Thursday, May 31, 2007

Crain's....Columbia expansion plowing ahead

"Anne Z. Whitman" wrote:
Date: Thu, 31 May 2007 13:25:53 -0700 (PDT)From: "Anne Z. Whitman" Subject: Fwd:
To: Jordi Reyes Montblanc reysmont@yahoo.com

Timing of this is an outrage.

Anne Z. Whitman, President
Hudson North American

Date: Thu, 31 May 2007 16:11:59 -0400
From: "Zuhusky, Katherine"
To: "Anne Z. Whitman"

This in today's Crain's....

Columbia expansion plowing ahead
By: Anne Michaud
Published: May 31, 2007 - 3:06 pm

Columbia University's 17-acre expansion into West Harlem will enter intothe city review process on Monday, following three years of delay andcontroversy.

The review, which takes seven months, would rezone several city blocksnear the Hudson River to create a satellite campus for the university.Science labs, an arts building and a business school are planned.

Charges that the university is mishandling community relations havedogged the project -- sometimes triggering student protests -- and localleaders are objecting to the timing, which means that public hearingswill be scheduled during the summer vacation months.

"It is the opinion of the West Harlem Local Development Corp. that asummer certification date for this proposal, which has been under reviewat the Department of City Planning for years, will offend the essence ofthe [land-use review] process which is designed to seek communitycomment and involvement," wrote Patricia Jones, president of the LDC, ina letter to City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden.

Ms. Jones' group is responsible for negotiating a package of communitybenefits with the university to offset any local hardship. Tensionsurrounds the prospect that Columbia will ask state officials to takethe land of unwilling sellers by eminent domain.

The university's rezoning application and environmental impact statementare in final review today by the Department of City Planning, aspokeswoman said. Planners expect to present it Monday to the CityPlanning Commission for certification, launching the review processknown as Ulurp.

City planners say the public will have plenty of time to offer input.

"The Ulurp process extends for seven months and will allow manyopportunities along the way for public comment," says Rachaele Raynoff,department spokeswoman.A representative of Columbia University said there is probably never agood time to start the process.

"We understand the challenges," said a spokeswoman. "This has been along time coming, and we are simply ready and willing to keep workingwith everyone."

Monday, May 28, 2007

Manhattan Borough President’s Community Board Member Training Institute

To: Reysmont@yahoo.com
Subject: Comprehensive CB Training Sessions

Date: Fri, May 25, 2007 05:36 PM
Attachment(s): 1 file(s)/document(s) Total File Size: 450K

Please see attached letter.

All are welcome to attend. Please help us to distribute.

Hard copies will be sent to every CB member today.

Enjoy the holiday weekend!

Joshua S. Bocian
Director of Community Affairs & Constituent Services
Office of Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer
Municipal Building,
One Centre Street, 19th Floor
New York, NY 10007
Phone: (212) 669-8151
Fax: (212) 669-4306
jbocian@manhattanbp.org
www.mbpo.org


The City of New York
Office of the President
Borough of Manhattan

Scott M. Stringer
Borough President


June 1, 2007

Dear Community Board Member:

As the summer is upon us and many of the boards do not meet as frequently, I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to offer more comprehensive workshops as part of the Manhattan Borough President’s Community Board Member Training Institute. Almost 150 of you participated in Community Board 101 Training Sessions, co-sponsored by the Mayor’s Community Assistance Unit and our office, which took place on May 14th and May 21st.

For those that participated, I hope you found them to be an introduction to the basic workings and responsibilities of the boards. We were fortunate to have City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden and Department of Consumer Affairs Commissioner Jonathan Mintz on hand to provide us with both their insight and words of encouragement.

So you have the tools necessary to best serve your communities, my office has developed a series of in-depth workshops on issue areas of most importance to carrying out the duties of being a Community Board Member, including:

Land Use, Planning, Development & ULURP – June 25th at our offices located at 1 Centre Street and July 30th at our offices located at 163 West 125th Street. Please RSVP to (212) 669.4449

Conflicts of Interest/Parliamentary Procedure/Resolution Writing – July 9th at our offices located at 1 Centre Street and July 23rd at our offices located at 163 West 125th Street. Please RSVP to (212) 669.4460

NYC Budget Overview – June 18th at our offices located at 163 West 125th Street and July 16th at our offices located at 1 Centre Street. Please RSVP to (212) 669.4446

All of the workshops will take place from 7-9pm. You will be required to show picture ID in order to enter both buildings. In addition you should feel free to bring a light snack or dinner. Finally, you are encouraged to bring the relevant materials provided to you either this year or last year for each session (i.e. Zoning Handbook, Handbook for Community Board Members, Guide to Parliamentary Procedure for NYC Community Boards, Manual for Participation in the Budget Process).

While none of the workshops are mandatory, we STRONGLY RECOMMEND that you attend. You may register for one, two, or all three of the topics that are being covered depending on your knowledge base and personal interests. Both sessions on each topic will cover the exact same material, so there is no need for you to attend each of them.

My staff and I hope you take advantage of these educational opportunities!

Very truly yours,

Scott M. Stringer
Manhattan Borough President

Sunday, May 27, 2007

A Slice of Relaxed Life, Sandwiched by Parks



Nest Seekers in the News


A Slice of Relaxed Life, Sandwiched by Parks
The New York Times
CLAIRE WILSON
May 27th, 2007

SWATHED in the lush spring greenery of Riverside and Morningside Parks, this Upper West Side neighborhood is a lot quieter since Columbia University students went home for the summer earlier this month. The wide sidewalks still have a pleasant buzz, but instead of backpacks, the accessory of choice seems to be strollers.

Once considered something of a “secret” among residential neighborhoods, Morningside Heights is experiencing a surge in popularity, particularly among young families lured by the spacious apartments, the parks, excellent private schools and access to transportation.

Jane Blumenstein, a mother of two who arrived as a graduate student at Columbia in 1994, has seen the change among members at Congregation Ramath Orah, the Orthodox synagogue on 110th Street that she has attended for 10 years. Five years ago, she said, there were many more older people, among them Holocaust survivors, and only about five children in the Shabbat program. Now there are almost 20, all of them from the neighborhood.

“Lots of young families have moved in, instead of moving to Jersey and Riverdale,” said Ms. Blumenstein, who with her husband, Jay, bought a two-bedroom co-op on Riverside Drive in December 2005. “People are seeing this as a place they can make their life.”

Anchored by the spires of the interdenominational Riverside Church to the north and the Episcopal Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine at the southeast corner, but dominated by the presence of Columbia, the 0.3-square-mile enclave is often described as laid-back.

According to Barbara Hohol, who calls Morningside Heights “the last refuge of the surviving hippies,” newcomers are quick to embrace the unhurried spirit of the neighborhood, which is bordered by 110th and 125th Streets and the parks on its eastern and western flanks. Small businesses and mom-and-pop stores line Broadway, which has carefully tended plants in all its medians.

“The new people coming in are blessedly casual,” said Ms. Hohol, a jewelry maker who arrived in 1957 as a Barnard College student. “It’s totally unpretentious.”

What You’ll Find

A multiethnic community of 33,250, Morningside Heights is 53 percent white, 15 percent Hispanic, a little over 14 percent Asian, and almost 14 percent African-American, according to census data.

Its landscape is dominated by institutions. Besides Columbia, Barnard, Riverside and St. John the Divine, these include Teachers College, the Union Theological Seminary, the Jewish Theological Seminary, the Bank Street College of Education and the Manhattan School of Music. Residential buildings vary from grand structures with views of the Hudson River along Riverside Drive to a few small but elegant doorman buildings on some side streets, and tenement-style structures, many of which are still rent controlled or stabilized.

There is a new 95-unit condominium at 110th Street and Broadway, and a new 20-story rental building, Avalon Morningside Park, being developed by AvalonBay Communities, near St. John the Divine. A portion of the 296 Avalon units will be reserved for lower-income tenants, the first of whom will arrive in a year.

