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Dan Doctoroff Discovers Communities

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Dan Doctoroff has a big title — Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and Rebuilding — and even bigger ambitions. But as he hits the hustings to sell the mayor's environmentally friendly PlaNYC 2030 package he's finally started embracing small-ball politics. PlaNYC's proposal to build potentially huge housing complexes on decks over rail yards and highways, he said at a New School forum this morning, will proceed at a pace set by the affected community boards — not by Olympic committees or neighborhood-swallowing developers. "The lesson of Hudson Yards and Atlantic Yards is to get communities involved upfront," he told us after the event, though he wouldn't specify which areas he sees as ripe for this affordable-housing development. "We've learned, before we even go public with an idea, to reach out to the local community." Imagine that! (Oh, also, he confirmed the key non-word is pronounced "plan-why-see." Now you know.) —Alec Appelbaum

Chase Needs More Cash

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Last we checked with JPMorgan Chase, the megabank wanted to join the ground-zero scrum by building a 50-story skyscraper on the site of the contaminated Deutsche Bank building. There wasn't much opposition; in fact, city officials were ecstatic about this major score for the financial district. But there was one catch, as it turns out: It would need to be an even bigger score for Chase. As today's Times reports, the bank wants the kind of lavish incentive package Goldman Sachs got to build a tower in Battery Park City: $650 million worth of cash grants, tax-free bonds, and a whole buffet of tax breaks. Which left the government in the slightly ridiculous position of explaining how that was then and this is now; Spitzer is not Pataki; and downtown, while it could use a boost, is not exactly a wasteland anymore, either.

And So the Demolition Begins

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The battle of Atlantic Yards has moved from the rarefied arena of the literary think piece through various political fights and ongoing court battles to, now, the simplest setup possible: In one corner, protesters; in the other, bulldozers. Yesterday, Forest City Ratner began knocking down four of the fifteen buildings around Flatbush Avenue it has slated for demolition. About a hundred Develop Don't Destroy stalwarts — that's the group's turnout estimate — met the machines with some chants and signage, although no one tried to actually halt the demolition. The DDDB word is that Ratner is being hasty on purpose — to create a sense that Atlantic Yards is a fait accompli, even with an eminent-domain lawsuit hanging over it and a more thorough environmental review being demanded as we speak. It's hard to shake a guilty feeling that, crude as the tactic is, Ratner may be succeeding. There's something pre-deflated about a protest sign reading, as one did yesterday, "These Demolitions Are Premature." Premature?! How about "illegal"? "Criminal"? We know they're not, technically. But you're a protest sign; you can say these things! Develop Don't Destroy Release [DDDB.net]

Council: 2; Mayor: 0

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• The City Council overrode Bloomberg's veto and instituted a ban on metal baseball bats in high schools. And council members did the same with his veto of pedicab restrictions. A two-hitter, if you will. [Bloomberg] • President Bush is in town today for a speech and a photo op at the Harlem Village Academy Charter School, because it's been doing well under the No Child Left Behind act. We're sure the city had nothing to do with the improvement! At any rate, enjoy the gridlock. [amNY] • Historian David Halberstam, Pulitzer-winning legend of New York journalism died in a Bay Area car crash. Halberstam covered the Vietnam war for the Times and went on to write dozens of widely read books on that and other subjects. [WNBC] • The condo-weary Upper West Side is making like the Lower East and mulling a height limit on buildings. Under a proposed plan, all new construction west of the park between 97th and 110th Street would top off at about fourteen stories. [NYDN] • And the Waverly Inn — still not officially opened! — got slapped with 38 points for nine violations by the Health Department, including "mouse activity." We're sure our Grub Street brethren will have more to say, so let us just quickly smile at Mr. Carter's plan for a "Waverly cat" to deal with the mice. [NYT]

It's Not Easy Being Green

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Mayor Bloomberg's released PlaNYC 2030, his environmental agenda for the next quarter-century, yesterday (on Earth Day! get it?) at the Museum of Natural History (nature! get it?). It's almost too sprawling to recap, not to mention hell to pronounce ("plan-why-see twenty-thirty"?), but we know we'd be thrown out of the Bloggers' Association if we didn't do our best to take the most multifaceted matter and reduce it to five talking points. Herewith, our attempt to suss out the essence of the 127 proposed projects.

