Posts tagged with "Regional Plan Association (RPA)":

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The Regional Plan Association wants to connect 1,650 miles of trails in the tri-state area

Last week the Regional Plan Association (RPA) released a report proposing the creation of a 1,650-mile trail system linking Manhattan to the outer boroughs and tri-state area. The report, Accessing Natureis part of RPA's Fourth Regional Plan, which is slated for release later this fall. If the entire plan came to fruition, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut residents would be able to hike and bike a combined distance equal to that between New York and Colorado. The plan links new trails to existing ones and puts over 80 percent of the region's residents within two miles of a trail while unifying the tri-state area's existing natural resources into a contiguous network. By connecting regional rail lines to trail networks, knitting together 141 parks, and transforming underused energy corridors (like power line route) into pathways, RPA hopes to encourage outdoor recreation and economic growth in adjacent communities. The plan targets almost 300 municipalities that would become "trail towns" connected to a whole system. RPA hopes that the developing infrastructure could support tourism and hospitality industries in smaller locales. Equitable access to trail systems and outdoor resources has also been proven to promote physical and mental health, creating opportunity for nearby residents to be active. Partnerships with local stewards and organizations will be integral to realizing the plan. At its Urban Core scale, the proposal includes 111 miles of trails within New York City limits alone, including an entire ring around the city harbor linking Jersey City to Staten Island to Brooklyn, then up along Lower Manhattan. A north-bound trail running directly up Broadway (aiming for the eventual total pedestrianization of the street) would connect Upper Manhattan to the waterfronts in Queens and the Bronx—part of which would only be possible if Rikers Island was closed and consolidated. The proposed trailways in New Jersey come out to a 417-mile system, still largely incomplete. The trail system would extend westward from New York down the Morris Canal into Lehigh Valley, wrap around the D&R Canal, and branch out to cover the entire length of Jersey Shore at the high-water mark. At almost 600 miles, the Mid-Hudson circuit is the largest part of the plan, but also the section with the most existing trail infrastructure. Large swaths of this connector provide sweeping views of the Hudson Valley, connecting existing pathways all the way up to Albany. Ideally, this would create a direct route for New York City residents to upper valley trails (and westward to the Erie Canal), as well as bridging directly into the Appalachian Trail. The Connecticut extension, at 170 miles, rounds up a 1994 RPA proposal for a greenway along Merritt Parkway and the East Coast Greenway, stringing together near-coastal cities of the Long Island Sound to inner-state agricultural landscapes and smaller towns (the Parkway, which is gorgeous, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991). Another connector links the East Coast Greenway to the Appalachian Trail to the north. The proposal for Long Island stretches out at 318 miles, repurposing the former Long Island Motor Parkway as a trail spanning the entire length of the island from the New York Harbor to Montauk. Coastal trails bridge out to the Long Island Greenbelt on the Sound side and to the Long Island Seashore Trail on the coastal side from Jones Beach to Fire Island. The RPA and its partners are currently moving forward on fundraising and implementation, which will require a long-term commitment to trail maintenance – no small task for such an extensive system.
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Regional Plan Association calls for a new Port Authority Bus Terminal at the Javits Center

