Stadium or No Stadium, Hartford Must Prioritize Connectivity and Walkability in Downtown North

Downtown North's wide streets funnel fast-moving traffic to and from Interstates 84 and 91, and will certainly need to be reconfigured if this area is to be transformed into a walkable, mixed-use neighborhood. | Photo: Joseph Cutrufo/TSTC

Downtown North’s wide streets must be reconfigured if this area is going to be transformed into a walkable, mixed-use neighborhood. | Photo: Joseph Cutrufo/TSTC

Hartford’s Planning and Zoning Commission voted earlier this week to amend the City’s zoning so that a stadium would be a permissible use in the “B-1 zone,” which covers most of downtown. But then, citing concerns that building a stadium in the Downtown North area — as it has been proposed — may be inconsistent with the City’s plan of conservation and development, the Commission voted against giving the project a favorable recommendation to the city council.

Before the vote on whether to amend the City’s zoning, commissioners debated the pros and cons of having a stadium in the Downtown North area. Some expressed concern about foot traffic around the stadium area. Because of their size, stadiums can create “superblock” conditions, which limit permeability and pedestrian circulation. And although they attract a lot of people on game days, they sit mostly empty outside of events.

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Old-fashioned lighting is a nice touch in this section of Trumbull Street where Downtown transitions to Downtown North, but it doesn’t make up for Trumbull Street’s excessive width or lack of buildings. | Photo: Joseph Cutrufo/TSTC

On the other hand, it’s probably a better idea to stick with putting the ballpark downtown, where fans have multiple transportation options, rather than, as Commissioner David Blatt put it, having a stadium “plopped in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by asphalt.”  After all, by the time the Rock Cats take the field in Hartford, the CTfastrak bus rapid transit system will be up and running; by the time the team’s second season begins, fans will be able to ride commuter rail to Union Station and walk to the game, “no parking required — just like a real city.”

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Four Ways to Improve Trans-East River Travel That Aren’t Gondolas

ERSWWhat does it take to get people talking about increasing travel options for people whose commutes take them across the East River?

A futuristic proposal spawned in the mind of a Manhattan real estate mogul, evidently.

The East River Skyway proposal aims to address congestion on the L train between Williamsburg and Manhattan by carrying passengers on aerial trams (like the Roosevelt Island tram). With rapid (and continuing) growth in North Brooklyn, the L train has become increasingly crowded in the last few years. But is a gondola the best way to accommodate demand for trans-East travel?

Benjamin Kabak at Second Avenue Sagas summarizes the issue nicely:

In a certain sense, this plan gets to problems with the current transit set-up including overcrowded L trains, a need to serve the southern part of Roosevelt Island, especially with the Cornell development on tap and more capacity across the East River. On the other hand, the alignment is terrible in that it tracks subway lines such as the J/M/Z that are under capacity and mirrors preexisting ferry service.

Although the East River Skyway would provide some fantastic views, perhaps we should consider improvements to the rights-of-way that already exist.

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Land Banking: A Tool to Facilitate Equitable TOD

Vacant and abandoned properties present a variety of challenges to municipalities: they degrade the aesthetic appeal of neighborhoods, pose safety risks and lower the value of surrounding properties. Communities burdened by vacant property also miss out on considerable revenue — while local governments face increased maintenance costs. And more often than not, attempts to redevelop these properties are thwarted by complicated tax foreclosure processes.

To help alleviate these headaches, some communities are enacting legislation to create land banks, which would acquire and manage abandoned properties so they can be saved for development and returned to productive uses.

One such productive use that land banks can help cities achieve is equitable transit-oriented development (ETOD). When municipalities establish land banks with the goal of creating ETOD, they’re not simply collecting underutilized land; they’re taking the first steps toward improving access to economic opportunity and housing choice for low-income people.

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Public Authorities Control Board Must Get Answers to Important Questions Before Approving EFC TZB Loan

According to a 2008 report from the DEC regarding wastewater infrastructure needs of NYS, "The need documented in the [CWNS] 2008 survey is expected to be  significantly higher than the 2004 CWNS." | Photo: EPA's Clean Watershed Needs Survey, 2004.

According to a 2008 report from the DEC, “Looking at long-term capital costs, New York’s wastewater infrastructure needs continue to rise, as documented in EPA’s recently published CWNS.” | Photo: EPA’s Clean Watershed Needs Survey, 2004.

As the New NY Bridge construction project continues into its second summer season, questions persist about the transparency and legitimacy of the financial plan for the project. A few weeks ago, Governor Cuomo announced that the New York State Thruway Authority would be receiving $511.45 million in low- and no-interest loans from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF). The fund is traditionally used to upgrade water infrastructure across the state – through the NYS Environmental Facilities Corporation, which jointly administers the funds with the Department of Environmental Conservation. The announcement that the loans would pay for many environmental mitigation projects related to the bridge project and the circumvented public review and legislative process to enable this loan riled up environmental, transportation and government groups statewide. The “unconventional” use was noted by EPA Region 2 Administrator Judith Enck, scores of elected officials and seven newspaper editorials.

