The reason why a trader trades in the market is to make profits.

Support and resistance is a very important part of technical analysis but what actually makes these levels? It is the psychology of the traders that forms the support and resistance levels.
There is a reason why the support and resistance level actually works. Price touches these levels and rebounds from these levels. This is because of the psychology of the participants in the market.
The reason why a trader trades in the market is to make profits. They may also be trading to make up for the loss in the last few trades.
Basically the trader’s mentality is divided into those who are long on the position, those who are expecting that the price of the security will fall and are short on the position and those who do not know what is happening and are thus are undecided about where to trade or whether to trade in the security now.
The stock trades between the support and the resistance levels. The support is the demand from where the stock prices will go up. The resistance is the supply from where the stock price will go down.
When the price starts to move up from the level of support the long traders are now happy and they wish that they could buy more. They thus wait for the price to return back to the level of support so that they can increase their positions.
The short traders on the other hand are not happy with the decision that they have taken because they are losing money as the trade is not working in their favor. They hope that the price of the stock will fall down so that they can cover their position by buying the stock. In this way they will not lose a lot. You can always read up more info on this.
Those who were undecided about taking the trade repent on having missed the trade. They are hopeful that the price will come down again and this time they are not going to let the trade go. They thus decide to buy the stock at the lower level.
So basically the complete set of traders who form the market are looking at that level from where they want to buy the stock. They are decided that they will buy the stock when the price touches the level. This is a very simple explanation of the psychology of a support level.

The Map That Could Fast Track Plans For High-Speed Rail

You might have seen it on social media somewhere, but in case you haven’t heard of it, Berkeley-based artist and high-speed rail advocate Alfred Twu recently posted a map he created on the Guardian’s website (the map was originally featured on the California Rail Map google group, where additional resources on high-speed rail are listed). It’s drawn a lot of attention, from graphic designers and cartographers to transportation activists to politicians alike.

There are two key elements in the ascending triangle pattern. These are the support line which is the bottom trend line and the flat line which is basically the resistance line.
The bottom trend line is formed when the stock keeps going up.Use this method when you trade the Bitcoin Code.

It’s not just any map. His US High-Speed Rail map is a powerful, graphically rich statement of where US transportation policy should be heading (and if Twu has his way, at 220 mph). This map comes to us after he published a rail map of California last year.

Source: https://sites.google.com/site/californiarailmap/us-high-speed-rail-system

Source: https://sites.google.com/site/californiarailmap/us-high-speed-rail-system

As for me, I like the map. It’s very legible, and uses bright colors to mark the new high-speed rail system, which is aptly superimposed on the grey network of existing railways. Additionally, Twu uses white lines to represent newly proposed railways, for which he currently envisions no single use; these could either become part of the high-speed rail system in a later phase, or handle slower train traffic. The three types of lines establish a certain hierarchy on the map, as the distinction between them that is implied is immediately understood and makes the map as a whole quite elegant.

Source: https://sites.google.com/site/californiarailmap/us-high-speed-rail-system

Source: https://sites.google.com/site/californiarailmap/us-high-speed-rail-system

Twu is no stranger to high-speed rail advocacy. He’s worked on getting California’s high speed rail approved in the 2008 elections. Yet the map might be his biggest impact yet on the debate surrounding high-speed rail in the US.

Maps like these are highly valuable to this debate, because they engage (and typically reach) a wide audience, and probably reach a larger part of the population than your average Washington topic. Daniel Burnham said it best, “Make no small plans.”

The commendable thing about Twu’s map is that it is actually based on several proposed maps from 2009, when President Obama announced his plan to build high-speed rail in the US. More than just a pipe dream, his map is likely to be the best proposed route to date, and a very artistic one at that. That’s partially because Twu’s map sparked a petition to the White House to “Fund a high-speed rail system that runs coast-to-coast and connects all metropolitan areas.”

The fact that the petition has already been signed by 35,820 people in one week, speaks to the communicative power of the map. Of course there will always be high-speed rail enthusiasts who will find their way to these petitions (we need those too!), it’s questionable whether the petition would have surfaced if it wasn’t for this map.

As the number of signatures continues to grow, and the map goes viral, planners have a solid reminder of how important it is to communicate plans or proposals in such a way that they are not just merely comprehensible, but excel in clarity and vision.

Transit-Owned Development

Summary: New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is constantly running trains, but it is also constantly running a deficit. Unlike profitable transportation companies, such as the Hong Kong Mass Transit Railway (MTR),this is the biggest public transport network that serves Hong Kong. MTR Corporation Limited or in short MTRCL is the corporation that operates MTR. MTR consists of different types of public transports like, heavy rail, light rail and feeder bus. These services are in the centre of network that is an 11-line rapid transit kind. Get More Information about trading robots here. the MTA has few valuable real estate assets which could be adequately transformed into transit-oriented and transit-owned joint development hubs. Similar to other U.S. public transportation agencies, space for pragmatic and profitable commercial activities – including shops and offices operating on agency-owned land – is limited to a few select stations, yards, concourses, and passageways, because most profitable assets from private predecessors were sold decades ago. However, while the MTA’s ability to remain revenue-positive or self-sufficient through real estate development is stymied, the MTA has been capitalizing upon its few existing assets for additional revenue. This process, however, in coordination with the City of New York in order to develop value capture mechanisms, is lengthy and cumbersome. The MTA has not developed the resources needed to develop property. But the MTA can overcome organizational barriers in order to contextually ‘transport’ the MTA’s limited portfolio of assets into ‘transformation hubs’, and in order to do so, advocate for a privatized, profitable, and independent real estate development division of the MTA, chartered for real estate development. While there is ‘room’ for improvement, institutional barriers ranging from NIMBYism and a fear of density to antiquated zoning laws, financing requirements, and a lack of communication among the City, State, MTA, and developers would need to be transcended through coordinated reformation efforts. The MTA’s collective mindset must be renewed for a 21st century narrative, in which the MTA also considers itself a top tier real estate developer.


Can the New York MTA take steps towards greater efficiency? Towards market principles? Can we move from transit-oriented development to “transit-owned development”, as coined by Dan Peterson, Former Arup Senior Transportation Engineer? Then, how can we implement policies, and get them to actually be carried out?

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The MTA has limited real estate assets, but they’ve managed to build multiple ventilation structures along Second Avenue and at the Hudson Yards (officially the John D. Caemmerer West Side Yard). As such, I was disappointed that they did not work with a developer to build offices and/or housing atop the ventilation infrastructure, in order to gain revenue. It’s unfortunate that even after using eminent domain and spending so much money and so much time to buy land, the MTA still couldn’t build taller along Second Avenue, in Manhattan. If taller buildings were not built here (or atop the Fulton Center), in one of the most robust real estate markets in the world, imagine how hard it would be to up-zone outer borough corridors (i.e., Utica Avenue to Floyd Bennett Field). The MTA is controlled by politicians who respond to NIMBYism, and many New Yorkers wouldn’t approve of the MTA building tall structures, even though they’d be along a future subway corridor. The MTA also does not have the resources or expertise to develop property.

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Second Avenue Subway (Riel, 2015)

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Yet the MTA has been working to develop property – such as the Hudson Yards and Atlantic Yards – and it has been receiving arguably good deals, with developers (i.e., Related) paying approximately 1 million per month simply to reimburse the MTA for moving infrastructure out of the way of their decking process, so they can turn the yard into raw land. And since it is difficult to develop a value capture mechanism, the MTA is working with the Department of City Planning (DCP) and the NYC Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) to up-zone subway corridors, so that T.O.D. can fuel more ridership and revenue. Albany is not involved.

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Hudson Yards. Source: http://nyti.ms/1HIvqR0

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Hudson Yards. Source: http://nyti.ms/1HIvqR0

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Atlantic Yards Decking in Brooklyn (Riel, 2014)

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How do we build more momentum? Many people will oppose increasing density. Meanwhile, the MTA does not have the money to buy land, which is a timely process, coming lot, by lot, by lot. Plus, if land is up-zoned, then it is more expensive, making it even more costly for the MTA. How would the media, the public, and the politicians be convinced that this will not be wasteful? It will take years to pay off, which is difficult for politicians to accept, since they want to be re-elected in the short-term. Politics gets in the way of opportunities. These professionals work extremely hard every day but change is a slow, slow process. Government agencies are not good at speculative development for a variety of legal and labor reasons.

Many observers will note that the MTA has quite a lot of property. But most of this is needed for operations, and if it’s not, it’s expensive to overbuild and transform into raw land. Considering most of the MTA’s yards and bus depots are in far-flung locations, the costs still outweigh the benefits for most developers. These are depots, and not stations, so there would not be people fueling T.O.D. retail and fare revenue; Hudson Yards and Atlantic Yards are exceptions because they will be interconnected with transit. This is why the MTA focuses on selling air rights. They do not have the resources that a developer has, and even if they did, they would not want to be in the real estate business, let alone the decking (i.e., overbuild) business. Developers need to be experts in quite a few fields, from law (environmental, land use, zoning) and negotiation, to politics, design, engineering, geology, climate, and so on and so forth…

Mott Haven Rail Yard (Melrose Yard), built by the New York Central Railroad in 1873, was situated in the South Bronx. In the 1960s, while still being used by the railroad, development began atop the yard. After decades of phases of construction, “4,000 people, six public school buildings serving nearly 4,000 children, about 235,000 square feet of office space and 77,700 more coming soon, a supermarket, neighborhood stores, a food court, and at least 1,806 parking spaces” were developed. Stalled at various times due to divestment (white flight, redlining, and neglect), the first phase of “tower-in-the-park(ing lot)” housing was completed just as Jane Jacobs was about to publish Death and Life of Great American Cities and criticize this typology. As pointed out by Aaron Donovan, most are aware of the Hudson Yards, Atlantic Yards, and Terminal City atop Grand Central Terminal, but few know about this decking process in the South Bronx…

It is located south of East 161st Street between Morris Avenue to the east and Sheridan Avenue to the west, and as far south as the wye where Metro-North’s Harlem Line and the Hudson Line converge. The railroad graded the land to fit the nearby rail lines, making it 15 to 40 feet below the adjacent streets, a fact that greatly influenced the future development.

The yard helped support the New York Central’s mighty regional transportation network, with rail lines throughout the Northeast and deep into the Midwest. However, the yard was effectively a barrier between the Melrose neighborhood to the east and what today is the Grand Concourse area to the west, save for one bridge spanning the yard at 153rd Street. Starting in 1961 and continuing to today, five waves of development have thoroughly transformed this site, helping to weave together the previously sundered urban fabric. Today no trace of the rail yard remains, except for the outline it left behind in the form of the buildings that have replaced it, and the railroad’s Melrose Central Building at the southwest corner of Morris Avenue and East 161st Street, now occupied by city-run social service offices.

The first development to take place above the rail yard was a middle-income housing development known as Concourse Village. An early report indicated that the railroad leased its air rights for $750,000 per year for 60 years, although later reports indicated that it was paid $7 million, presumably up front, by the project’s sponsor, the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of North America. Either way, most of the construction financing came from the New York State Housing Finance Agency, which issued a $30 million loan (later rising to $36.2 million), at that time the state’s largest loan ever for housing restricted to middle-income households. The brick-and-mortar results of the ambitious transaction outlived either the railroad underneath, which merged out of existence a few years after the towers were complete, or the union, which merged in 1979 with another union to form the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, and has long since gotten out of the housing business. The first phase of the housing, the only one to be built, was approved by the City Planning Commission in October 1960 and was projected to cost $31 million.

The buildings started out as “integrated” housing – mixing white, black and Hispanic families. When it was first built, the Grand Concourse to the west was largely a white neighborhood, while Melrose to the east was African-American and Puerto Rican. As of 1967, the buildings were 68 percent white. But the buildings were built just at the moment that large scale white flight from the Bronx was beginning, including along the nearby Grand Concourse. By 2000, the buildings were 82% black, according to census data. Even from the beginning, whites’ allegiance to the buildings was tenuous, with some early depositors backing out when learning they’d be living in “integrated housing.” After the initial nervousness and slow co-op sales, the State declined to finance the second residential phase of the project.

There was also some early grumbling about lack of schools, which was soon to be remedied. One factor that helped fill out the buildings was the promise of new adjacent schools, completed in 1972

…In December 2004, Mayor Bloomberg announced a plan to build the four new schools to serving 2,000 students at the southern end of the former rail yard. The goal was to reduce overcrowding in Bronx schools. Whereas the first three waves of development were elevated above the former rail yards through steel and concrete stilts, this is the first wave of development to be built directly on the former rail yards. The city pledged $30 million to remediate the soil to eliminate toxins left by the former use as a rail yard. Together, these schools are providing space for 1,938 students. They are the largest project ever undertaken by the New York City School Construction Authority.

To get a glimpse at the complicated decking process…

Any gardener will understand the challenges faced by the designers of the Public Square at Hudson Yards: Ensuring there is abundant water. Providing nutrient-rich soil. Finding a balance between sunlight and shade. Insulating the bottom of the planting beds from blasts of 150-degree heat rising out of an active train yard directly below. Wait a minute. What was that last?

Much of the Hudson Yards project, between West 30th and West 34th Streets in Manhattan, is being constructed over the 26-acre John D. Caemmerer West Side Storage Yard, where hundreds of Long Island Rail Road cars may be marshaled at any time, waiting to go into service. Though the 4.5-acre Public Square will look like a garden when it is finished in late 2018 (according to the current timetable), it will actually be the roof of a working rail yard — not the greatest place for plants.

The soil and roots, the cooling system for the roots, the water supply and storage, storm drainage, ventilation for the rail yard and the utilities and sewage lines needed by the buildings around the square must be compacted into a layer of the roof ranging from 18 inches to seven feet. Over 20 years of false starts, it was to have been a site for Madison Square Garden, for Yankee Stadium and for an Olympic stadium that would later be used by the Jets. In 2005, legislative leaders in Albany killed the stadium plan. After that, Far West Side redevelopment came unglued before the Related Companies signed a deal in 2008 with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to build a $20 billion commercial and residential complex.

Construction began in 2012. Today, 10 Hudson Yards, a 52-story office tower at 10th Avenue and 30th Street, is nearing completion. An abutting shopping mall, anchored by Neiman Marcus, is well underway. And a 92-story skyscraper, 30 Hudson Yards, is starting to emerge at 33rd Street. Four other towers, a retail pavilion, an information kiosk and a performance space called the Culture Shed are to complete the 11-million-square-foot project on and around the east half of the Caemmerer yard. The yard is being spanned by a $750 million, 10-acre, steel-and-concrete platform, which was designed and engineered by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates and Thornton Tomasetti, as were 10 and 30 Hudson Yards.

The first layer of the platform will be a six-foot-high empty space known as a plenum, through which fresh air will be propelled by 15 powerful fans at 45 miles an hour to ventilate and cool the rail yard. Hot-air exhaust stacks will be built into the retail pavilion and information kiosk. Above the plenum, in some areas, will be a two-and-a-half-foot-deep, 60,000-gallon collection tank to store rainwater. This, in turn, will be used to irrigate 225 trees and 28,000 plants. The trees and plants will sit in beds that are 18 inches to four feet deep, isolated from the heat below by concrete slabs threaded with conduits carrying glycol coolant, not unlike the base of an ice-skating rink. The chief material under the paving will be what is called sand-based structural soil. Around the plantings, it will be supplemented with nutrients, compost, mulch and a biological crust, including lichen, fungi and algae.

The Public Square might be likened, in small scale, to Riverside Park and Park Avenue, both of which span active railroad lines. Noting the similarities, Michael M. Samuelian, a vice president of Related who is overseeing the creation of the square, said, “We’re providing intensive engineering for what will be invisible to the public.”

Unlike the MTR, which operates profitable subways in Hong Kong while developing property, the MTA is not privatized, and it operates in an entirely different legal environment. China does not have to deal with community opposition; they’ll just plow forward. In Hong Kong, the central government willingly gives the MTR land to develop, and the government technically owns all land under a lease-hold system. Thankfully, the government does not own all land here. But voters are largely ignorant of transportation issues and politicians are merely doing what they can get away with, so skyrocketing costs and dysfunctionality continue. Eminent domain is a difficult process and NIMBYists are powerful. The relationship between the City and State is tenuous.

The MTA faces many stringent rules and regulations governing public authorities. All construction needs to be 100% union, raising costs, and the MTA cannot necessarily use capital money for development. There are strings attached to all money received, inhibiting real estate finance for a public authority. The government cannot do a good job with speculative development. They can’t even do feasibility, engineering, and budgeting studies; they need to contract these services to the experts. After all, the Fulton Center has been complete for a year now, and retail has still not arrived; once it does, it’ll be competing with the WTC and WFC (Brookfield Place) retail.

