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04/25/08 Affairs and Appointments

04/25/08 Affairs and Appointments

Comment: New York City’s Week of Greening and Building

This week saw New York’s elected officials advance new plans on two fronts: promoting land development, and greening New York City’s environment.  We being with New York City’s development projects, and the public disagreement over what form some of these projects should take.

Development: Willets Point, Hunter’s Point South, Armory, Pier 94

On Monday the Department of City Planning initiated the seven-month Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) for the Willets Point Redevelopment Plan and the Hunter’s Point South Plan.  Between Willets Point and Hunter’s Point South there are 92 acres of land designated for new mixed-use development. 

Mayor Bloomberg’s Willets Point proposal, however – which calls for 5,500 housing units, a hotel, a convention center and 2.2 million square feet of office and retail space – has aroused notable opposition in the City Council.  Concurrent with the initiation of ULURP, 29 Council members wrote to Deputy Mayor of Economic Development Robert Lieber to express “deep reservations” about the Willets Point plan.  The letter urged a strategy for Willets Point that includes more affordable housing and greater assistance to displaced businesses.  As the Willets Point plan wends its way through ULURP over the next seven months (with Council approval being the final stage), it may well be revised to incorporate such suggestions.

Leaving ULURP aside, this week also saw the selection of developers for two key sites.  On Monday, the New York City Economic Development Corp. (EDC) announced the designation of the Related Companies to redevelop the 575,000-square-foot Kingsbridge Armory in the Kingsbridge Heights section of the Bronx.  Related intends to invest around $310 million building its structure – The Shops at the Armory – which will include 30 retail stores, rooftop public open space and a landscaped public plaza.  Among the agencies that must approve Related’s designs for the Armory are the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission and the New York State Historic Preservation Office. 

EDC’s other major selection this week will enable Vornado Realty to redevelop and expand Pier 94.  Vornado’s $100 million effort will double the Pier in size to 355,000 square feet from 150,000 square feet; EDC projects that the expanded facility will enable attract trade shows significantly larger than what can be accommodated by Pier 94’s existing structure.      

Environment – Congestion Pricing a Memory, PlaNYC Marches On
Governor Patterson Introduces Plan to Help New York Harness the Sun

One might have imagined Earth Day to have been bittersweet for Mayor Bloomberg, marking as it did the anniversary of his opening pitch for congestion pricing.  The Mayor on Earth Day, however, was decidedly upbeat in touting progress in virtually every other area of his PlaNYC strategy.  The PlaNYC Progress Report 2008 describes 117 of the 127 measures (93 percent) as launched and in progress.   The report cites advancements in every area of PlaNYC – open space, brownfields, water quality, water network, transportation, energy, air quality and housing.  One particularly notable achievement in the Mayor’s PlaNYC agenda – the Executive Order to reduce energy consumption from municipal operations by 30 percent by 2017, and to allocate 10 percent of the City’s annual energy budget to support this goal – is discussed by Capalino+Company here.

A recent example of PlaNYC progress is the decision of the Taxi and Limousine Commission to raise fuel efficiency standards in the black town cars that service corporate clients.  In a statement, Mayor Bloomberg noted that the change to hybrid-esque fuel efficiency – “making black cars green” – will halve emissions from the city’s 10,000 black cars. 

While Mayor Bloomberg used Earth Day to evaluate the progress of existing proposals, Governor Patterson used it to introduce a bold environmental policy of his own: Request for Proposals to build a huge new solar power complex on Long Island, capable of adding 50 megawatts (MW) of solar energy to the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) grid.  LIPA estimates that the project would generate sufficient power to support more than 6,500 households and to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 20,000 tons.  Governor Patterson statement describes LIPA as envisioning a network of photovoltaic panels “at school buildings, on commercial and municipal rooftops, along parking lots, atop landfills, and at brownfield sites.”

Green Development – Unique Achievement in Harlem

We will conclude with something that nicely synthesizes the themes land development and environmental: completion of the Kalahari, a 249-unit mixed-income development on 116th Street that Mayor Bloomberg hailed as “the largest ‘green’ affordable housing in Harlem.” 

The Mayor’s reference pays tribute both to the Kalahari’s 120 apartments targeted for ‘moderate and middle-income households’ (ranging between $63,810 to $131,165 for a family of four and $44,640 to $91,760 for a single person), and to the design elements that earned the building LEED certification – a fresh-filtered air delivery system that purifies air quality at a constant rate, Energy Star appliances that will reduce energy consumption by 30 percent below the New York State Energy Code, green roofs, and landscaped public courtyards featuring native plants.

The Kalahari emerged from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s efforts to build multifamily, mixed-income housing on City-owned land (the Cornerstone Program).