As noted by Tri-State and others in a letter to the EFC, projects receiving CWSRF funds must be included in the Intended Use Plan – the list of projects to be funded for a given year. The bridge construction project was not in the version made available for public review and comment earlier this year, but rather only added by amendment as a “minor modification” last month along with seven other projects totaling approximately $130 million, bringing the total request of funds to $641 million.
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One Region, TSTC-Granted Funds Advance Transit-Oriented Development Throughout the Region

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Municipal grantees of the One Region Funders’ Group and Tri-State’s Transit-Centered Grant Program present TOD project updates at TOD Forum. Left to right: Nicole Chevalier (moderator), Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation; Claire Shulman, Flushing-Willets Point-Corona LDC; David McCarthy, Jonathan Rose Companies; William Long, City of Mount Vernon; Richard Slingerland and Bob Galvin, Village of Mamaroneck; Jonathan Keyes, Town of Babylon. Photo: Kathi Ko

Tri-State and the One Region Funders’ Group assembled Transit-Centered Development Grant Program recipients last month to discuss progress made since the first round of grants to advance TOD were made in 2009.

The value of using philanthropic support to leverage additional investment for transit-oriented development (TOD) is unprecedented. Through two rounds of grant-making in 2009 and 2012, the program awarded $335,000 in funds to 11 municipalities throughout New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. These awards leveraged $135,000 in local contributions, $6.7 million in county and regional funds, $23 million in state grants and loan guarantees, and $4 million in federal funds.

Presentations from the grantees made it clear that these funds are going a long way to undo decades of sprawl. Some notable updates include:

Affordable senior housing coming to Flushing, Queens

The Flushing-Willets Point-Corona LDC received a $14,000 grant in 2011 and used the funds as part of a larger proposal to revamp the LIRR’s Flushing station. Claire Schulman, former Queens Borough President and head of FWPCLDC, announced that the New York City Department of Housing, Preservation and Development is now poised to transform a 43,200 square foot parking lot into as many as 200 units of affordable senior housing.

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Groups Call on New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation to Reconsider Tappan Zee Bridge Loan

UPDATE: EFC Board of Directors approves loan with 5-0 vote. Yesterday, Tri-State and eight other environmental and good government groups sent a letter to New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation Board of Directors calling upon them to reject, or at least postpone a vote on, a $511 million no-interest and low-interest loan for the New NY Bridge construction project. The [...]

Will Infrastructure Needs Be Met in Revised Midtown East Rezoning Plan?

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Mayor de Blasio’s new and improved plan to rezone Midtown East must prioritize infrastructure improvements to relieve overcrowding and congestion. Image: www.theepochtimes.com

A recent proposal to build a 65-story tower directly adjacent to Grand Central Terminal has reawakened the broader Midtown East Rezoning plan. During the Bloomberg Administration’s waning days, a previous version of the proposal was halted by the City Council due to its failure to adequately address infrastructure needs before more intense development arrived. The new plan has yet to be fully developed, but for now, a short term zoning change could clear the way for the first tower in the area and offer a blueprint for how infrastructure improvements could be made in tandem with development.

It’s not that the previous proposal ignored infrastructure needs. The Bloomberg proposal read that a District Improvement Fund (DIF) would be dedicated to transit and pedestrian improvements throughout the area, paid for by contributions funneled through a District Improvement Bonus (DIB). Developers would be able to build higher density for contributions into the DIF. The problem is that these improvements would be made after the fact – infrastructure improvements would not be made until there was enough money in the pot to cover costs. Meanwhile, an enormous influx of new employees would exacerbate the already-congested Metro-North and subway platforms and entrances, as well as strain public spaces, sidewalks and streets.

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Western Queens Transportation Study to Address Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety, Connections to Transit

New waterfront development in Long Island City, Astoria and Roosevelt Island. Image: Department of City Planning.

New waterfront development in Long Island City, Astoria and Roosevelt Island. Image: Department of City Planning.

The New York City Department of City Planning (DCP)’s Transportation Division and Queens Office recently held its kickoff meeting for the Western Queens Transportation Study, which sets out to link new and existing development by focusing on bike, pedestrian and transit improvements. Various city agencies, the MTA, local civic associations, members from Community Boards 1 and 2 and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign were invited to participate in the Technical Advisory Committee to help guide the federally-funded study.

This effort couldn’t have come sooner. The stage has been set for the neighborhoods in the study area—which include Roosevelt Island, Long Island City and Astoria—to host a massive influx of new waterfront development along the East River. Developments such as Halletts Point, Astoria Cove, Silvercup West, Queens West, and Hunters Point South are set to bring in up to 15,000 new residential units (along with retail and studio space), in addition to Cornell’s 11-acre Roosevelt Island campus, poised to be the island’s biggest development yet.

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Elected Officials and Advocates Push for Comprehensive Transportation Plan in Brooklyn

TSTC Executive Director Veronica Vanterpool (left) and New York City Council Member Letitia James (right) spoke at Tuesday’s release of BK Gateway Transportation Vision at DeKalb Station in Brooklyn. | Photo: Ryan Lynch

Population and transit ridership have skyrocketed over the last twenty years in Brooklyn, but the New York City Departments of [...]

What’s Driving the Surge in Multifamily Housing? Not Driving.

The Huntington Condos, a multifamily development in Hoboken, NJ. | Image: livingonthehudson.com

Millennials, the generation now in their 20s and early 30s, may be driving consumer and livability trends, but one thing they’re not driving is cars.  And while that’s undoubtedly changed the conversation nationally about transportation, it appears to also be having [...]