battery that was announced back in January. But once those festivities are over, perhaps ours trans-Atlantic friends might head uptown to Columbus Circle, where the MTA unveiled its latest Arts for Transit project today, a 53-foot long tile rendition of one of Lewitt's wall drawings entitled "Whirls and twirls (MTA)." The installation was revealed today as it would have been the Conceptualist artist's 82nd birthday. (He died in 2007.) According to the MTA, Lewitt began work on the project in 2004 and it consists of 250 individual tiles in 6 colors all cut and arrayed to the artists typically exacting specifications. "It is a very special and unique creation because it is a permanent public installation of a wall drawing, executed in porcelain tile. Usually the wall drawings are executed in paint or pencil based on exacting instructions by the artist," Sandra Bloodworth, director for the Arts for Transit and Facilty Design programs, said in a release. The installation is part of the city's ongoing rehabilitation of the Columbus Circle station, which, in addition to the Lewitt installation, includes new lighting, flooring, and tiles, a new entrance at 60th Street and Broadway, and new bathrooms and newsstands. Back downtown and above ground, not all was high design, however. Yes, the Prince of Orange and Princess Maxima were on hand to help Mayor Bloomberg unveil UN Studio's New Amsterdam Pavilion (for which Handel Architects was the local partner). It's a nice little place that not only offers information about the surrounding neighborhoods and city but also goings on in the Netherlands—though what good that is to locals or tourists is not exactly clear. But by far the worst import was a windmill photographed by our fearless leader Julie Iovine, which looked less like a symbol of Dutcha pride than a new hole on some Lower Manhattan mini-golf course.
Yesterday, in a quiet ceremony attended by Mayor Bloomberg, the city broke ground on the first phase of Bushwick Inlet Park. Situated between North 9th and 10th streets along the Williamsburg waterfront, this initial stage of construction will comprise a synthetic turf athletic playing field. Turns out I was also on the Williamsburg waterfront at the time, on a tour of that neighborhood with photographer and AN Editorial Intern Victoria Monjo, capturing images for our forthcoming developers issue (see last year's here). One of the images we captured was of Bushwick Inlet itself, which sits three or four blocks to the north of where the festivities were taking place. Eventually, park construction will extend all the way to this placid cove, where, according to the Parks Department's initial plan, there will be a beach, planted terraces, and a performance garden, whatever that is. See the view from Kent Avenue after the jump.
With the news today, reported by The Observer, that Larry Silverstein has begun legal proceedings against the Port Authority to end the gridlock at Ground Zero, as well as the developments two weeks prior at Atlantic Yards, it seems obvious to us what's going on here. Having witnessed the financial titans across town receive hundreds of billions of dollars in bailout money, these developers now want theirs. Granted, so did Larry Flint and the porn industry, but the comparison bears consideration. To begin with, the market has failed for both finance and real estate--to say nothing of every other industry--leaving "free market" options closed. Where the bankers have turned to the Treasury and the federal government, Silverstein and Bruce Ratner, in one form or another, have turned to local pols. At Ground Zero, Silverstein is having difficulty finding financing for Towers 2 and 3, so he wants the Port Authority to provide it, or at least back it, on those projects. The story at Atlantic Yards has been much the same, with Ratner unable to afford the full amount for the Vanderbilt Yards nor go through a complete public review process for a new general project plan to ensure there is time to qualify for already dubious tax-exempt bonds. In both cases, public agencies that are already hard up for cash have been asked to foot the bill or undersign considerable amounts of risk to ensure projects with uncertain futures go forward. In the case of Atlantic Yards, the MTA and ESDC have already rolled over. It remains to be seen whether the Port Authority will cave to the abiding political and now legal pressures surrounding the Ground Zero deal. It would not be surprising if the authority did, though, given the examples set in Brooklyn and Washington.