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At Sea on Governors Island
October 2nd, 2006

It is once again back to the drawing board at Governors Island as officials last month rejected all the proposals for the land in New York harbor, saying they would require too hefty a public subsidy.

This is the latest setback in plans to develop the island, which the federal government gave to the city and state in 2003. After two years with little progress, Mayor Michael Bloomberg last year handed the job of overseeing the island over to deputy mayor Daniel Doctoroff. But so far Doctoroff is not faring much better in the middle of the harbor than he did with the 2012 Olympics.

In an editorial, the Times says some of the blame for the latest woes lies with the city itself. Developers are clearly in need of better guidance. The Bloomberg and Pataki administrations should put together a master plan, and then seek private sector proposals for its components, the paper says.

Polis reports that, rather than looking for a plan for the entire island, the city and state agency entrusted with developing it, will probably ask for proposals for parts of the place. “Probably a good idea, the blog says. “Given how these massive redevelopment projects have a tendency to get bogged down to the point of total paralysis, taking one chunk such as a 40-acre park, which is mandated and making that happen, is probably a good place to start.

But Curbed expresses doubt about divvying up the island into smaller, more easily ruined pieces.

Noting that the problem with Governors Island is getting there, the Built Environment has suggests a bus rapid transit link from Red Hook to the tip of Governors Island to Lower Manhattan. The blog concedes its plan might be flawed but says doing nothing is worse: The cost of inaction regarding Governors Island is too high for New York to bear. With some new thinking and a willingness to take a chance, Governors Island could become an amazing place.

By on October 2, 2006, 1:33 pm
In category: Gotham City,Land Use,Parks,Waterfront | 6 Comments »

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Can Private Development Clean Up the Gowanus Canal?
May 2nd, 2006

A prominent developer, Shaya Boymelgreen, has recently increased his portfolio of land owned along a northern stretch of the Gowanus Canal, in Brooklyn, to include more than two contiguous acres, Ariella Cohen reports for the Brooklyn Papers. The developer plans to build a mixed use neighborhood called Gowanus Village on the land.

The Brooklyn Papers editorial board supports the development, “if only because it will jumpstart long-failed city efforts to clean up the putrid corpse of water.” As long as the development includes affordable housing,they say, it should be “applauded” because the developer and his investors will become a powerful ally in the effort to get the canal cleaned up.

Cohen reports that Boymelgreen and other developers are “intrigued” by The Gowanus Canal Community Development Corporation‘s plan to turn the entire neighborhood around the canal into a Mixed-Use Green District, (pdf format) providing a mix of industrial, commercial, and residential development, all built in an environmentally and energy efficient manner.

Indeed, Boymelgreen’s plan will be LEED certified, a city recognized standard for green building. All private construction in in the city that receives at least $10 million in city funding must be LEED certified, although it is not clear if Boymelgreen is receiving public funds from the city.

By on May 2, 2006, 3:06 pm
In category: Community Development,Environment,Health,Housing,Land Use,Waterfront | 2 Comments »

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Port Deal: The End?
March 10th, 2006

The Dubai-based company that bought several US ports pulled out of the deal Thursday. Local newspapers react:

“Ah, sweet representative democracy,” gushed a Daily News editorial, saying that “the people spoke” in rejecting a bad deal. Now, it says, the company needs to get out “cleanly, quickly, and without grumbling that it could lose money.”

But others say that the deal was beside the point, anyway. The real problems of the ports remain.

“Any politician who harangues about the United Arab Emirates without fighting for more money and more attention for overall port security is posturing for votes, not protecting the country,” writes the New York Times in an editorial. It then provides a point-by-point plan for port security.

And while Post columnist John Podhoretz writes that killing the deal was good politics, a Post editorial agrees that “foreign ownership really doesn’t make much difference” when hardly any containers are inspected, and the ports are already hotbeds of domestic corruption:

Advantage terrorists.”

By on March 10, 2006, 8:01 am
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Advice from Jersey on Governors Island
March 9th, 2006

Last month, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Governor George Pataki asked developers and architects to submit ideas for what to do with Governors Island and unveiled a futuristic elevated gondola designed by architect Santiago Calatrava as an example of the kind of creative ideas they will entertain.

This approach does not please James Ahearn, a columinst at The Record in New Jersey, who offer the mayor and governor some advice from across the river.

