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Posts from the "Waterfront" Category

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Questions Remain for Hunter’s Point South Transpo Plan

Hunter's Point South will have good bike infrastructure, as shown here. But will it be transit-accessible or swamped by parking? Image: NYC Mayor's Office via Flickr.

This morning, the Bloomberg Administration announced the developer for the first phase of Hunter’s Point South, a Long Island City project the city is billing as the largest middle-class housing project since Co-Op City and Starrett City went up in the 1970s. A team led by the Related Companies will be developing the first 900 units at what will eventually be a 5,000-unit complex along the East River.

Whether Hunter’s Point South turns out to be the most recent in a line of auto-oriented projects along New York City’s deindustrialized waterfront, or a project in line with the city’s sustainability goals, will depend on whether developers choose to build all the parking they are entitled to, whether the MTA extends bus service into the complex, and whether the city’s attempts to foster ferry transit across the East River are successful.

The nearest subway station to Hunter’s Point South is the Vernon-Jackson Ave stop on the 7. The northeastern corner of the site is only two blocks away from the station. Those are long blocks, however, making the walk about three-tenths of a mile. That’s not right on top of the subway, but it is walkable. The far end of the 30 acre site, however, will be 0.6 or 0.7 miles from the subway, more than the half-mile rule of thumb for transit-oriented development.

Over the course of the project, the city has been in talks with the MTA to extend bus service, most likely the Q103, into Hunter’s Point South. There is no concrete promise to provide transit to the heart of the project, however, nor have funds to pay for more buses been publicly identified.

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Draft Plan for Waterfront Promises Greenways, Silent on Ferries

cwp-logoWith New York City in the midst of a wholesale rethinking of its more than 500 miles of waterfront, the Department of City Planning recently released a draft of its new comprehensive waterfront plan, Vision 2020. That plan lays out both broad citywide objectives, such as a commitment to building borough-wide greenways across the city, and a long list of site-specific recommendations.

The waterfront plan sets out six goals to balance: providing access to the waterfront, supporting economic development on the working waterfront, protecting wetlands and water quality, enhancing on-water experiences including transportation and recreation, building the city’s resilience to the effects of climate change, and enhancing the efficiency of waterfront operations.

“The document itself is a quantum leap forward,” said Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance President Roland Lewis, who said it will help “break the barrier between land and water.” The city’s current waterfront plan was passed in 1992 and quite a lot has changed along the city’s shores since then.

One exciting promise laid out in the draft plan is a massive expansion of greenways across the city. The city should “seek to establish and extend borough-wide Waterfront Greenways in all five boroughs wherever feasible,” says the plan. It also suggests improving wayfinding from upland areas to the greenway network.

Rob Pirani, director of environmental programs at the Regional Plan Association and the head of an informal coalition in support of greenways, suggested that such a commitment is an important step forward for the city. “Instead of it being one-off projects, what’s being proposed is that the city would be forwarding these waterfront greenways throughout the city.”

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Public Tells Planning Commission They Want a Walkable Riverside Center

Image: Extell Development.

The drawings released by Extell Development don't draw attention to the blank walls and curb cuts that would disrupt the sidewalk at Riverside Center.

A hearing on the Riverside Center mega-development yesterday revealed a popular hunger for a more walkable West Side and perhaps some interest from the City Planning Commission in the same. Extell Development is looking to build a housing and retail complex, including 1,800 parking spaces, on this waterfront site equivalent in size to two Manhattan blocks. Public testimony called for a slew of urban design improvements to their plan, including reducing the amount of off-street parking, integrating the site with the surrounding streetscape, and working towards burying the elevated Miller Highway.

As chair Amanda Burden and the other commissioners now deliberate over the approvals the project needs, they have the power to determine whether this block on Manhattan’s West Side will be dominated by the automobile or develop into a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood, in line with the goals of PlaNYC.

