Posts tagged with "New York City":

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See the shovel-ready Vision Zero projects changing NYC streets this year

Today Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a slate of shovel-ready or in-progress projects meant to move the city ever closer to its Vision Zero goals. The program, designed to dramatically reduce traffic fatalities through speed limit reductions and streetscape improvements, is now in its fourth year. So what is getting done? According to the Mayor's office, the city is breaking ground on wider sidewalks, more protected bike lanes, new crosswalks, and medians on busy roadways large enough for pedestrians to take refuge. The improvements, part of a five-year, $1.6 billion initiative, will target dozens of projects in the five boroughs. “Dangerous streets have to change,” said Mayor de Blasio, in a prepared statement.  “We want to get the word out: we’re moving lanes, adding new space for pedestrians and making it safer to cross intersections—all to keep your family safe. These changes have helped make each of the last three years under Vision Zero safer than the last.” The city says existing Vision Zero improvements have lead to eight fewer lives lost in the first quarter of 2017 compared to the same period last year. Still, New York has a way to go towards zero fatalities—40 people have died in traffic-related incidents so far this year Here are a few highlights from the improvements planned so far for this year: In Brooklyn, along Borinquen Place, South 4th, and South 5th streets, this summer city will enhance pedestrian and bike access to the Williamsburg Bridge in advance of the 15-month L train shutdown. The Brooklyn Bridge, meanwhile, is a commuter cyclist's special hell. The Department of Transportation (DOT) is widening pedestrian-bike entrances at Tillary Street to allow seamless coexistence between selfie-snapping, Citibiking tourists and New Yorkers who are just trying to go somewhere. Plans will add 50 trees and better crosswalks; improvements are underway and are expected to be complete this summer. (President Trump's proposed budget cuts, however, could jeopardize funding for this project.) On the Manhattan side, a "sister project" to the one on Tillary Street will improve bike and pedestrian access, while riders will enjoy a two-way protected bike lane in front of City Hall by this spring. By this summer, cyclists and walkers in Mott Haven will have easier access to the Madison Avenue Bridge, the slice of roadway that connects 138th Street in the Bronx to Manhattan. Over in Queens, two new Select Bus Service routes and safety improvements to Woodhaven and Cross Bay boulevards build on similar efforts to boost the pedestrian experience along Queens Boulevard. In notoriously car-dependent Staten Island, the city will add five miles of bicycle lanes to connect the North Shore neighborhoods of Tompkinsville, Stapleton, Concord and Park Hill. For residents and visitors, bike connections to the ferry terminal in St. George are coming online this summer.
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Denied access to Trump Tower public space, protestors still hold affordable housing teach-in