The Regional Plan Association (RPA) has published a report that calls for major changes to how transit is operated between New Jersey and Manhattan. In 25 years, the report explains, daily commuters into Manhattan from New Jersey increased by 70,000 to 320,000. "Our current system of trains, buses, subways, ferries, and roads does not have enough capacity to serve another 72,000—let alone another 150,000," said the RPA. The report goes adds that while rail journeys from Penn Station have almost tripled, bus travel is where major growth has taken place, increasing by 83 percent. As a result, the RPA's biggest proposal is for a new Port Authority Bus Terminal (PABT) at the base of the Javits Center. This $3 billion project would not mean destroying the current PABT in Midtown, it said, but it would create an additional bus hub to relieve the Midtown terminus. "The ramps connecting the Lincoln Tunnel and the PABT are immovable and any solutions must keep them in place," the RPA argue. "Any other building site large enough for existing and expanded PABT operations will be enormously expensive; and any relocation will put the PABT passengers further from their destinations and the extraordinary subway connections they now enjoy." While having some bus routes into Hudson Yards is a good idea, access to the #7 train may not be adequate from a capacity perspective. Secondly, that train doesn't go anywhere useful for those coming into Manhattan—it's a line that primarily services Queens. The RPA, however, had other points to make, notably stressing the importance of the Gateway Project. "The new tunnels must be in place before the existing tunnels fail. Simply put, this is the highest infrastructure priority for the nation." Furthermore, the RPA called for Gateway to be turned into a through-running service, no longer terminating at 7th Avenue, but going onto Sunnyside Yards in Queens by going eastward under Manhattan. Planning consultants ReThink Studio also have a scheme similar to this. Keeping with rail travel, Vishaan Chakrabarti and PAU's proposal to move Madison Square Gardens to an adjacent site was praised by the RPA, creating what it called a "beautiful train station." All in all, this plan would be executed in phases. These phases were outlined and can be found below.
Phase One Build gateway tunnels and a bus terminal in the basement of the Jacob Javits Convention Center. Phase Two Build Gateway East with through service at Penn South. Constructing Penn South with fewer, wider platforms and two new East River tunnels would increase throughput at Penn Station by 30% and greatly expand rail service for New Jersey Transit, Long Island Rail Road, and Metro North riders. New direct rail service into Penn Station for Bergen and Monmouth counties would reduce travel times and shift bus riders to rail in these under-served counties, relieving highway congestion and pressure on the bus terminals. Phase Three Build new tail tunnels to expand service and meet future capacity needs
The report in full can be found here.
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Regional Plan Association unveils the final designs for the Fourth Regional Plan

The Regional Plan Association (RPA) has unveiled the final designs for the Fourth Regional Plan. The four schemes envision a New York–New Jersey–Connecticut metropolitan area 25 years into the future while addressing the emerging challenges the region faces and also capitalizing on new opportunities. Initiated by The Rockefeller Foundation, the competition began in January and asked architects, planners, and designers to incorporate elements such as policy changes, future investments, and growth patterns into the plans. The winning proposals were selected in March and, through a grant from The Rockefeller Foundation, they were each awarded $45,000 to work with RPA and a team of professionals to develop their ideas further. In doing so, the four winners expanded their programs, looking at four regional corridors. Dubbed "4C," the RPA describes the designs as a "principal component" of its upcoming Fourth Regional Plan, titled A Region Transformed. The four corridors in question are: Coast Rafi A+U and DLAND Studio Creating what they call a "bight," the two studios propose an artificial coastline that bridges the boundary between the built environment and the water, addressing rising sea levels around Long Island with half-submerged communities able to continue living when change inevitably happens. https://player.vimeo.com/video/227158218 City Only If and One Architecture Defined as the "Triboro Corridor," the plan sees light rail utilizing already-laid freight rail tracks in Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens. The project would foster development around the new stations; new rail service would connect to existing subway and commuter rail lines. As One Architecture told The Architect's Newspaper, the plan aims to "transform the region’s transportation system from a hub and spoke system to a more resilient network with circumferential connections, greater redundancy, and community amenities." Suburbs WORKac Just as with Only If and One Architecture's scheme, WORKac's plan is centered around transit and connecting underserved neighborhoods around a ring of suburbs from the New York cities of Port Chester and White Plains, through the New Jersey cities of Paterson, Montclair, Rahway and Perth Amboy. Highlands PORT Urbanism and Range Covering the entire region, this proposal spans from the Delaware River to Northern Connecticut. The scheme allows wildlife—not humans—to enjoy the area and migrate north as a result of climate change. The Highlands Corridor would also utilize streams and valleys to connect to the coast. An exhibition of the of final design can be found at Fort Tilden through September 17. Find out more here.
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WORKac, PORT Urbanism, DLANDstudio, and others unveil visions for a resilient tristate area

