Chair of New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) Meenakshi Srinivasan is stepping down effective June 1, and tomorrow AN will present an exclusive interview with Srinivasan on what her next steps will be. As first reported by the Times Ledger, Srinivasan will be leaving a position she’s held since her appointment by Mayor de Blasio in July of 2014. “I am honored to have served as chair of the Landmarks Preservation Commission for the past four years and to have had the opportunity to serve the city for the past 28 years,” said Srinivasan in a statement. “I am proud of what we have accomplished—promoting equity, diversity, efficiency and transparency in all aspects of LPC’s work, and working with the administration to make preservation a critical part of the city’s planning process. “It’s been an intense, challenging, and incredibly rewarding experience. I’ve been very fortunate to work in three agencies and chair two commissions involved with the city’s land use and built environment, and to have played a role in shaping this incredibly diverse and dynamic city. I would love to do more hands-on project-based work related to land use planning and zoning and will be transitioning to the private sector.” The move comes during a tumultuous time for the LPC, as the commission has been roiled by criticism of a proposed rule change meant to improve efficiency and streamline the approvals process. The changes, discussed further in-depth here, drew charges that they lower the agency’s standards from preservation groups like the Historic Districts Council. AN will follow this announcement with an interview on Friday.
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Completed this year, 150 Wooster is an eight-story, mixed-use infill project for KUB Capital that offers a contemporary version of Soho loft living in a historic district. HTO Architect worked with the New York City Planning Commission and the Landmarks Preservation Commission to deliver the project, which features a custom-detailed brick facade articulated with limestone and painted steel ornamentation. Daniel Schillberg, managing director of design and architecture at KUB Capital, said this infill project is located on one of the last developable lots in Soho. “This was one of the last ground-up buildings in Soho and will probably be the last,” he said. Soho’s predominantly cast iron structures date from 1830s to the 1850s, the surprisingly narrow spectrum of time when the majority of construction occured. The speed of construction in this neighborhood and others like it was achieved by means of prefabrication and a “kit of parts” mentality that was made possible due to advances in cast iron technology that paralleled mass industrialization. KUB said the project was inspired by this context, along with masonry structures that surround site. Depth of the facade was a key consideration in the design. The facade arranges a large operable window unit measuring over four by eight feet into eight bays, finding a sweet spot between energy code's permitted window-to-wall ratio, historic compositional proportions, and window manufacturer fabrication limitations. The resulting design, which received unanimous Landmarks approval, was approximately a year-long process.To achieve the desired effect, the architects looked to materials common to the area—brick and limestone—but sought out detailing methods that produce a refined contemporary aesthetic to, in their words, "push the building into our modern times." This led to the refinement of a limestone trim detail that projects four inches beyond a primary facade of Petersen Tegl Kolumba brick. The masonry veneer is a long and thin proportion arranged in a stack bond with a tight 3/8" mortar joint to privilege the color of the brick over the mortar color. "These Petersen bricks have a lot of texture. They're essentially hand made which lead to a lot of ridges and good imperfections," said Schillberg. Window units are defined by a dark metal frame set 16 inches back from the face of the building, exposing Indiana limestone, which swells to meet the window frame assembly in one precise angular taper. The masonry installers built a single window bay mockup by looking at the detailing of the spandrel bricks, limestone trim, and the primary facade bricks. One of the constructional challenges was the weight of the limestone trim, which required complex drop beams with specific edge detailing for the concrete superstructure. The limestone, which is pinned back to these moments in the structure of the building, acts as a modified custom brick lintel to support the masonry veneer. Another key detail of the project is the custom metal work on the storefront and cornice. Both elements were inspired by traditional cast iron detailing involving prefabricated modules of profiled galvanized steel sheets. The cornice essentially functions as a miniature brise-soleil, and is composed of custom-profiled metal fins. "I loved the idea of having a cornice where, as you approach the building, it evoked the sculptural shaping of a cornice, but as you get underneath it, it actually disappeared into thin elements that allow light through," Schillberg said. The brick manufacturer, Petersen Tegl, is a small family-run Danish brickworks company founded more than 200 years ago. Their products are still handmade through a carefully crafted traditional process of hand-pressed, coal-fired production. This produces authentic bricks with a variety of signature light and dark shades. In addition to helping new buildings meld with older and more classic surroundings, Petersen Tegl’s handmade bricks are also helping to revive the idea of the skilled artisan and masonry construction. They’re popular in New York: A developer on Manhattan’s Upper East Side working on the tallest building in the neighborhood north of 72nd Street is utilizing nearly 600,000 Petersen Tegl bricks to connect the structure to its art deco context. Across the river in Brooklyn, two developers have launched luxury condo projects, 145 President and 211 Schermerhorn, each featuring the handcrafted aesthetic of a Petersen Tegl brick facade.
