A study of the participatory budgeting process that took place in Brooklyn’s District 39 this year revealed that it attracts traditionally disengaged or disadvantaged citizens, reported DNAinfo. “Through about 7,300 city-wide surveys and 82 exit interviews, the Community Development Project at the Urban Justice Center found that participatory budgeting, where community members can decide how to spend $1 million in taxpayer money on neighborhood improvements, attracts low-income, minority and women voters, as well as those disillusioned with the government,” the story said. More specifically, more than 60 percent of participants were women, a third were people of color and almost a quarter reported incomes below $35,000. More than half said they disapprove of how the City conducts business and a third said they rarely vote. The process also provides a way for the disenfranchized to participate in politics. About 600 of the participants are not allowed to vote, either because of age, citizenship or arrests. District 39 is repped by Council Member Brad Lander and includes Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Columbia Waterfront, Gowanus, Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Kensington, and Borough Park.
Participatory Budgeting Brings in Women and Minority Voters [DNAinfo]
Photo by South Slope News
Turns out not everybody’s happy about the decision to go ahead and build apartments on the north end of Brooklyn Bridge Park on an empty lot at John Street. Local politicians and community members are concerned about flooding in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, reported The New York Daily News. The location and much of the park was submerged under four feet of water during the storm, according to the News. However, the 13-story building will be designed with flood protection in mind, including a raised ground level and mechanicals on a top floor, said park officials. Retail and 110 parking spaces are planned for the ground level. “We now know what a big bad storm can do to Dumbo, and it ain’t pretty,” the Daily News quoted Council Member Steve Levin of Greenpoint as saying. “We need to re-evaluate how we build along the water and this would be a great place to start.” Revenue from building fees and taxes will help go toward park costs. Condo plans for another park location have been criticized as private giveaways of public park resources. Meanwhile, the New York City Council has proposed legislation to require anti-flooding designs in new and renovated buildings.
Local Pols Question Plan to Build Lux Condo in BBP Flood Zone [NY Daily News]
In Sandy’s Wake, City Council Proposes Anti-Flooding Regulations [TRD]
Brooklyn Bridge Park Seeks a Residential Developer [Brownstoner]
Image via BBP
Students in Columbia’s fall Architecture and Urban Design studio picked 12 areas in Brooklyn to explore how the borough can become a “learning city,” adaptable to change, Curbed reported. Spots included Bay Ridge, Atlantic Avenue, East New York and Gowanus. The course asked “Does a city/region learn to better manage its resources? Can a city learn how and where to grow? What are the ways in which a city or region can acquire learning skills, as opposed to reaching a static condition of being ‘smart’ or ‘sustainable’?” A site analysis of Atlantic Avenue from Barclays Center to Broadway Junction found it was on the decline and under-used, with low real estate values and high rates of poverty and childhood obesity and other problems. Recommendations included adaptive reuse and mixed income programming in East New York, with investment there equal in size to the investment made at its city-core counterpart at the other end of Atlantic Avenue: Barclays Center and Atlantic Yards. Click here to see the 12 proposals.
Image from presentation “Spatial Mixology”
Welcome to the Hot Seat, where we interview folks involved in Brooklyn real estate, architecture, development and the like. Introducing Sam Holleran and Clara Amenyo, both involved with the Center for Urban Pedagogy, better known as CUP. Amenyo is a program manager; Holleran is communications coordinator. CUP is a Brooklyn-based nonprofit that uses design and art to improve civic engagement in New York.
Brownstoner: What neighborhood do you live in, and how’d you end up there?
CUP: CUP lives in the Old American Can Factory right next to the Gowanus Canal — we were, very thankfully, spared any Sandy-related flooding. We were lucky to get a space here, among other individuals and organizations working in different areas of cultural production.
BS: Can you explain how CUP was founded and what its mission is now?
CUP: We’re a nonprofit organization that uses design and art to increase meaningful civic engagement, particularly for historically under-represented communities. CUP projects demystify the urban policy and planning issues that impact our communities, so that more individuals can better participate in shaping them. We believe that increasing understanding of how these systems work is the first step to better and more diverse community participation.
CUP projects are collaborations of art and design professionals, community-based advocates and policymakers, and our staff. Together we take on complex issues—from the juvenile justice system to zoning law to food access—and break them down into simple, accessible, visual explanations. The tools we create are used by organizers and educators all over New York City and beyond to help their constituents better advocate for their own community needs.
