Earlier in the month, 6sqft shared news of a detailed proposal from non-profit advocacy group Friends of the Brooklyn Queens Connector that called for a Brooklyn-Queens streetcar line to connect “underserved, but booming” areas of the boroughs. The city must’ve been listening, because Mayor de Blasio is expected to announce today in his State of the City speech that he’ll be backing such a proposal. Like the original scheme, the city’s plan will run 16 miles along the East River, from Astoria to Sunset Park, but at a projected cost of $2.5 billion, it will be significantly more expensive than the previous estimate of $1.7 billion, but significantly less than a new underground subway. Not only would the streetcars serve bustling commercial hubs like the Brooklyn Navy Yard and Long Island City, but they’d provide access for about 45,000 public-housing residents.
Bill de Blasio
Gracie Mansion will reopen for public tours starting next month, and visitors will be welcomed with a new, diverse art collection. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Mayor Bill de Blasio’s wife wanted the art and objects inside the 1799 home where her family now lives—one of the oldest surviving wooden structures in New York City—to be a broader and more accurate reflection of the city as it looked in the late 1700s and early 1800s.” She therefore brought in 49 new works that include “portraits of freed slaves, historic documents, imported goods and items traded to American Indians.” The new installation is called “Windows on the City Looking Out at Gracie’s New York” and will be unveiled at an open house on October 25th.
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.”
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.”
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.
In a historic decision made last night, the Rent Guidelines Board voted 7-2 last night to freeze rents for the first time on one-year leases for New York City’s more than one million rent-stabilized apartments. The board, entirely appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, also moved to increase rents on two-year leases by just two percent, the lowest in the board’s 46-year existence. The decision follows last week’s lackluster vote at the state level to only extend but not strengthen rent regulations. “Cuomo betrayed us, the RGB can save us,” tenants chanted at the meeting.
The revitalization of East New York is at the center of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s affordable housing plan, but like his ambitious Sunnyside Yards project, his ideas for the fallen areas of Brooklyn are apparently also filled with holes. According to a piece published by the Wall Street Journal yesterday, de Blasio’s plan to re-zone 15 neighborhoods to allow for taller and denser housing won’t do much good for affordable housing. The main reason? The rents are too low. In fact, housing experts believe that his plan is more likely to hurt the character of Brooklyn’s most tony areas, including Park Slope, Fort Greene, and Crown Heights, amongst many others.
Brooklyn’s Pacific Park development, one of the pipeline projects examined in the report for it’s affordable housing offer. Rendering by COOKFOX
This morning the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) released a report today saying if the city fails to renew the existing 421-a partial tax exemption program, we could stand to lose thousands of affordable units. REBNY took a look at a sample of projects in the pipeline—including Essex Crossing, 5Pointz, Domino and Pacific Park, amongst others—and found that 421-a is responsible for 5,484 affordable apartments and 13,801 market-rate units in these developments. They argue that without the abatement the theses units would be in jeopardy and be “immediately be sent back to the drawing board.” They add that some of the units could even end up as high-end luxury condominiums and some of the middle- and low-income housing now in the works would be lost forever.
Of the new city initiatives laid out by Bill de Blasio last week during his State of the City address, few were as ambitious as the mayor’s plan to build 11,250 affordable apartments on Sunnyside Yards. But, as it turns out, more than just the mayor are looking to turn the 200-acre property into their legacy project. Crain’s reports that since the plan was announced, Governor Cuomo has emerged with his own ideas, namely tunnels that would bring the Long Island Rail Road into the heart of Midtown. Former Bloomberg administration Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff has also chimed in with a plan of his own that encompasses a huge new money-spinning convention center. But it doesn’t stop there; the clashing of ideas is just one of the burdens that comes with building on this coveted site—meaning we probably won’t see any affordable housing here for more than several decades.
While there were plenty of highlights in Mayor de Blasio’s State of the City address yesterday–from affordable housing to raising the minimum wage–it was undoubtedly the announcement of a city-wide ferry system that really got New Yorkers talking.
De Blasio said that the ferry service will open in 2017, with pricing on par with the Metrocard, as a way to accommodate the growing population of New York. It will serve neighborhoods including the Lower East Side, Astoria, the Rockaways, Sunset Park, Brooklyn Army Terminal, Bay Ridge, Red Hook, and Soundview, among others. A new map released today shows the entirety of the system, breaking down existing ferry lines, those planned for 2017 and 2018, and those proposed.