Best Laid Plans
Design Within Reach?
It was but one line in Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s State of the City address in January, but it could prove to be one of the biggest of his dozen years in office.
“In the area around Grand Central, we’ll work with the City Council on a package of regulatory changes and incentives that will attract new investment, new companies and new jobs,” the mayor said from the stage inside Morris High School in the Bronx.
Hizzoner spent more time talking about Cornell’s Roosevelt Island tech campus, keeping the Hunt’s Point Produce Market from moving across the Hudson to Jersey and efforts to further expand the blue-collar workforce on the waterfront. Even the redevelopment of nearby East Fordham Road and Webster Avenue got equal billing with these vague pronouncements about “the area around Grand Central.”
Despite the scant mention, it turns out that for an administration that has never shied away from big plans, this may be one of the biggest projects yet.
Last month, Mayor Bloomberg stood in a shiny white conference room inside Department of Buildings headquarters on lower Broadway, two blocks from City Hall. He was surrounded by some of his top deputies and a giant flatscreen monitor mounted on the wall. Welcome to the Hub, a new high-tech system that allows the city’s architects and engineers for the first time to interface with plan examiners at the 17 different departments with oversight of their projects simultaneously.
“We all heard horror stories about delays in the approval process that cost time and money,” Mayor Bloomberg told reporters.
Standing at the podium beside the buildings commissioner and landmarks chair, closer to the mayor than the reps for the Real Estate Board and developer the Related Companies, was a striking woman in a black tweed dress and gray cardigan.
Margaret O’Donoghue Castillo, along with her members at the New York chapter of the American Institute of Architects, where she is currently serving as president, have told the city more of these horror stories than anyone else, and it was through their advocacy, their lobbying, that encouraged the mayor and the Department of Buildings to create the Hub.