Cynthia White is moving soon to a two-bedroom, one-and-a-half-bath co-op on West 111th Street after having shopped for a couple of years. It has exactly what she wanted: character, but modest renovations. “I wanted prewar, unmolested charm, and I wanted light,” said Ms. White, a Macy’s executive. She paid $800,000 for the 1,200-square-foot fifth-floor co-op, with river views from the dining room.

Columbia is the biggest property owner, and according to Jordi Reyes-Montblanc, the chairman of Community Board 9, its relationship with the community is contentious at best. Describing it as “a 2,000-pound gorilla,” he said, “Columbia does wonderful things for the community in general, but when it comes to what Columbia wants, they don’t care what anyone else has to say.”

The situation is unlikely to improve over the next three decades. The university has announced plans for a $7 billion expansion on 17 acres west of Broadway and north of Morningside Heights, between 125th and 135th Streets. It will include 18 academic and research buildings as well as housing, and will bring in 9,000 more workers and students. While the site is not in Morningside Heights proper, residents say they are already concerned. At Morningside Gardens, a 983-unit middle-income self-managed co-op, and the General Grant Houses, a 1,940-unit public housing development, residents feel particularly vulnerable. “For Morningside Gardens and all the surrounding buildings, it is going to be 30 years of dust and trucks and rats,” said Joan Levine, a retired teacher who moved into Morningside Gardens when it opened in 1957. University officials maintain that they do their best to accommodate the community. Recently, for example, said La-Verna J. Fountain, assistant vice president for public affairs, Columbia decided not to put the student health services department in a building it owned on West 113th Street after residents protested.

What You’ll Pay

While prices have gone up in Morningside Heights, it still offers good value compared with the rest of the Upper West Side, said Michael T. Stansfield, an associate broker with Bellmarc Realty. People who can’t afford the West 70s, 80s and 90s are migrating north, where “the same size apartment is going to be cheaper by $200,000 to $300,000, depending on what you’re looking for,” he said.

James Perez, a senior vice president with Brown Harris Stevens, has two two-bedroom, two-bath units on Riverside Drive, one listed for $1.549 million, the other for $1.895 million. Because of the varied housing stock, Mr. Perez explained, “two-bedrooms can be anywhere from $800,000 to $1.5 million.” A one-bedroom on 111th sold for “$500-plus,” he said, while at the Strathmore on Riverside Drive, a one-bedroom would top $1.5 million.

Sabrina Seidner, a vice president of Nest Seekers International, has a one-bedroom, one-bath listing on 110th Street for $690,000 and says there are still some bargains out there. “A one-bedroom whose asking price was $295,000 recently sold for $286,000,” she noted. “You can find a funky little space for $300,000, but you have to focus on it and make it a job for six months or a year.”

Studios are rare. Mr. Stansfield says they range from $255,000 to $375,000. An alcove studio is currently available in a new condo building at 545 West 110th Street, said Ronnie Russo Landau, a Corcoran vice president. It is listed at $699,000.

Morningside Gardens apartments rarely come on the market, but range from $165,000 for the smallest studio to $710,000 for a three-bedroom, two-bath unit with a terrace, according to Michael J. McMahon, general manager of the Morningside Heights Housing Corporation.

Area rents range from an average of $1,435 for a studio to $2,863 for a two-bedroom, according to Citi Habitats’ monthly average for April.

What to Do

The 323-acre Riverside and the 30-acre Morningside Parks are a big reason that Duane Cranston, a lawyer, and his fiancée, Sara Holliday, an account manager for a graphic design firm, are looking forward to moving here. They expect the renovation of their two-bedroom co-op on West 111th Street to be completed in the next two or three months.

“The park is going to be a huge asset,” said Mr. Cranston, who works for ESPN, the cable television sports network. “All the greenery and being able to feel like you’re in the city but not in the middle of it were important factors.” Morningside Park has basketball courts and a baseball field; Riverside Park has volleyball, tennis, soccer and a bird sanctuary.

Broadway offers all kinds of shops, many of them small businesses like Liberty House at 112th Street. It started 40 years ago as a crafts collective to benefit the civil rights movement but now sells clothing. Ms. Hohol, the jewelry maker, laments the absence of a movie theater but says the restaurant scene has some affordable options. “There are still low-end restaurants if you don’t feel like cooking,” she said. There is also a good bit of variety. Broadway between 112th and 113th Streets has Le Monde; Nacho’s Kitchen; Nussbaum & Wu, a Chinese-Jewish bakery/deli; and the Mill Korean restaurant.

There are chain supermarkets in addition to the Milano Market and the West Side Market, which reopened recently at the corner of Broadway and 110th Street.

The Schools

Among the public schools are three in the same building, nearby at 234 West 109th Street. One of those is Public School 165, the Robert E. Simon School, which teaches kindergarten through Grade 5. Among its fourth graders in 2006, 54.3 percent scored at or above grade level in English, versus 58.9 percent citywide. The math rating was 56.4 percent, versus 70.9 percent citywide.

Mott Hall II, at the same site, has a college preparatory curriculum for Grades 6 through 8. Of eighth graders, 79.6 percent met English standards, versus 36.6 percent citywide; 78.6 percent met math standards, versus 38.9 percent.

The closest high school is Edward A. Reynolds West Side High School on West 102nd Street, where 2005 SAT averages were 387 on the verbal, versus 497 statewide, and 389 on the math, versus 511. Private schools abound. Among them, the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine has a preschool program as well as a free program for 4-year-olds in conjunction with the Department of Education. Riverside Church also has preschool offerings.

Other private schools include the Cathedral School, also at St. John the Divine on Amsterdam Avenue, and the Bank Street School for Children on West 112th Street. Both teach prekindergarten through Grade 8.

The Commute

Commuters to Midtown can get the No. 1 local train at the 110th Street/Cathedral Parkway stop, then switch to the Nos. 2 and 3 express trains at 96th Street. The trip takes about 20 minutes. Bus routes include the Nos. 7, 11 and 104, which go north and south, and the No. 4, which goes to 110th Street, then heads east and down Fifth Avenue. The Nos. 100 and 101 travel 125th Street, and the No. 60 goes to Kennedy Airport.

The History

Farms dominated what was called Vandewater Heights, after a local landowner, until 1818, when the Bloomingdale Insane Asylum opened between 116th and 120th Streets and started the influx of institutions. The asylum eventually moved to Westchester, and Columbia moved from Midtown to take over the site in 1897.

The Encyclopedia of New York City details major change in the late 19th century: Riverside Drive was built in stages; Riverside Park was built in the 1870s, Morningside Park in 1887. In 1906 came the subway.

Media Contacts
212-252-8772
212-252-9347 (fax)

http://www.nestseekers.com/view/13041/A_Slice_of_Relaxed_Life_Sandwiched_by_Parkspress@nestseekers.com

Don’t Fear Columbia

Opinion
Op-Ed Contributor

Don’t Fear Columbia
By DAVID N. DINKINS
Published: May 27, 2007

THIS city has always been a place of constant change, and one of the challenges that we who live and work here face is ensuring that the changes generated by growth and development in the city benefit all New Yorkers.

Columbia University’s proposal to develop the old Manhattanville manufacturing zone of West Harlem over the next two decades is the perfect example of a change that will generate growth and benefit all.

Back in the early 1990s, during my administration, the city and the West Harlem community developed plans to attract responsible growth to the blocks between the Henry Hudson Parkway and the area around the subway station on Broadway and 125th Street.
Unfortunately, those plans didn’t pan out, and employment in the area continued to languish.
Columbia’s Manhattanville proposal takes the best of these ideas to gradually create a new kind of open, urban campus that will improve local streets; bring back commercial life to Broadway, 125th Street and 12th Avenue; and better connect the residential areas of Harlem with the waterfront park now under construction along the Hudson River. This kind of long-term institutional growth will provide more jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities, as well as cultural and open space, to the diverse group of people who live in the area.

Of course, town-gown partnerships are not without their stresses and strains, and the relationship between Harlem residents and Columbia has not always been the best. Indeed, I was one of those picketing Columbia back in the 1960s, so I know the history and appreciate the concerns that some Harlem residents may have about the university’s plans.

