What They're Saying
May 2nd, 2007

With no overriding local story today, the papers all find different things to editorialize about.

The News uses the arrest of Jack Rhodes in the beatings of two elderly women to attack plea-bargaining. According to the paper, Rhodes was incarcerated no fewer than 14 times since 1990 on charges including burglary, menacing, assaulting a cop and drug possession and received sentences ranging from three days to 2-1/2 years. That’s not just a revolving door, it’s a portal thrown open wide that lets repeat offenders plea-bargain serious charges down to nothing, the paper says, calling for long prison sentences for people convicted of three or more misdemeanors.

Turning its attention to Albany, the Post praises the Republican leader of the Assembly, James Tedesco, for his plan to introduce a bill that would the assembling of packages of campaign contributions from a number of individuals — a practice known as “bundling.” Pointing out the Governor Eliot Spitzer is encouraging bundlers to raise $25,000 to $1 million for his re-election campaign, the Post says, Tedescos bill is certainly far more in line with the governor’s campaign promise to fix the way business is done in Albany than is Spitzer himself.

Also at the state level, Newsday weighs in on behalf of a pay hike for the states judges, who have had only one increase in 19 years. The problem for judges – who’ve had only one raise in 19 years – is that legislators linked judicial pay hikes to increases for themselves, unconscionably holding judges hostage in an effort to fatten their own paychecks.: For more on judges pay see Judges Stagnant Salaries by Emily Jane Goodman in Gotham Gazette.

And The Times mourns the closing of the Claremont Stables in Central Park, wistfully wondering whether the city wasnt more human still when we shared so much more of it with horses.

By on May 2, 2007, 11:00 am
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A Park With No Enemies
April 30th, 2007

The High Line, a project to create a greenway along an abandoned elevated rail way on the West Side, is no longer just a successful, innovative park project, according an article in New York Magazine, it will soon become a brand name adorning buildings, restaurants, and even nightclubs, like the recently opened High Line Ballroom.

Everyone in New York City has been so supportive of the High Line, Josh Wood, organizer of the High Line Festival (an arts project curated by David Bowie) told the magazine. Its probably the one public-works project that no one has anything bad to say about.

The magazine also feaures a history of the elevated railway and the quest to turn it into a park and a look at a half a dozen new luxury apartment buildings and condos going up along the parkway.

By on April 30, 2007, 10:45 am
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Spring in NYC
April 24th, 2007

(Photo: Flickr)

By on April 24, 2007, 7:06 am
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Reacting to Bloombergs Green Vision
April 23rd, 2007

The local newspapers respond today to Mayor Michael Bloombergs Earth Day speech and his 127 ideasfor buildinga greener, greater New York. The mayor proposed planting trees, building on brownfields, creating new parks and playgrounds, expanding mass transit, and even charging New Yorkers to drive south of 86th Street.

A New York Times editorial calls it a broad, complicated and exciting blueprint and said that New Yorkers are fortunate to have a mayor willing to expend his energy and political clout to make their home a more livable city.

Despite referring to the mayor’s proposals as hubristic and a crapshoot, the New York Post still believes New York needs to give his plan a fair hearing.

The Daily News says everyone who cares about this city should focus attention on the sweeping plans Mayor Bloomberg unveiled yesterday for tackling the gargantuan challenges ahead, but also hopes that it sparks other ideas as well. If elected officials, including those who would be mayor after Bloomberg, have better ideas for keeping the city livable, let’s hear them.

And the New York Sun even supports the idea of congestion pricing, but only if it leads to smaller government If the money is going to be used as the mayor indicated yesterday in mass transit schemes it will expand total government revenues and outlays and give congestion pricing a socialistic coloration,” the Sun writes. “But if revenues from congestion pricing were used to reduce taxes on those that pay the most taxes in the first place, then it would be a step in the right direction.

Click here to read the mayor’s full speech

By on April 23, 2007, 11:58 am
In category: Environment,Parks,Transportation | 1 Comment »

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Turf Wars
April 18th, 2007

There are 73 artificial turf athletic fields in New York City parks and there are plans to spend $150 million to convert another 100 grass fields to turf in the coming years.

