Gotham Gazette https://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/1419 Fri, 28 Feb 2020 02:41:59 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) Celebrating Renewal, Inclusive Planning and Mixed-Use Development in the Bronx https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/9001-inclusive-planning-and-mixed-use-development-in-the-bronx-peninsula https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/9001-inclusive-planning-and-mixed-use-development-in-the-bronx-peninsula roundtable community groups

The Peninsula in the Bronx (rendering via @nycgov)


The lights were off and the countdown was on. “One, two, three,” over a hundred people called out until the lights on the Christmas tree flickered to life. With that, the Hunts Point holiday celebration was in full swing. Hot chocolate was served, pictures were taken with Santa, the Point’s youth choir sang carols, and gifts were given to the neighborhood’s youngest residents.

Last Friday’s celebration of community was a stark contrast to holidays past in Hunts Point. For the nearly 50 years it was in operation, the Spofford Juvenile Detention Center had been a blight on the community. The institution isolated the city’s youth rather than empowering them. And the dark and decaying structure sent a clear message to the community that this was a dangerous place. 

Nearly a decade after Spofford shut its doors, we joined the Hunts Point community last week for an inaugural tree-lighting, celebrating both the start of the holiday season and a new, brighter chapter for the neighborhood. Working with the local community, we are transforming the Spofford site from a place of suffering into a celebrated community hub. The Peninsula will be a vibrant live-work campus that will include 740 affordable homes, open plazas, and ground-floor retail stores. And, to integrate this campus into Hunts Point’s robust manufacturing sector, there will be close to 50,000 square feet of light industrial space on site that will spark new manufacturing jobs. If Spofford was a symbol of neglect, the Peninsula stands for promise—more housing, more jobs, more hope.

From the start, local leaders and city agencies spearheading the redevelopment, including our offices at the City Council and Economic Development Corporation, the Department of City Planning (DCP), the Department of Housing, Preservation, and Development (HPD), and the Public Design Commission (PDC), recognized that Hunts Point residents had to be intimately involved with reimagining this site.

Early on, we hosted roundtables with local stakeholders and community groups -- including Bronx Community Board 2, Urban Health Plan, The Point, Hunts Point Alliance for Children, SEBCO, and Sustainable South Bronx -- about what should be built on the five-acre site. It was important for us to hear people’s priorities firsthand and identify needs the new development could meet. Following these conversations, we held information sessions in the neighborhood where over 100 community members voiced how they would remake the site. From these conversations, we developed a plan for the site that would address some of the neighborhoods most pressing needs, including a lack of open space, jobs, affordable housing, and access to quality food.

The next step for the plan was going through the public approval process. There was broad support at community board meetings, an affirmative vote by the Bronx Borough President, and detailed discussion by the City Planning Commission and then a vote to approve. This was followed by a hearing and a unanimous City Council vote. The constructive tone of discussions as this project advanced through the public approval process made it clear that the community felt heard during the planning phase. Hunts Point was ready to tear down this building and everything it symbolized to pave the ground for its future. 

All of this rolls up into a blueprint for how best to engage residents in comprehensive and complicated redevelopment projects. Spofford’s evolution into the Peninsula highlights how we can do better by New Yorkers when these opportunities present themselves and continue to engage the community as projects take shape. On Friday, when Hunts Point came together at the holiday celebration, we marked a new era for the neighborhood and inclusive community planning in New York.

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James Patchett is President of the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC). City Council Member Rafael Salamanca represents parts of the Bronx. On Twitter @jbpatchett of @NYCEDC and @Salamancajr80.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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Celebrating Renewal, Inclusive Planning and Mixed-Use Development in the Bronx Tue, 17 Dec 2019 05:00:00 +0000
‘So Poisoned and So Full of Misinformation’: City Economic Development Chief on How the Amazon Deal Fell Apart https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8303-so-poisoned-and-so-full-of-misinformation-city-economic-development-chief-on-how-the-amazon-deal-fell-apart https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8303-so-poisoned-and-so-full-of-misinformation-city-economic-development-chief-on-how-the-amazon-deal-fell-apart mabdblasio gov and cuomo qus

(photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)


James Patchett, CEO of New York City’s Economic Development Corporation, spoke to a packed room on Thursday morning about the reasons behind Amazon’s cancellation of its planned Long Island City “HQ2” campus, in what was a joke-laden and rueful conversation of what could have been and what went wrong.