Last night the Regional Plan Association (RPA) unveiled designs from four teams that address the future of infrastructure and resilience in the tristate area. The nonprofit, boosted by a Rockefeller Foundation grant, asked seven firms across four teams—WORKacRafi Segal and DLANDstudioPORT Urbanism + RANGE; as well as Only If and One Architecture—to show how policymakers, designers, and citizens, could best prepare four geographies within the region for the next quarter-century. (The Architect's Newspaper covered the competition in March when the firms were selected.) The competition asked the groups to zero in on revamping New York City's inner ring suburbs; creating coastal buffers; improving local waterways; and linking the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn by passenger rail, respectively. The competition coincides with RPA's fourth regional plan, A Region Transformed, due out later this year. Until then, take a look at their ideas in the gallery above, or if you're at the beach anytime in August or September, go see the designs—and give feedback—at Fort Tilden in the Rockaways. See rpa.org for more details.
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How is the New Jersey Meadowlands planning for climate change?

Although many in the tristate area know it as a place to just drive through, the New Jersey Meadowlands is a critical micro-region just west of New York City. A quarter-million people commute on Amtrak and local rail through the area every day, and it’s the warehouse and distribution hub for the region—Amazon just purchased a 600,000-square-foot warehouse there, near the Teterboro Airport, to expedite its shipping operations. With 800 acres of preserved wetlands, the Meadowlands also sustains fisheries and migrating birds. That ecology co-exists with critical infrastructure: power and wastewater treatment plants, as well as petroleum production, but its soil and water holds contaminants that pose great risk to human health. Together, the value of all property in the Meadowlands is assessed at $6.2 billion.

The low-lying area is also particularly vulnerable to sea level rise. Last Friday at Assembly, the Regional Plan Association’s annual conference, stakeholders convened to discuss its future. Facing Climate Change in the Meadowlands” brought together Robert Ceberio, president and founder of consulting firm RCM Ceberio; Stephen Dilts, office leader at New Jersey’s HNTB, an infrastructure planning firm; Debbie Mans, executive director of NY/NJ Baykeeper; and Catherine Seavitt Nordenson, principal of Catherine Seavitt Studio and assistant professor of landscape architecture at CUNY. The talk was moderated by Eugenie Birch, the Lawrence C. Nussdorf Chair of Urban Research and Education at the University of Pennsylvania.

The panel raised big questions: Where do we retreat from, and where do we protect? How can fixed infrastructure be adapted? How will resiliency planning sustain natural ecosystems? And—with sea levels projected to rise three feet in the next 60 to 80 years—how soon can we start?

From 1969 through the early 2000s, the Meadowland’s growth was guided by a master plan. That plan called for the major development of the wetlands, backed by literal tons of infill (the debris from Penn Station and the London blitz lives there now, below some NJ Turnpike spur). After the plan expired in 2004, the residential population dropped to 30,000 from 70,000 while commercial space more than doubled to 6.5 million square feet of warehouses, stores, and offices.

It used to be that no one cared about the health of the wetlands, Ceberio said. The former executive director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission added that now, though, “resiliency and flood control is on the top of everyone’s mind,” When planning the area, “we used to look at heights of buildings in relation to the Teterboro Airport. Now we’re looking at FEMA maps.”

But the will to act is another question. “Are people in state and federal government are going to step up and do it?” he asked, sort of rhetorically, but other panelists were eager to jump in.

The lack of a major plan—and a timeline—for sustaining a critical area was a running theme, foreshadowing words of warning from conference keynote Joe Biden. The former vice president told elected officials, planners, and AEC professionals in the audience to “stop being polite” and “sound the alarm” on the “shameful” state of the region’s infrastructure. “You need to start shouting about how bad things are,” he said.

