Developers Chosen for Brooklyn Bridge Park Hotel Complex
June 19th, 2012

The board of Brooklyn Bridge Park announced today the final plan for construction of a hotel and residency complex by the park’s Pier 1.

Toll Brothers City Living and Starwood Capital Group will collaborate on the approximately 550,000-square-foot complex, slated for completion in the fall of 2015, according to a press release from the mayor’s office.

Brooklyn Bridge Park has quickly become one of the most loved public spaces along our citys waterfront, Mayor Bloomberg said in the release. The major private investment is a vote of confidence in Brooklyn and its future as a great place to live, work and visit.

The $295 million project is set to break ground next summer, generating as many as 510 jobs, both permanent and temporary. The board’s aim is to keep the park financially sustainable with a series of hotels along the piers when completed, it will cost $16 million a year to run the park. They expect to take in $3.3 million yearly in rent and other payments, adding up to an expected $119.7 million net revenue by the end of the 97-year ground leases on the hotel and residential sites.

The mayor’s office also released four renderings of the proposed complex, showing its stone-and-glass facade and surrounding green space. Rogers Marvel Architects designed the 10-story hotel, called 1 Hotel, which will include 200 rooms, 18,000 square feet of banquet, meeting and retail space and a 6,000 square foot spa. There will also be a five-story building with 159 residential units.

Todays vote helps to ensure Brooklyn Bridge Parks future, NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe said in the press release.

By on June 19, 2012, 4:25 pm
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NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe Steps Down
June 18th, 2012

The citys parks commissioner, Adrian Benepe, resigned after serving with the Bloomberg Administration since 2002. Benepe plans to take a senior position for a national nonprofit, the Trust For Public Land, whose mission is to create close to home parks in and near cities.

Benepe oversaw the largest expansion of parks since the 1930s, and worked on two of Bloombergs signature projects, PlaNYC and MillionTreesNYC

Benepe said in a news release that he looked forward to dedicated his time to “sustainable landscapes in cities across the country and here in New York.

Speaking at a news conference, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Monday that Benepe had done extraordinary work as parks commissioner, leading transformative changes in every corner of New York City.

The New York Times reported that during Benepes tenure the city added 730 acres of parkland. He also had a role in the creation of Brooklyn Bridge Park and the High Line.

Commissioner Adrian Benepes successor will be Veronica M. White, the executive director and founder of the Center for Economic Opportunity. She may be best known for her work for theOpportunity NYC, a $63 million privately-funded initiative that uses monetary, health and education incentives to reward low-income adults and children for behaviors such as workforce participation, attending job training and passing assessments during the school year.

By on June 18, 2012, 8:33 pm
In category: Environment,Gotham City,Parks | 1 Comment »

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Closing Public Spaces
October 31st, 2011

(Gotham Gazette parks reporter Anne Schwartz filed this post.)

Last week, Crain’s reported that landlords, taking action in response to Occupy Wall Streets weeks-long occupancy of Zuccotti Park, want the city to revamp its laws covering the citys privately owned public parks to set hours of operation and prohibit large gatherings. Crain’s has a survey asking readers whether they think “private parks” should be allowed to set their own hours. As of today, the 201 people who bothered to respond said yes by a margin of almost two to one.

The business paper, however, did not note that these spaces are actually public places that developers were required to create — and keep open — in return for the right to build taller buildings under city zoning laws. Having already received the financial benefits of the added floor space, the landlords now are seeking to restrict some of the public benefit.

A study conducted in 2001 by Jerold Hayden, a Harvard professor of urban planning and design, with the Department of City Planning and the Municipal Art Society, found that 40 percent of these parks “were and are practically useless, with austere designs, no amenities and little or no direct sunlight. Roughly half of the buildings surveyed had spaces that were illegally closed or otherwise privatized.” (For Gotham Gazette’s report on that study, go here.)

