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05/09/08 Affairs and Appointments

05/09/08 Affairs and Appointments

New York State

New York City


Public Hearings

Comment: NYC Bike Month 2008 is Apt Time to Reconsider Our Transportation Choices

The sight of three City Commissioners riding down the bike lane on Ninth Avenue is not something you expect to see every morning.  It was, however, something to behold this past Wednesday, as the Commissioners of Transportation, Parks and Recreation, and Health and Mental Hygiene joined the group Transportation Alternatives for a bike ride and press conference to mark the start of Bike Month NYC 2008.

Bike Month NYC 2008 is the 17th annual celebration of bicycling in New York City.  Though the events of Bike Month (of which more below) are terrific, celebrating Bike Month is also useful for prodding us to think critically about we might allocate our scarce street space.  As one of the sponsors of Bike Month, the aforementioned Transportation Alternatives (TA) has already done much to examine the errors in our existing system of street planning.

TA justly faults our urban planning for treating streets as mere “car corridors” rather than as valuable civic spaces whose resources should also accommodate pedestrians and cyclists.  The result of privileging motorists has created a predictable and costly problem: traffic.  Traffic imposes manifold costs on our city: polluted air, hazards for pedestrians and bikers, delays for freight delivery and passenger drop-off, and longer commuters for buses. 

Yet New York City traffic reflects not just the collective impact of millions of private decisions; these private decisions respond to the incentives created by public policy.  The most egregious such incentive is that we charge no fee for use of our scarce road space.  As TA notes, “the current under-pricing of scarce road space creates distorted incentives to drive.”  Mayor Bloomberg’s congestion pricing initiative attempted to correct these incentives, but could not gain the support of the State Legislature and now appears politically dead at least in the near term.

As TA points out, however, other public policies encourage driving at the expense of walking or bicyclcing.  One example is the City’s decision to allocate huge amounts of public space to free, unregulated curbside parking.  Excessive curbside parking not only induces people to drive, but also takes public space away from other uses – such as bike parking or mid-block parking – that make streets more bike and pedestrian-friendly.  According to TA, Paris is evidently altering its parking regime by eliminating 55,000 on-street parking spots each year; the goal is to alter price incentives so that parking in residential neighborhoods remains affordable (75 cents a day) while parking in other areas becomes very costly (as much as $4 an hour).

Another important feature that TA clarifies is street design.  As they succinctly put it: “less space for cars = less traffic… wide streets discourage walking and encourage speeding.”  And the disparities between space granted to people and space granted to cars can be truly striking.  In part of its “NYC Streets Renaissance” campaign, TA is leading an effort to reshape Manhattan’s Upper West Side.  The group observes that though only 10 percent of UWS residents commute by car, drivers on the UWS get a huge premium on street space.  TA calculates that on average UWS streets provide 594 square feet per car, but only 2.6 square feet per person.  In other words, drivers have 228 times as much space to enjoy as pedestrians. 

Wide streets not only directly shrink sidewalk space, but also do so indirectly by encouraging fast driving; fast moving traffic tends to deter people from walking close to the curb, meaning that on average most UWS streets have less than 8 feet of sidewalk space.  TA describes other cities as having gone on successful “road diets;” Seattle has evidently enacted 20 reductions in road space, leading to more peaceful streets and fewer traffic injuries and fatalities.

The foregoing examples show that public policies matter in shaping private transportation choices.  City streets have many competing uses, yet far too much of New York City’s streets privilege vehicle traffic.  NYC Bike Month 2008 marks a perfect opportunity to consider how we might begin to make more of our roadways.

Assembly Approves One-Year Moratorium on Home Foreclosures for Subprime Borrowers – Legislation Faces Opposition in Senate

This past Wednesday the New York State Assembly passed a bill that would extend protection from foreclosure to holders of subprime mortgages for a period of 12 months, so long as the borrowers meet minimum monthly payments as determined by a judge.  For the purposes of the bill, a subprime mortgage is one with an annual payment rate of 3 or more percentage points above the yield on comparable U.S. Treasury securities.

Though the legislation passed the Assembly by a wide margin, 118-10, its prospects are uncertain in the Republican-controlled Senate.

To read Crain’s New York coverage of the foreclosure moratorium legislation, go here.

MTA-Tishman Speyer Negotiations for Hudson Yards Hit the Skids; Two Sides Still Talking, but MTA may Re-Open Selection Process to Other Bidders

Upon his return from London, Mayor Bloomberg may have a tall order: trying to resurrect negotiations between the MTA and Tishman Speyer over Tishman’s plan to create 16 million square feet of offices, housing, parks and cultural space over the MTA’s rail yards on both sides of 11th Avenue between West 30th and West 33rd streets.

According to the MTA, Tishman evidently exited the negotiations over a disagreement on scheduling; specifically, not wanting to begin leasing the eastern portion of the 26-acre parcel until the City Council rezones the western half.  At stake for the MTA is $1 billion that Tishman pledged in March to help the MTA cover budget shortfalls in its capital program.

To read Crain’s New York coverage of the Hudson Yards negotiations, go here.

New School for Greenwich Village: 563 New Seats Emerge from Partnership between the School Construction Authority, the New York Foundling Charitable Corporation, and the Rudin Family

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein Wednesday joined with the New York Foundling Charitable Corporation and the Rudin Family to announce that the longtime Greenwich Village headquarters of New York Foundling would be transformed into an elementary school serving the children of Manhattan’s District Two.

The Rudin Family, which is overseeing the development of St. Vincent’s hospital nearby, reached an agreement with the School Construction Authority and New York Foundling whereby new school will occupy the lower six floors of the building while New York Foundling will maintain offices in the upper floors. New York Foundling will use the proceeds from the sale to build a new home in Yonkers for its pediatric center.