Recounting that he learned of Amazon’s reversal a week ago, on Valentine’s Day, while watching Tom Hanks in “Cast Away” – “the one about a lonely capitalist who gets lost at sea,” he said – Patchett brought the joke home with an image of “Wilson,” the volleyball in the movie, sporting an Amazon-symbol sad face instead of his bloody handprint, eliciting laughter from the room.

Amazon announced its plan for a New York campus in November, a result of stiff competition among cities and states around the country for the economic growth all but guaranteed by the company’s large-scale presence. According to Patchett, Amazon would later tell him the 300-page New York proposal was the best they received during the bidding process. Had the Queens campus opened for business, projections from Amazon, the city, and the state said it would create 25,000 to 40,000 jobs and $30 billion in tax revenue over 10 to 15 years.

Patchett helped negotiate the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) agreement along with other city officials, state officials, and the company’s representatives. That agreement was announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio, who appointed Patchett to his job at EDC, Governor Andrew Cuomo, and Amazon’s John Schoettler, among others, on November 13, 2018.

After significant pushback to the deal from several local elected officials, community groups, and labor unions, Amazon decided to abandon the New York plan in a surprising announcement on last week, coinciding with Valentine’s Day. De Blasio immediately blamed the company for jumping ship without further negotiations, while Cuomo took on State Senate Democrats, especially lead Amazon critic Senator Michael Gianaris of Queens.

Preparing New Yorkers and the five boroughs for the jobs and companies of the future was the overarching theme of Patchett’s Crain’s appearance, which had been scheduled before Amazon pulled out of the deal. Patchett should have been reveling in the success of architecting the Amazon deal. But, as one moderator noted, “Instead of a coronation, you had a coronary.”

Patchett said fundamental misunderstanding of the deal between New York and the Seattle-based tech behemoth was to blame. “If you were reading the media, you would have thought that I was having drinks with some of my best friends, and they said ‘Why did you write them a check for $3 billion?’” he said. Many, including members of the media and regular citizens, “believed it was literally a cash transfer from the outset,” said Patchett. Instead, “Nothing was actually promised to the company,” Patchett said, in apparent reference to the roughly $2.5 billion in tax breaks involved, but ignoring the $500 million cash capital grant the company was to receive from the state. “What [the subsidies] were is a representation of existing state law which has long-sought to incentivize outer-borough commercial growth,” he said.

Patchett also cited other reasons he sees for the deal’s demise: Amazon’s lack of preparation to react to opposition to the announced Queens campus, the company’s representatives’ not performing “particularly well at their public hearings” (where they sat next to Patchett for questioning), and Amazon “never hired a single New Yorker to work for them, to talk to New Yorkers, and never really connected with people in the city”-- though the company did hire several city-based lobbyists.

The event, held by Crain’s New York Business, included remarks by Patchett followed by a question-and-answer session moderated by Crain’s assistant managing editor Erik Enquist and Spectrum News’ Michael Herzenberg. They waited only a few minutes to ask about the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez effect on defeating the deal, referring to the Congressional representative from Queens and the Bronx by her nickname and Twitter handle, “AOC.”

“Politics is obviously not my expertise, nor am I going to pretend it is,” said Patchett. “But I think it’s important to talk to local elected leaders. I don’t think the rollout here went as smoothly as it could have, I think that’s clear.” But he added, “I don’t think [the rollout] was a fatal flaw to the project.”

Moving to the larger economic outlook for the city, Patchett used cybersecurity as an example of a growing sector. Although it’s an industry with opportunities, New York is catching up to its growth potential through an EDC initiative, he said. “It has the real potential to be a win by protecting our current employers from cyber threats, and at the same time, growing a whole new crop of businesses,” Patchett explained. Cybersecurity sector growth is a key aspect of the mayor’s jobs plan he announced in June 2017 at a press conference at a cybersecurity firm in Manhattan.

He also stressed the need for expanding job growth outside of the central business district of Manhattan, something that has been a key priority for the city for years, and is at the heart of some of the tax breaks at play in the Amazon deal, which were designed broadly, not specifically for Amazon.

But when it came to “HQ2,” set for Queens, “Not enough people could see themselves in [Amazon’s] jobs,” said Patchett. “People like the idea of jobs, but until you make them real for people, they don’t associate with them. We need to do a better job of making people not just hear about jobs, but believe those would be the jobs that they would get.”