This morning, some fifty people gathered outside Trump Tower's fifth-floor public terrace to protest proposals from New York Governor Cuomo and President Trump that would affect affordable and public housing in New York. The event was organized by Alliance for Tenant Power and Real Rent Reform, two grassroots coalition groups that draw support from a range of New York City tenant organizations, labor unions, not-for-profits, and advocacy groups. The teach-in started at 11:30 a.m. as protestors arrived just outside the terrace entrance, located on the top floor of the Tower's large central atrium. Prior to the election, Trump Tower's two tucked-away public terraces seemed to exemplify the slight-of-hand developers can use to leverage extra development rights without meaningfully giving back to the public. Recently, they've become a venue for protestors to gather at the heart of President Trump's most prominent development. This time, however, the fifth-floor terrace was closed due to reported icy conditions. To this reporter's eyes, it was a plainly flimsy excuse. (The four-floor terrace is still closed due to construction, according to a sign outside its entrance.) Civil rights attorney Samuel B. Cohen was on hand to speak to Trump Tower staff and inquire about the space's closure. Just like a sidewalk or any other public space, he told the crowd, Trump Tower has an obligation to clear the space for public use. Regardless, the teach-in continued, as the NYPD did not express safety concerns about the crowd. Over the course of approximately 45 minutes, protestors spoke out against Governor Cuomo's proposed renewal of the 421-a tax break, which is designed to spur the development of multi-unit buildings on vacant land. Tom Waters, housing policy analyst from the Community Service Society, said 421-a was a product of the 1970s, an era when the city was in dire straits. "Those times are over," he said, adding that 421-a would create far more value for developers than for the public. Waters also spoke out against a new provision in the bill that extends 100 percent tax-exempt status for certain new affordable developments from 25 to 35 years, a move which could generate further profits for developers.  Waters also explained that Trump Tower itself was a product of 421-a tax exemptions when it was built; according to The New York Times the project received "an extraordinary 40-year tax break that has cost New York City $360 million to date in forgiven, or uncollected, taxes, with four years still to run, on a property that cost only $120 million to build in 1980." After being initially denied 421-a exemptions for Trump Tower, Trump successfully sued the city, and he later won 421-a exemptions for his Trump World Tower under the Guiliani and Bloomberg administrations in a similar fashion. Massive cuts to federal housing programs were an equal source of ire: According to a press release issued by Alliance for Tenant Power and Real Rent Reform, President Trump's proposed budget reduces federal housing funds by 13 percent. Those cuts "are expected to strain public housing programs and axe $75 million in federal funding from the New York City Housing Authority, the agency that manages public housing in NYC," the groups said. The Community Service Society estimates that Governor Cuomo's proposed 421-a program would "cost NYC taxpayers $2.4 billion annually and yield minimal affordable housing units in return." In the face of federal cuts, Jawanza Williams of VOCAL NY urged New York State to take a more aggressive stance to fill in the gaps and create its own robust health care and public housing systems; he also argued that 421-a would "only exacerbate gentrification." Claudia Perez of advocacy group Community Voices Heard added her thoughts in a question to those assembled: "Will you help me fight against the developer-in-chief? Now more than ever, New York must protect NYCHA." "We're calling on Cuomo to realize these $2 billion in cuts are more Trumponian than Trump," said New York City Councilmember Jumaane Williams at the protest. "So if [Cuomo] wants to run for president, if he wants to be a champion of saying what New York City is going to do to push back against these Trumponian cuts, 421-a is not it."
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Christopher Gray, Streetscapes column writer, passes away

