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Who Has the Power to Develop the West Side?
May 20th, 2008

Last week, the New York Observer unveiled its list of “the 100 most powerful people in New York real estate” – and gave the top spot to Jerry Speyer of the firm Tishman Speyer. Tishman Speyer owns the MetLife building, the Chrysler building, Rockefeller Center, and as the Observer wrote “nearly won the right to develop the West Side rail yards” until the deal with the MTA fell apart.

Today, there is news that the MTA has made an agreement with the Observer’s #3 man on the list Stephen Ross of Related Companies, which keeps the West Side rail yards project alive for now. (Number 2 on the list is Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is still hoping the West Side development can be part of his legacy.)

Despite an agreement with a new developer, critics say there are still many obstacles for the projectincluding environmental and land use reviews, competition with other big projects like the World Trade Center site, andan uncertain economy which could take a toll on the amount of money private companies and the governmentwant to pour into theproject. State Assemblymember Richard Brodsky, who chairs the Committee on Corporations, Authorities, and Commissions and is #89 on the Observer’s list,told the New York Times, “Until we get a handle on the level of subsidies involved, theres no way to determine whether this is a good deal or a bad deal.”

By on May 20, 2008, 3:42 pm
In category: Community Development,Housing,Transportation,Waterfront | Comments Off

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The Woman Who Unearthed City Hall
May 20th, 2008

Today, theNew York Times marks the death of Regina Kellerman, an architectural historian who unearthed New York Citys first City Hall. The article states:

“It was in 1970, after five years of work on a doctoral dissertation both in New York and the Netherlands, that Ms. Kellerman was able to pinpoint the exact location on Pearl Street, near Coenties Alley of the three-story building that was used as a stadthuis, or city hall, from 1653, when the city was incorporated by the Dutch, until 1699, when the building was torn down by the English. The site was excavated, and remnants of a building, which were removed, were found right where she said they would be.”

By on May 20, 2008, 3:28 pm
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Hudson Yards Plan Derailed
May 13th, 2008

Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s efforts to salvage the latest version of the Hudson Yards development planfor the West Side of Manhattan have failed. TheMetropolitan Transportation Authority officials and developer Tishman Speyer have been unable to work out their differences, and today, the MTA released a brief statement:
“The MTA met today with Tishman Speyer. Despite the best efforts of both sides, a final agreement could not be reached. The MTA has now re-entered discussions with other interested developers and remains committed to timely development of these unique and valuable parcels of land on Manhattan’s Far West Side.”

By on May 13, 2008, 3:49 pm
In category: Community Development,Transportation,Waterfront | Comments Off

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Brooklyn Bridge Birthday Bash
May 13th, 2008

Yesterday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitzannounced a five-day celebration to mark the 125th birthday of the Brooklyn Bridge. The event will run from May 22 through May 26 and include a bridge lighting, concerts, lectures, children’s readings, dance performances, and a bike tour. The New York Observer notes that the $15 million birthday bash will cost roughly as much as it did to build the bridgeover a century ago (not counting inflation).But there may be at least one lastingresult of the event: an upgraded pedestrian bridge entrance, which officials promise is getting “newly designed signage and energy efficient lighting.”

By on May 13, 2008, 8:33 am
In category: Gotham City,Transportation,Waterfront | 1 Comment »

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More on Atlantic Yards Redesign
May 6th, 2008

Over the weekend, developer Bruce Ratner unveiled a redesigned and scaled-down version of the Atlantic Yards project for downtown Brooklyn, complete with new models and drawings and an op-ed in the Daily News.

Now opponents have unveiled a new Web site called Atlanticlots.com, created by the Municipal Art Society and Brooklyn Speaks. It features a slide show with aerialviews the proposed development and a click-able link to “Ask Governor Paterson to make an interim plan for the site that works for Brooklyn.”

The real estate blog Curbed provides a look at the “mini-taboloid war” between the Daily News and the Post in their coverage of the Atlantic Yards redesign. (The blog Atlanticyardsreport says the New York Times has ignored the story.)Curbed also offers a poll so readers can weigh in the old and new version of the tower.

By on May 6, 2008, 8:27 am
In category: Community Development,Land Use | Comments Off

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Sustainable Streets Plan
April 29th, 2008

The Department of Transportation has unveiled a 68-page strategic plan for revamping the city streets. It promises to bring “a green approach to transportation that will simultaneously ease travel conditions in our growing city.” Now that state lawmakers have killed the congestion pricingplan inMayorMichael Bloomberg’s enivronmental agenda, the department is looking for more moderate ways to deal with traffic and pollution.

