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Gov. Cuomo’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative Helps Long Island Residents

For the fourth year in a row, communities all over the state of New York have been submitting applications for grants through a program helmed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, aimed at updating and improving downtown areas to boost local economies. While sources report that applications are down from the previous year (dropping to 94 from 105), among those applicants are 17 downtown areas on Long Island, down from a record 23 applications the year before. That’s 30 communities so far that have benefitted from a much-needed economic boost, with another 10 soon to join them, with promising projects for those in the construction business to follow.

What Is the Downtown Revitalization Initiative?

Cuomo unveiled the DRI in 2016, proposing a program that would stimulate downtown areas across the state. Its aim would ultimately be to invest in grants (this year, $100 million) that are split between each of New York’s ten regions. This year, the total in grants to be offered is $100 million, adding up to $10 million per recommended application. Recommendations will come down from each of the state’s Regional Economic Development Councils (REDCs). This year, the due date for final recommendation is July 12.

 

All 10 of New York’s REDCs have nominated their applicants based on several factors that determine the downtown area’s “potential for transformation” including:

 

  • How compact the downtown area is;
  • Potential for future job growth;
  • Location with regard to housing areas; and
  • Their proposed strategy for development.

What Does Downtown Revitalization Mean for Jobs?

Part of Gov. Cuomo’s aim in the initiative is to reawaken urban centers that need it. It means taking disused, historic buildings and repurposing them for both residential and commercial use—even a mix of the two, in some cases. It’s about turning these places into bustling city centers where people want to live, work, and entertain themselves. Depending upon the community, this could call for:

 

  • Updating pavement, walking areas, and green spaces;
  • Updating roads to improve the flow of traffic; and
  • Renovating existing structures for active use by businesses and residents.

 

The possibility of building wholly new structures might not be in the cards. However, in a community chosen for one of these grants, every job that a tradesperson could fill may be called for—in the next year. These projects are ongoing; for instance, Downtown Central Islip, the LI recipient of a 2018 DRI grant, only held their final community workshop on their plan of action back in March.

What Are Communities Doing with Their Grants?

Each community that seeks a nomination must include in their application what they plan to do with the grant. In this way, we can see where that money goes and what potential projects this could create in their proposals and what recipients have done since the DRI’s inception in 2016. For example:

 

  • The village of Westbury was the first Long Island community to receive the grant. Among their proposed projects included transit-oriented, rezoning near the LIRR Station, improving and updating their recreation center, updates to their roadways and pedestrian areas, and installing a permanent space for arts and events.
  • New Rochelle, Westchester County recipient in round three, included plans to create accessible improvements on existing park spaces, bolster mixed-income residential areas to provide housing at multiple levels of affordability, and develop more mixed-use spaces to seamlessly blend residential, commercial, and community spaces for easy access.
  • Rockville Centre, one of this year’s applicants, is proposing the installation of a new bike bath (including lockers for storing bikes and gear), new green spaces, a teen recreation center, and needed updates and improvements on local infrastructure.

 

Statewide grants help improve the quality of life for its residents. From infrastructure improvements to more streetlights, the small changes to each part of the state help. Receiving a grant helps offset the costs for the community as well, and enables construction companies to help more communities improve.

South Jersey Sees Big Things For the Future

At last week’s Southern New Jersey Development Council Construction (SNJDC) Forecast, council president Marlene Asselta said she is hopeful about economic development for the area in the near future, according to NJTV News. She called South Jersey an “awakening giant.”

At the event, the redevelopment of the former Echelon Mall in Voorhees Township was discussed, and a call was put out to engineers, planners, and developers for what the township hopes will become an entertainment destination. The first floor of the former mall could even become a culinary arts center.

But Voorhees wasn’t the only place with big plans.

In Burlington, there is talk of a mixed-use development project around the Delaware River. It would have retail, restaurants, a hotel, and maybe a water park on the property of the old McNeal Mansion and U.S. Pipe in Burlington City.

When it comes to stimulation spending, libraries in the area could get in on the coming building boon too. Thanks to the Libraries Construction Bond Act, money could go for new construction or renovations, according to the state librarian.

While all of New Jersey is hoping for construction that brings new choices for retail and entertainment across the state, the SNJDC believes South Jersey will be the Garden State’s place to develop and build in the next few years.