Christopher Stewart Gray, an architectural historian and author who wrote the popular Streetscapes column in The New York Times, died on Friday at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan. He was 66. According to the Times, the cause of death was "pneumonia, complicated by an unspecified underlying illness." Between 1987 and 2014, Gray composed more than 1,450 columns, focusing on the architecture, history and preservation policies of New York City. He said his goal was to "write about the everyday buildings, to investigate even the most trivial, incidental, oddball structures." A review of his articles reveals the sorts of questions he would ask and the subjects he would examine, typically with a wry sense of humor: Born in Kansas City, Missouri, Gray received a bachelor’s degree in art history from Columbia University in 1975. He also studied at the New School for Social Research and Trinity College in Connecticut. He worked as a seaman, a cab driver, and a mailman. Before joining the Times, Gray wrote a column for Avenue magazine, followed by a column about American streets called “All the Best Places,” for House & Garden magazine. He also established the Office for Metropolitan History in 1975, an organization that provides research on the history of New York buildings. His work has received awards from the American Institute of Architects, Classical America, and the New York Landmarks Conservancy, among others. Though decidedly not a preservationist, his wit and cynicism led him to be revered by preservationists and those interested in New York City alike as something akin to the David Letterman of architectural history. After learning that he had been awarded the 2015 Lucy G. Moses Preservation Leadership Award by the New York Landmarks Conservancy and that the award ceremony would be held in the newly restored Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph, Brooklyn, he purchased a Henry VIII outfit in which to march down the aisle and seize his award. Gray was the author or co-author of half a dozen books, including a collection of his columns entitled New York Streetscapes: Tales of Manhattan’s Significant Buildings and Landmarks, and many other forwards, including one for Andrew Alpern's The Dakota: A History of the World's Best-Known Apartment Building. He generously vetted countless other books for historical accuracy, including John Freeman Gill's The Gargoyle Hunters. He contributed to a Streetscapes page on Facebook, for which he chose a Mystery Photo of a building every Tuesday and invited readers to identify it. Readers may have known something was amiss when no Mystery Photo ran last Tuesday. On his Facebook page in recent years, Gray continued to find stories others would completely miss. For instance, 102 West 81st Street, a 1981 luxury condo by architect Marvin Meltzer, notable for being opposite the American Museum of Natural History with a Pizzeria Uno on the ground floor, piqued his interest as a tortured amalgam of several buildings combined and altered “in a hard-to-call style—shall we call it Romantic-Brutalism,” where in the 1890s, the central building had been the center of the Upper West Side’s real estate development. “Platt & Marie, Samuel Colcord, Clarence True, Alonzo Kight, Charles Judson and others had offices there,” he noted. Gray evaluated every structure in its context, sometimes loftily: “For its time, [the 1981 building on West 81stStreet] was a rather classy, thoughtful operation. There is a certain Mallet-Stevens // Paris // 1930s about it, no? Or am I still just coming down from business class?" Upon speaking with the architect, Gray learned that practicality and not Mallet-Stevens/Parisian modernism was the inspiration. “In the course of some 1,450 weekly columns, Christopher authoritatively and wryly unearthed the forgotten history of New York’s cityscape for his legions of readers,” said Times staff writer and novelist John Freeman Gill. “He was also a great friend and teacher... He is irreplaceable.” “He will be remembered fondly for his ability to open up the world of history and preservation of NYC’s architectural heritage to a broad readership,” architectural historian John Kriskiewicz wrote on Facebook. According to the Times, Gray is survived by his wife Erin, whom he married in 1980; his son Peter Gray; his daughter Olivia Gray Konrath, and sisters Andrea Stillman and Adrienne Hines. In his biography for the newspaper, Gray noted that he felt it was important to write about more than the major landmarks. “To me, these did not capture the essence of the city,” he explained. “It was the little dead ends, the deserted loft districts, the old ethnic clubs—these were what were interesting.”
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Coming to the Cooper Union: How NYC could revolutionize its transportation network

New York–based ReThink Studio is on a mission to transform how the Big Apple's transportation system works, from the L Train shutdown to a new Penn Station and a vastly improved subway and regional train network. Urbanists, architects, and transportation aficionados (you know who you are) alike won't want to miss ReThink Studio Principal Jim Venturi in conversation with Sam Schwartz, president, CEO + founder of his eponymous engineering and planning firm, and Dr. Vukan R. Vuchic, professor emeritus of UPenn's Dept. of Electrical Systems and Engineering - Transportation. The discussion—free and open to the public—will focus on ReThink Studio's 2050 plan for New York City and will be held at The Great Hall at The Cooper Union, May 9, 6:30 to 8:30pm. Stay tuned for more details on speakers and programming, as well an opportunity to RSVP through Eventbrite. For more on ReThink Studio, see their website here.
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NYC’s new Citywide Ferry Service will be based in the Brooklyn Navy Yard