The results still hold today, Kayden wrote in a recent New York Times piece.
Kayden said he welcomes the attention the protesters have called to the city’s privately owned public spaces, but calls for a much broader discussion on how they can contribute meaningfully to city life. “They need a champion, an independent steward or curator who actively promotes their use, not only by assuring that spaces are provided as legally promised but also by encouraging improvements, activities and public educational opportunities,” Kayden said.

By on October 31, 2011, 3:06 pm
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Tent Pressure
October 25th, 2011

It is getting cold out there and the protesters at Occupy Wall Street are starting to notice. So, Bill Lipton of the Working Families Party sent out an e-mail to supporters this morning asking them to put pressure on Mayor Michael Bloomberg to allow tents in Zuccotti Park.

“It was only two weeks ago when cleaning crews threatened to remove the protesters from the park. We stood together, made phone calls, picked up brooms and mops, and turned out by the thousands before dawn on a Friday morning,” writes Lipton. “And we won. We can do it again, if we stand together. If you can’t come down to the park to help pitch a tent, pitch in by signing our emergency petition to Mayor Bloomberg. Tell Mayor Bloomberg to protect free speech and allow the protesters at Zuccotti park to build tents.”

Here is the full appeal

Dear friend,

As winter approaches, tarps and sleeping bags won’t be enough.

Help make sure cold weather doesn’t end the Occupy Wall Street protest.

It got pretty chilly this weekend. Next week will surely be cooler.

The protest which has focused the eyes of the world on corporate greed and economic inequality is free speech in action. But without shelter, the protesters occupying Wall Street down at Zuccotti Park could be frozen out and forced to an early end.

Occupy protests from Boston to Philadelphia to Seattle have been allowed to put up tents to provide shelter and warmth. But down at Wall Street, tents are against the rules. Even the protest’s medical tent was nearly removed before the activists’ impassioned defense saved it.

Tell Mayor Bloomberg: Let the protesters stay — let them set up tents.

After you sign, please forward this email or share on Facebook to spread the message far and wide. The world is watching.

The protest movement that has sprung up over the past month is giving voice to millions of Americans who feel left out or left behind. It’s focusing the political debate across the nation on the corporate greed and economic inequality we so desperately need to address.

The coming winter isn’t the only threat the protest is facing. New York’s real estate and developer lobbyists are pushing hard for new rules that would allow them to shut down Zuccotti Park every night and impose a curfew.

Mayor Bloomberg doesn’t have to love the Occupy Wall Street movement’s message. But he has a duty to protect and uphold the First Amendment rights of the protesters to peacefully assemble and make their voices heard.

The heart and soul of the First Amendment is protecting protest movements like Occupy Wall Street not assuring unlimited corporate spending on elections.

It was only two weeks ago when cleaning crews threatened to remove the protesters from the park. We stood together, made phone calls, picked up brooms and mops, and turned out by the thousands before dawn on a Friday morning.

And we won. We can do it again, if we stand together. If you can’t come down to the park to help pitch a tent, pitch in by signing our emergency petition to Mayor Bloomberg.

Tell Mayor Bloomberg to protect free speech and allow the protesters at Zuccotti park to build tents:

Thanks for spreading the word,

Bill Lipton
Deputy Director, WFP

PS. For information on how to donate donate winter coats, sleeping bags, or other supplies, reply to this email.

By on October 25, 2011, 11:17 am
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Sleep Over on Wall Street
October 20th, 2011

Thought Occupy Wall Street had jumped the shark when MTV started trying to cast protesters for the Real World? Well think again, because OWS just got even more main stream in a way that will almost certainly send Fox News anchors into stuttering tirades.

Break out your sleeping bags kids! Parents for Occupy Wall Street is holding a “Family Sleep Over” on Friday at 4 p.m. until 11 a.m. on Saturday morning. A similar event was planned last week but canceled do to the (cancelled) eviction and clean up.

“Occupy Wall Street is a place for everyone, including families. At the Family Sleepover, families and children will find arts and crafts, a childrens music sing along, a pizza party, and a bed time story,” reads a statement released by organizers.

The group has already made the New York Police Department aware of the event and parents will wear shirts to identify themselves as being affiliated with the sleep over.

