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Posts from the "Adolfo Carrion" Category

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At Forum, Mayoral Candidates Back Bus Lanes, Shy Away From Funding

Democratic (top) and Republican and independent (bottom) candidates for mayor talked transportation this morning. Photo: Stephen Miller

At a mayoral forum on transportation this morning, the first since a February event hosted by Transport Workers Union Local 100, eight candidates offered ideas on how they would improve the city’s road and transit network. For the most part, the candidates were eager to support buses, quick to get agitated about bike lanes, and short on realistic ideas for how to fund their plans.

The forum, organized by the University Transportation Research Center, packed a room with over 200 students and transportation professionals at Baruch College, with questions posed to the candidates by a lineup of experts. There were two panels: the Republican and independent candidates — Adolfo Carrión, John Catsimatidis, Joe Lhota, and George McDonald – followed Democratic candidates Sal Albanese, John Liu, Bill Thompson, and Anthony Weiner. Bill de Blasio and Christine Quinn did not show, leaving empty seats behind their name tags.

Many of the candidates wanted more mayoral control over the city’s transit network, if not an outright transfer of responsibility from the state. While city control of subways and buses is unlikely, Lhota said, “that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t bring it up.” Even without full control, he said, the mayor can exert influence through MTA board appointments, providing operating subsidies, and adding bus lanes.

The candidates all cited the need to expand the bus network, particularly Select Bus Service and express buses; many of them also spoke highly of ferries, which require substantial subsidies.

Albanese, Carrión, and McDonald all endorsed “Gridlock” Sam Schwartz’s “fair toll” plan, which would increase or add bridge tolls where there are transit options while cutting tolls where transit is scarcer. Albanese said he would split revenue from the toll plan: Three-quarters of it would go to transit operations, with the goal of reducing the pressure for fare hikes, and a quarter would go to capital investment. McDonald, citing the MTA’s growing operating budget, driven by labor and debt costs, said he would dedicate all of the program’s revenue to capital investments.

Catsimatidis said that he opposes any proposal that would add or increase tolls, while Thompson repeated his long-standing call for assessing vehicle registration fees by weight and reinstating the commuter tax, which would be dedicated exclusively to transit. Liu, while calling a return of the commuter tax unrealistic, said Congress should allocate more funds to transit.

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At Transit Forum, Albanese, Allon, and Carrión Support Rational Tolls

Mayoral candidates Bill Thompson, Christine Quinn, John Liu, Bill de Blasio, Adolfo Carrión, Tom Allon, and Sal Albanese gathered to talk transit at a Friday evening forum. Photo: Stephen Miller

Friday’s transit forum hosted by Transit Workers Union Local 100 and a coalition of rider advocacy groups offered an opportunity for a more more detailed discussion of transit policy than this year’s mayoral race has seen so far. While the candidates offered few specifics about how they would improve transit for the millions of New Yorkers who depend on trains and buses, clear differences emerged, especially on the question of how to increase funding for the debt-ridden MTA.

Five Democrats — former City Council City member Sal Albanese, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Comptroller John Liu, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and former comptroller Bill Thompson — were on hand, as were former Bronx borough president Adolfo Carrión, running on the Independence Party line, and Manhattan Media publisher Tom Allon, running as a Republican. Conspicuously absent was Republican Joe Lhota, whose resume includes a recent one-year stint as MTA chair.

The transit issue that the mayor can control most directly is the allocation of street space. How much real estate should be dedicated exclusively to transit, so riders don’t get bogged down in traffic? More than anyone else, the mayor has the power to decide.

Albanese had the most specific proposal, calling for 20 new Select Bus Service routes by 2018. De Blasio said he wants more Bus Rapid Transit outside of Manhattan, citing a JFK-to-Flushing route as an example. When Streetsblog asked after the forum if the Bloomberg administration has been implementing the SBS program quickly enough, de Blasio said he didn’t know enough to say if implementation was going slowly, but that the implicit answer is “yes” because his vision calls more more BRT in the outer boroughs.

Carrión, who called for a new goal of providing 30-minute commutes from the city limits to the CBD, cited the Select Bus Service route on Fordham Road as a successful transit enhancement, noting that it has won over merchants who were initially skeptical. Quinn and Thompson, meanwhile, spoke about improving bus service, but not specifically about SBS or BRT. And Liu said that Bus Rapid Transit should be part of the city’s transit mix, but didn’t get more specific than that.

