Gotham Gazette

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Development

Baseball Stadium


 

Untitled Document

BASEBALL STADIUMS


Yankee Stadium


SkyDome (Rogers Centre)


SBC Park


PNC Park

Location:

South Bronx next to current ballpark

 

Toronto, Canada San Francisco, California Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Date: Spring 2009 (projected)  1989  2000  2001
Uses: New York Yankee baseball games  Toronto Blue Jays baseball games, Canadian football games, concerts and other events.  San Francisco Giants baseball games, concerts, other events.  Pittsburgh Pirates baseball games, concerts, job fairs, and other events.
Size: Seats 50,900 people  Seats 50,516  Seats 41,503 people  Seats 38,496 people
Projected Cost: $800 million $600 million (Canadian)  $319 million  $262 million
Public Cost: $300 million from New York City for a new Metro-North station. The city will also have to build parkland along the waterfront and better parking facilities around the stadium.  $262 million (Canadian)  Public land donated. Also $15 million in tax increment financing by the city, which the Giants must pay back to the city with interest.  $219 million ($143 million from city; $75 million from state).
Private Financing: $800 million for stadium paid for by Yankees  30 different corporations paid $5 million each and Canada’s three major breweries also contributed $5 million each.  $70 million for naming rights, advertising partnerships and other sources, another $70 million from the sale of charter seat licenses, and a $155 million loan to the Giants from Chase Securities.  $44 million from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Also $30 million over 20 years from PNC Bank for naming rights.
Voter Referendum? No  No  Yes  Yes. With 70 percent of the vote, citizens rejected a taxpayer-financed stadium.
At Issue: For years, the Yankees have tried in the past to build a new stadium, either on the west side of Manhattan or at the location for the proposed stadium at 161st Street. In the past, the Yankees have demanded large public subsidies, but now say they will pay for the stadium themselves. However, the team is still asking the city and state to pay $300 million for surrounding infrastructure. The Yankees and city officials say they will announce an agreement and more details in early May 2005. By the time the stadium was completed, it costs significantly more than predicted and the Ontario government was left responsible for the debt. The main issue in San Francisco was who should pay for the new stadium. In four referendums, voters rejected public financing for the ballpark. A fifth referendum in 1996 approved the Giants’ use of public land in China Basin to build the stadium with private financing. The Pacific Telesis Group paid $53 million in 1996 to name the ballpark Pacific Bell Park through 2019. SBC Communications bought the company and in 1997 changed the name of to SBC Park. In November 1997, voters in 11 counties rejected a plan to raise taxes to build a new stadium. City and state officials ignored the voters and built it with mostly with public funds. The city of Pittsburgh funded its $143 million share through a sales tax. Three-term Mayor Tom Murphy recently announced that he would not be seeking another term after 11 years of fights on the budget, stadiums, and economic development.
Benefits Promised:

The Yankees promise that the new stadium will also help create parkland, retail shops, and restaurants, and parkland for the South Bronx.

 City planners said they had learned their lesson after building Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, which has been called “Canada’s monument to mismanagement,” and promised to build a ballpark that would turn a profit.  Developers promised to build a privately financed stadium that would be accessible by public transit and help spur housing, retail, and restaurant development in the surrounding area.  One of the main objectives of the new ballpark was to keep the Pirates from fleeing to another city. It is also part of plan to revitalize downtown Pittsburgh; in addition to games, it hosts a variety of events and is surrounded by retail stores and restaurants.
Benefits Delivered:   The stadium has had financial difficulties in recent years. The ownership filed for bankruptcy protection in November 1998 and Sportsco International LP bought the stadium out of bankruptcy for $85 million CDN. In February 2005, Rogers Communications, the owner of the Blue Jays, bought the stadium for $25 million. The Toronto Argonauts, a Canadian football team, is now in negotiations to relocate to an outdoor stadium at York University in 2007. San Francisco’s ballpark is often hailed as the first privately funded ballpark built for Major League Baseball since Dodger Stadium opened in 1962. The stadium is accessible by numerous forms of public transit, including buses, streetcars, light rail, the Bay Area Rapid Transit System and ferry service. City officials boast of 6,000 apartments that have been created as a result. The Pirates stayed in Pittsburgh. The downtown area has seen some revitalization, but the city continues to struggle financially, raising taxes and laying off city workers.

 

 

New York's Proposed Stadiums and Arenas


* The proposed West Side stadium, and existing domed football stadiums

* The proposed Yankee stadium, and existing ballparks

* The proposed Brooklyn Nets arena, and existing arenas

* The mayors of Pittsburgh, Kansas City and San Francisco explain how they built their stadiums.

 

 

When Mayor Michael Bloomberg argues that the city should build a new stadium for the Jets football team, he often points to other cities like Atlanta or St. Louis. These cities already have domed stadiums like the one Bloomberg wants to build and have played host to the Super Bowl, the 1996 Olympics, monster truck rallies, and even a visit from the Pope.

“New Yorkers will be the big winners if this project becomes reality,” the mayor said.

But Mayor Bloomberg does not mention that these stadiums have not turned out to be as great a deal as officials initially predicted.

In Atlanta, an expanded center was met with a drop in attendance. In St. Louis, surrounding hotels are still empty. And he never mentions the Seattle King Dome - once the largest dome in the world - which suffered an even worse fate. In 2000, the aging structure was blown up even though the county still owed $125 million on it.

Closer to home, officials in New Jersey recently agreed to a new $750 million stadium for the New York Giants football team, even though the state will have to pay $30 million for surrounding roads and will still owe $124 million in debt on the old stadium. In Newark, the housing authority diverted $3.9 million in federal funds meant for low-income residents to a new arena designed to keep the Nets basketball team from moving to Brooklyn.

In the last 25 years, the nation has experienced a stadium and arena boom.

