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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A New Port Authority Bus Terminal May Be Closer Than We Thought

Riders waiting to board buses at the Port Authority Bus Terminal. | Photo: The Record

Riders waiting to board buses at the Port Authority Bus Terminal. | Photo: The Record

Back in February, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) officials said it was “premature” to put any spending for the Port Authority Bus Terminal (PABT) in the capital program, and that nothing would be done regarding building a new bus garage until a $5.5 million study was complete.

But it seems like the Authority is revisiting this stance given new financial optimism and pressure from advocates and elected officials.

A few weeks ago, PANYNJ Commissioners Ken Lipper and Jeffrey Lynford of New York and David Steiner of New Jersey indicated that due to “several recent positive financial developments for the agency,” a new terminal “could and should be added” to the 10-year, $27.6 billion capital plan adopted in February. This news comes in response to New Jersey State Senator Loretta Weinberg’s testimony last month during the monthly meeting of the Port Authority Board of Directors.

The growing number of public complaints from New Jersey Transit commuters who use the PABT caught the attention of Assemblymembers Gordon Johnson and Senator Loretta Weinberg, who held a hearing on June 11 in Teaneck specifically to discuss concerns regarding the PABT. “We wanted to make sure in a most public way that NJ Transit and PANYNJ are well aware of the problems,” Weinberg said. “We’ve been hearing from our constituents,” who Weinberg says often must stand for more than an hour at a gate waiting to board a bus.

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Wednesday Winners (& Losers)

A weekly roundup of good deeds, missteps, heroic feats and epic failures in the tri-state region and beyond.

EPA Region 2 Administrator Judith Enck | Photo: wamc.org

EPA Region 2 Administrator Judith Enck | Photo: wamc.org

WINNERS

EPA Region 2 Administrator Judith Enck – The agency has not just rubberstamped the list of projects proposed to be funded with the $511 million loan from the EFC, but instead is ensuring that “every single dollar is spent in accordance with federal laws and rules,” including the $100,000 proposal to relocate one peregrine falcon nesting box.

New York City Councilmember Margaret Chin – Two months after Mayor de Blasio released his affordable housing plan, Chin is calling for a municipal parking lot in the lower east side to be redeveloped for affordable housing.

Norwalk and Waterbury, CT – The City of Norwalk, Connecticut was one of only four cities in the nation to receive a $30 million Choice Neighborhood Initiative grant from the federal government, to redevelop a housing complex near rail. The State of Connecticut is investing $19 million in Metro-North Waterbury branch signalization as well as street improvements in downtown Waterbury.

Hoboken, NJ Residents, Commuters and Pedestrians – After three years and $54 million, Hoboken’s 106 year-old 14th Street Viaduct has reopened. The eight-lane feeder for the Lincoln Tunnel was redesigned to incorporate pedestrian plazas, recreation areas and a dog park.

New Jersey State Senators Loretta Weinberg and Stephen Sweeney – Both legislators urged the NJ Transit board to fund improvements at the Port Authority Bus Terminal.
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NYCDOT Outreach Meeting on Woodhaven SBS: Mix of Viewpoints and Misconceptions

Community members envision a transformed Woodhaven Boulevard during a design charrette hosted by NYC DOT and MTA Bus. Photo: Kathi Ko

Community members envision a transformed Woodhaven Boulevard at a design workshop hosted by NYC DOT and MTA Bus. Photo: Kathi Ko

In late June, the New York City Department of Transportation and the MTA returned to Queens for a second round of workshops to solicit ideas for the Woodhaven Boulevard Select Bus Service (SBS) route — the first of its kind for the borough. Residents and community groups gathered for a design charrette to submit their visions for a transformed Woodhaven Boulevard. Amid some concerns, participants were eager to share their ideas on how to speed up bus service, ease congestion, and improve walkability along the corridor.

Most workshop participants agreed that something needs to be done to relieve the infamously congested and dangerous corridor. At the first meeting back in April, participants discussed how and where they live, work and play along Woodhaven and Cross Bay Boulevards, as well as their choices of and experiences with various commute modes. The feedback revealed local concerns including very slow and unreliable buses, dangerous and difficult pedestrian crossings, and traffic congestion.

During last week’s design charrette, participants engaged in a streetscape redesign envisioning process using elements of SBS and bus rapid transit (BRT) — similar to what MTR envisioned — as well as complete streets elements. The room was abuzz with a mix of proponents for big and bold ideas; others who were open to SBS, and even full-fledged BRT, but with some reservations about how SBS might affect congestion, parking and local bus service; as well as those who were seemingly opposed to any changes to the status quo.