But we should give each other credit where credit is due, and not lose sight of the ways in which the partnership has benefited both groups and provided hundreds of public health and human service programs, educational and cultural exchanges, and workplace experiences and opportunities. For instance, Columbia University Medical Center provides summer research fellowships to minority students from the City University of New York, enabling them to participate in innovative research at Columbia’s medical labs and receive mentoring from leading scientists at the College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health has a variety of public health clinics, outreach programs and research studies that serve the neighborhood, working with places like Geoffrey Canada’s Harlem Children’s Zone, which is also now in an educational partnership with Columbia Business School. The Mailman School has also joined with the Columbia-affiliated Harlem Hospital Center and the Harlem Children’s Zone to tackle the problem of asthma among overweight children in the community.

For more than four decades, Columbia’s Double Discovery Center has provided on-campus after-school enrichment and college readiness programs to hundreds of local students from low-income families. Double Discovery participants have consistently achieved high school graduation rates and college enrollment rates of 97 percent. These are but a few of the many collaborative efforts that have helped to make the Harlem community and Columbia University institutional partners, and to make friends and neighbors of Harlemites and Columbians.

New York is a gorgeous mosaic, and an institution like Columbia is an important part of the vibrant mix that makes our city unique. The university’s expansion project will broaden its mission of teaching and academic research, patient care and public service, and enhance the quality of life for those who live and work in Harlem and across our city. And Columbia University could have no better partners in this venture than the people of Harlem.

David N. Dinkins, the mayor of New York from 1990 to 1993, is a professor of public affairs at Columbia.

MORNINGSIDE HEIGHTS - A Slice of Relaxed Life, Sandwiched by Parks



Real Estate

Living In Morningside Heights


A Slice of Relaxed Life, Sandwiched by Parks



Marilynn K. Yee/The New York Times
‘Blessedly Casual’ Riverside Park, shown near 114th Street, helps
define an area that one resident calls “the last refuge of the
surviving hippies.”


By CLAIRE WILSON
Published: May 27, 2007

SWATHED in the lush spring greenery of Riverside and Morningside Parks, this Upper West Side neighborhood is a lot quieter since Columbia University students went home for the summer earlier this month. The wide sidewalks still have a pleasant buzz, but instead of backpacks, the accessory of choice seems to be strollers.










Living In: Morningside Heights
RelatedCommunity Profile

Once considered something of a “secret” among residential neighborhoods, Morningside Heights is experiencing a surge in popularity, particularly among young families lured by the spacious apartments, the parks, excellent private schools and access to transportation.

Jane Blumenstein, a mother of two who arrived as a graduate student at Columbia in 1994, has seen the change among members at Congregation Ramath Orah, the Orthodox synagogue on 110th Street that she has attended for 10 years. Five years ago, she said, there were many more older people, among them Holocaust survivors, and only about five children in the Shabbat program. Now there are almost 20, all of them from the neighborhood.

“Lots of young families have moved in, instead of moving to Jersey and Riverdale,” said Ms. Blumenstein, who with her husband, Jay, bought a two-bedroom co-op on Riverside Drive in December 2005. “People are seeing this as a place they can make their life.”

Anchored by the spires of the interdenominational Riverside Church to the north and the Episcopal Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine at the southeast corner, but dominated by the presence of Columbia, the 0.3-square-mile enclave is often described as laid-back.

According to Barbara Hohol, who calls Morningside Heights “the last refuge of the surviving hippies,” newcomers are quick to embrace the unhurried spirit of the neighborhood, which is bordered by 110th and 125th Streets and the parks on its eastern and western flanks. Small businesses and mom-and-pop stores line Broadway, which has carefully tended plants in all its medians.

“The new people coming in are blessedly casual,” said Ms. Hohol, a jewelry maker who arrived in 1957 as a Barnard College student. “It’s totally unpretentious.”


What You’ll Find
A multiethnic community of 33,250, Morningside Heights is 53 percent white, 15 percent Hispanic, a little over 14 percent Asian, and almost 14 percent African-American, according to census data.

Its landscape is dominated by institutions. Besides Columbia, Barnard, Riverside and St. John the Divine, these include Teachers College, the Union Theological Seminary, the Jewish Theological Seminary, the Bank Street College of Education and the Manhattan School of Music.

Residential buildings vary from grand structures with views of the Hudson River along Riverside Drive to a few small but elegant doorman buildings on some side streets, and tenement-style structures, many of which are still rent controlled or stabilized.

There is a new 95-unit condominium at 110th Street and Broadway, and a new 20-story rental building, Avalon Morningside Park, being developed by AvalonBay Communities, near St. John the Divine. A portion of the 296 Avalon units will be reserved for lower-income tenants, the first of whom will arrive in a year.

Cynthia White is moving soon to a two-bedroom, one-and-a-half-bath co-op on West 111th Street after having shopped for a couple of years. It has exactly what she wanted: character, but modest renovations.

“I wanted prewar, unmolested charm, and I wanted light,” said Ms. White, a Macy’s executive. She paid $800,000 for the 1,200-square-foot fifth-floor co-op, with river views from the dining room.

Columbia is the biggest property owner, and according to Jordi Reyes-Montblanc, the chairman of Community Board 9, its relationship with the community is contentious at best. Describing it as “a 2,000-pound gorilla,” he said, “Columbia does wonderful things for the community in general, but when it comes to what Columbia wants, they don’t care what anyone else has to say.”

The situation is unlikely to improve over the next three decades. The university has announced plans for a $7 billion expansion on 17 acres west of Broadway and north of Morningside Heights, between 125th and 135th Streets. It will include 18 academic and research buildings as well as housing, and will bring in 9,000 more workers and students.

While the site is not in Morningside Heights proper, residents say they are already concerned.

At Morningside Gardens, a 983-unit middle-income self-managed co-op, and the General Grant Houses, a 1,940-unit public housing development, residents feel particularly vulnerable.

“For Morningside Gardens and all the surrounding buildings, it is going to be 30 years of dust and trucks and rats,” said Joan Levine, a retired teacher who moved into Morningside Gardens when it opened in 1957.

University officials maintain that they do their best to accommodate the community. Recently, for example, said La-Verna J. Fountain, assistant vice president for public affairs, Columbia decided not to put the student health services department in a building it owned on West 113th Street after residents protested.

What You’ll Pay
While prices have gone up in Morningside Heights, it still offers good value compared with the rest of the Upper West Side, said Michael T. Stansfield, an associate broker with Bellmarc Realty. People who can’t afford the West 70s, 80s and 90s are migrating north, where “the same size apartment is going to be cheaper by $200,000 to $300,000, depending on what you’re looking for,” he said.

James Perez, a senior vice president with Brown Harris Stevens, has two two-bedroom, two-bath units on Riverside Drive, one listed for $1.549 million, the other for $1.895 million. Because of the varied housing stock, Mr. Perez explained, “two-bedrooms can be anywhere from $800,000 to $1.5 million.” A one-bedroom on 111th sold for “$500-plus,” he said, while at the Strathmore on Riverside Drive, a one-bedroom would top $1.5 million.

Sabrina Seidner, a vice president of Nest Seekers International, has a one-bedroom, one-bath listing on 110th Street for $690,000 and says there are still some bargains out there. “A one-bedroom whose asking price was $295,000 recently sold for $286,000,” she noted. “You can find a funky little space for $300,000, but you have to focus on it and make it a job for six months or a year.”

Studios are rare. Mr. Stansfield says they range from $255,000 to $375,000. An alcove studio is currently available in a new condo building at 545 West 110th Street, said Ronnie Russo Landau, a Corcoran vice president. It is listed at $699,000.

Morningside Gardens apartments rarely come on the market, but range from $165,000 for the smallest studio to $710,000 for a three-bedroom, two-bath unit with a terrace, according to Michael J. McMahon, general manager of the Morningside Heights Housing Corporation.

Area rents range from an average of $1,435 for a studio to $2,863 for a two-bedroom, according to Citi Habitats’ monthly average for April.

What to Do
The 323-acre Riverside and the 30-acre Morningside Parks are a big reason that Duane Cranston, a lawyer, and his fiancée, Sara Holliday, an account manager for a graphic design firm, are looking forward to moving here. They expect the renovation of their two-bedroom co-op on West 111th Street to be completed in the next two or three months.