Judge Won't Stand in Ratner's Way

A New York State judge announced this afternoon that she won't stop Bruce Ratner from razing several Brooklyn buildings to start construction on his Atlantic Yards project. Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn appeared in a lower Manhattan courtroom Tuesday to request a temporary restraining order against Forest City Ratner, keeping the developer from starting demolition pending a May 3 hearing on DDDB's lawsuit claiming in inadequate environmental-review process. Justice Joan Madden promised a decision today, and she has now denied the DDDB request. FCR showed Madden a schedule Wednesday outlining the demolition of fifteen buildings between April 18 and the end of June, she wrote. Reasoning that a restraining order "is a drastic remedy which should be sparingly used," she wrote she failed to find "factual support" that the first nine buildings on the block will "affect the nature and character of the area." DDDB chief Daniel Goldstein quickly issued a statement. "The court expressly stated that in making today's TRO decision it was not pre-judging the merits of petitioners claims filed on April 5th," he said in a press release. He has called a protest for Monday at 8 a.m. at 191 Flatbush Avenue, where he expects demolition work to begin. In the Matter of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn v. Empire State Development Corporation [PDF]

On the Upper West Side, a Rare Win for Tenants

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Score one for the renters: Über-developer Kent Swig has hit a major snag in his plans to add a nine-story condo atop 201 West 92nd Street and 200 West 93rd Street, two adjoining six-story rental buildings he owns along Amsterdam Avenue on the Upper West Side. The Department of Buildings has issued an immediate stop-work order on the project and is said to be revoking a previously greenlit application for construction.

Public to Get Input on Hudson Yards Next Month

The public will soon get a long-deferred first look at Hudson Yards, the vast swath of rail depot and waterfront that Bloomberg once targeted for a Jets/Olympic stadium. Amid reports that the MTA has considered awarding the whole site to one nervy developer — remembering, perhaps, how much efficiency Larry Silverstein brought to ground zero — civic activists have demanded public review of the design rules for the site. And that's what they'll get: Last night, Hudson Yards Development Corporation president Ann Weisbrod said there will be a public presentation on May 8 at 6 p.m. Of course, this is a public-review sprint for a development marathon: MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin says the transportation agency, which owns the land, will ask for bids by the end of May and then quickly go through the required public process, reviews by the local community board and so forth. But at least you'll get an early peek at what you'll have to live with for the next hundred years. —Alec Appelbaum

West Chelsea Car-Elevator Apartments: Going Down?

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No doubt you remember the hype: Architect Annabelle Selldorf's design for 200 Eleventh Avenue included private car elevators, which would lift owners, still in their vehicles, to their apartments. Selldorf was allegedly inspired by the body-shop flatlands of West Chelsea, but it was no coincidence that this extra layer of privacy made the building attractive to celebrities; there was a report that Madonna was scouting a unit. But now the Fire Department might put an end to all that fun. Howard Hill, FDNY's chief of fire prevention, in early February wrote to the city's Buildings Department, to object to the plan. "For obvious life-safety reasons," he wrote, "this design concept and use should be prohibited."

First Look: Second Avenue Subway Stations

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We reported earlier on today's groundbreaking for the Second Avenue Subway, and we told you that "stations on the line will have natural light and column-free corridors (and, according to renderings, odd shards of Daniel Libeskind–esque glass)." Here now, renderings of those stations. (There's a larger version here.) Libeskinn-esque, indeed. —Alec Appelbaum Earlier: Daily Intel's coverage of the Second Avenue Subway

Pretty, Affordable Housing for Brooklyn?