Read the rest of the Department of Education’s press release here.

Commissioners Cruise to Kick-Off NYC Bike Month 2008

The 17th Annual Bike Month NYC is presented by Transportation Alternatives and the New York City Department of Transportation, Department of Parks and Recreation and Department of Health.

See the Bike Month NYC 2008 website here.

Mayor Bloomberg Signs Bill Formally Establishing the Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability

The bill (Introductory Number 395-A) to codify into law the Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability was co-sponsored by Council Members Gennaro, Brewer, Foster, Gonzalez, James, Koppell, Mendez, Nelson, Seabrook, Weprin, Mark-Viverito, Lappin, McMahon, Liu, White, Recchia, Vallone, Vacca, Martinez, Gioia, Garodnick, Rivera, Monserrate, Comrie, Eugene, Sears, Mealy and Ignizio. 

The new office will be under the purview of the Mayor’s Office of Operations; the current director of the Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability is Rohit Aggarwala.

Read Mayor Bloomberg’s Press Release here.

Mayor Bloomberg Signs Legislation Expanding Bryant Park Business Improvement District

Mayor Bloomberg this week signed bills (Introductory Numbers 722 and 723 to expand the Business Improvement District (BID) in Bryant Park to include the new Bank of America tower; the tower, on the corner of 42nd and 6th Avenue, currently resides just outside the BID’s boundaries.

Self-funded by local property owners and overseen by the City’s Department of Small Business Services, BIDs are voluntarily-formed community coalitions to promote business development and improve quality of life.

The Bryant Park BID legislation was sponsored by Council Members Weprin and Gennaro.

Read the Mayor’s full press release here.

Governor Paterson recommends Christopher Ward to become Port Authority Executive Director

Governor Paterson recommends Christopher Ward to become Port Authority Executive Director. 

Read Governor Paterson’s press release here.

Bronson Fox and Mehul Patel have been named vice-presidents at New York State’s Moynihan Station Development Corporation

Bronson Fox and Mehul Patel have been named vice-presidents at the state’s Moynihan Station Development Corp.  Fox, formerly an assitant vice president at the city Economic Development Corp., was most recently senior policy director at Partnership for New York City.  Patel was senior project manager at The Hudson Cos.

Schedule of Hearings in the New York City Council for the Week of May 12

Economic Development; Finance David I. Weprin, Thomas White, Jr., Chairs
Monday, May 12, 11:00 AM
Council Chambers – City Hall
Details: 11:00 – 12:00 Economic Development Corporation

Economic Development; Finance; Community Development David I. Weprin, Thomas White, Jr., Albert Vann, Chairs
Monday, May 12, 12:00 PM
Council Chambers – City Hall
Details: 12:00 – 1:00 Small Business Services

Environmental Protection; Finance David I. Weprin, James F. Gennaro, Chairs
Monday, May 12, 1:00 PM
Council Chambers – City Hall
Details: 1:00 – 2:15 Environmental Protection (Capital) 2:15 – 3:30 Environmental Protection (Expense) 3:30 Public

General Welfare; Finance; Women’s Issues David I. Weprin, Helen Sears, Bill de Blasio, Chairs
Tuesday, May 13, 10:00 AM
Council Chambers – City Hall
Details: 10:00 – 12:00 Human Resources Administration / Social Services 12:00 – 2:00 Administration for Children’s Services 2:00 – 3:00 Homeless Services 3:00 Public

Youth Services * Addition Lewis A. Fidler, Chair
Wednesday, May 14, 10:00 AM
Council Chambers – City Hall
Details: Res 1389 – By Council Members Fidler, Brewer, Comrie, Felder, Gennaro, James, Koppell, Liu, Mealy, Palma, Sanders Jr., Stewart and Weprin – Resolution calling upon the United States Congress to pass the Summer Jobs Stimulus Act of 2008.

Housing & Buildings * Addition Erik Martin Dilan, Chair
Wednesday, May 14, 10:00 AM
Committee Room – City Hall
Details: Proposed Int 547-A – By Council Members Dilan, Brewer, James, Koppell, Martinez, Nelson, Seabrook, Sears, White Jr., Sanders Jr., Gerson, Baez and Oddo (by request of the Mayor) – A Local Law – To amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to issuance of a certificate of completion for individuals working on supported scaffolds and design requirements for supported scaffolds.

Sanitation & Solid Waste Management Michael E. McMahon, Chair
Wednesday, May 14, 10:30 AM
Committee Room – City Hall
Details: Int 729 – By Council Members de Blasio, McMahon, the Speaker (Council Member Quinn) and Council Members Comrie, Dickens, Fidler, Gentile, Katz, Koppell, Recchia Jr., Sanders Jr., Gerson, Jackson, James, Stewart, Vallone Jr., Weprin, Martinez, Yassky, Liu, Nelson, Foster, Monserrate, Rivera, Garodnick, Mealy and Sears – A Local Law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to electronic equipment collection standards. M 994 – Communication from the Mayor – Mayors veto and disapproval message of Introductory Number 729, in relation to electronic equipment collection standards.

Finance * Addition David I. Weprin, Chair
Wednesday, May 14, 11:00 AM
Committee Room – City Hall
Details: Preconsidered L.U.____ – By Council Member Weprin – Article XI tax Exemption, Lafayette Morrison Apartments, 820 & 880 Boynton Avenue, 825 & 875 Morrison Avenue, Block 3627, Lots 40, 50, 30 and 20, Bronx, Council District No. 18 AND SUCH OTHER BUSINESS AS MAY BE NECESSARY

Stated Council Meeting
Wednesday, May 14, 1:30 PM
Committee Room – City Hall