“The park is going to be a huge asset,” said Mr. Cranston, who works for ESPN, the cable television sports network. “All the greenery and being able to feel like you’re in the city but not in the middle of it were important factors.” Morningside Park has basketball courts and a baseball field; Riverside Park has volleyball, tennis, soccer and a bird sanctuary.

Broadway offers all kinds of shops, many of them small businesses like Liberty House at 112th Street. It started 40 years ago as a crafts collective to benefit the civil rights movement but now sells clothing.

Ms. Hohol, the jewelry maker, laments the absence of a movie theater but says the restaurant scene has some affordable options. “There are still low-end restaurants if you don’t feel like cooking,” she said.

There is also a good bit of variety. Broadway between 112th and 113th Streets has Le Monde; Nacho’s Kitchen; Nussbaum & Wu, a Chinese-Jewish bakery/deli; and the Mill Korean restaurant.

There are chain supermarkets in addition to the Milano Market and the West Side Market, which reopened recently at the corner of Broadway and 110th Street.

The Schools
Among the public schools are three in the same building, nearby at 234 West 109th Street. One of those is Public School 165, the Robert E. Simon School, which teaches kindergarten through Grade 5. Among its fourth graders in 2006, 54.3 percent scored at or above grade level in English, versus 58.9 percent citywide. The math rating was 56.4 percent, versus 70.9 percent citywide.

Mott Hall II, at the same site, has a college preparatory curriculum for Grades 6 through 8. Of eighth graders, 79.6 percent met English standards, versus 36.6 percent citywide; 78.6 percent met math standards, versus 38.9 percent.

The closest high school is Edward A. Reynolds West Side High School on West 102nd Street, where 2005 SAT averages were 387 on the verbal, versus 497 statewide, and 389 on the math, versus 511.

Private schools abound. Among them, the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine has a preschool program as well as a free program for 4-year-olds in conjunction with the Department of Education. Riverside Church also has preschool offerings.

Other private schools include the Cathedral School, also at St. John the Divine on Amsterdam Avenue, and the Bank Street School for Children on West 112th Street. Both teach prekindergarten through Grade 8.

The Commute
Commuters to Midtown can get the No. 1 local train at the 110th Street/Cathedral Parkway stop, then switch to the Nos. 2 and 3 express trains at 96th Street. The trip takes about 20 minutes. Bus routes include the Nos. 7, 11 and 104, which go north and south, and the No. 4, which goes to 110th Street, then heads east and down Fifth Avenue. The Nos. 100 and 101 travel 125th Street, and the No. 60 goes to Kennedy Airport.

The History
Farms dominated what was called Vandewater Heights, after a local landowner, until 1818, when the Bloomingdale Insane Asylum opened between 116th and 120th Streets and started the influx of institutions. The asylum eventually moved to Westchester, and Columbia moved from Midtown to take over the site in 1897.

The Encyclopedia of New York City details major change in the late 19th century: Riverside Drive was built in stages; Riverside Park was built in the 1870s, Morningside Park in 1887. In 1906 came the subway.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

No Olympics boycott - Little chance for U.S. boycott of Beijing Olympics

Date: Fri, 25 May 2007 20:50:47 -0400
To:
From: "Tenant"
Subject: Olympic boycott prospects in doubt; China crackdown opponents
(2 articles)

UPI Poll: No Olympics boycott
http://www.upi.com/Zogby/UPI_Polls/2007/05/25/upi_poll_no_olympics_boycott/1870/

WASHINGTON, May 25 (UPI) -- There was light support among UPI-Zogby International poll participants for the idea of a boycott of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing on human rights grounds.

A grass-roots effort has called for the international community to stay away from the Beijing Olympics next year because of China's record on human rights.

But among the 5,141 U.S. residents who took part in a May 16-18 Zogby interactive poll, few supported such a boycott. A total of 10.4 percent said the United States should boycott the 2008 Olympics while 12 percent said they weren't sure and 77.6 percent said there should be no U.S. boycott.

A total of 72.1 percent of those asked said they either strongly or somewhat disagreed that sending a U.S. team to the Olympics in China would "serve as U.S. validation of Chinese government policies."

The subsets of respondents most likely to support a boycott turned out to be the "progressives," 15.9 percent of who said there should be a U.S. boycott, and the "very conservative," 19.2 percent of whom support that idea.

The overall sample was consistent when asked about a potential boycott of products of U.S. corporations that sponsor the Beijing Games. A total of 72.7 percent said there should be no such action while 13.7 percent said consumers should take that step. Another 13.5 percent said they weren't sure.

There is a margin of error of 1.4 percentage points in the data.


http://wpherald.com/articles/4930/1/Analysis-Little-chance-for-US-boycott-of-Beijing-Olympics/Music-to-Chinas-ears.html

Analysis: Little chance for U.S. boycott of Beijing Olympics
By Shihoko Goto Published Today China , Human Rights Unrated
Music to China's ears
by Shihoko Goto
UPI Senior Correspondent

TOKYO -- China's human rights record and its authoritarian regime are disturbing to many Americans, but calls for the United States to boycott the Beijing Olympics next summer in protest remain in the minority.

The UPI/Zogby poll of more than 5,000 Americans, weighted to make it representative of the country as a whole, found that even though more than 46 percent do not expect China to make any changes in its human rights policies as a result of hosting the Olympics, a resounding 78 percent of respondents said the United States should not boycott the summer games in protest.

Meanwhile, nearly 39 percent "strongly disagreed" with the idea that U.S. participation in the Beijing Olympics would validate Chinese government policies, while about 34 percent "somewhat disagreed" with the statement. Moreover, 33 percent said they were "somewhat favorable" towards the International Olympic Committee's decision to award the 2008 summer games to Beijing, with nearly 12 percent stating that they were "very favorable" about the outcome.

Such findings should be music to the ears of the Chinese authorities, who are stepping up efforts not only to build up their capital's infrastructure to host the games, but are also cleaning up the streets and air quality to meet international standards. Certainly, the Olympics are seen as an opportunity for Beijing to showcase itself as a global metropolis, and for the Chinese government to highlight its cultural accomplishments as much as its economic might.

Yet many international advocacy groups are rallying to increase pressure to get the Chinese authorities to respect human rights if they are to host the games. In fact, Amnesty International is concerned that the games are being used as an excuse for the government to purge dissidents from the capital.

"If the Chinese authorities and the International Olympic Committee are serious about the Olympics having a 'lasting legacy' for China, they should be concerned that the Games are being used as a pretext to entrench and extend forms of detention that have been on China's reform agenda for many years," said Catherine Baber, Amnesty's Asia-Pacific director.

Crackdown on opposition has intensified

Most advocacy groups broadly agree that while China is making steady progress in preparing to host the Olympics, there has been almost no change in the country's political climate, and some argue that the crackdown on government opposition has actually only intensified. A group of human rights organizations including the Federation for a Democratic China, which was founded by Chinese exiles after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre to rally for political freedom in the country, wrote to IOC President Jacques Rogge last week calling for the committee to hold the Beijing Organizing Committee accountable for the lack of progress on human rights since 2001, when the city won the right to host the games.

Those calling for the independence of Tibet too are clamoring for foreign governments to challenge the Chinese authorities about their hold on the region, particularly as Beijing is limiting media access to Tibet both before and during the games.

"The opportunity that the Olympics bring to foreign journalists to interview individuals freely all over China has been denied in Tibet. Again the Tibetans have been betrayed with another promise broken in the full sight of the international community," argued Yael Weisz Rind, director of the London-based Free Tibet Campaign.

Public support for such campaigns appears to be on the rise. Of the 5,141 adults surveyed between May 16 and 18, Zogby found that 57 percent would "strongly oppose" the Chinese government suppressing demonstrations by human rights organizations during the Olympics, only 28 percent of respondents said they would "strongly support" advocacy groups using the games as an opportunity to make political statements against the country's human rights policies.

Still, most Americans are hesitant to vote with their wallets against China's human rights record. Questioned whether U.S. consumers should boycott products of U.S. corporations who sponsor the Beijing games, nearly three-quarters of those polled said that they were against boycotting products, with only 14 percent being for such a move.



