Wednesday, February 27, 2008

New York Democrats WILL Take The Senate This Year

It might have been back in December when local Senator Martin Connor predicted that we would pry away a Senate seat (in a heavily Republican upstate district) in yesterday's special election. That whittles the GOP Senate Majority (held for 40 years) down to one (1) seat.
Mr. Aubertine won 52 percent of the vote to 48 percent for Mr. Barclay, according to unofficial results. Republicans outnumber Democrats 78,454 to 46,824 in the north country district, and Mr. Barclay had been favored to win.

Further, he predicted that if we were able to swing this seat, we will take the Senate this year. There were some skeptics in the crowd. But hot damn, the winds of change are blowing. Change is coming to Albany, massive change, and sooner than you think.

Congratulations to Senator-elect Aubertine, Senator Connor, Governor Spitzer, and the party leadership on a tremendous victory.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Public Place Renderings at Curbed

Check them out at Curbed.

I had to leave a bit early for another meeting. Both renderings have significantly larger bulk than the neighborhood is used to, and the reps from the City basically conceded that no study has been done on local infrastructure needs to go along with the development proposals.

Also, a large turnout of union workers attended the meeting. Apparently, one of the developers has a spotty history of using non-union labor.

Monday, February 25, 2008

CB6 Tonight: What's Going On At Public Place?

As announced by District Manager Craig Hammerman at the last CGNA meeting, CB6 is hosting an informational meeting tonight to get out the word on the Public Place development proposals.

This is a big project by any measure. It's important to have a large presence of interested residents out there to maximize community input.

Tonight, 6:30PM
PS 32 Auditorium
317 Hoyt Street
(between Union & President)

Brooklyn CB6 Calendar

My Campaign Website Is Up!

The basics are there now, at Check it out! And if you have a few bucks, consider making a contribution. There's also a permanent link now in the left margin to the campaign site.

I'll be adding a lot more as the campaign progresses, links to sign up for the mailing list and to volunteer, as well as a comprehensive platform of positions on the issues.

I'm looking forward to a good race, and to working with you to address the needs of our community.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Brownstoner: AIA Kills Drive for Zoning Text Amendments

This is good news.

The process was deeply flawed, and the zoning changes that AIA was pushing would not only have led to bigger buildings shoehorned into tight spaces, but also would have substantially weakened contextual zoning.

This is good news.

Friday, February 15, 2008

How Did The Housing Bubble Happen?

The biggest factor was the credit bubble and financial chicanery on a grand scale.

This cartoon (45 slides) , which has made the rounds on Wall Street, sums it all up in layman's terms. Via Big Picture.

Colorful language warning.

Frank's Deli, on Smith at 2nd Place

Frank's Deli, across from the Carroll Street subway station, got a facelift in the last two weeks. I'm a big fan of the pancakes there (only an occasional indulgence or I'd be bigger than Stein's plan for 360 Smith - zing! I'll be here all week).

Anyway, the new awning looks great; it's much more inviting than the old enclosure in front of the door. I'll bet they double or triple their business from this investment. Seriously.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Court Street Lofts $100M Price Chop

I feel bad for whomever paid full price for a condo in this building. The prices for these units are still inconceivable to me. Via Curbed.

Credit Bubble: Not Just Houses - Cars Too

Last weekend we travelled to North Carolina to visit my saintly grandmother and her new husband (both widowed last year). It's great to see two people find each other like that, to find a new source of happiness late in life.

But that's the end of the good news. My new grandpa, a gearhead, mentioned that the the market for used cars and trucks was a mess, and that on the new lots, nothing was selling. "They got 'em packed in like sardines." And it was true. Brand new pickup trucks were crammed into lots practically door to door . . . which indicates channel stuffing by the auto makers. And none of it selling.

Shorter: things in the auto world will get much much worse before they get better. And it's already god-awful.

