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Archive for 'Manhattanville'

Update on Ground Zero Construction Site

ground zero wtc construction

Ray Devlin

The Port Authority will attach eight-foot illustrated panels to the fences along side the World Trade Center construction site  to provide passer-by with a glimpse of what the future site will hold, says the New York Times

The New York Post report that though the September 11 memorial will be open in time for the tenth anniversary of the attacks, it will only remain open to the public for a few days, before closing for construction again.

In other news, the financial crisis on Wall Street is having a devastating effect on local retail stores in downtown Brooklyn. Continue Reading>>


Jacobs Tour Highlights Environmental Justice Efforts in Harlem

harlem toxic eco justice tourLast Saturday – September 27, a group of New Yorkers joined Peggy Shepard, winner of the 2008 Jane Jacobs Medal for Lifetime Achievement, and Cecil Corbin-Mark, deputy director of West Harlem Environmental Action, Inc. (WE ACT), on a bus tour exploring issues of environmental justice in Harlem. The tour examined how noxious hazards, such as garbage and bus depots, co-exist with some of the city’s cultural treasures, such as the  museums and art institutions of “El Barrio,” Marcus Garvey Park, and the new Harlem Waterfront Park.

In addition to learning about the practice of situating environmentally harmful facilities in low-income communities of color and receiving a first-hand glimpse of how traffic congestion, noise and air pollution, and toxic odors contribute to high asthma rates among local residents, participants gained greater insight into ongoing struggles and siginficant victories. These include the bold act of civil disobedience that brought citywide attention to health risks posed by the the North River Sewage Treatment Plant. Tour takers also marveled at the remarkable architecture of the Mount Morris and Hamilton Heights historic districts. Continue Reading>>


MAS to Host Panel on Preserving Neighborhood Businesses

cobble hill smith street small businessThe proliferation of chain stores and bank branches is an increasing threat to the character of diverse neighborhoods throughout New York City.  By highlighting successful innovations that have been adopted in other cities and exploring the distinct pressures faced by business owners, this program aims to provide local merchants, community members, and municipal representatives with tools and strategies to safeguard small-scale retail, drive economic development, and establish a constituency pushing for policy reform.

Solutions for Preserving New York’s Neighborhood Businesses
Monday, October 6, 6:30 - 8:00 p.m.
At the West Side Institutional Synagogue, 120 West 76th Street at Columbus Avenue, MAP
FREE, but reservations are strongly recommended. RSVP online or call 212 935 2075. Advance ticket purchase is available until 3:00 p.m. the day of for programs that are not sold-out. Attendees are advised to arrive fifteen minutes prior to the event start time, as late seating is not guaranteed. Those without reservations will be admitted, space permitting, on a first-come, first-served basis. Continue Reading>>


2008 Jane Jacobs Medal Recipient to Lead Environmental Justice Tour

On Saturday, September 27, Peggy Shepard (at left), winner of this year’s Jane Jacobs Medal for Lifetime Achievement, will lead a bus tour highlighting issues of environmental justice in Harlem. This tour will examine how noxious hazards, such as garbage and bus depots — whose location is determined by the city government — co-exist with some of the city’s cultural treasures, such as the museums and art institutions of “El Barrio,” Marcus Garvey Park, and the new Harlem Waterfront Park.

Toxic Hazards and Cultural Treasures, Saturday, September 27, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.  Space is limited.  $25, $20 MAS members/students. Purchase tickets online or call 212-935-2075. Leader: Peggy Shepard, co-founder and executive director of West Harlem Environmental Action (WE ACT).  Meeting location will be given upon registration.

For details of upcoming MAS programs, visit www.mas.org/programs.


Eminent Domain in the Spotlight

columbia university expansion renderingNew laws proposing to reform the State’s use of eminent domain may gain momentum should the Democrats achieve a majority in the Senate this fall, says the New York Sun. Eminent domain is a centerpiece of three very large development projects in New York City – Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, Willets Point in Queens, and Manhattanville in Manhattan.  MAS has testified on each of these developments, calling for an inclusive planning process in which the priorities of local residents and business owners are sought and considered.

Controversies among these projects are numerous. The New York Times interviewed the remaining business owners in Manhattanville, the site of Columbia University’s proposed expansion, on the detrimental effects the threat of eminent domain has had on their livelihood. The New York Daily News reports that the NYC Economic Development Corporation is increasing its outreach to City Council members on the proposed Willets Point rezoning, as a majority of the Council has already publicly opposed the project.

In other news, Chelsea Now reports from the first community hearing on the recently released scoping for the Hudson Yards development. Continue Reading>>


Task Force Testifes on Eminent Domain for State Senators

This morning, State Senators Bill Perkins and Efraim Gonzales held a public hearing on eminent domain at the Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. State Office Building on 125th Street.