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Maybe visionary architects can do more than concoct condos and museums in this town. A competition to design affordable housing in the South Bronx, which ended with the January selection of U.K. architecture firm Grimshaw and local good-guy architect Richard Dattner, went so well that the city's Department of Housing, with other agencies, is planning another, similar competition for later this year. The city will collect proposals for a 150-unit complex, dance theater, and retail space in Brooklyn, near BAM, by May 4, Housing commissioner Shaun Donovan said at the Center for Architecture last night, when he also announced another, unspecified competition for later this year. Architect Markus Dochantschi of StudioMDA, part of the runner-up team for the Bronx project, told us that he and his group will submit to the Brooklyn competition, and last night, for the first time, he showed off their Bronx proposal — a scheme of colorful mid-rise buildings that absorb sunlight and eschew dark hallways. The Brooklyn winner would face Frank Gehry’s Miss Brooklyn and her gargantuan friends — unless, of course, it's built while lawsuits keep all those titanium panels waiting on the loading docks. —Alec Appelbaum

Photograph, Then Destroy

The usually indefatigable Develop Don't Destory Brooklyn, which media outlets across the city can typically rely upon for Ratner-castigating press releases pegged to almost any occurrence, sent this today:

From: Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn
Sent: Tuesday, April 10, 2007 10:36:46 AM
To: undisclosed-recipients
Subject: Sol Lewitt Wall Paintings in Ratner Building Slated for Atlantic Yards Demo Artist Sol Lewitt, a giant in the conceptual and minimal art movements and one of the great innovators in the past 40 years, died on Sunday at the age of 78. Lewitt was famous, amongst other works, for his wall paintings … 644 Pacific Street is in the footprint of Bruce Ratner's proposed "Atlantic Yards" project, specifically in the footprint of the arena itself. In that building, once occupied by one of Mr. Lewitt's studio assistants, are at least two wall paintings by the artist. The building is in the list of the first round of demolitions the developer intends to begin in the coming weeks. These wall paintings should be photographed for historical documentation and the Sol Lewitt catalogue.
Photographed?! That's it? Either they're crappy Lewitts, or Daniel Goldstein is going soft. On Sol Lewitt [DDDB]

Another Lawsuit, and More Construction

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The Atlantic Yards standoff has entered a stage probably best described with the help of a folksy simile, maybe something about a man haranguing a bear that, meanwhile, is quietly chewing his leg. How so? Well, today there's news of the fourth and latest lawsuit against Forest City Ratner, this one filed by Assemblyman James Brennan. It demands that the Yards' business plan be made available for public scrutiny. On the ground, meantime, there's conspicuous activity (deliberately so, say critics): Bulldozers are humming, an old bus parking lot is gone, and asbestos is being ferried out of a Pacific Street building in preparations for demolition. Come to think of it, the situation is beginning to look less like a standoff and more like a game of chicken. But, then, we wonder if Brennan even needs to win his suit for it to be a success: Demanding transparency on a high-profile city project is probably not the worst thing to do if you're running for city comptroller. UPDATE: Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's indefatigable Daniel Goldstein emails to point out that the most recent lawsuit against Ratner, fresh out of the legal oven, was filed today by 26 co-petitioners seeking to annul the Yards' environmental-impact statement. The Brennan suit has been kicking around since last month. The more the merrier! Clearing of Atlantic Yards’ Site Proceeds as Legal Thicket Grows Denser [NYT]

New TKTS Now on Track for Fall

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When the stalwart seventies-era TKTS booth in Father Duffy Square — it's not Times Square, mind you, but the square just north of it — came down a year ago, we were promised a new version, complete with a shiny red staircase as a roof, a public space to rival Rome's Spanish Steps, in time for last New Year's Eve. No dice. What happened? An ownership change at the manufacturer originally slated to provide glass for that new hull derailed things, architect Nick Leahy of Perkins Eastman tells us. But the team is finalizing its choice for a new supplier, Leahy says, and expects the goods by late summer. "It was a hiccup that we managed," Leahy says. "The ticket booth is in place and the geothermal heating [underground] is in place, and I would expect installation by early fall." Which means it'll be ready for next New Year's or whatever autumn events — the World Series on the Jumbotron, the Macy's parade, impeachment hearings — you might be looking forward to. —Alec Appelbaum