 

The Final Leg of Floating Manhattan Oasis, The High Line, Opens to the Public

In June of 2019, Manhattan’s West Side saw the completion of the work of 10 long years, incorporating architecture with more than 150 years of history. It was a sunny day for Manhattan on the 5th, and to elevated applause and fanfare, the High Line opened the Spur, the third and final leg of its original construction plans, and this unique parks project has at last taken full form.

The High Line—A Vestige of Old Industrial New York, Transformed

The High Line’s history begins well before ground broke 10 years ago. The park itself sits atop the New York Central Railroad spur in the west side of Manhattan, once slated for demolition after the use of trains saw a steady decline in the 1980’s. In the late 1990’s, founders Robert Hammond and Joshua David spearheaded campaigns to save the structures and refit them for public use. Their vision was a bold one: An “unbroken,” elevated line spreading through 22 blocks of the city, “connecting three neighborhoods—the convention center area, West Chelsea[,] and the Meatpacking District,” transformed into a floating park with trees, grass, and flowers, reminiscent of the Promenade Plantée in Paris.

Once approved, its redesign came from the combined efforts of:

  • Landscape Architect James Corner as the project lead;
  • Diller Scofidio + Renfro, a design firm known for incorporating visual and performing arts with architecture; and
  • Dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf.

This collaboration pulled in the artistry of multiple disciplines to create a unique and environmentally friendly addition to Manhattan’s diverse map. With its completion, we see the New York City landscape take another confident step into the future with entertainment and architecture that is current, green, and authentically Manhattan in flavor.

What Makes the High Line Different from Other Parks?

The High Line is an unusual way to experience the Manhattan skyline for visitors, from a vantage point that citizens and visitors alike lost access to when the trains stopped running in the 1980’s. It features:

  • An elevated park and rail trail, stretching the length of the old New York Central Railroad spur;
  • A man-made greenway, which is urban land deliberately left undeveloped to preserve recreation space and the environment;
  • Pedestrian access via stairs, elevators, and escalators; and
  • With the completion of the Spur, space for art installations.

The Unique Features of the Spur

The Spur was built in two parts, with part one seeing completion in 2014, but its final section has been awaited with anticipation. This part of the park features the High Line’s characteristic urban garden aesthetic with several additions that make it a stand-out addition to the park and the cherry on top of the sundae:

  • It boasts the largest gardens of all three sections currently open.
  • Its Coach Passage features 60-ft cathedral ceilings, where the Spur connects to Hudson Yards, the most extensive private real estate development in the country.
  • The Piazza features “panoramic views” of the lengths of 10th Avenue and 30th street.
  • Finally, the Plinth will be a space for showcasing new art, scheduled to rotate every 18 months and will first feature Simone Leigh’s Brick House, according to the High Line’s blog.

 

New Report Ranks Flood-Prone Hoboken As 2nd U.S. City To Be Underwater by 2100

In a special report analyzing data from a 2018 study, 24/7 Wall Street named the top 35 U.S. cities that could be underwater by the turn of the century. Of those 35, nine were in New Jersey with Hoboken coming in No. 2 on the list.

According to the 24/7 Wall Street, nearly 30 percent of Hoboken’s population with homes is at risk of flooding by 2060 and nearly 50 percent of habitable land will be underwater by then. By 2100, 44 percent of Hoboken’s homes will be at risk of flooding and 71 percent of habitable land will be underwater.

But the mayor of Hoboken pushed back on the report, according to News12 NJ, saying that it didn’t take into account the Rebuild by Design project and initiatives the city has planned and has already put in place to fight the city’s history of flooding, including pumps, resiliency parks and underground retention tanks.

Miami Beach, FL, was No. 1 on the list. The other NJ cities are: Atlantic City (3), Ocean City (12), Ventnor City (16), Pennsville (24), Little Ferry (26), Brigantine (29), Margate City (32) and Secaucus (35).

24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from “Underwater,” published June 2018 by Cambridge, Massachusetts-based environmental watchdog group the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). That study identified U.S. coastal communities where the largest number of residents live in properties that are projected to face by 2060 the highest level of chronic and disruptive flooding, or effective inundation—defined as being at risk of flooding 26 times or more per year. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the number of properties and total value of properties that are exposed to flood risk based on a “high” scenario calculated by the Union for Concerned Scientists.

“Cities and institutions can mitigate flood damage by implementing wetlands, levees, and other mechanisms, and many of the cities on this list have taken steps to implement these measures,” 24/7 Wall Street said. “It is important to note that the estimates published by the UCS do not take into account the mitigating effects of such mechanisms.”