More than 50 stadiums or arenas have been built in the U.S. and Canada since 1990. And 12 baseball stadiums, nine football stadiums, and eight basketball arenas are being promised for the future, according to League of Fans, which was founded by Ralph Nader.

In New York City, six sports teams - the Jets, the Yankees, the Mets, the Knicks, the Rangers, and the (recently purchased) Brooklyn Nets - all want expensive new places to play.

While fans may argue that teams play a significant role in the life of a city, most economists agree that stadiums and arenas are bad public investments.

"By having a sports team or a new stadium or arena, you don't increase the level of per capita income, and you don't increase the level of employment," said Andrew Zimbalist, a professor of sports and economics. "There's no direct economic development of communities."

Some critics, such as those who run Web sites like www.fieldofschemes.com, see all of these sports complexes as boondoggles.

They point toward examples like PNC Park, a $262 million baseball stadium for the Pittsburgh Pirates, which was built mostly with taxpayer money, even after voters rejected it.

“I fundamentally don’t believe that the public ought to be investing in ballparks,” Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy said at a recent forum (read the full transcript). “That said, we have built a new football stadium, a new baseball park and a convention center, and we spent $1 billion. That’s reality; that’s the marketplace.”

But others argue there is a good way to build stadiums.

SBC Park, a baseball stadium in San Francisco, for example, was paid for almost entirely by the Giants. It is hailed as the first privately funded ballpark for Major League Baseball since Dodgers Stadium was built in 1962.

Not all stadiums are equal.

Football stadiums seat 75,000 people and if they have a roof can be used for other large indoor events as well. These facilities cost the most. (Click hereto see how the West Side stadium compares to other similar domes.)

Baseball stadiums are smaller, seating 35,000 to 50,000 people, and in addition to games can only be used for open-air events. (Click hereto see how the proposed Yankee stadium compares to other ballparks.)

Indoor arenas are used for basketball and hockey, seat around 20,000 people, and cost the least. (Click hereto see how the proposed Brooklyn Nets arena compares to other arenas.)

But when comparing New York’s proposed stadiums and arenas to others across the country, some things are clear:

  • New York’s sports venues would be by far the most expensive ever built
  • They depend on large subsidies by the taxpaying public
  • The city may be repeating mistakes that have been made elsewhere in the country.

See how New York’s stadiums and arenas match up (click below to get to the three grids):

* The proposed West Side stadium, and existing domed football stadiums.

* The proposed Yankee stadium, and existing ballparks.

* The proposed Brooklyn Nets arena, and existing arenas.

* The mayors of Pittsburgh, Kansas City and San Francisco explain how they built their stadiums.

Related Articles:
* New York Sports Economy
* Stadium Fever
* The 2012 Olympics and New York
* The West Side Stadium
* Bringing the Jets Home Dreaming of a Jets Stadium in Queens

Related Links:
* NewYorkGames.org
* New York Association of Better Choices
* Hell's Kitchen Online
* No Land Grab - Anti-Nets Arena Web Site
* Develop, Don't Destroy Brooklyn
* Field of Schemes
* League of Fans
* Ball Parks
* Stadiums of NFL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Balance on the Brooklyn Waterfront


Although we have more shoreline than practically any other metropolis in the United States, most New Yorkers are strangers to their waterfront. The development of industry and the advent of highways along the water’s edge have combined to block us from our city’s best asset.

Vibrant, diverse communities need affordable housing, public open space and distinctive urban design. A delicate balancing act is required to turn these simple ideals into realities. The place to renew this equilibrium is along the East River in north Brooklyn.

In Greenpoint and Williamsburg, factories, warehouses and vacant lots block the waterfront, depriving residents of access to some of the best views in the city. The city’s current rezoning plan for the area seeks to correct this and envisions bringing people back to the waterfront.

The plan calls for new affordable housing, parks and a 1.6-mile esplanade along the river. Private developers would build the residential buildings and adjacent sections of the waterfront esplanade. To finance this esplanade, developers would build larger than usual buildings with more apartments to sell or rent.

This might seem like a great deal: Without spending a dime of public money, the city gets waterfront access. But this model of development just doesn’t work. Across the Hudson in Jersey City, citizens have been waiting for the completion of their privately-funded public waterfront esplanade for more than 25 years.

Where separate, distinct sections of the esplanade have been built in Jersey City, public access is often difficult or restricted, and the large buildings form barriers between the neighborhood and the water. The kinds of activities and facilities that make a public waterfront inviting -- fishing, kayaking, playgrounds, food vendors, boat launches -- are shunned by private developers because of liability risks. Jersey City taught us a lesson in imbalance. Why make the same mistake in Brooklyn?

The precedent we fear is already being set. At one development known as Schaefer Landing, now under construction south of the Williamsburg Bridge, there will be two paths to the waterfront. One will connect to the luxury condominiums and will always be open. The other will be from the street and will be locked at dusk.

The rest of Brooklyn’s waterfront could be developed the same way. Even when the waterfront is built out, inland residents of Greenpoint and Williamsburg may find themselves locked out of Independence Day fireworks over the East River.

Now is the time to envision the future for this 1.6-mile stretch of East River shoreline. The City Council will vote on the rezoning plan as early as Monday, May 2. If the mayor and the council can work together to budget funding for the waterfront during this rezoning process, the city can begin acquiring the land now and setting a schedule for immediate development. A recent editorial in The New York Times suggested that the city "build the entire promenade, guaranteeing public access and uniform maintenance."

The city can get a jump start on its legacy by creating a local parks conservancy to help implement the vision, manage its development and raise funds for the esplanade and other area parks, like nearby McCarren Park. By removing some parcels of land from the rezoning and reserving them for new open spaces, both Greenpoint and Williamsburg will see benefits now and in the future.

