Planning Together: Part V

The Wicked Problem Plan

Financial crises, health care, hunger, income disparity, obesity, poverty, terrorism, and sustainability are examples of wicked problems further complicated by climate change, biodiversity loss, persistent poverty, and food insecurity.  The difficulty is knowing how everything happens all at once and why everything is connected to everything else.  Wicked, right?  Maybe not, with a wicked problem plan for knowing how and why. To do that, we need a where.

Flushing, Queens

The planning process for dealing with wicked problems would simultaneously initiate three interdisciplinary actions. Evaluate community business visions, examine technical capabilities, and conduct a comprehensive assessment of community/user needs. If there is a match you have a plan.

If the geographic units for a constant data flow are clearly established (even as a sketch), it may be possible to fully understand the interdependencies and relationships that reasonably account for billions of interactions. Getting everything to the East of College Point Blvd. to focus on everything west of it with a vested interest provides the grist of a plan. The interest could range from open space access to job retention to affordable housing. It is easy to get resistance to change. In this case, the fight is to get a piece of the action.

The Flushing Creek environment as it stands now has astounding contradictions. The UHaul is readily available to move displaced families while the Assi Food and Households Goods Market is closed. The vitality of the UHaul appears to stay, while the market is to be replaced with housing and the unpromised possibility of retention within a new complex.

Permissible data points and technology sets the restraints for the capture and distribution of all the business interests. They can be gathered to determine the full effect of the standing Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP) as it attempts to alter the current zoning envelope.  These points can also be drawn out for data on a building-by-building basis on a vast set of variables. Of them all, what are the most relevant (see map below).

Another Brief but Interesting Digression

One other vital element too often forgotten is technology demands a continuous ability for experimental thinking. In other words, the process needs art. (See: Galileo). For example, if given an unchanged boundary and the prospect of extensive high-density locations, is it possible for a city’s total floor area to be unlimited and still retain a viable open space ratio? If the answer is an essential no or yes, would a rising sea matter?

Back to the Wicked Problem Plan

Extending access to information beyond a library or a laboratory to enrich life requires confidence in integrative disciplines. The tools needed to accomplish robust interdisciplinary methods must first discover the knowledge in people. In this case, the people of Flushing. A person represents the only place where the meaning of data can be found. The willingness of small specialized groups to deal with the world’s wicked problems at the local scale is strengthened with rapid communication systems. Where are they? Who are they? They now support a wealth of joint actions and, most notably, a shared understanding of the effort involved. The grist for a plan becomes known.

Urban forms are intentional operations that entangle all life. Human responsibility has moved from its single-center (the human in nature) to the duality of multiple centers numbering in billions of known interactions. The new centers are the ones from which gigantic numbers of small groups move toward and away simultaneously.  These two forces circle indefinite urbanized structures and their constructions. One force is moving to a center (a dot on a map for example), and another is pushed away – from wilderness to farm to lanai garden. This human force never recognizes the species made extinct to produce a sweet pear for consumption on a high-rise balcony. The centers are unfixed, always incomplete, yet capable of continuously producing observable results of continuous replacement.

OK, OK, put it this way the data set has been prepared. It awaits your use. The dots (centroids for GIS nerds) on this map represent place-based data. It can be enriched enormously for the empowerment of the people of Flushing. The data is tabla rasa, and it awaits purpose. Who will use it? Who knows how to use it? Find them, and you have a plan. Is there a MYSQL and GIS person available?

Observation of a meaningless or harmless intervention is now impossible.  Everything changes once an event is observed.  The big difference today is everything in urban development is intentional.  For example, we experience design most often in various symbolic and visual communications.  One of the more relevant communication documents relevant to this examination is the Generic Environmental Impact Statement that reviews many aspects of state and local EIS processes. (see pdf here). The context of a document such as this stands available for comparisons and critiques of impact.

Any course of action involving the manipulation and management of natural resources may result in altered conditions. The Flushing waterway, from natural estuary a half millennia in the past to the use of waterways for industrial use a century ago, to the attempt at naturalization in the future, can be construed as having adverse effects.

All action agendas have conflicting results. Thus, the mitigation argument demands an accommodation to what planners and developers know about the stewardship of natural resources that includes human life quality. There is no bounded rationale insurance.

We are surrounded by material objects that are products of a design process. We engage work and life through various activities expected by a long list of organized services designed to respond to people with complex systems and environments for living in a city made for play, work, and learning. The question for a planner serving a community that feels senses a threat what is the best way to get really close to it, smell, and taste the air it breaths?

A Wicked Plan is Better than a Comprehensive Plan

What is required is a double repositioning of the design problems associated with wicked problem planning in gaining participants within an interdisciplinary forum. The comprehensive plan idea pretends to mash them together, but it does not. The first presumption of planners and participants is that people will move into action based on information.  The opposite tends to be true far more often. People will likely engage in a recent analytical report based on their independent actions, leading to the empirical knowledge they can explain to others. Activity helps make additional information more absorbable, used, and understood as applicable to a current situation. In the day you are in now. The required steps are to move from the familiar and expected to new experiences leading to new data acceptance.  The data is always there, always waiting for reasons that will bring it to use. Once established, reciprocity is formed in the learning experience between residents and agents of change. The conflict will be there, but it can be worked through in the joy of actually building a better place for all of us to live.

Part VI – Planning Together (Is it Doublespeak?)

Planning Together: Part IV


A Story of Megadevelopment Impact

Zoning exists to help residents oppose change. It is a metaphor for our times. Here is a story from way back in the olden days– say the 1940s and 50s.  

A decade before WWII, an immigrant family came to the city and turned a small business idea into a large successful business within two generations. Equity was acquired in a few land purchases and expanded business locations.  The effort ensued with hardship and sacrifice, but it occurred routinely over the decades.

Small family groups like this began in places such as the Lower East Side in Manhattan. It continues in neighborhoods such as Flushing in Queens today. The same dreams continue to live — acquire capital and invest in expanding local businesses. A bakery factory is envisioned. A storage warehouse and a site for the assembly of human-power-assist vehicles are planned.  The vehicles will be designed by brilliant industrial design engineers who are the grandchildren of veterans in the Flushing family who served in the 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion. These plans are done quietly and without much fanfare in the ordinary course of business growth and investment located in an area west of College Point Blvd.

Unknown to this community, investors associated with the New York Real Estate Board meet with the City Planning Department Director. They present several projects coming onto the table for negotiation, and they provide an advisory on pre-planning projects coming off the shelf. The total investment is estimated in 2017 dollars is $250 to $400 billion.  The Director is pleased. As sensitive property acquisitions are ongoing, independent calls to the affected community’s business groups and political officials were not advised. At that moment, the dreams and traditions of small local investors are attacked. While considering billions in financial concessions, the agency responsible for the city’s land use and community development became a contributor to durable inequality policies in New York City. 

Why does zoning exist to help residents oppose change?  Huge residential investors (REITs) can legally combine with large, but ordinary local real estate investment groups. They can hire planners and architects to look for opportunities in older, mostly industrial urban areas. In many ways, they appear on the scene like marvels of certainty. In other ways, it is a valid symbol of a tragic time when the availability of overwhelming capital can quietly blame residents for opportunity hoarding, referring to those who had been quietly investing in the community since WWII.  (See story on another angle of the subject (here).

Zoning has become the battleground of sides. It offers a binary choice of capital in vast amounts or the perception of comparative nothing. It threatens decades of ordinary neighborhood transformation. It produces well-known t-shirts such as “Blight Me” and “Develop, Don’t Destroy.” Although most development occurs within a set of existing (albeit complex) as of right rules, zoning is now used for various reasons, perhaps too many, from the basics of land use planning to forecast municipal finance.  It is used to help with preservation, it has a history of racially motivated exclusion, and more recently funding affordable housing inclusion.  In other words, it is not pro-growth vs. anti-growth. The zoning situation has become New York City’s wicked problem (wiki).