“The city and state of New York do not have a clue what to do with Governors Island,” writes Ahearn. “They seem about to botch what could be a terrific recreation and historic-preservation opportunity, one that would benefit the whole metropolitan area.”

Ahearn suggests that the entire island be turned into a park and that the mayor instead hold a design competition like the one that resulted in the creation of Central Park.

“Please, no gondolas,” he continues. “Ferries would work fine and would be more appropriate. They could run from New Jersey as well as Battery Park and Brooklyn.”

By on March 9, 2006, 12:54 pm
In category: Gotham City,Land Use,Parks,Waterfront | 3 Comments »

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Get Back to Trash Talk
March 9th, 2006

Last year, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and then City Council Speaker Gifford Miller faced off over the city’s garbage plan. While both sides agreed that it was better to ship trash out of the city by barge, rather than by truck, the plan stalled when it came to deciding where these marine transfer stations that would handle the trash should be located. Bloomberg proposed that one be built in his own neighborhood on the East Side of Manhattan; Miller, who represented the area in the council and was running for mayor, tried to block the deal.

The New York Observer is urging the mayor and City Council, now under the leadership of Speaker Christine Quinn, to resume garbage talks.

“Officials have been ducking this issue for too many years, and the problem is not going to go away,” the editioral states. “Mr. Bloomberg had the courage to come up with a viable way to resolve this decidedly unglamorous and politically difficult issue. This would be the perfect moment for new City Council Speaker Christine Quinn to rouse her members and put the plan into action.”

By on March 9, 2006, 8:22 am
In category: Gotham City,Land Use,Waterfront | Comments Off on Get Back to Trash Talk

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Politicking at the Ports
February 24th, 2006

In the current controversy over allowing a Dubai-based company to take control of several American ports, the Bush administration is reaping what it has sown, writes the New York Times in an editorial. It is seeing chickens come home to roost, and “if the administration is in trouble with Congress, it’s long overdue.”

The editorial is one of three on the Times’ op/ed page today which says that the port deal may not really undermine public security, but the Bush administration deserves the political headache. It has, after all, set itself up for this by stoking public fear of terrorism to irrational levels, and then consistently eroding public trust by acting secretly and dishonestly whenever the opportunity arose.

“The administration argues that the ports deal was thoroughly vetted, and that proper safeguards are in place to prevent any possible security breaches,” the Times writes. “That argument might hold if the White House had a good track record on these kinds of sweeping assurances.”

Bush deserves what he gets, writes Thomas Friedman. The president has constantly accused Democrats of being soft on terrorism, and it is only natural that they would jump on a chance to use the powerful “giving our ports away to the Arabs card” against him. Paul Krugman agrees, writing that there is a certain “rough justice” in the fact that the administration “has become a victim of its own campaign of fearmongering and insinuation.”

In the New York Post, John Podhoretz blames Bush for not having the sense to kill this deal for political reasons long ago, saying that he should have known that it would make him look weak on terrorism. (Podhoretz adds that “the objections to the ports deal may be bogus as a matter of policy, but they’re potent as a matter of politics,” and that is, of course, what matters.)

In the Daily News, Charles Krauthammer writes that the deal might harm national security and should have been stopped earlier, but that it is too late to stop now because it will harm relations with moderate Arab states. He says he sympathizes with Bush, and accuses the Democrats of being “shamelessly hypocritical” to gain political points off this issue.

“If a citizen of the UAE walked into an airport in full burnoose and flowing robes, speaking only Arabic, Democrats would be deeply offended, and might even sue, if the security people were to give him any more scrutiny than they would to my sweet 84-year-old mother,” he writes.”But when that same Arab, attired in business suit and MBA, and with a good record running ports in 15 countries, buys P&O, Democrats howl at the very idea of allowing Arabs to run our ports.”

By on February 24, 2006, 4:23 pm
In category: Gotham City,Waterfront | Comments Off on Politicking at the Ports

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Port Hole
February 23rd, 2006

By on February 23, 2006, 2:12 pm
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Brooklyn Greenway -- in 2016
February 23rd, 2006

Some Brooklynites have a vision for the boroughs waterfront that goes beyond luxury apartments in Greenpoint. Metropolis, the urban architecture magazine, describes efforts to create a 14-mile Brooklyn Greenway that will span from Sunset Park to Greenpoint and will accommodate a seven-foot bike lane, a ten-foot pedestrian path and six feet of landscaping. No one expects it to happen soon; Milton Puryear, one of those spearheading the plan, said, Realistically, it will be 10 years before the greenway is finished. It’s important first to get dots and dashes on the map. It’s our hope that our children and grandchildren will connect these dots.”