On the issue of funding the MTA, the mayor has far less direct control than the governor and the state legislature but still commands a powerful bully pulpit that can set the agenda.

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Yankee Stadium Parking Garages “Almost Certainly” Coming Down

How long now before the Yankee Stadium parking fiasco becomes an unpleasant memory?

The site of one Yankee Stadium garage, at River Avenue and 153rd Street, was proposed for redevelopment as a hotel and conference center in 2011. Photo: BOEDC

In a brief Crain’s item published last Friday (hat tip to Tri-State), Marlene Cintron, president of the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation, said that occupancy rates at the taxpayer-financed stadium garages are down from last year, and now stand below 50 percent.

The Bronx Parking Development Company is in default, as expected, according to Crain’s, and bondholders are weighing their options.

Seven companies responded to a request for information to build hotels on the garages, which Cintron said would almost certainly have to be torn down.

Though there were rumblings of repurposing or replacing some stadium parking over a year ago, this appears to be the first time a public official has publicly suggested that the garages could be erased completely.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., who has his predecessor Adolfo Carrion and the New York City Economic Development Corporation to thank for this mess, broached the idea of siting a hotel near the stadium in his 2010 State of the Borough address. Ironically, Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez wrote last February that initial proposals were dismissed because developers insisted on “major city subsidies.” Diaz also reportedly asked the Bloomberg administration to replace “some of the garages” with low-income housing. This outcome seems unlikely, given that bondholders, unlike the EDC, expect a return on their investment.

Diaz spokesperson John DeSio told Streetsblog last year that whatever becomes of the garages, the next developer should learn from the city’s mistakes — the squandering of millions of dollars on parking that the neighborhood didn’t want, and the Yankees didn’t need; approving the deal before conducting an economic feasibility study, and so on. Regardless, given the sordid history of the stadium garages, residents of the South Bronx, and city and state taxpayers at large, would do well to keep their ears to the ground.

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White House Urban Affairs Chief: Promising Words But Little Hint of a Plan

Adolfo Carrion Jr., director of the White House's new Office of Urban Affairs, today vowed to begin reconnecting Washington with the needs of the nation's cities -- even as he offered few tangible plans for breaking through the morass of the federal bureaucracy and effecting change in the near term.

alg_adolfo_carrion.jpgWhite House Urban Affairs director Adolfo Carrion Jr. Photo: NYDN
Carrion, addressing a small crowd at the two-day Open Cities conference now underway in DC (follow it live right here), linked the Obama administration's effort with the urban policy review initiated by former President Carter, which began with grand hopes but ultimately narrowed its focus to smaller renewal projects.

"We're taking what he did in '79 and revisiting it," Carrion said, crediting Carter with "thinking forward" and predicting he "will be treated, after he's gone from the stage, in a much more generous way."

The urban affairs office, created in March, is promoting a nationwide tour  highlighting cities that have hit upon groundbreaking uses of economic stimulus money, such as Kansas City's Green Impact Zone. In coming months, the tour will take a look at high-tech development in Atlanta.

And Carrion's promise, as he put it today, of "shifting from a top-down culture to the federal government serving as a supporting actor to local protagonists" has caught on with advocacy groups and analysts who had become accustomed to urban priorities remaining out of the political spotlight.

But when it comes to the most pressing challenges facing cities, particularly those connected to economic recovery, Carrion's office has yet to advocate for urban priorities. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood recently all but ruled out two reform proposals long sought by the nation's cities -- channeling federal aid directly to municipalities and putting the federal contribution to highway and transit projects on equal footing.

Indeed, despite telling Politico in July that he soon would "explain [his office's] strategy publicly," the urban affairs chief appeared content with starting an open-ended discussion about investing in cities rather than setting a timetable for accomplishing specific goals.

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Obama’s Touted Office of Urban Policy Slow to Take Shape

urbanpolicy_1.jpgWhen Barack Obama was elected, urbanists were, in some cases literally, dancing in the streets. For once, America had elected a president who understood the importance of cities -- and who promised to create an "Office for Urban Policy" that would help those cities to take their rightful place in the federal policy debate.