A Brief Digression

This view of problems has a fascinating history and following. When Richard Buchanan (Case Western) connected design thinking to wicked problems, the impact created a substantial change in problem-solving from definition-to-solution into a condition-change assessment. Read his paper (a pdf is here). The questions surrounding community design draw from planning, architecture, and engineering as creators of a physical realm. However, changes in community conditions occur in the overlap of these professions with the psychology of a place.

In today’s community development practice, we see two separate forces that believe they are correct. Both are at odds on how and why investment functions. It is wicked because the two parties are unaware of the other; thereby, they are without data: their values, outlook, economics, and culture conflict. Points of intervention are possible but difficult to imagine. The uncertainty poses the creativity possible in ambiguity, but the ships have already passed in the night. Finally, the forces of resistance often lead to their repression. Whether imposed or internalized, the impact of repression alters mental health conditions. It is far too easily ignored, but the results of stress, anxiety, and depression have proven harmful to the individual and have a community impact.   

The Carbon Neutral Strategy

Calculating carbon footprints is still in its infancy. Still, the standard calculation today is based on an estimate of $400 per ton of emissions.  If you are Bill Gates, you more than double it just to make another point.  He recognizes the Green Premium cost and is quite willing to say he can easily afford to pay it. He is not so sure about the rest of us, so he suggests we ask and decide what we can do as individuals. 

Policymakers can take on only so many problems at once. Getting on that “only so many” list will require concerted political action. A regional support strategy will help local organizers get on that list. It could alter or stop an environmentally suspect development project in Flushing Queens.  Drawing encouragement from regional to citywide to neighborhood organizations willing to focus resources on one example can be used to push climate change to the top of that list. 

Political leaders need to sense concerted political action from their constituents.   Climate change and the Flushing Meadow project can be encouraged for use as an example of a grave error that must not be allowed anywhere in the region.  Digging into the specifics of these errors will help every participating organization.  Some examples are:

  • The Flushing Development is not paying the Green Premium. The project needs to tell the energy systems companies, services, and utilities what it will pay to address climate change.
  • The Flushing Developers, architects, and engineers have no idea what a zero-sum, carbon-neutral project would look like. 
  • The developer is only complaining about its profit margin. Simultaneously, the project’s failure and its cost will fall on the city and the state when the community is flooded and stays flooded.
  • The list of households most likely to be displaced by climate change (flooding/storm surge) is about 4,000 today.  The Flushing project could double that figure and quadruple the cost.

A focus on getting a more aggressive regional and citywide partnership on this project is needed.  The attention can help produce a carbon-neutral development or stop one that isn’t.  Either way, it is an important market signal. The political action statement is straightforward. Not paying attention to the carbon footprint issue today could put your grandchildren on the endangered species list tomorrow.  It is that serious. The science of this argument and proof of this project’s failure to recognize the problem is the work that lies ahead.

Big question: Is the idea of a Long-Term Comprehensive Plan capable of adjudication? Can it confirm or refute any of the fears of the people? Can it alter the inexorable facts of climate change and its impact on Flushing. As a BOA site will the developers provide services and funding covering lifetime health related illness from work or living on the proposed site. You get the drift.

A Muddling Strategy

Zoning is well-established police power, yet it is officially opposed and challenged, questioned, and denied—a political pawn of progress. Consider the possibility of an impeccable elimination of racism, classism, sexism, and the all-around favorite “placism” in the zoning text and resolution as policy. \Is there a way to bring its original health and safety purpose more explicitly focused on the pace of neighborhood change? Deliberate but incremental negotiations could help charge ordinary people’s expectations with a new interest in community investing. Plans for a mutually determined and purposeful quality of change can be absorbed gradually. This helps alter the lock on the status quo and governmental privilege systems into more of an emollient for progress.

Rusty Toaster Pill

The New York Metropolitan Region is a megacity, yet zoning (or changes to it) only considers a few blocks at a time. Given mobility throughout this region, its people can live in places where they can become most productive.  The missing resource is the lack of information, innovation, and opportunities to meet and optimize these choices. The “transit-rich” locations in the city are sold for minor capital improvements. These are deals between a failing private corporation (MTA) and the responsible agencies local, state, and federal governments. The inevitable common-sense conclusion could be zoning is failing communities that are not transit-rich by establishing transportation dependency in all others. A rapidly advancing capacity for equitable movement would be to make everything in the region within reach of everything else within an hour or less. 

One excellent example is Downtown Brooklyn, NY that is the most transit-rich region of New York City. The fight over Atlantic Yards an expansive uncovered rail yard serving the Long Island] Railway. New York City partnered with a developer, Bruce Ratner, to develop the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn. (contention) The construction of an arena, the Barclay’s Center was first to develop, to yield the headline.  How to Build a Sports Complex by Promoting 2,000 units of Housing.  The proposal engendered legal and political battles for a decade.  The use of eminent domain, how the project would be bid, even the vision the developer offered was challenged in the courts.140  A musical theater troupe the Civilians produced a popular musical farce detailing indignation only to prognosticate the ephemeral promise of affordable housing.

Meanwhile Back in Flushing

In 2010, the Flushing Willets Point Corona Local Development Corporation received a grant under the New York State Brownfield Opportunity Areas Program.  It was used to develop plans to replace vacant and underutilized properties and revitalize Flushing’s waterfront area. If approved, the development would serve as an extension of Downtown Flushing.  The Special Flushing Waterfront District was established by a vote of 40 to 4 margin on 12/10/2020. This brings the process to the final ULURP process. We have not seen the application.

Impressive Eye Candy

Flushing is For Sale

The Hill West Architecture firm has an impressive portfolio of projects (here) with a few waterfront locations.  However, the Flushing development concept has yet to make it to their list or map all projects (here) real and digital hopes. The proposal’s renderings available now are useless preliminary sketches projecting the total floor area allowed in a set of unchallenged zoning approvals. New York Yimby seems to have the best set of illustrations (here).  But let’s pretend the following is real and will be built, and the architecture might look like this project in Brooklyn.

On the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn

The proposed 1,725 units proposed are criticized for including a minimal amount of affordable housing and 879 hotel units.  As housing advocates know, hotel rooms are used to house displaced families as an alternative to warehoused children in shelters.  Is there an “off-table” agreement here to provide such units as needed, and if so, how might it be included in the city’s incentive package without been seen?

Office space and community facilities, and retail space are estimated at about 700,000 sq. ft. Parking & BOH: involves 440,500 square feet and the waterfront public space may have about 160,000 square feet. Is that closed Assi market sized into this structure? Would the rent be fair?  Will there be competitors?

Part V – Wicked Problem Planning

New York Colleges and Universities

There are nearly one-half-million students of higher education and over 1.1 million students in the NYC public education system. A resource of enormous power given 1) affordability and 2) focus on priorities of the city through scholarships and education incentives. These institutions have an enormous stake in the health, housing, and general welfare of New York City people.

2,5732014Barnard College
18,0902014Baruch College
3,7722010Berkeley College Midtown NYC Campus
11,1572010Bronx Community College
17,4102015Brooklyn College
1,2702016Columbia Business School
1,2442020Columbia Law School
31,4552020Columbia University
8,8462017Fashion Institute of Technology
15,2862015Fordham University
7,0782011Hostos Community College
23,0182013Hunter College
15,0002014John Jay College of Criminal Justice
15,9682016Kingsborough Community College
17,5692010LaGuardia Community College
12,0002019Lehman College (CUNY)
3,8832013Manhattan College
12,0632019Manhattan Community College
5,5192020Medgar Evers College
17,2822016New York City College of Technology
51,1232018New York University
6792010NYU Grossman School of Medicine
1,3952015NYU School of Law
12,8432015Pace University
5,8542015Parsons School of Design | The New School
4,5562014Pratt Institute
19,5202016Queens College, City University of New York
15,4932015Queensborough Community College
4,2012017School of Visual Arts
20,4482014St John’s University Queens Campus
5,8372011St. Joseph’s College New York
1,8912010SUNY Maritime College
16,1612012The City College of New York
8762015The Cooper Union
9392016The Juilliard School
10,2542014The New School
6,3482014Yeshiva University
8,5112015York College

Help in finding the faculty that combine housing, climate and social justice would be helpful here.