By 2009, thecity calls for:
-increased rapid bus service
-two new Midtown bus lanes
-5,000 new bike racks
-200 new miles of bike lanes.

Streetsblog, which advocates for mass transit and bicycle usage, says the plan contains “a couple of tantalizing bits about weekend bike-ped corridors and reducing car use in city parks” and notes that more details will be unveiled at an invitation-only event tonight.

By on April 29, 2008, 9:10 am
In category: Environment,Transportation | Comments Off

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The Text of the Verdict
April 25th, 2008

Following is the text of the verdict statement read in court by Justice Arthur J. Cooperman:

Before dealing with the business at hand, I would like to remind everyone how important it is to honor the decorum of the court and remain quiet after the verdicts are rendered.

A trial is defined as a formal examination of the facts of a case by a court of law to decide the validity of a charge. It is also defined in the dictionary as a hardship. And, in many ways, this trial was a hardship.

But, it was not a competition. To overreact to the outcome while you are in this courtroom, whether you are satisfied or dissatisfied with the result, would detract from the great effort that was expended to assure a fair trial – – by the court personnel and the attorneys who handled their responsibilities with the highest
level of professionalism and skill.

Read the rest of this entry »

By on April 25, 2008, 4:46 pm
In category: Crime & Safety | Comments Off

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Sean Bell Verdict: Not Guilty
April 25th, 2008

Three New York City police detectives were found not guilty on all felony and misdemeanor charges in the shooting death of Sean Bell. State Supreme Court Justice Arthur Cooperman, who heard the case after the officers waived a jury trial, issued the verdict this morning. Check back for more details as they become available.

By on April 25, 2008, 9:32 am
In category: Crime & Safety | 8 Comments »

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Sean Bell Verdict Expected Today
April 25th, 2008

The verdict in the case against three detectives who shot and killed Sean Bell is scheduled to arrive about 9 a.m. today.

Bell, a 23-year-old man who was celebrating with friends on the day of his wedding, died in a barrage of 50 bullets fired by New York City police officers outside of a strip club in Queens in November 2006. Two officers were charged with first-degree and second-degree manslaughter. The third was charged with reckless endangerment.

The three men pleaded not guilty and waived their right to have their case heard by a jury. State Supreme Court Justice Arthur Cooperman, who heard testimony in the trail, is expected to issue a ruling today.

For more on the history of the Sean Bell case, read Gotham Gazette’s article 50 Bullets, Many Issues.

By on April 25, 2008, 8:15 am
In category: Crime & Safety | 7 Comments »

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Council Slush Fund Story Gets Slushier
April 22nd, 2008

The saga of the New York City Council’s misuse of funds continues.

Today, the New York Post reports that Comptroller Bill Thompson is blocking funds to scores of community groups across the city while he investigates the matter. Also, a Daily News editorialtakes on Brooklyn Councilmember Erik Dilan for directing $187,000 to a Brooklyn community group with only one paid staff member: his wife.

By on April 22, 2008, 3:27 pm
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Transportation's Next Stop: Paris
April 15th, 2008

On New York Magazine’s Intelligencer blog, Aarron Naparstek writes that alternative transportation advocates are looking to Paris for ideas of how to deal with traffic problems now that Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s London-inspired congestion pricing proposal has been rejected by lawmakers in Albany. In recent years, the mayor of Paris has created new pedestrian malls, eliminated on-street parking, upgraded bus service, and even dumped 2,000 tons of sand on an old highway to create an urban beach. (Vacation on the FDR?!) For more on what experts are thinking about the future of traffic control, see Gotham Gazette’s articles.

By on April 15, 2008, 8:54 am
In category: Environment,Transportation | Comments Off

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Congestion Pricing in the Opinion Pages
April 8th, 2008

Newspaper editorial pages and columnists are responding to the demise of Mayor Bloomberg’s congestion pricing plan, which would have charged drivers $8 to enter Manhattan below 60th street during peak traffic hours. The proposal promised to reduce pollution and secure more than $350 million in federal financing for mass transit improvements.

The New York Times blames Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver who it says “killed congestion pricing in the most cowardly way: without even holding a vote.”

