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September 2008
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Archive for September, 2008

Jacobs Tour Highlights Environmental Justice Efforts in Harlem

harlem toxic eco justice tourLast Saturday – September 27, a group of New Yorkers joined Peggy Shepard, winner of the 2008 Jane Jacobs Medal for Lifetime Achievement, and Cecil Corbin-Mark, deputy director of West Harlem Environmental Action, Inc. (WE ACT), on a bus tour exploring issues of environmental justice in Harlem. The tour examined how noxious hazards, such as garbage and bus depots, co-exist with some of the city’s cultural treasures, such as the  museums and art institutions of “El Barrio,” Marcus Garvey Park, and the new Harlem Waterfront Park. In addition to learning about the practice of situating environmentally harmful facilities in low-income communities of color and receiving a first-hand glimpse of how traffic congestion, noise and air pollution, and toxic odors contribute to high asthma rates among local residents, participants gained greater insight into ongoing struggles and siginficant victories. These include the bold act of civil disobedience that brought citywide attention to health risks posed by the the North River Sewage Treatment Plant. Tour takers also marveled at the remarkable architecture of the Mount Morris and Hamilton Heights historic districts. Continue Reading>>

TWA Terminal Update

twa saarinen terminal tram viewBack in March of this year, we reported that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) had announced that the former TWA Terminal at Kennedy Airport would reopen this fall, allowing JetBlue passengers to pass through the landmark structure on their way to the new JetBlue Airlines terminal that is also due to open shortly. But, while the latter will open ahead of schedule next month, the reopening of the former has now been delayed at least until mid-2009. Currently, the TWA Terminal is undergoing internal asbestos abatement and restoration to its exterior. Interior restoration will begin shortly, and it is hoped that passengers will be able to pass though the historic terminal by June and the iconic central space will be fully open by August. In the meantime, JetBlue passengers can be dropped-off by buses and taxis directly at the new terminal, and those arriving by AirTrain can access it via the new elevated AirTrain connector.

Thursday: Town Hall Meeting for Greenpoint and Williamsburg

town hall meeting north brooklyn greenpoint williamsburgThis Thursday, Task Force member organization Neighbors Allied for Good Growth (NAG) is hosting a town hall meeting for North Brooklyn. Here is their announcement: Our neighborhood is facing major challenges. The L Train is crowded, the G never comes. We need more open space. We need more affordable housing. We need to keep our neighborhood unique. You can be part of the solution. Join our chorus of old and new neighborhood voices at: NAG’s Town Hall Organizing Meeting Thursday, October 2, 2008, 7:00p Holy Ghost Hall Basement 160 N 5th Street (between Bedford and Driggs) … Residents of this area may also note this announcement about two upcoming informational sessions addressing the proposed contextual rezoning of part of Greenpoint and East Williamsburg.

Jane Jacobs Medal 2008 Awards Ceremony

Earlier this month, the Rockefeller Foundation awarded the 2008 Jane Jacobs Medals to Peggy Shepard, executive director and co-founder of West Harlem Environmental Action, Inc. (WE ACT), and Alexis Torres-Fleming, founder of Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice (YMPJ), at a ceremony at the Morgan Library and Museum in Manhattan. Pulitzer-prize winning author Robert Caro gave a fascinating a address at the award ceremony, describing his classic book The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York, its focus on municipal power and the effects of this kind of power on urban communities, and recalling the time he met Jane Jacobs. The awards are administered annually by the Municipal Art Society. Click on the ‘play’ icon above to watch the acceptance speeches of the two awardees and excerpts from Mr. Caro’s address. Video courtesy of The Rockefeller Foundation.

Times Critic Proposes MSG Demolition

madison square garden steps walkwayNicolai Ouroussoff, The New York Times architecture critic, wrote a rambunctious article about the handful of New York City the should face the wrecking ball. It’s no surprise that Madison Square Garden topped the list. Ouroussoff wrote:
No site in New York has a darker past than this one. The demolition of the old Pennsylvania Station, the monumental McKim, Mead & White Beaux-Arts gem that stood on this site until 1964, remains one of the greatest crimes in American architectural history. What replaced it is one of the city’s most dehumanizing spaces: a warren of cramped corridors and waiting areas buried under the monstrous drum of the Garden. Over the years the city has entertained dozens of proposals to improve the station, but none have amounted to much of anything, thanks to New York’s byzantine development politics. I propose we demolish the Garden. As arenas go, it is cramped and decrepit. And with it gone we could begin to imagine what a contemporary version of the old Penn Station: a monumental gateway to the 21st-century metropolis.
Well said! See that blue “WAMU Theater” sign in the photo? It won’t be there for long. According to the Times, since the Feds seized WAMU, the theater is going to have to change its name. Read Name Change Is Likely for WaMu Theater by Richard Sandomir in The New York Times. Read New York City, Tear Down These Walls by Nicolai Ouroussoff in The New York Times. Photo: by R. Conrad/The New York Times

City Planning Approves Willets Point and Hunters Point South Plans

Last month, we covered the marathon City Planning Commission public hearing concerning the East Village/Lower East Side Rezoning, Hunters Point South housing development plan, and Willets Point redevelopment. Last week, CPC followed up on two of those plans, approving both the Hunters Point South and Willets Point Plans. According to the Gotham Gazette, The Commission’s modifications to the Willets Point plan, “focus primarily on incorporating green building standards within the mixed-use development. Incentives were given for car sharing programs (car sharing equals greater number of parking spaces in a development) and encouraging the incorporation of green roofs. Other changes address a green median for the primary retail street to act as a stormwater management element, solar orientation of buildings and including a varied design for the development’s taller buildings.” The Willets Point plan still faces much opposition from the City Council, which now has 50 days to make its determination. The CPC has until October 10 to make its determination about the East Village/Lower East Side rezoning.