Thanks for the contributions to date: OCCUPY

CD Choice

Examine Your Lack of Choice

It has never been more important.

On June 26, 2018, the residents of the Ninth Congressional District had an opportunity to test leadership in Congress on criteria established by voters. Clarke won by a slim margin. Challenged again in 2020 she won again big time. Adem Bunkedekko was the closest rival, capturing 17% of the vote among four other bird-dogging candidates – all democrats.

Political leadership has gone to hell. New York leaders are useful when they respond to an urgent condition on a single issue. There is no outright fear for democracy, because better than most, they know it is practically gone. None of that is occurring. The only live-die-repeat is incumbency and the dead ones are the challengers.

Step One

Have a good long look at the candidates and their “watchers.” (See examples: Inside Elections, Sabato’s Crystal Ball.) Ballotpedia’s fine details are here. Money equals victory. A national watch group, Open Secrets has the data to prove it, including the outliers that illustrate exceptions. The deep end of the data pool is with reports at the New York State Board of Elections.

Leaders with skills in critical thinking, creativity, responsiveness, and obedience will do well. Proof of unselfish giving is through service that includes a record of judgments publicly specified with grace and dignity. After reviewing the public expressions of our federal leaders, are challenges within the party positive and optimistic? Does the officeholder or the challenger have a bias toward getting results? Finally, good leaders know how the practice of listening to be heard gets their constituents to help themselves do the hard stuff.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 5124f-9th-cd-2018.png

Adem Bunkeddeko
He got more votes the second time, yet adding votes from the three additional not really serious, probably “bird-dog” candidates he would have still lost. Third time is the charm, I said. Off years are best. I hope a review of the loss will be written. Please drop the candidate a line at and if you want to know more before you do that, visit Adem’s Website and extensive Facebook and Twitter accounts. He also has Instagram, and Snapchat if you must.  If snail mail is your thing you can write them to this mailing address: Friends of Adem, P.O. Box 130-427, Brooklyn, NY 11213.

Yvette Clarke
Drop the candidate a line on the federal website. She has Facebook  Twitter and YouTube accounts. To write via snail mail the local address, 222 Lenox Road, Suites 1 & 2 Brooklyn, NY 11226 and a D.C. address, 2351 Rayburn HOB, Washington D.C. 20515. I would be very surprised if you get an answer beyond stat and pat.

Step Two

The national Campaign Finance Institute confirms the long-term success of this legislation in its testimony to the NYC Campaign Finance Board in 2017. (The Act). After thirty years, the NYC CFB has protected voters. Perhaps the best example is NYC representatives sustain the “F” rating from the NRA in their demand for stringent legislation regarding the use and purchase of weapons for war. That is where the feds (your representatives in Congres) come into the picture to confront and confirm national policy.

In NYC the Campaign Finance Act has kept the local government on the side of working New Yorkers for the last three decades. A $6-to-$1 match of small donations turns a $100 donation into $700. The law has strict contribution limits and an outright ban on all corporate money and an excellent enforcement record.

Political Action Committees

The Political Action Committees (PAC) come into the picture today as a permanent part of federal election campaigns. They represent almost 40 percent of an elected candidate’s campaign funding. A challenger is far less likely to be supported by a PAC.  The PAC phenomenon began in the 1950s, but since then their corrosive influences over Congressional Representatives reflect the concentration of wealth in the U.S. and the rule that corporations have a right to political speech as people, and that money is speech.

Unlike people, wealthy corporations can live forever. Corporate outfits such as the NRA and the Koch brothers have a large bag of political tricks designed by well-paid political operatives to protect specific interests, not including the bot/troll issues that confuse voters further. It was a sign of real trouble when New York’s Senator Chuck Schumer asked his constituents to help fight against Koch Brother attack ads against a fellow Senator, Joe Donnelly (D) from Indiana with a help him Keep His Seat! email blast.

Representative Government, Election Waves, and Money
Three Republican Congressmembers (Faso, Tenney, Katco) in NYS may have “toss-up” elections in 2018. To keep things in perspective Faso’s 2016 spending was: $2,904,089, Tenney’s was $885,895, and Katco’s was $2,384,152. These races could contribute to a wave-election referendum on the chaos in the Executive Branch and the House of Representatives and shift as many as 25 seats to Democrats. (See NY Mag summary here). The 2018 mid-term election might have a single issue.

Peter King member of the Republican Party, is completing in his 14th term in Congress, having served since 1993 and he quits. Clarke has been their twelve years, and barely serves and runs on “good attendance” and perks from PACs.

Federal Committees of NY Senators

By way of Ballotpedia

Chuck Schumer is a Member of:
Joint Committee on the Library
Joint Committee on Printing
Committee on Intelligence (Select)
Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control

Kirsten Gillibrand is a Member of:
Committee on Aging (Special)
Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry
Committee on Armed Services
Committee on Environment & Public Works




The playground was made of 12×12 inch pressure treated Douglas Fir in lengths from three to eighteen feet. The photos will say everything. There still is a park there today. The timber is gone, there is a Head Start Center, a fire station/rescue, and new housing has replaced the tenements that Hilton described as burning.

Google Map Image

I was the one on the steps with new beginning thoughts. He was the one demanding to know why I was there, doing “stupid shit”, and I said it was to finish the playground and a place for community theater or shows, pointing to the trellis. The genius of rage came right up into my face at that moment. All he said was I was a lame, white motherfucker, it’s too late, too fuck’n late, and walked up the steps passed me.

The Genius of Rage

In his closing, Hilton read a portion of Homecoming essay saying, “and now it is happening to you,” and that is when that whole experience of Brownsville came rushing back into my life. I have both of their thoughts in my mind now, Hilton’s and the guy with the knife. It is still happening and it is too late.

This post is motivated by another place-based examination of community development. It is an experiment of mine in looking back at the history of Lincoln Square/Center as an attempt to compare it to the recent five-year build of City Center (here). I’m guessing, but I think the thread of it might be displacement as the transitional function of institutional racism, a cycle of recurrence that must be stopped.

Tale of Two CTs

City Center
Lincoln Square

Robert Venturi once observed Las Vegas as the only uniquely American expression of architecture. No one ever says it is a product of thoughtful planning. In 2006, when MGM Mirage and partners decided to build City Center, Las Vegas, NV, New York news aptly described it as an entertainment-based retail project. A comparison with an older effort confirms why metaphor-desperate architecture critics get super busy; however, I think lousy planning is the more useful element to engage. Enter stage left, Lincoln Square, Center, and Circle.

A viewpoint for examining the similarities and differences from one other kind of uniqueness can be useful. America is not built on ancient traditions, universal religion, ethnicity, or race; its founders believed that a nation could be built on ideals. The principles of human dignity are given the highest value. Without the rigorous implementation of this core value, community development tends to fail this purpose. The question is not if the development practice in Lincoln Square, NYC, and City Center, Las Vegas was racist. The question is, how much racism is in play?

These two real estate investments are instructive of American urban development. They stand fifty years apart, but it might as well be five centuries regarding their exposure to values. Robert Moses broke ground on the Lincoln Center project with President Eisenhower. The biography of both patriarchs confirms a systemic racism component. Both believed Black people should be treated equally but did not think they were equal, and many of the policies and actions of both remain as proof.