But despite the timing, Brownstoner considers the plans pretty darn exciting and notes that Metropolis features pictures of bike paths and plantings running through such currently forgotten zones as Flushing Avenue, Navy Street and the Carroll Gardens waterfront. And Curbed said, It’s just a dream at this point. But a possible dream.

By on February 23, 2006, 11:43 am
In category: Gotham City,Land Use,Parks,Transportation,Waterfront | 2 Comments »

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Glitz Comes to Queens
February 22nd, 2006

For those bored with the Manhattanization of Brooklyn, welcome to the Manhattanization of Queens. Plans have been announced for a major expansion of Queens Silvercup Studio in Long Island City. According to Curbed, The expansion, dubbed Silvercup West, would include studio space, soundstages and stores galore, an ‘unnamed cultural institution’ (hot!)and over a thousand apartments that would presumably gaze at the Manhattan skyline from those towers.

Some observers see the plans, still awaiting approval, as a vote of confidence in Queens and the citys film industry. What would you pick – a new Brooklyn or a new Long Island City? asks Gothamist. The thing that has stopped Queens from truly being the next Brooklyn (at least for younger NYers) is its less ideal downtown access, though the views can be more spectacular. And, says Brownstoner, Pretty soon, all the movie stars in Boerum Hill won’t ever have to set foot in Manhattan.

But an anonymous poster on that blog has doubts: I just love how like Atlantic Yards is promoted as a sport stadium when its really a high rise condo project, this is being promoted as a film studio when its really a massive condo development.

By on February 22, 2006, 1:13 pm
In category: Arts,Gotham City,Land Use,Waterfront | 2 Comments »

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The Port, the Emirates and the President
February 22nd, 2006

With President George W. Bush taking a firm stand in favor of a business deal with an oil-rich country, city newspapers condemn the president for threatening to veto any bill that would delay plans for a Dubai-based company to run New Yorks port facilities. Does George W. Bush really mean to use his first veto…on a bill that has Republicans and Democrats marching in lockstep on national-security grounds? asks the Post.

The News and the Times both see the administration’s previous record as cause for concern. The News writes, We’d like it a lot better if the principal pointman the White House dispatched to reassure us all that this port deal has been vetted…were somebody other than the very same homeland security chief Michael Chertoff who a week or so ago publicly confessed that he had no idea how to track a truckload of portable toilets. And the Times comments, The Bush administration has been willing to sacrifice individual rights in favor of security. But it has been loath to do the same thing when it comes to business interests.

The Sun looks at the Bush record and sees the glass not half full — but overflowing. We just have a hard time doubting Mr. Bush’s sincerity when it comes to protecting American security – he feels it is his God-given calling, and he has demonstrated a vigilance that earns our respect, the paper says. It finds the real issue here to be the power of organized labor: The longshoremens union represents workers at the port who might be affected by the deal, and it has donated to the campaigns of Republicans and Democrats protesting it.

On a less conspiratorial note, the LA Times condemns a bipartisan hissy fit against the deal and says blocking the arrangement only provides members of Congress an opportunity to talk tough and pander to the terrorism-rattled xenophobe in us all.

By on February 22, 2006, 9:24 am
In category: Crime & Safety,Gotham City,Waterfront | 2 Comments »

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Port Peeves
February 21st, 2006

Following up on already widespread criticism over the federal agreement to allow a firm from the United Arab Emirates, Dubai Ports World, to take charge of the running of New York Harbor, the New York Post writes another editorial on what it calls the unnecessary, and exceedingly dumb, deal. The paper notes the bipartisan opposition on Capital Hill and calls the Bush administration’s tone-deafness on this issueinexplicable.

Thomas De Zengotita in The Huffington Post group blog is more ambivalent: The contrast between [Bushs] professed concern for our national security and his willingness to turn over management of our East Coast ports to this Dubai outfit is irresistible. But here’s what I’m a little squeamish about. Am I also supposed to imply, ever so subtly, that Arab and Muslim nations and organizations are suspect by definition, thus playing on widespread US prejudices on that score?