But, as Dayo Olopade of The Root reports today in a piece called "What Happened to Obama's Office of Urban Policy," that office has been slow to take shape, or show any indication of wielding serious influence:

[C]elebrations about the potential triumph of urban policy may be premature. In recent weeks, the Obama administration has begun referring to the office as "urban affairs," rather than "urban policy," a small but notable downgrade. And while other offices and Cabinet agencies have been staffing up -- the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships has representation in 12 government agencies -- 100 days in, urban affairs has announced only two senior staffers: Derek Douglas, who was special adviser to New York Gov. David Paterson, and former Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrión, Jr., who faces allegations of mismanaging campaign donations and development projects in New York City.…

[T]he urgency of dealing with the recession in these first 100 days has made the slow rollout of the office worrisome for some local officials. Caroline Coleman, federal relations director of the National League of Cities, says cities have been pummeled by the economic downturn. For the first time in the 24-year history of the organization’s City Fiscal Conditions report, the three primary sources of revenue for urban centers -- property, sales and income taxes -- all experienced a quarterly decrease. "What we’re seeing reflected in the national news is hitting hometown urban America every day," says Coleman.

Olopade points out that the selection of Carrión, a local pol with no experience at the national policy level, was perplexing to some who have been watching the process. She quotes Diana Lind, editor of Next American City: "[He] doesn’t have a lot of experience in dealing with federal policy. How could you give somebody like Adolfo Carrión control over, say the transportation laws in Milwaukee? It’s a hard leap to make."


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First Order of Business for Carrión: Bike to the White House Day?

carrion_one_less_car.jpg

Here's newly appointed White House director of Urban Affairs Adolfo Carrión back in his Bronx Borough President days, striking a pose with Transportation Alternatives' Noah Budnick in 2006. The picture was snapped on Bike to Work Day, which Carrión observed every year by sponsoring a ride.

Overall, his record as an urbanist left much to be desired, with a notable soft spot for parking-heavy development projects. It remains to be seen exactly what the Urban Affairs post will coordinate, but Carrion is dropping hints that land use and transportation will be part of the mix. Reports the Washington Post:

Carrión said he would help coordinate urban policy in traditional areas such as education, health care and public safety. But he also said he would look to develop urban neighborhoods in environmentally thoughtful ways, such as by offering incentives for companies to locate in densely populated areas and improving mass transit.

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NYC’s First Bus Rapid Transit Line Debuts in the Bronx


L-R: Assembly Members José Rivera and Adriano Espaillat, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, MTA CEO Lee Sander and Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrión at Fordham Plaza today

Mayor Michael Bloomberg this morning unveiled details of the city's first Bus Rapid Transit project, called "Select Bus Service," to debut on the Bx12 line, which follows 207th Street in Northern Manhattan and Fordham Road and Pelham Parkway in the Bronx.

Bloomberg and other officials also tied expansion of the program to the implementation of congestion pricing.

Connecting Inwood to Co-Op City, the Bx12 SBS corridor will allow riders to prepay the fare at vending machine stations along the line. Transit customers will get a receipt, to be displayed upon request to "enforcement personnel aboard buses," according to a media release. At first, vending stations will only accept MetroCards and cash as payment, though credit card functionality will eventually be added.

Speaking at Fordham Plaza and flanked by Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, MTA Executive Lee Sander, and electeds from the Bronx and Northern Manhattan, Bloomberg outlined key components of SBS service. In addition to prepayment of fares, the corridors will feature:

  • More buses (the Bx12 line will have 10 additional buses running during peak hours, Bloomberg said)
  • Additional service hours
  • Boarding at front and back doors
  • Fewer stops
  • Transit Signal Priority, a system that keeps signal lights green, and quickens the cycle of changing red signals back to green, to allow buses to move through intersections more smoothly
  • Terracotta colored bus lanes, with stepped up enforcement to keep cars out
  • Specially designed "branded" SBS buses, and branded stations with new shelters

The Bx12 SBS will replace the line's current limited-stop service on June 29. Bloomberg said the development of other corridors -- including First and Second Avenues in Manhattan, Nostrand Avenue in Brooklyn, and Hyland Boulevard on Staten Island -- depend on getting congestion pricing through the City Council and state Legislature. This point was echoed by Sadik-Khan, who described SBS as "almost like a surface subway system."

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Carrion Gets $30K Donation Following Yanks Walkway Deal

The Village Voice is reporting that Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion received $30,000 in campaign contributions from a firm that scored a $5 million air rights agreement for a pedestrian bridge to the new Yankee carrion.jpgStadium. 