Making an upfront investment in the city’s waterfront can bring the whole project back into balance, free up developers to invest more in affordable housing and reduce the need to build towers soaring to 40 stories. By making north Brooklyn’s waterfront public, we can ensure that local residents never have to pine for their native shores. This rezoning can give these neighborhoods something they have never known -- a truly public place at the water’s edge.

Kimberly Miller is the director of planning for the Municipal Art Society. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Anti-Moses And The First Community-Based Plan


These days the news gushes with claims about the presumed benefits of giant new development plans, like Hudson Yards and the Jets Stadium, Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, the Columbia University expansion, Olympics 2012, and the rebuilding of Lower Manhattan. But we do not hear the many more fascinating stories about community-created plans. These plans transformed entire neighborhoods by stopping redevelopment bulldozers and creating housing affordable to all residents. They confronted gentrification instead of creating it. The Planning Center of the Municipal Art Societyhas catalogued some 70 such community plans.

We are reminded of the first such community-based plan in New York City – The Cooper Square Plan -- by the death last month of Walter Thabit at his home on East 11th Street. He was 83.

Thabit was New York’s anti-Moses. In 1959 he helped found The Cooper Square Community Development Committee and Businessmen’s Association (now The Cooper Square Committee), which organized against and defeated a giant urban renewal plan proposed by the city’s official master builder Robert Moses that would have wiped out 11 blocks in the Lower East Side. The project would have displaced 2,400 tenants, 450 single room occupants, 4,000 homeless beds and over 500 businesses. City officials planned to turn over the land to a union-backed developer who would have created 2,900 units of middle-income housing. In 1961, after more than 100 community meetings, Thabit completed the Alternate Plan for Cooper Square, which proposed that the original residents of the area should be the beneficiaries and not the victims of urban renewal. Community leaders Frances Goldin, Esther Rand and Thelma Burdick were joined by many others over a period of almost 50 years to implement the community’s vision for a stable neighborhood affordable to people with modest incomes.

The Cooper Square Alternate Plan was the precocious pioneer of community-based planning, and its history of nearly half a century proves that gentrification can be beat if it’s confronted before it starts. The plan was inked fourteen years before community boards were started, two decades before community planning became a buzz, and three decades before the first community plan was approved by the City Council.

Today, much of the housing that was going to be demolished has been preserved for low-income tenants, and hundreds of new low-income housing units have been created. The last of the vacant urban renewal sites is now a construction site. Avalon Chrystie Place includes four buildings with 708 housing units, one-third of them for low-income households; 85,000 square feet of retail space; and a community and athletic center to be operated by the University Settlement and the Chinatown branch of the YMCA. When all of the housing is built, about 60 percent of the housing units in the 11-block urban renewal area will be for low-income people and remain so in perpetuity. This is better than any other urban renewal project of this size (with the exception of those that became 100 percent public housing) and even exceeds the goals of the original Cooper Square Plan.

Thabit’s Legacy To Community Planning

The New York Times shrank Walter Thabit’s lifelong contributions to community planning into a short obituary (April 4, 2005). In contrast, the press tips its hat every day to city officials like Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff whose visions of urban grandeur are often linked with the Robert Moses legacy. Perhaps Thabit, and the scores of community planners in the city who were his colleagues, are invisible because they are immersed in the inglorious, behind-the-scenes tasks that don’t wind up as splashy real-estate deals.

Thabit was a true professional. In the Alternate Plan for Cooper Square he methodically analyzed land use, social and economic trends, dutifully listened to what community residents and business people had to say, and transformed it all into a highly professional document that the Cooper Square Committee fought to have adopted. It took almost a decade, but the community’s plan was eventually accepted by the city. It then took more than another three decades of lobbying, protesting, and organizing to get it all done. Throughout this decades-long process Thabit selflessly contributed countless hours of his professional diligence.

Thabit also did planning in Morningside Heights and East New York. His book How East New York Became A Ghetto, published in 2003 by New York University Press, is a scathing critique of the role that racism plays in creating ghettos and destroying communities. In addition, he worked for the city at various times (a senior planner with the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission and with the Department of Transportation), taught in colleges, and ran his own planning firm in New York City for 17 years.

Thabit’s influence in the planning profession throughout the U.S. was substantial. He was one of the first in a generation of “advocacy planners” who worked with community groups fighting official plans that threatened to bulldoze low-income neighborhoods. In 1964, he founded and led Planners for Equal Opportunity (PEO), the first organization of professional planners that focused on questions of social equity and racial justice, which was eventually succeeded by the Planners Network.

A month before Thabit’s death, we lost another planning great – Yolanda Garcia, director of We Stay/Nos Quedamos in the Melrose section of the Bronx, who died at the age of 53. That they were not as well-known as the sundry real estate moguls in the city helps explain why New Yorkers pay so much attention to just a handful of mega-projects, and so little to their own communities. If the press would spend more time covering the rich heritage and continuing accomplishments of community planning, we all might get a better picture of the other options for the future of our city.

Tom Angotti is professor of urban affairs and planning at Hunter College, City University of NY, editor of Progressive Planning Magazine, and a member of the Task Force on Community-based Planning. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Homeless Count


An entry in the snarky blog Gawkerpointed last year to 5,000 new apartments planned for Manhattan as proof that there was no real housing crisis. I couldn’t help contacting the editors, asking them to consider that 5,000 new apartments in a city of eight million people is not proof of very much. I was told not to take their Web site so seriously.

It is hard not to take numbers seriously. They figure prominently in almost every policy debate, and seem to take over many discussions that involve housing. Statistics mold public opinion. In a few weeks, the city is planning to release one that is sure to get some attention – the number of homeless people in New York City.

Counting the homeless people in shelters can be done rather easily; counting the street homeless is difficult. The city tries to do it anyway, producing a “statistical estimate” after sending volunteers into one out of five neighborhoods. Its methods leave a lot to be desired, said Patrick Markee of the Coalition for the Homeless.