Efforts to better integrate Riverside Center with the surrounding neighborhood and streetscape got the most play yesterday. In Extell’s plans for the project, retail faces the inside of the development and passersby would see largely blank walls rising from the sidewalk, with the streets sloping down to the waterfront and the buildings stationed on an elevated platform. That wall would be interrupted by a slew of curb cuts to enter Extell’s proposed 1,800-space parking garage and auto showroom and service center.

“The development turns its back on the street,” said Brian Cook, the land use director for Borough President Scott Stringer. “It systematically ignores the rich context of the area,” explained Community Board 7 chair Mel Wymore.

The City Planning Commission appeared receptive to this critique. “Does one see an auto showroom as something that enlivens the edge of the project?” Burden asked Extell president Gary Barnett after he testified. “What is going to energize the sidewalk and the street life at the front of this project?”

Other commissioners pressed the developers and architects about the effect of driveways, retail, stairways, and platforms on the pedestrian environment. The developer, in turn, outlined a few minor steps to address the issue, such as changing a staircase to 59th Street into a slope.

But one underlying cause of the streetlife-deadening platform is the excessive amount of parking that Extell is seeking to build, according to Ethel Sheffer, a CB 7 member and former president of the New York American Planning Association chapter. The platform “is there in large part because it satisfies an extensive request of 1,800 parking spaces on two levels,” she said.

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Final Deal on New Domino Locks in Parking, Adds Shuttle Buses

NewDomino.jpgAdd a whole lot more cars and some shuttle buses to this picture, and you've got the approved plan for the New Domino. Image: The New Domino
The New Domino development slated for the Williamsburg waterfront passed the City Council's land use committee yesterday in a unanimous vote, thanks to a last-minute deal between the developer and project critics. Under that agreement, the project's tallest towers will shrink from 40 stories to 34, though the total number of units will remain the same. The project is now expected to sail through the remainder of the approval process.

In terms of transportation, the developer has now promised to provide shuttle buses to nearby subway stations. With room for 1,428 cars, the project is far from a model of sustainable planning, but with the fight over New Domino now at a close, it's worth remembering that livable streets advocates won some real improvements during the land use review process: the shuttle buses and last month's reduction in off-street parking.

The bottom line remains, however, that with 1,428 parking spaces, this is an auto-oriented development. "The transportation plan hinges on bringing more cars into the neighborhood," said Ryan Kuonen, an organizer with Neighbors Allied for Good Growth, a local community organization. Still, she said, "It could have been worse -- the plan used to be worse."

With both Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn strongly supporting the project, final approval was all but guaranteed. "This thing was going to get passed," said Kuonen. The only question was how the New Domino would change on the way to approval, and the adjustments that unfolded were almost uniformly towards more livable streets.

The changes were "pretty much as good as you were going to get on these issues," said Rachel Weinberger, a parking expert and professor of transportation planning at UPenn. "If this is what we get when the system is working how it's supposed to, we need to rethink the system."

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Saturday: Input Wanted on Inwood Waterfront Esplanade

scgrab.jpgPhoto via NYCEDC
For years, the New York City Economic Development Corporation intended to have the Sherman Creek area in eastern Inwood rezoned for higher-density residential and commercial development. That effort was ultimately abandoned when stakeholders couldn't come to terms, but as the Manhattan Times reports, plans survive for a waterfront esplanade along the Harlem River between Academy and W. 208th Streets.

East of 9th Avenue the five blocks between W. 202nd Street and W. 206th Street fall into the river. It is here that the Parks Department has built small pockets of green space with access to the river, barbecues and benches.

"The idea is to develop a feature that connects them," Alejandro Baquero-Cifuentes, EDC vice president for development told the Community Board 12 Parks and Recreation Committee Tuesday night.

[The project], if it ever becomes a reality, represents a significant amount of new public space in Northern Manhattan, where potentially someone could walk half the length of Inwood from Swindler Cove Park via a pedestrian trail and then the esplanade to the [University Heights] bridge.