Since city-wide SBS routes currently in service show that these concerns do not necessarily materialize, MTR decided to take a stab at addressing some of these concerns:
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Veto Threat Stops New Jersey Democrats from Pursuing Gas Tax Increase, but Not Other Tax Increases

Governor Christie has promised to veto any tax increase, which has evidently been enough to prevent Democrats from even trying to raise the gas tax.

New Jersey Democrats tried and failed to pass a “millionaires tax” despite Governor Chris Christie’s promise to veto any tax increases. So why hasn’t there been a serious attempt to raise the gas tax?

New Jersey Assembly Transportation Committee Chair John Wisniewski, a proponent of raising the state’s gas tax, stated earlier this year that “until the governor shows a willingness to tackle the [transportation funding] problem it would be quixotic for Democrats to propose a tax that would face not only the governor’s veto, but his wrath as well.”

It’s a rational argument — why try when failure is certain? But the threat of the governor’s veto hasn’t stopped New Jersey Democrats from trying to advance other tax increases.

Governor Chris Christie has been very vocal about his determination to veto any tax increase that is sent to him, so it came as no surprise when he vetoed a tax increase on millionaires before signing the $32.5 billion state budget this week. What’s surprising is that legislators sent them to the governor anyway. In fact, Democrats in the legislature have tried on several occasions to pass a “millionaires tax” despite Christie’s inevitable veto.

So why have legislators stayed away from seeking a much-needed gas tax increase? It’s not as if legislators don’t realize the state has a transportation funding crisis.

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AARP Long Island Seeks Grant Applicants

aarp-LITSTC’s partners at AARP Long Island are seeking Long Island-based applicants for two grants of $5,000 each. AARP has been a strong advocate for safer streets and livable communities on Long Island. The organization was instrumental in the recent adoption of a complete streets implementation fund in Suffolk County.

Grant proposals should explain in 500 words or less:

• Alignment with AARP’s mission and will advance the priorities of AARP, for example, Caregiving, Livable Communities, Food Insecurity, Isolation or other AARP priorities
• Target service toward an underserved population (with special focus on the 50+ population within the underserved population) on Long Island
• Work on a realistic timeline within the scope of the project
• Provide a lasting impact on the community

The deadline to apply for the funding is July 18 at 11:59 p.m. More details are available here.

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Wednesday Winners (& Losers)

A weekly roundup of good deeds, missteps, heroic feats and epic failures in the tri-state region and beyond.

Nassau County Legislator Judy Jacobs | Photo: nassaucountyny,gov

Nassau County Legislator Judy Jacobs | Photo: nassaucountyny,gov

WINNERS

Brookhaven, NY Town Board - The Board gave the go-ahead to the Ronkonkoma Hub transit-oriented development project.

Bill Lipton and Jen Hensley – The New York state director of the Working Families Party and the executive director of the Association for a Better New York co-authored an op-ed in Crain’s calling for full-fledged bus rapid transit  service in New York City.

New York City Transit and MTA Bus Company -  The two agencies have come together to improve and expand bus service across 10 lines, including the restoration of the B37 line, which connects Bay Ridge to the Barclays Center.

Nassau County Legislator Judy Jacobs - In response to recent traffic fatalities, Legislator Jacobs is calling for safety improvements on the area’s deadly roadway.

Moms in Metuchen, NJ - In response to a recent spate of pedestrian injuries in the notoriously pedestrian-unfriendly town, a group of concerned mothers has come together to urge their local leaders to improve traffic safety. » Continue reading…

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Putting the “Fund” in the Highway Trust Fund

In March, MTR reported that the Highway Trust Fund (HTF), which is supported by the federal gas tax and which pays for almost all transportation projects across the U.S., is anticipated to run dry by the end of the month.

Unfortunately, with less than a month to go, the situation has changed little since March. In a recent letter to heads of state DOTs, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx termed it “dire”, and many local electeds would agree that that is the case.

Though an agreement has not been reached on how to fund the HTF, it is not for lack of proposals from our leaders:

Corporate Tax Reform

President Obama’s GROW AMERICA Act– the Administration’s surface transportation reauthorization proposal—calls for “pro-growth business tax reform” to fund transportation infrastructure. According to the Administration, this will generate $150 billion. Streetsblog has called thisa “progressive and thoughtful” proposal “dead on arrival, even though it had support from the Republican chair of the Ways and Means Committee, Dave Camp.”