Yesterday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio released major details concerning the new Citywide Ferry Service, whose new routes are coming online the summer of 2017 and 2018. The Brooklyn Navy Yard, already the hub of extensive development, will be the Service's "homeport" and feature a 56,000-square-foot storage and maintenance facility with berths for 25 ferries. This is where ferries will be cleaned, restocked, repaired, and fueled, and will also serve as a new stop on the East River route that runs from E. 34th St. to Wall St./Pier 11. In a press release, the Mayor's office added that the new facility will be elevated to comply with FEMA flood standards and fully operational by 2018. The Citywide Ferry Service is part of a broader plan from the Mayor's Office to increase underserved New York City communities' access to Manhattan and create an overall more robust and evenly-spread public transportation system. New routes will run from Manhattan to: Southview in the Bronx, Astoria and the Rockaway in Queens, and Bay Ridge and Red Hook in Brooklyn (just to name a few). The Mayor's Office estimates that the Service's 20 ferries, working across 21 landings and six routes, will make 4.6 million trips per year. “A more connected city—and the jobs that come along with it—are just on the horizon,” stated Council Member Stephen Levin in a press release. “I applaud the Mayor taking the challenge of transportation and turning it into an opportunity. The new homeport at the Brooklyn Navy Yard continues the trajectory of Brooklyn as a leader in innovation and inclusive economic development. Whether it’s more jobs or better transportation options, Citywide Ferry has the potential to substantially improve our community.” Job seekers and transportation enthusiasts alike will also be excited to hear that the homeport brings with it 200 new openings for captains, deckhands, concessions operators, and other related roles. Applicants can inquire through the Brooklyn Navy Yard's Employment Center or Workforce1 Career Centers. The best news of all? The Citywide Ferry will be just $2.75 a ride. “For the price of a subway ride, Citywide Ferry service will connect millions of riders to jobs and homes all along New York City’s waterfront. As we prepare to launch this summer, we are focused on the finishing touches, and hiring captains, deckhands, engineers and maintenance workers who will operate these boats,” said Mayor de Blasio. (It should be noted, however, that riders will have to purchase tickets separately and cannot use their MTA cards.) For more details on the Citywide Ferry Service, see their website here.  
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City of Dreams winner will turn 300,000 aluminum cans into Governors Island Pavilion

After sifting through over 100 design proposals, the team of juries for the seventh annual City of Dreams Pavilion competition has selected Cast & Place by Team Aesop as the design for this year’s Governors Island Pavilion. The competition, sponsored by art non-profit FIGMENT, AIANY Emerging New York Architects (ENYA), and Structural Engineers Association of New York, asks designers to focus on the environmental and economic impacts of their designs and promote sustainable thinking. Cast & Place experiments with materiality and fabrication, testing to see if architecture could be constructed entirely from recycled materials. The team’s material pallet consists of 300,000 aluminum cans (the number of cans used in New York City in one hour, according to their Kickstarter), five tons of pure clay sourced from glacial deposits in Queens, and recycled wood. The pavilion will consist of two shade structures built from aluminum panels cast in cracked clay and will be surrounded by reflecting pools made from the clay formworks. The pools will be soaked by summer rain and then left to dry and crack in the heat, giving the audience a glimpse of the fabrication method for the panels. The process to create the panels is fairly simple: create molds from the reclaimed wood, fill them with clay, let the clay dry out and crack, and then fill the cracks with molten aluminum from melted-down cans. The canyons of clay become rivers of aluminum that connect to form one cohesive lightweight panel. The panels can then be joined and erected. When the pavilion is no longer in use, the panels can then be turned into benches furniture for the project’s supporters. So far the team has been able to cast small prototypes of the panels and has been working on methods of drying the clay to create enough cracks for a fully-formed panel. They have also been experimenting with their furnace to find the best method of melting down cans and casting the aluminum. As they continue to work toward a full-scale prototype, the project is waiting for approval from the city and for funding (via donations and sponsorships). According to their Kickstarter page, the project will require $30,000 to be feasible and the deadline for fundraising is March 27, 2017. If you are interested in learning more about the pavilion or wish to contribute to the pavilion’s construction, visit the project’s Kickstarter page here. Save Save Save Save
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Mayor de Blasio unveils new plan to fight homelessness in NYC

