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August 2008
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Archive for August, 2008

Friday Links Roundup

west chelsea cornell iron works building new york cityIntroducing NYC’s newest historic district – West Chelsea (PDF presentation via the Landmarks Preservation Commission). The NY Times is all over the ongoing debate about term limits for local elected officials, sparked by speculation that Mayor Bloomberg is looking to extend them for four more years. Newcomers running for office and top administration deputies oppose an extension, while a survey of the City Council shows support for the idea. The Daily News has an interesting angle — the large amount of contributions that candidates for other offices would have to return should they choose to stay in Council if term limits are extended. The Architect’s Newspaper has follow up on the City Planning Commission hearing on the proposed Hudson Square sanitation garage. The Daily News gets the exclusive on the Pratt Center for Community Development’s new study about the rapidly decreasing amount of land in NYC that is zoned for manufacturing.

Demolition Not Necessary to Redevelop Admiral’s Row

admirals rowMAS Convenes Experts and Community in Visioning Session to Explore How to Incorporate Historic Buildings in Revitalization of Brooklyn Neighborhood. In mid-August, MAS brought together community representatives, architects, preservationists, and other experts in a brainstorming session to develop alternatives to the proposed demolition of Admiral’s Row. Located on the edge of the Brooklyn Navy Yard at Flushing Avenue and Navy Street, Admiral’s Row is a collection of 11 National Register-eligible historic buildings currently owned by the U.S. Army National Guard Bureau. The Admiral’s Row site includes ten houses, formerly home to high-ranking naval officers, constructed between the mid-nineteenth century and 1901, and a timber shed used primarily to store ship masts while they cured dating from 1838. The latter is the oldest building on-site, and is believed to be the only surviving mid-nineteenth century example of this building type in Navy yards in the United States. Although these historic buildings have been abandoned and allowed to deteriorate since the early 1970s, they retain a great deal of both exterior and interior architectural detail, and most are structurally sound. Together they form a remarkable collection of residential and accessory military buildings that are of great significance to the history of the Navy Yard, the borough of Brooklyn, and the U.S. Navy. Continue Reading>>

Coney Island in Focus in September, Moynihan Station Round-Up

coney island surf avenue by jay specAs part of its ongoing advocacy on Coney Island, MAS is holding two public programs in September which focus on the past and future of “America’s Playground”. Titled, respectively, Coney Island: A Ride Though History and Coney Island at the Crossroads, the programs will first set the scene with a vivid history of the area featuring Charles Denson, author of Coney Island: Lost and Found, and then representatives of the Dept. of City Planning and Coney Island Development Corporation will present the city’s plan, and a panel comprising sympathetic and critical voices will discuss its merits. For more information and reservation details for these programs, visit What’s more, today’s Brooklyn Paper covers upcoming programs and tours focused on Coney Island also in September. Continue Reading>>

August: Moynihan News Recap

penn station train people traffic rush hour August has been a pretty slow news month in terms of our primary issue, the construction of a new Penn Station. No news on who will be taking over the construction of a New Penn Station. No news on the scope of the new plan. But there’s been other, related news that’s important. Paterson has announced a new head for the New York State Economic Development Corporation, the agency that currently oversees the Moynihan Station development, Marisa Lago. Lago is a global head of compliance at Citi Markets and Banking, to be president and chief executive; and he named Dennis M. Mullen, the chief executive of Greater Rochester Enterprise, an economic development company, to oversee the agency’s upstate operations. According to the Times,
The economic development corporation has been beset with geographic rivalries as downstate and upstate interests within the agency fought. Mr. Paterson said Friday that he hoped his nominees would bridge the longstanding divide between upstate and downstate interests. “We’re one state,” he said. “What I would like to do is send the signal from Albany that we want the most efficient way of saving money and creating the revitalization of our upstate economy and the return to New York City as a financial capital with the right people. And I think that’s what we chose.”
There have been a lot of national stories about the overcrowding of AMTRAK and the potential for increased Federal Funding. Today’s Boston Globe describes AMTRAK’s struggle to expand Acela service, which they may accomplish through adding extra cars. According to the article, any expansion “would require more funding for Amtrak, a “political football” that has struggled for aid in President Bush’s administration.” Maybe all the attention Biden is getting for commuting on AMTRAK every day will help increase the funding. Yesterday, Eliot Brown, in the New York Observer, questioned whether the nation’s crumbling infrastructure will be a factor in the national presidential campaigns.
There’s forces adding urgency to the infrastructure push: passenger rail is at or near capacity in much of the entire Northeast corridor, a condition exacerbated as high fuel prices push more people onto trains. And the gas tax (a flat-rate 18.4 cents per gallon) that funds highways and transit projects is taking in substantially less revenue as Americans cut back on their driving. Mr. Obama supports a national federal infrastructure bank, where money would theoretically be divvied out in a methodical manner, as opposed to the earmark/pork-heavy process that characterizes many federally funded projects. Mr. McCain is more silent on the issue, at least on his Web site, but last year’s Minneapolis bridge collapse–which has become a national symbol for crumbling infrastructure–is sure to be an issue when the Republican National Convention begins across the river in St. Paul.
Read “Governor Names 2 to State’s Troubled Economic Development Agency” In the New York Times by Jeremy W. Peters. Read “Infrastructure as Campaign Theme? Perhaps.” by Eliot Brown in the New York Observer.” Read “Acela Trains May Expand to Meet Demand” in the Boston Globe. Photo via flickr from Snowdog.