Jersey Jackals

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• The Times reveals that the Garden State has been regularly raiding its own state-worker pension fund, funneling billions into other government projects. Given the size of its public sector, disaster looms; New Jersey, we thought better of you. [NYT] • Activists in East Harlem faced bulldozers in a dramatic, and failed, showdown over a community garden. The site, on 110th and Fifth, is being cleared for the future Museum for African Art — and, of course, a luxury condo tower. [amNY] • The Giuliani campaign, God's gift to tabloids, has turned to Rudy's international-policy experience: "I've probably been in foreign lands more than any other candidate" as a private consultant, he assured New Hampshire and hinted he'll hit Iraq next. [NYDN] • The Knitting Factory, the Tribeca music institution, is promising not to go the way of Tonic, Sin-é, CBGB, and many others: Should the rent skyrocket when its lease runs out, the club will try buying the whole building. [MetroNY] • And midtown's old-money hangout/tourist trap '21' Club has even longer arms than previously thought: It just stopped the Pittsburgh Pirates from naming a stadium sports bar "Club 21." Because otherwise the two would be indistinguishable. [NYP]

French ‘Vision Machine’ Starts Rising in Chelsea

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"Nothing has ever been built like it in NYC," says Jean Nouvel's publicist of a project the French starchitect has designed for 19th Street and the West Side Highway, and though it's a publicist's job to say that, she might actually be right. Nouvel, a perennially mentioned Pritzker Prize contender, announced that construction has begun — and released the first renderings — on the same day Richard Rogers won the 2007 prize. Is it a recyclable takeout rice container? No, it's a "Vision Machine," an energy-efficient skyscraper in which, to quote the publicist, "every single pane has been figured out to correspond to an interior space and no two are alike."

Union Square Rehab: No Year-Round Restaurant

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It is, finally, just the sort of weather that makes a vigorous young New Yorker want to frolic — or at least eat and drink — in the great outdoors. Like, for example, at that bar-and-restaurant place inside Union Square. (It's technically called Luna Park.) But wasn't the city planning to do some renovation at the north end of the park, something with that restaurant? Indeed, and yesterday Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe caught us up on the planning. In 2004, he announced plans to complete the Square's beautification by joining the park's two playgrounds and creating a year-round eatery where that weird fortresslike structure now stands, near 17th Street. But after local sputtering, Benepe confirmed to us, Parks has ditched the controversial year-round part.

Moynihan Station: It's Alive?

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Huh. Look at that. Last we were paying attention, we were pretty sure Moynihan Station was dead. (Delayed in October, shot down in December, we thought.) But then, this morning, Gotham Gazette's indispensable "Eye-Opener" pointed us to a Daily News squib from Saturday: The state's Public Authorities Control Board — you know, that three-member group Shelly Silver uses to block development he doesn't like — has approved the financing plan that would allow the Empire State Development Corporation to buy the Farley Post Office building from the Postal Service. Guess this means the thing's back on. Who knew? Moynihan Sta. Gets a Key OK [NYDN] Earlier: Moynihan Station, an Autopsy It's Over, and It's Over

Dan Doctoroff Issues Vague Call for Bold Sacrifice

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A city planning guru dropped hints Monday that Team Bloomberg might be considering "congestion pricing" to charge drivers for the privilege of adding to gridlock, and today Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff — the chief planning guru — did nothing to discourage the speculation. Speaking at the annual meeting of the New York Metropolitcan Transportation Council, a regional body that coordinates federal transportation funds, Doctoroff talked of needing "a shift in the way we use automobiles" and called "congestion — road, transit and pedestrian" the city's main barrier to growth. He also noted that taxes and user fees funded the 1811 street grid, the dedication of Central Park, and the city's water network. "Those who benefit should pay," he said. Was he hinting at a new fee on driving or cars? Providing political cover for an MTA fare increase? Telling the suburban county chiefs in attendance to look out for a commuter tax? It remains to be seen. But he did promise to issue the mayor's sustainability plan in early April, just before tax time. —Alec Appelbaum Earlier: Bloomberg's Planners Hear Public on Traffic Woes, Would Rather Talk About Something Else

Forget Condos; It's Chinatown

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An old Chinatown building is being overhauled and prettied up, and — shockingly in today's New York — it's not for a condo conversion. The Oversea Chinese Mission, a 44-year-old evangelical outfit with fellowships and libraries and an aging membership, now has luxury condos on either side of its nine-story headquarters at Hester and Mott. But it announced a renovation last week that calls for reworking the building as a beacon to potential new members. "Right now you cannot see into the building," Nancy Ruddy, a partner in local architecture firm Cetra/Ruddy, told us this morning. The firm has designed a two-story façade of glass, metal, and stained glass to lure locals, from late-shift waiters to early risers.