While the synthetic material solves the problem of overuse of limited green space in the city - which turns many fields into patches of dirt and rocks — the move has set off a debate about safety.

Some argue that turf is harder on human bodies than grass (see illustration of “turf toe”, which the NYU Medical Center describes as a “sprain at the base of a big toe” caused by impact with artificial grass.).

Others question how the fake grass will hold up over time. “What happens if someone spills something on the artificial turf?” one New York blogger asks. “The gum, or whatever it is, will stay stuck in it. I wouldn’t want to play on a field that looked like the bottom of a subway track.”

Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum has called for an independent testing of rubber pellets that she believes may contain cancer-causing materials and pose serious health risks to New Yorkers; the Parks Department has refused to do the testing.

The group New Yorkers for Parks has issued a report on the topic (available in .pdf format) and writes that “important environmental benefits of natural turf, such as its ability to absorb and filter rainwater and pollutants, and to decrease the impact of the urban heat island effect, must be considered in the debate.”

To view a map of synthetic athletic fields in NYC, click here.

By on April 18, 2007, 7:54 am
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Central Park's Free Speech Debate Heads to Court
March 12th, 2007

A federal judge has called for a trial to determine whether the Bloomberg administration violated the first amendment by denying a permit from protesters during the 2004 Republican National Convention for a rally on the Great Lawn in Central Park.

The Times editorial page hopes City Hall loses, and says Bloomberg’s “wild fixation on saving every blade of the Grade Lawn” is not justification for keeping protesters out of the only place in Manhattan where a large rally can be held. Likewise, liberal blog Daily Gotham said that the ruling was a “victory for free speech.”

The Daily News, though, says that officials did open some areas for protest, and therefore the assertion that Bloomberg was supressing dissent is “paranoia.”

By on March 12, 2007, 7:14 am
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Randalls Island -- A Public Park For Private Schools?
January 22nd, 2007

An editorial in
the New York Times explains the pending deal with Randalls Island exclusive use of two-thirds of the 480-acre public park by 20 of Manhattans wealthiest private schools for 20 years, in exchange for some $80 million in upgrades. The Times thinks there should be a greater proportion of the park opened to the public, and agrees with the suggestion that there be better public transportation to the island.

By on January 22, 2007, 8:41 am
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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
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NY Post: Name Mets Stadium After Jackie Robinson
August 24th, 2006

An editorial in the New York Post entitled A Park For Champions calls it a pity that the Mets are looking to name their new stadium after a “‘corporate partner’ willing to pony up for naming rights.” Instead, the News says, “the team’s new ballpark should be named for the man who transformed the game – right here in New York. That man was Jackie Robinson. No, he never played for the team, but the Mets are New York’s National League successors to Jackie’s Dodgers.”

By on August 24, 2006, 6:31 am
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I Slept Overnight In Central Park, And Lived To Tell The Tale
August 2nd, 2006

On the editorial page of the New York Times, Elizabeth Harris describes what it was like to sleep overnight in Central Park one Saturday night, in the company of a few dozen New Yorkers and a handful of park rangers. They were apparently in search of a certain hybrid wild-domestic duck but found instead cyclists, joggers, skaters and dog-walkers.

We are a long way from the time when Johnny Carson made nightly references to the dangers of Central Park.

By on August 2, 2006, 9:32 am
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Washington Square Park Renovation Blocked
July 27th, 2006

State Supreme Court judge has halted the citys plan to redesign Washington Square Park, saying the Bloomberg administration violated the City Charter by failing to notify the public about all of the proposed changes. The ruling bars the Department of Parks and Recreation from beginning a $16 million renovation until the redesign plan goes through the entire approval process again, beginning with the local community board.

The city will likely appeal the decision, arguing that the ruling “ignores the fact that the Parks Department’s renovation plan for Washington Square Park has been the result of more than two years of public outreach and input.”

But the process may prove even more complicated the second time around.