Coalition Urges Reduction in Off-Street Parking Requirements

car parking outdoor garage stacked vertical new york citySomething we missed while on vacation last week: Transportation Alternatives issued a report titled Suburbanizing the City: How New York City Parking Requirements Lead to More Driving (PDF). According to this document, New York City zoning regulations mandating parking at new residential developments will increase auto ownership rates and add over 1 billion annual vehicle miles traveled (VMT) by 2030. To accompany the report, a coalition of local civic organizations, including Task Force member groups the Municipal Art Society, the Pratt Center for Community Development, and the Regional Plan Association, among others, sent a letter to Mayor Bloomberg urging the administration to undertake the following reforms: 1. Fully assess the amount of existing and planned off-street parking. 2. Consider measures to significantly reduce required parking. 3. Revise environmental laws so that parking impacts are fully accounted for. 4. Freeze special permits and stop directly subsidizing new parking. We recommend checking out the report, as well as Streetsblog’s ongoing analysis: (The Parking Cure, Step 1: Diagnose the Problem; and The Parking Cure, Part 2: Do the Right Tests).

Gotham Gazette Examines Public Participation in Planning Processes, Quotes MAS

willets point garagesIn yesterday’s Gotham Gazette, writer Courtney Gross examines in detail the ongoing conflict between the Bloomberg administration’s rampant rezoning of the city and community advocates’ call for more public participation in the planning process. From the Jamaica Plan to Williamsburg to Willets Point, she points out the flaws in the process that allow plans to proceed despite community opposition. She also tackles the issue of the lack of teeth given to 197-a planning under the current system. Eve Baron of the Municipal Art Society Planning Center and our the Campaign for Community-Based Planning Task Force says, “When we’re talking about public participation, sitting down and being willing to talk before rezoning happens is one thing,” said Baron. “There is another thing that is working with the community beforehand to create proactive plans.” For more news, Continue Reading>>

Gotham Gazette Explores Need for Community-Based Planning

In yesterday’s Gotham Gazette, writer Courtney Gross examines in detail the ongoing conflict between the Bloomberg administration’s rampant rezoning of the city and community advocates’ call for more public participation in the planning process. From the Jamaica Plan to Williamsburg to Willets Point, she points out the flaws in the process that allow plans to proceed despite community opposition. She also tackles the issue of the lack of teeth given to 197-a planning under the current system. Eve Baron of the Municipal Art Society Planning Center and our Task Force says, “When we’re talking about public participation, sitting down and being willing to talk before rezoning happens is one thing,” said Baron. “There is another thing that is working with the community beforehand to create proactive plans.” Check it out, as its a great primer explaining the need for the Task Force’s draft legislation, mentioned in the article and coming soon to this blog.

Admiral’s Row and Manufacturing Land Threatened

Admirals Row MAS Option C IIDescribing MAS as a “civic group” advocating for the preservation of Admiral’s Row in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, NY1 covers the ongoing debate over the future of the area on its website today, but does not mention the mid-August visioning session MAS convened with community representatives, architects, preservations, and other experts to explore alternatives to demolition of the historic buildings. MAS officially presented the outcomes of this visioning in the form of initial plans to the owners National Guard and future owners City of New York/Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation at a Section 106 meeting last week. This fall, MAS and local groups will continue to expand and enrich these alternative plans by presenting them to the public for feedback and input. For more news, Continue Reading>>