Perkins issued a statement reading, “In many instances, eminent domain is an instrument used by government, not in the context of their independently created economic development plans, but at the behest of private developers who wish for the state and city to use its powers of eminent domain to aggregate parcels of land for commercial benefit. This methodology has strained the relationship between government and communities affected by these development plans, that have at best, a vague purpose and at worst create the impression of a corporatocracy instead of true democratic governance. It will be critical to examine the original procedural structure in place to justify and exercise eminent domain.” The hearing’s intention was to gather ideas for potential legislation that would govern eminent domain at the state level. Continue Reading>>


Save Astroland MAS Urges City, Locals Still Oppose Columbia Expansion

coney island astroland rocketMAS President Kent Barwick released a statement yesterday urging the City to save Astroland; the amusement park announced yesterday that it will close forever this Sunday, unable to negotiate an extension on their lease with Thor Equities (New York Times; New York Post; Bloomberg.com).

The MASterwork award winning Diane von Furstenberg Studio Headquarters boasts one of the most spectacular and technologically advanced skylights in the city (New York Sun)

In other news, the final hearing of the State Economic Development Corporation yesterday on the proposed Columbia University expansion again revealed the opposition between local business owners and the local development corporation (New York Times); one major remaining landowner, Nick Sprayregen of Tuck-it-Away Storage is preparing for a legal battle (New York Observer)

Manhattan Community Board 3 is considering green, alternative transporation links (Villager)


Public Hearings on Columbia’s Use of Eminent Domain, Next Week

manhattanville new york eminent domain urban planningNow that the state has officially declared Manhattanville “blighted,” on September 2 and 4, the Empire State Development Corporation will hold public hearings, the next stage of the process that will ultimately determine whether the state will support the use of eminent domain in Columbia University’s planned expansion. While many believe this is a done deal, there is still the opportunity to make your voice heard on this issue. Talking points on eminent domain from Task Force Supporters the Coalition to Preserve Community, a group that has long been fighting Columbia’s plan, are after the jump.

The hearings will be held from 1-4pm and 5:30-9:30pm both days, at Aaron Davis Hall of the City University of New York, located at West 135″‘ Street at Convent Avenue. Speaker sign-up begins 15 minutes before each session.

Talking points on eminent domain:

EMINENT DOMAIN SHOULD NOT BE INVOKED ON BEHALF OF COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY’S PROPOSED EXPANSION FOR THE FOLLOWING REASONS;

(1) THE COMMUNITY UNEQUIVOCALLY OPPOSES IT

At every forum of the West Harlem Local Development Corporation and at every public hearing in the ULURP process, the community has been united in opposing the use of Eminent Domain as a first principle and most community members have demanded that the University take it off the table as a precondition for any negotiations with Columbia. The community seeks an integrated community, where private owners who have provided good-paying jobs to community workers can stay in their historic locations. Condemnation would create a “company town” solely for Columbia University’s use and enjoyment. Columbia’s “all of nothing” demand is unnecessary to their expansion, but not to their “fire-sale” land grab, and destructive of the neighborhood.

(2) THIS PROJECT IS NOT “CIVIC” NOR “FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD”

This proposed project would transfer private property to another private entity, which will use the property in public/private biotech business projects akin to Stanford University’s research park (a development Columbia has sought to emulate since the 1960s). This is not an “educational” or “-”civic” use, despite the title of this hearing, but an income-producing use by a not-for profit entity which will not even pay real–estate taxes.

(3) ANY “BLIGHT” IN THE EXPANSION AREA HAS BEEN CREATED BY THE PROPOSE BENEFICIARY OF EMINENT DOMAIN

If it is true, as Columbia has repeatedly claimed, that the University owns 70-80% of the property in Manhattanville (a claim put into question by the list of properties which it seeks to have the ESDC condemn), any ill-maintained and unoccupied property has been the result of the University’s own deliberate actions. I should not benefit from those actions. Available industrial real estate is at a severe shortage in the City. Any vacant properties could have been rented immediately if maintained and truly offered for occupancy. The University has used the threat of condemnation, based on its own creation of blight, to threaten and intimidate landowners into selling their properties, saying “sell to use now or deal with the State later.” Columbia has also emptied the area of commercial tenants like Reality House and the mechanics at 3150 Broadway and is in the process of removing long-time residential tenants and potential owners.

(4) THE CONDEMNATION PROCESS HAS BEEN CORRUPT AND FULL OF CONFLICTS OF INTEREST

The University has paid at least $300,000 to the ESDC to move the condemnation process forward (a payment unacknowledged by the University until an FOIL request uncovered it) while denying its role in the Eminent Domain process. There is an irresolvable conflict of interest in the condem nation process because the consultant AKRF was hired by the University to perform its Environmental Impact Statement for the ULURP process and at the same time created the “blight study” being relied upon by the ESDC as a basis for Eminent Domain. That conflict has not been resolved by the newly minted “blight study” by another consultant which uniformly mimics the AKRF study. Moreover, AKRF also drafted responses for the City Planning Commission in response to points brought up by Community Board 9 critiquing the “Draft Scope of Work” during the ULURP process. Thus it is seeks to serve three masters: the University, the City, and the State. That is not possible.