Lincoln Square is an example of racialized architecture in New York City because its backdoor (parking/shipping) was placed on Amsterdam adjacent to public housing. The entry plaza favored the Broadway/Columbus intersection. This was a reasonable architectural decision for many reasons. However, one reason rarely, if ever mentioned, is that architecture as a profession has no design solution for racism. They are subservient; the racism of their clients is included. The profession received clear notice of this problem in 1968 at their 100th convention (here).

Lincoln Center’s development is not as apparent as the proliferation of Confederate monuments from 1900 to through the 1920s, which continues through the 1950s. It was not used to support segregation with warlike intimidation. It found and developed rules of law to demolish a mostly Black neighborhood. The Civil Rights Movement’s pushes back, and Charlottesville’s Robert E. Lee Park is now Emancipation Park. A record of this effort is kept by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). On the other hand, the high culture of Lincoln Center uses the grade sheet of their traditions. They seek to convert participants into high arts as their earnest effort to confront racism to claim success in their terms.

Lincoln Center represent issues that architectural design or sculpted monuments cannot handle. Its creation was born of the slum clearance, race intimidation movement known as Urban Renewal. It developed through the redlined 50s and into the late 60s in NYC. The civil rights response pushes back but is compelled to accept reconciliation measures. Reconciliation also occurs in the offerings of special district law in 1969. The Lincoln Square District’s roots can point a bit remarkably to its transformation. It led to comprehensive inclusionary zoning laws, albeit fifty years later.

As a renewal program, the special district design attacked the southern diaspora of poverty into the North with displacement strategies. As for tactics, restitution-like compromises such as the promise of affordable housing and well-funded ‘top-down” cultural services can be agreeable goals to the “fighters” and the losses, grave as they may be, deemed acceptable.

Understanding these programs’ rectitude provides the added depth needed to understand the term “systemic” in race relations and economic change.  The displacement practice, once quoted to me once as, “you are free, just not here, because you can’t afford it,” continues to this day and well examined in a report from the University of Pennsylvania’s City Planning program (here).  Displacement is a percentage game, and if human dignity was the measure, the players on both sides are losing. Penn’s work is an excellent update of Chester Hartman’s book, “Displacement: How to Fight It,” developed by Dennis Keating and Richard LeGates (1981). The truth in both publications, now decades apart, is the displacement process has only changed on the margins. Therein lies the terror of it all.



A small portion of New York City (Map: CT 145) covers an area of eight typical city blocks just west of Central Park. It had a 2000 population of 4,500 people living in 2,900 housing units that sustains a low vacancy rate of about 2%. The land area is 60 acres to yield a residential density of 48,000 people per square mile. (Facts to be updated following 2020 Census – see below.)

The area includes the Fordham University Law School and it is just south of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the Juilliard School, and a dozen other cultural miracles. It is not just a neighborhood composed of multiple story apartment buildings, it is a destination experience established by cultural centers, the splendor of Central Park’s open space, and the Time Warner 12-story, shopping “mall” without the standing auto-surround. The daytime population density can be doubled with ease, and well supported by a transit system at this location that can deliver 5,000 people per hour, 24/7/365.

Zoning Resolution Chapter: 82-00 Map:  8c Effective Date: 4/24/69

The public goal (1969) of the Special Lincoln Square District is to enhance the area as an international center for the performing arts. To achieve this goal, urban design along Broadway will follow street line rules. Arcades for interior urban-room retail and service facilities provide a compromise for regulation and limits on street-level uses. Supply-side development bonuses are through special permits that offer added square footage for housing rented at lower (but not low) rents governed by Inclusionary Housing R10. and subway improvements. The demand side bets on good shows, a friendly neighborhood, and a sincere hope that the NYC mass transit services do not collapse.

Lincoln Center is a life-long learning opportunity in community development. Despite a long history of cultural engagement efforts as compensation for a vast mid-50s clearance of thousands of families, a tabula rasa planning strategy, and elements such as the fortress edge at Amsterdam Avenue, the entire project remains an unfulfilled story of transitional urban power.  Its future continues to be written for the success it still might get, not by crossing Amsterdam, but in recognizing how well the social fabric of this part of Manhattan is willing to attack its drift into a binary culture and ignore new opportunities that offer exceptional new levels of depth.

Instantanious Urbanism

The comparison with another entertainment-retail center for the high-spend culture has America written all over it. It is instructive of the “binary-problem” and a warning of competing solely for the high-end. The City Center was a five-year design and build “hit”, not unlike graffiti, but way neat and well worth the time exploring innovations.

The $9+ Billion Las Vegas City Center (left to right): KPF’s Mandarin Hotel, (392) Libeskind, and Rockwell’s Crystal’s premium goods mall, Pelli’s Aria, (4,000) Helmut Jahn’s Veer, (335) Foster’s ill-fated Harmon. (demolition was in 2015) Also in the City Center, Rafael Viñoly Vara hotel and residences (1,495). A “who’s who” of architect high-end destination creation. The City Center project broke ground in 2006, and despite significant construction difficulties, including nine deaths in sixteen months, the new skyline hit the press in late 2009. The plan for this massive development was based on speed regardless of the human cost and a systemic “rent-comes-first” problem.

The entire project is symbolized by the demolition of Foster’s Harmon hotel, but like New York City’s development projects, the larger effort survived the 2008 recession. In Las Vegas, all bets are all on the black. Undeterred, billions spent in building the City Center out of nothing that can be remembered occurred even though Las Vegas sits amidst, the aridest desert on Earth. Most of the 2.6 million residents trust in the spin on Lake Mead as shrinking (or not) rejecting any notion of a prolonged era of despair due to the rains of 2016/17.

The fresh knowledge of anguish from the City Center project became available when the Las Vegas Sun received a Pulitzer Prize for uncovering the causes of construction deaths and lax regulatory assessments. The tragedy of a worker’s family is described (here). All of the stories by Las Vegas Sun for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize Winner in Public Service can be read (here), one-story points to NYC’s positive response to construction safety. Please read the work of Alexandra Berzon of the Sun who explored the pace, fear, and death and terror that accompanied the creation of City Center before taking in the five minutes on the spin on the final product in the following presentation.

Bill Smith managed construction of the $9 billion City Center completed in 60 months.

All of Las Vegas began as a city of no rules sprawl. The property taken didn’t make the news. It produced thousands of hotel and residential condo-units spread through multiple structures on a 67-acre site. The Vara overlaps residence floors with a 1,500-room hotel. Regular housing is included in the Mandarin Oriental and a 37-floor twin tower. The housing and related residential accommodations combine a complex of hotels, shops, and gambling entertainment. Whether the housing is composed of permanent residents or time-shared ‘hotel-condo’ participants is of small consequence. The community with this density can resolve the service implications with reasonable ease based on density. That leaves median-income and whether racial and gender disparities are becoming dispositive.

Developing business models on the provision of unique destination-retail cultures (high or low) are coupled with a base of rental units, permanent, and condo-hotel housing. Development of this kind suggests the need for a comparison built on the demography of a place, before, during, and after. Such a comparison could yield measures by which the fast “time is money” impact of capital project disruptions that often lead to forced and economic displacement also provide proof of balance. There would be sufficient generational investment for those found in the wake of this harm that it will never occur to that household again. It would be a guarantee, a promise that the cycle of poverty ends with an emphasis on every child regardless of the cost.

AKA: Near Win Wheel

The resident population of Las Vegas will be close to three million people in 2020, and prior to the 2020 pandemic, this city had 42.52 million visitors in 2019. There are just two “isms” that describe gambling in Vegas, “tourism” and “capitalism.”

