Street Trees Turn Hazardous
March 3rd, 2009

Who knew street trees could be so dangerous?

At City Hall this afternoon, several council members railed against the administration for what they say is not fully funding a program to repair sidewalks uprooted by sprawling street trees.

The sidewalks become a serious liability when pedestrians trip over the uneven pavement and injure themselves. They could then, said Councilmember John Liu, sue the city. He estimates the tort liability could be as high as $100 million.

Fiona Watt, assistant commissioner for forestry and horticulture at the parks department, said it would cost $34 million to fix all of the sidewalks currently reported as damaged by street trees in today’s dollar. To date, she said, the Department of Parks and Recreation has received $14.9 million for program, targeted at one, two and three family homes, and repaired 4,491 sites since 2005.

Council members Simcha Felder and Liu are urging the administration to spend more, since the street trees could end up costing taxpayers a lot more in the courtroom.
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By on March 3, 2009, 4:35 pm
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No Runs, No Hits, Many Errors
January 13th, 2009

The Bloomberg administration’s decision to give up its luxury suite and other perks at the new Yankee Stadium has not stopped criticism of the city handling of the financing for the stadium. In a statement released today, City Comptroller William Thompson slammed the administration for ” financial incompetence saddling city taxpayers with astronomically steeper costs” for the house that George built.

According to Thompson, who is running against Michael Bloomberg, taxpayers were told in 2006 that they would shell out $129 million for direct capital costs for the stadium, such as replacing parkland and improved infrastructure. That figure has now increased to $325 million.

As much as New Yorkers may love the Bombers (those of us who aren’t Mets fans, away), spending for their stadium has come under increased scrutiny as the city has slipped into tough fiscal times. Read the rest of this entry »

By on January 13, 2009, 3:30 pm
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Carrion Off to Washington? Some Hope Not
December 11th, 2008

When Bronx Brorough President Aldofo Carrion told a group of Yale students he had received a congratulatory phone call from U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton about his selection for a cabinet-level position within the new Obama Administration, he oddly thought it wouldn’t leave the room.

Although it has been rumored for weeks that he may receive some appointment, the slip added fuel to a fiery debate about his qualifications for such a job.

Most recently, Tom Robbins of the Village Voice penned a satirical piece listing reasons he’d make a good secretary for the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. Among the listing was his success in gathering campaign contributions from real estate interests and his purging of community board members that did not support the Yankees Stadium deal.

Members of that community board are intent not to let those actions be relegated to the dustbin of history. One ousted member has organized a letter writing campaign to keep him out of the cabinet.

And Andrew Wolf, publisher of two Bronx newspapers, has started to thwart any appointment. “Carrion has shown no real initiative to rebuild the Bronxs economic standing, and at best has stayed out of the way while other offices worked,” Wolf writes. “The Bronxs unemployment rate is still the highest in the state, and its poverty rate is still one of the highest in the nation. That was true when Carrion came into power, and that remains true today.”

An anonymous online petition against his appointment to an Obama Administration has been started as well, but includes only 33 signatures so far.

The former urban planner does have his supporters, however.
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By on December 11, 2008, 3:49 pm
In category: Governing,Land Use,Parks,Public Finance | 4 Comments »

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Money in the Mist
October 22nd, 2008

Love it or loathe it, Olafur Eliasson’s New York City Waterfalls apparently provided a boost to the city in these tough economic times. According to a report issued by the city yesterday, the controversial art installation generated $69 million for the city economy.

Seems a lot for a project that, as Daily Intel put it, “Mostly just made you go, ‘Oh yeah, the waterfalls,’ when you happened to pass by a spot where you could see them.”

So how did they come up with that figure?
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By on October 22, 2008, 1:39 pm
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Winning Teams
August 26th, 2008

Whatever happens in their key series this week ( Mets vs. Phillies; Yankees vs. Red Sox), the teams’ front offices have clearly figured out what it takes to win in New York.

Season prices at Citi Field, the new home of the Mets, will nearly double from this year’s prices at Shea. The average price of a good seat (purchased on a season ticket) next year — Citi Field’s debut season — works out to about $495 a game, up from $276 this year. Comparable prices for Yankee games will soar even higher from $1,000 this year to $2,500 in the new Yankee Stadium in 2009. And prices are as up for the city’s (well New Jersey’s actually) pro football teams.

Discussing the price hikes, John Mara, co-owner of the Giants told the Times, “It’s impossible to build a stadium of this magnitude without public funding unless you do something significant with ticket prices or [seat licenses].”

We don’t presume to speak about what happens in the Meadowlands, but “without public funding”? That’s not quite the case here in New York City.
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By on August 26, 2008, 3:11 pm
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End of Summer (Streets)
August 25th, 2008

“There are many annoying and frustrating things about living in New York City, but every once in a while, they are balanced out by something incredible. Something that is completely unique to New York and only has the real impact the it does because it takes place here.” So wrote Advocate of Green about Summer Streets, the city’s closing of 6.9 miles of Manhattan roadway to cars and trucks for three summer Saturdays until 1p.m.