Corporate Tax Holiday

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) proposed a corporate tax holiday to fund the HTF. As The New York Times describes the plan, “American multinationals would escape taxes on 85 percent of their profits currently held in tax-deferred foreign accounts, provided they bring the money to the United States in the next year.”

The Times notes that after creating $20-$30 billion in two years, a corporate tax holiday would “lose money — by one government estimate, a simple tax holiday would lose $96 billion over 10 years — because the low tax rate would be applied to profits that would have been brought home over time anyway.” Senator Reid’s proposal is a bit more complicated than “a simple corporate tax holiday” – his office claims that the proposal is structured to earn $3 billion over 10 years. However, as The Times points out, these kinds of policies encourage “the hoarding of profits in tax-deferred foreign accounts in anticipation of future tax holidays.” The Obama administration has made it clear that it does not support Senator Reid’s plan.
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Good Luck Taking the NICE Bus to These Nassau County Bus Transit Committee Public Hearings

On Wednesday, July 9 at 2PM and 5PM the Nassau County Bus Transit Committee will be holding two public hearings regarding fare changes on the NICE bus system. The Committee is required to hold an open meeting for public comments before it makes any decisions on the final fare changes, and NICE has ensured that the “hearing location is accessible to people with mobility impairments.” However, getting to the hearing space in the first place is a challenge.

First, holding the hearings at 2PM and 5PM on a weekday is limiting, given that a typical 9-to-5 work day conflicts with both of the hearing times.

What’s more, we have found that accessibility to the hearing via NICE bus is also incredibly limited. The hearings are to be held at the NICE Office Facility at 700 Commercial Avenue in Garden City, NY. The closest NICE bus stop to this location is only two tenths of a mile away at the corner or Stewart Ave and Quentin Roosevelt Blvd, and while it is served by four bus lines, three of those four lines only stop once every hour; the fourth stops once every half hour. Other bus stops in the area are also served only by hourly buses.

While the proposed fare increase will only affect those paying with cash, it is close on the heels of last year’s MetroCard fare hike and it also precedes another anticipated fare hike for next year. These successive fare increases will undoubtedly affect how people use the bus system, and those who need the service most should not have to contend with timing and accessibility obstacles to voice their needs at the public hearings. It is high time the County stepped up and took responsibility for covering the transportation needs of its residents and stop relying on the State and especially the bus riders to foot the bill.

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Long Island Elected Officials Call for Safety Improvements on Dangerous Roadways

Last week, Newsday published two separate articles about local elected officials in both Nassau and Suffolk Counties calling for safety improvements on fatal roads.

In response to two fatal crashes in the last three months along a stretch of Roslyn Road in the Town of North Hempstead, Nassau County Legislator Judy Jacobs is calling for a uniform speed limit of 30 miles per hour. Roslyn Road currently has speed limits that range from 30 to 40 miles per hour throughout the nearly 2 mile corridorfrom 25B to the Long Island Expressway.

In Suffolk County, the Mayor of the Village of Lindenhurst Thomas Brennan expressed his frustrations with the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) for not acting quickly enough to address safety issues on Montauk Highway. Seven pedestrian fatalities occurred along the corridor between 2010 and 2012, making Montauk Highway the fourth most deadly road for pedestrians in Suffolk County. The most recent call for safety improvements comes after a 10 year-old boy was critically injured in a crosswalk while crossing the road with his mother earlier this month. Just a year prior, one block away, a teenage girl was killed by a drunk driver.

Lindenhurst officials say they have been appealing to NYSDOT for more safety measures along a section of Montauk Highway for more than a decade, and in March the mayor wrote again to ask for a ‘road diet’, calling on NYSDOT to remove two of the five lanes that run through Lindenhurst. Unfortunately, previous studies by NYSDOT found that the roadway did not meet “nationally accepted engineering criteria” for safety improvements, leaving local officials feeling anything but optimistic at the outcome of this study. One village official said, “We’ve had nobody come down and sit with us and go over our concerns. If they’re just doing counts and statistics, that’s not enough.”

NYSDOT needs to revisit what type of “criteria” they are adhering to. An endorsement of the NACTO guidelines would give communities more confidence that NYSDOT is examining new approaches to these safety issues, as would sitting down to discuss how to make roads safer for all users, not only in these communities but in all communities demanding safety throughout Long Island.

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