JVB rallies for separate walkway on QBB

Council Member JVB rallies with Transportation Alternatives and Bike New York, source: Twitter @JimmyVanBramer

Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, who is running for borough president, rallied with transit advocates this morning for a separate walkway on the south side of the Queensborough Bridge.

The northern outer pathway of the bridge is currently used by both pedestrians and cyclists, with just a narrow painted division down the middle. The full pathway is 11 feet wide and the bike side is two directional. The bridge saw 6,556 bike trips in one summer day in 2017, Transportation Alternatives says.

JVB arrives for rally, source: Twitter: @JimgmyVanBramer

TA had been petitioning Van Bramer to support opening up the southern outer pathway on the bridge for pedestrian use to separate cyclists from foot traffic. The council member is now pushing the Department of Transportation.

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“We don’t need any starchitects” -community lays heat on Sunnyside Yards planners

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Vishaan Chakrabarti – whom for some reason was only addressed as “Vishaan” – the head architect involved in the Sunnyside Yards master plan, had the P.S. 166 auditorium lights dimmed to better show his slide show, leaving him a silhouette against abstract layouts of the rail yard. He expressed how given the high rises at the Queens Plaza end of the yards and the near-suburban Sunnyside Gardens district at its opposite end, the team was looking into wider spread mid-rises, and not just high-rises. He said the team was looking for a “sweet spot” of human scale blocks. He said the yards is an opportunity to right wrongs such as trash piles and sludge puddles at curbs. 

But the first question, from a Community Board 2 member, was how this was going to be paid for. Neither Chakrabarti or Cali Williams, who leads the master plan team, wanted to discuss the price tag, which has been projected at $16 to 19 billion. “This is a complicated and challenging site,” and the costs and funding will be figured out along the way, Williams said. 

This was the second public meeting for the Sunnyside Yards, two years after a feasibility report was released. About a year ago, Chakrabarti’s Practice for Architecture and Urbanism, was tapped to join the master plan team, with Williams, an Economic Development Corporation vet, at its head. 

When Williams tried to end the Q&A to get to the breakout sessions, a woman interrupted her to say there were more questions in the room, which filled out with a few hundred people. Many applauded the interruption. Williams caved and said she’d allow two more questions. 

The first questioner then, thanked and praised the planning team. “What I hear is that you guys want to do the right thing,” he said. “Nobody gets shafted in this, generally.” 

That guy set the whole thing off. A younger guy near me stood up and shot back about how his friends have been removed from Astoria, Ravenswood and the nearby neighborhoods. He said when the affordable units come, “good luck trying to win the lottery to get there in the first place!” Many people applauded. 

I attended a breakout session on urban design. Somehow I wound up at the one table, apparently, that didn’t have any activists. First our guide showed us pictures of existing buildings, each from a neighborhood in Western Queens, with a corresponding grid showing how much Floor Area Ratio the building used per block. We were asked to put a sticker on the picture we thought would be most appropriate for the Sunnyside Yards. After examining all the pictures, I pointed out that the pictures were misleading – and I wasn’t trying to be especially clever. The tallest-thinnest looking building somehow took up more space on a block than a smaller and wider-looking building took up of a different block. And the buildings were all totally different styles, including public housing. Continue reading ““We don’t need any starchitects” -community lays heat on Sunnyside Yards planners”

JVB: only 11 ppl called to support Amazon since mailers

Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer says only 11 people have called his office to support Amazon since the company has sent Queens residents mailers instructing to call him to support it. In a tweet, he said yesterday 21 people have called to oppose the Amazon deal in a total of 32 calls. In a December Quinnipiac poll, Queens residents (identified as “voters”) supported the $3 billion incentive package 55 to 39.

Comptroller comes to LIC to take on City Hall

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A great grandfather at the front of the line for the microphone told Comptroller Scott Stringer he’s sick of bridges and streets getting named after politicians. Stringer said he admitted he fantasized of one day telling his son that “Stringerway” was once called “Broadway.” 