By on October 20, 2011, 3:13 pm
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Smokers Park?
June 15th, 2011

Marissa Miller filed this post.

Smokers take note: The city’s ban on smoking in parks so far does not apply to Hudson River Park. It is not part of the city’s park system — it is state regulated – and therefore does not fall under its jurisdiction.

That could change, though. The park is in somewhat of a “gray” area and so, according to the parks department, its exemption from the ban is currently under review.

For now, Hudson River Park has refrained from installing the “no smoking” signs found in other city parks. However, some residents in the surrounding neighborhoods worry that it will turn into a smokers “paradise,” infested by smokers from all around the city.

In an e-mail statement, David Katz, vice president of marketing and events at Hudson River Park Trust, wrote, “The state’s Administrative Procedures Act requires us to provide a public review and comment period and a hearing prior to issuing or amending our park rules. We are not allowed to ban smoking until this process is completed. At our most recent board meeting, we were asked to commence this process. We expect to hold a public hearing this summer on a proposal to ban smoking in the park.”

So, New Yorkers will have to wait and see if this park will remain a smoker’s oasis for much longer.

It was reported elsewhere that Battery Park City would also participate in this exemption from the ban as it also falls under state jurisdiction. However, a spokesperson from the Battery Park City Authority confirmed, “Battery Park City will follow New York City Park rules and regulations” and thus abide by the smoking ban.

By on June 15, 2011, 9:14 am
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Bloomberg Releases Budget, Slashes Teachers
May 6th, 2011

As expected, Mayor Michael Bloomberg released a $65.7 billion budget this morning, which slashes 6,166 teaching positions, would close 20 fire companies and shutter four swimming pools this summer.

Bloomberg deflected all of the blame for the fiscal pain. Instead, he pointed towards Albany and Washington.

“Both places are keeping our tax dollars to close their budget deficits,” Bloomberg said. “If the state was paying 50 percent of the Department of Education, we would not be talking about laying off teachers.”

While Bloomberg did not hesitate to blame Albany, he also acknowledged the city was unlikely to receive any reprieve from the state or federal government. For now, the city will use the remainder of its surplus to close the budget hole.

The mayor’s executive plan did back away from slashing 16,000 child care slots — the result of a loss in federal funding. The administration plans to save the positions by expanding after school programs and increasing funding for the Administration for Children’s Services. The cost of the slots was originally put at $91 million. Officials said the program could be saved with just $40 million.

Advocates and council members, however, questioned the mayor’s calculations.

“With the budget released today, the administration is continuing its assault on early childhood education by cutting $50 million from our city’s child care,” said Councilman Steve Levin. “It is an outrageous sleight of hand that this administration would present itself as the savior of child care while simultaneously destroying it for thousands of New Yorkers. It’s like someone starting a fire, just so he could take the credit for putting 40 percent of that fire out.”

In a joint statement, Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Finance Chairman Domenic Recchia identified teacher layoffs, the child care cuts, a 29 percent cut to libraries and fire companies as their top priorities.

“Since the recent financial crisis and recession, the City Council has worked aggressively to control spending and manage the citys budget in a fiscally responsible manner while protecting vital services,” they said. “Thats why we have grave concerns about a budget that allows for teacher layoffs, which would be immensely damaging to our education system and children’s opportunities for a quality education. Make no mistake, we will do everything in our power to prevent teacher layoffs.”
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By on May 6, 2011, 2:13 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Crime & Safety,Economy,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Health,Housing,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Parks,Public Finance | 1 Comment »

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Blizzard Bills at the Council
April 6th, 2011

The City Council is set to approve a package of bills this afternoon which regulate the city’s snow procedures — a response to last year’s Boxing Day blizzard.

Among the proposals, the Department of Sanitation will be required to create a snow removal plan for every borough, and the Office of Emergency Management will be forced to review the previous year’s snow removal process in an annual report. The package would establish emergency protocols for the city and high-volume protocols for 311.

