Fwd: Spotlight on the Region
- alex@... wrote:
Subject: Spotlight on the Region
Date: Thu, 4 Oct 2007 11:58:58 -0400
Oct. 4, 2007 | Vol 6, No. 17In This Issue: Pedaling Better Streets New Jersey Zoning Code: Nip/Tuck or Major Surgery?
Restoring Manahatta, One Wetland at a Time
Pedaling Better Streets
If you want to catch a glimpse of the future of New York Citys streets, head over to Ninth Avenue where trendy Chelsea meets the uber-trendy Meatpacking District.Starting at 23rd Street and heading south, a network of stripes, buffers and parking spots that comprise the Citys latest effort to create an on-street, mostly separated bike line, will catch your eye. Appearing seemingly overnight, this nearly complete hybrid lane boldly defies preconceived notions of safety by actually bringing turning vehicles closer to bikes at intersections. This new approach to the vehicle/bicycle street relationship may very well be looked back upon as the tipping point for mass bike use in this increasingly bike- (and pedestrian-) friendly city.For those tracking the evolution of Gothams growing embrace of pedal power, there has been a lot to keep up with since new leadership at the NYC Department of Transportation (NYC DOT) took hold. One early indication was new Enhanced Class III stenciling consisting of a very large bike logo with arrows painted onto the street that showed up on Fifth Avenue in Park Slope, Brooklyn last fall. This change from typical Class III routes, or street signs, is a more visible reminder to motorists that they are sharing the road.The new leader at NYC DOT is Janette Sadik-Kahn. This past spring not only ushered in Mayor Bloomberg's PlaNYC which included the promotion of cycling as one of sixteen transportation initiatives but also brought in Ms. Sadik-Kahn as NYC DOT Commissioner. Under her direction, NYC DOT has quickly implemented bold ideas developed in the past while looking beyond the City for new visions of city street life.Following her appointment, Sadik-Khan visited Copenhagen to investigate the city's extraordinary city-wide bikeway network. Organized by RPA and sponsored by the J.M. Kaplan Fund, the trip seems to have played a role in influencing recent NYC DOT decisions. This summer alone yielded the creation of a number of new bike lanes across the City, the removal of a parking space for increased bike parking in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and most vividly the painting of a few Class II (striped, on-street) bike lanes in an eye-catching green. Combined with NYC DOTs recently announced 2007 LOOK bicycle safety campaign, these innovations are welcoming cyclists to take to the streets.The latest NYC DOT move to create a separated bike path for Ninth Avenue is perhaps the most innovative and complex and, like many recent DOT projects, was installed with lightning speed.To get a sense of the bike lanes features, imagine yourself pedaling down this new cycle-track, as the Europeans refer to it. Immediately to your left youll see a wide sidewalk with bustling pedestrian activity. In front of you at the next intersection, pedestrians looking to cross Ninth Avenue walk swiftly across the bike lane to their very own designated pedestrian island situated at the edge of the newly-configured street. Not only will this island destination eventually be inhabited by green vegetation, but it will also reduce pedestrians crossing distance by 25 feet. Together with the wide sidewalks, this latest incarnation of the separated bike path cunningly avoids the pitfalls of the 1980 separated bike lane between Greenwich Village and Central Park which became clogged with pedestrians and street vendors.Looking to your right, an assurance of safety is reinforced by an 8 foot buffer zone that will eventually feature low vegetation, and a 10 foot Muni-metered parking lane, cleverly moved to the outside of the bike lane. As you begin to reach one of the three designated left turn lanes for autos, youll notice the buffer begins to disappear and, before you know it, youre side-by-side with a vehicle waiting to turn left. It turns out that bringing drivers and cyclists back together at intersections while seemingly counterintuitive can actually enhance awareness and safety at these critical junctions. As a reminder, visible street markings indicate to motorists where the bike path crosses the intersection.So, you may be thinking sure this sounds like a really great bike path, but why does it matter to me? Well, for seven blocks, this bike path offers a glimpse of what New York City street life can offer if bold ideas are implemented. It finds a way to seamlessly weave together issues of livability, sustainability and safety while synchronizing motorists activity, cyclists and pedestrians into one accord a rare feat on New York City streets.While the configuration of this path will not work for all of New Yorks diverse streets, NYC DOT will be sure to track the success of this route and identify other appropriate locations for it.
-- Robert Freudenberg, Associate Planner, RPANew Jersey Zoning Code: Nip/Tuck or Major Surgery?