Though a funding source for the project has yet to be identified, this weekend NYCEDC will hold a public workshop on the esplanade master plan. Details follow the jump.

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Billyburg’s “New Domino” Mixes Parking Disaster With Bike-Ped Benefits

The New Domino development proposed for the Williamsburg waterfront made headlines last week when a Brooklyn Community Board 1 committee voted against enabling its construction. This privately financed project is worth a close look because it exemplifies how developers can embrace certain livable streets goals while ignoring the big picture of traffic. It's the kind of development the city will have to guide with a firmer hand in order to meet the sustainability goals of PlaNYC.

New_Domino_across_River.jpgThe New Domino development will reshape the waterfront and the streets just north of the Williamsburg Bridge. Image: The New Domino.

The New Domino's 2,200 residences would transform 11.2 acres just north of the Williamsburg Bridge, at a former sugar refinery about three-quarters of a mile from the two nearest subway stations. It fronts the Kent Avenue bike lane and the future path of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway. At a site so large and so integral to the city's bike network, but with mediocre transit access, the developer's transportation decisions are critically important. 

Determining how much parking to construct is one such transportation decision, and on that score the New Domino abandons good planning.

The development's 1,694 off-street parking spaces would bring a flood of new motorists to Williamsburg. This is, in a way, intentional. The developer is attempting to match current car ownership rates in the area, according to Martin Hopp, who's overseeing the project design for Rafael Viñoly Architects. "We felt that it was important to accommodate the anticipated parking need on-site," said Hopp, "rather than to substantially increase vehicles circling the neighborhood for the already limited on-street spaces."

Building so many parking spaces will induce New Domino residents to drive. Research indicates that free parking spaces at home encourage New Yorkers to commute by car. "The amount of parking infrastructure to provide should be based on the neighborhood's and the city's street capacity, the city's goals in terms of carbon reduction, traffic flow, pedestrian safety and so forth," said UPenn professor Rachel Weinberger, co-author of the study "Guaranteed Parking -- Guaranteed Driving" [PDF]. "Deciding how many parking spaces to provide on the basis of what is profitable and/or on the rate of car ownership in the surrounding area is completely inappropriate and represents the city's abdication of its responsibility to protect the public health and welfare."

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Hudson Greenway “Cherry Walk” Users to Remain in the Dark

cherry2.jpgNighttime visibility on the Hudson River Greenway north of W. 102nd Street has not improved since Jacob-uptown took this photo a year ago.
In the fall of 2007, 2008, and again this year, Streetsblog readers have alerted us to hazardous conditions on the "Cherry Walk" segment of the Hudson River Greenway. According to the city, no major improvements are in the offing.

Due to the absence of lighting, once clocks are rolled back for daylight-saving time the Greenway between W. 102 and W. 125 Streets is plunged into darkness during the evening rush. Making matters worse is the glare of headlights from the Henry Hudson Parkway. Writes Upper Manhattan commuter Brad Conover:

The combination of no lights on the path and oncoming headlights of southbound traffic makes it impossible to see the bike path. There should be three new lines painted marking north and southbound biking lanes, not just one line separating bikers from pedestrians with no indication as to N/S-bound bikers, and there should be lights on the path and/or hedges to block the lights of oncoming traffic. I am sure someone is going to get seriously hurt on that path through no fault of their own.

Jacob-uptown, who sent in photographs of the area last year, was informed in a January 2009 letter that DOT would be recommending that the Parks Department include Cherry Walk lighting in its next round of capital construction contracts (though Parks previously indicated to Streetsblog that such a project would fall under the purview of DOT). Aside from some new shrubbery that "only helps a bit," Jacob reports that no changes have been made since last fall.

Last week, DOT told Streetsblog that defective highway lights along the Cherry Walk stretch would be replaced, but said there are no plans to install lighting on the Greenway itself.