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Date: Tue, 29 May 2007 04:02:38 -0400
To:
From: "Tenant"
Subject: China and the Olympics­Repression Increases Amidst 'Reform'

http://en.epochtimes.com/news/7-5-28/55795.html

China and the Olympics­Repression Increases Amidst 'Reform'
By Gary Feuerberg
Epoch Times Washington, D.C. Staff
May 28, 2007

Amnesty International (AI) released its 2007
annual report on May 23, an assessment of human
rights worldwide. Not surprisingly, the report
finds China as a nation with severe violations of human rights.

But there is a difference this time. With the
Olympic Games only a little more than a year away
in August 2008, Chinese leaders are offering a
few reforms­judicial review of death sentences
and a relaxing of restrictions on foreign journalists.

But according to AI, these improvements are not
all that they might seem, and are overshadowed by
the expression of even more intolerance towards
political and religious dissent, and the
attorneys who defend the dissenters. Controls on
domestic journalism and the Internet are also tightening up.

Moreover, in its latest assessment of China's
progress towards making human rights improvements
which were promised for hosting the 2008
Olympics, AI found that the Olympics is acting as
a catalyst to extend the use of house arrests of
activists and detentions without trial, at least
in Beijing, thereby restricting their personal
freedom, while at the same time the communist
regime avoids the appearance of formally imprisoning them.

Amnesty International Rebuts the Chinese Regime

When Beijing was selected by the International
Olympic Committee (IOC) in July 2001, China
agreed to make progress in its human rights
standing. The Olympic Charter states,
"...Olympism seeks to create a way of life based
on the joy found in effort, the educational value
of good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles."

In September 2006, AI expressed its
disappointment in a report to Chinese authorities
and the International Olympic Committee (IOC),
regarding the poor progress China is making with
respect to human rights. The regime ignored the
detailed AI report and when asked about it at a
news conference, the Foreign Ministry
spokesperson, Qin Gang, accused AI of being
"biased against China" and of "politicizing" the Olympic Games.

Amnesty International responded first of all that
it has no political agenda and that its sole
reason for existence is for the sake of human
rights in China and elsewhere in the world. AI
said that when Beijing was awarded the Olympics,
Chinese officials themselves repeatedly linked
the hosting by Beijing with human rights.

The IOC says it relies on international human
rights organizations like AI to monitor and
report on human rights developments, according to
AI. In other words, AI has a legitimate role to
play here which Chinese officials tacitly
acknowledged upon being selected in 2001.

"The concerns which Amnesty International is
[sic] raising in the run-up to the Olympic Games
are human rights issues which have a direct link
with preparations for the Olympics in Beijing or
with core principles in the Olympic Charter,"
says an AI report (Sept. 30, 2006).

"The IOC cannot want an Olympics that is tainted
with human rights abuses­whether families
forcibly evicted from their homes to make way for
sports arenas or growing numbers of peaceful
activists held under 'house arrest' to stop them
drawing attention to human rights issues," said
Catherine Baker, Deputy Asia Pacific Director at AI.

The IOC has sent mixed messages as to how serious
they are in enforcing an agreement that China
would have to improve its human rights record to
be host of the 2008 Games, according to AI. The
human rights organization recognizes the
considerable leverage that the IOC has on the
Chinese rulers and urges the IOC to raise the
human rights concerns publicly, if necessary, as the Olympics approach.

On another front, China has been criticized by
the Bush administration for not doing enough to
pressure the Sudanese government in accepting the
UN plan to station 20,000 soldiers and police in
the Darfur region to protect the population.

The Washington Post reported on May 19 that a
letter was sent to the Chinese regime, signed by
108 members of the U.S. House of Representatives,
which the Post summarized, "Beijing Olympics
could be endangered if China did not change its
policies in Sudan." China's Foreign Minister Yang
Jiechi said on May 18 that it was contrary to the
"Olympic spirit" to link the Beijing Olympics
with Chinese policy in Darfur, says the Post.

China's New Strategy on Activism

More tolerance for a few dissidents is used to
mask the persecution of many others who try to
report or campaign more widely on human rights
violations. For example, two veteran dissidents
who were active in the 1989 pro-democracy
movement were allowed to travel to Hong Kong for
the first time. Meanwhile, however, "many more
activists face intimidation, arbitrary detention
and intrusive surveillance of family members," says AI.

An example of the latter is Ye Guozhu, who is
serving a 4-year prison sentence for organizing a
demonstration against forced evictions in
Beijing. He was reportedly beaten at the end of
2006 with electro-shock batons at Chaobai prison in Beijing.

Another example cited is defense attorney Gao
Zhisheng, who is being held by police "as a
prisoner in his own home." Gao has not been
allowed to practice law after he published an
open letter to Hu Jintao (the head of the Chinese
communist regime), calling for religious freedom,
the rule of law, and an end to the "barbaric"
persecution of the Falun Gong. When recently held
in police custody, Gao told AI that he was
treated harshly, which included being handcuffed
and forced to sit in an iron chair or
cross-legged for extended periods, with bright
lights shown upon him. He was convicted of "inciting subversion."

Death Penalty Review

One reform touted by the Chinese regime is that
now the Supreme People's Court "resumed its role
of approving all death sentences passed in
China," which on the face of it sounds like
progress. AI expressed concern, however, that the
review procedure focuses on largely ensuring that
the death penalty is applied in a uniform manner
across provinces "rather than effectively
addressing potential miscarriages of justice in individual cases."

AI said it was concerned that a limited paper
review would not expose the use of torture by the
police to extort confessions when the evidence
relating to such abuses had not been introduced
in the trial. AI used the example of Xu Shuangfu,
a Protestant leader, who was executed with 11
others last November. Xu reportedly said he had
been beaten with heavy chains and sticks,
electric shock to the toes, fingers, and genitals
and forced injection of hot pepper, gasoline and
ginger into the nose to force his confession. The
court and appeals courts would not allow his
lawyers to introduce these allegations as evidence in his defense, says AI.


Double Standard

Despite the promise of "complete media freedom"
during the Olympics, foreign reporters are
finding that in practice the Chinese communist
regime often doesn't live up to its word. The new
regulations introduced in January 1, 2007, allow
foreign journalists to conduct interviews and
investigations without getting local approval.
However, the "reform" does not in practice apply
to places like Tibet and Xinjiang. Further, the
regime is not making the change in policy
permanent­it will expire this October.

Reporters without Borders reported on May 25:

"Harald Maass, China correspondent of the German
daily Frankfurter Rundschau, and Tim Johnson, the
China correspondent of the US newspaper chain
McClatchy, were summoned separately on May 15 by
Zhang Lizhong, a division director at the foreign
ministry's information department, for
questioning about their trip to Tibet in April."

Zhang warned Maass that his reporting from Tibet
was a "mistake, according to the Reporters
without Reporters' report. Zhang told Johnson
that parts of his articles were "false" and "unacceptable."

Zhang also told Maass that he had the right to
travel to Tibet under the new rules for the
foreign press, but he still needed to obtain an
authorization from the representatives of the
local ministry in Lhasa, Tibet, according to Reporters without Borders.

Zhang said the new regulations do not apply to
reporting from Tibet, said Reporters without Borders quoting Johnson.

"When Maass and Johnson arrived in Lhasa, they
found themselves being followed and harassed by
Chinese plain-clothes policemen. Tibetans they
talked to were fined," says Reporters without Borders.

While the new regulations, though temporary,
appear to be a step in the right direction for
the foreign journalists, Chinese domestic
journalism, meanwhile, has suffered some major
setbacks. New domestic media controls impose more
censorship by the state-run media, Xinhua.

For instance, at the beginning of the year, the
Chinese Communist Party Central Propaganda
Department banned news reports on 20 specific
issues, including judicial corruption and
campaigns to protect human rights, says AI.
Another ruling subjects media to a new penalty
points system, whereby they are closed down if
they lose all their points for "wrongdoings."