Stringer, an almost-2013 candidate for mayor and thought-to-be 2021 mayoral hopeful, had the jokes at his Long Island City town hall at the CUNY School of Law. When one person insisted that City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer has his eyes set on being mayor, Stringer said, don’t you hate people who want to be mayor? 

Stringer wasn’t just here to understand the needs of one region of Queens. He was here to make allies in his fight against City Hall – and probably for it. He knew that many of the complaints would be about housing and development. That’s everywhere, but in LIC, the towers are shooting up around us into the sky and the people are anxious about school space, train space, park space and sewage. Stringer is positioned as a high-level politician with views juxtaposed to the mayor’s housing strategy, setting himself as a more progressive alternative. 

“I don’t believe that this is how we should build our city,” he said in reference to Alicia Glen, deputy mayor for economic development. “We’ve got to change the system. And the way we’re building our city is, we’re doing it backwards.”   Continue reading “Comptroller comes to LIC to take on City Hall”

Speaker Corey Johnson comes to Astoria

Astoria City Councilman Costa Constantinides, middle, Speaker Corey Johnson, right.

The first thing City Council Speaker Corey Johnson wanted the crowd to know was that he is openly HIV positive and has been sober for nine years. The first thing Council Member Costa Constantinides wanted us to know was that the school we were in, P.S. 171, is getting solar panels that he allocated from the city budget.

Unlike the mayor’s town hall I went to in LIC last year, there wasn’t a line outside when I got there. I was only 15 minutes early but the auditorium did fill up eventually. Someone asked if I RSVP’d, and I wondered who actually does that.

Constantinides listed funds he brought to Mount Sainai Hospital and the library and other things which I didn’t write down. He said Johnson is not just a colleague but “really is my friend.” CoJo in return said Constantinides is “a leader who really gets it.” He said his colleague, chair of the environmental committee, brought $26 million to west of 21st Street, including the $2.5 million for the solar panels.

There was one big drama that took up a lot of the outset of the forum, which came from tenants of the Acropolis Gardens, a large condo building up on Ditmars Boulevard and 33rd Street. The 600-plus unit building is facing foreclosure as of last Monday after its board missed a payment. Continue reading “Speaker Corey Johnson comes to Astoria”

Landmarked Kaufman Astoria Studios decor was never approved by city

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Kaufman Astoria Studios plans to present this diagram to the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Kaufman Astoria Studios is one of the showiest sites in lower Astoria, with its colorful lights ablaze at night, its British phone booths at its pillars, its orange-streaked iron gates and its fancy restaurant, George’s, serving as an anchor of the Kaufman Arts District. Turns out, much of the decor on the building was never approved by the city, which granted the near-century-old site landmark status in 1978.

The film and TV studio plans to ask the Landmarks Preservation Commission for permission to make a temporary outdoor portion of George’s permanent but will also address various other decor that’s been up in spite of the landmark status for, apparently, years. I don’t know if any of the added fixtures go against the letter of the landmarks preservation law, which you could read here. A representative for the studio went before a full Community Board 1 Thursday night asking for a letter of support, stirring up grievances about the iconic studio site.

“They’re like an outside entity in our neighborhood,” said Board Member Stella Nicolaou. “They just went ahead and did things,” she said, recalling also, how the studio several years ago closed a street off permanently for private use. “It’s like a dictatorship in our community.” Continue reading “Landmarked Kaufman Astoria Studios decor was never approved by city”

City moving forward on BQX

The de Blasio administration announced today it will move forward with the Brooklyn Queens Connector, the “BQX,” upon release of an overdue feasibility study (PDF). The press release puts the cost at $2.73 billion, a bit up from the initial $2.5 billion the mayor initially put out there. Also, this train is not planned to reach Sunset Park anymore, but will only extend to Red Hook. This announcement follows the mayor’s recent statements that without federal aid from the Trump administration the East River trolly is dead. But, doesn’t it often appear that way? 

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Some important info from the press release: 

Community stakeholders will have opportunities to provide input as the proposal advances to the environmental review and advanced design stages… The environmental impact study process will commence this winter, followed by ULURP in 2020. Construction is expected to begin in 2024 and end in 2029.

More at NYT.