New York State’s legislature is set to vote on a budget resolution that would lift the floor area ratio (FAR) caps in New York City for residential development, a proposition that the de Blasio administration seems to be onboard with. In a major budget bill for 2018-2019 working its way through the State Senate (S7506A), legislators have included a provision that would nullify the FAR cap installed in 1961. Floor area ratio is determined by dividing a building’s usable floor area by the overall lot’s square footage and is capped at 12 in the city’s highest density districts; therefore, indirectly influencing the height and bulk of new developments. The bill still has to pass a State Legislature vote on the clause (S6760) in two weeks before the Senate’s version can advance, though a similar proposal failed to pass in the 2015-2016 session, likely due to public backlash. The Municipal Art Society (MAS) has continually lobbied against such efforts, and this attempt is no different. MAS and the New York Landmarks Conservancy have decried the move, claiming that it would only lead to taller, bulkier glass towers that would displace existing residents. Not everyone feels the same way. Lifting the FAR cap would benefit Mayor de Blasio’s affordable housing agenda, according to the city, as it would provide more space in market-rate developments for affordable housing. Building taller has been a core pillar of the mayor’s sometimes contentious Mandatory Inclusionary Housing plan, and as City Council member Rory Lancman argued in a recent op-ed, building taller is the only way out of the city’s affordable housing crisis. The Regional Plan Association (RPA) also agrees with the move, and recently put out a report highlighting how lifting the FAR cap would bolster income and increase diversity throughout the city’s lower-slung neighborhoods. Any removal of density caps would have to align with New York City's current city planning principals, which use FAR to guide development, so it's uncertain how quickly the impact of such a change would be felt. Of course, the RPA plan presumes that any changes would be accompanied by design guidelines and mechanisms to prevent real estate speculation. It remains to be seen whether the city or state government would enact such procedures if the budget manages to pass. New York residents interested in letting their voice be heard (on either side of the issue) can email or call their local Assembly Member before the vote, using the directory found here.
Although design studio New Affiliates has only been in existence a short while, its list of bona fides is long: Jaffer Kolb recently worked on major exhibitions at the Jewish Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art for Diller Scofidio + Renfro, and Ivi Diamantopoulou spent time as an associate at MOS designing off-the-grid residences and a number of high-design interior projects—including, notably, the short-lived design gallery Chamber. These experiences set them up well as one of the most promising up-and-coming New York architecture studios and one of AN Interior’s top 50 interior architects. Jesse Seegers visited the duo in their NoHo, Manhattan, studio. New Affiliates officially started in August 2016, and yet you’ve already completed a house in Vermont, the Tunbridge Winter Cabin. How did that happen? Jaffer Kolb Well, we really started designing that in March 2016, and it was done nine months later. It was very fast. It was in this empty field, on a 65-acre property, and there was no infrastructure, so we had to build a 2,000-foot-long road, install phone lines, septic, etc. Ivi Diamantopoulou As we were about to finish Tunbridge, we got our client for the Bed-Stuy loft. A fashion designer came to us through her real estate broker and asked, “What does your work look like?” At the time, the cabin was mostly finished, so we thought it would answer the question. But the finishes were not in yet. As soon as it was completed and photographed, she said, “OK, yes, let’s do it.” Kolb But it’s true the clients that we’re working with now primarily want to know about a level of aesthetic taste. They’re less interested in the form of the cabin, so while someone might find these two intersecting volumes interesting in an architectural context, they’re just like, “What are the floors? What kind of counters are you using?” Fortunately for us, she liked them. That’s pretty funny because I was noticing that there is a real attention to light in a lot of the photographs, which really makes the interior seem much bigger and accentuates the carefully considered material palette. Also, it helps that your photographer, Michael Vahrenwald, is great. Diamantopoulou Yes! Michael is a gem. But we also studied how light would hit these two angled volumes and deliberately oriented elevations in all directions. The vignettes of the cabinet-handle detail and the baseboard seem like particularly important moments. Kolb It was one of many instances where we really