Tuesday, November 25, 2008

American Prospect Profiles Sadik-Khan

And it's a great piece, read the whole thing. This is just an aside, but something that people lose sight of when thinking of Mike Bloomberg and transit:
On the national level, Mike Bloomberg is now recognized as a progressive reformer, and his history as a Democrat turned Republican turned Independent, all for political gain, is largely overlooked. But New Yorkers, whose memories are longer, could hardly have predicted that the most recent iteration of their mayor's chameleon career would be the promotion of a bikeable, walkable city. What even most local observers don't realize is that the Bloomberg administration's unexpected commitment to these issues is due less to ideological conviction than to the influence of one woman: Janette Sadik-Khan, commissioner of New York City's Department of Transportation. . . . Bloomberg's own record on public spaces was far from stellar. An expert hired to direct the Transportation Department's cycling program, Andrew Vesselinovitch, quit in 2006, claiming that Weinshall and Bloomberg rejected most of his ideas and were insufficiently committed to reforming the streetscape. Under the influence of former Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Dan Doctoroff, another Wall Street veteran, the Bloomberg administration had been pushing unpopular proposals to construct massive sports stadiums and apartment towers, replete with thousands of parking spaces, on the far West Side of Manhattan and in downtown Brooklyn. "Here we have the most transit-oriented city in America, and many of Bloomberg's most treasured development plans, at that point, were tied to 750-spot parking lagoons, as if this were the suburbs," says Aaron Naparstek, editor of Streetsblog, which lobbies for "livable streets."
Bonus points to TAP for quoting Aaron. Hat tip to MAC for the heads up.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Hillary Clinton next SoS; Nydia Velazquez to Senate?

Looking pretty certain at this point that Obama will appoint Hillary to Secretary of State . . . I was pretty sure that Hillary would get (offered) prominent placement in the Obama administration, and this could go a long way to satisfying Hillary supporters. I think she'd do a good job.

Of more pressing importance for us in NY is who will get her seat? I'm hoping for Nydia Velazquez, currently one of our solid local Congressmembers (I'm in Yvette Clarke's district, but right near the edge and the two districts are adjacent.)

There will be tough competition for the spot I'm sure, especially as upstate residents clamor for the seat. But Velazquez would be an excellent candidate for the spot, and certainly good for NYC just when we need federal help more than ever.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Worst Market Crash Since Great Depression.

Wow. This is now officially the worst stock market crash since the Great Depression. Down well over 50% from the peak. Graph courtesy of dshort.com by way of Calculated Risk.

Employment Situation Worsening

The chart (courtesy of Calculated Risk) of continuing claims says it all. The administration is still trying to massage these numbers, attempting to carve out those who are on extended continuing benefits . . . but even so, we're now over 4 million.

I expect jobless figures to significantly worsen.

We absolutely need a major infrastructure spending package from the federal government. It might not happen until President Obama is sworn in, but it must happen, and it will.

I expect to see significant transit infrastructure spending included. We need it, it will create jobs, and set the conditions for future economic growth. IN a related matter, I'm working on a statement on the rumored MTA cutbacks. Short version: the worst possible move they could make at this point would be to cut service.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Marty: Keep Development Along Gowanus Sane

An open letter from CG resident and architect Chris McVoy, who along with John Hatheway is advocating for moderation in development along the Gowanus Canal. Please help spread the word:

Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Many of us in the neighborhood have been working to establish appropriately scaled development on the Gowanus Canal. This rare channel of water in our urban fabric, gradually being cleaned up, has incredible potential for a publicly-accessible urban respite park (last month I met a fisherman who regularly catches striped bass form Carroll bridge!)

City Planning proposes 12 story residential development along the canal south of Carroll Street bridge. Though this re- zoning is not approved, Toll Brothers is moving ahead with plans to build a large development on the canal between 2nd and Carroll Streets at the 12 story height.

While many of us support re-zoning to allow residential development along the canal, most of us in the neighborhood believe the development should be limited in height so that:

- It has less impact on the adjacent historic 2-4 story brownstone fabric of Carroll Gardens

- It provides necessary sunlight and open sky required for the relatively narrow publicly accessible canal-front park.

To build their project, Toll Bros needs special approval through ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Process), which includes approval by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. Last week, John Hatheway (architect, member of the Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association and advocate for responsible development for those who don't know him) and I gave the attached presentation to Marty, advocating an 8 story height limit, which allows the same built area and affordable housing as Toll Bros. but at an appropriate height for Carroll gardens and the Gowanus park.

He and his staff were receptive. But for Marty to advocate for our proposal, he needs to know that we have support of many in Brooklyn.