The program ended this weekend with widespread raves, as blogs featured effusive praise along with accounts of how the writer had taken advantage of the closings of Park Avenue and Lafayette Street.
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By on August 25, 2008, 12:07 pm
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Green Roofs, Walls, and the Sewers
August 13th, 2008

Advocates concerned about sewage overflowing into the city’s waterways are pleased with the new state law passed last week incentivising green roofs. Green roofs consist of vegetation and soil which absorb rain water, keeping it from overburdening the sewer system – among other benefits such as energy conservation and a reduction in the urban heat island effect. The law grants a tax abatement of up to $100,000 a year for certain buildings in the city that install such roofs.

“Each 10,000 square foot green roof can capture between 6,000 and 12,000 gallons of water in each storm event,” said Paul Mankiewicz, Gaia Institute executive director. “This is rainfall that will never enter the combined sewer.”

Some city agencies are already getting into the act. The Parks Department has started a pilot green roof project that has 12 systems, each of which has a different growing medium, plant type, or installation model.

So what’s next?
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By on August 13, 2008, 4:03 pm
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Summer Time Blues
July 21st, 2008

An estimated 2,000 Brooklyn residents lost power on Sunday. And to repair the problem, Con Edison told residents of Sunset Park, Bay Ridge, Borough Park and Prospect Park that they needed to turn off appliances, including air conditioners. But some people are turning off their AC’s voluntarily. The New York Times reports on people who have signed up for Con Edisons time-of-use pricing service, which provides discounts for using electricity after 10 p.m.

The city faces lawsuits from parents who say their childrens’ bare feet have been scalded by playground mats. NYC Park Advocates say they have registered 166 degree readings from the black plastic mats.

Heat and jelly fish plagued the New York City triathlon. One man died in the event. The cause of death has yet to be determined.

A transformer fire cancelled horse races at Belmont and the New York Racing Association is being criticized for not calling off the day’s events earlier.

And this week, Gotham Gazette surveys the city beaches and the challenges of keeping them clean and safe.

By on July 21, 2008, 8:10 am
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The Farm of the Future
July 15th, 2008

According to an article in the New York Times science section, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer has become a booster for so-called “vertical farms,” urban skyscrapers that serve as green houses for growing fruit and vegetables and can even house farm animals. Stringer tells the Times thathe planson pitching the idea to the mayor’s office and believes the city can get the estimated $20 to $30 million to add a prototype food farm to the skyline.

The concept of a vertical farm is being championed by Dickson Despommier, a professor of public health at Columbia University and his students. (See a Web site for designs and explaination.) A recent article in New York Magazinefeatures a simple, step-by-step explanation of how such a tower might work in Manhattan.

By on July 15, 2008, 1:36 pm
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The Battle Over Ridgewood Reservoir
June 12th, 2008

Located on the border of Brooklyn and Queens in Highland Park rests the Ridgewood Reservoir, a 50 acre enclave reclaimed by nature. It is a series of three abandoned reservoirs that have become the home of trees, birds, and insects over two decades of idleness. In 2004, the mayor turned over the bucolic area from the hands of the Department of Environmental Protection to the Parks Department. Then last year, as part of PlaNYC 2030, Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed converting one of the reservoirs for recreational use while setting the others aside as nature preserves.

The comptroller, parks commissioner, activists, bloggers, and the area’s new council member all have something to say about that.
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By on June 12, 2008, 2:03 pm
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Park Battles
April 30th, 2008

In a city where everything is contentious, add another item to the list: parks. The Observer reports on the trend for community groups to fight parks in their midst, often with lawsuits and often with some success.

The groups do not oppose green space and trees but say they object to the “public-private partnerships undertaken by the Bloomberg administration to develop or to change the parks.” This issue has arisen at Union Square, where a lawsuit has at least temporarily blocked plans for a private restaurant, and on Randall’s Island where another suit has halted the city’s plan to give private schools priority in using playing fields.

The opponents also voice a complaint that has come to characterize the Bloomberg administration: They don’t consult with people in the community. “This is the worst situation Ive ever encountered in terms of [dealings with] the community Carol Greitzer, a former councilwoman from the West Village who helped start 250+ Friends of New York Parks, told the Observer. “They come up with a plan. Maybemaybeif youre lucky, you can tweak it slightly, but thats about all you can do.

For more on the administration’s approach to planning, see Is the Long-Term Sustainability Plan Sustainable? by Tom Angotti.

By on April 30, 2008, 9:06 am
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Baseball's Bullies
March 31st, 2008

If the dreary weather that rained out today’s opening game was not enough to dampen the spirits of Yankee fans, they might want to look at Harvey Aronton’s column in today’s Times. Even if the Yankees win on the field, they are losers at home, Aronton writes.
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By on March 31, 2008, 2:51 pm
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Runaround on Randall's?
February 13th, 2008

A couple of weeks ago, some East Harlem residents and public school parents were applauding a decision by a state Supreme Court judge that voided a deal to give private school kids preferred access to purportedly public playing fields on Randalls Island at the expense of public school students. Judge Shirley Kornreichs ruling essentially meant that the Bloomberg administration must essentially start from scratch and put the deal through the Uniform Land Use Review Process. That would require review by the community board and the borough president and then OKs from the City Planning Commission and the City Council, the Times explained earlier this month.