When first introduced, the Bloomberg administration spoke out against the package, claiming it needed its regulations to be “flexible.” But in an apparent flip-flop, a Bloomberg spokesperson said the adminsitration worked with the council on the bills and now supports them.

By on April 6, 2011, 3:10 pm
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Bike Lanes on the Agenda
February 16th, 2011

The latest bike battle is rolling into the City Council today with several pieces of legislation, including a requirement to report bike and pedestrian accidents more frequently.

One bill will force the Police Department to report on its Web site the number of traffic moving violations, crashes and injuries or fatalities on a monthly basis. It will also force the Department of Transportation to study all traffic crashes involving a serious injury or fatality every five years.

In recent months, bicyclists and communities have clashed over the number of bike lanes across the city. Today, Council Speaker Christine Quinn said the package of legislation would help communities and bicycle advocates understand why bike lanes go in certain areas.

“Getting people out of cars and on to bikes is a good thing,” said Quinn. “Bike lanes work great in some neighborhoods and don’t work well in others.”

We’ll report back later on how the council voted.

By on February 16, 2011, 2:50 pm
In category: City Hall,Crime & Safety,Economy,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,Law,nextNY,Parks,Transportation | 1 Comment »

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MTA Not Taking Any More Questions
January 4th, 2011

From the MTA

Image from the MTA

Were you befuddled by the stranded passengers on the A or the lack of service for days on the Q post Boxing Day blizzard?

Well, at least for now, you’re not going to get any answers from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

When Gotham Gazette touched base with the authority this afternoon, spokesperson Charles Seaton said the agency won’t be taking any more questions on the service-stalling storm.

“We are being investigated by the [Inspector General’s] office and the City Council,” said Seaton. “We are not taking any more questions on the storm.”

But they will have to on Monday.

Seaton said authority officials would testify at the City Council’s hearing on the blizzard response, scheduled for Monday at 11 a.m. Several top officials at the Bloomberg adminsitration have also been invited to testify, including Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith, Sanitation Commission John Doherty and Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan.

Today’s response from the MTA follows a Daily News editorial, which blasts the authority for its slow response to the massive snowfall and demands an explanation.

The investigation by the authority’s inspector general is expected to take 60 days, an official said.

By on January 4, 2011, 5:06 pm
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Bloomberg Mulls Over ATM Bill
December 20th, 2010

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is mulling over whether to sign a bill that would drastically increase fines for property owners with illegal sidewalk ATMs after small business owners expressed concern over the bill’s impact this afternoon.

According to a spokesperson, the mayor will take the next couple of days to consider the bill and announce his decision after Christmas.

“I dont want to be the Grinch that stole Christmas,” the mayor said today. “On the other hand the city has requirements, where one of the issues here is the ability to pass on the sidewalk.”

Up until this morning, the mayor was expected to sign the measure, which the council approved earlier this month. At today’s bill signing, small business owners reportedly said the legislation would limit access to cash for neighborhoods without banks and hurt small businesses.

Under the current version of the bill, fines could increase from $250 to $5,000. These ATMs are already illegal, but there is barely any enforcement or regulation of them, council officials said.

If the mayor vetoes the measure, Council Speaker Christine Quinn said the council would move to override it.

“This will give the power for them to be taken off the street,” said Quinn. “It actually gives the city the power and the tools to make this illegal behavior end. That’s a good thing.”

Here is the mayor’s statement this morning courtesy of the City Hall press office:
Read the rest of this entry »

By on December 20, 2010, 2:49 pm
In category: Community Development,Crime & Safety,Economy,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Housing,Land Use,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Parks,Public Finance | 3 Comments »

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Cuts Coming Today
November 18th, 2010

Brace yourselves.

The adminsitration is set to reveal those cuts Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered at the end of September — which equates to the ninth round of budget cuts within the last three fiscal years. (But who’s counting?)

We hear they won’t be pretty. The nightly closure of fire companies are on the chopping block in addition to thousands of jobs across city agencies. In total, the mayor is looking to lose $1.5 billion from the budget over the next two fiscal years. In September, the city ordered uniformed forces and education to expect 2.7 percent cuts, while all other agencies were urged to prepare for 5.4 percent cuts.