tried not to reinvent the house and its parts, but instead to twist inherited details into something strangely simple yet fun. You know, we get it—we designed a dumb form that looks like a Monopoly block. The plan is basically two squares, and then two angles where the two squares meet, but playing with a pitched roof is the thing that makes it really interesting. Diamantopoulou What we worked toward with this project is a general idea of asymmetry and imperfection. It does come from two identical parts, but the way the interior is organized, it’s never a perfectly mirrored plan. You don’t stand in the middle of the space and see the same thing on both sides. There’s always something that’s off, and even with the cabinet pulls you mentioned: They’re not circles, they’re kind of a circle. Kolb This was Ivi’s idea, which I think is a brilliant one, because we didn’t want hardware. We drew it out on the actual, original cabinets for the contractor and he immediately started to plan uninstalling them to take them to his shop. Diamantopoulou And we stopped him and told him to do it on-site! Kolb He warned us he wasn’t going to be able to make a perfect circle, and we said we would much prefer a wobbly, funny, quasi-crafty thing than something that looks like it came from a catalogue. Not only were we fine with that, but we think it contributes a lot to the design. Diamantopoulou The exposed steel pipes are similar: They are not aligned with one another; they are not centered. Nothing in this project is trying to be at a specific location; everything is kind of relaxed. Kolb Yeah, it’s loose. We try to keep things informal. Diamantopoulou Designed but not design-y. There’s something refreshing about that attitude of open-endedness and relaxed acceptance of quote-unquote “imperfection.” Kolb It’s funny you say that, because we’re writing a text on imperfection and openness, and it’s not about the openness we took from the ’60s—let’s just make an open field and we can occupy it. It’s more like, “Why don’t we just make a thing and leave enough that is unsettled?” Diamantopoulou There’s this idea of an economy of means that comes from the world at large. I think also particularly our generation, living through the aftermath of 2008 and having to just do whatever you can with what you have. Kolb But there is a practical value to this. I think fussiness is out. I really do think that everyone we know works hard, but everyone we know also rejects the idea of working hard at the same time. I think it’s a new kind of labor politics around trying to resist the 24/7 work cycle we have been taught by the generations that preceded us—to let go a little, to engage architecture without trying to overly control it. Diamantopoulou And that inevitably translates into an aesthetic project—the implications of which become “making it work” with things we’ve inherited, from shapes to construction techniques. Kolb In some ways, the easiest thing to do is to make everything out of these inheritances. Design with circles and squares, but not even difficult circles and squares! Easy, flexible ones! Diamantopoulou Kind of flexible. Kind of… The art of the kinda.
Architecture lives as both object and aggregation: buildings and cities. If the pursuit of an environment that is sustainable, equitable, beautiful, and rich with difference is common at every scale, the valence of these values varies by situation. Metrophysics foregrounds projects rooted in the urban, including buildings and sites designed with both practical and polemical intent. The work is from a team that operates as a “traditional” architectural studio responding to clients and as a research practice that formulates its own agenda of investigation and intervention. In 2005, Michael Sorkin Studio underwent a mitosis with the founding of Terreform. Given a long history of activist work in a variety of registers—including design, advocacy, and writing—there’d been a long simmering desire to find a form of practice that was more transparent with the non-commercial—even utopian—projects and ambitions that engaged us. Not wanting to give up the prospect of “ordinary” building, however, we formalized the conceptual split into a “straight” architectural practice and an organization doing research, unsolicited interventions, publishing, and propositions. The studio works in a single spirit with a focus on questions of city, on its morphology, systems of equity, and metabolic behavior. What Terreform has learned over the years from New York City (Steady) State—an elaborate speculation meant to determine just how autonomous our city can become—informs “official” projects Sorkin Studio has undertaken in Wuhan, Xi’an, or Istanbul and vice versa. Each side serves as the lab for the other but we’re all on the same page: the iron fiscal curtain between the two entities is a membrane that’s completely porous to ideas. Michael Sorkin is a distinguished professor and director of the Graduate Urban Design Program.