City Councilmember Alan Gerson is reportedly threatening to withhold $6 million from the project because he is angry with the process. And Village Voice blogger Jarrett Murphy says that the ruling “may have wider significance for future land use disputes.”

By on July 27, 2006, 7:23 am
In category: Gotham City,Land Use,Parks | 3 Comments »

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Fixing the Memorial Mess
June 1st, 2006

An editorial in the New York Times offers suggestions for fixing the mess of the World Trade Center Memorial, a week after the president of the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation resigned. The foundation, the Times says, should focus on fundraising for the memorial; the construction of the memorial should be handed over to the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and the Port Authority; and the foundation forget for the moment about the 9/11 museum.

By on June 1, 2006, 5:21 am
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News: Reopen Statue Of Liberty
May 23rd, 2006

A Daily News editorial echoes the call of public officials for the federal government to reopen the Statue of Liberty to the public by the Fourth of July. The spiral staircase and the crown with the windows looking upon the harbor have been closed since September 11, 2001. “Security is no excuse. Every visitor already must pass through a metal detector before boarding the boat to Liberty Island and again when entering the statue’s pedestal for a reservation-only tour. Adding tours of the crown should be simple enough.”

By on May 23, 2006, 6:30 am
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Debating NASCAR
May 7th, 2006

The Daily News features dueling editorials on the proposed NASCAR speedway in Staten Island.

Lesa France Kennedy, president of International Speedway Corp. and a member of the NASCAR board of director, promises that the race track will create 1,200 permanent jobs and will”host no more than three major race weekends a year, with public access to hundreds of acres of restored wetlands and green space the other 49 weeks.”

Staten Island City Councilmember James Oddo argues that NASCAR is a “six-letter word meaning a well financed, lobbyist laden, public relations juggernaut trying to fit an 82,500-seat square peg into an overdeveloped, infrastructure-challenged round hole.”

By on May 7, 2006, 9:35 pm
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Guidelines for Governors Island
May 7th, 2006

Proposals for how to develop Governors Island are due to City Hall next week, and the New York Times offers four guiding principles for deciding what happens next:

1. It must not be driven by deals with real estate developers.

2. Officials must insure that there are grand public spaces, and be ready to pay for them.

3. Preservationists must accept some major commercial buildings on the south end of the island as the price for the island’s long -term viability.

4. Castle William and Fort Jay, at the north end of the island, would be a powerful tourist attraction when restored.

By on May 7, 2006, 1:01 pm
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Yankees Win, But Does City Lose?
April 6th, 2006

The New York City Council voted overwhelmingly to approve a new Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. While the Yankees are clearly getting what they wanted – a new stadium with lucrative luxury boxes – many are questioning how the deal benefits the city.

New York Times columnist Joyce Purnick points out that while the addition of a Metro North station near the stadium will likely benefit the community, the $40 million it will cost taxpayers is money that will not be spent on other needed transportation projects.

Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez argues that if the Yankees get the $866 million in tax-exempt bonds it is seeking from the mayor and City Council to finance the plan, then the “Yankees will pay off their construction costs with money they would normally have given the city in real estate taxes.”

And in his new blog The Daily Politics, Ben Smith remarks that “with any luck, it’ll do for the South Bronx what… Yankee Stadium did for the South Bronx?”

By on April 6, 2006, 7:05 am
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Push For A Car-Free Central Park
March 28th, 2006

The recent report from the federal Environmental Protection Agency that New York City has the most polluted air in the country — residents of Manhattan are three times more likely than Americans as a whole to get cancer from it has given new oomph to an old campaign by Transportation Alternatives to ban cars from Central Park, for public health and safety. There was a rally last weekend at City Hall to push for a car-free Central Park, a petition reportedly now has more than 100,000 signatures to close the park drive for the summer, and it is hard to find anybody against the idea. Some argue that closing the park to traffic will greatly increase traffic nearby, said the blogger What I See, who included pictures of the rally. My feeling is that its incorrect Let’s try it for one summer and see how much of a difference it makes. Wildlife photographer and park frequenter Cal Vornberger wrote on his blog recently that dodging speeding cars with a large lens on a tripod is not my idea of a good time, and learned of an adult Screech-owl that last month was struck by a car as it flew across the drive. Momentarily stunned, the owl flew off before it could be struck by another car… Its only a matter of time before a jogger, pedestrian, or tourist gets run down by one of these madmen meaning drivers.