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‘So Poisoned and So Full of Misinformation’: City Economic Development Chief on How the Amazon Deal Fell Apart Thu, 21 Feb 2019 05:00:00 +0000
What’s The [Data] Point? $3.2 Billion, with James Patchett https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7417-what-s-the-data-point-3-2-billion-with-james-patchett https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7417-what-s-the-data-point-3-2-billion-with-james-patchett whats the data point


What's The Data Point? Episode 26 -- $3.2 Billion, with James Patchett [You can download What's The [Data] Point? wherever you get your podcasts, including on iTunes]

patchett and ben

James Patchett is the President and CEO of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, the city's nonprofit arm dedicated to spurring job and industry growth, managing special projects, and implementing certain infrastructure projects. Patchett joined the podcast to discuss the City's development strategy, tax breaks, NYC Ferry, and the BQX streetcar project, and to respond to a new Citizens Budget Commission report evaluating the City's approach to economic development.

Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think: Ben Max of GG (@TweetBenMax), Maria Doulis of CBC (@MariaDoulis), and guest James Patchett (@jbpatchett) of the Economic Development Corporation (@NYCEDC). Listen below or download wherever you get your podcasts!

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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What’s The [Data] Point? $3.2 Billion, with James Patchett Fri, 12 Jan 2018 05:00:00 +0000
Cautious Optimism Ahead of Hearing on Citywide Ferry Plan https://www.gothamgazette.com/government/5892-cautious-optimism-ahead-of-hearing-on-citywide-ferry-plan https://www.gothamgazette.com/government/5892-cautious-optimism-ahead-of-hearing-on-citywide-ferry-plan ferry DOT

(images: NYC DOT/EDC)


Mayor Bill de Blasio's proposed expansion of the city's ferry system, announced in February, appears to be one of the least politically controversial initiatives of his term. Ahead of a City Council hearing on the topic scheduled for Monday, no Council member has publicly opposed the plan, while some have loudly praised it.

But this support comes despite concerns from transit advocates that ferries may not be the most cost-effective form of transportation for New Yorkers and that other investments in buses or bike lanes should not be overlooked. Meanwhile, others like Staten Island Borough President James Oddo want the system expanded further.

The five planned ferry routes, connecting 21 locations in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens, will be rolled out in two phases in 2017 and 2018, according to the city's Economic Development Corporation (EDC). A sixth route to Staten Island is "proposed" but not part of the two phases or included in cost estimates. De Blasio said in February that rides would cost $2.75—the same as a subway or bus swipe, though MetroCards won't be accepted for payment—and that the system would bring residents of far-flung waterfront neighborhoods "closer to the opportunities they need."

"Beyond connecting residents to jobs in Manhattan, our new citywide ferry system will spur the development of new commercial corridors throughout the outer boroughs," de Blasio said during his State of the City speech.

One reason why the ferry plan is uncontroversial may be its relatively small size: its estimated 4.6 million riders per year by 2018 is less than the subway's average daily weekday ridership of nearly 5.6 million in 2014 (with 1.75 billion subway rides for the year). The boats' estimated $55 million price tag and $10 to $20 million annual operating subsidies are also a fraction of the city's $78.5 billion budget for the 2016 fiscal year.

"Because it's cheap, politicians can say they're pro-transit," Nicole Gelinas, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute think tank, said. "I think the bigger danger is neglecting other transit."

Few Concerns
Council members interviewed by Gotham Gazette were all supportive of the plan, which they say will provide a convenient mode of transportation in neighborhoods poorly served by subways.

"We are in a city with an existing transportation infrastructure that is at capacity...So we need additional alternatives," Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer of Queens said. His district includes Long Island City, which has seen tremendous residential development in recent years and will be served by one of the new stops.

At Monday's Council hearing, Van Bramer said he wants to "get a timeline on just when we can expect the landings to be sited, and when we can start service."

Council Member Ben Kallos of Manhattan's Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island said making sure the three stations planned for his district are moving forward is a "high priority."

The few concerns expressed about the current plan are oriented around the locations of landings. Residents at a recent community meeting in Long Island City were divided over where the neighborhood's stop should be: at Center Boulevard, close to waterfront high-rises, or at 44th Drive, less pedestrian-friendly but also less disruptive for a nearby boathouse.

Council Member Carlos Menchaca of Brooklyn said EDC should try to offer solutions to siting concerns as it implements the project. Menchaca represents the busy waterway neighborhood of Red Hook.