However, retail should arrive soon…

When the Fulton Transit Center opened last November, glowing reviews celebrated its 53-foot-wide oculus while lamenting its $1.4 billion price tag, which had doubled since the project’s inception several years before. Some fears about the cost were assuaged by the fact that the MTA had turned the central hub at Fulton into a 180,000-square-foot mall, with retail encircling a four-story atrium.

Nine months have passed, and the Fulton Center’s glassy storefronts remain empty. Retail giant Westfield manages the leasing for 3 World Center, 4 World Trade Center and the Fulton Transit hub. There’s 365,000 square feet of retail across all three projects, and 65,000 square feet occupies the upper floors of the Fulton Center and office space in the 19th century Corbin Building next door at 13 John Street. (Of those 65,000 square feet, two-thirds will be retail, and one third office space.)

Now, spokespeople from Westfield and the MTA tell YIMBY that the Fulton Center retail will begin opening in the fall and continue through 2016. There will be about 20 stores ranging from retail and service providers to eateries and full service restaurants.

While they couldn’t offer any details, we hope that the retailers “benefit the neighborhood,” as a Westfield VP promised the local community board last year. About 150 businesses were evicted before the MTA began construction on the Fulton Center in 2005, according to Community Board 1 chairperson Catherine McVay Hughes and the Downtown Express.

Westfield has been claiming for months that 90% of its WTC retail is leased, but they’ve refused to release a full list of tenants. However, they announced several upscale retailers for 3 and 4 WTC last year, including Eataly, Michael Kors, L’Occitane, La Colombe coffee, Breitling, Kiehl’s, and a gourmet grocery store.

Westfield signed their lease with the MTA at the end of 2013, and at the same time, they paid the Port Authority $800 million for full control of the WTC retail. The lease with the MTA lasts 20 years after the second anniversary of Fulton Center’s opening or 20 years after the date when 80% of the commercial space is occupied—whichever is sooner, according to MTA financial documents. After that, Westfield will be able to extend the lease for two successive 10 year periods.

“Westfield is not yet paying rent to the MTA, but is covering the substantial operating expenses that would otherwise fall to us,” MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg wrote in an email to YIMBY. “Thus, Westfield has quite a motivation to start generating positive cash flow as soon as possible for our mutual benefit.”

And Lisberg assured us that “Westfield is in advanced stages of leasing activity, subtenant design and fitout work.”

In the meantime, commercial real estate around the Fulton Center is booming. Last week, Crown Acquisitions shelled out more than $25 million for a little souvenir shop next door at 144 Fulton Street. And across the street at 143 Fulton, Tribeca Associates is planning a 26-story, 228-key hotel.

For better or worse, the Port Authority is definitely in the real estate business, and they must fund their expensive projects (PA Bus Terminal, ‘Calastrossus’) entirely. The Port Authority, legally self-sufficient, cannot receive taxpayer dollars. It relies on real estate revenue from the World Trade Center as well as retail revenue (and transportation fees) from New York’s three major airports and two major bus terminals. The PA also charges hefty tolls on its bridges and tunnels, as well as fees at its many ports. While the PA must be self-sufficient, and while it is supposed to be independent of the whims of politicians, only the former holds true. Controlled by both New Jersey and New York, politicians routinely send their expensive legacy projects to the Port Authority, because they know that taxpayers will not foot the bill directly. Instead, users of the PA’s bridges and tunnels foot the bill, with ever-increasing tolls.

Nevertheless, the MTA could learn about real estate development from the Port Authority, even though the PA has ample more assets than the MTA, from retail and commercial properties at the WTC to ports, airports, and other capital initiatives. Indeed, “the Port Authority manages an extensive real estate portfolio containing more than 12,000 acres of land and 45 million square feet of office, industrial, retail and technical space to support its trade, transportation and economic development mission”. For instance…
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PATH Hub, WTC 3, WTC 4 (Riel, 2015)

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The ‘Calastrossus’ (Riel, 2015)

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WTC Hub Retail (Riel, 2015)

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WTC PATH Terminal (Riel, 2015)

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WTC PATH Terminal (Riel, 2015)

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WTC PATH Terminal (Riel, 2015)

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One World Trade Center (Riel, 2015)

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Port Authority Bus Terminal Opportunities… (Riel, 2015)

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JFK Retail (Riel, 2015)

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While the original World Trade Center is the predecessor to today’s reconstruction, the original World Trade Center was itself based on the design of the Hudson Terminal, which it replaced. The Hudson & Manhattan (H&M) Railroad, which built subways into Lower Manhattan and Midtown Manhattan that are now operated by the Port Authority’s PATH, also developed real estate atop its terminal in Downtown Manhattan. Hudson Terminal was an engineering marvel at the time, and H&M touted it proudly in its annual reports to shareholders:
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Hudson-Terminal
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Today, the MTA’s Fulton Center, built one block away from the transit-owned development (World Trade Center) and the former Hudson Terminal site, is only a few stories tall. There are no offices to lease. The shops have not even been opened yet, and it has been an entire year. If the H&M leadership were alive today, I am confident that they would be saddened by how far we’ve fallen.
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According to the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, the MTA spends approximately 11 billion dollars on operational costs yearly, with an additional 5 billion dollars spent on maintenance and improvement. While fares and tolls provide a significant amount of revenue for the public authority, it is far from enough for self-sufficiency, let alone profitability. Akin to all public transportation agencies in the U.S., the MTA needs subsidies and support from local, state, and federal sources. Moreover, because the state agency operates New York City’s subways, funding is constantly being negotiated between the City and State, especially for capital plans. The M.T.A. already owes $34 billion. This is more debt than that of many countries!
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However, the MTA is wary of these fluctuations, and is not planning on using the increased funds to restore eliminated subway and bus routes, because a new downturn could leave the agency without the resources needed to sustain operations. In 2005 and 2006, the urban tax surged, resulting in $900 million in 2007, which was nearly twice the amount anticipated by the MTA. Then, after the economy collapsed, annual revenue plunged by more than $1 billion and the urban tax received $149.7 million in 2009. Clearly, this system is unstable and even in good times, the MTA needs additional funds to continue operations and expansion. Still, today, the City has been enjoying unprecedented job growth and tax revenue, yet the MTA remains sidestepped.

Transportation should not be separated from real estate and economic development, but for some reason, leaders don’t seem to share this idea. How can we change this mindset? Perhaps, if people were more aware of transportation issues in New York, Sam Schwartz’s MoveNY plan would have already been passed. Or the MTA would have money to clean its stations, in the wealthiest city in America. Now, it seems, the City is actually considering Gridlock Sam’s plan!

New York’s real estate market is strong, and the MTA is receiving additional funding as a result:

The city’s exploding real estate market has been a boon for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The authority has received $732.4 million this year from mortgage and property-sale taxes, which is 40% more than the MTA budgeted for, according to a report presented to the agency’s board Monday.

The extra $211.8 million, however, is minuscule compared with the agency’s major problem: a $14 billion capital-plan deficit.

The MTA collects two types of taxes from property sales in the city: the mortgage-recording tax (consisting of two separate taxes on mortgages recorded in the MTA’s 12-county service area) and the urban tax (imposed on commercial-property and apartment-building transactions in the five boroughs). Those taxes, in addition to an array of other state, regional and local taxes, subsidies and fees, as well as fare and toll collection, comprise the MTA’s revenues.

However, the MTA is wary of these fluctuations, and is not planning on using the increased funds to restore eliminated subway and bus routes, because a new downturn could leave the agency without the resources needed to sustain operations. In 2005 and 2006, the urban tax surged, resulting in $900 million in 2007, which was nearly twice the amount anticipated by the MTA. Then, after the economy collapsed, annual revenue plunged by more than $1 billion and the urban tax received $149.7 million in 2009. Clearly, this system is unstable and even in good times, the MTA needs additional funds to continue operations and expansion..

I recently learned that the MTA also has limited real estate expertise. They need to work with developers, engineers, architects, and the EDC, DCP, and DOT. The EDC acts as an agent for disposition of City property interest in NYCT master lease parcels; the DCP needs to rezone the property to allow residential and issue special permits required for transit overbuilds; and the DOT determines the need for street bridges or de-mappings. Clearly, the MTA needs to know the zoning and land use, as well as property and air rights information (i.e., the City may lease NYCT property to the MTA). The MTA, therefore, works with EDC, DCP, and DOT to analyze existing conditions, from land use, zoning, and community needs, to market prospects and demographic trends, and eventually, they underwrite and release RFPs. ULURP becomes the MTA’s best friend.

The MTA is working on exciting projects. In their new ESA Queens Yard, they’re building the tracks far enough from each other to eventually support decking at Sunnyside. Clearly, this area has immense potential for T.O.D. and growth, with ample transit access opportunities. However, there is a complex land title situation, with the MTA owning land and air space up to 22 feet measured from the top of rail, with the City owning air above 22 feet. There are also private individuals that have a stake in some of the air rights. Along with varying elevations and zoning (see LIC Core Rezoning). The Mayor and the Governor need to work together, which hasn’t been happening, so that the City and MTA can cooperate. (The Governor and the Mayor continue to debate funding the MTA). The Mayor noted that…

Amtrak, the largest landowner at the 200-acre site, is supportive of decking over the rail yards and building affordable housing on top, and that the city owns air rights on 44 of the acres owned by the state-controlled MTA. Yet nothing will happen soon. Amtrak has said it doesn’t expect to conduct a feasibility study until 2016. And the cost of decking over the site could be enormous. Constructing a platform over a portion of the much smaller 26-acre Hudson Yards in western Manhattan is expected to cost upward of $700 million. Community opposition, much like that which stalled the Atlantic Yards project for years, is anticipated.

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(Top: Riel, 2015; Bottom: MTA Real Estate Department, 2011)

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Another exciting project is in Brooklyn, on the Bay Ridge/Sea Beach 61st Street Corridor (the N Line), where NYCT runs adjacent to the LIRR’s freight line, contracted to the New York & Atlantic Railway. Mainly zoned M1-1, the MTA has been working with DCP and EDC to explore zoning changes and decking costs. Since the freight trains run less frequently, it may be quicker (and cheaper) to deck the LIRR portions. With increasing ridership along the N Line, developers may be interested in fronting the decking costs, even though it’s still quite expensiveIt all depends on the value of the land. I can’t share specifics, but all of this joint development not only would provide some cash for the MTA, but would also provide economic development opportunities in the surrounding communities. The profitable railroads of the 19th and early 20th century fueled urbanization and economic growth, centralized by their lavish terminals, complete with offices and retail opportunities: Grand Central’s Terminal City, Penn Station’s Hotel Pennsylvania…

TRUMP

Source: http://nyti.ms/1KHmfEx

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Back in 1970, Penn Central went bankrupt, the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history at the time, when even the merger between Pennsylvania Railroad and New York Central (and New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad) could not salvage the private railroad. Yet from this disarray came Donald Trump, buying the railroad’s property. He bought Penn Yards to build Trump Place on the West Side (Riverside South). He also bought the Commodore Hotel, built as part of Terminal City, turning it into the Grand Hyatt New York. The structure itself was developed as part of Terminal City, a complex of palatial hotels and offices connected to Grand Central Terminal and all owned by The New York State Realty and Terminal Company, a division of the NY Central Railroad.

Trump built his empire as railroads went bankrupt, and as Terminal City was swept into the background, crushed by the weight of the Pan Am Building (MetLife Building) atop Grand Central, and overshadowed by the Chrysler Building. Literally, the age of automobiles and jets had arrived.  New York Airways, after all, could fly you on a helicopter from the top of the Pan Am Building to JFK. If you want to explore the era, simply read the airline ads next to the NYT article about Trump. The glamor of the railroads was gone.

But now, times have changed again. With an urban rebound in many cities, transportation agencies are again seeking to capitalize upon their assets. Be it at 30th Street Rail Yards in Philadelphia, Inwood, Manhattan, Jamaica, Queens, Burnham Place in D.C., or South Station in Boston, transportation agencies and developers are on the move. They must deal with outdated zoning laws and a lack of streamlining across balkanized jurisdictions. In Atlanta, MARTA has been practicing TOD since the 80s, finding various ways to finance PPP development so that they can continue with their exciting projects.

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Atlanta’s MARTA (Riel, 2015)

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Georgia State Station MARTA Joint Development (Riel, 2015)

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Atlanta is a sprawled city with many open parking lots, and MARTA has been developing them. MARTA has been creative with its funding sources because it receives little funding from red state Georgia, just as D.C.’s WMATA has been practicing joint development partly because Maryland, Virginia, and D.C. all try to fund the Metro as little as possible, and put the burden on the other stakeholders. Plus, D.C., the capital of the free world, is taxed without even being represented, so advocating for WMATA funding is extremely difficult. Washingtonians live in the capital of America and cannot control their own taxes.

But MARTA, like the MTA, also faces a battle with NIMBYists, who are strangely progressive, yet stand in the way of change. While the preservationist movement was arguably founded due to the demolition of the old New York Penn Station, today’s cities are different. Public transit ridership is surging again. People are moving back to many urban areas.

Now, NIMBYists block development, diminishing the supply of housing (and other amenities), raising the costs, and pushing out the people that they’re trying to protect. They are preserving buildings but not necessarily the cultural dynamism that surrounds them, because neighborhoods always change.  Parisians used to hate the Eiffel Tower and they wanted it destroyed, but now they won’t let any other tall buildings nearby, hampering progress. In Brooklyn, preservationists are trying to block the construction of new housing in expensive Park Slope and Windsor Terrace, fearing it won’t fit into the surrounding neighborhood. I understand that sometimes, buildings are ugly, and that grassroots movements can create productive change, such as bringing back a grocery store, but sometimes, this politically correct mindset can be ironically destructive. (They are proceeding with the construction after going through BSA).

North America used to build grand structures, but now, it is difficult to get anything done…

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Baltimore Penn Station (Riel, 2015)

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Reading Terminal in Philadelphia (Riel, 2015)

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Reading Terminal in Philadelphia (Riel, 2015)

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Suburban Station in Philadelphia (Riel, 2015)

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30th Street Station in Philadelphia (Riel, 2015)

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SEPTA Real Estate Opportunities? (Riel, 2015)

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SEPTA Real Estate Opportunities? (Riel, 2015)

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SEPTA Real Estate Opportunities? (Riel, 2015)

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SEPTA Real Estate Opportunities? (Riel, 2015)

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Decking Opportunities in Seattle? (Riel, 2013)

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Decking Opportunities in Vancouver? (Riel, 2013)

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If New York does not solve its institutional barriers that starve the MTA and choke prosperity, it will be left in the dust by global competitors. China is building high-speed rail throughout the country, and European public transportation puts New York to shame. We must wake up and act, and elect leaders that care about public transit! If the MTA has limited assets now, then it must be allowed to dream big, with a revamped Real Estate Department that has more than three people doing T.O.D. for the entire agency. The MTA must buy property around stations, work with DCP to up-zone and propose design standards, and with EDC to develop, and use the funds to continue to operate and expand the system. It cannot be strangled by Albany.

Miami-Dade County, Florida, has created a Rapid Transit Zone in order to standardize zoning atop the Miami Metrorail’s assets. Moreover, All Aboard Florida (AAF), America’s first privately financed railroad in decades, is moving full steam ahead after tackling legislative hurdles in the state and federal government. AAF is planning on operating a profitable railroad by 2017 between Miami and Orlando. However, many are concerned that AAF will not be profitable, and will need to be maintained by taxpayers or subsumed under Amtrak. Brown University’s Professor John Friedman, for instance, concludes that AAF will perform worse than Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, which operates in the black. Amtrak’s Northeast Regional and Acela routes have an operational surplus, but maintenance of way eats up that revenue. However, AAF will have only four stops compared to 30, and will link only two cities with a total of 9.4 million people, compared to four major cities with 48 million residents. Plus, neither Orlando nor Miami have strong public transit systems. This sprawl translates to a lack of job accessibility, and since rail transportation is fueled by high ridership, a lack of density means a lack of profit.

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Miami Station (Source: http://www.AllAboardFlorida.com)

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Unlike Amtrak, AAF plans to develop 4.2 million square feet of real estate. The coastline from Orlando to Florida contains half of Florida’s population, most of a former railroad’s right-of-way, and tens of millions of travelers on business and vacation. Indeed, Orlando is the most visited city in the United States, and AAF states that there are 500 million trips made every year between its destination cities. The relatively dense Atlantic coast of Florida is no accident; Henry Flagler, founder of AAF’s predecessor, Florida East Coast Railway, arguably built Miami. Akin to countless other American cities from Dallas to Atlanta, Miami began as a railroad transportation hub. Flagler built real estate in Miami, attracting crowds just as AAF will be doing in their “colossal station complex designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill that includes a half-dozen towers, over a million square feet of office space, 1,111 residential units, a hotel, car rental outlets, parking, and blocks of ground-floor retail facing the street”. If this value capture works in Florida, could it work in New York? The MTA has a lot more expenses, a 100 year old system, and limited assets, so it’s doubtful. Here, they’re building a brand new system, with brand new infrastructure, on a former series of parking lots now known as Miami Central.