NY Seeks to Reduce Bird-Collision Deaths Through Evolving Construction Standards

Every year, the movement patterns of migratory birds bring scores of our avian friends through the New York City metropolitan area, one of their many northern stops as they traverse what U.S. Fish and Wildlife refers to as The Atlantic Flyway. This does not lead to a mere uptick in sightings for birdwatchers, however. NYC sees anywhere from 90-200k bird fatalities each year that come directly from a single source: colliding with windows on high-rise buildings.

This phenomenon adds up to nearly one billion bird deaths nationwide every year. Here at home, politicians are creating legislative bodies to curb bird deaths happening in their neck of the woods. One major method under discussion is the use of bird-safe glass in new construction. While there is an additional cost to building with this glass, analysts suggest that reduced energy costs and maintenance related to collisions can help to make up the difference.

What Is the Bird-Friendly Building Council Act?

In May 2019, New York’s Senate passed Bill S25A, which establishes a 15-person Bird-Friendly Building Council. The council is to consist of:

  • A diverse membership of “wildlife conservation organizations, state and federal wildlife agencies, architects, landscape architects, window manufacturers and distributors, commercial building managers, and academia.”
  • Representation for wildlife conservation organizations like “the American Bird Conservancy, New York City Audubon, New York State Audubon, and the Long Island Audubon Council.”
  • Representation for federal wildlife agencies like “the Division of Migratory Bird Management of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife.”

Its job will be to determine state-wide rules for new construction and renovation of older structures that suit its goals to curb bird collisions. They will also aim to identify and prioritize existing and upcoming projects that pose a greater danger, new and developing technologies to reduce crashes, funding for additional research toward sustainable, bird-friendly materials.

How Does Bird-Safe Glass Help?

Glass is not merely transparent to birds; instead, they see whatever is reflected in them, which means they are more likely to see the sky, treetops, and other things reflecting on the surface that are not there. They will fly into buildings expecting to keep going into the open sky, or to land somewhere that is not there. Building or renovating with Bird-safe glass helps to prevent this in several ways:

  • The use of an ultraviolet coating, silk screening or fritting breaks the window up into patterns visible to birds.
  • Spacing the use of these treatments or types of glass using the “2×4” rule warns birds away because what they see are spaces that are too small for them to fly through.

The cost of bird-safe glass usually only comes up to about a 5-percent cost difference between it and standard glass.

Is It Effective?

The Jacob Javits Convention Center is an essential and local example of these principles in action. Home to New York Build Expo, its 1.8 million square feet of space sees human visitors of all walks of life in droves every year. If you have been there in person, especially before its renovation project started in 2009, you may also remember a facade made almost entirely of windows and reflective surfaces.

In part of its years-long project that added up to billions in updates and expansions, the Javits Center became a bird-friendly zone with:

  • Vegetation on the roof to create green space and break up reflective surfaces; and
  • Replacing thousands of windows with fritted windows. These have a pixelated pattern that is less reflective and easier for birds to detect.  

Along with reducing collision-related bird deaths by 90 percent, the renovations also contributed to a marked reduction in energy costs. Implemented and completed before recent legislative changes, it stands as a prime example of what a more eco and bird-friendly New York City could be.

Philly Set To Open Its “Yards”

As tourists head for Hudson Yards in New York City this summer, Philadelphia is ready to unveil the first part of what it hopes will eventually be a similar experience—the 14-acre, $3.5 billion West Philadelphia renovation dubbed Schuylkill Yards.

The first of the four projects that will make up Schuykill Yards will open in June. Drexel Square is a 1.3 acre park located across from the 30th Street Station. The space is part of approximately six acres of the project that has been reserved for public space. Drexel Square has been described as the lynchpin of the project and overall vision for the area.

“Some people think you put a big tall building here right outside the train station,” developer Brandywine Realty Trust’s chief executive Gerard H. Sweeney told the New York Times in 2018. “But you’ve got to create a platform for excellence, and the way you do that is you invest in public space. You create a place where people want to be.”

The City of Brotherly Love’s Yards won’t have the size and sparkle of Manhattan’s version, but developers hope to create its own Philadelphia-specific experience, something that doesn’t feel corporate or created but more like a neighborhood that came about organically.