“I think our biggest problem all along has been the flawed methodology the city uses to produce the estimate,” Markee said. “People see those numbers and get an impression.”

This year, in a bid to bolster the credibility of that estimate, the city used decoys, college students disguised as homeless people, to test how well the volunteer counters actually counted.

But Markee believes the count itself simply distracts people from the real issues at hand -- the lack of supportive housing and the difficulty many people have getting into city shelters. On neither front, Markee said, has the city made any progress in three years.

Whatever the number winds up being, it is undoubtedly going to get more attention this year because of the coming mayoral election.

Housing Inspections

For several years the city and landlords have boasted of fewer housing code violations in buildings across the city. But in poorer neighborhoods, as I have pointed out before, buildings are often in very poor condition.

After more than a year of intense efforts by housing advocates, the city may finally adopt a more comprehensive inspection strategy. Rather than responding to tenant complaints, the city’s code enforcement agents would conduct regular inspections of buildings, from roof to cellar, in specific neighborhoods.

The city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development will inspect 30 buildings with violation problems in three council districts every two months, according to the new strategy. The Norwood News’ Heather Haddon reportedthis news in March.

Joe Lamport is the assistant director of the City-Wide Task Force on Housing Court, a coalition of community housing organizations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Waterfront Rezoning And Its Shortcomings


Some New Yorkers look at what is happening on the waterfront in Manhattan, with its ring of continuous public parkland, and think with glee: Some day the rest of New York will have this too.

But it is only in Manhattan that the public owns most of the shoreline, thanks to the claims of ownership by the early Dutch and English governments. Outside Manhattan, there is significantly less publicly owned waterfront land. As a result, absent the ability to attract $10 million or so to acquire a site for public use, each community must rely on the city's waterfront zoning rules to ensure that private waterfront development includes public access.

Waterfront zoning can be a powerful tool. It controls the placement of buildings on waterfront sites and requires public space along the water's edge and visual access to the water. But, despite the supposed force of law that zoning carries, there is little available for the city to enforce the rules once the buildings are built and occupied. There are many worst-case scenarios of public waterfront on private property - the poor maintenance along the Shore Parkway and virtually every pier in the City; the lack of security on every bridge walkway and beneath every elevated; and the locked gates at Shore Towers in Astoria and Waterside Plaza in Manhattan. On the waterfront, the economic instinct of the owner is to cater to the paying clientele, not the folks jogging past in knee high socks and tank tops. What good is foot traffic if they can't afford to buy anything?

Thus the enormous reaches of green space at the blue water's edge may remain out of reach.

This may be what happens at Greenpoint and Williamsburg. Much has been written about the rezoning of much of Greenpoint and Williamsburg, primarily along the waterfront. (See, for example, Tom Angotti's articlesin Gotham Gazette's land use topic page). To me, it represents everything that's right, and everything that's wrong, with land use planning for waterfronts in New York City.

It is right because the city is looking ahead to make better use of the waterfront, our most underutilized asset. It intends to commit $100 million upfront to the plan for the Greenpoint and Williamsburg waterfront, and hopes to create 2,500 affordable apartments.

But it's also wrong, for several reasons.

It ignores the history of the neighborhood as a manufacturing center, once home to a famous shipbuilding industry; the USS Monitor was built near Bushwick Inlet during the Civil War. A massive rope factory built around the same time on Newtown Creek is now the Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center, a world-renowned incubator for small woodworking and related crafts. The plans should do more to ensure that "Made in Brooklyn" is recognized around the world.

The rezoning plan for Greenpoint and Williamsburg neglects the potential uses of the water itself, doing little to encourage potential uses such as marinas and boat launches. While there is now greater access of water taxi-style ferry service, the rezoning plan does not recommend where those water taxi stops happen, or where connecting bus service might be made. For a waterfront land use plan, the transportation component seems largely unaddressed.

In a city where even enormous projects get reduced to a single angle - the West Side Stadium gets the press, the 59-block rezoning area around it gets ignored - the debate in Greenpoint and Williamsburg has focused almost exclusively on the affordable housing. Yet this may never come even close to being realized. "The incentives for developers to include affordable housing units may be so negligible to their bottom line," Councilmember David Yassky pointed out recently, that Bloomberg's expectation for 25 percent of the new housing to be affordable may be extremely optimistic.

Meanwhile, little has been made of the failure of this plan to ensure some public entity will address the maintenance needs and operating potential of this public space in the future. But to me, this is very telling. It means the plan is really designed for the real estate developers of the present moment, not for the future generations of community dwellers.

What most New Yorkers don't know is that when the city created sweeping waterfront zoning rules in 1993, most waterfront areas in residential neighborhoods were placed in low density zoning categories that will never have public access. Looking ahead, the huge expectations on the private sector to provide and maintain public amenities at the water's edge, will go just as unrealized as the affordable housing. Without a dedicated entity to oversee development, operating and maintenance, to ensure the waterfront gets rebuilt and remains public, this plan will fail to make sure that the waterfront belongs to the people, not simply those who can afford to live along its banks.

Carter Craft, an urban planner, is program director of the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big Projects And Bad News


It seems like a bad season for New York City megaprojects. The proposed BJs in the Bronx and Wal-Mart in Queens are history. The Jets stadium in Manhattan and Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn are facing new roadblocks every day. But even if all these projects were to join the pantheon of Big Apple deals that went rotten, what follows in their wake could be more of the same. The groups who oppose these projects because of the impacts they would have on surrounding communities still have to live with land use and zoning rules that make possible the emergence of new versions of the same old deals.