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Zoning Out: The Need to Reform ULURP

The Neighborhood Retail Alliance
Protecting Neighborhood Business For Over 20 Years

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Zoning Out: The Need to Reform ULURP

We have been actively involved in the city's land use review process for the past twenty five years, primarily in opposition to large shopping center and box store projects. As a result of this experience we can say, without any doubt, that the process is a sham; it avoids real planning and provides a technical evaluation charade that is developer-driven and inconsiderate of an real concern with community impact.

That's not to sat that we haven't learned how to use the process to maximize the power of communities and small businesses. We have, and in the process have stopped over 20 separate development projects. So we understand ULURP- as the philosophers would say, immanently. It is a process that can no longer be depended to provide good public policy outcomes, only victories or defeats that usually have no relationship to environmental issues.

Which is why the recently issued report from the Manhattan Institute, Rethinking Environmental Review: A Handbook on What Can Be Done, is such an important, and long overdo, policy evaluation. It is especially timely in the context of the mayor's long range concern with sustainability. A truly sustainable planning approach must include the reform of a land use review process that is an active impediment to the goals that PlaNYC has laid out.

That being said, there are things in the MI document that we would take issue with (Our new good friend Norman Oder has laid out some of these qualms in a recent post). Let's begin by underscoring what we find to be excellent criticisms in the MI report. In the first place, "the process has little to do with planning." Here the report is right on target.The entire ULURP review inevitably begins with a developer's vision, and is then narrated by consultants who are hired to embellish the vision with facts that fit the preconceived narrative. The resulting environmental impact statements are certainly "impenetrable," designed as "litigation insurance" rather than as an explication of any real environmental impact.

The impenetrability is by design, since the goal is, as the report points out, "to be sure nobody reads it." We found this out exactly twenty five years ago. In one of the first projects we worked on, the Cherry Street Pathmark, we closed the parking lot for six months because we actually read the traffic study-and found that the developer had submitted the very same study that had been done for Pathmark's first urban store in Gowanus.

The consultant's have gotten a great deal more sophisticated since then, but the game is the same. And Oder's comments about the role of AKRF in all of this-both judge and jury-is right on target (something we can see most clearly in the Columbia expansion). It is the same phenomenon that we see on the Federal regulatory level: a revolving door between the private sector and government that makes legitimate regulation problematic.

The MI report captures this in quoting a unnamed consultant who said:
"Politicians have no time to read thousand-page volumes of technical data,and bureaucrats are overwhelmed by their workload...{which leads to}...Therevolving door between powerful government and highly paid private-sectorCEQR jobs means that no wants to go om record blowing the whistle...A guy worksfor the city, then goes to work for AKRF...and you can't get out of the circle."

The quality of the technical review is also called into question in the report. In developing mitigation for traffic impacts, consultants for developers tend to evaluate a narrow range of local impacts, and avoid looking at the wider possible damage that can be done to surrounding neighborhoods. This can be seen in the traffic signal retiming mitigations: "It is perfectly possible for a retiming, proposed to address congestion at an intersection, within the study area, to make things worse in the larger neighborhood just outside the study area."

So, for instance, with the Yankee Stadium and the Bronx Terminal Market projects that will certainly have a cumulative impact on the South Bronx, but were examined as if they were two discrete projects without any contiguity whatsoever. And of course no one bothered to look at traffic on the Deegan, since there appears to be no requirement to look at state roads-even if they are on "Asthma Alley."

So the MI report has a number of important observations, but its major weakness is its attempt to narrow the scope of review to what it feels are legitimate environmental issues. Neighborhood character and socio-economic conditions are eschewed in favor of very narrow parameters. This overlooks a number of salient points.

In the first place, the review process is a political process as much as it is an environmental one. Developer visions have a political component, and their impact needs to be evaluated on a number of levels that transcend narrow environmental concerns. When ULURP becomes a "weapon of choice" for activists-something that MI sees pejoratively-it is because it is the only available venue to express the concerns of communities and small businesses.

In addition, the issues of community character and socio-economic impacts often do have an important environmental impact. As we have commented concerning the mayor's congestion pricing plan, the building of auto-dependent shopping centers creates congestion and threatens the sustainability of local {often walk-to-shop} commercial strips. And why shouldn't the nurturing of local economies be a focus of any review? If not in ULURP, where?

Which brings us to what we feel is a major lapse in the MI report. It is spot on in showing how consultants collude with developers-and how beleaguered city bureaucrats play matador with the review-but it fails to call for the removal of developer-paid experts from the review process. As we have said before, experts should be hired by the city and paid for by the developers; and they should be given a wider planning agenda for their review.

So the MI report is a good start in the reformation of a broken ULURP process. Ultimately, however, it is too developer-friendly and insensitive to the needs of communities and small businesses. A comprehensive reformation should be made an integral part of PlaNYC so that, going forward towards sustainability, we have as disinterested (and as community-friendly) a review process as possible.

http://momandpopnyc.blogspot.com/2007/05/zoning-out-need-to-reform-ulurp.html

# posted by Richard Lipsky @ 9:29 AM


^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Friday, May 18, 2007
A start on trading cumbersome (city) environmental review for the civic work of planning

Nobody’s happy with the way projects get approved in New York. Rather than planning, there’s an environmental review process--city, state, or federal depending on the overseeing authority—that aims to disclose adverse impacts rather than actually mitigate them. Reams of paper produced by high-priced consultants allow developers to insulate against lawsuits, but otherwise don’t serve the public well.

The indictment, as applied in the city’s implementation of the 1975 State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), is detailed thoroughly in a new publication, Rethinking Environmental Review: A Handbook on What Can Be Done, written by Hope Cohen, deputy director of the Center for Rethinking Development at the Manhattan Institute, with a foreword by Richard Ravitch, former head of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

While the institute has a free-market bent, it gathered a panel of good government types for a panel discussion yesterday, who endorsed the critique even if they differed at points over the prescription. They included Ravitch; Robert Yaro, president of the Regional Plan Association (RPA); Kent Barwick, president of the Municipal Art Society (MAS); and Jerilyn Perine, executive director of the Citizens Housing and Planning Council of NY and former commissioner of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

Though Atlantic Yards, as a project overseen by the state, was not addressed in the handbook, it was brought up yet again by the panel as an emblematic example of poor planning.

(The handbook was limited to the city review, because changing state requirements would require amendment of the law but the city process could be changed via mayoral executive order and a set of guidelines issued by the Department of City Planning.)

Costly and opaque
Cohen’s handbook points out that even a small-scale environmental review in New York City can cost $100,000, and larger reviews can cost more than $2.5 million. (Note that AKRF’s tab for the state review of Atlantic Yards approaches $5 million.)

Cohen writes:
Politicians have no time to read thousand-page volumes of technical data, and bureaucrats are overwhelmed with their workload, which means that only projects with a patron get far fast. The revolving door between powerful government and highly paid private-sector CEQR jobs means that no one wants to go on record blowing the whistle. As one developer explained, “Ninety percent of EASs are done by a small circle of firms where you’re buying the ability to influence the bureaucrats—whom they hire. A guy works for the city, then goes to work for AKRF [a leading consulting firm for environmental review], and you can’t get out of the circle.”

(AKRF even wrote the technical handbook, the City Environmental Quality Review Technical Manual, as the company states proudly.)And it’s possible to game the system. Signal retiming “to address congestion at an intersection within the study area [can] make things worse in the larger neighborhood just outside the study area,” according to the report, and that’s certainly been a charge regarding the Atlantic Yards review.

Reforms suggested
The recommendations include exempting some projects, including smaller projects and variances that do not increase infrastructure demands, from review; new time limits for reviews; and the designation of an office to implement mitigations, such as the Mayor’s Office of Operations, which also houses the new Office of Long-term Planning and Sustainability, which is behind the PlaNYC 2030 project.

More controversially, the report recommends that the city review of environmental impacts should include a narrower definition of the environment. It “should drop topic areas that do not relate to the natural environment, infrastructure, or municipal services,” thus keeping topics like community facilities and services, open space, shadows, traffic, sanitation, transit, air quality, and noise, while excluding land use and zoning, socioeconomic conditions, urban design/visual resources, and neighborhood character, among others.