At a press conference last Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced his plan to fight homelessness, aiming to decrease by 45% the number of hotels and cluster apartments being used to temporarily house the homeless over the next five years. (The latter are apartments rented by the city to house the homeless). As part of a more community-based approach, the city aims to create new neighborhood-specific shelters to help manage the transition. According to a representative from the Mayor’s Office, these new, larger shelters will keep the city’s overall homeless shelter capacity constant. New York City’s homeless population is at an all-time high, with about 60,000 people living in shelters, cluster apartments, and hotels around the city. The Mayor stated that rent has increased in the city by 19 percent since the economic recession while the average household income has decreased by 6.3 percent, leaving many families in a bind. These displaced families make up for 70 percent of people living in shelters, according to de Blasio. Because of the city’s legal obligation to house anyone who asks for shelter, it has been forced to move people into cluster apartments and even hotels, racking up a bill of $400,000 a day, according to The New York Times. These statistics are a large part of why the de Blasio administration has struggled to combat homelessness and income inequality; related tactics have included rent stabilization initiatives and rental assistance to those who are at risk of becoming homeless. The city currently has 647 buildings operating to accommodate the homeless, and de Blasio proposes to vacate a majority of those sites, predominantly cluster housing and hotels, within the next five years. The end goal is to have 364 total sites operating in the city. In order to do this, the system will become more dependent on shelters, adding 90 new shelters and expanding on 30 existing sites to accommodate for the shift. A representative from the Mayor’s press office said that 18 to 20 new shelters will be completed each year, several of which would be purpose-built new construction, over the same five-year span. The remainder will be existing buildings, and in some cases, empty cluster housing sites that will be repurposed and renovated to become new shelters. On top of the goal to decrease the number of shelter sites, the city also hopes to decrease the number of homeless in shelters by 2,500 in the next five years. The representative emphasized that despite the decrease in sites, the city is not decreasing its capacity to house the homeless, just reallocating it. The city also plans to refurbish existing shelters in poor condition. “We’re going to do a comprehensive effort around the city to bring all shelters to a better standard of quality,” said de Blasio. These renovations will create more appropriate spaces for the shelter’s occupants to stay during the day to participate in training and education programs. The city hopes this will keep residents off of the streets, a benefit for the community, and help get them back on their feet faster. Another major crux of de Blasio’s new strategy is to keep the homeless in their communities, where they are closer to their jobs, schools, and houses of worship. This community-based shelter system would place new shelters in neighborhoods with a high number of homeless currently in the system. The first of those facilities will open this April in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, which is home to 132 families currently in shelters and scattered throughout the city. de Blasio plans to continue pushing for more affordable housing, with 200,000 new and preserved affordable apartments on the way, providing options for seniors, veterans, and low-income families. The city would also increase supportive housing initiatives, which provide on-site support for substance abuse and mental illness, to help the homeless regain independence. The Mayor reiterated that these strategies are long term and iterative and that this process is something that will require patience. “We will be at this a long time,” said the Mayor. “We will make progress, but it will be incremental. It will be slow, and I hope and I believe it will be steady.” Meanwhile, on the other side of the country in Honolulu, Hawaii State Senator Josh Green introduced a bill that would allow doctors to prescribe housing to homeless patients that suffer from mental illness and addiction. In a study quoted by The Guardian, research has shown that healthcare spending for homeless patients, particularly those struggling with mental illness and addiction, decreases by 43 percent when they become housed and are provided with supportive services. These new initiatives suggest a change in the way governments are viewing and treating homelessness and, hopefully, will open the conversation to new and innovative solutions. To read more about Mayor de Blasio’s plan, click here.
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Friends of the High Line founder raises concern about park’s success

Robert Hammond, founder and executive director of the nonprofit Friends of the High Line (FHL), the organization that funds and maintains the High Line in Manhattan, recently expressed doubts about whether the park has fulfilled its original purpose. “We were from the community. We wanted to do it for the neighborhood,” said Hammond in an interview with City Lab. “Ultimately, we failed.” The article points to issues of equity and inclusivity in public space as the cause for concern. The success of the High Line has far outpaced the FHL's original estimates of 300,000 visitors a year; the linear park attracted 7.6 million visitors in 2015 alone. However, in an FHL report of the same year, the data shows that only 458,000 were from the “High Line area” and on average 45% of the visitors were nonwhite. While the report notes these numbers are much better than previous years, the question of whether the High Line has produced equitable urban space is still up for debate. Increases in real estate values due to development in the neighborhoods that touch the High Line are estimated to generate almost $1 billion dollars in tax revenues over the next 20 years. Further investigation is needed to see how those funds will directly benefit lower income residents in the area.   Hammond penned a note on the FHL website saying his previous statement was truncated and “inadvertently gives the impression that I think the High Line has not been a success. That couldn't be farther from the truth or what I believe personally.” The organization has in recent years sought to broaden its coalition and recalibrate its efforts to address the issues of access to high-quality parks for diverse stakeholders. This has manifested into the creation of more public programming and the High Line Network, a coalition of designers invested in developing parks projects in other cities across the U.S. and Canada. The Network has met several times since its inception and has focused on projects like the L.A. River rehabilitation and Atlanta’s rail-to-trails Beltline.
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Meet the 10 artists who will install artworks in NYC parks this June

