After months of squabbling over who’s responsible for funding repairs and expansions of NYC’s transit system, Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio reached an agreement on Saturday to keep the MTA’s $26.1 billion, five-year capital plan on track. The state will put in $8.3 billion and the city $2.5 billion (much more than de Blasio’s original $657 million planned contribution). However, Cuomo was clear that their commitment won’t come from increasing taxes and that he’s confident the money can be found in the existing state budget. The city, too, said it would not raise taxes, but rather take $1.9 billion from city funds and the rest from sources that could include development rights or rezoning. The agreement still leaves the MTA $700 million short of its total, but the agency hopes to close the gap by finding “further efficiencies.”
Image © Daniel Fleming
Eminent domain, defined as “the right of a government or its agent to expropriate private property for public use,” is typically enacted to build projects such as bridges, highways, or schools. But the De Blasio administration plans to use it to erect an amusement park. According to the Post, the city is “frustrated by stubborn Coney Island landowners” and “plans to seize property under the city’s rarely used power of eminent domain in order to spur long-stalled economic development in the People’s Playground.” The land in question is three vacant beachfront sites and two smaller adjacent sites on West 12th and West 23rd Streets that total 75,000 square feet, largely comprised of the 60,000-square-foot site where the original Thunderbolt once stood (immortalized in Woody Allen’s “Annie Hall”). Under the plan, the Parks Department will oversee new amusements and amenities, details of which haven’t been shared.
Image via Wiki Commons
Today, proponents of building more supportive housing will meet with the de Blasio administration to convince them that New York is in dire need of 35,000 new housing units statewide—and both the state and city should fund it. Currently, there are over 80,000 individuals without homes, including a number here in the city who are employed but still have salaries too small to afford NYC’s skyrocketing rents. While there has been plenty of talk about how the issue needs remedying, action has yet to be taken. In an op-ed written this morning for Crain’s, Enterprise Community Partners‘ Judi Kende sounds off on why, though we may think that building all these homes is way too expensive, ignoring the problem will cost us more financially in the long run.
Historic brownstones in Brooklyn Heights via City Realty
The war wages on between the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) and citywide preservationists. Many thought the contention between the groups over whether or not historic districts lessen affordable housing was a personal sentiment of former REBNY president Steven Spinola. But his successor John Banks has released a new report that claims landmarking doesn’t protect affordable housing.
The report looks at the number of rent-stabilized units in landmarked and non-landmarked districts between 2007 and 2014, finding that “citywide, landmarked properties lost rent stabilized units (-22.5%) at a much higher rate (-5.1%) than non-landmarked properties.” Of course preservationists quickly fired back. Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP) calls the study “bogus” and says it does nothing to address how many units would have been lost had these areas not been landmarked.
Map courtesy of the Times Square Alliance
It looks like Mayor de Blasio’s wish of coralling the costumed characters and topless performers in Times Square may be coming true. The Daily News reports that the Times Square Alliance has endorsed the “Times Square Commons” plan, which Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Councilmen Daniel Garodnick and Corey Johnson publicized in an op-ed in the paper yesterday.
The proposal would rezone Times Square’s pedestrian plaza so that instead of being mapped as a street it would become a special district called Times Square Commons. This area would be divided into three zones: general civic zones, which would feature tables and chairs and arts events; pedestrian traffic flow zones, areas to walk with no physical obstructions; and the aforementioned designated activity zones, small slivers of space that “would allow any activity involving the immediate exchange of money for goods, services or entertainment.”
Early last month, we reported that building permits were soaring to levels not seen since the 1960s. Now Crain’s tells us that the trend has taken a sharp decline with permits plunging a whopping 90 percent from June. The numbers, which were pulled from the latest stats released by the U.S. Census Bureau, point to changes in the very generous tax breaks provided by the 421-a tax abatement program as the culprit.
New Yorkers can’t stop talking about Mayor de Blasio’s idea to rip out Times Square’s pedestrian plazas, just six years after they were put in place under the Bloomberg administration. As a way to rid the tourist destination of “jiggly panhandlers,” both the Mayor and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton have suggested opening Times Square back up to vehicular traffic. But are they remembering the years when the Midtown intersection was a car-filled hellscape? In fact, city data shows that traffic accidents and casualties are down since the plazas were implemented in 2009. And while these statistics speak volumes to some, others feel that a few more fender benders and a little gridlock are a small price to pay for an improved quality of life. Which side are you on?
In her middle years, Clark liked to take “self portraits” of herself at home; here, in her Fifth Avenue apartment. Photo: Estate of Huguette Clark from EmptyMansionsBook.com
Copper heiress Huguette Clark did not live the life of luxury like so many other wealthy New Yorkers in her shoes. The famously reclusive figure died in 2011 at the age of 104, but instead of spending her last 20 years in her palatial, Gilded-Age co-op at 907 Fifth Avenue (which was filled to the brim with her doll, dollhouse, and art collections), she decided to live in a tiny hospital room at Beth Israel. Clark admitted herself to the hospital in 1991 for operable skin cancer, but then refused to leave.
According to Gothamist, her estate, “made up of nineteen of Huguette’s distant relatives, a private foundation in Huguette’s name, and the Corcoran Gallery in Washington D.C.,” didn’t buy the hospital’s story and sued Beth Israel in 2013 for $95 million. The suit claimed the hospital spent millions of dollars on unnecessary medical care and by forming “fake friendships” with the heiress who was known for writing out checks on a whim to people she just met. However, last week, Manhattan Surrogate Court Justice Nora Anderson ruled that the statute of limitations had run out on the case.
There are a lot of nuisances to be found in Times Square, but apparently for Mayor de Blasio, none are as bothersome as the topless women and aggressive Elmos traipsing around the area’s overly lit streets. As the NYDN reports, de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton have formed a special task force aimed at ridding the bustling tourist destination of its “jiggly panhandlers.” And the solution at the top of their list is tearing up the pedestrian plazas and letting cars back in.
Photo via Wiki Commons
According to a new report from the Daily News, for every affordable apartment offered through the city’s housing lotteries since 2013, there were 696 applicants, leaving you with a measly 0.14 percent chance of being selected. “All told, there were 2.9 million applications for 4,174 affordable units available from 72 lotteries run by the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD),” says the News, yet another signifier that average New Yorkers are struggling to pay ever-increasing rents.