Cohen's argument is that current environmental reviews can offer little to deal with such impacts: “All it does is disclose. There’s nothing short of stopping the project that would change it.”

Afterward, I asked Cohen if she would make the same recommendations to reform the state environmental review, given that issues like neighborhood character and zoning were huge issues in the Atlantic Yards review. She noted that “my mandate was to look at the city” because that's where changes are clearly possible.

She added an important distinction. In projects overseen by New York City, the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), which accompanies the environmental review, addresses issues of zoning, at least, while state agencies are exempted from ULURP.

The Center for Rethinking Development, she added, has always believed that the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), which oversees state projects, “should not be exempt from zoning considerations and ULURP.”

Public role
At the panel, Barwick offered some cautions, suggesting that, despite the energy behind New York’s growth spurt, “it’s also a time in which there’s a severe and growing disaffection of the public.” Virtually all the large-scale development is “completely divorced” from the approval process, citing “all of the West Side, the Atlantic Yards, and Ground Zero,” he said.

Barwick said he thinks Bloomberg’s sustainability initiative will succeed over time, “but it’s an impediment to that kind of leadership to have the kind of disaffection we have today.’

While he finds many of the proposed reforms legitimate, he warned that “it’s ironic at this moment in our history to begin to define the environment as narrowly as the Manhattan Institute wants… to dismiss the consequence of the shapes and size of buildings… is to misunderstand why people live here.”

Ravitch later challenged Barwick, suggesting that people lived in New York because it was a place for opportunity, with housing subsidies, great public transit, and cheap higher education. (All true, but if people didn’t care about neighborhood character, we wouldn’t have historic districts.)

Yaro echoed the general theme, noting that the current process doesn’t work for communities, it’s expensive and time-consuming, it leads to rather than avoids litigation, and “it doesn’t work at all when we’re doing city building.” (RPA’s Rob Lane addressed that city-building issue yesterday, highlighting Atlantic Yards.)

CBA warnings
While activists have used environmental review to try to kill a project, the handbook states, some interest groups now use community benefit agreements (CBAs) that promise jobs, housing and child-care centers to ease projects along, even though they can distract from infrastructure improvements and other “traditional” mitigations. (The report allows that subsidized housing is arguably more impact-related.)Yesterday, panelists took up that theme, noting that a CBA is hardly a substitute for civic planning. Perine warned that the environmental review process is “kind of being co-opted by these kind of agreements.

No community ever says to a developer, ‘There’s no way we’ll approve this project unless you give us a homeless shelter, a garage for the ambulances, and a power plant.’… There has to be some sense made of this, and I think it’s one of the trains running out of the station that’s really at odds with our affordable housing policy and also with what the mayor’s trying to put out in his vision for the city for 2030.”

Yaro spoke similarly. “The avoidance of litigation is leading to what I think is an insidious business,” the CBA, which he defined as “a form of legal extortion.”“Atlantic Yards is a good example,” he said, noting that MTA and city need to fix traffic and transit issues. “But there was absolutely nothing the developer could do, the city could do, or anybody could do” in the environmental review. While the CBA commitments might be worthy , especially to the civic groups that are part of the CBA, the document "didn’t deal with the fundamental issues that were raised by the EIS process.”

Vicki Been of the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy warned that excising issues like socioeconomic impacts from the enviornmental review process would leave communities “very unsatisfied.” While the answer may be a better planning process, she said that wasn't going to happen first.

So the risk, she suggested, is if some of those impacts are taken out of the process, we’ll get “something perhaps even worse, and we get more Community Benefit Agreements," which she characterized as part of a process less manageable than the environmental review.

Fait accompli
Yaro returned to the planning theme: “We’ve got a regulatory process with no planning process and what we need is, upfront, planning, community input, clear guidelines from the city and the state about what developers should be doing.”

“We’re getting it through these voluminous review processes, which only happen when the development is a fait accompli," he said. "There’s never any serious discussion of alternatives.” Yaro seemingly was endorsing one argument, if not the lawsuit exemplifying it, that challenges the Atlantic Yards environmental review, arguing that the state failed to consider alternatives to Forest City Ratner's plan.

Someone decides
Perine, who said she didn’t see communities embrace density and “the real infrastructure changes that we need,” argued for a distinction: “I think there’s a real difference between planning and what people think of as community planning. Planning should be done by planners.”

She scoffed at the idea that communities don’t have a voice, pointing to the rejection of the West Side Stadium. (Arguably, that had as much to do with the lobbying by Cablevision, owner of Madison Square Garden.) She also cited recent rezoning for the West Side as including community input. She didn't challenge Barwick's examples of Atlantic Yards and Ground Zero.

While communities rhetorically support affordable housing, she said, the process is complex and expensive, and planning comes out of pre-development costs paid for by subsidized loans: “We are wasting scarce subsidies that could be going to solve people’s housing problems on all this morass that doesn’t really make a project better.”

“I do believe there are legitimate reasons to have that community voice be a part… but at some point, if our rhetoric is real," she said, "somebody has to be willing to make a decision and say, ‘This is going here because we need it.’ Instead, we now put subsidies toward process and delay."

Looking forward
Perine offered “an alternative to these kind of willy-nilly Community Benefit Agreements,” suggesting that the sustainability office be placed in the Department of City Planning and that the city consider a “wedding registry idea” that lists needed community improvements.

Barwick called it “frightening” that the public doesn’t have to pay, but that it would all be paid for by the developer.” (The issue of increased responsibility by government and the public is also addressed in Lane's city-building essay.)

Yaro suggested that the mayor’s 2030 plan provides the framework to move forward. Genie Rice of Civitas said that there has been community planning, but 197-A plans produced by Community Boards are “totally ignored.”Barwick noted that most 197-A plans have embraced growth: “There’s a feeling communities are NIMBYs. It’s a false assumption.”

Yaro pointed out that the City Charter that enabled community 197-A plans also calls for the mayor in his first year of office to prepare a four-year strategic plan. “That has been politely ignored, until now.”

Indeed, the Bloomberg administration has begun to put planning on the public agenda. So reform of the city’s cumbersome environmental review process—and reform in a way that can satisfy different constituencies—remains a challenge, but it could be on the horizon.A reform of the state law, that which allowed Atlantic Yards, is even farther away. It may be that ongoing legal challenges to Brooklyn’s most controversial project will keep that state reform issue on the agenda.

http://atlanticyardsreport.blogspot.com/2007/05/start-on-trading-cumbersome-city.html

# posted by Norman Oder @ 7:26 AM

Thursday, May 17, 2007

HDFC FORUM

HDFC FORUM

MAY 23, 2007 @ 6 PM
Hamilton Grange Library
503 West 145th Street
(Between Amsterdam and Broadway)

Welcome and Introductions –
Carlton Collier, Executive Director, The Parodneck Foundation

Opening Remarks –
Honorable Robert Jackson, New York City Council


Panel Discussion :
HDFC – History and Importance
Jordi Reyes-Montblanc, The HDFC Council

Statutory/Regulatory Framework for HDFCs
Debra Bechtel, Esq., Brooklyn Law School

General Operating Issues/Dealing with Problems --
Ann Henderson,
Co-Director, Co-op Preservation
Urban Homesteading Assistance Board (U-HAB)


Tax Amnesty/HPD Programs
Mimi Ellis,
Division of Alternative Management Programs
NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development

Open Forum – Questions/Discussion

Project Follow-Up

Refreshments/Informal Gathering

This forum was made possible through funding obtained from the New York City Council, the Honorable Robert Jackson, Councilmember, 7th Council District, as part of the citywide Mortgage Foreclosure Emergency Prevention Program.

Local co-Sponsors and Partners include: Manhattan Community Board No. 9; Community League of the Heights; CUNY Graduate Center; Ecumenical Community Development Organization; Hamilton Heights Homeowner Association; Hamilton Terrace Block Association; Harlem Congregations for Community Improvement; HDFC Council Manhattan Valley Development Corporation; Westside Heights HDFC Council.