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Miami Station (Source: http://www.AllAboardFlorida.com)

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Miami Metrorail (Riel, 2009)

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Yet as elucidated by the Urban Land Institute, this is not a new policy, but it has not been practiced for decades due to various factors, from antiquated zoning laws, onerous financial regulations, and a lack of communication between municipalities and developers, to NIMBYism, a fear of density, and a lack of a profit motive. From ULI New York:

It turns out that there is fairly little regional or national coordination around TOD advocacy. And despite the efforts of exceptional organizations like the Regional Planning Association and ULI to move the TOD agenda further, broad policy tools are very difficult to put in place at a macro scale. This may have a critical role to play in the relative lack of implemented new TOD projects despite the widespread acknowledgement of their benefits. Mr. Paley, Director of Transit Oriented Development for the MTA, noted that Federal policies and incentives can have a powerful trickle down effect on TOD, having the ability to influence a broad spectrum of municipalities to move towards broad TOD goals. The need for greater regional or federal coordination however, means that each locality usually follows its own agenda to promote or (as is often the case) paralyze TOD projects within its district.

Some of the many local factors that can affect a TOD project include antiquated zoning laws, non-contextual parking requirements, financing, lack of communication between municipalities and developers, NIMBYism and fear of density. 

Although the discussion began with an overview of the need for better national policy and regional initiatives, it was the overview of the Wynandach Rising redevelopment in the Town of Babylon that brought the challenges and opportunities at a local level into clearer focus.  The Town of Bablyon had decided that TOD was going to be cornerstone of its urban revitalization program for this particularly run-down district. Recognizing the tremendous potential of a particular connectivity node within Babylon around a local train station the town decided to take a proactive approach.

Using a combination of clear sighted, local planning efforts and a red tape machete, the Town of Babylon created a vision and a process to transform this blighted region of Babylon into one of the most widely talked about TOD projects in the country.  Going beyond the traditional advocacy approach, changing the zoning and waiting for the market to fill in the gaps, the Town of Babylon purchased all the buildings it could and partnered with the rest of the owners, explaining the long-term benefits of the redevelopment strategy. They created a streamlined approvals process and cultivated relationships with new developers they were eager to see come into the area.

It would seem in many cases with so many potential hurdles to TOD, this is the kind of proactive stance that’s needed. As panelist Daniel Hernandez noted, good leadership and a healthy dialogue between government and development entities lies at the heart of successful TOD implementation. Rather than simply allowing the typical tense showdown between developers, civic agencies and the community to unfold, an enlightened municipality can take the initiative to clean up inconsistencies in its zoning code, formulate a plan, consolidate key parcels and identify a dedicated agent internally to help with blocking and tackling on critical issues.

And some more good news…

Metro-North is forging ahead with plans to return rail travel to the pre-World War II era in some Hudson Valley communities by partnering with local governments to build housing so close to stations that commuters could just step out their doors and board a train. A proposal to develop housing and retail space at the Metro-North station in downtown Harrison is inching closer to a groundbreaking, possibly later this year, that has eluded town leaders for nearly three decades.

The Harrison project is the furthest along, following last month’s selection of Virginia-based Avalon Bay Communities as the developer, officials said. The plan calls for converting 3.3 acres of Metro-North commuter parking lots along Halstead Avenue into residential and retail space, while doubling the number of parking spaces available to commuters. Retail space for restaurants, flower shops and the like will serve as a facade to block a street view of a parking garage.

Metro-North has agreed to sell or lease its acreage to get the deal done. A price tag has not been decided. Metro-North executives said the project will not only allow its parent agency, the MTA, to collect money from the sale or lease of the property, it will produce hundreds of potential riders steps away from the station.

The Harrison project will include about 140 residential units and 35,000 square feet of retail space, according to Matthew Whalen, Avalon Bay’s senior vice president for development. Avalon Bay has developed similar proposals for rail agencies across the country, including one in San Francisco for Bay Area Rapid Transit, Whalen noted. Whalen, who said he worked with Paley many years ago, said Paley has correctly identified TOD’s as a means to generate revenue for cash-pinched transit agencies with real estate to sell. “It’s a successful model that we’ve used across the country,” Whalen said. “I’d like to think that this concept will add vibrancy to the area around the train station in downtown Harrison.”

In addition to rezoning the area, Harrison town officials must clear several hurdles before the development is approved, including a state environmental review and a traffic study. Whalen doesn’t foresee community opposition to a project, which has been in the town’s master plan for several years. “This isn’t or shouldn’t come as a surprise,” he said. Belmont is confident the Harrison proposal will come together before the year is out. “Hopefully, we’ll get it done,” he said. “It will be a first-class project. Everything takes time.”

It takes time. But it needs to get done. Three people in the TOD Group of the MTA Real Estate Department is not enough, at all. The MTA can be an assertive force in New York, developing green property around stations in order to spur economic development, create jobs, and create civic spaces, as well as dense, mixed-use retail, commercial, and housing.

NY must continue to increase density in order to fuel MTA ridership and foster dynamism; people are social creatures and, according to Edward Glaeser, cities allow for creativity and productivity. With a greater supply of housing, the price may, at least, not drastically increase. While it would be nice if Robert Moses had built subways instead of highways, the powers, identities, and ideologies of the day built cities for the automobile. Instead of building up, they built out. The city should stop proposing harmful regulations and it should make it easier to build. If someone wants to finance a system of gondolas, for instance, they should go for it! Zoning has a great purpose, but sometimes, it can be too much. Life, liberty, property.

Courtesy of Amanda Erickson at CityLab:

The story of American zoning is really the story of how Americans learned to legislate their NIMBY impulses.

Before zoning, cities mostly regulated what could be built through nuisance laws. If someone didn’t like how their neighbor was using their property, they could haul them to trial and let a judge decide what to do about it.

But in 20th century New York, the process had already become cumbersome. In Manhattan, new building techniques were pushing building heights higher, costing neighborhoods sunlight and air. And factories and warehouses were encroaching on fashionable shopping districts, much to the chagrin of said fashionable shoppers.

There were early efforts to temper New York’s building streak. A landmark 1885 law restricted tenement buildings to one-and-a-half times the street width (the Supreme Court ruled that height restrictions were legal in 1909, when builders challenged Boston’s decision to restrict buildings around Copley Square to 90 feet).

The building that broke the camel’s back was the 42-story Equitable Building. Built in 1915, the building’s height and heft were unprecedented. As NYC Zoning tells it:

Rising without setbacks to its full height of 538 feet, the Equitable Building cast a seven-acre shadow over neighboring buildings, affecting their value and setting the stage for the nation’s first comprehensive zoning resolution.

Neighbors demanded that the city regulate the building somehow. In 1916, the city responded by passing the country’s first comprehensive zoning code. That effort was largely spearheaded by lawyer Edward Bassett, who went on to invent the freeway and parkway.

According to Columbia University’s Andrew Dolkart, the law worked byregulating building shape rather than height. He writes:

The idea was that that light and air would reach the sidewalk; light and air were a major issue. So the law stated that you could build right up to the lot line on your building and you could rise up to a certain height and then once you reached that height, you had to step back, you had to set the bulk of the building back.

This, he explains, is why New York’s skyscrapers from the period have such a particular profile. The Heckscher Building on Fifth Avenue, for example, stacked smaller and smaller boxes on top of one another, with a crown on top. Other architects experimented with cascading setbacks and buttresses.

New York wasn’t the first place to divide the city up based on who was doing what, where. “The really big constraint of land use regulation was the inability of people to get very far within cities,” says William Fischel, a Dartmouth College professor who studies zoning. That changed with public transportation. “Once you got the street car you could separate residents from jobs,” he says.

The first city to experiment with this was San Francisco. In 1885, the city banned public laundries from most areas, a not-so-subtle attempt to zone the Chinese out. That law was invalidated by a 1886 Supreme Court case.

In 1909, Los Angeles experimented with a city-wide regulation that kept heavy industry and commerce out of certain neighborhoods.

Initially, officials were reluctant to do so, fearing that they’d lose businesses to neighboring cities. But land-owners were insistent, arguing that their property values had gone down thanks to brick-makers and smoky glue factories. “Zoning was seen as a way of assuring buyers that their neighborhood won’t change adversely,” Fischel says. “It was a dangerous tool in one sense, but also offered security.”

So it was that homeowners across the country changed the face of cities in America. As Fischel writes in a paper on this subject:

It seems unlikely, then, that zoning thus was the product of circumstances in one particular place. Nor, I submit, was it the product of planners who had embraced the ‘City Beautiful’ movement, progressives who supported scientific management of government or lawyers who argued for an expansive view of the police power. The roles of planners, progressives and lawyers were, I believe, supply responses to a popular demand for zoning. This popular demand did not manifest itself as direct democracy. It was filtered through housing developers, who, I shall demonstrate presently, found that they sell homes for more profit if the community had zoning.

NIMBYism has stalled a rail connection to LaGuardia Airport for decades. But now, Cuomo appears to be interested in rebuilding LGA, which is good, but funding the MTA should be a priority, instead of building legacy projects. Maintenance is not sexy, but it is important, even though this sounds more exciting:

Governor Cuomo was joined today by Vice President Joe Biden to unveil the vision for the comprehensive redesign of LaGuardia Airport. The airport will be transformed into a single, structurally unified main terminal with expanded transportation access, significantly increased taxiway space and best-in-class passenger amenities. Construction on the first half of the new unified terminal, expected to be a $4 billion project that creates 8,000 direct jobs and 10,000 indirect jobs, will be managed by LaGuardia Gateway Partners, a new public private partnership chosen by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to build the project.

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Transportation is the glue holding New York together. Subways allowed developers to expand the city. The IRT, BMT, and IND built one of the engineering marvels of the 20th century: subways, with 4 tracks for vast stretches, allowing for additional capacity and for tracks to be maintained while service remained. The subways were built near the surface in order to be efficiently ventilated. Pipes were all organized and replaced as the tracks were built. The IRT and BMT made money. Today, the MTA needs to return to this can-do mindset, working hand-in-hand with developers to renew, enhance, and expand. This is what the TOD Group is trying to do, with limited time and resources, at the MTA Real Estate Department, according to the NYT:

There are more than 600 miles of subway track and hundreds of stations in New York City, and zoning requires that developers in high-density areas like Midtown Manhattan, Union Square and Downtown Brooklyn move nearby subway entrances into their property lines and renovate them. As a result, private entities may be responsible for public services, a situation that some experts say is not always ideal.

“The M.T.A. has learned the hard way that it is one thing to ask a developer to make an upfront capital investment, and quite another one to maintain something on a day-to-day basis over the years,” said Juliette Michaelson , the director of strategic initiatives at the Regional Plan Association, a policy, research and advocacy group. “In 10 years, when that escalator fails, who fixes it? These details must be worked out.”

To improve its dealings with private developers, two years ago the transit authority quietly opened a three-person Office of Transit-Oriented Development. It hired Robert Paley, a real estate expert who spent time in the private sector — as an executive at AvalonBay Communities he helped develop Avalon Chrystie Place on East Houston Street — and also worked previously at the M.T.A. on projects like the Atlantic Terminal Mall in Brooklyn.

Mr. Paley’s first big deal in New York City has been an agreement with Vornado Realty Trust to develop 15 Penn Plaza, a proposed office tower that would replace the Hotel Pennsylvania on Seventh Avenue between 32nd and 33rd streets. Vornado is hoping to construct a 2.05 million-square-foot office building, exceeding what is allowed under the current zoning.

In exchange, Vornado agreed to build and maintain transit improvements, including reopening the Gimbels Passageway that connects Herald Square and Penn Station. Under the proposed plans, it would transform the passageway, which was closed in the 1980s, into an 800-foot pedestrian concourse to rival Rockefeller Center.

Vornado has said it would not begin construction on the project until it secured an anchor tenant. Still, it wants to have all of its approvals in place in expectation of finding that tenant, and so last summer it negotiated a deal with the transit authority and the city. Known as a restrictive declaration, the agreement, which is recorded against the property and enforceable by the city, includes several clauses meant to prevent a repeat of the problems with the escalators at Zeckendorf Towers.

Among the requirements is that the transit improvements must be designed and agreed upon before the city will grant Vornado building permits. “Otherwise, if the construction starts, and the building moves quickly, there is a risk that the public improvements that were promised will get left behind,” Mr. Paley said.

To ensure that Vornado maintains the improvements, and in the event that 15 Penn Plaza changes ownership, Vornado must provide financing security, possibly in the form of a letter of credit. The developer also will be unable to get a temporary certificate of occupancy until the transit improvements are substantially completed.

While 15 Penn Plaza may be the latest development to involve the M.T.A., the relationship between the agency and builders goes back nearly a century. One of the first buildings to have direct subway access was the Municipal Building at One Centre Street, designed by McKim, Mead & White. Completed in 1913, the building features subway lines that are directly connected to its base, with riders exiting through a covered entranceway featuring white Guastavino tiles. “The building was one of the first to be totally intermodal, with a big archway that allowed for vehicular traffic as well,” said Fredric Bell, the executive director of the American Institute of Architects New York Chapter.

Given the high rates of street crime in the 1970s and 1980s, developers began shunning direct access to the subway, and many passages, including the Gimbels Passageway, were closed. More recently, fears of terrorism have compounded these concerns. Other difficulties for landlords of buildings with direct subway access include insurance concerns related to slip-and-fall accidents among riders.

Subways are also highly trafficked areas, so the construction materials used are often more functional than attractive, like industrial light fixtures and simple ceramic tile. “Very rarely, if ever, does a subway station make your building look better — even if you upgrade it, it will never be equal to the finishes you are putting in elsewhere in the lobby,” said John Krush, an executive managing director at Newmark Knight Frank Project & Development Management, who advises tenants and developers.

“Most developers feel that the ideal option is for the subway entrance to be directly outside the building,” Mr. Krush said. “This makes brokers happy because they can market the building as ‘adjacent’ to subway transit.”

Still, many experts in the real estate industry say that dealing with the M.T.A. can be a headache. There are strict engineering requirements for building around the subway system, and the approval process can be slow. Now, with the advent of Mr. Paley’s office and the effort to increase transparency, the hope is that this process will improve. “Any time a public agency decides to have an advocate, a person that can help developers make their way through the complexities of the process, the better it will be,” Mr. Krush said.

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Comments or opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author only. The views expressed on this blog do not necessarily represent the views of the MTA, its management, or employees, and absolutely no confidential information was disclosed. 

ENABLING COMMUNITIES TO BUILD THEIR OWN PLAZAS

PeopleStPlaza

LADOT People St. North Hollywood Plaza (peoplest.lacity.org)

 

All over the country more and more cities are catching on to the idea that public space can be created quickly and cheaply; expensive master plans are becoming a thing of the past. Typically a community partner—a business improvement district or non-profit community organization—can apply through the municipality to transform an excessive roadway into a public space. They are usually seen in the form of a parklet, a parking space repurposed as a park, or a larger pedestrian-only plaza on underutilized areas of the street. The city usually has design guidelines and requires the community to take care of the cost and maintenance. In San Francisco it’s called ‘Pavement to Parks,’  about 25% of the land in the city of San Francisco is made up of streets and public rights-of-way; this includes all the public parks as well. In this city lot of streets are excessively broad and most of it is not utilized for anything. Many such unutilized areas are near the junctions. There is lot of unutilized strategies in trading as well that Bitcoin Trader can use.  in New York City it is ‘Street Seats’ or simply the ‘NYC Plaza Program’ and in Los Angeles it is called the ‘People St. Program.’ Chicago, Philadelphia, and D.C. are just a few of many other cities that have similar programs.

The fact that the community can initiate change and see results quickly and relatively cheaply is an amazing concept. Test things out! Get things done! If the project doesn’t work then it can be easily removed! These are all attractive aspects of a new movement in neighborhood planning called ‘Tactical Urbanism.’ This movement includes any act of neighborhood building—initiated by individuals or the city—that is small-scale, low-cost, and has the intention of catalyzing more long-term change. Instead of multi-year, million-dollar projects, these public spaces can come to life in a matter of months and for a few thousand dollars.