BJs and Wal-Mart

Organized labor was a key force in killing the proposals for a BJs in the Bronx and Wal-Mart in Queens even before they got to the formal approval stage. The labor practices of these retail giants would have lowered the wage bar for the entire retail economy. But labor paid very little attention to the land use and environmental impacts of big box stores and could very well look the other way when the next megastore proposal hits the streets. They’ve already taken the heat off the Rego Park developer who was going to play host to Wal-Mart. The alternative to Wal-Mart in Rego Park and elsewhere is likely to be a different brand of suburban-style mall with the same acres of parking and traffic snarls, a mammoth building that looks like a fortress, and price gouging practices that undermine local businesses. The city’s land use regulations allow such planning disasters that destroy public spaces, undermine public transit, endanger pedestrians, and destroy neighborhoods.

The zoning code is crying out for an overhaul to deal with these issues. The idea of a one-year moratorium on new superstores that’s being proposed by some City Council members makes sense because it would give the City Planning Department and City Council time to come up with sensible rules that require giant retailers to adapt to our cosmopolitan city of developed neighborhoods. The City Council should also require that all large-scale projects be consistent with official neighborhood plans.

Reports are that Wal-Mart is cruising for another New York City site and this time could come with its guns loaded. Since the demands of labor and their allies don’t extend to neighborhood impacts, Wal-Mart could make a few concessions to mollify labor critics so they can get their foot in New York’s door. The world’s biggest retail corporation could buy neighborhood support in areas long neglected by the city and private sector. Neighborhoods like Red Hook in Brooklyn are vulnerable because the city has let huge swaths of industrially-zoned land sit vacant for decades. Ikea already plans to take over a chunk of prime waterfront land to sell its tables and chairs. Red Hook and outer-borough neighborhoods like it could get inundated with megastores, creating weekend traffic jams and environmental disasters in once-quiet communities.

Another scenario is that Wal-Mart and its competitors will follow the example of the Chelsea Home Depot and limit themselves to sites where customers have to use mass transit or walk. These stores can add to the city’s lively sidewalk culture instead of killing it. But the city’s land use and zoning policies don’t encourage such comfortable fits.

The Jets Stadium

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has opened up its Hudson Yards site on the west side of Manhattan to competitive bidding and put aside for the moment the deal with the Jets football team to build their stadium there. State legislative leaders have declared that any plan for the Hudson Yards site requires their approval. Local community and business groups could hold up the stadium proposal in court long after July of this year, when the International Olympic Committee will decide whether New York will be the site of the 2012 Olympics.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg could have overplayed his hand on the stadium when he insisted on linking approval of the Jets stadium to the city’s Olympics bid. He could still decide to cut his losses and announce before July that the Olympics stadium will be in Queens (though a few Queens neighborhoods may have something to say about this), or he could privately assure the Olympic committee that he’ll switch to Queens later on if he has to. But right now he’s painted himself into a corner by declaring that it’s Hudson Yards or bust.

The Nets Arena

Since the Metropolitan Transportation Authority set a precedent by calling for competitive bidding on the Hudson Yards site, how can they make a sweetheart deal with Forest City Ratner for the Atlantic Yards site in Brooklyn? This logical question has punctured the public debate about Ratner’s idea of putting a 19,000-seat Nets basketball arena, at least 4,500 apartments and a million square feet of office space over an active rail yard and surrounding blocks. Ratner is facing stiff community opposition, could have trouble fulfilling his promises to the local groups that support him, and may have to take a look at an alternative plan put together by his critics.

Added to all of this are all the unanswered questions about financing these huge projects. The public tab for the Manhattan stadium, including direct and indirect subsidies, could reach in the billions. A recently released study of the Atlantic Yards project by the Pratt Institute Center for Community & Environmental Development guesses that deal could cost taxpayers another billion. And all this coincides with an announcement that $1.3 billion will be cut from the School Construction Authority. More city schools will go without athletic facilities and childhood obesity will spread while season ticket-holders for the Jets and Nets get comfortable seats. In the meantime, the City Council is now considering bills that would require council approval for all subsidies, prevent the use of the city’s capital funds for land acquisition, and require that payments in lieu of taxes go into the city’s general revenue fund. This latter item could limit the use of the mayor’s “creative” financing approachthat would rob the city budget to pay back bonds to finance the megaprojects.

So it’s bad news time for big projects. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think bigness is necessarily bad. The problem is that the city doesn’t plan in partnership with its neighborhoods to deal with new development, large and small. The big projects just have much bigger impacts and the consequences of poor planning are more dramatic. Too many giant projects are driven by corporate developers that have rigid business plans and suburban-style designs, and at best buy off potential opposition with meaningless promises and palliatives. How about having community plans that incorporate the kind of new development that’s needed? Let the giants conform to our rules if they want to play in our ballfield. That way New Yorkers and not the Nets can control their destiny.

Tom Angotti is Professor of Urban Affairs and Planning at Hunter College, City University of NY, editor of Progressive Planning Magazine, and a member of the Task Force on Community-based Planning. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Community Development Funding Cuts Under The New Bush Budget


Last month the Bush Administration released its fiscal year (FY) 2006 budgetand, as expected, it wasn’t particularly kind to many programs that professionals in the community development field hold near and dear.

Facing a projected 2005 federal deficit of $425 billion, the president’s budget proposes to eliminate or reduce funding for 150 federal programs, thereby cutting the deficit by about $20 billion. An additional $196 billion in cuts are proposed for the years 2007 and 2010, although they are not yet detailed.

Inefficiently Run Programs

Using the Program Assessment Rating Tool(PART), a process developed by the Office of Management and Budget to evaluate the effectiveness of federal programs, the administration concluded that many community development institutions “are not getting results, or duplicate current efforts, or do not fulfill essential priorities”.

As a result, the administration’s budget recommended that 18 community development programs, previously housed under Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Agriculture, Treasury, Health and Human Services and the Commerce Department, all be consolidated under a new Commerce Department entity called the “Strengthening America’s Communities (SAC)” (In PDF Format) initiative.

The FY 2006 budget, which begins in October of this year, proposed to fund this initiative at $3.71 billion. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the programs slated for consolidation received a total of $5.3 billion in 2005. Over the next four years, New York State is projected to lose $860.4 million in funds for community development programs.