Lee Harris Pomeroy, founder of the eponymous architecture studio based in New York City, passed away Sunday night at the age of 85. His firm, Lee Harris Pomeroy Architects, is well known around New York City for its focus on adaptive reuse and its restorations of historical subway stations, including the Bleeker Street stop, which holds the iconic honeycombed light installation by artist Leo Villareal. Pomeroy was born on November 19, 1932, and received his Bachelor’s of Architecture from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1955, followed by a Master of Architecture degree from Yale in 1961. He founded the studio only three years after that, leading the firm for 52 years until his death. Pomeroy had been recognized for his distinguished career by an AIA New York Fellowship, and as a member of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). The studio has branched out in recent years, completing towers, rail systems and entire mini-cities in both China and India; still, New Yorkers will likely remember Pomeroy most for his tireless advocacy for the creation of the eventual Broadway Theater District.
On February 5, the Austrian Cultural Forum New York opened the exhibition "The Projective Drawing," an exhibition inspired by architectural historian Robin Evans’ posthumous book, The Projective Cast. Evans sought to explore a new approach to our understanding of architecture, one based on the incorporation of the senses: the physical, mental and emotional. Brett Littman, the Executive Director of the Drawing Center and curator of the exhibition, described this strain of thought as “looking beyond pencil and paper to express objects” to “explore the limits of drawing.” Under this rubric, many of the drawings possess a non-linear and non-traditional character that requires thoughtful interpretation from the audience. Located in the Austrian Cultural Forum’s landmark building in Midtown Manhattan, "The Projective Drawing" is displayed in the multi-level gallery space found at the base of the building. The exhibition includes Austria-based and international artists, allowing for a broad range of ideas and representations influenced by their regional contexts. The panel hosted on the opening night of the exhibition featured Elsy Lahner, a curator of contemporary art for the Albertina Museum Vienna, Brett Littman, and exhibiting artists Lionel Favre, Brigitte Mahlknecht and Judith Saupper. Over the course of an hour, Lahner probed the curator and artists on the inspirations behind their work. For instance, Saupper spoke of her fascination with the informal geometry and architecture often found in vernacular Alpine forms, while Favre discussed his search for the hidden traditions that shape our conception of the built environment. As part of the exhibition, on February 19, the Austrian Cultural Forum will host a live performance of American percussionist Billy Martin and Austrian clarinetist Susanna Gartmayer that interprets the exhibited work of Sara Flores. "The Projective Drawing" The Austrian Cultural Forum New York , 11 E 52nd Street Through May 13
Picture New York, 2040: Buses replace the subway at night, but when they’re open, subways are quieter, wheelchair-accessible, and clean. Everyone’s ditched tiny apartments for cozy mother-in-law units, built into single- family suburban homes. Working in the Bronx and living in Brooklyn isn’t a two-hour slog anymore, because there is rail service from Co-op City to Sunset Park. Craving fresh air? The national park in the New Jersey Meadowlands is a one-train ride from Queens, or there’s a long-haul hike from the Catskills to the Pinelands. This is a sliver of the tristate future envisioned by the Regional Plan Association (RPA), a nonpartisan, nonprofit Manhattan-based organization that periodically analyzes the region from exurbs to downtowns to generate recommendations for a thriving future. When all 782 towns and cities in the tri-state area do their own planning and zoning, true regional planning seems daunting. The almost 400-page doorstopper of a plan, the RPA’s fourth since 1922, contains recommendations on a range of issues, from closing health disparities to fairer school redistricting and property tax reform, to making it easier to reverse-commute or travel from suburb to suburb without a car. The New York-New Jersey–Connecticut area is home to 23 million people, and only a third of them live in New York City proper. With that distribution in mind, the RPA identified four top priorities that affect everyone’s life. The group believes that, for the next 25 years, a thriving region depends on fixing the MTA, constructing more affordable housing to prevent displacement, building equity