These parklet and plaza programs allow community-initiated change, but are all neighborhoods being represented? What happens if a community doesn’t have the organizational capacity or money to apply? What if the designs proposed by the city do not reflect the community’s desires? In the case of Los Angeles, residents of the Boyle Heights neighborhood of East L.A. have taken matters into their own hands. They wouldn’t even consider applying for a plaza through the official LADOT People St. program because they can achieve the same thing themselves and with complete control over the design. Boyle Heights is a predominantly Latino, lower-income community with a strong history of community organizing. The residents of Boyle Heights rely on walking, biking, and transit and heavily value pedestrian space.

This land was once inhabited by Native Americans from the Wampanoag tribes. They are the American Indian who are in Northern part of America. They consisted of many tribes which was in the 17th century however, now they have been divided in 2 main tribes that are; Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head that are in Massachusetts. Try this for dividing different software for trading. And later the Ten Hills Farm, a slave plantation owned by Isaac Royall, whose house and slave quarters remains preserved a few blocks away in Medford.

With the help of the local non-profit community organization called Union de Vecinos, residents transformed an alleyway into a temporary plaza—without permission or help from the city government. According to Elizabeth Blaney, the co-director of Union de Vecinos, the neighborhood “created a mini-plaza where they installed solar lighting, repaved the alley, built a community garden, and designed mobile planters to block the streets for meetings and other events they organize.”

The People St. plazas are very similar in concept to the homemade plaza in Boyle Heights—pedestrian space blocked off using planters, organized events, and a painted street. The alleyway plaza in Boyle Heights actually came a few years before the People St. Program was even established. When asked about the similarity and whether she would consider applying for the People St. plazas, Blaney told me “The People St. program is usually on major roads and commercial corridors. Union de Vecinos focuses on areas that haven’t gotten resources and that are based upon need. Our projects are in unrecognized places—in smaller, residential areas and small alleys that often serve as people’s backyards.” This one particular alleyway is one of many throughout East Los Angeles that has been transformed. Most of the alleys Union de Vecinos helps to transform would not even meet the physical qualifications of the People St. program.

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Union de Vecinos Alleyway Plaza Photo Credit: Kris Fortin (LA Streetsblog)

 

Official parklet or plaza programs such as the People St. Program in Los Angeles do provide often much needed public space quickly, but obviously it doesn’t serve every community’s needs. Relying on private funding and maintenance can deter many groups in the most underserved neighborhoods from applying. Another issue is that Los Angeles has encountered various complaints that their plazas don’t allow enough flexibility in terms of design; change that doesn’t reflect the community’s needs often sparks gentrification.

These programs—whether it is New York’s ‘NYC Plaza Program,’ San Francisco’s ‘Pavement to Parks’ program, Los Angeles’ ‘People St. Program,’ or any other across the country—are trendy and appealing. It is easy for one city to copy many aspects of a successful public space program in another city. Taking into account the homemade alleyway plazas in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, cities need to take a closer look at the changes their own communities are already making to the built environment.

Municipalities need to start recognizing how different residents of different backgrounds adapt to their built environment and give these communities the tools to more effectively live in the way they want. The parklet and plaza programs around the country are a good start, but they need to be more flexible, enabling, and empowering. Let’s take the fast, iterative concepts of Tactical Urbanism and take them a step further to enable and empower communities to make the changes they want. The plaza that the residents of Boyle Heights created was completely illegal despite being highly functional and community-oriented. Los Angeles planners need to start asking themselves why such a plaza that is valued so highly in the community isn’t even allowed to exist.


My name is Charlie Simpson. I just graduated from Occidental College in 2015 with a BA in Urban & Environmental Policy. I recently finished my senior thesis analyzing Tactical Urbanism in Los Angeles. I am passionate about cities and an advocate for making neighborhoods and streets friendlier for bikes, pedestrians, and public transit. I strongly believe in planning with communities and not for them. Experience studying urban issues and planning in Los Angeles, Berkeley, Groningen (Netherlands), and Berlin have all helped shape my views.

EXTENSIONS & EXPANSIONS

Boston-view

Steve Eliopoulos for Tufts University

As local lore has it, when a relative asked Charles Tufts what he would do with his land, and more specifically with “that bleak hill over in Medford,” Tufts replied, “I will put a light on it.”

The Universalist Church founded Tufts University in the 1840s with a gift of 20 acres of land from Boston businessman Charles Tufts. Tufts’ land was located on one of the highest hills in the Boston area, Walnut Hill, between Medford and Somerville, Massachusetts. This land was once inhabited by Native Americans from the Wampanoag tribes,  They are the American Indian who are in Northern part of America. They consisted of many tribes which was in the 17th century however, now they have been divided in 2 main tribes that are; Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head that are in Massachusetts. Try this for dividing different software for trading. and later the Ten Hills Farm, a slave plantation owned by Isaac Royall, whose house and slave quarters remains preserved a few blocks away in Medford. Charles Tufts’ family also owned African slaves until the late 1700s, allowing for the family to become wealthy and donate land for our university. Students, for the Tufts Observer, wrote a thorough piece with plenty of valid concerns:

New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is constantly running trains, but it is also constantly running a deficit. Unlike profitable transportation companies, such as the Hong Kong Mass Transit Railway (MTR), this is the biggest public transport network that serves Hong Kong. MTR Corporation Limited or in short MTRCL is the corporation that operates MTR. MTR consists of different types of public transports like, heavy rail, light rail and feeder bus. These services are in the centre of network that is an 11-line rapid transit kind. Get More Information about trading robots here. The MTA has few valuable real estate assets which could be adequately transformed into transit-oriented and transit-owned joint development hubs.

It is in this context of Tufts’ own violent history and establishment of its borders that we speak out about its current institutional expansion, which continues to uphold its wealth and power by displacing people in surrounding communities. Over the past 30 years, community members and students have spoken out against Tufts’ expansion into Chinatown, Medford, and Somerville. This expansion is characterized by the increasing number of Tufts-owned administrative buildings, a growing student body, and the subsequent displacement of residents living in these immigrant, working-class neighborhoods hosting Tufts.

Indeed, Tufts continues to expand into surrounding neighborhoods, without providing housing for students. Because many Jumbos (the school mascot) are relatively wealthy, and because they live together and share housing costs, they are often able to pay more than local residents. Students limit the supply of housing and drive up the costs, forcing many local residents to move because they can no longer afford to live in the area. When the Red Line arrived at Davis Square, prices rose dramatically, and this will undoubtedly happen again with the Green Line Extension to College Avenue and Boston Avenue, which may soon become “College Square“.

Displacement is not pretty. Unsurprisingly, local residents have resorted to vilifying students.

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The authors of the Tufts Observer piece arguably sympathized with this woman’s hateful rant, noting that Tufts students have “elitist” attitudes towards locals, calling them “townies”, when we are the ones “occupying” their land. I agree that Tufts students must be aware of their attitudes towards local residents, and I agree that many Tufts students come off as arrogant and superior.

However, it appears as though political correctness applies double standards, allowing local residents to insult college students with no ‘trigger warnings‘, while college students must be held to higher standards. I think that this belittles and demeans local residents. They should be held to the same standards. Unfortunately, students are afraid to express controversial ideas on college campuses, keeping civic discourse from moving forward, and keeping stakeholders silent and oppressed. (This is a serious problem plaguing campuses in the U.S.)

Stoking the populist fears of residents, Somerville has been exploring zoning ordinances that prohibit more than four unrelated people from living together in a single apartment, thereby singling out college students. This will only further strain the housing supply, because Somerville refuses to increase density and build taller. These exclusionary zoning tactics are also inherently discriminatory, reminiscent of zoning laws that prohibited poor (black) people from living in wealthy neighborhoods by mandating only suburban typologies, thereby limiting density and affordable housing. We should be increasing choice, not decreasing choice. Supply and demand.

Using terms such as ‘occupy’ and ‘colonize’, the authors are fervently anti-development, but this ‘underdogma‘ perspective is actually quite harmful and dangerous; poverty does not necessarily dictate virtue and weakness does not necessarily dictate righteousness. How far back must one retreat in order to not be occupying? Is the woman, whose YouTube video they defended, also occupying indigenous land? Are the Chinese-American immigrants in Chinatown occupying former Italian-American and Irish-American land? Clearly, this insider-outsider perspective is fallacious, and urban problems must be solved through a more nuanced approach. Cities are dynamic and ever-changing. The authors never defined ‘local’ residents, because it is hard to define the term.

Tufts is the largest employer in the area, providing local benefits like library access, fields for community use, community service projects, and reduced application fees for Somerville High School students. Higher education fuels Boston’s economy, allowing the city to remain globally competitive while other cities rust away. Progressives should be supporting change and development, not hindering it. Progressives should be advocating for public transportation, not fighting to eliminate the MBTA Green Line Extension, which promises to create jobs, improve job accessibility, and enhance sustainable modes of transportation. I agree with the authors; Tufts must build more housing for students. But the surrounding neighborhoods must also be allowed to build more homes for residents! Can we find a balanced approach?

The authors left out the redevelopment of 574 Boston Avenue from their piece. A few years ago, I met with the talented and inspirational artisans who had been working there for decades. Tufts, which owned the building, was planning on evicting them, and I wanted to learn about their creative community before it was destroyed. The entire process was saddening, as these artisans dedicated their working lives to this building’s informal, interdisciplinary atmosphere, and they had to move. Where would they go? Could they find somewhere affordable nearby? Born and bred to a working-class family in Brooklyn, I, too, may soon need to leave my childhood home because it is too expensive, so I understood their confusion, fear, and pain. Among the many talented artisans: Rick Berry, Paula Garbarino, Judy McKie, Kim Schmahmann, and…

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John Brown’s Space

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Paula Garbarino’s Space

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Tufts Daily article (April 2013):

University plans to remake a Tufts-owned building at 574 Boston Ave. into teaching and office space will result in the May 31 eviction of its current residents, a community of artisans who have run their businesses there for over two decades.

Tenants on Nov. 30 received a notice from Walnut Hill Properties, Tufts’ non-academic property manager, which gave them six months to move out, according to a Feb. 4 Boston Occupier article.

“Tufts has been considering the best use for 574 Boston Avenue for several years, as the university’s need for space has been increasing,” Director of Public Relations Kim Thurler told the Daily in an email. “We will be working closely with the city and the local community as we move forward and expect to meet with the neighborhood as our plans develop further and we are closer to applying for a building permit.”

For the artisans, eviction means the demise of a large community of woodworkers, instrument makers, metalworkers and other artists who have made a home out of the four-story, 96,000 square-foot building.

John Brown, Paula Garbarino and Chris Keller (A ’76), woodworkers who design and build custom cabinets and furniture from the building, said they are frustrated at the loss of this communal workspace.

“There’s a big brain trust in that building, and it’s all going away,” Brown told the Daily. “We all can’t move to the same location because that building, that 574 Boston Ave., doesn’t exist anywhere in the area, and boy, have we looked for it.”

The building fostered a vibrant community of artisans who have shared ideas there for decades, Garbarino said.

“It is lovely to be able to go to work in your own greater neighborhood, to go to work in a place with light and air and fabulous neighbors who can give you advice and help you out,” Garbarino told the Daily. “I really value the greater community of people in that building.”

The artisans occupied the building on a month-to-month basis since all leases expired several years ago, Thurler said. Tufts has informed tenants about their intentions to renovate the building for many years.

Although the university did make the artists aware of its future plans, Keller said Walnut Hill was ambiguous about the situation until the artisans received the letter in November.

“There had been rumors floating around for at least a decade,” Keller told the Daily. “We all knew that eventually Tufts would want to do something else with the building – or we assumed they would.”

The university has been working to facilitate this move for those affected by the eviction, Thurler said.

“We have provided tenants with contact information for local commercial brokers who are well-qualified to provide relocation advice and assistance,” she said.

Despite university efforts, Garbarino said that many artisans have not found adequate spaces to relocate. For example, she has looked at 16 buildings but has not found a comparable place to 574 Boston Ave.

“When you go look at other commercial space and it’s all metal buildings with no windows and a cement slab to work on, it’s not the same – it’s not at all conducive to creative spirit,” Keller said.

These artisans lived and worked in an organic social, economic, political, and physical environment. The open-door space incentivized creativity, akin to Building 20 at MIT. The environment itself was conducive to their creativity.

Yet Tufts rightfully owned the building, and they’ve beautifully renovated the structure for the years to come. Tufts recognized that the Boston Avenue corridor will be dramatically transformed in the coming years, due to the Green Line Extension. In fact, the 100-year-old industrial building was originally fueled by its location adjacent to transportation provided by the Boston & Maine Railroad, now the right-of-way for the Commuter Rail and Green Line Extension.

Tufts University’s President, Anthony Monaco, wrote me an e-mail about 574:

Over the decades the property changed hands frequently with a variety of industrial uses including paper box manufacturing, wool scouring, and metallic fabrication.  When Tufts purchased the property in 1988 the building housed a firm named EM Decorating and other tenants.  Tufts purchase of the building at that time by Walnut Hill, our real estate corporation, was somewhat risky.  Walnut Hill Properties was formed 40 years ago to buy property for Tufts’ strategic purposes and to hold the properties in a self-sustaining manner until they would be needed. So for 25 years, until 2013, Tufts provided space at low cost to the artists, craftspeople and tradespeople that you recall. That community could not have flourished without Tufts’ support. When Tufts needed the building for its mission they were treated with respect and given assistance in relocation.

An understanding of the past should inform our future, especially if that past includes a community that has emerged through co-location and the synergy of shared creative work.  Much of our thinking about 574 Boston Ave renovation, both in selecting the interdisciplinary academic groups that will occupy the building and the design of the architecture, is grounded in a desire to create a unique creative community that will contribute every day to our mission.

We have designed the building to have many places in which people can come together, including informal group meeting spaces, collaborative technology, a coffee kiosk, individual and group study spaces, and a reading room in addition to the seminar rooms, teaching labs, classrooms, research labs and offices. We expect 30+ faculty, up to 200 graduate students, post docs and staff, and hundreds of undergraduates to be in the building every day.

The architecture of the building is designed to recall the building’s history and to link that history to contemporary academic purposes. We have the preserved the original dimensions of the building; exposed, sandblasted and preserved the interior wood structure and preserved the dimensions and material organization of the envelope windows, concrete structure and panels. We are using metal and graphics that recall it’s industrial history. We are now exploring ways to incorporate innovations of the 21st century as artwork in the building, drawn from Tufts faculty.

In all, we believe that our current plan to reuse 574 Boston Ave honors its history and many generations of people who worked there.  It is an urban development project of a very special kind, thoughtfully crafted and adapted to its next purpose.

I agree with President Monaco. The building has gender-neutral bathrooms, showers, kitchenettes, huddle rooms, phone rooms, conference rooms, classrooms, and lab spaces for Physics and Astronomy, Occupational Therapy, Community Health, Human-Centered Engineering, Robotics, Entrepreneurial Leadership, and a portion of Child Study and Human Development. Unlike many Tufts buildings, which have plenty of chairs but not many reasons for hanging out, 574 has plenty of mixed uses that can foster a dynamic, creative culture. It is actually fun to explore the space, and I wish I could be taking classes here, viewing the Commuter Rail and Green Line outside of the window…

Tufts has branded itself as a school that understands the importance of interdisciplinary research, and this building meets and exceeds the forms and functions necessary for that mindset. Charles Tufts, who wanted to place a light on the hill, would be happy if he knew that on the top floor of 574, natural light will pour into a 20-foot-wide corridor. Here are some of my photos from August:

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Future Green Line ROW

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Future Green Line ROW

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Along with many other initiatives, such as an Air Rights Building atop an MBTA Green Line Extension station, Tufts is proactively and sustainably planning for its transit-oriented future.

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Tufts University plans to construct a 100,000-square-foot academic building above the MBTA’s College Avenue station in Medford, which is slated to open in late 2020, along with a footbridge that will connect the new facility to the Medford/Somerville campus. Preliminary designs for the new academic space call for classrooms, meeting and seminar rooms, offices and conference and teaching spaces. The lobby and atrium, classrooms and meeting spaces will be available for use by the community.

The new building is part of a public-private collaboration among the City of Medford, MBTA, Tufts and Cummings Foundation. Through the partnership, the MBTA and Tufts have signed an agreement that grants Tufts a 99-year lease of air rights over the College Avenue Station and commits Tufts to pay for associated project redesign and construction changes. Tufts will also pay for ongoing maintenance and security around the station, which will amount to significant ongoing savings to the MBTA. Tufts will be granting use of its land to the MBTA for the construction of the new station at no cost to the MBTA. Tufts has committed to pay $550,000 over four years to the City of Medford to support improvements throughout the city.

In addition, in lieu of property taxes, Tufts has pledged to pay the city $250,000 in the year that it receives a final certificate of occupancy for the Tufts building. At the start of the second year of occupancy, Tufts and the City will negotiate in good faith on an extension of the PILOT agreement, with the understanding that future payments be not less than the year one payment.