Public Hearings on Columbia’s Use of Eminent Domain, Next Week

manhattanville new york eminent domain urban planningNow that the state has officially declared Manhattanville “blighted,” on September 2 and 4, the Empire State Development Corporation will hold public hearings, the next stage of the process that will ultimately determine whether the state will support the use of eminent domain in Columbia University’s planned expansion. While many believe this is a done deal, there is still the opportunity to make your voice heard on this issue. Talking points on eminent domain from Task Force Supporters the Coalition to Preserve Community, a group that has long been fighting Columbia’s plan, are after the jump. The hearings will be held from 1-4pm and 5:30-9:30pm both days, at Aaron Davis Hall of the City University of New York, located at West 135″‘ Street at Convent Avenue. Speaker sign-up begins 15 minutes before each session. Talking points on eminent domain: EMINENT DOMAIN SHOULD NOT BE INVOKED ON BEHALF OF COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY’S PROPOSED EXPANSION FOR THE FOLLOWING REASONS; (1) THE COMMUNITY UNEQUIVOCALLY OPPOSES IT At every forum of the West Harlem Local Development Corporation and at every public hearing in the ULURP process, the community has been united in opposing the use of Eminent Domain as a first principle and most community members have demanded that the University take it off the table as a precondition for any negotiations with Columbia. The community seeks an integrated community, where private owners who have provided good-paying jobs to community workers can stay in their historic locations. Condemnation would create a “company town” solely for Columbia University’s use and enjoyment. Columbia’s “all of nothing” demand is unnecessary to their expansion, but not to their “fire-sale” land grab, and destructive of the neighborhood. (2) THIS PROJECT IS NOT “CIVIC” NOR “FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD” This proposed project would transfer private property to another private entity, which will use the property in public/private biotech business projects akin to Stanford University’s research park (a development Columbia has sought to emulate since the 1960s). This is not an “educational” or “-”civic” use, despite the title of this hearing, but an income-producing use by a not-for profit entity which will not even pay real–estate taxes. (3) ANY “BLIGHT” IN THE EXPANSION AREA HAS BEEN CREATED BY THE PROPOSE BENEFICIARY OF EMINENT DOMAIN If it is true, as Columbia has repeatedly claimed, that the University owns 70-80% of the property in Manhattanville (a claim put into question by the list of properties which it seeks to have the ESDC condemn), any ill-maintained and unoccupied property has been the result of the University’s own deliberate actions. I should not benefit from those actions. Available industrial real estate is at a severe shortage in the City. Any vacant properties could have been rented immediately if maintained and truly offered for occupancy. The University has used the threat of condemnation, based on its own creation of blight, to threaten and intimidate landowners into selling their properties, saying “sell to use now or deal with the State later.” Columbia has also emptied the area of commercial tenants like Reality House and the mechanics at 3150 Broadway and is in the process of removing long-time residential tenants and potential owners. (4) THE CONDEMNATION PROCESS HAS BEEN CORRUPT AND FULL OF CONFLICTS OF INTEREST The University has paid at least $300,000 to the ESDC to move the condemnation process forward (a payment unacknowledged by the University until an FOIL request uncovered it) while denying its role in the Eminent Domain process. There is an irresolvable conflict of interest in the condem nation process because the consultant AKRF was hired by the University to perform its Environmental Impact Statement for the ULURP process and at the same time created the “blight study” being relied upon by the ESDC as a basis for Eminent Domain. That conflict has not been resolved by the newly minted “blight study” by another consultant which uniformly mimics the AKRF study. Moreover, AKRF also drafted responses for the City Planning Commission in response to points brought up by Community Board 9 critiquing the “Draft Scope of Work” during the ULURP process. Thus it is seeks to serve three masters: the University, the City, and the State. That is not possible. (5)THE USE OF EMINENT DOMAIN AT THIS STAGE IS PREMATURE Columbia has never demonstrated its need for the entire proposed expansion area. We don’t have even one set of completed plans for a building. The safety and economic-feasibility of its proposed “bathtub” basement has never been demonstrated and has served primarily as a rationale for the attempted acquisition of the entire footprint. Columbia has made no commitment to building the bathtub or developing the proposed expansion area within any designated time period. The footprint may sit fallow for years as the University struggles to raise funds in a depressed economy. Present businesses are already operating, paying wages to workers and taxes to the City. (6)EMINENT DOMAIN IS UNDEMOCRATIC AND UN-AMERICAN Property to be acquired by private developers like Columbia University should be bought through the market at market prices. Owners uninterested in selling should not be compelled to sell by the State.

Pratt Center to Coordinate Energy $mart Communities Program in Brooklyn and Queens

green building new york city illustrationNews from our Task Force member organization Pratt Center for Community Development: “We are very excited to announce that the Pratt Center and Neighborhood Housing Services of NYC (NHS) have joined forces as the coordinators of New York Energy SmartSM Communities Program for Brooklyn and Queens. NHS and Pratt will be working together to develop partnerships and projects to reduce NYC’s energy use, particularly in low- and moderate-income housing and neighborhoods. NHS is NYC’s largest home ownership counseling organization: their partnership will be critically important.” The latest information on Pratt Center’s Energy Matters webpage covers financing solar power in New York City.

Accountable Development Working Group Meeting: Aug. 27

This Wednesday is the third meeting of the Accountable Development Working Group, hosted by Task Force member organization The Fifth Avenue Committee. The meeting takes place from 6 – 8pm here at the Fifth Avenue Committee’s offices at 621 DeGraw Street (near Fourth Avenue, in Brooklyn). On this month’s agenda: · A brief presentation about the proposed rezoning of Sunset Park · A brief presentation about the proposed rezoning in Gowanus · Plotting upcoming activities for the fall · Revival of the “Demystifying Zoning”, “Demystifying Affordable Housing” workshops, coming soon! · Your item here

MAS Recommends Communities Be Involved in Land-Use Planning, Willets Point Rezoning

willets point garagesIn today’s Gotham Gazette, MAS weighs in on how communities can and should have more influence on land-use planning in New York City, echoing its testimony given to the City Planning Commission last week. In related news, Crain’s New York Business reports that an outspoken landowner and critic of the proposed Willets Point rezoning has settled with the City. Elsewhere, many landowners on East 125th Street are still awaiting negotiations with the City as the rezoning review of that area continues Continue Reading>>