in one of the most unequal regions in the area, and adapting to rising sea levels. “Our plans carry zero weight of law, but they are very influential,” RPA President Tom Wright told reporters at a November briefing. It’s not possible to analyze all of the plan’s 61 prescriptions here, but there are key takeaways for architects, planners, and policymakers who live and practice in the region. The idea that the subway needs a total overhaul is a no-brainer to anyone who has been late due to massive train delays. To improve the system, the group wants to reconsider around-the-clock subway service. Surface transit would replace trains between 12:30 a.m. and 5 a.m. on weeknights, as only 1.5 percent of daily riders use the service during these four and a half hours, almost 20 percent of the day. Ending 24/7 service, the RPA argues, would allow the beleaguered MTA to make needed repairs faster, now that there are more riders than ever. New Yorkers didn’t take kindly to the idea. Commuters took to Twitter to denounce “the worst idea ever,” and even Mayor Bill de Blasio weighed in, calling full service a “birthright.” If current trends continue, the city’s growth rate from 2015– 2040 will be half of its 1990–2015 rate, but NYC officials say the city doesn’t have enough infrastructure to support more than nine million residents, even though the RPA believes the region (including NYC) could accommodate four million more people and add two million jobs. The organization argues that more and better transit options— and more affordable housing— will prevent the region from turning into California’s Bay Area and make it easier to grow inclusively. Packed trains and sky-high rents reflect many people’s desire to live in the New York City area, but unchecked housing costs could put a damper on growth. Adding more units—two million more— would alleviate the real estate crunch over 25 years. To meet demand, the RPA estimates that changing zoning near train stations could allow 250,000 homes to be created just on surface parking near rail lines while maintaining the neighborhood balance of schools and social spaces. Reforming zoning restrictions could also encourage homeowners to create accessory dwellings units (mother-in-law apartments) within the existing building envelope, while NYC’s 12 FAR cap could be lifted to build up density. Value capture from real estate development, especially those that benefit from big-ticket projects, could fund affordable housing near transit. All housing construction will be in vain, however, if the region doesn’t step up to address the immediate and terrifying effects of climate change. The RPA wants to reduce carbon dioxide emissions via a California-style cap-and-trade plan, and convene a regional commission to help local governments adapt to extreme weather and rising seas. But, according to the RPA, the carbon pricing system we have isn’t comprehensive enough; the region should switch to California’s model, which does more to reduce emissions by covering those from buildings, transportation, power production, and industry. One million people from Connecticut to New Jersey live in areas likely to flood, and municipalities are gearing up to fight Hurricane Sandy-like storm surges. There is less emphasis, though, on the everyday flooding that’s likely to result from sea-level rise in the near future; the RPA says areas that can’t be protected should be gradually transitioned to higher ground. A tristate regional coastal commission would help communities plan for sea-level rise, and a small surcharge on property insurance would be used to fund resiliency measures like buyouts and coastal hardening. The retreat from vulnerable areas is painful for people who have built lives there, but there are opportunities in the changes. A national park in the marshy, industrial Meadowlands would provide recreation space and educate visitors on climate change mitigation. Denser Meadowlands towns like Secaucus, New Jersey, would be protected from sea-level rise, while the Teterboro Airport and surrounding communities would retreat, and nature would take over. To illustrate these recommendations more richly, the RPA applies its thinking to nine sites, imagining what they could be in 2040. In that year, Jamaica, Queens, has capitalized on its rich transit connections and proximity to JFK Airport to become a destination in its own right, while retaining its income and ethnic diversity. Further east, Long Island’s central Nassau County is a “model suburb” thanks to regionally integrated schools and a new North Shore–South Shore rail link that’s made it easier to access job centers in Hempstead and Garden City. “Nothing is off the table,” Wright said.