Last summer the city agreed to pay $5 million to construct part of a pedestrian walkway to the new stadium over a piece of property on East 153rd Street, according to the Voice. That land is owned by the Glaser family, which operates G.A.L. Manufacturing, a successful elevator equipment company. Though the Glasers had previously never contributed money to local candidates, they gave the Carrion campaign a total of $30,000 around the time the air rights contract was signed.

The Glasers didn't return the Voice's phone calls. A spokesman for Carrion referred questions to his campaign office, which said, "The borough president has many first-time contributors, as people throughout the city have taken notice of his proven track record in governing."

The pedestrian bridge is a small but key piece of the massive stadium project because it connects the new Metro North station to the stadium property. An existing pedestrian bridge is considered too narrow and out of compliance with federal disability laws.

Under the deal signed last spring, the city agreed to pay $5 million to the Glasers for the air rights over their property to allow for widening and improving the concrete pedestrian bridge leading to the foot of Yankee Stadium. The air-rights deal will cost taxpayers almost as much as the $6.5 million that the city plans to spend actually renovating the bridge.

City officials say that the $5 million bought three things: access to the property for two years, the right to put the bridge over the property, and a piece of land on which to set a column that will support the bridge.

As Streetsblog readers know, mayoral hopeful Carrion has been an outspoken supporter of the new Yankee Stadium and its publicly-subsidized parking decks, despite community opposition to the extra year-round traffic the project promises to bring to the polluted South Bronx. After the contentious parking deal cleared its last hurdle, Carrion bragged that the stadium would set off a chain reaction of development in the area.

How much his constituents will benefit, or suffer, from that development remains to be seen. But Carrion's mayoral campaign is making out quite nicely. In addition to the $30K from the Glasers, the Voice reports that his campaign has accepted over $34,000 from Related Companies, which is building the controversial Gateway Mall complex near the stadium -- a project criticized for, among other things, its auto-oriented design.

As it happens, according to the Voice, "At the same time that G.A.L. negotiated the $5 million air-rights deal, Related got $1.2 million from Metro North for an easement over a small sliver of its property to allow for the widening of rail tracks."

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StreetFilms: Tour de Bronx, in Pictures

 
StreetFilms' Clarence Eckerson put down the heavy video equipment and brought along a still camera for this weekend's Tour de Bronx.

Blessed by incredible weather, this year's ride was kicked off by Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion (ahem) and DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, who Clarence says got "perhaps the biggest ovation I have ever heard for a public official."

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Carrion Supports Congestion and Congestion Pricing

Last week AMNY ran a profile of Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion, Jr., playing on the angle that he may make a run for mayor in two years. The piece is mostly flattering, but does make mention of Carrion's controversial support for the new Yankee Stadium, which, as Streetsblog readers are probably sick of hearing by now, will bring ~4,000 parking spaces to what was public park land, further polluting the asthma-stricken South Bronx with additional year-round traffic.

carrion.jpgCarrion is unapologetic in his advocacy of the stadium, as well as the $225 million in taxpayer-subsidized parking that will come with it.

Carrion gives himself credit for helping to "turn the tide" in the Bronx from "an acceptance of failure" to an environment in which investors are optimistic enough to put millions of dollars into housing, parkland and a new stadium for the Yankees.

In today's Daily News, Carrion refers to last week's approval of parking deck financing as "yet another important step toward realizing the goal of investment and community participation in the redevelopment of this area."

But not everyone would paint such a rosy picture. Last year Carrion was accused of purging community board members who opposed the stadium project. More recently, some South Bronx residents have vowed to fight construction of the garages. Simply put, they don't want the traffic or the pollution necessitated by an auto-dependent vision of economic prosperity.

Ironically, in the AMNY profile, Carrion also makes a case for congestion pricing.

"The fact that we can reduce millions of tons of particulate matter from the environment, and reduce the heat effect that we create and get more people to live healthy is a good thing. It's the objective that's more important than the inconvenience."

Carrion may not see the disconnect between his negative view of traffic congestion his zeal to bring more of it to the South Bronx, but others do. Again, the Daily News:

"All along I've been opposed to the stadium and the traffic and congestion it would bring to the neighborhood," [Council Member Helen] Foster said. "And this [garage] project will just encourage even more people to drive to the west Bronx."

Many of Foster's constituents worry the 9,000 parking spaces around the stadium will turn their already traffic- and asthma-choked neighborhood into a de facto park-and-ride hub -- especially if the mayor's Manhattan congestion pricing plan becomes reality.