If you were an enlightened developer and yes, there are quite a few seeking to build a neighborhood that put homes next to shops, small houses next to big ones, and the whole thing next to a transit stop and a public plaza, guess what? You probably couldnt without going through an excruciating permitting process.Why not? Because New Jerseys zoning codes as a general rule dont recognize the many dimensions of smart growth as something to be desired. Since the bulk of the states zoning is the old dumb growth model, achieving smart growth standards is done either through redevelopment statutes or by variance under conventional zoning, which encourages uses to be separated and rests on the cement blocks of old Euclidean zoning. Both smart growth and good community design end up as losers.In addition, the more flexible provisions authorized by the Municipal Land Use Law the states planning enabling legislation were clearly designed for large projects on greenfields and are not that relevant at a time when most of the states growth is occurring through redevelopment of brownfields or greyfield sites.Because of this, many are asking whether the states planning enabling legislation needs an update to bring it in line with whats currently desired by the states own smart growth policies. Its a dilemma faced not only by New Jersey, but to some degree in Connecticut and New York as well. Although the talk is now of smart growth, most states codes do not reflect those policies.The model discussed as the new right way to regulate growth is called "form-based zoning" (FBZ). FBZ is more interested in the final, physical outcome and less focused on the inter-relationships between specific uses. As such, it focuses on building size, height and scale, and their position relative to the street, parking and public spaces. It does not seek to obsessively separate uses. In many ways it follows the maxim that urbanist Jane Jacobs came up with many decades ago, which was regulate size, not function.Although the case for zoning reform seems strong, there has been little public discussion of the issue. With funding from the New Jersey Office of Smart Growth, RPA is attempting to change this. In coming months, RPA will convene an advisory committee of experienced planning practitioners, leading experts in NJ land use law and other important stakeholders to discuss the legality and limitations of widespread use of FBZ in NJ, and advise on potential legislative amendments to facilitate it and other zoning reforms. RPA will partner with a number of other organizations to host roundtable discussions. In order to focus those discussions, RPA will frame the issues in writing beforehand and ask each of the participants, in advance, to carefully consider the options. The outcomes of these roundtable discussions will become a chapter in the major outcome for this project - a Community Design Technical Guidance Report.Whatever the product of these meetings, there is likely to be considerable opposition to implementing true FBZ. In spite of flaws, old zoning laws have been around a long time, and making fundamental changes will likely make people nervous. Most municipalities are generally satisfied with their zoning codes even though local planning boards, and in particular zoning boards of adjustment, are often not. Local zoning regulations have become a reassuring element in a fast-changing world, and people often have considerable misgivings about true zoning reform. While piece-meal amendments to conventional zoning codes are not cost-effective, this is standard practice for the majority of smart growth projects in NJ today. As such, an educational initiative to familiarize local officials with FBZ principles and their advantages is critical if this idea is to gain ground and be adopted on a widespread basis.This means there is an ideal opportunity to educate local officials on the principles of community design and explain the inter-relationships between community form, mobility and transportation options. For Form Based Zoning is actually a far better tool to actually implement a community vision, because the zoning code in effect allows for a vision in the first place.Who can argue with that?
Carlos Rodrigues, New Jersey Director, RPA
Restoring Manahatta, One Wetland at a Time
For those of us in love with old maps, nothing could be more fun that the Manahatta Project. Steve Sanderson of the Wildlife Conservation Society (a.k.a. the Bronx Zoo people) has set out to virtually recreate Manhattan before the Europeans arrived and all the fuss started. Using the British militarys 1782 survey maps, natural histories, ecology, and a little creativity, Steve and his colleagues have reconstructed the Island as Henry Hudson saw it in 1609. You can check it out at the New Yorker's online website.One of first things you might notice is the irregular shoreline and marshes that once ringed the Island. These tidal wetlands hosted herons, ducks, and songbirds that nested or foraged on their seasonal travels up and down the North Atlantic. They were a nursery for young striped bass and sturgeon that once (and still) plied the Harbor. The Islands soft edge had a sponge-like capacity to absorb storm surges from hurricanes and noreasters.New York Harbor once boasted about 100 square miles of these marshes. Now, only 14 remain. The opportunity to set one aside for the future is rare, and the political will to do so perhaps even more so.Thats why conservationists cheered last week when Mayor Bloomberg announced the preservation of Arlington Marsh. The 70-acre salt marsh is a cornerstone of a major wetlands complex on the northwest corner of Staten Island. Its protection has been a priority for a generation of advocates and scientists at The Trust for Public Land, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and other agencies. Thanks to the Mayor, and the support of Councilmen James Gennaro and Mike McMahon, the marsh will be transferred to the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation and dedicated as public parkland.The announcement cames as the New York City Wetlands Transfer Task Force, created in 2005 to formulate strategies to ensure the survival of the Citys urban wetlands, submitted its recommendations to Mayor Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. The Task Force recommended the transfer of 80 parcels totaling just over 220 acres to Parks, and identified hundreds more worthy of additional investigation.Perhaps as important, the Task Force outlined what might be included in an overall wetlands policy for the City, including guidance to public agencies on disposition of underwater lands, mitigation of in-water piers and bulkheads, and oversight of smaller private wetlands. Creation of such a policy is also a recommendation of PlaNYC, the Mayors 2030 sustainability plan, which includes a strategy to improve water quality across the Harbor by employing pilot projects to test practices like installing roof gardens, capturing rain water on site in cisterns, and greening streets.Manahatta exists only in relic patches. New Yorks maritime history has drastically reshaped tidal connections between land and sea in the Hudson estuary. Bulkheads, relieving platforms, fill, and rip-rap built to protect property and accommodate ships have taken the place of marshes and tidal flats. The Harbor as Hudson saw it is not coming back. But restoration science, conservation action and political will can together recreate much of the structure and function of the Harbor Estuary.