By on February 21, 2006, 6:56 am
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Governors Island Gondola
February 16th, 2006

Architect Santiago Calatrava imagines a “futuristic elevated gondola system linking Brooklyn to Manhattan by way of Governors Island on a tramway.”

By on February 16, 2006, 5:02 pm
In category: Gotham City,Transportation,Waterfront | 4 Comments »

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Ownership of New Yorks Ports
February 16th, 2006

News that Dubai Ports World, a company based in the United Arab Emirates, recently purchased a British company that operates the Port of New York has set off a debate about who should be managing the citys waterways.

On Sunday, the New York Post warned that the deal puts “the ports of New York and New Jersey in the hands of a Middle East country with ties to the Sept. 11 hijackers.”

Today, the The New York Times agrees, criticizing the Bush administration for approving deal and warning that “putting port management in the hands of a country with such a mixed record in the war on terror is a step in the wrong direction.”

When asked about the deal yesterday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that security should be the city’s top concern, but also urged openness to global business.

“The shipping business is a big international business,” the mayor said. “We are not going to lock ourselves into a cocoon.”

By on February 16, 2006, 8:18 am
In category: Gotham City,Transportation,Waterfront | 1 Comment »

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Governors Island Development
February 7th, 2006

An illustration of the New World version of Shakespeare’s London Theater inside Castle Williams, the 19th century fort on Governors Island’s western shore. The theater, designed by architect Norman Foster, is one of several proposals competing to win for its designers a contract to help supervise planning for the island.

By on February 7, 2006, 1:14 pm
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Randall's Island Dreamland?
January 12th, 2006

A private developer’s plans to develop a water park on Randall’s Island jumped a hurdle yesterday after the city’s Franchise and Concession Review Committee voted to let the project move forward.

For web surfers, comment has begun to bubble up from the bloggers. “I bow to few in my admiration for water parks. The flues and slides and wave machines and spurious soaking devices are part of what makes America great,” writes Gringcorp. But the Brooklyn scribe thinks this project, now slated to cover 26 acres, doesn’t have enough room to become a top-notch water park. “Raging Waters covers 50 acres, and that’s pretty cozy,” he says. “Building a state-of-the-art water park on that kind of space is simply not possible, especially if the Randall’s Island park’s 25 acres includes a seven-acre beach. Crazy slide space will be at a premium.”

Gothamist likes the name Hell’s Gate Water Park but thinks that might not go over as well with kids as the dazzling wave pools proposed back in 2003.

Couldn’t a beautiful vista make up for a lack of space or a humdrum name? “Imagine us sitting in rafts, floating down the lazy river, jumping in the wave pool, shooting through the waterslides,” muses Max. “In the background: A nice, big mental institution.

Don’t forget the Ward’s Island sewage treatment plant and the Fire Department’s training academy nearby.

By on January 12, 2006, 10:12 am
In category: Land Use,Waterfront | 6 Comments »

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Landmark Loss
December 1st, 2005

Yesterday the City Council overturned the Landmarks Preservation Commission and denied landmark status for a warehouse at 184 Kent Street in Williamsburg. (For an account of the vote, go to Gotham Gazette.) “This is a piece of trash,” said Councilmember Simcha Felder. “We should knock it down and put something nice up.” Well, what’s going up on this stretchx90;the Brooklyn waterfront are — surprise! — more luxury condos!

Brownstoner offered its take: “What’s the point of having relatively knowledgeable and cultured people on the Landmarks Commission if their recommendations can be shot down by a bunch of politically-motivated bureaucratic philistines?” The blog also wondered if owner Moishe Kestenbaum had given any money to Felder.

(In fairness, the Campaign Finance Board does not show any contributions from the Kestenbaums to Felder, but Joel and Margaret Kestenbaum each gave $1,000 contributions to Councilmember David Yassky, who led the fight to overturn the landmark commission.)

Writing to Curbed, Anonymous says the building does not deserve landmark status. “Just because Cass Gilbert designed it doesn’t mean it is gold. He has plenty of other buildings that are much more deserving.” And Devin may not like the warehouse but has greater doubts about its replacement: “the (sic) Luxury Condos are so soulless, ugly, and boring that I’d much rather see the original facade, which at least has some sense of presence and character.”

By on December 1, 2005, 12:41 pm
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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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