Citing Unfunded Capital Program, New York State Thruway Authority Approves “Last Resort” Toll Increases

The New York State Thruway Authority’s six-member Board has been seeking additional revenue to fund new capital investment on the 641-mile highway.  Today they agreed upon one solution: a schedule of toll increases that the Board estimates will raise $375 million over the next three years.

Planned toll increases will fall disproportionately on drivers who use EZ-Pass.  While cash tolls will rise 5 percent in January 2009 and another five percent the next year, EZ-Pass toll rates will increase more sharply.  Evidently future toll hikes (combined with curtailing of EZ-Pass discount rates) could raise some drivers’ toll costs by as much as 28 percent from what they pay today.

In a press release Thursday acknowledging the proposed “toll adjustment plan,” the Authority described the State’s transportation infrastructure as “in need of attention” and concluded that – in the absence of relief from State government – sufficient revenue for capital improvements could not come from cost-saving measures alone (the Authority has terminated 450 positions since 1995, with another 50 slated for termination by 2013). 

The Authority stressed that toll increases would be gradual and, even in final form, would amount to an increase for passengers vehicles of less than one penny per mile.  The press release describes the new levies as necessary to maintain “the Authority’s high levels of safety and service.”

In a press release of his own, Governor Patterson disparaged the Authority’s toll adjustments as “unfair to drivers who are being asked to tighten their belts everyday in these troubled economic times.”  The Governor cited reductions in operating budgets for State agencies as an example the Authority should follow. 

Read wbcstv.com coverage of the toll increases here.
Read the Authority’s April 24 Press Release here.
Read Governor Patterson’s response to the toll increases here.

David Patterson: Man of Letters and Champion of Fiscal Restraint

“I am writing to respectfully request that you join with all other agencies and reduce your operating budget by the same 3.35 percent reduction assigned to Executive agencies.”

Such was the punch line of letters that key Albany leaders received from Governor David Patterson this week.  Citing New York State’s mounting economic challenges, Governor Patterson called on State officials – Majority Leader Bruno, Assembly Speaker Silver, Attorney General Cuomo, Comptroller DiNapoli and NYS Court of Appeals Chief Judge Kaye – to curb operating costs by 3.35 percent from the Budget recommendations for State Operations in the 2008-2008 fiscal year. 

As an example of the necessary fiscal belt-tightening, Governor Patterson’s letters reference the “$800 million in across-the-board reductions in all agencies’ budgets” that he proposed in one of his first acts as Governor (the proposal was incorporated into the Enacted Budget as a 3.35 percent reduction in the operating budgets of all State agencies).

Read the Governor’s press release describing his letters here.

Governor Patterson to Long Island: Harness the Power of the Sun

Governor Patterson this week announced plans for the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) to build the biggest solar complex in New York State. 

LIPA will issue Request for Proposals to build a solar complex capable of adding 50 megawatts (MW) of solar energy to the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) grid.  LIPA estimates that the project would generate sufficient power to support more than 6,500 households and to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 20,000 tons.  Governor Patterson statement describes LIPA as envisioning a network of photovoltaic panels “at school buildings, on commercial and municipal rooftops, along parking lots, atop landfills, and at brownfield sites.”

Read Governor Patterson’s press release here.

Luring Moviemakers to the Empire State: Governor Patterson Signs Bill Broadening Tax Credit for NYS Film Productions

Governor David Patterson opened the Tribeca Film Festival with a gift to the crowd: he had signed legislation to significantly expand the Empire State film production tax credit program. 

The legislation triples the percentage of film production cost eligible for the tax credit from 10 percent to 30 percent; it also raises the aggregate total that can be awarded the film production tax credit during a calendar year from $60 million in 2007 to $110 million in 2013 (via a series of gradual increases each year).  Finally, the new law extends the life of the program until 2013, from a current expiration date of 2011.

Governor Patterson predicted that the new law would do much to attract new television and movie business to New York.

Read Governor Patterson’s press release on the film production tax credit here.

Mayor Bloomberg Initiates ULURP for Willets Point, Hunter’s Point South and Rockaway – City Council Expresses Opposition to Willets Point Proposal

Read Mayor Bloomberg’s press release on ULURP initiation here.
Read Crain’s New York Business coverage of the Council’s reaction here.

EDC Selects Related Cos. for Kingsbridge Armory, Vornado Realty for Pier 94

Read New York Times coverage of Related’s Kingsbridge Armory designation here.
Read Crain’s New York Business coverage of Vornado’s Pier 94 designation here.

Earth Day: Mayor Bloomberg Touts Comprehensive PlaNYC Progress

Read Mayor Bloomberg’s Press Release on the PlaNYC Progress Report 2008 here.

Kalahari Makes Harlem Showcase of Affordable “Green Housing”

Read Mayor Bloomberg’s press release on completion of the Kalahari Housing Project – the City’s largest LEED-certified affordable housing – here.

Black Cars Go Green: Taxi and Limousine Commission Raises Fuel Efficiency Standards

Read Mayor Bloomberg’s press release on black cars’ new fuel efficiency standard here.