Ydanis Rodriguez, Council member for Washington Heights and Inwood and chair of the City Council transportation committee, said that he is looking forward to hearing more details about the plan from EDC—as well as promoting his own proposal for a ferry route along the west side of Manhattan.

"I believe ferries play an important role when it comes to identifying different modes of transportation," Rodriguez said in an interview with the Gotham Gazette. "I hope that in the near future, all the areas not included in the present plan will be included." Rodriguez will co-chair Monday's Council oversight hearing, dubbed "Evaluating the Plan for a Citywide Ferry System" on the Council website.

Staten Island Borough President James Oddo is also aboard the ferry plan, even though the first two phases of the plan will not reach his island and a sixth route has only been proposed for Stapleton, near the Staten Island Ferry's St. George terminal. Oddo said he's working to see if some sort of public or private service can one day reach other parts of the island.

"To me, it [ferries] doesn't take a great deal of capital investment in our borough," he said. "It's the quickest avenue Staten Islanders have to getting some help to their commutes."

Traffic engineer and former traffic commissioner "Gridlock" Sam Schwartz said that some of the issues he wants discussed at the Council include more details on expected ferry ridership, operating costs and fares, and integration with other forms of transit.

"I think it would be a mistake not to have as robust a ferry system as possible...as well as improving transit, bus, and rail," Schwartz told Gotham Gazette.

Cost and Control
Gelinas, of the Manhattan Institute, says an important question Council members should ask is how heavily the city should subsidize the ferry routes—especially if Mayor de Blasio sticks to his promise that each ride will cost the same as a MetroCard swipe.

"It really has to come down to a cost-benefit analysis of how many New Yorkers will benefit at what cost," Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, said. "Ferries are a great option, but it's an option that should only be considered after rail and bus options have become untenable." White's group advocates for expanding bike lanes and mass transit projects like Select Bus Service, or express bus lines.

A 2011 EDC study showed a subsidy-per-trip of $5.95 for the fare-free Staten Island Ferry and $21.22 for a pilot Rockaway ferry service launched in 2008.

"Some subsidy is reasonable," Gelinas said. "It will also depend on how much development we get [along the waterfront]...The more people you have, the lower the subsidy."

Manhattan Council Member Dan Garodnick, who will also co-chair Monday's meeting, said that officials from EDC will have to answer questions about the status of the project, costs, community input, and integration with the rest of the city's transit system. He said he wants riders to be able to use MetroCards for boat fares—something EDC has ruled out, saying the 23-year-old card will be soon phased out.

"Many of us are extremely enthusiastic about growing our ferry system," Garodnick said. "At the same time, we want to understand its cost and long-term viability."

Other Council members were more optimistic about ferry finances.

"This is another piece to the puzzle," Kallos said. "Despite initially low projected ridership, when you are speaking about the infrastructure we're building, and the cost of it...This is providing a lot more service to four or five boroughs, and it's improving people's commutes."

EDC representatives are expected to testify Monday and say that the plans for the ferry system are on track. The agency is currently reviewing responses to a request for proposals for a ferry operator and plans to integrate the East River Ferry operator into the new larger ferry system. Officials point to the successes of the East River Ferry as they imagine expansion of ferry service.

Rodriguez said that ferries are also particularly effective when natural disasters hit—a route between Manhattan and the Rockaways was established within days after Hurricane Sandy knocked out subway service to the neighborhood in 2012. He and Kallos also pointed that the ferry system would be completely under the city's control—unlike the MTA, which is state-run.

"Investing in our waterfronts and our ferry system is a way for our city to have strong accountability and control over our infrastructure," Kallos said.

Gelinas and White said that there are ways for the city to invest in transit without relying on the state. The 7 train's new 34th Street-Hudson Yards station, for example, was funded primarily by city tax bonds.

proposed ferry network

Waves Ahead?
Schwartz said political opposition to ferries may emerge as waterfront dwellers start to complain about the noise and pollution boats generate. Residents of Battery Park City have long complained about ferry horns in the early morning hours—required by Coast Guard regulations.

Noise was one of several concerns expressed by Long Island City residents at a recent community meeting on the ferry plan. But even there, most speakers said they want even more ferries to more destinations, not fewer.

With the current plan, "you're only serving part of the community," resident Rebecca Olinger said. "I think it's foolish to put something in that serves such a small part of the neighborhood."

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by Christian Zhang, Gotham Gazette
@ChristiZhang

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Cautious Optimism Ahead of Hearing on Citywide Ferry Plan Fri, 18 Sep 2015 15:51:58 +0000