The university is moving forward with the design and application for permits for the footbridge that will connect the station to the campus and increase pedestrian safety by reducing foot traffic across the busy intersection of College and Boston avenues. The project will also include more accessible sidewalks, a landscaped pathway to the adjacent neighborhood bordered by Burget Avenue and retail space, such as a coffee shop, for T riders, neighbors, faculty, students and staff.

While Tufts is still determining how best to use the space, the building is envisioned as a home for “outward-reaching” academic endeavors that will benefit from being near public transportation. Proximity to the new T station will foster greater collaboration between faculty and students on the Medford/Somerville campus and those on the health sciences campus in downtown Boston, Monaco said. He noted that the building will not be used for student housing or for “wet” laboratories.

The opening of the College Avenue MBTA Station on the Tufts University Medford/Somerville Campus will create a new joint development gateway on campus, and it has the potential to measurably increase sustainable transportation among members of the campus community. Last semester, I worked with a team to develop a set of recommendations for the Tufts Campus Planning Office and the Office of Sustainability that will help achieve this vision. In particular, we examined how the College Avenue station, part of the planned Green Line Extension (GLX) project, can be leveraged to shift modes toward sustainable transportation.

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Tufts is no stranger to air rights, having created the Tufts Development Corporation in the 1980s in order to explore buying South Station air rights for its Chinatown campus. However, it sold the air-rights to Hines Development Corporation because the vibrations from the train traffic made the site unsuitable for high-tech firms, which is what Tufts had intended for the area. Moreover, the added complexity of decking over diesel tracks made the process quite difficult, as seen by the fact that South Station Bus Terminal did not encompass the entire area so that diesel fumes did not have to be ventilated mechanically through the structure.

Yet unlike the Red Line entrances at Davis Square, which are two one-story structures, completely vacant of any additional uses in the heart of booming Somerville, space will be maximized for the Green Line station at College Avenue and Boston Avenue. Indeed, unlike the MBTA, which is a risk-averse public authority, Tufts has bravely proposed visionary plans.

We must make sure that the Air Rights Building gets built, which requires the Green Line Extension to reach Tufts. Rather than decry change, we need to adapt, and we need to propose productive, practical, visionary solutions. The T and Tufts must work together to design smart extensions and expansions. After all, our school is a place for active citizenship…

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Born and bred in Brooklyn, my name is Rayn Riel, and I’m a Senior Editor at PlaNYourCity. I’ve circumnavigated the world twice in order to research transportation finance and joint (real estate) development practices in 30+ countries and 25+ U.S. states. I’m a graduate student at Tufts University and I’ve designed Tufts’ only undergraduate urban planning degree, I’ve founded Tufts only undergraduate urban planning student group, and I’ve also been working as a GIS Lab Assistant. Having interned at the NYC Department of City Planning for the past two summers, I interned at MTA NYC Transit and at the MTA HQ Real Estate Department this summer. I will graduate with a B.A. and M.A. in Urban Policy and Planning in May 2016. I intend to become a “Riel Estate” professional.

Ameraissance of Transportation Finance

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South Ferry Plaza Joint Development Opportunities for NYC DOT

 

“New York never stops. From morning-rush commuters to late-night club-goers, from school children on subways to seniors on buses, millions of people rely on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to get them through their daily lives. Without a robust and well-maintained network of railroads, subways, bus routes, bridges, and tunnels, New York as we know it could not function.” – Thomas F. Prendergast, MTA Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is constantly running trains, but it is also constantly running a deficit. Unlike profitable transportation companies, such as the Hong Kong MTR, the MTA has few valuable real estate assets which could be adequately transformed into transit-oriented joint development hubs. Akin to other U.S. public transportation agencies, space for pragmatic and profitable commercial activities – including shops and offices operating on agency-owned land – is limited to a few select stations, yards, concourses, and passageways.

The city usually has design guidelines and requires the community to take care of the cost and maintenance. In San Francisco it’s called ‘Pavement to Parks,’ about 25% of the land in the city of San Francisco is made up of streets and public rights-of-way; this includes all the public parks as well. In this city lot of streets are excessively broad and most of it is not utilized for anything. Many such unutilized areas are near the junctions. There is lot of unutilized strategies in trading as well that Bitcoin Trader can use.
In New York City it is ‘Street Seats’ or simply the ‘NYC Plaza Program’ and in Los Angeles it is called the ‘People St. Program.’ Chicago, Philadelphia, and D.C. are just a few of many other cities that have similar programs.

However, while the MTA’s ability to remain revenue-positive or self-sufficient through real estate development is impossible, the MTA could nevertheless capitalize upon its few existing assets for additional revenue. The MTA could also work with the City of New York to develop a value capture mechanism in mixed-use commercial districts accessible by subway and bus routes. Moreover, the MTA can contextually transport value capture and joint development practices from abroad and overcome organizational barriers in order to ‘transport’ the MTA’s limited portfolio of assets into ‘transformation hubs’. While there is ‘room’ for improvement, institutional barriers ranging from cultural inertia to an unhealthy relationship between the City, State, and MTA would need to be transcended through coordinated reformation efforts.

Limited assets for joint development, and bureaucratic (dis)incentives — coupled with a lack of coordination between various agencies — have created a lethargic atmosphere for American transportation finance. There are few formal PPP development processes, formal value capture mechanisms, or coordinated T.O.D. zoning regulations. Entire swaths of New York have recently been up-zoned, allowing for an increased supply of housing, but the MTA is left playing catch-up with increasingly crowded, congested, and delayed trains. Meanwhile, New York’s supposedly progressive Mayor Bill de Blasio, refuses to provide increased funding for the MTA or support congestion pricing. He currently provides a meager $100 million; the MTA needs to fill a $14 billion gap for its 2015-2019 Capital Program.

“I do believe it’s important that we get a menu of different funding sources up there that are sustainable. Sustainable in terms of the revenue they bring, and sustainable in terms of their long-term. In the sine-wave cycle that some of these revenue sources have, you hopefully have ones that are in a peak while others are in a valley. Value capture on real estate… the idea of Seven West funding, where New York City is giving us [money] to fund the 7 Line is an example of that. There are cases… where someone bought a piece of property directly adjacent to the… Second Avenue Subway, and they’re selling that property at increased value… It’s reasonable to expect that some of those profits should be shared by the people who actually made the improvements to the infrastructure and replow those revenues to further increases in the infrastructure network. The other one is cap and trade.” – Thomas F. Prendergast, MTA Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

While most public transportation agencies in the United States cannot be profitable, some public transportation corporations can be quite successful due to real estate assets. In fact, American railroads of the early 20th century maintained a profit partly due to the transportation hubs that they developed, owned, leased, or maintained vis-à-vis value capture and joint development. They did not yet have to compete with cars, trucks, planes, and the vehicular suburbanization of the latter 20th century. With less dependency came more capacity-building creativity and an incentive to actually be efficient.

Once (auto)mobility took over socially, economically, politically, and physically, these railroads could no longer compete. Government and market forces combined to suburbanize white people, divest from public transit, and build highways. Public transportation authorities were designed to operate transit, but not to own the assets that had been developed by prior companies. For American public transportation agencies today, value capture and joint development space for pragmatic and profitable commercial activities – including shops and offices operating on agency-owned land – is limited to a few select stations, yards, concourses, and passageways. The majority of profitable assets that had been owned by private railroads had long been sold before remaining infrastructure was annexed by the public sector.

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Undercover Map (1972) Courtesy of John Tauranac

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Advertising on the MBTA Red Line in Boston (Riel, 2015)

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Potential Value Capture District on MBTA Green Line? (Riel, 2015)

 

Private railroads built many of America’s beautiful structures. Pennsylvania Railroad built Hotel Pennsylvania across from their iconic station in the Big Apple. Meanwhile, New York Central Railroad built the Helmsley Building at Grand Central Terminal, whilst developing an entire neighborhood, known as Terminal City, atop its rail yards. Even the former Hudson and Manhattan Railroad, which built the network that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s PATH subway operates today, developed the predecessor of the World Trade Center, Hudson Terminal, atop its hub in Lower Manhattan. Private railroads were profitable even in Los Angeles, where the Pacific Electric Railway system, owned by Henry Huntington, was built because “Huntington believed he could increase his fortune by coupling streetcar expansion with real estate investment – namely, purchasing inexpensive land on the metropolitan fringe and increasing its value through the provision of rail transit services” (Bernick 20, 1997).

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NYC Grand Central Terminal Joint Development: Terminal City

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Air Rights Development Atop Union Station Yards in Chicago (Riel, 2015)

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…Yet, Ample Light at Chicago Union Station (Riel, 2015)

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Office Space Atop Union Station in Chicago (Riel, 2015)

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Retail in Chicago Union Station (Riel, 2015)

 

Vukan Vuchic, transportation expert, writes that since the 1980s, public agencies have been adopting “some forms and practices of private companies for greater operational efficiency” (Vuchic 299, 1999), and to reduce “political pressures and achieve competitive pricing, public agencies contract some sections of transit services to private operators” while retaining control “to ensure that public interest is not subjugated to short-term economic efficiency” (Vuchic 299, 1999). As such, public transportation agencies have begun practicing joint development, which is when they develop their assets, typically in a public-private partnership (P3).

Public transportation agencies across the United States and the world are developing land atop their stations. The 7 Line Extension to the Hudson Yards in New York has been funded entirely by 28 million square feet of value capture in Manhattan’s newest neighborhood (Rubinstein, 2014). This project did not require any funds from New York State in order to complete.

Yet no other MTA asset will reach the grandeur of Grand Central Terminal. The Beaux-Arts terminal, which only earned the MTA $7 million prior to a 1994 renovation, earned the MTA $27 million in 2011. Former MTA Chairman Joseph J. Lhota stated, “Grand Central will always be the greatest train station in the United States and the crown jewel of the MTA’s transportation network”, as it is a “focal point for the economic and social life of the region and a superb setting for the daily business of moving people” as the second most-visited place in New York City with 750,000 visitors a day. This additional real estate revenue will be used towards funding for the Second Avenue Subway, East Side Access, and the Fulton Center. The MTA may eventually buy GCT from Andrew Penson, the current owner, once his air rights have been sold as part of the East Midtown Rezoning. Alternatively, SL Green will contribute funds to the MTA for Grand Central Tower, bypassing Andrew Penson.

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Future LIRR East Side Access Retail Concourse in GCT, NYC (Riel, 2015)

 

According to the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, the MTA provides service for one-third of the transit riders in America, employs over 67,000 workers, covers an area of approximately 5,000 square miles, and moves 8.7 million customers a day. This system spends approximately 11 billion dollars on operational costs each year, with an additional 5 billion dollars spent on maintenance and improvement. The Port Authority, meanwhile, subsidizes PATH and other development projects with tolls and fees from bridges, tunnels, and airports.

The MTA owns and operates many rail yards, but most of them are in far-flung locations. According to Robert Paley, Director of Transit-Oriented Development at the MTA Real Estate Department, developing atop of them would require interrupting service because the tracks, unlike at the Hudson Yards in Midtown Manhattan, were not designed with adequate space for future support infrastructure (Paley, 2015). The Hudson Yards were reconfigured in the 1980s for the MTA from a freight yard for the railroad that was operating the tracks that became today’s High Line Park. The MTA’s other yards, which are not in prime locations, were not designed for future joint development, so implementing a project on these properties would be too expensive. Work would need to be completed during the night (requiring exponentially increased salaries), service would need to be disrupted, and countless engineering challenges – ranging from track ventilation to fire insulation – would need to be addressed. According to Robert Paley, due to these costs, most examples of development occurring atop rail yards are due to the yards being demolished or replaced. Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards was moved and the Upper West Side’s Penn Yards were scrapped for Donald Trump’s Riverside South. The success of value capture at the Hudson Yards will be difficult to replicate elsewhere due to the MTA’s limited assets, and due to the difficulty in measuring increased value due to transportation.

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Trump Yards, Today (Riel, 2015)

 

New York’s joint development concerns are shared by other American cities, which are also exploring real estate opportunities. According to the Wall Street Journal, the “nation’s transit agencies, long tasked with helping people get around, are putting more effort into giving them a place to live, work and play”. Phoenix, Arizona, and Salt Lake City, Utah, have been developing light rail, even though they are red states, because voters understand the benefits to businesses and to traffic alleviation. Phoenix, despite being in a desert where the temperatures routinely exceed 120 F in the summer, is one of the largest in the United States, and the largest in the Southwest, as well as one of the fastest growing U.S. cities due to its cheap (and sprawling) Sun Belt housing developments. With the economy recovering and with aquifers drying up, farmland is being bought for suburban housing within the blink of an eye. The city is expanding its highways and growing outward until reaching Native American land. Yet in order to keep up with growth, the city is also actively seeking to densify itself with the development of the Valley Light Rail, a clean, fast, efficient, but limited service in the region. Furthermore, the trained eye can see solar panels popping up on many rooftops.

The value capture and joint development policies that will work in New York will not necessarily work in Phoenix, or most of the rest of the country, where the cultural context (and demographics) are starkly different, leading to a different socio-spatial dynamic. After all, this is a city where it is strange to walk to destinations, where downtown consists of parking lots and empties out at night, and where public transit is only seen as a welfare service. Yet it is one of the fastest growing (and most affordable) cities in the country. The entire city is designed as a suburb bordering deserts, mountains, farms, and Native American reservations/casinos…

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Light Rail Value Capture Opportunity in Phoenix, Arizona (Riel, 2015)

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Phoenix Light Rail in Downtown (Riel, 2015)

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Phoenix Light Rail and Bike Path (Riel,2015)

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Phoenix Light Rail Expansion (Riel, 2015)

 

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Opportunity in Salt Lake City, Utah (Riel, 2015)

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Salt Lake City Light Rail (Riel, 2015)

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Salt Lake City Light Rail and Bike Infrastructure (Riel, 2015)

 

Moreover, the Los Angeles Metro has 80 stations, 47 of which have had land leased for development since 1999. The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority has received $20 million a year from leasing properties, including Southern California’s transportation hub: Union Station. Yet this historical terminal’s improved public spaces and new restaurants are only part of Metro’s developments; in fact, Metro is one of the largest “public real-estate developers in Los Angeles County, with thousands of residential units – many designated as affordable – on properties the agency owns and leases to developers” (Dulaney, 2014). For instance, on Hollywood Boulevard, luxury condominiums and a W Hotel above a Metro station provide $750,000 annually due to the prime T.O.D. location.

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Opportunity Site for Joint Development in L.A. Metro Parking Lot (Riel, 2015)

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Los Angeles Union Station Retail; Joint Development at Hollywood/Vine Station (Riel, 2015)

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Los Angeles Metro Joint Development Atop Entrances on Hollywood Boulevard (Riel, 2015)

 

Additionally, Atlanta’s MARTA will be developing 1,400 residential units on parking lots and 50,000 square feet of retail space on property near a dozen of its 38 stations. In Washington D.C., the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which has “one of the oldest and most established” real estate teams, “sells and leases excess land around its 91 stations”.  The revenue from these leases is transferred into a unique fund used to invest in infrastructure renewal and station accessibility. 32 leases thus far have brought in more than $140 million since 1997. These practices are being explored by the MTA as well, which faces a $15 billion gap for its capital program. According to the Wall Street Journal:

“For decades, city and county transit agencies have leased out kiosks or small storefronts in their rail stations to businesses such as newspaper stands and coffee shops. Now, agencies are far more ambitious, developing large-scale, rent-producing developments, including hotels, apartment buildings and shopping malls, around their rail hubs. Transit officials expect real estate to become an increasingly important revenue source, amid stagnant federal funding and rising costs of upkeep for aging systems. According to APTA data, public transit ridership grew 13% in the U.S. from 2000 to 2013, with commuter-rail ridership climbing 62% in the period. But riders’ fares don’t nearly cover agencies’ operating costs, at a time when their worker-related expenses such as health-care and pension costs are also rising. New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the nation’s largest transit agency, expects to pay out about $1.3 billion in pension costs this year, compared with $480 million a decade earlier”. 

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Georgia Avenue-Petworth D.C. Metro Station; Retail and Housing Atop Entrance (Riel, 2015)

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Union Station, D.C. (Riel, 2015); Burnham Place Air Rights Joint Development Design (Courtesy of NYT)

 

In Boston, New Balance is building its own commuter rail station, and other P3s are underway in the CBD. Boston’s South Station used to have plenty of commercial space, but most of it has been destroyed. North Station and South Station do not connect, and neither do the MBTA’s Red and Blue Lines. The 2024 Olympics proposal may provide an incentive for the state to fund transit improvements, even if most proposals are never built, as has been the case with Big Dig mitigation efforts. But the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) and MassDOT have been working on the South Station Expansion Project, a public-private partnership that would remove a “major corridor chokepoint and unlock greater growth for both intercity and commuter rail” (Fichter, 2013). The expansion plan would allow for properly-ventilated joint development atop the MBTA-owned station platforms and on adjacent properties, while expanding the number of platforms in order to increase capacity, connectivity, and growth.