New York City's Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) might be in a highly publicized “state of emergency” over its failing infrastructure at the time of writing, but much less attention is paid to how much it falls short in meeting federal accessibility guidelines. Only 24 percent of New York’s 472 subway stations are accessible overall; a fact not lost on disability advocates. But a recent New York Times article highlighted a case of community-based opposition to new elevators that would make a downtown station more accessible. Only blocks from the World Trade Center complex in Manhattan, residents on Broad Street have been trying to push back against a $20 million pair of elevators that would connect to the J/Z Broad Street station on their block. The elevators are a concession on the developer Madison Equities' part, in exchange for an extra 71,000 square feet of buildable area at the 80-story, mixed-use tower at 45 Broad St. Urbahn Architects will oversee the project. The elevators will provide access to a subway line that only has five accessible stations out of a total of 30. However, at a Community Board 1 meeting last month, approximately 270 residents of 15 and 30 Broad Street had signed a petition opposing what they called “dangerous structures.” Residents cited terrorism concerns, specifically a fear that the glass elevator booths would turn into shrapnel if a bomb went off. But disability activists have called the fear a thin veil for NIMBY-ism. “It’s total NIMBY,” Edith Prentiss, president of Disabled In Action, told The Times. “It’s ‘Don’t affect my property values, don’t affect my — I love this — my iconic view.’ I can understand that they paid a lot of money, I’m sure, but that does not abrogate my civil rights.” As the back-and-forth over elevators at this particular stop continues, so do several lawsuits brought against the MTA by a coalition of disabled residents and advocacy groups. The lack of elevator-accessible trains directly contradicts the Americans with Disabilities Act, but the MTA has claimed that bringing such service to every station would be an undue financial burden. For its part, the agency has responded that they are already spending $1 billion to bring 25 stations into compliance and that overhauling the entire system would cost $10 billion. As the NYC subway system runs 24 hours a day, and because retrofitting a station typically modifies how service runs there for several months, any planned upgrades will likely stress the already straining subway service even further. Still, with some of the deepest and highest subway platforms currently inaccessible to disabled riders, and as funding for much-needed MTA fixes are up in the air, it remains to be seen whether these concerns will be addressed in the near future.
Multimedia artist Derrick Adams will premiere his first major museum exhibition in New York with Derrick Adams: Sanctuary. Hosted at the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD), Derrick Adams: Sanctuary draws on The Negro Motorist Green Book, an annual guidebook for black travelers during the Jim Crow era, to reinterpret themes of mobility, freedom and leisure. “Sanctuary captures the spirit of road travel at a time when black Americans were not able to move safely around the country,” said Guest Curator Dexter Wimberly in a statement. “When I think about freedom in the truest sense of the word, I’m struck by how relevant The Green Book still is today.” Derrick Adams: Sanctuary will present eight mixed-media collages on wood panels, as well as large-scale sculptures. Through the inclusion of politically and historically relevant found fabrics in his collages, Adams comments on a period when infrastructure connected the country physically but deeply entrenched systems of exclusion prevented black travelers from crossing racial boundaries. His work highlights the importance of leisure for black Americans, as they could be legally denied safe spaces when traveling until the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Shannon R. Stratton, MAD’s William and Mildred Lasdon Chief Curator, stressed the material’s modern day relevance. “It’s a nod to leisure as subject while acknowledging collage’s historic relationship to current events and pop culture. As part of MAD’s 2018 spring season, The Personal Is the Political, Adams demonstrates how vernacular materials and accessible techniques have been fertile ground for powerful, yet approachable, expressions of selfhood.” Accompanying Adams’ show will be the opening of Unpacking the Green Book: Travel and Segregation in Jim Crow America in March. The exhibition will dive into the history of The Green Book in an interactive project space, and present digitized copies of the original text. Ultimately the show’s organizers hope that this new exploration of author Victor Hugo Green’s work will allow museum guests to frame 21st century issues of mobility and race in a broader historical context. Derrick Adams: Sanctuary will open Wednesday, January 24th with a special preview event for members from 6:00 pm to 8:30 pm, and run from Friday, January 25th through August 12th. Unpacking the Green Book: Travel and Segregation in Jim Crow America will run from March 1st through April 8th. Derrick Adams: Sanctuary has been guest curated by Dexter Wimberly, Executive Director of Aljira, a Center for Contemporary Art, with support from the MAD Assistant Curator Samantha De Tillio. Samantha De Tillio also curated Unpacking the Green Book: Travel and Segregation in Jim Crow America.