NYC Parks and UNIQLO USA announced the ten artists selected for the Art in the Parks: UNIQLO Park Expressions Grant for 2017. The UNIQLO grant, which accepted proposals last fall, is part of NYC Parks’ initiative to increase cultural and arts programming in previously underserved parks. Each artist will receive $10,000 to execute his or her piece and installation will begin this June. The chosen locations are Joyce Kilmer Park and Virginia Park in the Bronx; Fort Greene Park and Herbert Von King Park in Brooklyn; Thomas Jefferson Park and Seward Park in Manhattan; Flushing Meadows Corona Park and Rufus King Park in Queens; and Tappen Park and Faber Park in Staten Island. The judges, a committee of art professionals and community members, selected proposals that not only had creative and artistic merit, but also responded to the park and its surroundings. The winning artists and their submissions for each borough are: Manhattan     Brooklyn Bronx Queens Staten Island
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Can the Municipal Art Society save itself?

The Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS) has a proud history but today is a broken organization. It was founded in 1893 to modernize and professionalize city government, and in the 20th century it led the charge for better planning and historic preservation in the city. In the society’s “glory days” of the 1960s and 70s it helped save Grand Central Terminal, Radio City Music Hall, and the Jefferson Market Courthouse in Greenwich Village. It also helped win passage of the city’s landmark law. But its own website stops listing its achievements or milestones in 2012 with the convening of a planning group studying East Midtown. Since that time, the organization has sputtered to remain relevant, making controversial decisions and reinventing itself in a changing city. In a 2015 editorial, we wrote, “What was once one of the fiercest and most devoted New York City organizations that would litigate when it thought the best interests of the city were threatened, has now become a defanged real estate and developer-led organization that serves as a cheerleader for major development.”

In retrospect, the beginning of this period of uncertainty started when it moved out of the Urban Center in the Madison Avenue Villard Houses and received a multi-million dollar settlement for leaving before its lease expired. It then moved into the Steinway building on 57th Street until it was paid again to leave that building early and received yet another financial settlement. While any nonprofit would be thrilled to receive huge financial gifts like this, the MAS board relied too heavily on these on windfalls and did not continue to raise the money needed to keep the organization strong. Then, in 2014, it moved into another larger (but much needed) space in the Look Building on Madison Avenue, where the rent is a reported $600,000 a year. The board, while it has had several generous members, stopped raising the funds needed to keep the organization healthy and robust. Furthermore, it did not continue to develop a board of directors with the appropriate mix of well-connected advocates and wealthy contributors.

But financial issues are not the only problem for the MAS and its board of directors. Over the last month, we have been reporting on the board’s decision to fire its third director—President Gina Pollara—and hire yet another leader: Elizabeth Goldstein from the California State Parks Foundation. We reported on an open letter from the City Club, another civic organization (with many former MAS leaders in its leadership) that asked the board to “to defer any action with regard to President Gina Pollara,” because, it continued, to “move forward with this action would be an unhappy step backward and a display of internal governance disarray at MAS.” But the letter also asked the MAS board to “consider an independent review of governance and management structure accepting one of the following alternatives to pursue: appointment of a balanced committee of emeritus directors; retention of an outside professional consultant (such as McKinsey); or consultation with an experienced non-profit organization professional.” We agree with the City Club that it is time for the MAS board of directors to be more transparent about its actions, change how it views its fiduciary responsibilities, and rethink its board structure and decision-making process.

Finally, the MAS board has not only mismanaged its mandate to stand up for New York but should explain its management of the Gina Pollara presidency.