If you agree with us PLEASE SEND MARTY AN EMAIL at the below address saying you are "a resident of Carroll Gardens and support John Hatheway and Chris McVoy's proposal for limiting development on the Gowanus to 8 stories" for reasons above and any others you wish to mention.


This is likely our last chance to scale back the development! - and Marty actually reads his emails!

On Wednesday we will give the same presentation at the Borough Pres' public hearing. It would also be very helpful if any of you could come and voice your support for our proposal at the hearing:

DATE: Wednesday, November 19, 2008

TIME: 5:30 pm

PLACE: Brooklyn Borough Hall
First Floor, 209 Joralemon Street Brooklyn, NY 11201

Thank you!

Chris McVoy,
Carroll Street
Carroll Gardens


Dean Baker has a short piece on the hypocrisy of the mainstream corporate media (in this case, the Washington Post) in their economic reporting.
The point is extremely simple. There was a huge housing bubble that should have been visible to any competent economic analyst. The bubble was fueled by an enormous chain of highly leveraged finance. (As head of Goldman Sachs, Mr. Paulson personally made hundreds of millions of dollars from this bubble.)

It was entirely predictable that the housing bubble would burst and that its collapse would have a huge impact on the financial system and the economy as a whole. There is zero excuse for Paulson being caught by surprise by a "storm" that he helped create. The Post should not be in the business of covering up for Paulson's massive failure.
The Post piece is a fawning bit of hagiography on Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, which fails utterly to address the fact that as CEO of Goldman Sachs, Paulson himself had a direct role in creating this mess we are in. And made $500 million, cash money, by doing so.

Talking Points Memo also caught the Post fawning starry-eyed this morning.

Why do people still buy these newspapers?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Carroll Gardens Street Cleanup: This Sunday 11/23

This group has latched on to a simple and great project. I like to pick up a few pieces of litter every time I take a walk, it always makes me feel good about myself. Why not take an hour or two this Sunday to help clean up the neighborhood, if only to make yourself feel good?

Brooklyn Cleaning Project
Sun. Nov. 23rd, 10 AM
Corner of 2nd Pl + Smith St.
F line to “Carroll St.” station
For further info,
E mail Terry at soujiny@gmail.com

511: Your Number For Transit

NY State DOT is unveiling a new phone and internet one-stop traffic and transit resource:
Please join the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council on Thursday,
November 20 at 1:15 PM for a presentation on 511, New York State's new
official traffic, transit and travel info source announced this week
during the ITS World Congress. Todd Westhuis, Project Director, and Mary
Harding, Outreach Coordinator, will discuss how 511 works, give a live
demonstration, and talk about plans for expansion at the meeting of
NYMTC's Program, Finance and Administration Committee meeting.
To see how 511 works in advance of the meeting, please visit http://www.511ny.org/ or
call 511 within the New York City and suburban areas.

The meeting will be held at NYMTC's office at 199 Water Street, 22nd
floor. For security purposes, please reply to Andrea Miles-Cole at
amiles-cole AT dot.state.ny.us or 212 383-7200. The meeting will also be
webcast live, and will also be archived for viewing at a later on
This could be fantastic; everything hinges on execution however, and I hope they nail this one.

Amanda Burden At CB6 On The Gowanus Rezoning, Carroll Gardens Downzoning

We couldn't attend last night's meeting due to a family commitment, but Pardon me For Asking and the Gowanus Lounge provide the details.

While I'm encouraged to hear that the Carroll gardens downzoning has been faststracked and should be unveiled next June, we'll need to be vigilant and carefully scrutinize the terms, and make sure to turn out in force for every meeting. Bill deBlasio should be commended for elbowing CG to the front of the line; there's no question in my mind that we would not have achieved what we have so far without his efforts on Wide Streets and downzoning.

On the other hand, I think it's a mistake to put 12 story buildings on this side of the Gowanus Canal. (The Public Place site is a different matter, given the viaduct that circumscribes the site.) The Gowanus should not be a trade-off for a downzoning of Carroll Gardens.

Lastly, (for now) I was disappointed with the earlier CB6 approval of the Toll Brothers plans along the Gowanus. We have truly put the cart before the horse in taking this one developer's parcel and spotzoning it ahead of the entire Gowanus framework. The result of this is a bootstrapping of the ultimate framework itself, and a skewing of the analysis of development impacts in favor of the developers.

Breaking: Health Dept. Forces LICH To Maintain Obstetrics Ward

From Crain's:
Citing Brooklyn’s shortage of maternity beds and pediatric care, the State Department of Health has denied Continuum Health Partners’ request to end obstetrics, neonatal and pediatric services at Long Island College Hospital. The department has also ordered the hospital to continue running several school-based health clinics that the hospital wanted to close at the end of the year.
Looks like the neighborhood has gotten a reprieve. It will be interesting to see what, if anything, Attorney General Cuomo's investigation of Continuum's books will turn up.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Brooklyn Greenway Benefit

Tuesday night at Galapagos in DUMBO. Mia and I will be there to support a worthy cause and have a great time.