FORO PARA HDFC

MAYo 23, 2007 @ 6 PM
Biblioteca de Hamilton Grange
503 West 145th Street
(Entre Amsterdam y Broadway)

Bienvenida y Presentaciones–
Carlton Collier, Director Ejecutivo, La Fundación Parodneck


Apertura–
Honorable Robert Jackson, New York City Council


Panelistas :
Las HDFC – Historia e Importancia
Jordi Reyes-Montblanc, The HDFC Council

Normas Estatutorias/Regulatorias de las HDFCs
Debra Bechtel, Esq., Brooklyn Law School

Asuntos de Operaciones Generales/Enfrentando los Problemas --
Ann Henderson,
Co-Director, Preservación de Cooperativas
Urban Homesteading Assistance Board (U-HAB)

Programas del HPDAmnistia de Impuestos a la Propiedad
Mimi Ellis,
Division de Programas de Administración Alternativa
NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development

Dialogo – Preguntas/Discusiones

Futuro del Proyecto

Refrigerio/Sesión Informal

Este foro es posible por medio de fondos obtenidos del New York City Council y el Honorable Robert Jackson, Concejal del 7th Distrito Conciliar,como parte del Programa de Emergencia para la Prevención del Extinguimiento del Derecho de Redimir Hipotecas.

Patrocinadoes y Promotores Locales incluidos: Junta Comunitaria No. 9 de Manhattan; Community League of the Heights; CUNY Graduate Center; Ecumenical Community Development Organization; Hamilton Heights Homeowner Association; Hamilton Terrace Block Association; Harlem Congregations for Community Improvement; HDFC Council Manhattan Valley Development Corporation; Westside Heights HDFC Council.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Commentary: Latinos give PBS a history lesson






Commentary: Latinos give PBS a history lesson

POSTED: 11:24 a.m. EDT, May 14, 2007
By Ruben Navarrette Jr.
Special to CNN

SAN DIEGO, California (CNN) -- There is an ongoing battle between filmmaker Ken Burns and a coalition of Hispanic veterans, organizations and lawmakers over plans by Burns and the Public Broadcasting System to release a documentary on World War II that ignores the 500,000 Hispanics who fought in the war.

Now there could be a truce. After initially insisting that he wouldn't make any changes, Burns said last week that he would re-edit the film to add stories about Hispanic soldiers -- not as an addendum as was suggested earlier in a lame compromise, but as part of the film itself.

The word came after Burns met with the Hispanic Association of Corporate Responsibility, which had asked Anheuser-Busch and General Motors Corp. to end their sponsorship of "The War" -- a 14-hour documentary slated to air in September. HACR Chairman Manuel Mirabal warned the companies to cut ties or they would "not be held harmless." Was that a threat? You bet. Hispanics control more than $800 billion in annual spending power and that merits respect.

Burns said that he would include interviews with Hispanic veterans in "another layer of storytelling." But he didn't say how he would do so, only that nothing in the film would be changed. How would that work, exactly?

One person who is still skeptical is the individual who started this affair: Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez, journalism professor and head of the U.S. Latino & Latina Oral History Project at the University of Texas at Austin.

When Rivas-Rodriguez learned that PBS was planning a documentary on World War II absent Hispanics, she and her associates wrote letters, launched an online campaign, and demanded meetings with the PBS brass ( http://www.defendthehonor.org/ ).

Like the Hispanic veterans of World War II, they were ignored. That was a mistake. It also made clear that the activists were dealing with folks whose knowledge of Hispanics didn't go beyond salsa lessons and whatever is on the No. 3 combination plate.


If either PBS or Burns knew more about the ethnic group, they might have known that they were playing with dynamite. Hispanics are famously proud of their veterans, whose military service has produced a higher ratio of Medal of Honor recipients relative to population than any other ethnic group.

A special source of pride are the World War II veterans, who came home to segregated schools, restricted restaurants, and bans on speaking Spanish. So they waged a new battle -- for civil rights. It is a great story. Too bad PBS and Burns missed it the first time around.

Now, Burns seems ready to correct the oversight. Let's hope that he does -- before the corporations weigh in, and the war starts up again. As for PBS, it's a goal of the network to provide educational programming. And on this issue, there is much educating to be done.

Consider the white male reader who, after reading a column on the subject, wrote to inform me that "no 'Latinos' fought in the war. They were Americans."

That's a lovely thought, and I can't wait to share it with those in my grandparents' generation who suffered through decades of second-class citizenship. They weren't "Mexicans." They were Americans all along. How about that? They'll be so relieved.

Ruben Navarrette Jr. is a member of the editorial board of The San Diego Union-Tribune and a nationally syndicated columnist.


Ruben Navarrette Jr.: Filmmakers
did not know much about Latino
pride in U.S. military contributions.



The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY !!!


... is for the million things she gave me,

... means only that she's growing old,


... is for the tears she shed to save me,


... is for her heart of purest gold;


... is for her eyes, with love-light shining,


... means right, and right she'll always be.




Put them all together, they spell "MOTHER,"A word that means the world to me.
--Howard Johnson (c. 1915)





Thursday, May 10, 2007

Growing Pains - BP Stringer proposes special zoning district to protect West Harlem from Columbia University expansion




News 05.10.2007


Growing Pains
BP Stringer proposes special zoning district to protect West Harlem from Columbia University expansion

Columbia University is expected to submit its official rezoning plans for a proposed expansion into Manhattanville to Manhattan Community Board 9 this month, a plan the board and local residents have vocally opposed. There is little support beyond a few student activists, but on April 1, Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer lent the opposition some much needed support when he announced rezoning plans of his own intended to protect the interests and assuage the fears of Columbia’s future neighbors without impinging directly on the university’s plans.

Those plans, developed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop and Skidmore Owings & Merrill and released in July 2003, call for as many as 18 glass towers the on 17 acres bounded by 125th St., Broadway, 133rd St., and 12th Avenue, just north of Columbia’s main campus. Stringer’s proposal does not cross into this territory but instead surrounds it on three sides, stretching from the Hudson to Edgecombe Ave. between 125th and 145th streets. “We wanted to think beyond the footprint,” Stringer told AN. “How do you preserve the community so Columbia does not dominate West Harlem but coexists with West Harlem?”

The biggest concern for the borough president’s office is controlling gentrification and maintaining the neighborhood’s distinct character. In a study released as part of the zoning proposal, Stringer’s office found 22 percent of lots within its rezoning area to be residential “soft sites,” which are considered ripe for redevelopment because they are built below their potential floor area ratio (FAR). Furthmore, just over 50 percent could be soft sites if developed as community facilities, which allow developers to increase the FAR in exchange for public amenities. Academic uses fall into this category.

The borough president’s solution is to downzone buildings within the special district to protect their lowrise character, commonly between four and six stories. If developers wish to build above this threshold, they must include concessions for affordable housing or smallscale, locally owned businesses. The hope is these measures will protect local residents and business owners from being displaced. “Part of this is we realize there will be development, which is good for the city,” Stringer said. “But we also have to protect the city for those who have made it what it is.” To that end, the proposal also stipulates harassment and demolition safeguards to prevent unlawful evictions and encourage adaptive reuse.

The biggest concern for residents below 125th Street is that Stringer’s special district does not include them, unlike a non-binding CB9 proposal, which extends to 116th Street. “Our concerns are that the immediate area to the south of the expansion area is not protected,” said Tom DeMott, who lives on Tiemann Place, half a block south of 125th Street. DeMott, who is also a member of the Coalition to Preserve Community, said he gave Stringer the benefit of the doubt, but that he and his neighbors are still uneasy.

CB9 chairperson Jordi Reyes-Montblanc remains steadfast in his belief that the community will prevail in its fight against Columbia, with or without Stringer. “If the plan is not reflective in a complete way of the 197-a, the 197-c will not go very far,” he said, using the technical names for CB9 and Stringer’s plans.

Like the borough president, Reyes- Montblanc insists locals are not opposed to Columbia, but he sees the university’s unwillingness to abandon eminent domain—Columbia controls two-thirds of the expansion zone while the MTAandVerizonownanother 20 percent—as a means of extortion that will not succeed. “We’ve had proposals for arenas, 75-story hotels, office towers, water-side condos, and all of them have been defeated,” Reyes-Montblanc said.


MATT CHABAN