The Daily News writes that “Silver’s Assembly Democrats put New Yorkers in severe jeopardy of riding deteriorating mass transportation – and paying increasing fares for the privilege.” Daily News columnist Bill Hammond adds that “Mayor Bloomberg’s biggest mistake on congestion pricing was in dreaming Albany lawmakers would listen to reason and act responsibly.” Michael Daly adds up all the revenue that would have come to the city from congestion pricing and the commuter tax, which Silver helped defeat in 1999. “But hey, what’s a total of more than $5 billion we could have poured into schools and subways and public safety compared to what Shelly wants?” he writes.

Fred Dicker from the New York Post says Silver’s actions weren’t part of some personal dispute with the mayor – this time. “Silver appeared to favor Bloomberg’s plan, personally, but chose to defer to an overwhelming number of fellow Democrats,” he writes.

The New York Sun is pleased with the result, writing that the paper “came gradually to understand what the Assembly saw, which is that it was a tax, after all, and an impediment, a restriction on us.”

By on April 8, 2008, 8:04 am
In category: Albany,Environment,Transportation | 1 Comment »

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Harlem Rezoning Fight Continues
April 1st, 2008

Last month, the Department of City Planning approved a major rezoning of a 24 block area of Harlem from Broadway to Second Avenue and between 124th and 126th streets, but both opponents and supporters of the plan are stillfighting hard in the final weeks leading up to a City Council vote on the measure.

The New York Times features an article on members of a group called Voices of Everyday People, which is hoping to use an obscure clause in the 110-year-old City Charter to block the rezoning.

Also, the Times blog City Room reports that Harlem Council Member Inez Dickens does not support the rezoning plan, citing concerns about “displacement, overdevelopment and gentrification.”

The New York Sun opinion page weighs in today, arguing that “if anything, the city’s plan goes too far in the direction of requiring affordable housing.”

And the blog Lost City thinks there is at least one good aspect of the rezoning plan: it restricts banks from opening along ground floor of new buildings on 125th street.

By on April 1, 2008, 6:08 pm
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Crowd Sourcing Congestion Pricing
March 25th, 2008

WNYC’s Brian Leher show is trying the “wisdom of crowds” approach to the congestion pricing debate. He is asking listeners to pour overthe entire 41-page bill proposed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and parse the details on their message board. Today, the program also offers online interviewswith Michael O’Loughlin, director of the Campaign for New York’s Future, and Aaron Naparstek, the editor of Streetsblog. Both are proponents of the mayor’s plan.

Also a new pollfinds that New York state residents oppose Mayor Bloomberg’s congestion-pricing plan, but would back the proposal if they believed the money would, as pledged, be used to improve mass transit.

For more on congestion pricing, read Gotham Gazette’s article on the latest developments in the plan and the upcoming vote by the City Council.

By on March 25, 2008, 11:17 am
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JPMorgan Out of World Trade Center Rebuilding
March 18th, 2008

JPMorgan Chase’s plans to build a new skyscraper at Ground Zero in lower Manhattan have reportedly been sidetracked by the debt crisis. Yesterday, JPMorgan moved to purchase the ailing Bear Sterns for $2 a share, and the firm says it willrelocate its employees to the Stearn’s midtown buildingrather than constructing a new $2.2 billion building downtown. A JPMorgan spokesman told the Associated Press that the company may still build in lower Manhattan at some point in the future and talks were continuing with the Port Authority.

Goldman Sachs, which is currently building its own skyscraper at the site, also had its share of rough news: the company’s profits are down 53 percent. But the New York Post’s Steve Cuozzo doesnt think JPMorgan’s pullout is all bad for the downtown real estate market or even the Port Authority.

By on March 18, 2008, 3:33 pm
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Following the Money In Albany
March 4th, 2008

With the Democrats just one seat away from winning control of the New York State Senate, fundraising has become a critical issue for both parties in Albany. Mayor Michael Bloomberg is defending his right to give a $500,000 donation to the Republican Party and Governor Eliot Spitzer, who set a $10,000 limit on donations from individual donors, is helping steer larger gifts to the Democratic Party’s account which he controls, according to an article in the New York Times.

So how does one follow the money in Albany? It’s more difficult than one might think, as are many things involving New York State government.

Common Cause has a list of links to various databases, including the Board of Elections, theState Commission on Public Integrity, and the State Commission on Open Government.

The New York Public Interest Research Group has a CD of the campaign finance database (you must mail $5 to get a copy).

And the Attorney General’s Office has created Project Sunlight, a database of “information related to campaign finance, legislation, lobbying activity, and recipients of state government contracts.”