Patricia J. Lancaster resigns as commissioner of the Department of Buildings

Read Commissioner Lancaster’s statement and Mayor Bloomberg’s acceptance here

Emily K. Rafferty elected as chairwoman of NYC+Company

Read Mayor Bloomberg’s announcement here.

Schedule of Hearings in the New York City Council for the Week of April 28

Monday, April 28

Consumer Affairs; Civil Rights Leroy G. Comrie, Jr., Larry B. Seabrook, Chairs
Council Chambers – City Hall, 10 AM
Details: Oversight – The Office of Financial Empowerment

Contracts Letitia James, Chair
Hearing Room – 250 Broadway, 14th Floor, 10 AM
Details: Oversight – The Apprenticeship Program Requirement for Certain New York City Construction Contracts

Aging Maria del Carmen Arroyo, Chair
Hearing Room – 250 Broadway, 16th Floor, 10 AM
Details: Oversight – Examining the Challenges Faced by Grandparent Caregivers

Civil Service & Labor Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr., Chair
Council Chambers – City Hall, 1 PM
Details: Int 702 – By Council Members Lappin, Brewer, Felder, Jackson, James, Liu, Palma and Weprin – A Local Law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to electronic pay stubs for city employees.

Veterans Hiram Monserrate, Chair
Hearing Room – 250 Broadway, 14th Floor, 1 PM
Details: Oversight – Burial Benefits for Veterans

Economic Development; Waterfronts Michael C. Nelson, Thomas White, Jr., Chairs
Hearing Room – 250 Broadway, 16th Floor, 1 PM
Details: Oversight – Maritime Industry Support Services

Juvenile Justice Sara M. Gonzalez, Chair
Committee Room – City Hall, 1 PM
Details: Oversight – The Department of Juvenile Justice’s Release to Parent Initiative

Tuesday, April 29

Public Safety Peter F. Vallone, Jr., Chair
Committee Room – City Hall, 10 AM
Details: Proposed Int 650-A – By Council Members Vallone Jr., Addabbo Jr., Fidler, Gonzalez, and Nelson (by request of the Mayor) – A Local Law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to biological, chemical and radiological detectors.

Higher Education Charles Barron, Chair
Hearing Room – 250 Broadway, 14th Floor, 10 AM
Details: Oversight – Off-sight education and online degrees: the benefits, challenges and impact on higher education at CUNY

Transportation John C. Liu, Chair
Hearing Room – 250 Broadway, 16th Floor, 10 AM
Details: Int 741 – By Council Members Felder, Brewer, Fidler, Gentile, James, Koppell, Mark-Viverito, Martinez, Mealy, Palma, Weprin and Gerson – A Local Law to amend the New York city charter, in relation to accepting Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Access-A-Ride identification cards and reduced-fare MetroCards with additional official proof of address of New York City residency for the purpose of proving the identity and residency of applicants for New York City Disability Parking Permits.

Environmental Protection; Oversight and Investigations; Education
James F. Gennaro, Eric N. Gioia, Robert Jackson, Chairs
Council Chambers – City Hall, 1 PM
Details: Oversight – PCB’s in the Schools
Preconsidered Int – A LOCAL LAW – To amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the repeal of local law number 55 for the year 2007.
Preconsidered Res – By Council Members Gennaro, Fidler, Palma, Weprin, de Blasio and Eugene – Resolution finding that the enactment of Preconsidered Int. No. _____ does not have a significant adverse impact on the environment and is consistent with The State Environmental Quality Review Act.

General Welfare Bill de Blasio, Chair
Hearing Room – 250 Broadway, 16th Floor, 1 PM
Details: Oversight – Examining DHS’ Strategies and Progress toward Meeting the Goal of Reducing Homelessness by 2/3 by 2009

Mental Health, Mental Retardation, Alcoholism, Drug Abuse & Disability Services; Drug Abuse G. Oliver Koppell, Annabel Palma, Chairs
Committee Room – City Hall , 1 PM
Details: Oversight – Has Buprenorphine proven itself to be a worthy complement to methodone as an opioid replacement regimen?

Governmental Operations Simcha Felder, Chair
Hearing Room – 250 Broadway, 14th Floor, 1 PM
Details: Oversight – The Citywide Performance Reporting (CPR) System

Finance David I. Weprin, Chair
Committee Room – City Hall
Details:  Proposed Int 637-A – By Council Members Yassky and Weprin – A Local Law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to creating a fleet and stipulated fines program within the department of finance.
Int 722 – By Council Member Weprin (by request of the Mayor) – A Local Law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to the extension of the Bryant Park business improvement district.
Int 723 – By Council Member Weprin (by request of the Mayor) – A Local Law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to amending the district plan of the Bryant Park business improvement district to change the method of assessment upon which the district charge is based.