In New Jersey, at least, the stakeholders are vocal. Debbie Mans said that obstacles to resiliency planning abounded. Since the state legislature dissolved the Meadowlands Commission seven years ago, she said, there’s been a piecemeal approach to what should be a comprehensive regional strategy. She took issue with grand plans put forth by Rebuild By Design, HUD’s National Disaster Resilience Competition. The plans called for hard and soft infrastructure, including a wall in the middle of the wetland. They're soft, Mans said, is levees and berms. But with green infrastructure already intact, “bisecting and filling it intuitively doesn’t make sense.” The implementation, too, is scattershot; she questioned what the state and the region would receive for the millions being spent in the Meadowlands.

There was a consensus among panelists that more needed to be done to re-orient the crisis-by-crisis response approach towards a more proactive planning framework. Ceberio pointed out that the Gateway Program's tunnel entry point is in the Meadowlands. (The project will build a massive rail tunnel under the Hudson River to replace Hurricane Sandy–damaged tubes used by Amtrak and New Jersey Transit.) But he noted climate change puts the project in a precarious position: “If flood scenarios become reality those tunnels are gone. Gone!”

Beyond trains, around 1,900 people in the area could be displaced due to rising sea levels within the next 30 years. Despite the risks, residents want to stay. But there are hard conversations that need to happen. When people are passionate about a place like residents are about the Meadowlands, “they do things to sustain it,” Seavitt said. “In all of its tawdriness, it’s beautiful.” There's a long way to go: “If there was a reasonable, strategic, well-thought-out plan we’d get behind it,” said Mans. “But we don’t see that right now.”

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Port Authority Bus Terminal to get total reset and other breaking news from annual RPA conference