The increased competition for gamblers as entertainment-based retail, comes clear in a joke you would not hear at City Center. “What is the difference between an online casino and a live casino? – When you lose online and cry, no one will laugh at you.” The enclosures of the modern casino encourage over-confidence, leading to the illusion of security. Our brains like this as a sense of pleasure and contributes to the idea that an educated guess can be precise. Illusions of control also negate outcomes of chance into more extreme emotions such as a “near win” means getting close to one.

To the visitor, the core illusion is gambling is a personal decision not influenced by the environment or knowledge of “the odds.” Both support and encourage the fantasy of winning and a sense of superiority despite a uniform failure (not-wining) rate. This phenomenon is well understood; however, the public policy allows gambling while discouraging it as a dangerous, potentially addictive practice.

A growing proportion of society participates in gambling. The economic impact occurs in every public jurisdiction. It is not treated as a preventable problem, but a percentage of the population issue, leaving it to post-trauma “hot-lines” to resolve. Proof of a high-quality education system will occur when the “casino” as a land-use disappears or when no one other than the fabled 1% gamble.

Demographic Comparisons

Every resident, business, and neighborhood in the nation has a census tract. The Bureau of the Census has made significant improvements in providing online access to data for the ordinary person and there are thousands of tables on who we are as a nation, city, state, county. The census tract is the “where” of this data and it adds knowledge. Knowing the actual condition of our lives yields an assessment of fitness and reasons for action based on comparisons. The first and most important bit of that knowledge is to know that the harsh gavel of the patriarchy used to hammer society into submission cannot be used to dismantle that house effectively, one must know how the house got there in the first place.

The creation of the structures you enter to live, work, shop or play must be safe structures. To assure these objectives, the regulations governing land use and the practice of architecture, engineering, and construction are strict. When errors are discoverer and repair is impossible, the building comes down as in the case of Foster’s building in Las Vegas. The structures also have social and economic impacts, but these products are not well regulated or measured. The ideals of the American Constitution demand fair measures of equal treatment under the law, of fair and just compensation and unfettered access to quality education, and a “we the people” promise of fairness in the pursuit of happiness.

Following you will find a glimpse of the 2010 data on two U.S. Census tracts illustrated in the description of these two locations. This glimpse will await the final publication of the 2020 Census. It can be said with fairness that both locations are products of a largely racist power structure focused solely on the flow of capital as exhibited by the value of the real estate. The fulfillment of America’s constitutional ideals is deemed irrelevant or at best, secondary to that flow of capital.  Ironically, improving the flow of capital is touted as the best remedy to whatever set of problems a social justice agenda might present. The quality of life, therefore, becomes a material consequence of profit, and rightly so, until a tipping point occurs when the measure of quality lowers to an ability to subsist.

Population, Sex, and Race

Census Tract 145 Manhattan (2018 estimates) has a total population of 5,960. It is 64.4% White, Non-Hispanic, and 38% of the population 15 years and older have never married. Census Tract 68 Las Vegas (2018 estimates), has a total population of 5,077. The White, Non-Hispanic population is 23.2%, and 45% of the population 15 years and older have never married.

2010 City Center (CT 68)
Total population3,986
Median age (years)35.1
Sex ratio (males per 100 females)101.9
Age dependency ratio56.6
Old-Age dependency ratio17.0
Child dependency ratio39.6
One race99.0%
Black or African American7.4%
American Indian and Alaska Native0.0%
Some other race12.3%
Two or more races1.0%
Hispanic or Latino origin (any race)45.4%
White alone, not Hispanic or Latino41.7%
2020 City Center (CT 68)
to be written

2010 Lincoln Square (CT 145)
Total population6,245
Median age (years)34.3
Sex ratio (males per 100 females)105.0
Age dependency ratio33.8
Old-Age dependency ratio20.2
Child dependency ratio13.6
One race97.3%
Black or African American3.8%
American Indian and Alaska Native0.3%
Some other race1.4%
Two or more races2.7%
Hispanic or Latino origin any race)14.4%
White alone, not Hispanic or Latino69.4%
2020 Lincoln Square (CT 145)
to be written

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No doubt that urbanization has been a messy business. The rapid pace of development over the last couple of centuries has led directly to life-threatening conditions in a rush to mechanize every aspect of life. People were packed into camps to harvest forests of wood, mountains of granite, and every available mineral with trade value. For thousands of years, absolute command over the environment has been the central organizing force, from tribes roaming the prairies for fruits, grains, and meat to the construction of massive urban towers to sustain these endeavors across the globe. I am therefore comforted with the knowledge that it has only been fifty years since we noticed the mess and began efforts to make improvements.

Whenever infection has taken a life, it did it wherever people gather. In strict epidemiological terms, the more significant the diversity of people in a natural gathering area, the more likely the subtle protections of the human immune system will protect all. Concerning human medical history, this is relatively new data. Today, more people know the biology of DNA finds all humans to be identical. They are learning that physical differences are unique, beautiful, even exciting but fundamentally meaningless.  In just the last few decades, this knowledge is filtering an entirely new value system into American culture and mostly in urban areas.

There is no stable connection between urban areas and coronavirus impacts. What is significant is how cities manage an infection with compact actions and resource preparedness. Dense cities such as Hong Kong, Seoul, Singapore, and Berlin have contained COVID-19 very well. Where greater preparedness is needed, suburban cities such as Detroit, Michigan, Macon, Georgia, and New Orleans, Louisiana, suffer right alongside dense areas like New York City with a similar impact. 

In past attempts to solve urban social problems, the focus has been on eliminating inhumane physical conditions, it also had a tendency to place blame on people trapped in them. The effort to uproot the causes of their plight and poverty was intellectually criminal because good people did little on the larger issue. The failure to criticize the social and economic order as a principle reason continues to this day. It was fully expressed by the inhumanity of two world wars. The enormous successes of the nonviolent anti-war revolution for civil rights through the end of the 20th century reveal the courage of ordinary people. It also exposed an increasingly reactionary American culture due to the mere tinkerings from the top down on the edges of greatly needed reform.

Only recently, has relief from the view of urban life as unhealthy begun to fade. Hundreds of new and exhilarating urban places found expression in cities like New York throughout the country. For decades the history of urban success builds on the city’s capacity to identify and resolve the causes of potential disorder. These causes can be intense or subtle actions, but all are well-studied and tightly defined by deeply funded social science institutions and economists. Leadership and the flow of information in urban areas through interagency communication efforts allow course corrections and rapid policy changes in response to community demand. While many of the city’s top leaders have been taught hard lessons over the years, they remain well served by the deep structure of nonprofit city-wide and community-based institutions throughout the city. Without this structure, the distribution of essential resources during a city-wide emergency of any kind would be impossible to deploy.

The deep structure of urban governance produces trust in its diagnostic capacity for defining problems and then acting to get solutions. The city has taken its lessons in neighborhood economic disinvestment to create new kinds of banking institutions. Other social innovations help purge deterioration in rental housing before it spreads or in the case of the city’s public housing stock expose the failure of city and federal commitments in exquisite detail. Most recently, the city has focused on the depth of its communications resources to slow the spread of a pandemic with efficiency. Holes in its safety net are recognized with laser-like first responder precision and with this exposure repaired with the substantial institutional depth the city can muster.

Public institutions produce solutions to attacks on the quality of life by helping us to understand in highly sophisticated ways how and why we attack one another. The lessons through decades of urban crisis at various levels of impact continue to reveal the need to prevent and respond dramatically to the “tragedy of the commons” problems. The shared commons of the city are easily recognized by residents as our public health, education, open space, and transportation systems.  On this point, there are futures all dense urban areas must carefully evaluate in the aftermath of every crisis.