Denying Entitlement

Across the country, constituencies that have a large stake in the programs targeted by these cuts are lining up to oppose the president, claiming that Strengthening America's Communities is just a smokescreen for Bush’s desire to dismantle what’s currently left of the federal community development support system.

For instance, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the official nonpartisan organization of U.S. cities with populations over 300,00, is protesting Bush’s targeting of the largest community development funding area, the Community Development Block Grant(CDBG).

The Community Development Block Grant, which was created in 1974 to address the community development needs of low-income people and is one of the oldest Housing and Urban Development programs, is a poster child for the sort of “big government” entitlement program that Bush seeks to include in the Commerce Department consolidation. Roughly $4 billion in these funds currently go to cities nation-wide. More than $200 million of that is distributed through 22 different agencies in New York City.

The federal government gives municipalities the discretion to distribute these block-grant funds to broadly defined areas of community development activity. In New York City over half of these funds are designated for “housing” and administered by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). HPD uses these monies mainly to support, improve and protect affordable housing for low-income families.

The city uses the rest of this money to fund a disparate range of programs including subsidized family day care, the administration of public facilities and City Planning. A small amount, no more than three percent, goes towards “economic development” activities like supporting small business development on neighborhood commercial strips.

Molly Wasow Park of the New York City Independent Budget Office, observed that it would be inaccurate to depict the President’s proposal as merely a shuffling around of community programs. “The President’s plan”, says Park, “would effectively eliminate the Community Development Block Grant and replace it with a smaller grant with very different funding priorities”.

Although Park warns that it is much too early to know what those new priorities will be, she speculates that the Bush Administration under Strengthening America's Communities would probably end up shifting block grant monies to “economic development” activities, which right now in New York City takes the form of neighborhood commercial strip revitalization.

In a possible sign of things to come, the Strengthening America’s Communities initiative proposal includes an “Economic Development Challenge Fund”. This fund represents a bonus grant program for low-income “development-ready” communities that, in the Bush administration’s words, “have already taken steps to improve economic conditions by meeting No Child Left Behind goals, reducing regulatory barriers to business creation and housing development and reducing violent crime rates.”

Community Development Lending

Traditional entitlements and war-on-poverty era social programs are not the only items on the president’s chopping block. So too are programs like the Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) Fund, which makes investments in institutions such as small, neighborhood-run credit unions, so that they can extend credit, savings products and other financial services to low- and moderate income people. The loan fund is currently run by the Treasury Department and was created by welfare-reform minded Bill Clinton with bipartisan support. Clinton used the fund to help usher in a more market-based, individual asset-building approach to federal anti-poverty programming.

In New York City there are 42 such institutions, which have received $45 million from the fund over the last decade. Mark Pinsky, president of the National Community Capital Association, a network of private-sector community development financial institutions that provides financing, training and advocacy, estimates that these funds have helped leverage an additional $1 billion in funds from other sources.

Pinsky predicts that the cuts in the fund will serve to undermine the community development financial institution infrastructure in NYC. He doesn’t deny that the fund and other programs included in the consolidation could stand to be improved in some ways, but says that the Bush administration’s wholesale claim that these programs are inefficient represents what he calls “popcorn policy. There’s a kernel of truth surrounded by a lot of hot air.”

The President’s budget even drew criticism when he didn’t propose cuts. For instance, although the administration offered an overall 2.4 percent increase for the Small Business Administration over current funding levels, the Microbusiness Journalnoted that close to half of that agency's budget has been cut since Bush took office and quoted the House Small Business Committee Member Nydia Velazquez as saying “What was once a Cabinet level agency that had a seat at the table, a $1 billion budget, and a large role in the decision-making process – has sadly become the shell of an agency.”

Ominous Signs

Theoretically, the president’s budget, for the time being at least, is merely an expression of the administration’s national priorities. It is Congress that will most likely determine the final budgetary outcome. In the past Bush has proposed a series of cuts to community development programs only to have many of them restored, at least in part, by Congress.

But no matter how the budget process progresses over the next few months, many see the president’s budget as an unwelcome sign. Dawn Rivers Baker, editor of the Microbusiness Journal, commented that "President Bush has an interesting way of supporting community development: cutting most of its funding. It's difficult to say at this point how much Congress is going to go along with but it seems pretty clear that community development organizations are going to have to look increasingly to their state and local governments, and to private sector donations, to make up for the federal funding they are likely to lose in the coming years."

It is unclear how New York City in particular, which voted overwhelmingly for Kerry in the last election, figures in the Bush administration’s plans. In an indication that Bush is looking to redistribute funds away from bastions of east coast liberal politics like New York, his Opportunity Zones, a new small business tax incentives program, is aimed at mid-western industrial areas whose economies are “in transition”.

In another ominous sign for New York, a White House description of the Strengthening American Communities, in making the case for dramatic change, complains that under the current system “many communities no longer in need of assistance continue to receive funding.” As a result, Bush’s budget proposes to change the eligibility criteria for community development block grant funds from overcrowding and advanced housing age, to job loss and unemployment, a shift which would most likely favor other areas over New York City.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NYCMap


NYCMap is pronounced "nice map," according to city officials, who have spent $20 million of the taxpayers' money so far on this computerized mapping project. But, though the public paid for it, this really cool map is largely unavailable to the public. Some people think that is not very nice.

Maps are probably older than written language, the first maps dating back at least 5,500 years ago. Maps changed radically some five centuries ago at the onset of the age of exploration, changed again with aerial photography and again with space flight. Over the last 20 years, there has been another revolution in mapping technology, which has changed the way large cities function.

In any large city, every city agency, whether sanitation, or transportation or health, produces whole libraries of maps; how can construction crews lay new wires if they don't know what's there already? Too often, though, the maps used in different corners of the city government haven't quite corresponded with one another, resulting in…municipal chaos.

