Posts tagged with "politics":

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Miami approved David Beckham’s soccer stadium site in ballot vote

In yesterday’s midterm elections, Miami residents voted to approve a referendum that brings David Beckham’s Freedom Park soccer complex one step closer to fruition after a five-year battle. According to The Miami Herald, the referendum gets rid of competitive bidding for the property where Beckham and his partners now want to build, a 131-acre site near Miami International Airport currently home to the city-owned Melreese golf course. On the ballot, voters were asked whether or not the local government would be allowed to change bidding laws within the city charter to secure a no-bid deal at the massive public green space. About 60 percent of voters endorsed the measure, solidifying the chances that the $1 billion project, designed by Arquitectonica, will actually get built. The city can now begin to negotiate a 99-year-lease for a minimum of $3.5 million per year with Beckham’s Miami Freedom Park LLC, a group jointly-owned by Sprint chief executive Marcelo Claure, and business brothers Jorge and Jose Mas. The developers plan to use 73 acres to build a 25,000-seat stadium for Miami’s future Major League Soccer team, Inter Miami CF, as well as 750 hotel rooms, and at least one million square feet of office, retail, and commercial space. The referendum also calls for Beckham’s group to financially back a 58-acre public park near the complex, which will cost about $20 million to construct. The Miami Herald reported that critics of the decision to build the mega-project are defending the value of the golf club’s youth and mentoring programs. Concern is also rising over the toxic dirt that sits underneath the parkland, which was contaminated by an old municipal incinerator. The city will likely have to approve a serious land remediation plan before moving forward with negotiating final lease terms. Now that voters are behind the goal to build at Melreese, Beckham’s team will have to find a new vision for the nine-acre plot of land it owns in Overtown, Miami, where the soccer star previously wanted to develop a stadium designed by Populous.
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Senator Gillibrand and her Republican challenger spar over Syracuse’s I-81

The fight to bring down an antiquated elevated highway in Syracuse, New York, is among the controversial issues being highlighted in the race for one of the state’s  U.S. Senate seats. On Monday, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., told The Post-Standard she supports the effort to replace a portion of Interstate 81 with a street-level grid—a position she’s never spoken out on before. “Given where the stakeholders are—and given what I have heard from the community in the last several years,” she said, “ I really think the community grid is the better approach to not only revitalization, but to support all members of our community.” For years, higher-level politicians have shied away from taking a stance on the decade-long debate to fix one of Syracuse’s greatest transportation issues. The 1.4-mile highway viaduct cuts through the heart of the city’s downtown, segregating the community physically and economically. As of last year, it reached the end of its functional lifespan and is no longer safe for the thousands of cars that traverse it each day. Syracuse-based community groups, university leaders, and local politicians have spoken out about the dire need to address I-81. Some have come out in favor of any of the three proposed options—an underground tunnel, street grid, or rebuilt overpass—while some have stayed quiet. So far, Gillibrand is the most influential person to state her opinion. Senator Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Representative John Katko, R-Camillus, have declined to comment. “I disagree with the tunnel folks because I think you’re just going to have a bypass of downtown,” Gillibrand told The Post-Standard. “Unfortunately, when you don’t invest in a downtown long-term, your city becomes less attractive. If you create thoroughfares and routes to skip downtown, what you get is boarded up storefront and you get a hollowing out of cities.” It’s no coincidence Gillibrand is speaking out just weeks away from the Tuesday, November 6, election for her U.S. Senate seat. Her Republic challenger, Chele Farley, criticized her decision to pick a proposal.  “I think it’s a little offensive for me to make a decision for Syracuse,” Farley said in a reactionary statement. “Let Syracuse decide, but then it’s my job to get the money and bring it back so the project could get funded quickly and it could happen.” Of all three options, the underground tunnel could prove the most expensive at $3.1 billion—another reason why Gillibrand doesn’t back it. A new elevated highway would be around $1.7 billion, while a boulevard, or community grid, would cost $1.3 billion. Most of the funds will be supplied through the federal government via President Trump’s recent infrastructure rule that places priority on interstate highway projects. But some worry Syracuse’s failure to unite on a decision will prevent the city from getting the money it needs on time. Gillibrand and Farley will face off in a televised debate this Thursday at 1:30 p.m. on WABC-TV. Whoever wins the Senate seat will take on the task of pushing the project forward based on the community’s final decision. The New York State Department of Transportation is now working on a new environmental impact study surveying the three options. It’s set to be published in January when a public commentary period will open.
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Tonight! Join AN’s Matt Shaw in exploring energy, politics, and architecture in New York