After the jump, how CUP picks its initiatives, its work with students, and what they’re doing in Brooklyn right now… (more…)
Last night the Fulton Area Business Alliance, along with the architects at Mapos and AB Architekten, unveiled the Fulton Street Vision Plan. Basically it’s a wide-ranging, large scale proposal for Fort Greene and Clinton Hill based on previous community input meetings. As Phillip Kellog of FAB explained, “We want to focus on the overall vision to inspire ideas of what’s possible on Fulton.” The architects had gathered that residents desired to keep a “clear identity” on separate areas of Fulton Street — the area around BAM should remain denser, more “urban,” while areas around Clinton Hill should still feel residential. There was also concern over the streetscape as well as tying together the Fulton Street “triangles.” On a small scale, proposals included planters, benches, bioswales, public artwork and bike racks. Large-scale proposals included building up empty lots with developments or community gardens, additional street paving, and reworking the parks to make them more accessible. The architects proposed adding an open space with sitting areas and kiosks to the BAM Triangle Park, as well as taking down the barriers on the sidewalk around Cuyler Gore Park and opening it up to the nearby subway entrance. They also proposed a dog run around Adelphi Street, increased greenery at the Putnam Triangle, and a possible community garden near the Greene Hill Food Co-Op. There were tons of ideas to consider, and FAB will be accepting more community input to see what sticks. The proposals will be made available online, and you can see see them in person and speak with the architects this Saturday at Fowler Square from 11 am to 3 pm and Sunday at the Putnam Triangle from noon to 4 pm. Click through for a few more images from the evening.
Closing Bell: Fulton Street Vision Plan [Brownstoner] (more…)
The Brooklyn Tech Triangle Coalition is creating a master plan to make Brooklyn as welcoming as possible to tech companies. First order of business: The coalition picked WXY Architecture + Urban Design to direct the team of architecture, construction, engineering and policy firms that will design the master plan, the coalition announced yesterday. Technology employment in Brooklyn is expected to nearly double in the next three years, according to a story in The Real Deal. Right now, the Brooklyn Tech Triangle, which covers Downtown Brooklyn, Dumbo and the Navy Yard, employs about 9,600 people in tech and produces $3.1 billion, according to a study by the coalition. The master plan will look at how to make real estate, transportation and other necessities more appealing to technology tenants. Above, WXY’s design for Greenpoint’s Transmitter Park.
Brooklyn’s Tech Triangle Group Chooses WXY to Spearhead Infrastructure Plan [TRD]
Photo by Inhabitat
Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz yesterday called for a rule change that would decrease car parking requirements for market-rate buildings downtown while increasing bicycle parking. At the same time, he also recommended more affordable housing in the area as well as a study to encourage developers to build for seniors.
More Details on Downtown Parking Revisions [Brownstoner]
Parking Minimums May Be Cut Downtown [Brownstoner]
The first public hearing about the first residential building at Atlantic Yards (known as B2) was sparsely attended earlier this week, with not a single board member in attendance. And judging from the post on Atlantic Yards Report yesterday, there are still more unknowns than knowns about the project. As you may recall, Forest City Ratner is on the hook to build 363 apartments in the 32-story tower, 50 percent of them subsidized across five income levels. What we still don’t know is how big the units will be or what they will rent for; nor do we know much about the financing or subsidies. Watchers from City Councilwoman Tish James to the Atlantic Yards Report note the plans ignore the city’s pressing need for units for large low-income families, skewing heavily toward studios and one bedrooms instead. Given that pricing is based on median income in the area (which is rising) some of the units may end up not being that affordable after all. As for size, Atlantic Yards Report speculates based on the New York City Housing Development Corporation’s standards that they’ll be small — 400 square feet for studios, 575 square feet for one bedrooms, and 775 square feet for two bedrooms. So much for closet space. As usual, Atlantic Yards Report has exhaustive coverage, so check it out for more info.
A Confounding Hearing on First Atlantic Yards Tower [AYR]
Yesterday the City Council gave its blessing to the plans to redevelop Admirals Row at the Navy Yard. The plans call for a 74,000-square-foot supermarket, 79,000 square feet of retail space and 127,000 square feet of industrial space. The city is supposed to take control of the site soon and an RFP for the project is likely to be issued within the next few weeks. Two of the row’s remaining structures—Building B and the Timber Shed—are supposed to be preserved, contrary to the National Guard’s report earlier this year that both buildings had been deemed beyond repair.