Even before we know the details, there is a backlash.

Earlier this week, Lillian Roberts, the executive director of DC37, the city’s largest municipal employees union, sent the mayor a letter, urging him to consider revenue generating proposals instead of just cuts.

The letter is below.

Stay tuned.


By on November 18, 2010, 11:46 am
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Great Outdoors
November 5th, 2010

Gotham Gazette parks writer Anne Schwartz filed this post.

Another antidote to the post-election blahs: leaf-peeping here in the five boroughs. The New York Times has a nice piece today on some of the city’s leafier and less traveled realms.

An escape to the city’s great outdoors, even with the “din of traffic in the distance” and the occasional litter, may also offer some insight into why voters passed more than 80 percent of the parks and conservation funding ballot initiatives nationwide while sweeping anti-tax and spending candidates into office. With the budget-cutting to come, New York’s parks and open space advocates have an uphill battle to protect Pouch Camp and fund state parks, but clearly protecting and creating green space remains a public priority.

By on November 5, 2010, 3:48 pm
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Quinn, Stringer Showdown?
October 1st, 2010

Yes, both are potential mayoral candidates in 2013.

It might be a little early for a full-blown rivalry, but Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer definitely disagree on a proposal to survey the city’s vacant properties stalled at the City Council. The bill, which has 28 sponsors, would create an annual accounting of all of the city’s vacant buildings and lots.

The group pushing the proposal, Picture the Homeless, hope it would spur the development of those properties as temporary housing for the homeless. Quinn said this week the survey would be “enormously expensive” and the money for it would be better used serving the homeless.

In response to our reporting on the issue, Stringer sent over the following statement.

I am disappointed that the City Council quashed legislation that would survey vacant buildings throughout the city, in order to identify new sources of temporary housing for the homeless.

In 2007 I released the results of Manhattan’s first ever survey of vacant properties, finding that there is a significant number of vacancies in the borough representing potential for thousands of new affordable housing units. Along with the results, I proposed an annual survey of vacant buildings which had been actively backed by Anti-Homeless organizations. Although there is a cost to this idea, its potential long-term value to the city is so obvious.

If a citywide vacant lot count would indeed cost millions of dollars, then I believe we should look to more creative options, rather than throw up our hands and pull the plug on this important initiative.

One possible approach to a vacant lot count that keeps costs low would be to utilize volunteers from the Mayors NYC Service program. The City already dispatches volunteers for its annual street homeless count, so this approach would not be without precedent. And, to be honest, counting vacant lots isnt rocket science. It would require a minimal amount of training. Most able bodied New Yorkers interested in enhancing the long-term vitality of their communities could make a positive contribution by participating in a city-wide vacant lot count.

I call on the City Council to reconsider this decision and let this badly-needed housing program go forward. We cannot afford to be pennywise and pound foolish at a time when the recession has made day to day survival for the homeless tougher than ever.

In response to Stringer’s statement, Maria Alvarado, Quinn’s spokesperson, said the bill at the council would require the survey of vacant buildings, which is “more complicated” than just counting empty lots. The council applauds the borough president for his study, Alvarado said, but simultaneously asks what “clear policy changes” came out of it?

By on October 1, 2010, 1:35 pm
In category: City Hall,Economy,Electoral Politics,Environment,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Health,Housing,Land Use,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Parks,Public Finance,Social Services | 2 Comments »

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A Million Trees, Minus 87?
August 13th, 2010

Parks Columnist Anne Schwartz filed this post:

Former Parks Commissioner Henry Stern, one of the citys most stalwart defenders against arboricide, recently sounded an alert about a proposed massacre of 87 trees, many nearly 80 years old, along Pelham Parkway in the Bronx.

What is special about this Parkway is that as you drive in it, above you is an arbor of trees whose upper branches reach from one side of the road to the other. It looks, and you feel, as if you were traveling through a park, he writes.