The new computer-generated "geographic information systems" reside in powerful databases that can hold a unified picture of all of the different layers of geography and infrastructure that make up a major city. That includes everything from bedrock and bodies of water, to gas mains and sewer tunnels, to tax lots and bus routes.

NYCMap is just such a system, one of the most sophisticated in the world. And therein lies the dilemma: How dangerous is it to let the public see the world-class map its tax dollars made possible? Access to NYCMap is tightly regulated, for fear the detailed urban plan could aid a terrorist attack.

Critics think this is wrong.

"Access to NYCMap should be free," said Gary Ostroff, vice president of Community Cartography, at a recent hearing of the City Council's Technology in Government Committee. "We live in a democracy. The government has no business collecting information it doesn't need, and if it does collect it, the information must be made public. … There should not be a monopoly on the holding of that data."

Work on NYCMap began in 1996, using a method of precise aerial photography which places geographic features like pavement edges and building footprints within two feet of their real position. About 7,500 photos were digitally dissected to produce a computerized "base map" of all five boroughs that charts everything from streets and buildings to subway entrances and manhole covers. The first version of NYCMap was completed in 1999. By 2004 the city had spent about $20 million on the project.

NYCMap provides a foundation for plotting and analyzing almost any kind information about the city: census data, demographic trends, crime statistics, school performance, voting patterns, etc. Map users can turn layers of information on or off as needed. For instance, a police department planner might want a neighborhood map that shows precinct lines, hospitals, schools, and crime statistics. A health official worried about West Nile virus in the same neighborhood might hide the precinct lines and crime stats, and show bodies of water instead.

City agencies and approved contractors can access the core NYCMap database to build their own applications on top of it. According to Marsha Kaunitz, director of Citywide GIS at the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, city agencies have created custom applications as diverse as mapping crime statistics, managing construction activities, dispatching emergency responders, and tracking sanitation trucks.

However, average New Yorkers have no direct access to the high-tech map they paid for. The city maintains two public Web sites built on NYCMap: the New York City Map Portal, and a site called My Neighborhood Statistics. Both sites will map an address and display some public information about the area. But neither service lets citizens see the detailed aerial photographs that NYCMap contains.

Most important, private citizens are prohibited from downloading the raw data that would let them invent new uses for NYCMap. A small real-estate broker might want to analyze the data to decide which neighborhoods to invest in, for instance. A senior citizens center might need it to design a program that shows their members the best way to get to public facilities near their homes, taking into account the special transportation needs of the elderly. An academic might hope to study gentrification patterns. Under current rules, none of them have access unless they become licensed as approved vendors to the city.

At the City Council hearing, mapping experts and community advocates agreed that the general public should not be able to see maps of sensitive infrastructure, such as gas mains and the electrical grid. But they said much of the information being held back by the city is not dangerous, and is already available in other public databases or visible to any pedestrian on the street.

"There is a burden to make the case" for restricting each layer of NYCMap, said Alan Leidner, a former director of Citywide GIS, who has been called the father of the city's mapping efforts. "There has got to be a specific reason why that particular layer is considered dangerous and another is not." He also pointed out that the licensing system gives incumbent contractors with access to NYCMap a strong advantage over challengers in designing bids for new work from the city.

Other cities around the world let the public have the kind of information New York City holds back. Residents of both Boston and Philadelphia, in fact, can see detailed aerial photos of their neighborhoods and download the raw data to build their own maps. The State of New York also lets the public download raw map data -- for any county outside of New York City, that is.

"We understand that other cities such as Boston and Philadelphia enjoy less restrictive policies than ours," Marsha Kaunitz testified at the council hearing. "However it is important to note that New York City is unique, both in the specificity of the data contained within our base map and in the level of risk we operate under."

Councilmember Gale Brewer, chair of the Technology in Government Committee, asked Kaunitz to publish a clear policy for what data is available and how interested parties can petition to use it. Later, she promised to keep pursuing the issue of widening access to NYCMap. "We will not let this go away," she said.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Avoiding Eviction; Also, Landlords Lose A Case, Sort Of


Two things happened in the Bronx recently that could affect housing throughout the city.

The first was the launching of a new program to prevent homelessness, focusing on providing tenants an attorney at Housing Court. The second was the end of a contentious lawsuit filed by landlords against tenant organizers.

ANTI-EVICTION PROGRAM

A new effort to prevent homelessness by offering both social and legal services at Housing Court has been launched as a pilot project in the Bronx, the first of its kind in the nation.

“We’re hoping to solve a problem,” said Judge Fern Fisher, the administrative judge of the Civil Court of the City of New York. The problem is the record numbers of homeless people in city shelters. “At some point, some of those people were evicted at Housing Court.”

The new “Housing Help Program” targets the Bronx’s 10451 zip code, which covers much of Mott Haven. About 5,000 people were evicted from their homes in Mott Haven in 2004 of about 23,000 total evictions citywide.

As many as 20 percent of people in city shelters have experienced an eviction. While an eviction may not have been the immediate cause of their homelessness, the fact that so many have had cases in Housing Court makes it a natural place to focus homelessness prevention efforts, Fisher said.

As I wrote in October, the new program is being spearheaded by the United Way of New York City, which is providing about $1 million to finance it, in collaboration with other non-profits and several city agencies.

The program was one recommendation that came from a panel of housing and homelessness experts brought together by the United Way last year. The panel concluded that homelessness had three central interrelated causes 1) a shortage of affordable transitional and supportive housing, 2) economic hardship by NYC’s low-income working families, and 3) unmet needs of highly vulnerable populations.

In the Mott Haven area, people tend not to get help when they face housing problems, in part because social and legal services are limited. The neighborhood was chosen, too, because it sends proportionally more people to homeless shelters than many other neighborhoods. The program expects to assist about 650 families over a year, its collaborators said.