The Regional Plan Association (RPA)'s Assembly conference in New York City, which focuses on urban planning, infrastructure, and transportation, was marked by an acute sense of crises and challenge. "You need to start shouting about how bad things are, how irresponsible" we've been as a nation, former Vice President Joe Biden told the audience. He bellowed how the U.S.'s infrastructure released a D+ rating. Biden was on hand to receive the RPA's John Zuccotti Award. In addition to being a longtime advocate for Amtrack, the noted train enthusiast Biden administered the infrastructure-heavy American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. It's an "easy message to deliver," he said, "that our infrastructure is crumbling and making America less competitive." Challenges associated with major projects like the Gateway Program (which promises new rail tunnels under the Hudson, among other improvements), the Second Avenue Subway, and a new Port Authority Bus Terminal loomed large as the conference started off. In the Assembly's large morning panel, Polly Trottenberg, commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT), highlighted how the region's "accountability and governance model" needs to be reviewed. If government officials have clear ownership, it's better, she said, citing Governor Cuomo's intervention into the Second Avenue Subway. Rohit Aggarwala, chief policy officer of Sidewalk Labs and co-chair of the RPA's Fourth Regional Plan, gave a preview of what the RPA would propose when the Plan comes out later this year. "What has happened to these institutions?" he asked, arguing that it wasn't politics, ineptitude, nor lack of funding that was causing major regional transportation projects to falter and slow. It's the "very shape and structure of these agencies" that were the cause, he said, adding that they're "deeply flawed" in how they're organized, funded, and how responsibilities are divided. He discussed how other global cities, such as London, Honk Kong, and Los Angeles, have all restructured their transportation agencies in the last 20 or so years, consolidating power on a more local level or finding new arrangements more reflective of their needs. "It is time for reinvention," he concluded, saying the Fourth Plan would address these issues head-on. (He gave no concrete hints about the Plan itself, though in one example of dysfunction, he cited how commuter rail authorities are divided by the Hudson.)
There were major project updates at the "Crossing the Hudson" panel, which sought to address the fundamental challenge of improving transportation across (and under) the Hudson to connect New York and New Jersey. Tom Wright, president of the RPA, kicked off the panel by showing how New Jersey added 65,000 new cross-Hudson commuters from 1990 to 2010 and stood to add another 75,000 from 2010 to 2040. (By another estimate, it would be 110,000 by 2040 if you include New Jersey commuters going to all five boroughs.) Forty-three percent of current commutes happen via bus and a new Port Authority Bus Terminal (PABT) is desperately needed. Additionally, if one track is lost on the current 106-year-old rail tunnel under the Hudson, Penn Station can only handle six trains during a peak hour (as compared to 24 otherwise).
Put simply, "New Jersey transit systems are in a state of crises," said panel member and New Jersey State Senator Robert Gordon. While PATH is in decent shape funding-wise (thanks to PANYNJ tolls), the rest of the state's transit system is severely underfunded. John Porcari, interim executive director of the Gateway Program Development Corporation, framed the challenge a little differently: 10 percent of the country's GDP is in the New York metro area, but crossing the Hudson via rail its "single point of failure." A new rail bridge, dubbed the Portal Bridge and located over the Hackensack River, is ready for construction but is awaiting federal funding. The new rail tunnel's environmental impact statement should be released in 60 days, Pocari added, and a financing plan is also in the works. Those two projects (the new bridge and tunnel) constitute phase one of the Gateway Program; phase two includes a new Penn Station. Biden called the tunnel "literally the single most important project in the country." A new PABT is also essential to the trans-Hudson transportation question; the current station will require replacement in 15 to 20 years due to structural deterioration, said Andrew Lynn, director of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey (PANYNJ)'s Planning and Regional Development Department. (Lynn sometimes holds meetings with local officials and stakeholders in the PABT, using the shaking walls to drive home his point.) The PANYNJ has about $3.5 billion set aside for the terminal, but despite numerous attempts to formulate a plan over the years, none have been successful. The PANYNJ is effectively "pushing the reset button" on the project, and while the group will learn from past failures, "we're really starting over," he said. (Gordon suggested expanding the current PABT upwards by building off the current structure. This would expand capacity while minimzing local impact.) However, Polly Trottenberg, commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT), countered that "global cities are not building big bus terminals"; rail is much more efficient. "One enormous bus terminal" is not the solution, she said, citing the failings of Robert Moses and how "we don't think that way now." Lastly, the panel touched on the replacement and expansion of Penn Station. Vishaan Chakrabarti, founder of Practice for Architecture Urbanism, who has put forward a plan to adapt the existing structure, explained his plan to move Madison Square Garden to the back of the old Farley Building, allowing the adaptive reuse of the current Garden's superstructure for a new train station that would make the neighborhood a "world-class address." (ReThink Studio, who was also present at the Assembly, has critiqued aspects of this plan.) Chakrabarti also sounded the alarm that office space might be built in the back of the Farley Building to fund Amtrack's construction of a new Amtrack platforms on the rails that run under the Farley Building. Those platforms, he added, would only serve Amtrack and exclude regional rail. He also warned that the current Penn Station was a safety hazard awaiting disaster: with such low ceilings, for instance, a smoke event would be disastrous in the already-overcapacity space. In sum, the panel portrayed a moment of crises but also a potential reconsideration of the current status quo. Once the current crises have been averted, panelists agreed it would make the most sense for New Jersey to emphasize trains over buses for a trans-Hudson commute, as rail is overall far more efficient (albeit also more expensive) a system for moving people. After this, an afternoon panel, "Planning for the Transportation Revolution," sought to address how ride sharing and autonomous vehicle could reshape the urban landscape. Bruce Schaller, principal at Schaller Consulting (which specializes in urban transportation policy), and Matt Wing, corporate communications lead at Uber, both highlighted how Transportation Network Companies (TNCs, such as Uber and Lyft) have filled in gaps created by public transportation. Forty percent of Uber's New York City rides are in the outer boroughs and never touch Manhattan, which serves as little surprise given only one subway line (the G) doesn't pass through Manhattan. TNCs, Wing explained, are also serving as critical links in the "last mile" problem of getting people to mass transit stations. (See AN's transportation feature on Miami for more on this.) Jessica Robinson, director of city solutions at Ford Smart Mobility, revealed that Ford aimed to have a production-ready Level 4 self-driving car by 2021. (Level 4 means no steering wheel, gas pedal, or anything else drivers must operate.) Given their cost, said Robinson, such cars will almost certainly be owned and operated by ride-sharing companies. Seeking to stay at the forefront of mobility solutions, Ford also bought Chariot, a TNC that operates 14-passenger ride-sharing vehicles and aims to reinvent mass transit. It was Robin Chase, the co-founder and former CEO of Zipcar, who gave the most impassioned presentation. "Cities are in a one-time position of power," she said, to dictate the terms of how autonomous vehicles should operate before they're legally allowed in major cities. She's currently organizing a global coalition of mayor to negotiate with large companies. Her top priorities include: ensuring all vehicles are electric, creating a level playing field for competition among ride-sharing companies, and negotiating new forms of ride sharing taxation based on distance traveled, curb rights, fuel type, and other factors. Conventional taxation based on registration fees, gasoline tax, and tolls may not be an option when autonomous vehicles hit the road. Overall, the panel argued that anything less than all-electronic fleets of competing ride share companies would be a major loss for cities. In that scenario, there are fewer and much cleaner cars on the road, and vast amounts of parking and curbside space would be made available for public use.
For more on major transportations plans, don't miss the upcoming Plan 2050 at the Cooper Union, this May 9!
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WORKac, PORT, and others win Rockefeller Foundation grants to plan future of tristate area