Calling the decision “a great victory for public school children, Eugenia Simmons-Taylor, former president of the District 4 the lead plaintiff, said, Now the community and our elected representatives will have a chance to have their say.”

Not so fast.
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By on February 13, 2008, 6:46 pm
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This Park Bench Brought to You by ...
January 29th, 2008

Amid the swirling controversy (oh wait, there’s been hardly a peep of controversy.) over Mayor Bloomberg’s recent rejuvenation of an old proposal to auction off naming rights to city parks and facilities, Gothamist reminds us today that the parks department has been selling off naming rights to Central Park benches for decades.

By on January 29, 2008, 3:53 pm
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Ferry Point Fiasco (cont.)
January 23rd, 2008

The saga of the still-unbuilt Ferry Point golf course, reviewed in this week’s Gotham Gazette article by Anne Schwartz, is one of those situations that prompts some of us to scratch our heads and wonder, “What’s really going on here?”

The article prompted that reaction from reader Daniel Millstone who posed some thoughtful questions about the problem-plagued project. For his questions and Anne’s reponses, click here.

You may still have some questions about what in heaven’s name is going on in Throggs Neck — but you’ll also have some more answers. And feel free to continue the discussion — either here or on our Message Board.

By on January 23, 2008, 3:44 pm
In category: Environment,Land Use,Parks | 8 Comments »

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A Sticky Garbage Situation
November 27th, 2007

Managing the citys garbage is and most likely will always be a sticky issue, literally and arbitrarily. That, some city leaders have said, is summed up in our new interactive feature, The Garbage Game, which was released earlier this month.

Since it was posted on our site pre-holiday, we have gotten some comments from waste management and political leaders or an outright refusal to even play.

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By on November 27, 2007, 9:59 am
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My Park is More Important Than Your Parking Space
September 20th, 2007

Tomorrow, if you’re a driver, and you notice that your parking space has become a miniature park – don’t worry, it’s not a part of the mayor’s plan to make sure every New Yorker lives within a ten minute walk of a park. Although some might like it to be.

The parking spaces are being reclaimed as parks for the day as part of a global event called “Park(ing) Day.” It’s something akin to Critical Mass, when a group of bike riders take over streets for bicycles, although there won’t be police on scooters monitoring these parks.

There will be nearly 25 mini-parks around the city, mostly in Manhattan. Some public officials are even involved. City Councilmember Gale Brewer is promoting a park organized by her office as a way to “encourage people to imagine rebalanced public streets in favor of increased community interaction, renewal and the facilitation of safe and sustainable transportation.”

For more on this, see our Park Topic Page

By on September 20, 2007, 3:53 am
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From Cops' Charm to Round 10: Bruno v. Spitzer
August 1st, 2007

As some police leave their pistols in its holster and turn on the charm in communities across the city, The Times is urging Commissioner Kelly to do more than smile like allow more independent oversight of the department.

The Post criticizes the states hate crimes law, claiming it punishes the thoughts in an individuals head instead of the crime committed, while The News urges Mayor Bloomberg to reconsider moving the citys ceremony on the anniversary of 9/11 an announcement made recently that moves the tribute to a nearby park because of construction at Ground Zero.

And in further comments on the Spitzer versus Bruno battle, The Sun says the only way for the governor to avoid the center ring and get back on track would be to focus on policy and continue to resist a special prosecutor investigation. To do just that, they add, he should veto the welfare legislation, which awaits his signature on his desk.

By on August 1, 2007, 9:21 am
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Washington Square, Continued
July 30th, 2007

The parks department, whose plans to redo Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village have been halted by community opposition and legal action, tried again last week. It presented its latest plan for the iconic park but if initial reaction means anything, it may have to go back to the drawing boards yet again. Based on reactions from community and government representatives attending the forum at which they were presented, the designs are unlikely to be approved, The Sun reports. While the parks department argues Washington Square is badly in need of renovation, some community residents say, that rather than simply spruce it up, the city really wants to change the entire nature of the place.

But controversy aside, many New Yorkers continue to enjoy Washington Square. For a Gotham Gazette summer moment video of the denizens of the arch, click here.

By on July 30, 2007, 3:58 pm
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Kids These Days
June 8th, 2007

A year ago the Parks Department closed a student art exhibit in the Brooklyn War Memorial because of a sexually explicit sculpture. Now the city has settled a case, issued an apology, and agreed to pay $55,750. The Daily News suggests that to avoid future conflicts with “oh-so-oppressed kids” that the city should just bar all art exhibits on city property.

The New York Postthinks a Bushwick youth group, who had a run in with the police and has earned the support of teachers and a City Council member, is nothing more than a “gang.”

By on June 8, 2007, 7:29 am
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