Making Way for the Greenway
A Benefit for Brooklyn Greenway Initiative
Tuesday, November 18th, 8pm (doors open at 7pm)
at Galapagos Art Space in DUMBO

Join supporters and friends of the Greenway for an evening of music and program shorts from some of Galapagos’ fabulous resident artists! Proceeds support the development of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway, a 14-mile off-street bike and pedestrian route that will connect Brooklyn’s parks, neighborhoods and people. Galapagos is located midway along the planned route, so it’s the perfect place for a celebration of recent milestones. Matt Wasowski, founder and Big Boss of Nerd Nite will give a 10 minute presentation about the Coney Island hot dog eating contest and the fascinating world of competitive eating. Featuring the hot and sweet sounds of Michael Arenella and his music. Other acts TBA. Raffle items include dinner for two at iCi in Fort Greene, one day of temp help from AppleOne, an ODM Spin watch and gift certificates from The Diamond in Greenpoint, New York Water Taxi, Fairway and Tres Belle Petite Medispa. And cupcakes from Nine Cakes for all! Advance tickets are $20 per person, or two for $30, so bring a friend! At the door, tickets are $25 per person, cash.
Purchase Tickets!
For more info go to: www.brooklyngreenway.org

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

On the Prospect of Federal Infrastructure Funding

The Observer has a good piece today on state and local officials seeking out federal infrastructure funds.
City and state officials are positioning themselves to garner funding from any new federal stimulus package for various transportation and infrastructure projects. Most of the projects are smaller-scale and nearly ready to start development.

Longtime readers know that I am a believer in federal funding for transit, sewer, energy and communications infrastructure, especially in tough times. As we stand at the edge of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, we need sensible infrastructure spending to provide jobs and set the conditions for our next generation of growth.

One of the lasting lessons I took away from "The Power Broker", Robert Caro's fantastic biography of Bob Moses, was that those who were ready with plans for their dream projects were the first in line for funding when stimulus was available. Bob Moses secured a fortune for New York public works from the WPA and related agencies, and we are still enjoying the fruits of those investments today. It happens that Moses's vision for what to do with that money was disastrously flawed, but there can be no question that he was effective in getting things built.

New York needs leadership that will seize the opportunity in this crisis to make our city better and more sustainable, to preserve New York's preeminent stature as a world class city. But now is not the time for small thinking. It is a time for bold initiative. We have a once in a lifetime opportunity here to dramatically improve our city. Let's aim high.

Our city and state leadership must avoid the trap of thinking small and focusing only on quick fixes. We could: Extend the Second Avenue Subway. Connect La Guardia to the rail transit system. Connect Penn Station to Grand Central. Build the Cross-Harbor Freight Tunnel. Bury the Gowanus Expressway, with dedicated transit facilities. Fix our outdated combined sewer systems. Turn Third Avenue into a green oasis. Build the Vision 42 light rail connector in mid-town. Create true high-speed intercity rail. Regionalize our subway system and commuter lines.

You can get a flavor for what I would do with the money here, here and here.

Will Imploding Real Estate Bubble Sink Toll Gowanus Plan?

First yesterday was the Bloomberg headline: Toll Brothers Revenues Plunge 41%.

Then there was the unseemly grasping of CEO Bob Toll for a handout from the federal government. Believe it or not, Bob Toll, who cashed out stock to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars at the height of the bubble, is now asking for a federal handout for LUXURY home builders. Can't blame him for trying, what with every investment bank and now the automakers squealing at the trough, but this would be utterly wrongheaded policy. The problem in the housing market is that home prices detached from fundamentals (household incomes and rental value) due to easy monetary policy and lax regulation.

Now to top it all off, Toll says that the New York market is hitting the skids:
“New York City was a nice stand-alone beacon,” he said in a conference call this afternoon. “Now it has joined the rest of the country.” That happened, he said, in mid-September after the financial crisis worsened.

Many people do not want to hear it, but the housing market is crashing, and for sound reason. The price of homes rose far beyond what people could afford. Price to income ratios broke through the roof during the bubble and have yet to return to sustainable levels. Most of all the fault lies on Alan Greenspan's shoulders, but the Bush administrations abject failure of regulation, after the GOP-led deregulation of the 1990s is also to blame.

Expect home prices to decline precipitously over the next 18 months. The 4th quarter 2008 and 1st quarter 2009 numbers in particular will be jarring. And builders are still churning out new units into a softening market at near record pace. Projects that have not broken ground, or even been permitted at this point (such as Toll Brothers proposed Gowanus development between Carroll and 2nd Street) have a high probability of being shelved or killed.