All of these sources offer vital information, but citizens should set aside a good portion of their day if they want to dig into them.

By on March 4, 2008, 2:38 pm
In category: Albany,Electoral Politics,Eye on Albany | Comments Off

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When Being Mayor Isn't Enough
March 4th, 2008

In the New York Times today, Clyde Haberman announces that he is not running for president. It’s the columnist’s way of beginning yet another rumination on the notion that Mayor Michael Bloomberg would run for president, which officially ended last week when the mayor wrote his own column in the Timesentitled “I’m Not Running for President, but….”

However, the press (and apparentlyBloomberg himself) can’t get enough of the idea of the mayor being more than a mayor, so when a WABC radio host recently asked if he would consider the vice presidency, Bloomberggave yet another non-committal answer, “Nobody is going to ask me.” And yesterday in the New York Sun, Davidson Goldinmade a case for why Bloomberg should run for governor.

Haberman, however, is more interested in the “retro” and “quaint” idea that a newspaper column might actually be a place for news.

By on March 4, 2008, 8:42 am
In category: Electoral Politics | Comments Off

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Fare Hike Gripes
March 2nd, 2008

Today, New Yorkers began paying more to ride buses, subways and trains, and of course, the Internet is ripe with gripes (and advice) about the transit fare hikes and toll increases.

City Room explains all of the detailsfor those are still confused,including why a 10-ride card costs $17.39.

SecondAvenueSagas.com warns those people who thought they could beat the increase by stockpiling MetroCards.

The Daily News opinion page tells local politicians how to stop future subway fare hikes: trim the long list of new projects and institute congestion pricing.

And aNew York Post article suggests that new bridge and tunnel tolls are going to higher salaries for Port Authority employees.

By on March 2, 2008, 10:06 pm
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The Gowanus of the Future
February 26th, 2008

gowanus.jpg
Curbed has the details of the two new proposals for the development of the Carroll Gardens/Gowanus area in Brooklyn. Each plan calls for 700 new apartments, retail stores and nearly 90,000 square feet of parkland on what is now a toxic, trash-strewn canal bank. The clean-up is scheduled to begin next summer, and planners hope to have people living in the newly constructed (and better smelling) neighborhood by 2012.

(For more on the possible pitfalls to the develoment, including environmental hazards, see “The Race to Develop a Toxic Waterway” by Tom Angotti.)

By on February 26, 2008, 11:01 am
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New York's Democratic Superdelegates
February 12th, 2008

The news coverage of the Democratic presidential nomination is increasingly focused on the superdelegates, the 796 unpledged party officials who may have the power to decide the race if it remains close until the convention.

According to CNN’s estimates, Senator Hillary Clinton currently holds the support of at least 224 superdelegates versus 135 backing Senator Barack Obama. The blog 2008 Democratic Convention Watch is trying to keep track of who is supporting whom on its superdelegate watch list.

Today, New York Magazine’s blog asks the local question, “Who are these people who have the power to, well, take power away from us?” The list of local Democratic superdelegates includes Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Charles Schumer, Eliot Spitzer, all of the Democraticrepresentatives to Congress, and even the head of the teacher’s union Randi Weingarten. In a New York Sun article, superdelegate and Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez says she is voting for Clinton and won’t be swayed by the results of the popular vote across the nation.

In an editorial today, The New York Sun recalls Margarita Lopez Torres, who was blocked from running for a judgeship in Brooklyn by the local Democratic Party. Torres took her case all the way to Supreme Court, which ruled by a vote of 9 to 0 that the party could choose its nominees by its own methods.

“If the nominating fight [for the presidential nomination] among the Democrats ends up in the courts, the determining Supreme Court opinion may well be one that emerged from the clubhouse politics of Brooklyn, here in New York City, from a candidate for a Brooklyn judgeship, Margarita Lopez Torres,” the Sun writes.

To see exactly what it takes to be a (regular) Democratic Party delegate in New York, read this document from the party Web site.

By on February 12, 2008, 10:38 am
In category: Electoral Politics,Governing | 1 Comment »

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Gotham Gazette the Place for Politics and Policy

Gotham Gazette is published by Citizens Union Foundation and is made possible by support from the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Altman Foundation,the Fund for the City of New York and donors to Citizens Union Foundation. Please consider supporting Citizens Union Foundation's public education programs. Critical early support to Gotham Gazette was provided by the Charles H. Revson Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

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