Today the Regional Plan Association (RPA) announced the winners of an inaugural design competition that asked participants to envision a more resilient and equitable future for the tristate area. The New York–based group, in collaboration with CUNY's Catherine Seavitt and Princeton University's Guy Nordenson and Paul Lewis, selected four teams to rethink the region's approach to designing natural and artificial infrastructure. Armed with $45,000 apiece from the Rockefeller Foundation, WORKacPORT + RANGEOnly If + One Architecture, and Rafi Segal A+U will focus on the typology of the suburb, the forest, the city, and the coast, respectively. The teams, diverse but drawing heavily from MIT DUSP's faculty rolls, will work with RPA's team to refine their projects in advance of a June public presentation. WORKac's project will explore new modes of mixed-use development to address issues facing inner ring suburbs from White Plans and Port Chester, New York through Paterson, Montclair, Rahway and Perth Amboy, New Jersey. Meanwhile, PORT + RANGE's focus extends from the Delaware River to northern Connecticut to engage the less populous—but crucially important—periphery. Designers at New York's Only If will team up with Dutch spatial planning firm One Architecture to link the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn more effectively, while Rafi Segal and landscape architect Susannah Drake, together with with Sarah Williams, Brent Ryan and Greg Lindsay, will consider the coastal ecological infrastructure from Atlantic City to Montauk that mitigates potentially devastating impacts of sea level rise. The designers' schemes will inform RPA's fourth regional plan, due out later this year.

“In the past three regional plans, design work was crucial to imagining the future of the region and to making that future legible through innovative representations,” said Lewis, associate dean of the Princeton University School of Architecture, in a prepared statement. “From Hugh Ferriss’s atmospheric renderings to Rai Okamoto’s access diagrams, RPA’s plans have provided unique opportunities for advancing design innovation in concert with visionary transformation of the region. The challenge to the four teams is to build upon that history and envision the future structured around a more expansive notion of 'corridor,' including transportation, ecology, access, and equity.”

