Hundreds gathered at the Brooklyn Academy of Music to commemorate and celebrate the life of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Residents of Bed Stuy will get the chance to talk with Mayor Bill de Blasio and other elected officials representing their district about whatever issues they feel are most pressing in their community at an upcoming town hall meeting.
Bummed the L train might not run for a year? Cursing the G train’s spotty service? The Mayor finally has some good transit news — he’s backing the Brooklyn Queens Connector, a high-profile proposal for a 16-mile waterfront streetcar line running from Sunset Park to Astoria.
If built, it will be a transportation breakthrough for Brooklyn. But hold onto your Metrocards, the trek to streetcar utopia won’t happen overnight.
City Limits published a long piece on the lessons of Willets Point and how it may look differently under a new mayor. The article points out the limits of ULURP, noting that under Bloomberg most negotiations took place before the public process even began. That meant, as City Limits puts it: “The public hearings become theater. People might turn out in droves to ask questions and to testify… but the plans don’t fundamentally change.” The three proposals for Flushing Meadows-Corona Park — the Major League Soccer stadium, an expansion of the National Tennis Center and the mega mall at Willets Point — all propose to take away parkland without replacing it, despite it being a requirement under state and federal laws. As for Willets Point, the new plans recently presented to the City Council scaled back on affordable housing, and the plans for the mega mall were not included in the ULURP process.
As urban planning professor Tom Angotti says of all the major development plans approved before Bloomberg’s departure, “It really does seem that Bloomberg is trying to make it difficult for the next mayor to take a different path.” Bill de Blasio looks likely to win on an anti-Bloomberg campaign, but he has supported many of the controversial rezonings and has significant ties to the real estate industry. City Limits wonders if the only way to guarantee more affordable housing from private developers will ultimately mean “drawing from the same well of tax breaks, free land, and other government giveaways that were a hallmark of the Bloomberg administration.” It’s also unclear how de Blasio envisions the community role in the ULRUP process, although he has promised to bring communities into the process early. Right now, neither the community boards nor the borough president have any official say in ULURP, and advocates for its reform say this may be a good step in a new direction.
Mayoral contenders Bill de Blasio and Joe Lhota both visited Queens this weekend, with de Blasio speaking at length about the inequalities in the Far Rockaways both before and after Sandy. The NY Daily News reports that de Blasio said “he’d use federal storm aid to create living-wage jobs for people in storm-hit neighborhoods, and build affordable housing cheap enough for those displaced by the storm to afford.” Lhota, who visited Howard Beach, stressed the need for better infrastructure. According to Newsday, Lhota’s camp accused de Blasio of “blatant political maneuvering” by visiting the neighborhood now and doing little to help residents before running for office. De Blasio, however, does have a record of mobilizing workers after the storm, as well as helping New Yorkers with city, state and federal disaster assistance.
Photo by mdpNY
Could affordable housing return to the Willets Point redevelopment plan? Willets Point United penned an op-ed in the New York Daily News asking our likely next Mayor de Blasio to reconsider the development of Willets Point. As the article notes, “Of all the essential public benefits that were originally negotiated — affordable housing, a living wage and traffic relieving ramps — we have been given the city’s largest retail mall built on parkland. The property taken under the threat of eminent domain is now earmarked for a parking lot.” Willets Point United points out its long list of grievances with the city and the Economic Development Corporation, and notes that the plan approved by de Blasio and the City Council in 2008 looks very little like the plan proposed today. The council is expected to cast a final vote on the Willets Point project next month. The op-ed ultimately asks de Blasio, “You should publicly argue that a new council leadership and a new mayor should be given the opportunity to craft a better deal for the city – one that better respects parkland and the rights of property owners and tenant businesses.”