Atlantic Yards Opponents Will Get Their Day in Court After All

atlantic yards brooklyn new york eminent domainNews today from Task Force member organization Develop, Don’t Destroy Brooklyn: A State Appellate Court panel has rejected the Empire State Development Corporation’s (ESDC) motion to dismiss the eminent domain lawsuit filed by nine property owners and tenants with properties in the Atlantic Yards footprint earlier this year. The lawsuit claims that Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project violates the New York State Constitution’s public use, due process and equal protection clauses, as well as low-income resident requirements. According to DDDB, the Court’s decision means that oral arguments will be heard in the case sometime in March or April, with a decision then expected between late spring and fall 2009. This is a major setback for developer Bruce Ratner, who recently told the New York Times that he planned to break ground in December. The project cannot move forward without using eminent domain. In addition, according to the Times, Ratner has brokered a contract with Barclays Bank that would provide $20 million a year for naming rights to the arena. This contract requires FCR to close on the land and secure the financing by the end of November.

MAS to Host Panel on Preserving Neighborhood Businesses

cobble hill smith street small businessThe proliferation of chain stores and bank branches is an increasing threat to the character of diverse neighborhoods throughout New York City.  By highlighting successful innovations that have been adopted in other cities and exploring the distinct pressures faced by business owners, this program aims to provide local merchants, community members, and municipal representatives with tools and strategies to safeguard small-scale retail, drive economic development, and establish a constituency pushing for policy reform. Solutions for Preserving New York’s Neighborhood Businesses Monday, October 6, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m. At the West Side Institutional Synagogue, 120 West 76th Street at Columbus Avenue, MAP FREE, but reservations are strongly recommended. RSVP online or call 212 935 2075. Advance ticket purchase is available until 3:00 p.m. the day of for programs that are not sold-out. Attendees are advised to arrive fifteen minutes prior to the event start time, as late seating is not guaranteed. Those without reservations will be admitted, space permitting, on a first-come, first-served basis. Continue Reading>>

Instead of Renaming WaMu Theater, a Call to Tear it Down

msg madison square garden frontNicolai Ouroussoff, architecture critic for the New York Times, counts Madison Square Garden and the adjoining WaMu Theater as one of New York’s most deserving buildings of demolition. A previous rendition of the Moynihan Station development plan would have removed these buildings to make way for a brand new train station. While Madison Square Garden is staying put for now and renovating, there is still the possibility of moving the WaMu theater to allow for a larger, light-filled entrance into Penn Station. In other news, shuttering the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC), as Mayor Bloomberg suggested last week, could save five million dollars a year Continue Reading>>

MAS Supports Comprehensive Planning for NYC Waterfront

water taxi river sunsetMAS testified before the City Council’s Committee on Waterfronts yesterday in support of Intro. No. 809, a bill that would require the City Planning Commission to create a comprehensive waterfront plan every ten years. We believe that planning for the waterfront is of great importance to the future of the city, and that engaging communities in the planning process is critical to the success of a waterfront plan. Intro. No. 809 offers an opportunity to balance the diversity of uses on the city’s waterfront and waterways so that our maritime industry prospers, waterfront development is appropriate and based on established priorities, maritime habitats are protected and improved, long term and irreversible environmental harm due to the effects of climate change are mitigated or prevented, and that through increased use of waterborne transportation, our carbon footprint is reduced. Continue Reading>>

Updates on Ground Zero; Museum of Arts and Design Opens

wtc memorial rendering oldPort Authority officials have developed a simplified plan for the transit hub at Ground Zero, allowing the 9/11 Memorial to be complete in time for the tenth anniversary of the attacks, says the  New York Times; the plan must still be approved by the Authority commissioners.  The proposed alterations to the transit hub are underneath the memorial and would retain architect Santiago Calatrava’s bird-like design for the street level building.  MAS is still searching for funding to continue the “Tribute in Light” memorial to the 9/11 attacks as well as a permanent location for the installation. Meanwhile, the New York Sun reports that the Port Authority may miss a deadline to hand over Tower 2 of the World Trade Center to the developer Silverstein Properties, incurring even more penalties. In other news, Nicolai Ouroussoff, architecture critic for the New York Times, considers the redesign of 2 Columbus Circle, which opens this weekend. Continue Reading>>

City of Water Screening This Saturday

The MAS and MWA film City of Water screens this Saturday night in Far Rockaway as part of the Rockaway Waterfront Alliance’s annual benefit. The screening and Q & A discussion is sponsored by HSBC and is free to the public. For details of the screening and to RSVP, visit the Rockaway Waterfront Alliance website. The executive director of Rockaway Waterfront Alliance, Jeanne Dupont, was this year’s winner of the 2008 Yolanda Garcia Community Planner Award. Read more about her and her organization’s work, here. Two years in the making, City of Water explores the aspirations of public officials, environmentalists, academics, community activists, recreational boaters and everyday New Yorkers for a diverse, vibrant waterfront at a time when the shoreline is changing faster than at any other time in New York’s history. The documentary features interviews with Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff, US Representative Nydia Velazquez, MacArthur Fellow Majora Carter, author Phillip Lopate, Sandy Hook Pilots’ Captain Andrew McGovern and others, and includes footage from Jamaica Bay, the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and many other places on the waterfront.