Tonight, Monday, November 9, at New York's AIANY/Center for Architecture, AN Senior Editor Matt Shaw will be moderating a book talk between Janette Kim and Erik Carver, the authors of The Underdome Guide to Energy Reform, a new book released by Princeton Architectural Press. Stop by at 6:00p.m. tonight for light refreshments and beautiful drawings alongside a discussion about the future of ecologically minded architecture and urbanism. The Underdome Guide to Energy Reform is equal parts architect's handbook and toolbox for effecting environmental change with the built environment. The book maps different approaches to energy management and performance to examine their implications for collective life. Underdome catalogs a spectrum of positions argued for by a diverse cast including economists, environmentalists, community advocates, political scientists, and designers. In turn, it highlights in architecture questions of professional agency, the contemporary city, and collective priorities in the face of uncertain energy futures. Check it out on our events page here.
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“Jock tax” could fund new stadiums for Milwaukee Bucks; Populous, HNTB, Eppstein Uhen shortlisted to design

Wisconsin's NBA team, the Milwaukee Bucks, are getting a new stadium designed either by Populous, HNTB, or Eppstein Uhen, owners announced last week. Populous is an MVP of sorts in the world of stadium design, with the 2012 London Olympic Stadium to its name. Kansas City's HNTB designed the San Francisco 49ers' new stadium. Local firm Eppstein Uhen is known around Milwaukee for their redesign of Miller Park, among other projects. Basketball fans could attend games in the new stadium as soon as fall 2017 if all goes according to plan. But the project needs money, potentially from a controversial proposal to sell $220 million in state bonds still in limbo. Bucks owners have said they will provide at least $150 million, while former owner and former Sen. Herb Kohl has pledged $100 million. But Wisconsin Governor and likely Republican presidential contender Scott Walker has faced opposition from both sides of the aisle for his proposal to finance the private construction project in part with public funds. Liberals point out his willingness to slash state funding for higher education, social services, and renewable energy programs belies his poor priorities, while the conservative group Americans for Prosperity expressed worries about the Bucks bond deal's risk to taxpayers. The new stadium, intended to prevent the Bucks from leaving Milwaukee when their contract runs out in 2017, is estimated to cost $450 million to $500 million. If the legislature approves Walker's proposal, city and county financing is likely to make up the remaining money. Walker said if the Bucks leave the state, they'd take with them millions per year in income tax collections alone, reported ESPN:
Under what Walker called a "first-of-its-kind" plan, the more than $6.5 million that's collected from taxes on the salaries of the Bucks and visiting NBA players would continue to go to the state's general fund. Walker said that figure is expected to grow due to rising salaries and revenue from the NBA's TV contracts, so any money above $6.5 million would be used to pay off the bond by 2046.
Representatives for the team have said they hope to have a plan for a new home in place within the next month. Should the project go forward (with funding from state bonds or without), the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's critic Mary Louise Schumacher calls for thoughtful design: "Nothing will define the project — and its impact on Milwaukee — like the design."
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Campaign Seeks to Ease New York’s Traffic, Build Transit With New Tolling Structure

Manhattan has a traffic problem. But, as of now, New York City has only taken marginal steps to fix it. To some, charging tolls on certain bridges and tunnels leading to the island, but not on others is uneven or unfair. To former New York traffic commissioner, “Gridlock” Sam Schwartz, however, it’s “a cockamamie system of charging people that makes absolutely no sense.” And today, Schwartz and Move NY are launching a campaign against that “cockamamie system” as they call for new strategies to ease congestion. Ahead of today's event, The Atlantic Cities is out with a great profile on the troubled past, and uncertain future, of passing congesting pricing in New York City. After former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s pricing plan failed in 2008, it’s not clear if de Blasio will even take-up the fight. Considering the current way the city handles traffic, though, it’s blatantly clear that something has to be done. “[New York’s] current system of handling commuter traffic is completely busted,” wrote The Atlantic’s Eric Jaffe. “Case in point: the four city-owned bridges over the East River are free, but the two MTA-owned tunnels beside them cost commuters $15 cash round trip, leading to rampant ‘bridge shopping.’” The plan advocated by Schwartz and Move NY would change that. They call for lowering fees on already expensive bridges and tunnels, and raising—or adding—fees on others. The plan could hypothetically pay huge dividends for the city: a 20 percent improvement in traffic flow, easier commutes into and around Manhattan, and up to $1.5 billion a year in revenue. Despite its benefits, congestion pricing will still be a tough sell. Jaffe noted that Schwartz isn’t even calling his plan “congestion pricing.” Whatever it's called, the plan will likely face strong opposition from drivers who are currently getting a free pass on their commute. Convincing them that new fees are worth it won't be an easy sell. That's why Schwartz and Move NY are setting out on the age-old “listening tour.” The main focus of the tour is to hear from New Yorkers about where they want to see all that additional revenue spent. Most of the money is reportedly planned to go toward “maintaining current service and expanding into transit deserts.” This type of long-term investment would be necessary to provide transportation alternatives to those who could be priced off bridges and tunnels. In the short-term, though, this won't quell the backlash because these projects would take years to complete. Still, Schwartz and his team say this type of investment is vital to New York's long-term viability and the revenue raised from congestion pricing could help catalyze new transit projects. While this type of plan is widely regarded as the best way to ease congestion, its impact on low-income individuals cannot be overlooked; those with the smallest voice will most profoundly feel its effects. “Pricing a low-income driver off the road from a 40-minute car commute might be a win for traffic; but it’s a loss for society if that person now rides two hours to work,” wrote Jaffe.
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On View> “Colombia: Transformed / Architecture = Politics” at the Center for Architecture