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Boston South Station Joint Development Proposal (Top: Riel, 2015)

 

Chicago, which is arguably the only other American city that even comes close to New York’s dense, skyscraper grandeur, complete with extensive and intensive public transit infrastructure, has similar transit woes. Danielle Dai, while a student at the University of Chicago, wrote about the CTA’s joint development practices…

The success of the CTA and Apple public-private partnership for the refurbishment of the North and Clybourn Red Line station demonstrates the potential of planning and implementing joint development projects in Chicago. From my findings, I make five recommendations to make joint development a more attractive and viable option in Chicago: 1) adopt formal, yet flexible, joint development guidelines or policies; 2) support private sector participation through workshops; 3) explore opportunities within the zoning ordinance to encourage more investment in transit; 4) encourage the new transportation authorization bill to incorporate policies for joint development, value capture, public-private partnerships in transit, and transit-oriented development; and 5) open public forums to foster communication about joint development deals. (Dai)

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CTA North and Clybourn Red Line Station & Apple Store in Chicago (Riel, 2015)

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CTA North and Clybourn Red Line Station & Starbucks in Chicago (Riel, 2015)

 

Chicago’s CBD would not be nearly as dense without the Loop, yet the CTA rarely receives funding from nearby businesses for station improvements.

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Chicago Loop Repairs Needed, Surrounded by TOD Wealth… (Riel, 2015)

 

In Hong Kong, joint development and value capture allow for the MTR Corporation, a privatized company with a majority of shareholdings owned by the government, to be a profitable public transportation company. In Hong Kong, the government is relatively centralized and land ownership laws are not as individually-oriented as in the United States. Hong Kong’s model also works because Hong Kong is one of the densest cities on the planet, and the MTR feeds people into its transit-oriented malls, apartments, and offices. According to Dorothy Chan, a Senior MTR Manager, and Sai-Ping Chin, an AECOM Executive Director, the MTR’s sustainable financial model integrates living, working, and playing into interconnected T.O.D. neighborhoods. The MTR typically owns property below ground, including countless retail outlets, and it will work with developers to sell, lease, or manage property atop its stations, including the tallest buildings of Hong Kong. According to Vukan Vuchic:

“Many extensive rail and bus transit systems in Hong Kong and Japan operate successfully under private ownership. Population densities are extremely high in Hong Kong and Japanese cities such as Tokyo and Osaka. Use of automobiles in these cities is not only limited by space, but it is more expensive than in the U.S. and most European cities. Car travel is less subsidized by direct and indirect measures, such as tax exemptions for many trip categories, company car ownership, cheap or free parking. Land uses, including major activity centers, are planned with rail transit lines and located around their stations. In Japan, many regional rail companies own housing complexes, department stores, shopping centers, amusement parks, and other commercial developments whose income is used for partial support of transit operations. Although privately owned, many transit companies have various arrangements for cooperation, financial support or guarantees by the government in such aspects as infrastructure investments and social fares”. (Vuchic 435, 2005)

By building offices, apartments, and stores directly above stations, the MTR is able to use value capture mechanisms in order to actually be profitable (Loo, 2010). Due to Hong Kong’s density, the percentage of residents who ride mass transportation is the highest in the world (Suzuki, 2013). This equitable, sustainable, and feasible efficiency (Zhao, 2011) is coupled by the fact that the government technically owns all land and leases it only for certain periods of time, it is relatively easy for the MTR to acquire parcels for transit-oriented joint development atop station entrances, and then sell or lease these properties to developers. Furthermore, unlike American public transportation authorities, the MTR is privatized and operates on commercial principles, whilst being controlled by the public vis-à-vis majority shareholdings by the local government. Public-private partnerships (P3s) require immense resources which are difficult to synergize (Enoch, 2002). Often, the public sector does not know how to regulate the private partner, and the private partner cannot think in political terms (Davis, 1986).

“Mass transit’s falling fortunes – eroding ridership, ballooning deficits, second-class image – are often explained as unavoidable consequences of the automobile’s ever-growing popularity. While true to a degree, we believe another factor, often overlooked, is that America’s cityscape has increasingly turned its back on new mass transportation investments. Too many recently built light rail, heavy rail, and commuter rail systems in the United States feature stations enveloped by parking lots, vacant parcels, open fields, warehousing, and marginal activities. This stands in marked contrast to the colorful streetcar suburbs that sprung up along trolley lines around a century ago, or to much of urban Europe where apartments, shops, cinemas, and offices continue to cluster around rail transit stops”. (Bernick XI, 1997)

In Hong Kong and Japan, railroads are profitable primarily due to mixed-use T.O.D. densities that support farebox revenues, because development nearby stations increases demand on the trains. More people live, work, and play in those areas, especially with joint development practiced on railroad property, thereby further increasing revenue and creating a positive feedback loop. Moreover, Hong Kong and Japanese cities are much denser than most American cities, for various reasons. All of this density allows for railroads to be profitable, so they are also privatized, incentivizing less bureaucratic mismanagement and less wasteful spending.

In America, Amtrak cannot be profitable, unlike Japanese railroads, which operate in a relatively small and dense country interconnected by efficient high-speed rail. The United States used to have profitable railroads, but it has since sprawled away from T.O.D. and has depended on highways. The country is also a lot bigger than Japan, and high-speed rail could make sense in only a few corridors, where it could potentially be better than flying, such as the Northeast Corridor (NEC). Along the NEC, Amtrak actually is revenue-positive, but because all of its other routes lose money, and because it has to maintain infrastructure, it requires subsidies.

This does not mean that the government should stop funding Amtrak. Highways also require subsidies, especially in rural areas, and the government is not threatening to end the Interstate Highway System. It’s a myth that the gas tax is a user fee, and that it pays for highways entirely. Indeed, the gas tax is not a user fee because drivers pay for gas even when they’re not on highways, and it also rarely covers maintenance costs for our roads by itself.

In New York, which has areas that are as dense – if not denser – than Hong Kong and Tokyo, there are areas served by subways that could be up-zoned further. However, NIMBYism tends to counter up-zoning near stations, thereby leaving stretches of the subway running below capacity. Yet where zoning has been up-zoned, trains are becoming more and more crowded, and revenue is increasing, but so are delays.

Alon Levy, who is, in my opinion, one of the best writers on transit in the world, agrees with me that T.O.D. is always good, generating demand for the MTA, especially where service capacity can be increased. Yet he is not keen on value capture for two reasons, writing:

First, it’s a tax on TOD. Do they tax new subdivisions as a way of funding roads? No, they don’t. And second, because it’s an opaque source of funding – unlike either profits from the farebox or income and sales taxes – it can be levied without either economic input from riders or political input from voters. The result is that it’s easier to waste the money.

In the end, with or without value capture mechanisms, TOD will increase ridership on the MTA. Alon Levy recommends safe and secure biking facilities at major transfer points, “especially end-of-line stations like Flushing, Jamaica Center, and Brooklyn College” and in buildings. These facilities could be part of future P3 joint development buildings atop stations. Perhaps public-private developments can halt the soaring costs of public capital construction projects in New York, which tend to be 6-7 times higher than Paris.

So, how can we bridge the gap and invest in neighborhoods akin to those in Baltimore? Partly, with better transportation accessibility and mobility! Transportation hubs with additional ‘creative’ space don’t just increase revenue for transportation agencies. If there’s office space, retail space, and housing there as well, then it also impacts other social, economic, and political indicators. How about a rooftop farm, solar panels, community space for meetings, and local artwork to help with place-making efforts? These hubs can help to bridge the gap between communities by offering enhanced physical mobility, but also enhanced socioeconomic mobility as centers of transit-oriented employment and housing. Yet transportation cannot be ‘transported’; context is extremely important in the transformation process. Transportation infrastructure is planned in accordance with many contextual powers, identities, and ideologies. We must think beyond borders and buildings.

Transportation hub infrastructure can be transformation hub infrastructure, as it is in Hong Kong and Tokyo. But for value capture and joint development to improve in New York, the Port Authority, New Jersey Transit, Amtrak, and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority need to cooperate on regional housing and transportation planning amongst themselves and amongst respective municipalities. The bureaucratic underpinnings of these authorities do not provide incentives for collaboration, and politicians are pressured by developers to keep real estate in private hands, whilst not providing much funding for public transportation to operate and improve (Musluoglu, 2015).

From the Fulton Center and Grand Central Terminal to the Atlantic Yards and Hudson Yards, organizational barriers ranging from bureaucratic regulations and powerful public unions to a lack of public-private partnerships and collaborative efforts, coupled with a lack of opportunity sites and market potential, are stifling growth in New York City and beyond. The city will not be able to handle continued population growth without a coordinated value capture zoning mechanism for T.O.D. housing and transportation planning. Albany will remain unresponsive as long as the Governor remains unpressured to change policies, and as long as most people remain clueless about New York’s real troubles beyond the day-to-day headlines. Additional funding from the City of New York and New York State is necessary. Political resolve and inspired leadership are necessary in order to transform New York’s transit into the 21st century. Joint development will increase transit usage and revenues and catalyze transit-oriented development. But first, New Yorkers need to demand collaborative, contextual, connected change.

So do people elsewhere…

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Opportunity in Vancouver, B.C. (Riel, 2013)

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Opportunity in Toronto, Ontario (Riel, 2013)

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Opportunity at Station Entrance in Montreal, Quebec (Riel, 2014)

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Joint Development Opportunity in Mexico City (Riel, 2014)

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Commuter Rail from Indiana to Chicago (Riel, 2015)

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Seattle Union Station Above Transit Tunnel (Riel, 2013)

 

In order to densify…

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Gated Suburbia in Phoenix, AZ (Riel, 2015)

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Depleting Aquifers and Suburban Encroachment in Phoenix, AZ (Riel, 2015)

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Sprawl in Phoenix, AZ (Riel, 2015)

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Phoenix, AZ (Riel, 2015)

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Ecosystem of Highways in Los Angeles, CA (Riel, 2015)

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Car-Accessible Employment Opportunities in Columbus, OH (Riel, 2015)

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Dead Mall in Dayton, OH (Riel, 2015)

 

In the end, America’s infrastructure is crumbling because a GOP Congress does not want to raise the gas tax or invest in public transit. The country is falling behind, spending approximately one billion to subsidize Amtrak, while China spends $128 billion per year on rail transport. In New York, the Mayor and Governor can’t seem to find the money for the MTA’s Capital Program, even though the city has a budget surplus, and has a record number of private jobs, with more people moving to New York than to Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, and D.C. combined.

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Crumbling Bridge in Dayton, OH (Riel, 2015)

 

For better or worse, America’s car-centric, Manifest Destiny culture of individualism, complete with a lack of cultural homogeneity and a lack of trust in government, have created a toxic atmosphere for public transit. Unlike European countries, public transit in America is generally considered a service to the poor, and is feared as a sign of an encroaching strong, centralized federal government. Apparently, Americans would rather have crumbling infrastructure in order to pay less in the short-term, and suffer the consequences later.

As such, we need to prioritize P3 transportation finance, capitalizing upon agency-owned real estate in order to bridge the gap and build interconnected, healthy communities for the 21st century. Cities need to formalize value capture mechanisms and streamline joint development processes. From solar bike paths to mixed-use transportation hubs, cities need new, creative tools and techniques for the 21st century renaissance of American transportation networks.

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Marina City in Chicago: Mixed-Use Intermodal Hub, Revitalizing Downtown… (Riel, 2015)



Born and bred in Brooklyn, my name is Rayn Riel, and I’m an urban planning graduate student at Tufts University. I’ve designed Tufts’ only undergraduate urban planning degree in International Urban Development, I’ve founded Tufts only undergraduate urban planning student organization, and I’ve also been working as a GIS Lab Assistant. I have been interning at the NYC Department of City Planning for the past two summers, and this summer, I’ll be interning at the MTA. I will graduate with a B.A. and M.A. in Urban Policy and Planning in May 2016.


This post is part of a series of posts related to the MTA’s value capture and joint development practices, a subject I’m researching for my IRB certified Honors Thesis. After speaking with Jay Walder and other MTA and MTR officials, politicians, developers, and scholars, I’ve realized that the MTA cannot replicate the MTR’s successes. The MTA’s limited assets and bureaucratic (dis)incentives, coupled with a lack of zoning coordination between the City, State, and MTA, as well as the lack of formal value capture and joint development mechanisms, creates serious organizational barriers. Moreover, as a public authority, the MTA’s ‘independence’ from Governor Cuomo allows the City and State to divert blame to MTA leadership, yet at the same time, elected officials are responsible for nominating members of the Board, and they are beholden to powerful developers, too. How can the MTA be truly ‘reformed’ if the entire system is broken? How can we create better hubs and improve the MTA with stable sources of P3 revenue? How can we do this contextually, instead of simply ‘transporting‘ models from elsewhere, with entirely different powers, identities, and ideologies?

Many thanks to my New York and Hong Kong interviewees thus far for sharing their time and expertise, including Aaron Donovan, Deputy Director for External Communications at the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad for the MTA; Andrew Bata, Chief of Global Best Practices at MTA New York City Transit; Daniel Peterson, former Senior Transportation Engineer for Arup; Dorothy Chan, a Senior MTR Manager in Hong Kong; Ellyn Shannon, Associate Director of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA; Jason Fane, a prominent real estate developer in Manhattan, Ithaca, and Toronto; Jay Walder, former Managing Director for Finance and Planning at Transport for London, former Chairman/CEO of the MTA, former CEO of the MTR, and current CEO of Motivate; Jenna Hornstock, Deputy Executive Director at Countywide Planning at Los Angeles County Metro; John Tauranac, a world-renowned New York historian, who has designed ample city maps and transit maps for the MTA; Robert Paaswell, a Distinguished City College of New York (CCNY) Transportation Professor, former Director for the CUNY Institute for Urban Systems, and former Interim President of CCNY; Robert Paley, Director of the T.O.D. Group at the MTA Real Estate Department; Sai-Ping Chin, an AECOM Executive Director in Hong Kong; Subutay Musluoglu, prominent cartographer and historian; and an anonymous high-level city official under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Having been to 30+ countries on five continents and 25+ U.S. states in the Northeast, South, Midwest, and West, I express additional gratitude to the Undergraduate Research Fund and Tufts University for assisting with research expenses. All contemporary photographs, unless otherwise cited, are taken by Rayn Riel.

Bernick, Michael, and Robert Cervero. Transit Villages in the 21st Century. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1997. Print.

Booth, Philip. Controlling Development: Certainty and Discretion in Europe, the USA and Hong Kong. London: UCL Press, 1996.

Cervero, Robert, Michael Duncan. “Transit’s Value-Added Effects : Light and Commuter Rail Services and Commercial Land Values.” Transportation Research Record. 1805 (2002): 8-15. Print.

Davis, Perry. Public-Private Partnerships: Improving Urban Life. Vol. 36, No. 2. New York: Academy of Political Science, in conjunction with the New York City Partnership, 1986. Print.

Enoch, Marcus. “Recouping Public Transport Costs from Gains in Land Values.” Traffic Engineering and Control 43.9 (2002): 336-40. Scopus. Web. 20 Oct. 2014.

Grimsey, Darrin, and Mervyn Lewis. Public Private Partnerships: The Worldwide Revolution in Infrastructure

Provision and Project Finance. Northampton, MA; Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2004. Print.

Guess, George M. Managing and Financing Urban Public Transport Systems: An International Perspective. Budapest, Hungary: Local Government and Public Service Reform Initiative, 2008. Print.

Keefer, L. E. “Joint Development at Transit Stations in the United States.” Transportation 12.4 (1985): 333-42. Print.

Loo, Becky P. Y., Cynthia Chen, and Eric T. H. Chan. “Rail-Based Transit-Oriented Development: Lessons from New York City and Hong Kong.” Landscape and Urban Planning 97.3 (2010): 202-12. ScienceDirect. Web. 5 Nov. 2014.

MTA Capital Program 2015-2019. New York: Metropolitan Transportation Authority, 2014. Print.

Suzuki, Hiroaki, Robert Cervero, and Kanako Iuchi. Transforming Cities with Transit: Transit and Land-use Integration for Sustainable Urban Development. Washington, D.C: World Bank, 2013. Web.

Vuchic, Vukan R. Transportation for Livable Cities. New Brunswick, N.J: Center for Urban Policy Research, 1999. Print.

Vuchic, Vukan R Urban Transit: Operations, Planning and Economics. Hoboken, N.J: J. Wiley & Sons, 2005. Print.