Public Health and Education

There is no doubt, improvements in human health and education systems occur by fully defining the health concerns produced by commonly used environments. With this responsibility, a deepening in our common understanding of the issues depends enormously on the quality of public education. Today the practice of investment in health and education is grounded in policies to eliminate inequality and build better pathways to equity. We know as an undisputed fact this eliminates a long list of the health and economic disparities in life for all people. We have benefited from previous generations who also demanded reform with a noble cause. Nevertheless, we also know that many of the actions for transformation failed by forcing displacement and rehousing few. In the last fifty years of the 20th century, attempts to demolish homes, cultures, and the economies of entire neighborhoods produced a valuable urban institutional resistance defined by two words, “never again,” but as political leaders (as all of us) admitted to errors and vulnerability, the entire city learned to accept a new kind of strength.

Public Infrastructure

Parks, open spaces, and transportation networks of the urban public realm are assets of the reform movements and business interests of previous generations. The so-called ‘lungs of the city,’ expressed by an extensive park system, and tree-lined streets are also like the city transportation infrastructure. Neither is a static or unchanging system, and both desperately need to improve as a safe, seamless, and unfragmented component of urban life. The well-tended park reminds us of the self-cleaning capacity of nature, the same role for mass transit can occur with the same principles of self-protection.

The Way Forward

The COVID-19 crisis offers many opportunities for reflection on the importance of national moral leadership and responsiveness, but there are more pressing issues. First, this recent crisis brings to the world a second major challenge to the quality of life on earth. Second, the vast landscape of human knowledge is at our fingertips. Third, this should make us all reasonably pleased, and this is why.

The science of geology states with confidence that the earth is about halfway through its 18 to 20 billion-year life cycle. For all the analysis of all the other “x-ologies,” we value; this alone should give people good reasons to take a deep breath and reflect.

New pathways for the growth of humanity in cities we are building all over the earth for the next few thousand years are here today, waiting for continuous improvements. Long waterfront parks will expand urban resilience as each reaches to extend its pleasures in an unfragmented, linked urban park system from the hills of the wilderness into the valleys of every neighborhood. All the massive structures constructed by our forebearers for public education and health await reinvestment and re-invention as centers for learning. We can make them all cleaner, brighter, and more beautiful than ever before. For access to these exciting new resources, we will move with confidence onto the swift, super-clean, and revitalized mass-transit system. Every crisis tells us just one thing, we have more work to do.

Washington Heights

Washington Heights and Inwood Planning and Land Use Study

At the close of 2004, members of Community Board 12-Manhattan (CB12) began to seek resources for conducting a neighborhood planning and land-use study covering all of Washington Heights and Inwood, the neighborhoods that makeup Northern Manhattan and comprise Community District 12 (CD12). After consultation with City agency represen­tatives and their elected officials, CB12 officers and committee chairs determined that a broad-based, district-wide planning study would help identify priorities and in establish­ing a consensus around a set of criteria for evaluating proposed and future development.

The City College Architecture Center. Directed by Ethan Cohen, with Rex L. Curry to produce a response to the RFP, won it, and work began. The following are links to the product of this work. The following requires the Adobe PDF reader.

Section 1 – Introduction, Methodology, Community Actors, and Past Findings |
Section 2 – Demographics, Practices, Housing, Community Needs, Facilities, and Potential Sites
Section 3 – Neighborhood History, Transportation, Topography, Parks/Open Space, Aerials and Photos, and Historic Preservation
Section 4 – Zoning Land Use and Development
Section 5 – Recommendations, Resources, and Resolutions
Section 0 – Short Version
MBPO Land Use 101 Presentation
Rezoning Presentation 04/07/2010
Rezoning Report

Examine CD12’s Race, Ethnicity, and Class

The study of the linkage between minority households and factors such as housing constraint and segregation, labor market opportunities, and regional employment decentralization establishes limited opportunity and mobility. People of Washington Heights and Inwood, where do you go from here?

Early twentieth-century housing policies encouraged de facto economic segregation. This contributed strongly to racial isolation but also contributed to relatively successful economic clusters. Imbalances in wealth is a subject separate from establishing the capacity to create and protect it from the onset. However, since the 1990s, changes leading to more successfully integrated (class/income/race) communities have been ongoing. There are two notable exceptions in Asian and Latino populations that require greater understanding and new policy. New York City is perhaps the most diverse city imaginable. Thus, the question of how language-based neighborhoods become more broadly functional in the larger society is a good question.

In effect, the process of “breaking out” from a localized economic model begins with families, small business formation, and remittances to home countries. The “economic multiplier” begins with the family. It involves extended social relationships that lead to savings clubs that can become credit unions and banks. Expanded reliance on the extended family helps to form structures of acknowledgment that become business partnerships. Cash sent home from wages or a business draws its capital from this capacity to internalize community development in “the family” and a neighborhood, but the policy point that needs to “sink in” is that both take a generation or two to develop, and it requires being “left alone” and that it is self-imposed on many levels.

The publication of the “Newest New Yorker” series by the Department of City Planning is evidence of the failure to move the dialogue beyond the obvious of who or where the “newest” live. The most recent immigration wave (Hispanic, Latino, and Asian) is born of civil lawsuits in the late 1960s that proved a pattern of discrimination in U.S. immigration policy. But this is the real point. The model of two to three generations of business and cultural development that re-builds places like the Lower East Side are now sliding into the world of myth. You can tell “bootstrap” stories. They would be true, but no one will believe them today — it must be a myth.

The need to invent new forms of action research in Washington Heights and Inwood is critical in New York City. Here, over 80% of the population is Latino, of which 70% is Dominican. This is important because we might bear witness to an enormous struggle to prevent a cultural disappearing act. The term Nos Quedamos defines this pressure as Project Remain, and We Stay. The question must be what will remain of the Latino experience during a period of continuing household impoverishment, slow economic growth, and declining real wages in Manhattan above 155th Street.


The negative effects of localized social, economic, and political diversity are overcome with a healthy sense of nationalism according to Robert Putnam’s highly disciplined research. This may be the case in general, but there are places that are “positioned” by more powerful social, economic, and political forces as containing “personas temporales” in Spanish or ??? in Chinese. In large cities such as New York, social solidarity allows strangers as the norm, in less diverse communities’, behaviors such as “sundown” towns become more likely. This positive/negative and jingoist/turncoat dichotomy is a two-way street.

Concisely, Putnam’s recent half-decade worth of research points to the global inevitability of diversity by pointing out its positives in a review of its negatives. His research has found that the more ethnically diverse the “neighborhood,” the less likely you are to trust your local storekeeper or dentist for that matter, regardless of his or her ethnicity. On the other hand, the more ethnically diverse the “city,” the more likely you are to develop relationships that transcend the neighborhood’s social or ethnic sense of security as a product of internal social solidarity. Given the positive of an economic multiplier that secures wealth in the family and the neighborhood, then the negatives of diversity (not trusting those outside the family or neighborhood) are more likely overcome by establishing a base upon which negotiations and creative exchanges are possible.

Debate on these measures by research specialists from the Community Service Society and others would yield a set of variables such as cost burden, business ownership, and property control ratios, median and per capita wages; job access and reverse commute figures, linguistic isolation, and so on. These measures would be selected and built up to define neighborhoods that can and should be given time. Time to organize, identify strategies, and implement programs coordinated well enough to establish a powerful base for targeted improvements in an internalized capacity to control investment rates, protect tenants, and build businesses. The objective is to defend against resident and labor force-displacement, whether or not it is compelled legally, illegally, and otherwise. When the constituency sought is, in effect, “new” every two to three years, it is nearly impossible to accomplish these purposes. On the other side of this coin lies the possibility of well-known urban pathologies such as gang-style resistance designed to “defend the block” from outsiders. These two are measures of grass-roots reaction to external threats that press down on the quality of life in the form of rapidly deteriorating building conditions, seasonal employment, and irrational, as well as, rational fear of immigration policies defined by “in or out” resident alien status that push people into a form of political invisibility.