Colombia: Transformed/Architecture=Politics Center for Architecture 536 Laguardia Place New York, NY Through October 26 Colombia: Transformed/Architecture=Politics, on view at the Center for Architecture through October 26, examines 11 recently built, socially-mindful developments designed by six leaders in contemporary Colombian architecture: Daniel Bonilla and Giancarlo Mazzanti from Bogotá, and Felipe Mesa, Juan Manuel Pelaez, Felipe Uribe and Orlando Garcia from Medellín. The projects in the show embody the change occurring in Latin America today and reveal themes of social inclusion in addition to inventive architectural forms and spaces. They include daycare centers, schools, a sport complex, and library, among others. Through photographs, slides, drawings, models, and film footage, the works commemorate how the public uses these projects and how lifestyles have been improved and uplifted as a result. The exhibition was curated by Vladimir Belogolovsky, founder of the New York City–based Intercontinental Curatorial Project, and Fernando Villa, associate principal of Magnusson Architecture & Planning.  
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Carpooling with Corporations: Exactly Who Is in the Passenger Seat?

Carpool lanes typically are meant to reduce congestion, not make political statements, but one Bay Area HOV lane finds itself at the center of a national controversy. NBC News reported that Jonathan Frieman has been trying to get pulled over for more than a decade, and now that he's been slapped with a $481 minimum fine for driving alone, he's hoping to challenge his case in court. The twist? Frieman claims he did have another person riding with him, brandishing his incorporation papers. According to California vehicle law and long-established U.S. federal law, corporations legally represent a person. More recently, in 2010, the Supreme Court issued its contested Citizens United decision, stating that corporate funding of political campaigns is protected under the First Amendment. Frieman, who opposes the concept, hopes to take the case to court in an attempt to overturn corporate personhood.
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Blood on the Tracks

The MTA finally passed its so-called Doomsday Budget today. If this comes as a surprise, well, you're not the only one taken aback. Last year, the transit authority was in a similar predicament—in part because the Legislature refused to implement congestion pricing but mostly because of the recession. But, as with most things in (at least New York) politics, an eleventh hour deal was brokered and the funds were found to stave off the draconian cuts. We figured that would be the case this time around, especially since the MTA's new and particularly shrewd boss Jay Walder made all the right cuts that would be politically unpalatable for Albany to keep in place, like, say, Student MetroCards. So then why did they pass? Granted the cuts will not go into effect until June, so there is still time to avert some, if not all, of them, though that is seemingly increasingly impossible. The reason is there simply isn't enough money to go around anymore to fill these gaping holes. The city is on the verge of axing thousands of teachers because the Paterson administration has raided those funds as well—the MTA lost $143 million to the state budget, coupled with a poor return on those eleventh hour bailouts, like a new payroll tax. We asked transit sage Gene Russianoff, head of the Straphangers Campaign, how it came to this, and he basically agreed that we've reached bone. "Tight money is part of the problem. Competition with education and health care for scarce money is not to transit's advantage," Russianoff wrote in an email. "There's also MTA's lack of credibility with public. Elected officials believe people will blame MTA and not them for service cuts. Jay Walder believes he needs to downsize agency to make every dollar count to buid up lost credibility." There is still hope, should the agency decide to trim its capital funds, as the Straphangers and City Council have been advocating, but the MTA continues to oppose such cuts, arguing they're worse than reduced service. We can keep our fingers crossed for more stimulus funds, or perhaps complain to Bruce Ratner. But it's starting to look like our last best hope might be good old-fashioned prayer.
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King of the Hill