Now, when people from that zip code end up in Housing Court they will have the opportunity to participate in the program as long as their income is less than 185 percent of the federal poverty level (about $34,870 for a family of four).

The residents of 10451 will go through a separate intake process at the court, avoiding the often-long lines that plague Bronx Housing Court. If they decide to participate, their legal and social situations will be assessed. The services will continue outside of court, back in their neighborhood, where the organization Women in Need will follow up offering assistance to address specific problems, like providing job training and referring people for mental health services.

A single judge, Jaya Madhavan, will hear the cases involving residents of 10451 in a special courtroom that has been set up next to the court’s resource center. Madhavan was selected for the one-year assignment because he is a relatively new judge with a small caseload.

Offering more complete services to people at Housing Court will prevent evictions because evictions rarely have just one cause, said representatives from the agencies working on the Housing Help Program.

“There are a lot of things going on for a family that can bring on a housing crisis,” said Jo Gonsalves, director of affordable housing and homelessness programs for the United Way of New York City. Obvious problems that lead to Housing Court cases, like unemployment, often are joined by other issues: domestic violence, mental health problems, substance abuse and others.

“We’ve put together a program for families, who are stressed and frustrated and overwhelmed with the prospect of losing their homes,” she said of people who find themselves summoned to Housing Court by their landlords. “We don’t just offer legal services, we offer social services, which are right on site.”

Gonsalves said three principles guide the program:

Accessibility -- providing services right at the court and in the community; Responsiveness -- addressing the “full range of family needs, rather than a single problem at a time”; and, “Continuity of care,” -- helping families until their situations are stabilized.

“We’re very enthusiastic about this program,” said Steven Telzak, the interim project director for Legal Services for New York-Bronx. He said the court-based approach would allow legal service and social service providers to tackle the problems that have led to a Housing Court case. “We’ll leverage that (housing) crisis to help them in other ways,” he said.

Fisher said the collaborative effort that led to the new program reflected a wider view of homelessness than the court sees.

“We should be a full partner in solving societal problems,” she said.

By providing legal representation to people at Housing Court, even if for only one zip code, the program fulfills one long-time wish of many advocates. People who represent themselves in Housing Court, as almost 90 percent of tenants do compared to about 10 percent of landlords, often learn too late what “adversarial” really means when the word is used to describe the American legal system.

While many tenants can and do defend themselves in Housing Court cases, they are pitted against experienced attorneys representing landlords. Many tenants do not learn quickly enough how to defend themselves and an aggressive landlord’s attorney can use the traumatic thought of losing one’s home to good effect against a tenant.

Fisher said the program would reinforce the view that legal representation makes a difference and, if successful, give advocates ammunition to push for replicating it elsewhere and to lobby for a right to counsel at Housing Court.

“We want to show people that this is what works,” Fisher said. “That this is what it takes to prevent homelessness. When we have successes in programs like this” the value of legal representation will be clear.

Advocates in the Bronx reacted positively to the news of the program, but viewed it cautiously.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” said Andrew Laiosa of the Neighborhood Initiatives Development Corporation, a community-based organization in the Bronx. But he questioned the efficacy of using $1 million to service one area.

“It’s taking a lot of resources to service 650 families, or so,” he said. “It’s a strange strategy given the circumstances,” he added. The circumstances are significant cuts to rent subsidies, the lack of affordable housing and the continued rise in rents across the city, including the Bronx.

LANDLORDS LOSE A CASE – OR DO THEY?

The settlement reached in a lawsuit filed by landlords against tenant organizers who had worked in a building on Woodycrest Avenue in Highbridge also drew mixed reviews from advocates, organizations that support them and the landlords.

Landlords filed the lawsuit in 2003 after tenant organizers had begun working with tenants to compel their landlord to fix the building’s many problems. The landlords alleged that organizers had prevented them from refinancing a mortgage with Washington Mutual bank, had defamed the landlords and had trespassed in the building. The organizers had published and distributed a variety of flyers and met with the building’s tenants several times.

The case brought apparently unwelcome attention to Frank Palazzolo, a landlord who owns dozens of buildings in the Bronx although his financial connections to the buildings are often hidden. The city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development launched an investigation of Palazzolo’s control of buildings in the Bronx as a result. The investigation is pending.

The landlords were seeking $1.5 million in damages, but ultimately abandoned all of their claims. The settlement indicates that landlords are withdrawing their suit “with prejudice,” meaning they will not seek to re-file it later. They will post flyers in the building indicating that organizers can come back in the building.

“I think it says that tenants in a neighborhood like Highbridge have powerful and strong advocates on their side in their struggle to make their housing better,” said Edward Phelan, executive director of the Highbridge Community Life Center, one of the community organizations named in the suit.

But Jackie del Valle, the lead organizer, said the settlement might simply encourage other landlords to file similar suits in the future.

The landlords “were clearly not able to get a victory out of this,” del Valle said. “They spent a lot of time and money on this court case, which they could have used for the building. However, they did hold up organizing work and compromised Highbridge’s mission.

“Organizers prevailed, but I don’t think that they prevailed as strongly as they could have.”

A woman who answered the telephone number indicated on the flyers that announce the settlement to tenants but who refused to identify herself said the settlement was a fair resolution but did not signal a defeat for the landlords.

“We were working with the tenants,” the woman said. “The building was already in the process of being repaired. We felt we had no choice but to” file the lawsuit.

The lawsuit was filed as a way to impede organizers’ efforts, the woman said, because those efforts were preventing the landlords from making repairs. She did not indicate what exactly organizers were doing to prevent the repairs.

“We felt we needed the opportunity to finish the repairs in the building,” she said. “They were interfering too much. So we felt we needed them to back off so we could complete the repairs.”

Joe Lamport is the assistant director of the City-Wide Task Force on Housing Court, a coalition of community housing organizations.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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