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A new report shows how sky-high housing costs fuel displacement in the tristate area

The Regional Plan Association has released a new study on housing affordability and its notoriously difficult-to-measure twin, displacement. Although displacement is often reported as individual battles over affordable housing or new development in neighborhoods like East New York and East Harlem, Pushed Out: Housing Displacement in an Unaffordable Region (PDF) illustrates the widespread impact of displacement in the tristate area, from Northern New Jersey up to New Haven, Connecticut. Despite good intentions, urban planning often reflects the priorities of four decades ago, when cities confronted deficits, white flight, deindustrialization, and the collateral damage of urban renewal. Now, data shows that throughout New York metropolitan area, wealthier (and whiter) people are replacing people of color in dense, central city neighborhoods with good transit access. There are, the RPA estimates, 990,000 people in the region who are at-risk of displacement; more than two-thirds of this group are Black or Latino. To ease the rising cost of housing and keep low-income residents in place, Pushed Out proposes policies like deeper rental subsidies, broader affordability ranges, centering displacement risk into land-use, and more legal protections for tenants, especially around eviction prevention and in areas outside of New York City where rent protections are weak or non-existent. This most recent report, which includes interviews with those affected directly by displacement, will be part of the RPA's fourth regional plan, due out later this year. In conjunction with the release, RPA held a morning forum at the Ford Foundation where two panels of community leaders and city officials from the region gathered with an audience of their peers and neighbors to discuss strategies for resisting displacement and advocating for longtime residents in the face of change. Maria Torres-Springer, the new head of NYC Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), joined Dina Levy, deputy director of community impact and innovation in Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office; and Jersey City Deputy Mayor Marcos Vigil for a panel discussion on what municipalities can do to combat displacement (NY1's Errol Louis moderated). HPD, Torres-Springer noted, is beginning to experiment with community land trusts, while Vigil said Jersey City, in response to an influx of 50,000 new residents, offers incentives to developers who build housing outside of transit-rich, wealthy neighborhoods. The solutions are meant in part to address an acute displacement trend: RPA's report found that desirable, central city neighborhoods have seen a two percent decrease in households earning less than $100,000 annually, while these same areas have accommodated 11 percent more households earning $100,000 annually. The group mused on the difficulty of providing truly affordable housing when, for example, federal agencies set standards of affordability that may not align with local needs. "There's a legal definition of affordability," said Vigil, "but really it means a good, safe place to live." Panelists were on the lookout for instances in which public policy accelerates displacement, but given their institutional roles and the short timeframe, discussion trended towards optimism and broad tactics. Barika Williams, deputy director of the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development, moderated a second panel on how displacement risk is experienced on the ground. Executive Director of Community Voices Heard Afua Atta-Mensah; NYU Furman Center Director Ingrid Gould Ellen; Raymond Ocasio, executive director of La Casa de Don Pedro; and New York City Council Member Antonio Reynoso spoke about how the rising cost of housing is putting pressure on the (mostly) low-income communities of color they advocate for and represent. Reynoso, whose district includes parts of Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Ridgewood, spoke passionately about housing pressures facing his constituents: "Law, policy, and safeguards are being outpaced by development," he said. "Do we have the resources and will to sustain the preservation of affordable housing and build more housing to combat the erosion?" As poorer residents are pushed to the city limits and the suburbs, panelists agreed that planning needs to extend beyond town lines. "It's better,"Atta-Mensah said, "to get in at the front end and talk about this regionally."
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East Harlem set to lose 25 percent of affordable housing stock, Regional Plan Association says

A new report from the Regional Plan Association (RPA) suggests that East Harlem may lose one-quarter of its affordable housing stock. The Manhattan neighborhood has one of the highest concentrations of affordable housing, and has long been a haven for people who could not rent or own in other neighborhoods because of institutionalized discrimination. The neighborhood is becoming less welcoming, however, especially to low-income New Yorkers: Between now and 2040, Harlem could lose between 200 and 500 units of rent-stabilized and public (NYCHA) housing per year. Right now, there are an estimated 56,000 affordable units in the neighborhood. The study, "Preserving Affordable Housing in East Harlem," was produced with long-time collaborator Community Board 11. Any new affordable housing, the report concludes, should be made permanently affordable by "restructuring existing programs, or supporting community and public ownership models including community land trusts, land lease agreements and expanded public housing." The neighborhood is slated for rezoning under Mayor de Blasio's intensive plan to create or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing over the next decade. Unlike East New York, Brooklyn, the first neighborhood to undergo rezoning under de Blasio's plan, East Harlem has gentrified palpably in recent years: When the New York Times includes your neighborhood on its "next-hottest" list, some say widespread residential displacement is not far behind. Using the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development's (HPD) Office of Asset and Property Management, the city has managed to lengthen individual buildings' affordability reactively, though the process would need to be restructured so buildings are designated permanently affordable as a matter of course. The East Harlem Neighborhood Plan coalition, which includes Community Voices Heard, CB 11, and the office of New York City Council Speaker (and district representative) Melissa Mark-Viverito, incorporated RPA's work into their plan, which The Architect's Newspaper covered when it was revealed last fall.
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Tunnel trouble under the Hudson River is an immanent threat to the New York region’s transit system