Hard to believe Glenn Beck isn't already up in arms over the president's decision to nominate his long-time friend and former Weatherman (some might say terrorist) to become the Architect of the Capitol. Oh. Wait. Wrong Ayers. Stephen Ayers, who has actually been serving as AoC for the past three years on an interim basis, was nominated to take over full-time on Tuesday by the Obama administration. Previously, Ayers held the position of Deputy Architect of the Capitol, taking over when his predecessor, Alan Hantman, retired after a decade of service. Ayers has had a distinguished career of public service, including a stint in the Air Force, then a turn in the public sector followed by work at Voice of America, the government-run radio network in Europe. By all appearances, his experience in facilities management in general and at the Capitol in particular should silence critics who have been giving the industry grief over the AoC position in recent years. As we reported shortly after Hantman's retirement, some on the Hill had been agitating for a non-architect to take over the AoC position partly because of huge cost overruns and delays at the much-maligned (particularly by critics) new Capitol Visitor Center. But that's not the AoC's only responsibility, as the office also manages the entire Capitol Complex and surrounding grounds, a job the AIA and others said required an architect's unique and varied skill set. The institute issued a statement today calling for Ayer's timely appointment:
"Christine W. McEntee, Executive Vice President/CEO of the AIA, said, "Mr. Ayers has shown leadership, foresight, and a steady hand as he led the Architect of the Capitol’s office for the last three years. Mr Ayers has addressed many goals for the office in an exemplary manner. However, there are still urgent needs facing the Capitol complex, from reducing its carbon footprint to renovating buildings in need of repair, and the Office of the Architect of the Capitol will benefit from Mr. Ayers’ capable leadership."
Best of luck. He'll probably need it.
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We Vote For He

It's a bit of a tradition for newspapers to issue endorsements in political races, and so when we got wind that an architect was running for mayor, well, who else could we support? It being primary day, if you haven't voted yet, we recommend you consider casting your ballot for He Gin Lee. According to the bio on his campaign site, He "was named the 'Architect of the Year' by New York City" in 2003 and 2004 and "is not your typical politician who sees this mayoral position as a role and opportunity to win fame or satisfy personal ambitions." A profile in July in City Hall notes that the Korean-American architect has built numerous churches in Queens, many of which can be found on He's firm's website. And while our incumbent mayor has much for the design and construction of the city (for better or worse), He told City Hall that is his main reason for running: “I’d like to make a beautiful city. That is my goal.” And were he to win, he'd join some 850 fellow architect-pols nationwide.
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Atlantic Yards Money Pit?

When Forest City Ratner released new designs by SHoP Architects of the Barclays Center yesterday, it was seen as an effort to right a listing ship. But no sooner had those copper-hewed renderings hit the presses than the city's Independent Budget Office released a report [PDF] today noting that the arena will cost the city $40 million in revenues over the next 30 years as a result of financial incentives granted to the developer. Furthermore, the city lost a potential $181 million in lost opportunities through tax breaks and incentives provided to the developer, which cost the state $16 million and the MTA $25 million, though the report also notes both will release a net gain of $25 million and $6 million, respectively, if the deal goes through.
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If Architects Ruled the World

In the wake of the recent presidential election, more people, including architects, have become interested and involved in local and national government. As part of the AIA’s efforts to encourage members to run for or be appointed to political offices or commissions, they recently conducted a survey tallying up the number of active members involved in politics, running the gamut from mayors to city council members and planning commissioners. The results of the survey revealed that there are at least 850 architects, making up more than one percent of total AIA membership, currently holding such posts. According to Scott Frank, Director of Media Relations at the AIA, “the survey aims to get more architects involved in the debate about the role the built environment has within the larger society as well as the smaller community.” Giving architects the opportunity to “have a seat at the table,” Frank told AN, “architects can use their design building and problem solving skills to help enlighten policy-makers on the importance of good design in planning.” The AIA is taking several measures to prod other members to follow in the footsteps of the already 850 active politicos. At the AIA’s Grassroots Leadership and Legislative Conference (currently taking place now in Washington D.C.) and at the National Convention in San Francisco in April, there will be workshops devoted to the importance of civic engagement for the architectural profession. If architects don’t yet rule the world, they may soon!