Then, the stories out this week in the NYT and today on CNN indicate that lenders (particularly those tied to the automakers), possibly desperate to keep up sales, reached too far to make the sales. from CNN:
Delinquencies among assets backed by prime auto loans hit a 10-year high in January. The number of delinquencies in assets backed by subprime auto loans jumped 10% since December and 43% from a year ago.

Wages are not going up (except recently for I-Bankers - and those record bonus days are over) for the vast majority . . . and a person can only service so much debt. Times like these, I am very grateful that I slogged through and got that economics degree.

Still, carefully picking your steps doesn't help much when you can be stampeded by a frenzied mob. I hear a steadily growing rumbling in the distance. And it's getting closer.

Toll Brothers Gowanus Plan

Gowanus Lounge (and Curbed) has renderings from Toll Brothers scoping plans for their 3 acre parcel on the Gowanus. On the plus side, their would be some open space on the waterfront. The bad news would be 6 story buildings on Bond and a 12 story building on the canal.

I imagine a LOT of people will be unhappy about this. Click the GL link for pictures.

Remember, the zoning for this area is in flux . . . this is very different from the situation at 360 Smith. Here, the community actually has a lot more opportunity for influencing the outcome.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Resurgence of Rail In US

The WSJ has a good article up on the surge in railroad building and improvement throughout the United States, after many years of neglect.
After World War II, though, cars began wiping out passenger-train service. New interstate highways unleashed trucks as a freight competitor. By the 1970s, U.S. railroads were deep into a decline, other than adding new track to the coal fields of Wyoming.

The tide is starting to swing back after decades of overinvestment in highways and underinvestment in rail facilities. This article is about freight; now let's see the logical next step and get the Cross-Harbor Freight Tunnel back on New York's priority list.

We are witnessing a sea change in transportation modes; for 50 years and more, it has been all about trucks and automobiles. Now the tide is turning back to more efficient means. We need leadership that will have the courage to push boldly back into rail for freight and transit.

CGNA Meeting Roundup: 360 Smith Edition

Last night's Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association (our first at St. mary's Residences at 41 1st Street) was dominated by the looming edifice of 360 Smith Street. Developer Billy Stein came packing last night, with a new architect (no more Scarano!) and a multimedia presentation for the large crowd that turned out. Before I get into my thoughts, the meeting has already been ably covered by:
The Gowanus Lounge
Pardon Me For Asking

Longtime readers will know that my biggest issue with the 360 Smith developent is that the courtyard be preserved (it will be). Second is the look and scale of the building, and that is more of a mixed bag. The planned development (pictured above) will rise 6 stories, with a setback and an additional level on top, for a total of seven stories (plus parapet & mechanics) . . . the bulk height will be 70', with an effective height more like 75'-80'. This is disappointingly large, but within the current zoning - which is why our efforts to downzone the neighborhood and eliminate the wide streets loophole are so vital. This proposed height is perfectly legal and requires no zoning variances.

The architect (KSQ Architects) brought 3D computer models which he showed on an overhead screen. Interestingly, the building seems to blend a lot better on the 2nd Place side than on Smith Street.

While I think the design over all could use some work (I would go with a limestone color in the glass area and overtop, limit the color scheme to two colors, and setback the corner top level like the rest of the top level). In addition, the corner piece over all could use a reworking, possibly even rounding the corner to soften the edge. The good news is that Stein has indicated a willingness to work with the community on the facade appearance, if not on density.

Some meeting attendees pleaded for some architectural details in the corner area, with one suggesting even gargoyles. Which leads me to this thought: crown the building entrance with a gargoyle, cast in the likeness of Robert Scarano.
Photo credit: Pardon Me For Asking

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Late Night, Lazy Morning Roundup: Election, Toll Brothers, 116 3rd Place

A long day and then a couple hours vegging in front of election coverage. We've got a race on our hands, possibly into the convention.

Obama took the gloves off for a few minutes and laid a few shots into Clinton, which was good. I don't think the Hillary camp ever anticipated that it would come to this point: neck and neck after "Super-Duper Tuesday". But here we are.

