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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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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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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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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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 [...]
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 [...]
Rendering of American Dream Meadowlands | Image: www.americandream.com
Editor’s Note: East Rutherford passed a budget last night with a 17% municipal tax hike (or an average $400 property tax increase) to cover the financial hole left by NJSEA.
While construction on American Dream Meadowlands is not slated to begin any time soon, the megamall is [...]
Yesterday's Transit Village designation announcement lays the groundwork to encourage new businesses and residents to locate to Dunellen’s downtown, a short walk from the Dunellen train station.
Yesterday, at a press conference on the platform of the Dunellen, New Jersey rail station, New Jersey Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno officially announced that the Borough of Dunellen has become the 26th [...]