At this point, I imagine Toll Brothers will still proceed full steam ahead with their efforts to re-zone the property. If they are successful, they can flip it to another developer or hold onto the site for a period of years. But whether they succeed with the rezoning or not, it grows less likely by the day that this development will be built any time soon.

This will not be the end of the world, but it will be tough for many of us. We do need to take concrete steps to keep people working. I have been saying for a long time now that we need a Federal program of public works, specifically in transit infrastructure, clean energy, clean water, and high speed data networks to get our economy moving again and lay the foundation for the next generation of growth. I hope that President Obama will be even more ambitious than FDR in this regard.

Parody New York Times Issue Today

Dated July 4, 2009. Pranksters handed out copies to commuters all over the place this morning in a well-executed stunt. I was not fortunate enough to get my own copy, but I did a double take when I saw a woman reading a New York Times with the headline "IRAQ WAR ENDS".

The whole thing is available online, but the genius of the prank is that they actually printed full size, high quality copies and handed them out to people. My favorite is the fake Tom Friedman column I am dying to read for real, which begins:
The sudden outbreak of peace in Iraq has made me realize, among other things, one incontestable fact: I have no business holding a pen, at least with intent to write.

Pure genius. And if you happen to see this Tom Friedman, stick to alternative energy and away from middle east policy, where you have been totally and disastrously wrong.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

LICH Meeting Recap

Gowanus Lounge has some details from last night's meeting. I was over at a CB6 meeting, but I understand that Barbara and Beverly were among residents of Carroll Gardens that spoke out last night.

Obviously a matter of grave concern for the community.

Monday, November 10, 2008


Lot's going on tonight. CGNA has cancelled our meeting tonight, instead encouraging Carroll Gardens residents to attend the Borough President's meeting tonight on the future of LICH. In addition, the Executive Committee of CB6 is meeting tonight, and under consideration are changes to the Bylaws of the Community Board. This could also be a very important meeting.

“Long Island College Hospital and the Ongoing Health-Care Crisis in Brooklyn.”
6:30-8:30PM, TONIGHT
Brooklyn Borough Hall Courtroom
209 Joralemon Street (between Court and Adams Streets).
Speakers are limited to three minutes and asked to bring ten copies of testimony. Per and email: “This meeting will address the closing of LICH by Continuum. Please take this opportunity to let the BP know what you think…”

Nov 10 CB6 Executive & Fin/Pers/Law
Discussion and consideration of possible amendments to CB6 by-laws.
Board member attendance review
Other business

Cobble Hill Community Meeting Room
250 Baltic Street
(between Court/Clinton Streets)
Brooklyn, NY 11201
6:30 PM

I'll be attending the CB6 meeting tonight to see what kind of changes are under consideration. Rumors of an attempted non-board member disenfranchisement swirling.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Obama Wins Big; Dems To Take Majority in NY State Senate

And I feel like a million pounds have been lifted off of my shoulders!

Many of the things I want to happen in NYC over the next several years (mostly huge infrastructure investments) were predicated on the Democrats taking control of the White House and expanding majorities in Congress. Now that that is a reality, we can actually get down to the business of rebuilding the country that the GOP has driven near to bankruptcy and ruin.

Investing in our infrastructure (transit, clean energy, clean water, etc.) is what will get the city and the country back on its feet. I am fired up!

Also, having spent half the day in Queens today, and half of Thursday as well, it was highly gratifying to see Joe Addabbo pick off Serph Maltese . . . we're going to have a Democratic State Senate for the first time since 1964 . . . 10 years before I was born!

VOTE TODAY . . . And Plan On Waiting A While

Over at PS 58, the line for our electoral district (79th) was the longest I've experienced . . . but the people there are doing a great job of moving the process through. A pleasant surprise - Maria Pagano of CGNA was among those working the table when Mia and I finally made it to the front of the line.

We arrived at 7:30 and were out at 8:30 . . . your results may vary, but give yourself plenty of time . . . and be sure to vote! Ran into Dan Squadron, our next State Senator at First and Court and wished him luck.

We voted a straight Democratic ticket (left column) from Barack Obama to Devin Cohen, and I encourage you to do the same!

Off to IND to pick up some palm cards. Their is excitement in the air . . . and also the smell of baked goods: be sure to pick up a coffee and snack from the PTA on your way into the polls. A buck a piece to a good cause, and money well spent when you're standing in line for an hour!

To find out where to vote: http://govote.org/

Or text: "pp street address zip" to 69866
(For example: pp 400 E. 8th Ave. 80203), texted to number 69866.

Go vote!