Putnam’s research team’s intellectual rigor establishes strong controls for a wide range of factors such as poverty, residential mobility, and education to define measures of inequality. In a community such as Washington Heights and Inwood, Putnam’s term of “hunkering down” has value in its social solidarity production. In the short term, it provides a basis for increased diversity as a friendly force for building a modernizing society. Modernization is a proven asset for creative social exchange and economic growth. The central measure is, therefore, relatively blunt. In a place such as New York City, it would be unlikely to hear vitriol in a “them and us” debate, complemented with demands to conform to “our” way of life. It is more subtle here and wrapped up in economic models used to define the higher and better use of real estate, especially housing. In this sense, neighborhoods such as Washington Heights and Inwood, can if supported in doing so, in the time needed. The jargon used by Putnam defines a unique capacity to defend successfully against forces that would kill the formation of “bridging capital” that builds group-to-group interdependence, neighborhood-to-city relationships, and the “bonding capital” essential to healthy personal relationships.

Neighborhood Plan and Land Use Study (N:PLUS)

The New York City Community Preservation Corporation (CPC) began as a modest consortium of banks organized to make mortgage loans to rehabilitate apartment buildings in a risk pool. From 1975 to 1985, the CPC provided $61.8 million in rehabilitation financing for 155 buildings in Washington Heights. Today about 80 banks and insurance companies are involved as sponsors. Since its founding in 1974, CPC has financed more than 120,000 affordable housing units, investing over $5 billion. The point made here: CPC needs to do this again for a new ten-year commitment and comparable financing of roughly $320 million.

The housing stabilization achieved in Washington Heights through the loans and improvements to occupied buildings included rent restructuring and stabilization to make the financings possible. It brought the area to the point where projects without substantial subsidies, incentives, and benefits were included in the mix. Just 30 years later, the moderate rehabilitation question becomes an important part of this community’s history once again. Is the same partnership available today? Can new or equally effective programs bring the level of financial restructuring expertise to a community that continues to need it?

To establish a sense of the geographic distribution buildings with a significant number of violations are mapped with violations over 200 and over 500. The total comes to 246 buildings with serious violations based on HPD Anti-Abandonment Unit figures. Furthermore, the 2000 Census finds Upper Manhattan’s housing to be in worse condition when compared to neighborhoods throughout New York City. [i]

Effective housing policy starts with a sense of on-the-ground opportunity for development and preservation. The land use/building condition survey, combined with a review of data on building type, age, housing violations, incomes, and “rent-burden,” yielded the following overall observations on the prospects for preserving housing affordability in CD12.

CD12 maintains a high-grade housing stock that is physically capable of withstanding the stress of rehabilitation. The extensive bulk (square feet) makes replacement unlikely, given the current zoning. In effect, the 1961 zoning to R7-2 for most of the district was a down zone.

The rise in building code violations and complaint over the last five years is alarming. The issues are the quality of maintenance and management of the existing stock–and maintaining it as affordable.

The pre-war housing stock provides large and flexible apartment layouts that facilitate extended family, family friend, and guest living arrangements. Shared costs from food to rent, childcare, and small business development are effective means to survive that promote savings and the eventual building up of investment capital. CD12’s dense but flexible and affordable housing stock is, therefore, a wellspring for newcomers’ social and economic success.

The Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) measures the cost of operating a multi-unit apartment building in vital detail. As the decisions are now critical, an independent review of methods is long overdue. Nevertheless, a growing share of households (about 25%) experiences a severe rent burden[ii] in CD12. A key to preservation will be strong efforts to bring income up either directly or through income supplements such as food stamps, expanded rent subsidies, and 100% utilization of the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Advocate for methods to reduce the cost to profit margin (or investor risk) by turning to rehabilitation as a key to a sustainable, affordable housing source. This policy is daunting exclusively because that renovation is less predictable than new construction. Often a gap exists between the costs of renovation and the resources available to finance the renovation. Strict building codes may impose additional costs by requiring new construction building standards. Other regulatory barriers that may make a project complicated include historic preservation regulations, environmental clearance, access provisions, citizen opposition, and conflicting codes – such as building code vs. fire code, making approval processes lengthy.

For years, the public market defined housing affordability as a charitable function within a competitive market. The cost of privately rented housing moves upward based on competition in the market and changes in operating costs and regulatory practices, including the expiration of incentives. On the other hand, the rent of other affordable housing embedded in the private stock will continue to move up based on the household’s ability to pay up to a point beyond which it becomes unadvisable. I will explain it.

Let us be clear: a person earning $125,000 would pay $3,000 a month using the 30% of income as the housing affordability figure. But, the household can know to shop for a wide range of vacant, readily available apartments in Manhattan’s upper-income market at $2,500. Opting for “affordable housing privileges” is not in his financial interest. The point is there are many neighborhoods where the market serves us well. But it is also a force that goes against the idea that we can all live together in that neighborhood (such as in CD12) with dignity regardless of our income. Imagine the reverse: 60% to 80% of the housing units are “means-tested”, but it is built attractive enough to attract 20% to 40% eager to pay whatever the market demands.

N: PLUS Alegría de Vida Project

Washington Heights and Inwood Community Board will monitor Columbia University’s Westside ambitions, define its institutional version of New York’s affordable housing crisis, and nervously seek zoning protections through Inclusionary Zoning and Quality Housing Programs. All of this will be found in the formal release of a 300-page description dubbed N: PLUS released in April 2007.

N: PLUS stands for Neighborhood Planning and Land Use Study. Its authors define it as a report to the community. While large in total, N: PLUS is designed as a digital baseline document. It seeks to attract a constituency for planning. It seeks the creation of a more lively board, one more interested in a new urban vision and “vida” than the bogged down drudgery of being the first rung on the public process ladder. This board wants to shred the sinking feeling that a con is in play all of the time. True or not, it is still a feeling. Having their own plan will, if nothing else, produce a basis for comparisons.

Based on research completed to date, the report makes thirty recommendations and describes eighteen “best practices” most useful to a volunteer group of community members. That is what is on the table now, but the digital component is busy seeking challenges to its own report. The facts are friendly; it is what they mean that creates dissemblers in the debate.

The board has a skeleton staff of three and a barebones budget of $200,000, the majority of which goes for meeting space, baseline operations, and its District Manager’s salary and benefits. This budget is the lowest per capita in the city.

From the viewpoint of Washington Heights or Inwood, Columbia University may seem too far away. How could changes all the way down past City College into the 120s produce problems this far uptown? This area is 155th Street through the 200s, so perhaps, the community is right. Columbia’s relationship with the residential community of Morningside and Hamilton Heights, Hamilton Grange, Manhattanville, and even St. Nicholas Terrace is a more like symbol of bad PR than a tangible threat. Columbia did drop its name from the 8 million square foot medical complex now modestly marketed as New York Presbyterian Hospital. Therefore, the supposition has become “better safe than sorry” in serving what some are now calling “upstate” Manhattan.


[i] The 2000 Census measures affordability and quality: (1) lacking complete plumbing facilities, (2) lacking complete kitchen facilities, (3) with 1.01 or more occupants per room, (4) selected monthly owner costs as a percentage of household income in 1999 greater than 30 percent, and (5) gross rent as a percentage of household income in 1999 greater than 30 percent.

[ii] On the rental side of the market, affordability pressures clearly grew. The median monthly contract rent increased from $831 to $900 (after adjusting for inflation), and the median share of income spent on rent by New York City renters (the median rent burden) rose from 28.6 percent in 2002 to 31.2 percent in 2005. These numbers suggest that rents represent a significant strain for many households, especially those at the low end of the income spectrum who are not fortunate enough to live in subsidized housing. Among unsubsidized, low-income renters, the median share of income spent on rent rose to over 50 percent in 2005, up from 43.9 percent in 2002. Surprisingly, perhaps, the share of unsubsidized, low-income renter households that live in severely crowded housing actually fell during this period from 5.3 percent in 2002 to 4.8 percent in 2005. (State of City 2005, Furman Center)

Why Plan for CD12 Washington Heights and Inwood?

