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February 2004
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Archive for February, 2004

A Planning Policy Program for the Far West Side

The public and private sectors are currently embroiled in an intense debate on the future of what is currently the primarily industrial Far West Side of Manhattan. Changes in the real estate market for land in this area are placing increasing development pressure on neighborhoods from Clinton to the Meatpacking District. While the Department of City Planning is in the process of preparing a comprehensive redevelopment strategy for this area to amend zoning, create a new urban design framework, and improve transportation, among other objectives, NYC 2012 is promoting an Olympics stadium, broadcast facilities and a new eight-acre open space. Continue Reading>>

TWA Terminal Named as One of the Nation’s Most Endangered Places

The effort to save Eero Saarinen’s iconic TWA Terminal from encroaching development got a big boost last week when the building was included on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of America’s “Most Endangered Places”. The MAS nominated the Terminal to the list in hopes that it would help raise awareness of the current threat to the landmark building and to aid fundraising and advocacy for its protection. While this listing does not ensure protection against the Port Authority’s insensitive development plans, it just may help persuade the Federal Aviation Administration to disapprove of them. Stay tuned.

BSA: Hardship Safety Valve or Alternative Zoning Forum?

The BSA has existed since New York City’s Zoning Resolution was created in 1916. It was created to vary the zoning laws “where there are practical difficulties or unnecessary hardship in the way of carrying out the strict letter of the provisions of” the law. From its very inception however, those seeking to build nonconforming structures exploited the BSA’s vague mandate. Drafters of the 1961 Zoning Resolution recognized the problem and set about crafting a provision that would provide more guidance for the BSA and the Courts. The resulting “five findings” contained in Section 72-21 of the Zoning Resolution require applicants to demonstrate unique physical conditions, inability to realize a reasonable investment return, minimum negative impact on the essential character of the neighborhood, that the hardship was not self-created and that the relief requested is the minimum required to offset the harm. Continue Reading>>

Hudson River Park: Work in Progress

Two hundred years ago, when the NYC Commissioners released their plan for the City, a reporter remarked on the lack of squares and open spaces in the plan. “Worry not” replied one of the Commissioners “as the Rivers will be our parks.” This promise went unfilled for nearly 200 years, but as the greatest achievement of New York City’s waterfront during the 20th century, Hudson River Park is indeed helping to fulfill it. Continue Reading>>

Community Gardens Lawsuit Settles

On September 17, 2002, Mayor Bloomberg and Attorney General Eliot Spitzer announced a settlement to the longstanding lawsuit that the AG’s office brought against the City in 1999 in response to the Giuliani administration’s plan to auction off more than 100 community gardens. The nearly 700 GreenThumb gardens throughout New York City have been under an injunction for the past several years, pending the outcome of this lawsuit. Continue Reading>>

Imagine New York Co-Signs Joint Statement of Common Principles for Rebuilding New York

imagine new york logoIn a show of remarkable unanimity, five different coalitions involved in the rebuilding of New York after 9/11 have gathered the common conclusions of their studies in one unified Imagine New York, the Labor Community Advocacy Network (LCAN), New York City Arts Coalition, New York New Visions, and Rebuild Downtown Our Town (R.Dot) contend that the program for the rebuilding must call for an inclusive citywide and regional approach to rebuilding that addresses key social and economic concerns, not just the physical construction in Lower Manhattan.

Rockefeller Center of the 21st Century? The Future of the Con Edison Waterside Plant

Four enormous city blocks, just south of the United Nations along the East River, offer a rare opportunity for a world-class development in Midtown Manhattan. Con Edison’s plan to close the Waterside plant now occupying the site could lead to the conversion of an isolated industrial area into a lively, mixed-use destination tied into the surrounding neighborhoods and connected to the East River. However, with this massive opportunity comes the potential to make colossal mistakes. Continue Reading>>

Mayor’s Office Revives Coordinated Street Furniture Bill

The Mayor’s Office recently submitted a bill to the City Council proposing an authorizing resolution for the installation, operation, and maintenance of a coordinated street furniture franchise. One company will be given the franchise, which will cover bus shelters, newstands, information kiosks and self-cleaning automatic public toilets. The Municipal Art Society supported this effort five years ago when it was proposed by the Giuliani administration, and is pleased that the Bloomberg administration is reviving this effort to bring well-designed and well-maintained furniture to the streets of New York. Continue Reading>>

Vacant to Vibrant: 55 Water Street Plaza Transformed

The New York-based team of Rogers Marvel Architects and Ken Smith Landscape Architect has been chosen as the winner of the competition to redesign the elevated public plaza at 55 Water Street. The elevated plaza at 55 Water, approximately one acre in size, commands beautiful panoramic views of New York Harbor from the Brooklyn Bridge to Governors Island. However, because it is nearly invisible from street level and its current primary point of access is a dimly lit escalator located off of Water Street, this great asset has gone underutilized. As one of the last stages of a $150 million renovation project of 55 Water Street, the New Water Street Corporation will implement the redesign of the elevated plaza in the spring of 2003, transforming it into a truly grand public space. Continue Reading>>

Art Commission Holds First Hearing on Future of Columbus Circle

After more than a year of studies, the City administration announced that the new traffic configuration at Columbus Circle — aimed at taming vehicular traffic and giving more space back to pedestrians — proved more successful than anticipated. The new configuration follows the actual circle and allows for a center space close to 180 feet in diameter, as well as substantially widened surrounding sidewalks. The traffic studies concluded that this layout works–for cars, for pedestrians and for bicyclists. Continue Reading>>

Buildings Department Takes New Steps Toward Enforcement of Billboard Regulations

The Society has been involved in efforts to establish reasonable controls on billboards and other signage in New York City since the turn of the 20th century. Despite the fact that the City has had signage regulations on the books for years, it fought a losing battle with the outdoor advertising industry. Gargantuan, brightly lit signs have continued to proliferate throughout the city, defacing our streets and sidewalks — particularly noticeably in architecturally significant neighborhoods such as SoHo — and impeding views and creating traffic hazards on arterial highways. In 2001, the City enacted a tough new enforcement mechanism that provides City officials with the tools they need to crack down on illegal signs.

Newsrack Bill Victory

A new bill (proposition 14B) was voted out of the Transportation Committee of the City Council on Thursday August 8, 2002. On the following Thursday the full council voted to adopt the bill, which will now wait 180 days for the Mayor’s signature and will be sent to the Department of Transportation for rules to be adopted. Once the bill is enacted, the City will have the ability to get rid of newsracks that do not follow the guidelines outlined in this new bill.