According to sources, Pollara asked the board when she began her term to give her a year to re-engage with the community that they depended on for funding and memberships. In the year of her presidency, she reportedly brought in nearly $1 million to the society. Pollara seemed be on track to making this happen after she canceled “The MAS Summit,” its largely irrelevant two-day non-event of tweets and advertorials for MAS board members and their friends. Instead, Pollara created a successful (and less expensive to convene) one-day summit that engaged with and discussed important and controversial issues in New York in 2016. The board has been mysterious about why it fired Pollara, and while it doesn’t have to explain all of its decisions, hiring yet another president makes one wonder if the members are serious about continuing to be a civic organization worthy of respect—and financial support. We hope Goldstein can make the society respected and relevant again, but she has serious bridges to build in the New York preservation and planning communities. And she has to have the ability to work with its board.

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NYC increases Percent for Art program funding for the first time in 35 years

Since its inception in 1982, New York City's Percent for Art program hasn't seen a funding increase, though that changed last Wednesday with new legislation signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio. The 35-year-old program provides funding for public art, requiring that one percent of the city budget for construction projects is allocated for public artwork. To date, the program has commissioned more than 350 artworks in public spaces and currently has almost 100 works in progress. “Public art plays a crucial role in capturing the extraordinary energy and diversity of this city,” said de Blasio in a press release. “The improvement of the Percent for Art program strengthens the City’s ability to invest in public works of art and the local artists who create it.” In its original form, the program set aside one percent of the first $20 million intended for public projects for public works of art, approximately $1.5 million annually. The new legislation sets aside one percent of the first $50 million instead, increasing the annual budget to $4 million in order to account for inflation. “We’re ready to work with residents more closely than ever before on bringing extraordinary works of art to their communities, and to bring the amount of funding available in line with the law’s original intent,” said Cultural Affairs Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl. Other new bills passed with this legislation aim to increase the transparency of the program and ensure diversity and community involvement. For example, the city hopes that providing artwork submission information in multiple languages will increase community input. Additionally, the Department of Cultural Affairs will collect and share data about the artists selected to ensure a diverse group is receiving these commissions. This is the largest package of bills signed into law in the history of the Committee on Cultural Affairs, according to Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer, who chairs the committee and helped sponsor the bills. For more information about the Percent for Art program or to see other works of art the program has sponsored, visit here.
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Port Authority approves $32 billion capital plan with funding for new tunnels and terminals

After months of planning, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has approved a $32.2 billion capital plan, the largest in the agency's history. The 10-year plan is bullish on public-private partnerships to support the costs of its projects at the region's airports, bridges, tunnels, and terminals. Although some big-ticket items, like the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan, are new construction, much of the budget goes towards repairing or upgrading existing infrastructure. See the highlights from the plan, below:
Planes This $11.6 billion segment allocates $4 billion for a LaGuardia Terminal B replacement and puts funds toward the revitalization of John F. Kennedy International Airport. In New Jersey, work will move forward at Terminal A at Newark Liberty International Airport. Trains The agency is putting $2.7 billion towards debt service on to-be-borrowed money for a new and sorely needed trans-Hudson rail line between New York and New Jersey. In Jersey, the PATH's older stations will be rebuilt, as well, and new infrastructure will enable PATH trains to run from Newark Penn Station (the current terminus) to Newark Liberty's AirLink station. Additional dollars will support an AirTrain to LaGuardia, a sister link to the line that already serves JFK. Automobiles Another $10 billion will go towards the Goethals Bridge replacement, the rebuilding of the Bayonne Bridge, renovations to the George Washington Bridge, and the planning and construction for the new Port Authority Bus Terminal. The capital plan puts $3.5 billion towards this item, but stakeholders are still discussing where, exactly, the new terminal should go. Proposals from a September design competition pegged the cost of a new terminal at $3 billion to $15 billion, so the agency's allocation may be too low. “This region needs state-of-the-art airports, new mass transit infrastructure and bridges designed to handle 21st-century traffic levels if we are to meet growth projections,” said Port Authority executive director Pat Foye, in a statement. “This 10-year plan provides a record level of investment in all of these areas that will meet and support the region’s growth and serve as a major job creator for the next decade.”