Green Light Nears for Navy Yard Redevelopment [Crain's]
City Has Yet to Acquire Admirals Row [Brownstoner]
Wheels in Motion for Admirals Row Redevelopment [Brownstoner]
Streetsblog has a fun new feature that involves readers submitting photos of “parking lots and garages that erode New York’s pedestrian realm.” The submission above, from Michael Kodransky, shows a new development in Bensonhurst: “To walk into the building, you have to pass through the surface lot that wraps it on two sides. The building faces West 3rd Street with a low, blank brick wall meant only to enclose the surface lot. With 24 ground-floor parking spaces for its 20 residential units, including all that parking was the developer’s prerogative. But even an enlightened builder wouldn’t have come up with something much better. The city required ten parking spaces, and the most cost-effective option is to put them on the ground floor.” The post also has a shot of a bunch of parking garages taking up most of the ground floor of a small Vinegar Hill development.
Pedestrian Burdens [Streetsblog]
Last month we heard rumblings that the Department of City Planning was looking into zoning tools that would encourage more commercial use in new developments on 4th Avenue—thus tweaking the 2003 and 2005 rezonings that helped pave the way for a bunch of 12-story buildings that have nothing going on at street level—and yesterday a press release from the department made it official. A “Special Fourth Avenue Enhanced Commercial District” is being proposed from Atlantic Avenue to 24th Street that would require new developments to have retail in “at least 50% of the ground floor frontage,” with at least half of those storefronts being comprised of glass. It would also generally limit curb cuts for new projects to side streets. Community Boards 2, 6 and 7, and the borough president’s office, have 60 days to review the zoning amendment. CB6 will discuss the proposal at its land-use meeting on Thursday.
Special 4th Avenue Enhanced Commercial District [DCP]
Planning to Boost 4th Ave Commercial Use? [Brownstoner]
It’s going to be a big month for the Broadway Triangle, the city’s nine-block redevelopment site in South Williamsburg that has attracted a fair share of controversy. The City Planning Commission was scheduled to vote today on the plan, which calls for 1,850 new apartments with about half reserved for affordable housing, but postponed the vote until October 19 (it was originally scheduled for September 23, but was already rescheduled once before). The City Council will also discuss the vote later this month at the Land Use Committee hearing. Finally, the Broadway Triangle Community Coalition, the meta-organization that formed to oppose the city’s plan primarily due to its closed-door process, filed suit against Mayor Bloomberg and the Housing Department and the court date is currently set for October 19. “The coalition’s plan is unlikely to succeed,” writes Matt Chaban in The Architect’s Newspaper, but he mentions that their actions have raised awareness with the community board and the Department of Housing, Preservation, and Development regarding the nebulous planning process, and perhaps this awareness will trickle down with some positive effect for the coalition.
Gathering Storm [Architect's Newspaper]
Community Groups Sue City over Broadway Triangle [Brownstoner]
The Bloomberg administration, which has already cut down on trans fats and distributed fruit vendors to produce-anemic neighborhoods, is now seeking to provide incentives for grocery stores to open in areas where most families spend their food budget at bodegas and drug stores. The City Planning Commission unanimously approved the proposal on Wednesday, reports The New York Times, which would grant zoning and tax incentives to grocery stores, with set requirements about how much produce and other foods they sell. The city is eying northern Manhattan, central Brooklyn, the South Bronx, and downtown Jamaica in Queens. Many city officials, food experts, and grocery store executives approve of the plan, meant to spur economic growth in addition to encouraging health (and fighting the rising rates of obesity and diabetes), but the Times mentions a recent report to Congress by the Department of Agriculture that shows an uncertain correlation between obesity and access to healthy, fresh foods. Avi Kaner, a supermarket operator, said education is the main solution. If you force distribution of product to a population that’s not interested in it, or not educated in it, and the grocery stores can’t make a profit, he told the Times, they’ll eventually leave. Check out the Times article for more details about the program, similar programs across the country, and a finer breakdown of the pros and cons.
