It has been five years since Dan Doctoroff reported to City Hall for work, but the former deputy mayor and current CEO of Bloomberg LP still finds time to think up interesting, even outrageous visions for the city. Well, they would be crazy if they did not have a habit of getting built. After all, so many developments that came out of Mr. Doctoroff’s unsuccessful bid to draw the Olympics to the five boroughs have since been realized regardless, from Atlantic Yards to Hudson Yards to Hunters Point South, the No. 7 extension, water taxis—the list goes on and on.
These success suggest that even though Mr. Doctoroff is no longer in command, might it still be possible to see a gondola stretch across the East River between Lower Manhattan, Governors Island and Brooklyn? Or a light rail line running the entire length of the waterfront from Astoria in Queens to Brooklyn’s Red Hook? Or, most audacious of all, tearing down the Javits convention center and moving it to yet another decked-over rail yard, this time in Sunnyside, where it would be surrounded by apartment and hotel towers and a sizable retail complex?
Who needs the Midtown East Rezoning to transform the area when you have intrepid developers and unlikely circumstances? O.K., so both of those are super-rare, so bring on the rezoning,
In the meantime, though, we can occupy ourselves with David Levinson’s daring plan to tear down 75 percent of 425 Park Avenue and replace it with a dynamic new tower by Lord Norman Foster. Foster + Partners have emerged victorious from a competition Mr. Levinson’s L&L Holdings held over the past few months between some of the world’s most high-profile designers. The British Pritzker Prize winner beat out fellow starchitects Rem Koolhaas, Zaha Hadid and Richard Rogers (no Americans, unfortunately).
Everyone has been praying for the inclusion of churches and synagogues in the Midtown East rezoning, but no one has checked in on the situation of hotels yet.
The religious institutions fear they will not be able to profit from the rezoning the same way their private neighbors will. Now, the hotel union and its political backers are worrying that hoteliers might be in the opposite position, of profiting too much from the rezoning. They are requesting that the Department of City Planning require special permits for new hotel development within the rezoning area. So far, the Department of City Planning has reservations about the proposal.
Street Fighters Too
What are you looking at?
When it comes to crossing the street, the city’s Department of Transportation hopes the answer is oncoming traffic—and not your smartphone or your beautiful European model boyfriend.
As any good three-year-old could tell you, always look both ways before crossing the street. But harried, hurried and distracted New Yorkers (and perhaps not a few New Yorkers) are ignoring the rules they learned in preschool, so the department has launched a new campaign to nudge as all into paying more attention when crossing the street.
Street Fighters Too
Janette Sadik-Khan, the sui generis city transportation commissioner, was standing on 51st Street between Sixth and Seventh avenues as rush hour was just starting last week. Rather, she was standing at the intersection with 6½th Avenue, her latest asphalt confection. The pedestrian passageway was designated and demarcated about two months ago, connecting up a series of plazas running from here to 57th Street. Ms. Sadik-Khan was out for her first official stroll.
“It’s kind of a secret garden, one of the new secret spaces we’ve helped create; we’ve got 500 of them in the city and we’re trying to connect people better to their surroundings, make the city that much nicer,” Ms. Sadik-Khan said.
She gazed up at the cute little green street sign one of her construction crews had installed. “6½th Avenue” it read, like a sign on any other corner, though it, along with five others along the seven-block passageway, are the only ones in the city bearing fractions. The commissioner looked down and smiled. “It’s like Harry Potter,” she said. “The 9¾ platform. Or Being John Malkovich, with the 7½ floor.”
“I love it.”
Best Laid Plans
Earlier this week, Councilman Dan Garodnick called on the Department of City Planning to slow down the planning for the new Midtown East rezoning that would add possible a dozen new skyscrapers to the Manhattan skyline. The argument was that with such an important rezoning—the city’s fate as a competitive marketplace hangs in the balance!—more time was needed to consult all the parties and get the plan right.
For essentially the same reasons, the department is now arguing that it cannot wait. Time is of the essence to get these new projects underway.
Former mayoral hopeful and social media lothario Anthony Weiner once infamously declared to Mayor Bloomberg over dinner that his first year in City Hall would be spent “tearing out your fucking bike lanes.”
It is a prospect that terrifies urban planners and bike advocates, who worship the public space rejiggering championed by current DOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. Mr. Weiner is obviously out of the running, but some other mayoral candidates have expressed concern about these streetscape changes, as well, most recently Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, who called the commish a “radical” recently. But would he really go through with it?
It Takes a Village
New York University won a huge victory at the City Council today, when it received approval for its somewhat less massive plan to expand its campus in Greenwich Villag, from from 2.5 million square feet to 1.9 million. What does that look like? The university produced some handy visual aids that show exactly that.
Was it enough? Not according to the project’s opponents, two dozen or so of whom showed up at the council this morning to waggle their hands in the face of the assembled pols (cheers, boos and hisses were forbidden, so they were left with jazz hands, like an Occupy protest).
“I’m really disappointed,” Community Board 2 chair David Gruber said after the land use committee voted 19-1 in favor of the modified plan. “I really felt the plans was not modified enough. NYU, with the tacit backing of the mayor, felt they could do whatever they wanted.”
Best Laid Plans
Exciting news for residents and denizens of the Lower East Side tonight. After, oh, seven decades, the city has finally reached a deal to redevelop the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area, those swathes of parking lots just south of the Williamsburg Bridge affectionately known as SPURA.
According to two people present at the meeting (The Observer had other commitments, tonight, in addition to closing the paper—more on that tomorrow), the plan presented by the city’s Economic Development Corporation, with 900 apartments and nearly a million square feet of commercial space, was unanimously approved by Community Board 3. The linchpin, announced by Councilwoman Margaret Chin, was that the city had agreed to make half of those units permanently affordable, rather than a possible sunset 60 years out.
“I think this is a very important opportunity for this community to back this avenue, which was given to the developers decades ago,” Nancy Goshow said last Thursday night, during a meeting of Community Board 5. “The developers have gotten all the benefits for too long, and it is time we as a community take back these spaces and really push them to be improved and made as nice as possible.”
Ms. Goshow was one of a majority of board members who declared her support for what has come to be known as 6½th Avenue, a Department of Transportation proposal to link a series of arcades and public plazas running from 51st to 57th streets between Sixth and Seventh avenues. The spaces were created through a special zoning district in the 1980s and early ’90s, and are made up of Zuccotti-like privately owned public space, or POPS. In exchange for building the spaces, developers got the opportunity to build bigger buildings.
Last year, the community board, at the suggestion of Friends of POPS, a pro-POPS civic group, asked the Department of Transportation to study ways it might connect these spaces. They are already a popular pedestrian thoroughfare, especially during lunch time and at rush hour, providing a less hectic alternative to the avenues on either side. The board wanted to make the spaces even more inviting.