Robert Pirani, Director of Environmental Programs and Co-Chair of the Citys Wetlands Transfer Task ForceQuestions or comments on whats in this issue? Send them to the editor of Spotlight On The Region, Alex Marshall at alex@...October 5
9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
AIA CT presents Next Stop: A Symposium on Transit Oriented Development
Keynote speaker: Shelley Poticha, President and CEO of Reconnecting America
The Pequot Library, 702 Pequot Avenue, Southport, CT
FREE but reservations required: www.aiact.orgOctober 5
3rd Annual Alternative Fuel Conference and Expo: Road to Energy Independence
Bronx Community College
For more information: Luis Torres at luis.torres@...October 6 and 7
Open House New York
Walking tours of some of New York City's most interesting spots, with an emphasis on design, architecture and sustainability. Highlights include Governors Island, Brooklyn Navy Yard and the High Line.
For more information: www.ohny.org
11:00 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.
Last Exit to Brooklyn: Red Hook
Walking tour led by Dan Wiley as part of Open House NY and BCUE
Meet at the street level of the Smith-9th Street station of the F/G train.
Free as part of Open House NY. Pre-registration required.
Call Ruth Edebohls at 718-788-8500 x 208, or e-mail edebohls@...October 12
Planning a More Livable New York: Regional Growth, Nature and the Ecological City
NYU Kimmel Center, Rosenthal Pavilion, 10th Floor
Washington Square South, NY, NY
RSVP by October 5 to: Rosemary Regalado at rregalado@... or 312-334-1250
For more information: https://www.planning.orgOctober 12
Lecture: How to Design and Build Your Own Community
Chris Scott Hanson, national cohousing expert and Co-Author of The Co-Housing Handbook: Building a Place for Community
Sponsored by the Brooklyn Cohousing Group
Brooklyn Friends Meeting House, 110 Schemerhorn St. (@ Boerum Pl.), Brooklyn
Contact Alex Marshall at 212-229-9392 or alex@...October 12
10:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
SCEPA and The New School for Research Economics Department present:
The Economics of Global Warming: A One-Day Workshop
Wolff Conference Room, 65 Fifth Avenue (at 13th St)
FREE but reservations required
For more information or to RSVP e-mail cepa@...October 16 and 17
The Big Deal: National Brownfield Association 2007
Join 2,000 buyers and sellers, senior government officials, and professional service providers involved in brownfield redevelopment.
Hosted by the National Brownfield Association and the City of Chicago.
For more info: http://www.nbabigdeal.org.October 19
The Window of Opportunity is Now: How Wireless Can Move Us to More Sustainable Transportation
Robin Chase, Founder of Zipcar and CEO of GoLoco
Baruch College, Conference Center, 151 East 25th Street, Room 759
Please register for this free event by visiting utrc2.org, or by e-mail to seminars@...October 24
Tri-State Transportation Campaign's 2007 Annual Gala
For more information, call Veronica Vanterpool at 212-268-7474November 6
New York is a City Best Enjoyed on Foot, Yet We Plan Our Streets for Cars
Jan Gehl, Architect of Green and Livable Streets
Presented by Upper West Side Streets Renaissance
Jewish Community Center of Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Avenue at 76th Street
RSVP required: david@.... Free.November 13
8:30 a.m. 1:00 p.m.
Thinking Bigger: New York and Transportation in the Northeast Megaregion
Details to followNovember 16
8:00 a.m. 3:00 p.m.
Vision Long Island's 6th Annual Smart Growth Summit
Melville Marriott, 1350 Walt Whitman Rd, Melville, NY.
More info at: www.visionlongisland.orgFebruary 15
6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
The Annual Leadership in Transportation Awards
NYU Kimmel Center, Rosenthal Pavilion, 60 Washington Square South, NY, NY
For more information: http://www.nyu.edu/public.affairs/releases/detail/1434February 29
NJF Redevelopment Forum 2008
Hyatt Hotel, New Brunswick
For more information: Tim Evans at timevans@... or Jay Corbalis at jcorbalis@...alex@... www.rpa.org
Spotlight on The Region A publication of Regional Plan Association, Robert Yaro, President, Alex Marshall, Senior Editor 212-253-2727, x360
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