The 14 acres of Schuykill Yards sit between 30th Street Station and Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania and will take 15 to 20 years to finish development of the entire area. It is all part of an attempt to pull together Philadelphia’s Center City district with University City and all of the business, research, and residential development in the area to form a singular downtown, according to the philly.com.

After Drexel Square, the next phase of the project is the renovation of a former newspaper building that borders the eastern edge of Drexel Square. Architects plan to keep the 50s industrial structure as they give it a modern makeover, according to the philly.com article.

Finally this winter, developers are scheduled to break ground on two towers—a more than 770,000-square-foot office building and a mixed use building next door that will have 344 apartments plus 200,000-squre-feet of office space.

The end result will 6.9 million square feet of office, lab, residential, and green space, a coming together of the business, retail, academic, commuter, and residential worlds. And another city Yards, just 90 miles south.

American Dream Delayed Again, But Birds and Bunnies Are Coming

What’s a few more months when a project is being measured in decades?

The American Dream takes patience. After many years of previous delays, developers of the mega mall at the Meadowlands have announced yet another one.

The retail and entertainment complex won’t open its doors this summer, as it was announced in March. Instead, this week, developer Triple Five said there would be another delay on the long-stalled project. It is now scheduled to open in the fall. Or at least portions of it is scheduled to open this fall, according to NJ.com.

Some new features in the controversial three-million-square-foot site include:

  • Six grand atriums, including one that will have a garden, aviaries and bunny fields.
  • More than 75,000 LED lights and 25,000 leaves that will create “Albero dei Sogni,” a tree-like sculpture that will “perform” to music several times a day.
  • A 60-foot fashion fountain that can be turned into a catwalk in a matter of seconds.
  • A 60-foot atrium will be an entertainment hub for live events and social gatherings.

First Rest Stop Renovation To Be Ready for Memorial Day Weekend; Many More To Come

It’s almost Memorial Day, which means people are getting ready to go down the Shore. They might be dreading the traffic, but there will be a shiny, new spot to stop for those heading to Exit 100 or points further south on the Garden State Parkway.

Just in time for the unofficial start of summer, the new Monmouth service area will be fully operational by Memorial Day, according to the Asbury Park Press. The Sunoco fuel pumps at the area are already operational with the main building scheduled to open within the next week. HMS Host spent about $11.5 million on the facility.

The Monmouth service area location was the first Parkway rest stop to be rebuilt as part a $250 million plan to replace or remodel 16 service areas on the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway.

According to NJ.com, the Thomas Edison rest stop in Woodbridge is the first of the Turnpike facility to be redone. The 16 locations won’t all be complete until 2024.

HMS Host will replace eight service stops on the Turnpike and Parkway and remodel six others, while Sunoco will invest in fuel services and convenience stores at 21 sites, according to the Asbury Park Press story.

Newark Airport ConRAC Gets Funding, Prepares To Break Ground

There is movement on the new 2.7 million-square-foot consolidated rent-a-car facility (ConRAC) at Newark Airport, as $500 million in financing as been approved for the project.

The building, which will put all rent-a-car companies under one roof as part of Newark Liberty Airport’s Terminal One Redevelopment Program, will be constructed on a 16.65-acre site and feature 2,925 public parking spaces and 3,380 rental car spaces, according to airport-technology.com.

The project, which includes sustainability initiatives including a solar roof, electric vehicle charging stations and water reclamation systems, is expected to break ground this month. The parking area is to be completed in 2021, and the full facility is expected to be operational in 2023.

Executive Order Could Restart Constitution Pipeline, Other Projects

The Constitution Pipeline, a 125-mile project that would transport natural gas from Pennsylvania throughout the Northeast, has been in limbo since 2016 when the state of New York blocked it through the Clean Water Act. But in April, President Trump signed an executive order aimed at keeping states from being able to halt pipelines and other energy infrastructure projects for environmental reasons. The order could change the fate of the Constitution Pipeline and other projects around the country.

Under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act, companies must obtain certifications from the state before they can build federally-approved infrastructure, like pipelines, within that state’s borders, according to CNBC.com, which further explained that states can refuse to issue the certifications if they determine the project will have a negative impact on water quality within their jurisdiction, even if the project has gotten the green light from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Trump’s executive order would change the rules surrounding that section of the Clean Water Act and having the Environmental Protection Agency issue new permitting guidance to states.

The order has refueled the debate about this project and others, according to The Daily Star.