A Plan to Add Supermarkets to Poor Areas [NY Times]
FRESH Food Store Program Overview [DOCP]
NYC’s Neighborhood Grocery Store and Supermarket Shortage [DOCP]
Photo by Royce Bair
The Brooklyn Public Library’s Park Slope branch at Sixth Avenue and Ninth Street is going to close this fall for renovations, reports The Brooklyn Paper, for up to two years. The $2 million renovation to the 1906 building will include the addition of an elevator, an air-conditioning system, an outdoor ramp, and restrooms to accommodate handicapped visitors. The city informed the Paper that construction will begin in the fall and the two-year cap is the maximum amount of time that the branch will remain closed. A start date hasn’t been announced, but the BPL said that there will be a public meeting to discuss the project. GMAP
Photo by ZippyTheChimp
No one cares to cross it. It is devoid of all life and is a stony waste. It is suggestive of Siberia in winter and Sahara in summer. This was how an 1888 report by Brooklyn’s Parks Commission described Grand Army Plaza, the Calvert Vaux- and Frederick Law Olmstead-designed entrance to Prospect Park. Clearly, it gets plenty of use these days, but navigating the 11-acre space, either by car or on foot, can be both nerve-wracking and dangerous. So, the New York Times reports, a group called the Grand Army Plaza Coalition is working to get GAP redesigned, this time with cars (and pedestrians) in mind. Two hundred groups submitted proposals to the Design Trust for Public Space, and 30 finalists were chosen; on September 12, a jury, including our own Mr. B, will announce the winner.
In the Heart of Brooklyn, No Man’s Island [NY Times]
Grand Army Plaza. Photo by Tanuzzo Design Studio.
Governors Island 013. Photo by joevare.
Remember when the city Economic Development Corporation was trying to evict American Stevedoring and its hundreds of longshoremen employees from the Red Hook Piers? Neither do we. Well, now that everything is cool at the piers and the longshoremen won a 10-year lease, it makes total sense that the city hold a ceremony there this Tuesday “to pay tribute to the workers who made the waterfront great and to those who are working today to revitalize the great Port of New York,” said a city press release. They city, elected officials and “supporters of the working waterfront” are celebrating the rededication of The Working Brooklyn Waterfront, a mural made in 1963 by noted artist Bernard Seaman. The mural was first installed in the Brooklyn Longshoremen’s Medical Center in Cobble Hill. It was reinstalled at the cruise terminal when that building was scheduled for demolition “due largely to the efforts of the members of the ILA Local 1814 and funded by NY Container Terminal.” Although never addressed by name, we’re going to guess “NY Container Terminal” is American Stevedoring, the EDC’s old nemesis. Glad to see everyone’s put that whole mess behind them.
Lease Ends Uncertainty for Red Hook Cargo Docks [NY Times]
City Releases Vision for Container Port [NY Post]
EDC Plan for Container Port [Brownstoner]
Photo by Seth Holladay.
On Thursday Cobble Hill Cinemas will host a free screening of “Brooklyn Matters,” the documentary about Atlantic Yards. The film, which examines how Atlantic Yards came about and what the project’s possible ramifications are, came out early last year and has been shown in a number of venues, including colleges and universities like Pratt and NYU. Isabel Hill, the director and producer of “Brooklyn Matters,” talked to us about the movie’s relevance now that Atlantic Yards is likely to be stalled and how audiences have reacted to her work. The main thrust of Hill’s documentary is that Atlantic Yards has ignored decades-old urban planning wisdom and techniques. Hill worked as a planner for many years before making the film.
Now that you’ve been showing the documentary for a while, have you noticed a difference in audience reaction over time?
Hill:Yes, frankly, there does seem to be more outrage over the specific elements of this project. When I first started showing the film, I think many people were just surprised when they discovered the overwhelming scale of the many proposed skyscrapers. Most people initially understood the project to consist of a sports arena and a vague outline of other development. When they saw the monumental scale of the proposed buildings, most first-time viewers were incredulous. Also, when I first began showing the film, viewers were shocked at the ways this project circumvented public process and how project advocates manipulated public perception. Now, I think as people know more about Atlantic Yards, they are incensed when they see the film and more fully understand the drastic and long-lasting impacts of this proposalâ€”a proposal we taxpayers are subsidizing. What I’ve seen is that the film consistently is a revelation to viewers whether they know nothing, little, or a lot about the project.
Is the documentary still as relevant now that Atlantic Yards faces delays?