By on March 28, 2006, 9:17 am
In category: Environment,Parks,Transportation | 1 Comment »

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Criticism Of The New Yankee Stadium
March 25th, 2006

On the heels of the Empire State Development Corporation‘s approval for the new Yankees Stadium proposal, and the eve of the City Council subcommittee hearing this Tuesday, the blogosphere and op-ed pages have lit up.

Daily News Columnist Errol Louis, says the project needs to be overhauled.

Pointing to the Bronx’s dangerous asthma levels, and the city’s title of worst air in the nation – according to the EPA – he derides the $70 million in state financing for parking garages, and instead supports the proposal for a new Metro-North station as advocated by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. He goes on to say, “a no-more-cars approach to the new stadium [should be] a nonnegotiable demand.”

He goes on to mention Good Jobs New York’s critique that the city and state are subsidizing the wealthiest sports franchise in the nation, which will wind up paying poverty wages, on average, for the permanent in-stadium jobs it will create.

NY Sun columnist Andrew Wolf sees a revived Tammany Hall philosophy in the stadium deal. He views the trust fund set up as part of the agreement as being reminiscent of an idea called “honest graft”, where an official would learn of the city’s plan for an area, then go and buy up the property, then sell it to the city at exorbitant prices.

Instead of Thanksgiving turkeys, the Bronx machine “will dispense construction jobs, grants to community groups, and even Yankee tickets to ensure a steady stream of voters and campaign workers who owe allegiance to the party.” As further proof that you can buy support, he points to the Yankee’s owner’s decision to hire the lobbying firm Mirram Global. The group’s clients – Mirram also does political consulting – always end up winning the Bronx Democratic machine’s endorsement, he says.

Curbed has a great listing of entries on the topic, including a comprehensive mapping of the plan by OnNYTurf, as well as criticism of the stadium deal by Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez, and more.

By on March 25, 2006, 11:52 pm
In category: Community Development,Environment,Land Use,Parks,Transportation | 5 Comments »

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Cheering (and Jeering) New Public Toilets
March 23rd, 2006

The city has unveiled a new design for public toilets shiny, self-cleaning, and only 25 cents for 15 minutes of privacy. About 20 of the new toilets will be constructed across the city, but the exact locations have yet to be decided.

Many New Yorkers, who know the pain of not being able to find a public restroom at the right time, are cheering.

In the New York Times article, Fred Bell, the executive director at the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, called the toilets “elegant and functional.”

Toby on Gothamist’s message board writes; “I have used these self cleaning loos in London and they are not bad.”

And the blogger Polis writes; “It’s about freaking time! Go to any other global city (and even a few villages in Europe) and you’ll see well-designed, contemporary street furniture instead of the overflowing trash cans that are the most interesting thing on most NYC blocks.”

Of course, New Yorkers have long devised their own ways of dealing with the problem, like using coffee shops and stores and recently, mapping out locations of restrooms on the Internet with Web sites like Addyourown.com and Nyrestroom.com.

Others are more skeptical of the new pay toilets. Gawker wonders if the “toilets of tomorrow” will become the “homeless sleeping places of tomorrow night.”

For a history of the battle to build public toilets, see GothamGazette’s 2001 article.

By on March 23, 2006, 1:42 pm
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Coyote Update
March 22nd, 2006

The Central Park coyote, apparently not wiley enough for life in Manhattan, was captured by city employees earlier today, the parks department has announced. The young male was pronounced healthy and will be taken upstate to a wildlife rehabilitator, which to us urban types sounds like a kind of halfway house for canines.

By on March 22, 2006, 2:25 pm
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