The $36 million road project by the NYC Department of Transportation to install guardrails and re-grade the road is supposed start this fall. Sterns comments are posted on the website of New York Civic.

By on August 13, 2010, 6:02 pm
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Horses Get Sick Time
July 15th, 2010

In an attempt to move the stalled paid sick leave bill, advocates showed up at Central Park yesterday to point out carriage horses get time off (the result of a bill passed earlier this year), but people aren’t guaranteed sick time.

We couldn’t make it, but they sent over photos.

What a juxtaposition.

horseaction 007

In March, the paid sick leave bill got a hearing, but nothing has happened since. Council Speaker Christine Quinn still hasn’t taken a position on it.

By on July 15, 2010, 10:30 am
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Park Dividends
June 4th, 2010

Gotham Gazette parks writer Anne Schwartz filed this post.

The Daily News today highlighted the economic powerhouse that is Central Park. A few interesting statistics from the article:

— More than 35 million people visit the park a year, sometimes more than 200,000 on a weekend day. Thats more than Mount Rushmore, the Grand Canyon and Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks combined.

— Hotels near the park account for 37 percent of all hotel rooms in the city and employ almost 14,000 people.

— Between 1997 and 2007, the average value of properties on the blocks between Central Park West and Columbus Avenues increased 73 percent faster than the average value of properties between Columbus and Amsterdam.

In a recession, mayors and governors tend to target parks as an expendable luxury, even though park operating budgets account for a minuscule percentage of the overall budget. But as a number of studies have shown, when parks are well-maintained, attractive and accessible, the economic boost they provide in increased real estate values, tourism dollars, jobs and tax revenues — far outweighs the cost of upkeep.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 4, 2010, 2:24 pm
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Parks Vote (Update)
May 28th, 2010

The Senate is voting on the bill that would open state parks for Memorial Day. Republicans are expected to vote against the bill as a block because they oppose a measure in the bill that will involved taxes and fees. Republicans have pledged not to support any new taxes or fees. The Assembly has already passed the measure. Watch the vote here.

The bill was approved 32-27. The bill passed along party lines, as expected

By on May 28, 2010, 2:33 pm
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Are the Parks Saved?
May 27th, 2010

After a number of almosts it seems a plan has been agreed on to fund 55 parks and historic sites in time for Memorial Day weekend. The plan would take $74 million dollars from the Environmental Protection Fund and also initiate and e-waste recycling program that would create fees that would help fund parks. Both houses would have to approve legislation to make the deal happen. Don’t hold your breath though–anything can happen in Albany.

We worked until about four oclock in the morning and the staffs of the Senate and Assembly and the governors office appear to have resolved the issues about the state parks, Paterson said on the “John Gambling Show” this morning.

Environmental groups are happy that the parks could be open but are enraged that it will come at the expense of the EPF. There are also concerns that the recycling program could meet great resistance from the business community.

It might seem a bit odd that lawmakers are in a dizzy to get parks open when the entire budget is two months late but voters have apparently made it very clear that they want the parks open. Albany Sen. Neil Breslin, who had just returned from the Democratic Convention in Rye, said that he had not been briefed on the plan but said, “It sounds like we are going to do this. I’ve gotten more calls on parks than on healthcare or education, so that should tell you how important this is to voters.”

By on May 27, 2010, 1:23 pm
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A Budget Breakdown
May 24th, 2010

Not all is fair in fiscal year 2011 — at least to the hordes of advocates and politicians vying to save their favorite projects and programs.

Below you can find out how your favorite agency has fared, whether its proposed cuts are deeper than other departments and how much it’s slated to spend this year.

Click on the chart to interact. You can click through agencies on the side and roll over the graphic to view the funding level by fiscal year. If you want an expanded view, you can click on the title.


By on May 24, 2010, 12:13 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Crime & Safety,Economy,Education,Electoral Politics,Environment,Gotham City,Governing,Health,Housing,Immigrants,Law,nextNY,Parks,Public Finance,Social Services,Tech,Transportation | 3 Comments »

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