As New York City’s subways continue to crumble and traffic congestion increases, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo have been at odds over the best way to fund mass transit improvements. That may all be about to change, as Governor Cuomo’s Fix NYC Advisory Panel has released their final report and called for the creation of congestion pricing zone in Manhattan. Mayor de Blasio has historically supported a “millionaire’s tax” on the city’s richest residents, while Governor Cuomo has proposed a congestion pricing scheme for vehicles crossing Manhattan’s 60th Street in either direction. In light of Fix NYC’s findings, Mayor de Blasio has seemingly shifted his position and voiced a willingness to implement some form of congestion pricing, if the funds were locked into improving the city’s transit network. Originally formed in October of last year, the Fix NYC panel invited policymakers, real estate developers, planners, MTA employees and other stakeholders to come up with policy fixes to improve mobility across the New York City region. The panel has ultimately recommended splitting any improvements across three phases. Phase one would see a focus on realistic, short-term reforms at the ground level. These range from studying transportation improvement opportunities across the outer boroughs and suburbs, to improving traffic law enforcement, and most importantly, beginning the installation of “zone pricing” infrastructure. This infrastructure would encircle a certain area and allow drivers to be charged for entering or leaving a certain area at specific times or days of the week. Phase two leans heavily on implementing congestion pricing. A central business district would be established as everything south of 60th Street in Manhattan, and for-hire vehicles and taxis would be charged every time they crossed the district’s border. Phase three would ramp up the second phase’s congestion pricing plan, first for trucks, and then to all vehicles entering the district by 2020. While trucks would pay $25.34, for-hire cars would likely only pay $2 to $5, with the overall affect of reducing traffic congestion during the busiest times of the day. Personal vehicles would have to pay up to $11.52 to travel through Manhattan during the busiest times of the day. Drivers would be offered some relief, however. “The Panel believes the MTA must first invest in public transportation alternatives and make improvements in the subway system before implementing a zone pricing plan to reduce congestion. Before asking commuters to abandon their cars, we must first improve mass transit capacity and reliability,” reads the report. It’s estimated that the pricing scheme could raise an additional $1.5 billion a year for the city’s ailing MTA. Governor Cuomo’s response to the report’s findings was muted, and in a statement, he promised to study the proposal more in-depth. Congestion pricing plans have never taken off in New York City despite being proposed regularly since the 1970s, and it remains to be seen whether the mayor’s office or state legislature will seriously take up the issue.
The NYCx initiative, a collaborative effort between the tech industry and the New York City’s mayor’s office, has announced the names of the 22 tech leaders who will be advising the program’s efforts to use smart city ideas to tackle urban issues. First announced in October of last year by Mayor Bill de Blasio, NYCx was designed to tackle pollution, income inequality, climate change, transit issues and more by connecting local startups with global tech companies. New York’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Miguel Gamiño and Deputy CTO Jeremy Goldberg are leading the program, with help from the newly formed 22-person Technology Leadership Advisory Council. The program has hit the ground running, and awards for all four of NYCx’s current initiatives will be distributed in the first half of 2018. The most ambitious problems being tackled have been categorized as moonshot projects, which partner with global entities, while another set of challenges, the co-lab challenges, are designed to collect community-specific solutions for localized problems. The most ambitious of these questions might be the Climate Action Challenge, as the city is seeking proposals to transition fully to electric vehicles in every borough in only five to ten years. Split between two “tracks,” the challenge wants to simultaneously develop new ways of charging electric vehicles, as well as make charging stations ubiquitous across the city. Winners will be announced on April 30th, 2018, and each selected team will receive up to $20,000 and work with the city to implement their ideas. On the co-lab side, the mayor’s office wants to create safer nighttime corridors and activate public areas in Brownsville, and wire up Governor’s Island with 5G wireless internet by this May. Both challenges involve changing how the local community interacts with public space, and could provide a template for future urban planning and development throughout NYC. The Technology Leadership Advisory Council, which will be evaluating these projects, has attracted members of the country’s largest tech companies. Microsoft, Ford, LinkedIn, Google and more have all contributed talent and will continue to work with the city government on projects “from drones to blockchain,” according to the mayor’s office. This partnership makes sense on its face, as several of these companies are already developing their own smart city models. The full list of 22 advisory members can be read here.