(5)THE USE OF EMINENT DOMAIN AT THIS STAGE IS PREMATURE

Columbia has never demonstrated its need for the entire proposed expansion area. We don’t have even one set of completed plans for a building. The safety and economic-feasibility of its proposed “bathtub” basement has never been demonstrated and has served primarily as a rationale for the attempted acquisition of the entire footprint. Columbia has made no commitment to building the bathtub or developing the proposed expansion area within any designated time period. The footprint may sit fallow for years as the University struggles to raise funds in a depressed economy. Present businesses are already operating, paying wages to workers and taxes to the City.

(6)EMINENT DOMAIN IS UNDEMOCRATIC AND UN-AMERICAN
Property to be acquired by private developers like Columbia University should be bought through the market at market prices. Owners uninterested in selling should not be compelled to sell by the State.


Big Box Stores in Brooklyn and David Byrne Bike Rack Designs

ikea red hookMAS Issues in the Press:
- Brooklynites are enjoying the amenities associated with the new IKEA in Red Hook (New York Times). Two big box buy-in-bulk supermarkets are planned in Canarsie and Sunset Park, Brooklyn stirring fears among local markets owners that they will be undersold (New York Daily News).

- While the design competition for new bike racks is still on, nine new designs by artist David Byrne are now visible throughout the city (New York Times). The public toilets in New York City have proven to be popular and profitable (New York Times). In an attempt to minimize advertising on building facades, a yoga studio has created an eco-ad on the Upper East Side (A Fine Blog via Curbed).

- Despite some arguments that the plan is drawn along racial lines, local community groups are defending the proposed rezoning of the East Village and Lower East Side (New York Times).

- Amtrack ridership has increased, emphasizing the urgent need for the agency to update and add to its infrastructure.

- A photographer’s collection of Manhattanville captures the current state of the neighborhood, which will change dramatically with Columbia University’s expansion (New York Times).


NYC Art Commission Gets New Name and Another Private Landowner Sells in Willet’s Point

gowanus canal brooklyn new york city urban restorationMAS in the Press: MAS attended a public hearing last night concerning the demolition of Admiral’s Row in the Brooklyn Navy Yard; MAS and its partners are advocating an alternative that preserves the historic buildings and also allows for a supermarket to be built on the site (Brownstoner; Gowanus Lounge; Historic Districts Newsstand)

MAS Issues in the Press:

- Nicholas Sprayregen, the last private land owner standing in opposition to Columbia University’s expansion hopes to take his case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court (New York Observer). The City has made a deal with another private landowner Willet’s Point site to sell and relocate (The Real Deal).

- A new State law will encourage developers to meet highest levels of brownfield remediation while limiting tax breaks they can receive on such projects (New York Times). Local groups are pressuring the Landmarks Preservation Commission to consider expanding the boundaries of the Upper East Side Historic District (New York Sun). Continue Reading>>


St. Vincent’s Future Unclear and Protests of the Lower East Side Rezoning

prospect heights brooklyn new york historic districtMAS in the Press:
MAS Director of Advocacy and Policy Lisa Kersavage speaks about the likely designation of Prospect Heights as an historic district, a long time project of MAS and the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Corp (Brooklyn Daily Eagle). MAS Urbanists celebrated sustainability in preservation last night at a fundraiser at the new LEED certified Galapagos Art Space in DUMBO, Brooklyn (DUMBONYC, Gothamist).

MAS Issues in the Press:
- Celebrity neighbors of St. Vincent’s Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins spoke out against the proposed redevelopment at the Landmarks Preservation Commission (NY Times) however City Council speaker Christine Quinn, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, state Senator Thomas Duane, and Rep. Jerrold Nadler spoke out in support (Crain’s NY Business). Continue Reading>>


125th Street Rezoning Still Needs Work

apollo theater harlem new york cityThe buildings in Harlem are brick and stone, And the streets are long and wide, But Harlem’s much more than these alone, Harlem is what’s inside.

The Heart of Harlem, Langston Hughes

On April 1st 2008, the Municipal Art Society testified at the Land-use and Franchise subcommittee hearing regarding the 125th Street rezoning plan. City Planning has been working for Continue Reading>>


MAS Urges City Council to Examine Columbia Expansion Thoroughly Before Voting

columbia university expansion new york eminent domainToday, MAS urged the City Council through testimony and individual letters to take the full extent of the time for review of the Columbia University expansion allowed under ULURP in order to fully examine the complexities of the plan.

MAS’ effort comes as the City Council scheduled a vote that appeared to cut short a full public approval process. The announcement of the vote was made without ample notice to the public and with time still available for review of the project under ULURP. To read the full press release, click here.


One Neighborhood, Two Plans

manhattanvilleOn October 3, the City Planning Commission held a hearing on two plans for the expansion of Columbia University into Manhattanville. One was the university’s plan, the other was Manhattan Community District 9’s 197-a plan — a community-based plan for the same area. The challenge is that the plans contain, in some part, contradictory visions.

In the 19th century, the village of Manhattanville, situated around 125th Street and the Hudson River, grew to be a center of manufacturing and industry with a concentration of milk pasteurization and bottling companies, and later, auto showrooms and meat-packing. Continue Reading>>