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Stim Funds to Kickstart South Bronx Greenway

south_bronx_greenway.jpgThe Lafayette Avenue section of the South Bronx Greenway. Before/after: Sustainable South Bronx.

We've got a few more details about another local ped-bike project getting a lift from stimulus cash. The street improvements announced for Hunts Point and Port Morris in the Bronx will fund the first three sections of the South Bronx Greenway. This project has been years in the works. When complete, it will bring 11 miles of pedestrian and bicycle paths to neighborhoods where places to play and bike are scarce, and where childhood asthma and obesity rates run high.

"This is extremely helpful moving these projects forward in a time of fiscal crisis," said Miquela Craytor, director of Sustainable South Bronx, which has been instrumental in shaping the project and shepherding its progress. "It's a big win for South Bronx communities that have been underserved for so long."

The three segments include Lafayette Avenue, a connection to Randall's Island, and access to Hunts Point Landing. The Sustainable South Bronx web site has a handy map of the full project [PDF].

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Hudson Greenway “Cherry Walk” Still Dark and Dangerous

cherry1.jpgStreetsblogger Jacob-uptown: "You can see many of the street lamps on Henry Hudson Parkway are burned out. This makes the greenway completely unlit, except for oncoming car headlights."

Last December, Washington Heights resident Lars Klove alerted us to night-time conditions on a segment of the Hudson River Greenway known as Cherry Walk, which lies roughly between W. 102 and W. 125 Streets. Wrote Lars:

It is unlit and, if riding northbound, into the blinding headlights of southbound traffic, it is impossible to see the bicycle path even with a bike headlamp. The Greenway itself has one semi-reflective line marking the pedestrian lane from the bicycle lane. There is not a line marking the outside edges of the lane or a couple of grassy islands along the way. Its easy to find yourself suddenly off the roadway and in the grass or trees.

As illustrated by these photos from Streetsblog photo contributor Jacob-uptown, captioned with his comments, Greenway users are still in the dark nearly a year later. A press officer with Parks said the department is "aware of this issue," and told us that DOT should be in the process of addressing it. We have a message in with DOT and are awaiting word.

cherry2.jpg"This is the same view as [the photo above], except with the flash turned on. If you look closely, you can see that the path splits right ahead of you, and if you go straight, you will run into a tree."

More photos after the jump.

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America’s Least Wanted Highways

sheridan_map_1.jpgThe Congress for New Urbanism released a highly entertaining top ten list today: the North American highways most in need of demolition. At the top is Seattle's Alaskan Way Viaduct, a structurally damaged elevated highway that, if removed, would free up 335 acres of public land by Elliott Bay.

New York's Sheridan Expressway, which traverses 1.25 miles of Bronx River waterfront (right), comes in at number two. Thanks to the advocacy of the Southern Bronx River Watershed Alliance, the state DOT is considering a proposal to replace the lightly-traveled, Moses-era Sheridan with housing and parks. As the Tri-State Transportation Campaign reported last month, preserving it is becoming harder and harder to justify.

Here's the full "Freeways Without Futures" list, issued as part of a joint venture between CNU and the Center for Neighborhood Technology called the Highways to Boulevards Initiative:

  1. Alaskan Way Viaduct, Seattle, WA
  2. Sheridan Expressway, New York, NY
  3. The Skyway and Route 5, Buffalo, NY
  4. Route 34, New Haven, CT
  5. Claiborne Expressway, New Orleans, LA
  6. Interstate 81, Syracuse, NY
  7. Interstate 64, Louisville, KY
  8. Route 29, Trenton, NJ
  9. Gardiner Expressway, Toronto, ON
  10. 11th Street Bridges and the Southeast Freeway, Washington D.C.

Previous highway-to-boulevard conversions have succeeded in cities from New York to San Francisco to Seoul, often in the face of opposition from carmaggedon-predicting doomsayers. More from CNU President John Norquist on why freeway removal makes sense, after the jump.

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