Zhao, Z. J., and K. Larson. “Special Assessments as a Value Capture Strategy for Public Transit Finance.” Public Works Management and Policy 16.4 (2011): 320-40. ProQuest. Web. 7 Nov. 14.


East Side Access

MTA LIRR East Side Access Tour, 2015

IS THE SINGAPORE HOUSING MODEL RIGHT FOR NEW YORK CITY?

The Pinnacle@Duxton, via ctbuh.org

The Pinnacle@Duxton, via ctbuh.org

 

Singapore is often touted as being an exorbitantly expensive place to live. It’s so recognizably pricey in fact, that the small city-state recently snatched first place in 2014’s list of Most Expensive Cities in the world. Before 2014 Tokyo was world’s most expensive city, but that year it faced a big disaster known as “Fukushima power plant disaster.” Following this Tokyo lost its position in the list of Most Expensive Cities in the world. There was a report known as ‘Economist Intelligence Unit’ which is done biannually which started giving ranks to 131 cities all over the globe in which Singapore gained the first rank. This article will tell you which has ranked first in trading. But as the Singaporean newspaper The Straits Times points out, perhaps this global Cost of Living exercise is more a metric of expatriates buying imported cheese and filet mignon, rather than the long-term costs borne by locals. After all, the Times explained, Singaporeans are doing quite well.

So I was curious: since housing is arguably the biggest cost of living in any major global city (not really prix fixe dinners or Broadway musicals), how does the Singaporean housing situation stack up to a place like New York City, which we all know has a pretty serious affordable housing shortage, but didn’t make it anywhere near the top of Most Expensive Cities list.

Well as it turns out, Singapore, with a population of over 5.4 million people, has a massiveaffordable homeownership program. Just how big is it?

81% of all Singaporean residents live in public housing, and 95% of those public housing residents actually own their home.

Compare that to only 4.8 % of NYC residents living in public housing, all of it rental.*

 

So how did Singapore do this?

During the late-1950’s, Singapore was in a dire situation: they had few natural resources, their unemployment rate was around 12%, and the majority of the population lived in squatter settlements and slums. Race riots, inflation, leftover scars from World War II, and debilitating relationships with her neighbors were pushing Singapore to a breaking point.

Seen as prevention against civil unrest and a cure for dismal health and safety conditions, the Housing & Development Board (HDB) was created in 1960 to plan for growth and slum-clearance. HDB estimated that 147,000 new housing units would be needed over the next 10 years to match resettlement and population growth, but the private sector was only constructing about 2,500 units per year and at price points unattainable to the majority of the population.

So HDB developed a five-year plan and built over 54,000 new units of low-income rental housing by 1965. That’s about 1 new home per hour for five years straight.

 

 

HDB's Bukit Ho Swee, 1963; via Maverick713 http://www.skyscrapercity.com/

HDB’s Bukit Ho Swee, 1963; via Maverick713 http://www.skyscrapercity.com/

 

Once the most at-need populations began moving into the rental housing, the Singaporean government shifted their focus to expand homeownership opportunities. In 1964, the “Homeownership for the People Scheme” was introduced which saw homeownership as a way to create political stability, buffer residents against inflation through housing appreciation, and as a boon for economic growth.

The scheme was relatively simple: Singapore’s HDB would plan, design, and construct public housing (another 93,000 units were built between 1965 and 1969), and then it would provide down-payment assistance and low-interest mortgages for residents to purchase them.

In 1968, the government began leveraging the Central Provident Fund (CPF), Singapore’s version of social security, to finance the market-side of the homeownership program. The government would provide no-interest loans to HDB, and then HDB would provide mortgages to homebuyers at 0.1% more than the going CPF savings rate. This allowed HDB to provide 30-year mortgages requiring only 10% down, sometimes offering additional grants to qualified homebuyers.

HDB was able to do this because there was a direct mandate from the government:

  • There was massive government investment via:
    • Comprehensive Town Planning;
    • Public land allocation for housing by means of 99-year leases; and
    • Provision of financial resources for building development and maintenance.
  • They created a vision-led management system:
    • Competitive public pay of planners, architects, engineers and contractors;
    • A policy of zero-tolerance for corruption; and
    • Merit-based hiring.

 

In less than 10 years, the country changed its image from villages and squatter settlements to apartment buildings made of glass and concrete. Skipping ahead to present-day, the rental and homeownership programs not only exist, but they have also expanded.

But in order to get an apartment, there is a lottery, complete with a stringent set of requirements and priority-boosting  bonuses. Some of the requirements and priorities for obtaining apartments include:

For the Public Rental Scheme:

  • You need to be a Singaporean citizen;
  • Be a minimum of 21 years old;
  • Cannot make more than S$1,500/month gross (US$14,400/year);
  • Cannot own an existing property or rent an existing HDB property;
  • Must be married, engaged, or have a dependent child OR can live with another single person if you are both above the age of 35;
  • Only Studios or 1-bedroom apartments are available.

 

For the Homeownership Scheme:

  • You need to be a Singaporean citizen;
  • Be a minimum of 21 years old;
  • Must form a “family nucleus” – spouse, parents, siblings, or a joint single-person purchase;
  • Cannot make more than S$5,000/month (US$48,000/year) for 1-2 bedroom units and S$10,000/month (US$96,000/year) for 3 bedroom units; larger units are set aside for multi-generational families.
  • Cannot own an existing property (either first-time or second-time homebuyer); and
  • Priority for locating within 2km of parents home.

 

To resell a unit after purchasing via the Homeownership Lottery:

  • There is a Minimum Occupancy Period of 5 years;
  • There is a Resale Levy of between 10%-25% of the sales price depending on unit size;
  • The owner can rent a room at any time, or can rent the whole apartment after 5 years.

There are a multitude of other Schemes available, including an Aging-In-Place scheme which prioritizes seniors who want to downsize to studio-apartments, to be relocated within either their same building or within 2 km of their existing home.

And while the developments seem a bit tower-in-the-park style, the interiors seem pretty nice:

Check out the blog dedicated to HDB Interiors: http://hdb-interiors.tumblr.com/

Check out the blog dedicated to HDB Interiors: http://hdb-interiors.tumblr.com/

TL;DR:

Nearly all new housing in Singapore is built by the government and sold via a lottery system. The vast majority of the private housing market really just consists of the resale of homes from first-time homebuyers. This allows the homeowner to “cash-out” with the resultant appreciation after 5 years if they’d like, and pay back into the housing fund via the resale levy. And there is no cap on resale limits, which are often double or triple the original purchase price. A couple hundred g’s would be quite a nice way to start off life for a young couple.

It’s a trickle-up housing model with a heap of social-engineering tossed in, too.

I’m not sure a lot of the requirements or lottery-priorities would fly here in the US (I’m not sure some are even legal according to Fair Housing laws), but there are some interesting ideas to be found. I also recognize Singapore still has some inequalities (and huge amounts of restrictions on personal freedoms) in their so-called millionaires’ island, but they may have some fruitful affordable housing advice to bestow on New York City’s policy-makers.

 

 

*Being fully aware of programs like Mitchell-Lama and Nehemiah, which are similar but don’t come close to Singapore’s development scale and government mandate.
 

DISTRIBUTED ENERGY AND DISASTER RESILIENCY

Lower Manhattan without power after Hurricane Sandy. Photo by TenSafeFrogs/flickr/CC-BY-2.0

By the end of November 2012, New York City’s Department of Buildings “red-tagged”, or rapidly assessed, over 870 buildings as being unsafe due to the impacts of Hurricane Sandy. Out of these, only five were taller than 50’ and only nine were less than 10 years old (only one building, located in Staten Island and constructed in 2009, was built after the DoB’s 2008 building code update).

Bigger and newer fared much better.

Of course there were thousands of more buildings that need major renovations, and possibly tens of thousands of residents and businesses will be displaced for long periods of time. However, the biggest impact was not building destruction,

The triangle pattern is a common chart pattern that is used by traders. The triangle vertex is the pivotal point when there is a battle between the bulls and the bears. This makes it very attractive for the traders to trade in. The common triangle patterns, discover more here, are symmetric, ascending and descending patterns.

but the failure of certain pieces of infrastructure: electricity, heat, water, and transit.

Historically, energy has always been dispersed, or more precisely, it was both produced and consumed in close proximity to one another. Gas became king by the early 1800’s when large gasifiers began replacing at-home generators due to economies of scale: municipal gas became the first centralized energy system. Electricity, which was less dangerous than gas, soon followed and utilized the same model of large production and municipal distribution.

By the 1920’s, electric producers and consumers were sharing electricity across regions. The producers got larger, the environmental impacts expanded in scale, and production continued to move further away from the lungs (and minds) of consumers. Electricity producers rejoiced in reduced brown- and black-outs, they increased their customer base, and created protected markets, and consumers enjoyed some reduced costs. But as New York City residents can attest, especially after Hurricane Sandy, the system is not perfect.

Disasters have a pesky way of revealing our systems’ weak points.

NYCHA’s Red Hook Houses were without power or heat for 2 weeks after Hurricane Sandy

As New York City begins to rebuild, and as building codes, standards, and materials steadily improve and adapt to new hazards, it is likely that newer buildings will act as a sort of “safe island” amid a sea of tumultuous hazards, as became evident after Hurricane Sandy. Our buildings may be safe islands someday soon, but how do they connect (or reconnect) once the worst is over? Perhaps our attention should be focused on infrastructure adaptation and resiliency. The answer?

Distributed Energy!

Capstone Microturbines are used for cogeneration, resource recovery, distributed power generation, and for electric vehicles. Can be scaled between 30kW to 10MW. Image via Capstone Microturbines.

Distributed energy is a throwback to the days of yore, when power was small, modular, and produced energy near where it was consumed. Today, we have wind turbines, solar power, and fuel cells added to our pantry of energy producers, which makes localized energy creation that much easier and safer.

And power generation is just a part of a larger distributed energy network. It also includes reuse of energy creation byproducts like heat, a smart grid for distribution, and improved energy efficiency of our built environment.

A phosphoric acid fuel cell: the fuel processor re-forms natural gas into hydrogen gas, which is fed into the fuel cell stack. In the stack, hydrogen gas and air are combined in an electrochemical process that produces direct current (DC) power, water, and heat. The byproduct water is used in the operation of a power plant. The byproduct heat is available for meeting other requirements in the facility, such as creating hot water, space heating, or cooling. The DC power provided by the fuel cell stack is conditioned to provide alternating current (AC) power output. Image vie Green Manufacturer and UTC Power.

Distributed energy and related Customer-owned Utilities concepts, when connected to a larger electric grid of a municipality, can help meet peak demands, reducing brown-outs and black-outs, can help provide backup power during outages, and can be more resilient to disasters by dispersing production (not putting all your eggs in one basket).

They could also help encourage more sustainable use of energy by encouraging renewable energy production, reducing transmission-line redundancy and waste (almost 10% of all energy produced is lost on transmission lines) and providing charging stations to electric vehicles.

So what could a distributed energy system look like?

Let’s start with municipal buildings. Plop a 1.4 MW fuel cell in every school parking lot (there are about 1,700 schools in NYC) and you can generate over 2,300 megawatts. That’s enough power for more than 2 million (average American) homes! Not only is there almost zero emissions produced, but the heat byproducts can be used for steam, hot water, and chilled water for local businesses and homes.

1.4 mw Fuel Cell dimensions. Diagram via Fuel Cell Energy Corp.

While natural gas is not necessarily a clean or renewable resource, we have an opportunity to produce much of it within New York City’s bounds with tools such as anaerobic biodigesters:

This biodigester produces 1.6MW of energy from cow manure. Photo via USDA

Each Industrial Business Zone (IBZ) could allocate a percentage of space for biofuel and biodigester development, on existing City-owned land or in existing EDC incubator space. The IBZ ombudsmen, SBS, and NYC EDC could develop partnerships with local Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) to funnel business waste to the biodigester micro-plants.

Of course municipal infrastructure such as lighting and security cameras should come off the grid with no problem. The Navy Yard installed 90 Lumi-Solair light posts in 2009 which are saving tens of thousands of dollars in electricity bills, plus the original cost of connecting them to the grid.

Lumi-Solair lighting, which costs approximately $10,000 per unit, requires no infrastructure build out and is basically “set it and forget it”.

And then of course, we have the more traditional photo-voltaic panels, solar hot-water heaters, and micro-wind turbines which can be applied ubiquitously on multitudes of private and public properties.

With the options available to us today, and the scales and prices at which we can implement distributed energy, it is somewhat surprising that we can still be impacted by larger disasters and regional power shortages.

Creative Class Controvery

What happens when a university, which emphasizes active citizenship and creativity, ironically destroys creative space behind closed doors? It’s not the same as when a university takes over a transportation hub, or when a university takes over a neighborhood — be it in Boston or New York. No, this is a catch-22 expansion into the domain of the creative class.

Two years ago, an urban planning student organization at my school, which I had co-founded earlier that year, found out that a nearby Tufts-owned warehouse, full of artisans, was going to be renovated. The artisans were to be evicted within the next few months. So, we proceeded to explore the space, meet with artisans, and try to understand the complex, contradictory, and confusing situation. We conducted IRB/CITI reviewed research, and we began to comprehend the social, economic, political, and physical dimensions of 574 Boston Avenue.

CITI stands for Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative. This program is dedicated to promote the trust of the common people, the trust in enterprises like research. They promote trust by providing the following things:
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Tufts Daily article (April 2013):

University plans to remake a Tufts-owned building at 574 Boston Ave. into teaching and office space will result in the May 31 eviction of its current residents, a community of artisans who have run their businesses there for over two decades.

Tenants on Nov. 30 received a notice from Walnut Hill Properties, Tufts’ non-academic property manager, which gave them six months to move out, according to a Feb. 4 Boston Occupier article.

“Tufts has been considering the best use for 574 Boston Avenue for several years, as the university’s need for space has been increasing,” Director of Public Relations Kim Thurler told the Daily in an email. “We will be working closely with the city and the local community as we move forward and expect to meet with the neighborhood as our plans develop further and we are closer to applying for a building permit.”

For the artisans, eviction means the demise of a large community of woodworkers, instrument makers, metalworkers and other artists who have made a home out of the four-story, 96,000 square-foot building.

John Brown, Paula Garbarino and Chris Keller (A ’76), woodworkers who design and build custom cabinets and furniture from the building, said they are frustrated at the loss of this communal workspace.

“There’s a big brain trust in that building, and it’s all going away,” Brown told the Daily. “We all can’t move to the same location because that building, that 574 Boston Ave., doesn’t exist anywhere in the area, and boy, have we looked for it.”

The building fostered a vibrant community of artisans who have shared ideas there for decades, Garbarino said.

“It is lovely to be able to go to work in your own greater neighborhood, to go to work in a place with light and air and fabulous neighbors who can give you advice and help you out,” Garbarino told the Daily. “I really value the greater community of people in that building.”

The artisans occupied the building on a month-to-month basis since all leases expired several years ago, Thurler said. Tufts has informed tenants about their intentions to renovate the building for many years.

Although the university did make the artists aware of its future plans, Keller said Walnut Hill was ambiguous about the situation until the artisans received the letter in November.

“There had been rumors floating around for at least a decade,” Keller told the Daily. “We all knew that eventually Tufts would want to do something else with the building – or we assumed they would.”

The university has been working to facilitate this move for those affected by the eviction, Thurler said.

“We have provided tenants with contact information for local commercial brokers who are well-qualified to provide relocation advice and assistance,” she said.

Despite university efforts, Garbarino said that many artisans have not found adequate spaces to relocate. For example, she has looked at 16 buildings but has not found a comparable place to 574 Boston Ave.

“When you go look at other commercial space and it’s all metal buildings with no windows and a cement slab to work on, it’s not the same – it’s not at all conducive to creative spirit,” Keller said.

Student group Urban Policy, Planning and Prosperity (UP3) is trying to help the community of artisans, freshman and member of UP3 Dirayati Djaya said.

“It’s been absolutely really shady,” Djaya said. “I think that was my biggest concern about the whole situation. The Tufts administration was socially distancing themselves from the tenants that have been there for 20 years.”

UP3 members have been meeting with the artisans and exploring the space every Friday for the past month, according to Djaya. She launched a blog to preserve the memory of the tenants, whom she said were never properly acknowledged.

“As an urban planning group, we are really fascinated by the architecture,” Djaya said. “I’ve been taking pictures, documenting the space, just interviewing [the artisans] and keeping track of all the data.”

Artisans’ opportunities to make themselves known to the Tufts community had been limited by a rule against holding open studios in the building, Garbarino said.