In other news, Toll Brothers, the luxury housing developer, reported it's seventh straight quarter of declining sales. Begs the question of just how soon Toll will be in a position to develop along the Gowanus. I'm betting no time soon.

Katia has some pictures of the out-of-scale enlargement at 116 3rd Place. This building fascinates me, partly because I used to live directly behind it, and so I had a rather intimate acquaintance with it's construction up until May 2007. I can remember being excited to see them laying in radiant flooring. I can remember being horrified to see the three extra stories added on top. Actually, I can remember the day I was taking a shower and realized that the workers were now high enough to see right into the window of my fourth floor bathroom. Alas, no more cool breezes. As Katia notes, adding the mansard roof level would have made for a lovely addition. But those final two levels stick out like a sore thumb.

And then, via Curbed, to see (1) the hideous renderings of the interiors on Corcoran's site (really? a fake zebra carpet?) and (2) the prices they're asking - $2.7MM for the top unit (I can't bring myself to call it a penthouse when it's not in a highrise building . . . even if that term is technically correct).

I don't quite know what to say.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


Mia and I pulled the lever for Obama this morning. Turnout was the heaviest I've seen it over at good old P.S. 58. I think Obama will do surprisingly well in NY, especially in NYC.

Obviously, if you're reading this I hope you will vote for Obama as well. There is a tremendous amount of energy in his campaign, and we will need to harness that for the general election. The theme of the 2008 election will be change, and our primary should be about change as well. New blood, new ideas, a new politics . . . Obama. Beyond that, I strongly believe that Hillary Clinton is the ONE candidate on either side of the aisle that will inspire the wingnuts to get out and vote . . . against Hillary.

I don't care for Hillary for a variety of reasons, not least of which was her positioning on Iraq. But the right wingers have a blinding, irrational hatred of her that I find difficult to fathom, and that venomous hatred will drive them to the polls, even as Paul McRomnabee, whoever the GOP winner is, leaves them uninspired. Is that fair? Of course not. But it is the reality as I see it.

Also there is a bake sale conveniently located in the hallway. So do your civic duty, and reward yourself with a tasty treat.

RPP Forum Wrap-up

The Residential Parking Permits forum last night was a good opportunity for a give and take between DOT and the community. Jane McGroarty, Joanne Simons and Michael Cairl did a great job of presenting matters from the community perspective.

David Yassky, Letitia James and Bill deBlasio all had some good points to make about the need for residential permit parking. Bill de had an interesting proposal for extending the RPP out to neighborhoods along the transit lines to protect against "park and ride" behavior.

I've said from the beginning that congestion pricing is necessary to reduce traffic and raise money for transit. But to actually eliminate congestion, instead of pushing it into the neighboring communities, we need a plan (RPP) to prevent people from driving their cars to communities outside the zone and taking the subways the last mile to avoid a toll. I don't want to move traffic; I want to eliminate it.

And let me be clear - I support RPP for ALL neighborhoods that want it. I support RPP not only for Brooklyn Heights and Carroll Gardens and Park Slope; I support RPP for Windsor Terrace, for Kensington, and for every neighborhood that is facing a crisis in parking. This is a city wide issue, and it needs to be addressed that way.

At the forum last night their was a contingent from Windsor Terrace protesting against RPP. The strongest sentiment I've heard from WT is a feeling of being excluded, e.g. "Windsor Terrace would be treated as the parking lot for Park Slope". That's not the way it should be; that's not the way it will be. I look forward to working with the people of WT and Kensington to make sure that we are all getting the same protections.

The last thing I'll say for now is, the system is broken. This problem is not going away, and will only be exacerbated by the tremendous amount of development under way and on the drawing boards. Defending the status quo is indefensible. We need action, and we need action that will treat every neighborhood with respect.

I should also note here that Bruce Schaller from DOT did a good job presenting; the "new" DOT we have these days beats the hell out of the old regime.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Obama on Iraq

Obama last night:
"I don't want to just end the war, but I want to end the mindset that got us into war in the first place."[emphasis added]

I couldn't have said it better. TAPPED has the full quote and commentary, worth a read.