Two rail tunnels connecting New Jersey to New York are the main arteries of the regional transit system. Riders usually don't need to focus on the infrastructure that carries them to their destinations—unless something goes wrong. Each day, 500,000 commuters use mass transit—Amtrak, PATH, and NJ Transit—to travel from New Jersey to New York and back. After more than one hundred years in service, the rail tunnels are rapidly deteriorating. "Tunnel Trouble," a new video released by the Regional Plan Association (RPA), warns of the dire consequences for transit on the Eastern seaboard if one of the tunnels were shut down for extensive repairs. https://vimeo.com/143811940 The daily ridership on Amtrak and NJ Transit has more than doubled, from 35,533 passengers in 1990 to 85,869 in 2013. Over the next 25 years, ridership on these lines is expected to grow more than 40 percent. Each tunnel handles inbound and outbound traffic. Typically, 24 trains pass through each tunnel each hour. The RPA states that, if one tunnel closed, only six trains per hour could pass, reducing service by 75 percent. Those with cars may chose to drive, straining an already overburdened road network. Hurricane Sandy inundated the tunnels three years ago. Saline river water corroded the concrete lining and damaged the Depression-era wiring. Today, mechanical problems in the tunnels create a chokepoint for local train traffic and delay regional Amtrak trains coming in and out of New York. The RPA makes a strong case for building two new tunnels, while the current tunnels are still operable, to forestall an immanent transportation disaster.  It appears, however, that the political will is lacking. In 2010, AN covered the defeat of the ARC project, an $8.7 billion transit upgrade between the New Jersey Meadowlands and Penn Station. The ARC proposed building two new single-track tunnels to alleviate the bottleneck under the Hudson. Today, and especially after the devastation of Sandy, investing in new tunnels is key to maintaining the economic health of the region.
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Regional Plan Association’s Bob Yaro steps down as leader of New York planning group

The Regional Plan Association has announced that its president Bob Yaro is retiring and will be succeeded by its executive director Tom Wright. Yaro has been with the association for 25 years and served as its president since 2001. “I have been privileged over the last quarter century to guide RPA and help address some of the New York metropolitan region’s most pressing challenges,” Yaro said in a statement. “While I will miss working with the extraordinarily talented researchers and policy experts at RPA on a daily basis, I am thrilled to be leaving the organization in the hands of someone as accomplished and visionary as Tom Wright." 
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Speaker Quinn Backs Ten-Year Term Limit for Madison Square Garden

Consensus among the city's political players is growing in favor of the relocation of Madison Square Garden from its home atop Penn Station. Yesterday, City Council held a public hearing to discuss the future of the Garden and the overcrowded train terminal. Filmmaker Spike Lee, surrounded by an entourage of former Knicks players, testified on behalf of the Garden. According to the Wall Street Journal, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn expressed her support of a ten-year term limit for the arena in a letter addressed to the Garden's President and CEO, Hank Ratner, on Wednesday. The owners of the arena have requested a permit in perpetuity, however, several government officials and advocacy groups—including Borough President Scott Stringer, the Municipal Art Society (MAS), and the Regional Plan Association—have called for limiting the permit to 10 years. This comes after the City Planning Commission voted unanimously for a 15-year permit extension.