Hill:“Brooklyn Matters” is even more relevant and important now than it was the day it was released. Markets have slowed the rate of progress on Atlantic Yards and allowed more and more people to study the project more closely. It is especially important that the new Paterson administration see the film during this time. In the past, many interested community leaders and residents felt side-lined by the fact that the real estate market was traveling so fast and furious. Atlantic Yards was marketed as a done deal and many believed it. Now that more and more people realize that the project is not a done deal, it is even more important to act. We can’t just sit back and see what happens here. This is an opportunity for our elected officials and citizens to rethink what should happen on this important public siteâ€”the Vanderbilt rail yards. There must be an outcry against Atlantic Yards, and the film is critical to reaching more and more people with this truth.
Did the finished movie differ much from the movie you set out to make?
Hill: Documentary filmmaking is a process. When you set out to make a documentary, you don’t know exactly where this great adventure will take you so there were things that evolved and changed over the course of making the film. But my frame of reference was always the same. I have worked as an urban planner in Brooklyn for over twenty years and it is through the lens of a planner that I viewed the Atlantic Yards project.
Images from Brooklyn Matters
Plans for the rezoning of Gowanus, which have been brewing for more than a year now, are about to make their official debut. Yesterday Purnima Kapur, director of City Planning’s Brooklyn Office, said that the draft rezoning plan for the Gowanus Canal Corridor will be unveiled next month. “What we’re planning to do is go out to the community and start a discussion about the rezoning,” says Kapur. The DCP official says that the rezoning plan will more or less adhere to the draft land-use framework released last January (as shown above), and that the department will propose rezoning about 25 blocks. “We studied 60 blocks,” says Kapur, “and we came to the conclusion that two-thirds should remain manufacturing.” Mixed-use zoning that allows for residential construction will mainly be proposed in the north section of the area under consideration, with the biggest chunk running from 3rd Street to Sackett between the canal and 4th Avenue. Per the draft framework, the rezoning will allow for the construction of building that are largely 6 to 8 stories with limited portions setback from the neighborhood allowed to rise between 12 and 14 stories next to the canal. Kapur says the department hopes to get community consensus on the draft proposal sometime over the summer and then begin working on an Environmental Impact Statement, which should take between 8 and 9 months to complete. If this timeframe is followed, the rezoning will be certified for ULURP sometime in early 2009, before there’s a change in the current city administration. Kapur says she’s excited about bringing the rezoning to fruition. “We were asked by the community board to look into the rezoning, which is how the whole process started,” she says. “Gowanus is a unique area between two thriving communities, and it provides a potential for new uses that could build on its unique character.”
Gowanus Rezoning: Complete Chaos [Brownstoner]
Gowanus Rezoning Proposal by Late Spring or Summer [GL]
Gowanus Canal Corridor Framework [nyc.gov]
It’s “Sustainable Watch” week over at Gotham Gazette, which means the publication has several articles about what the future holds for the Bloomberg administration’s PlaNYC, the city’s vision for 2030 that’s supposed to make New York greener and help prepare for an influx of (a projected) 1 million more residents over the next couple decades. One piece locates a “fundamental flaw in the mayor’s approach to long-term planning” in the wake of congestion pricing’s defeat: The fact that PlaNYC’s approach largely sidesteps input from communities, making it “a one-way, top-down process…As a result, grassroots support for the plan, and congestion pricing, was limited to passive assent and a more enthusiastic core of environmental groups.” In other words, no matter how good individual facets of PlaNYC are, it’s quite possible that many may never come to fruition, doomed by a lack of community support for their implementation and the mayor’s term limits:
PlaNYC’s methodology is linear, dealing with simple cause-effect relations that may have little to do with complex neighborhood-based visions. For example, planting a million trees would reduce greenhouse gases by a quantifiable amount. Congestion pricing would reduce car trips by a predictable percentage. But as the congestion pricing debate proved, it is simply not enough to make one isolated change a city priority when its local impacts are not clear. This kind of “results-oriented” thinking ignores the complexity of life in the city and is especially unsuited to a multicultural city where many, perhaps even a majority of residents, find this approach to be alien.
The question now, perhaps, is whether it’s too late to give community-based planning a significant voice in what should be a discussionâ€”not a monologueâ€”about New York’s future.
Is the Long-term Sustainability Plan Sustainable? [Gotham Gazette]
Legislation To Boost Community-Based Planning [Brownstoner]
Photo by jennifer easton.