“There’s that kind of way to connect with your community so that they know you’re there and they learn to respect you and appreciate you and value you,” she said. “[We] are a kind of dying breed of people that are makers who are not assembling pre-formed parts in that sort of mindless way that is left to manufacturers worldwide now.”

These artisans lived and worked in an organic social, economic, political, and physical environment. The open-door space incentivized creativity, akin to Building 20 at MIT.

JB1 JB2 JB3

John Brown’s Space (Above 3 Images: Dira Djaya, UP3 President ’13-’14) @ 574

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Paula Garbarino‘s Space (Above 3 Images: Dira Djaya, UP3 President ’13-’14) @ 574

These are undoubtedly talented individuals, but they were also a collective spirit, and they’re now scattered around the region. Even if some could find new places to work with adequate lighting, those spaces were typically further and further away from home, and of course, from longtime friends and colleagues. This was a neighborhood within a neighborhood, evicted and shattered into pieces. Woodworkers, bicycle mechanics, sign makers, all gone…

Nevertheless, in theory, I support Tufts’ renovation. The university will be using the space wisely, and will be creating jobs in the process. They owned the building, and they decided to renovate it. For decades, artisans used the relatively cheap space, and now, it will be transformed for the 21st century. However, the 21st century deserves a better transformation.

There is absolutely no recognition of the artisans on the official redevelopment website, and I’m concerned that few (if any) will know the “true” story of 574 once this building has been renovated. I think it is important for people to know about the people who called 574 home.

This is the purpose of this article.

As such, I wrote to Tufts. Here’s the relevant part of my message:

…Don’t you think that it’s odd that the Tufts community seems to know very little about the lovely people who used to work at 574? Why is Tufts not mentioning anything at all about the people who lived in the space, if the school prides itself on active citizenship?

…I just wanted you to know that it was a magical place with extremely talented, warm, and welcoming people. Everyone was building something cool and the informal spaces were so fascinating to explore. It was a mysterious secret that was within blocks from our campus, and I think it’s a tremendous loss that they had to go entirely, as they could have taught students quite a lot of skills. I also think it’s tremendously odd that 574’s history is being completely ignored.

Here is their response, excluding the non-relevant aspects of the message:

…The building was built just over 100 years ago in 1910-12.  Its’ location adjacent to transportation provided by the Boston & Maine Railroad, near the Harvard Street Bridge and along Boston Avenue, was formative.  Over the decades the property changed hands frequently with a variety of industrial uses including paper box manufacturing, wool scouring, and metallic fabrication.  When Tufts purchased the property in 1988 the building housed a firm named EM Decorating and other tenants.  Tufts purchase of the building at that time by Walnut Hill, our real estate corporation, was somewhat risky.  Walnut Hill Properties was formed 40 years ago to buy property for Tufts’ strategic purposes and to hold the properties in a self-sustaining manner until they would be needed. So for 25 years, until 2013, Tufts provided space at low cost to the artists, craftspeople and tradespeople that you recall. That community could not have flourished without Tufts’ support. When Tufts needed the building for its mission they were treated with respect and given assistance in relocation.

Your message highlights how an understanding of the past should inform our future, especially if that past includes a community that has emerged through co-location and the synergy of shared creative work.  Much of our thinking about 574 Boston Ave renovation, both in selecting the interdisciplinary academic groups that will occupy the building and the design of the architecture, is grounded in a desire to create a unique creative community that will contribute every day to our mission. These are:

  • Human Centered Engineering (including robotics labs and a usability lab that tests devices for human use)
  • Human Development, Health and Performance (a collaborative of Occupational Therapy and Child Development)
  • Physics and Astronomy

We have designed the building to have many places in which people can come together, including informal group meeting spaces, collaborative technology, a coffee kiosk, individual and group study spaces, and a reading room in addition to the seminar rooms, teaching labs, classrooms, research labs and offices. We expect 30+ faculty, up to 200 graduate students, post docs and staff, and hundreds of undergraduates to be in the building every day.

The architecture of the building is designed to recall the building’s history and to link that history to contemporary academic purposes. We have the preserved the original dimensions of the building; exposed, sandblasted and preserved the interior wood structure and preserved the dimensions and material organization of the envelope windows, concrete structure and panels. We are using metal and graphics that recall it’s industrial history. We are now exploring ways to incorporate innovations of the 21st century as artwork in the building, drawn from Tufts faculty.

In all, we believe that our current plan to reuse 574 Boston Ave honors its history and many generations of people who worked there.  It is an urban development project of a very special kind, thoughtfully crafted and adapted to its next purpose.

While writing a helpful and informative response, they nevertheless did not respond to my actual concern: recognizing the artisans who worked there. After all, if Tufts was to recognize them, then they’d have some power. People would take notice, and more than a few UP3 students would start to question the process being unfolded next to a future MBTA Green Line station.
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Here was my response:

…I am also excited about the redevelopment of 574 Boston Avenue, and I’m glad that Tufts has decided to preserve, protect, and enhance the building’s industrial architecture. Moreover, I agree that it’s important to recall the building’s history in order to inform Tufts’ future, and I’m thrilled to hear that the (in)formal design of 574 will help to catalyze collaborative interdisciplinary synergies. Hopefully, the unique and creative design will also help to produce excellent research for the 21st century and beyond.

Indeed, I am glad that we both agree about the importance of recognizing — and honoring – 574’s history. However, seeing as we both concur, I’m having trouble understanding why the artisans who worked there for 25 years are not being recognized in the physical space. I believe that fostering a unique and creative community — which we both clearly want for 574 — would be aided not only by recognizing 574’s architectural history, but also by recognizing 574’s human history.

You mentioned that Tufts is now exploring ways to integrate artwork into the building. Perhaps the artisans who worked there would also be interested in providing artwork, or perhaps photographs of the old space could be displayed? I think that this would be the ultimate way to honor 574’s history and the many generations of people who worked there. In fact, I will be writing an article on an urban planning website about the history of 574 Boston Avenue in order to assist in our goal of honoring the generations who’ve worked in the building.

What do you think about my place-making suggestions? I’d be honored to hear back from you.

What do you think? Couldn’t Tufts be doing more to recognize the amazing work that they’ve done? Maybe an exhibit in the space? Maybe some lectures for art students?
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Tufts is trying to “incorporate innovations of the century as artwork in the building, drawn from Tufts faculty”. Couldn’t they be incorporating the artwork that had been in the space, too?
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This is a historical building that Tufts has decided not to tear down, but it also should not be gutted of place-making context…
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20140904_154244 20140904_154203 20140904_154157  20140904_153931
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Above: My photos (September 2014) of 574 Boston Avenue
Below: “New Landscaped Park” @ 574 (SOURCE: Official redevelopment website)
574
According to the university, “exterior work is now largely complete at the renovated 574 Boston Avenue site, which will open next May as the new Collaborative Learning and Innovation Complex”, and that “work to extend the MBTA’s Green Line from Lechmere to Medford, with a stop at the intersection of Boston and College Avenues, is now underway at several locations”. Based upon my recent photographs above, this statement appears to be true. These changes will be exciting, to say the least, but it will nevertheless be important to remember the past…
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Even though 574 was scattered, a few lucky tenants have succeeded in finding relatively nearby spaces. In fact, Somerville, MA has been doing some work to preserve spaces for artists; Joy Street Studios and Brickbottom Artists are two examples of remaining locations. Many others have successfully moved to other warehouses along the Amtrak Downeaster railroad tracks, which will soon partly support the Green Line Extension. Most do not hold anything against Tufts (and neither do I); after all, it was owned by the University, and the University provided relatively cheap studio space for decades. But nevertheless, perhaps Tufts should, at the very least, preserve the memory of this space…
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In the end, why should Tufts care about preserving the memory of 574 Boston Avenue? Besides the fact that Tufts has actually stated that they’re interested in preserving the memory of the warehouse, I think it’s also important for Tufts to practice what it preaches: active citizenship vis-a-vis good design and good planning. All around the world, countless projects are being completed, but not comprehended or contextualized, even though they will become part of larger urban ecosystems. I have higher expectations for Tufts, and so should my fellow students.
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What do you think? Idealistic? Pragmatic? A good compromise? Help us to recognize the artisans by contacting Tufts at the 574 redevelopment website, and/or by contacting Tufts via T10 Strategic Planning, which is the long-term comprehensive plan for the university. T10 includes the redevelopment of 574 Boston Avenue, alongside countless other exciting initiatives. Hopefully, T10 will also recognize these artisans, and, more generally, acknowledge the history of our spaces and places.
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Updates, if available, will be provided in the comments below…
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Rayn Riel is a student at Tufts University studying international urban development, his self-crafted major. Interested in transportation, he is the founder of Tufts’ only undergraduate urban development student organization and was an intern at the NYC Department of City Planning (DCP). Rayn is interested in how smart transportation planning (and in particular, in how powers, identities, ideologies, and transportation hubs) can transform cities and communities socially, economically, politically, environmentally, and of course, physically. He’s also interested in how it all depends on a city’s comparative context, and on whether or not we’re “transporting transportation“, or translating (in)formal best practices.
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This piece is based upon IRB/CITI reviewed UP3 research. Anonymous artisans that did not wish to be recognized due to personal reasons were not mentioned in this post.

The MTA’s Missed Opportunity

Long Islanders cheered Andrew Cuomo when he intervened in the recent dispute between the MTA and LIRR workers, who had threatened a strike over demands for wage increases. When negotiations stalled between the LIRR, which had demanded a 14% raise over six years, and the MTA, whose offer to spread the same raise over seven years the LIRR refused, Cuomo decided to force the MTA’s hand and mandate a 14% raise over 6.5 years.

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This solution will win Cuomo some election-year gratitude from Long Islanders, and it may seem to be an reasonable compromise. It is not. The LIRR, workers and management alike, has routinely demanded far more than it deserves from the public while delivering subpar service in return. An LIRR strike would have offered the first chance in possibly decades to fix the LIRR, unburden the MTA of supporting a corrupt department, and give Long Island the efficient, inexpensive rail service that it needs. The compromise is a bad deal for the MTA, for Long Island, and for the entire public.

Implicit in the LIRR’s demands about cost-of-living increases was a statement that an LIRR salary was insufficient to support a household. This statement does not withstand scrutiny. LIRR workers are already well compensated even in base salary. A New York Times report from 2010 reported that one train engineer earned $75,000 in base pay alone, already well above the US median.

This does not address the many ways—some of them illegal, some of them merely rent-seeking and unbecoming a public servant—in which LIRR can supplement their paychecks. The MTA is hampered by the LIRR’s archaic and often absurd work rules, of which this is only a sampling:

  • LIRR workers who operate both an electric and a diesel train in the same day – even if only to move it a few hundred feet – are entitled to an extra day’s “penalty pay.”  This produces operational nightmares: for instance, the MTA must often keep redundant engineers idle, often on overtime, just in case an electric train needs to be moved and the only other available crew members have already worked with diesel trains. If this was ever justified on the grounds that diesel and electric trains require different skills, it certainly is justified no more: the LIRR uses a certain GE locomotive in both diesel and dual-mode diesel/electric versions; the dual-mode locomotive counts as electric for this work rule, even though it and the pure diesel version have almost identical controls.
  • Engineers and conductors receive double their usual hourly pay for operating trains other than their regularly assigned one, even on the same line with the same equipment. This means, for example, that if the crew of a delayed inbound train is scheduled to take over an outbound train, LIRR dispatchers face an unappealing choice behind delaying the outbound train as well and paying a different crew double to take the train out on time.
  • Because of inefficiencies in crew scheduling, many LIRR workers are actually scheduled for time-and-a-half overtime every day; this (instead of unpaid overtime resulting from, say, service disruptions) comprises half of the LIRR’s overtime payments.
A DE30AC dual-mode diesel/electric locomotive, built for the LIRR by GE. An LIRR driver who operates one of these locomotives and the DE30MC diesel-only version, which has identical controls, is entitled to an extra day’s pay, a legacy of work rules negotiated decades ago for antiquated equipment. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

And needless to say, there is the recent scandal in which massive numbers of LIRR retirees collected fraudulent disability benefits, about which enough has already been said.

And for paying these premium prices to the LIRR, does the MTA get premium service? Not quite. Commuter rail in the United States is generally much less efficient than European commuter rail systems, which run better trains with fewer employees on board. But even by American standards, the LIRR is strikingly inefficient. The LIRR received an operating budget of $1.8 billion in 2013, compared to Metro-North’s $1.4 billion. Despite this, the LIRR carried slightly fewer passengers than Metro-North, 81.8 million compared to 83.0 million, and charges substantially higher fares—for example, a monthly ticket from Grand Central to Stamford costs $307, while a monthly ticket from Penn Station to Ronkonkoma, a station of similar importance and distance from Manhattan, costs $363.

And this does not even begin to discuss the intransigent and obstreperous management, who are proud of their status as the world’s oldest railroad still operating under its original name, and thus notoriously loath to change their ways and cooperate with anyone. An MTA plan to run more Metro-North trains to Penn Station along a segment of tracks currently monopolized by the LIRR encountered fierce criticism by Long Island residents, and the LIRR’s former president Helena Williams, who insisted that the LIRR “owns” the tracks into Penn Station—never mind that they were paid for and maintained by public money from the whole metropolitan area. The ongoing East Side Access project, building a connection from the LIRR tracks to Grand Central, is estimated at more than $6 billion per mile: twice as expensive as Second Avenue Subway, and ten or more times average construction costs for the first world. Most of the expense in the project comes from the excavation of a new sub-basement terminal underneath Grand Central for the LIRR’s exclusive use. Grand Central has the most tracks of any train station in the world, yet is far from the busiest; certainly there would be space for LIRR trains in the existing station, but this would have required cooperation between Metro-North and the LIRR. The result: a piece of useless infrastructure that costs New Yorkers billions.

Construction of the new Grand Central sub-basement station for LIRR; the amount of deep-level excavation required makes East Side Access the most expensive rail project per mile in the world. With better cooperation between the LIRR and Metro-North, several billion dollars could have been saved by making better use of the existing Grand Central tracks instead. (Image: MTA)

The LIRR needs to be fixed. Its overpriced workers and overbuilt infrastructure have cost the city dearly, and the strike settlement will only worsen this. Some of the money for the LIRR’s raises will come from additional taxes and debt, to be paid by New York’s clerks, electricians, chefs, and workers in thousands of other professions that do not make top-quintile salaries for subpar work and have not defrauded public agencies of millions in disability benefits. Some of it will come from worsening service for people elsewhere—the MTA has already announced cuts to its capital plan, which funds badly needed projects such as the Second Avenue Subway, to pay for the settlement. And some of it will probably come from raising ticket prices even higher, squeezing Long Island commuters and strangling the economy of the whole region.

Looking even further ahead, any serious planning of new rail transportation needs to consider the needs of the region as a whole. Following best practices in Europe, this should include cutting LIRR fares within the boroughs to subway levels and bringing the LIRR and subway under the same payment system. It is also common outside the US to run commuter trains through downtown stations instead of having them stop and reverse direction. (This is how the NYC subway works, as well: no one would propose splitting the 2 into a line from the Bronx to Penn Station and a separate line from Penn Station to Queens, requiring anyone traveling from one side of 34th Street to the other to transfer.) Through-running improves operational efficiency, lets people take jobs on the opposite side of Midtown from their houses without a transfer, and the most expensive piece of required infrastructure—tunnels through Penn Station from New Jersey to Long Island—already exists and is used by Amtrak every day. Through-running would be possible for the small cost of re-electrifying some of the LIRR lines with the overhead wires used in New Jersey, feasible for $3 million per mile and a year or two of construction work. But it is hard to see how any of this could work without the LIRR changing its current get-off-my-lawn approach to cooperation. Even today, the Penn Station ticket machines cannot vend both NJ Transit and LIRR tickets, even though they could with a small amount of reprogramming.

The strike could have provided an avenue to fix a few of these problems. At minimum, the MTA could have required a complete modernization of the LIRR’s work rules—scrapping co-mingling and the other penalty fees, for example—as the price for LIRR employees to be let back on the job. If they had refused, the MTA could have hired replacements from more competent commuter railroads, used to working under reasonable rules. A strike would certainly have been painful to Long Island, but not for long: with the fares that the LIRR charges, most of its riders are affluent enough to find other forms of transportation for a few weeks. And the end result would be a more efficient and more modern LIRR that consumed less of the city’s resources and delivered better service on top of that.

Unfortunately, Cuomo’s actions stopped any chance of that. This is a victory for the LIRR, who will get a good-sized raise and keep their comfortably archaic work rules; it is a loss for the MTA, for Long Island, and for everyone who lives or works in NYC.

Connor Harris is a Junior at Harvard University studying math and physics. He is also interested in transportation planning, and serves as President of the Transportation and Urban Planning Society. He can be reached at connorharris@college.harvard.edu