Examine Washington Heights and Inwood as part of a Working Group.

The community district board communicates issues and concerns to the city’s major agencies and service providers. In this it is effective.

Less well known, is its ability to produce systemic change.

The City College Architecture Center recently produced a research project for Community Board 12. A set of maps show places, but a set of database backed geographic information system images (GIS) can show how property is developing in CD12 now and into the future.

It is an evaluation tool for urban design, community planning and of course, real estate investment analysis. For the purpose of community-based planning and research this resource is use to define two crucial community values.

  • The first is to discover and encourage development for economic growth and;
  • The second is to provide the community with what it needs today, as it is today.

The first value is easy, let the private sector do what it does to grow, the second one on on the other hand is more difficult as business growth and our personal or community development are not as compatible as we would prefer.

So Why Plan? Why a Working Group?

  1. Planning produces ideas that can turn what you think is probable or possible into what is preferred.
  2. From these visions, an effective and timely response to a central question is made: What is important now?
  3. Producing public energy for planning makes solving today’s problems today possible.

A place for this and all of the information needed has begun to develop. Go to has all of the heavy docs. Monitor, don’t download yet, and get back to us using this web resource and this blog CD12

Many subjects are possible to develop on on the change in zoning for Inwood has begun with very short descriptions of all the “Special Districts” developed in New York City over the years.
In closing, something that Margaret Mead said is useful now. “Never doubt that small groups of people change the world. It is the only way it ever has…”

What Makes CD12 Unique?

Special Purpose District Zoning codifies incentives for development with the preservation of highly valued or unique elements that enhance urban living. For example, the scenic view easement is a zoning designation that protects NYC’s extraordinary view corridors across great distances of the urban landscape. Huge sections of Washington Heights and Inwood look outward across the Hudson or into the Bronx that should be highly valued. If tall buildings are built, a portion of this view “windfall” should go to adjacent property owners with the inclusion of affordable housing. This is not a new idea, it is why Grand Central Terminal remains and the buildings around it are much taller. What is the difference between this “solution”, and one that “exacts” the cash value of a view of the Hudson in trade for stabilized affordable housing?

If and when things like this happen, “Who Cuts the Deal?”

Setting a successful climate for zoning change negotiations comes in one of two forms, 1) the Community Benefits Agreement, also definable in some instances as a Good Neighbor Agreement or development disposition agreement with a single site and developer, and 2) the Memorandum of Understanding. Both require corporate entities as signatories to an economic formula based on sharing or dividing a set of anticipated resources and revenues. The product of the formula is at its best when it is economically self-renewing and includes an immediate “payout” often in the form of a tangible capital improvement. A pre-defined set of services, as well as, a general outline of the baseline responsibilities of signatories produces minimum and maximum “upset” figures.

Washington Heights and Inwood should start talking about the kind of corporate entity required to conduct negotiations coupled with the quality of governance needed.

Public Partnership: Add TIF to Inclusionary Zoning

Programs such as tax increment financing (TIF) pledges the increase in real property taxes to pay the costs of associated public investment. For example, if a housing development project will generate $10 million in additional tax each year, that $10 million is pledged for the same period required to cover a $100 million bond to secure a housing trust fund for a community district. In other words, zoning changes the taxable basis and it can be altered as an incentive to act, with resources prevent, or mitigate damage.

Looking for ideas on how this could happen?

This is an “either/or” condition for all Manhattan real estate. Either it is full market rate, leading to tax increment bond financing for local housing affordability programs, or it is fully stabilized with a permanent stock of affordable housing providing a minumum of 20% of units or with bonus floor area more based on local need and AMI.

SamplerIII :: Places

SamplerI: Internet

I canceled the costly UNIX server, and collapsed everything (well almost) into one giant-f’n blog. It will take a while to get things organized with a new content management system. All of the thinking, writing, mine, yours and the people we read and respect are here some place. Thanks for the recommendations.  The categories on Sampler1 read “my neighborhood” and “internet.”


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New York City Neighborhoods

A Commentary

The digital and the dense urban world have a unity of purpose. In this example, developed by the person (found here) you will find many of the officially named places drawn many sources. They are also the place names. In this case that would be a neighborhood. They are described in the multicolored map above. Click on one and a named place comes up. Follow the link to Reddit above and watch the magic begin with to happen with lots of new named places as each neighborhood area begins to fill up with place names among the Reddit participants. Here is an example:

The Hole is presented as a “small neighborhood in New York City between Brooklyn and Queens.[1] It is a low-lying area, with a ground level that is 30 feet (9.1 m) lower than the surrounding area.[2][3] The area suffers from frequent flooding.[4] It has been described as a “lost neighborhood”,[5] and like a border town from the Wild West.[6]. If you’ve ever taken the S. Conduit to JFK, ‘The Hole” was on the right just before you entered the highway (BQE).

I have a great affection for the people there and how they decided to live. Many times their participation in community block events throughout Bed-Stuy, East New York and East Flatbush and much of the city introduced a close up experience with a horse and the men who road them for lots of kids. This is because of the men from the New York City Federation of Black Cowboys.

If you got into this little bit of history and what led to the displacement of this outfit by another you’ll recognize a seriously complex story of loss, sadness, race and privilege. Then again, you might come across this wonderful song because you were curious about “the hole.” That is what happened to me when I decided to do this post.

New Building on 21st

The map (left) is clipped from the NYC zoning maps 16d and 22c to show the location of the Terraces R5B district in relationship to the proposed Quality Housing Apartment Building in the R7A District on the west side of East 21st Street. Zoning (Exhibit Record (I, II, III, etc.) CRFN No. 2017000, 2017001)

222 East 21st Street or 571 Ocean Avenue: In a brief look at past work of this developer and architect, there are concerns regarding the use of materials and the lack of detailing and the possibility that a brick façade and other contextual elements will be poorly done. If you are interested in doing some homework representing AKNA, use the Contact link.

Two reasons for compiling the following information for review so far:

  1. Do whatever AKNA can do to assure the developer and architect will produce a development that meets or exceeds Quality Housing Standards. (see below)
  2. Establish a relationship with city agencies (HPD, DoB, EPA) local organizations (FDC, CD14, CAMBA) and the City Council that will encourage this result.  Why? The quality of the 21st facade should not be compromised.

Questions that need answers:

  1. Who at HPD, DoB will be conducting reviews and inspections?
  2. Will it be 80/20 Inclusionary Housing?  The plan is for 115 Units.
  3. What is the history and reputation of the Developer and the Architect?

More detail is available below. Articles on the project  “The Real Deal”

The New Apartment Building

The reported nine-story, 115-unit mixed-use building image is misleading. Nevertheless, the construction of new housing will begin in the near future on the East 21st Street through-lot between Church Avenue and Albemarle Road. (see YIMBY).

The project could encompass 102,800 square feet and rise 80 feet in height. The proposed community facility space provides for a floor area bonus and its 58-car parking garage meets the 50% minimum. The Real Deal notes that according to filed permits (building information system) for the project’s average apartment size of 712 square feet is indicative of rentals. The reported project height of nine stores exceeds limits defined by the R7A and may be presented this way to produce the appearance of a give back to community objections. (See R7A description below)

Nevertheless, the project could add about 300 new neighbors to the area and add density. The density issue triggers the attention of watchdog allies from the Flatbush Tenant Coalition, CAMBA, and other housing advocates regarding the enforcement of housing quality standards and the affordability of rental housing.

The developer Bentley Zhao bought the property (through an LLC) in March for $11.5 million, according to property records. The same developer also filed plans for a nine-story condominium building in Sheepshead Bay earlier this year.

The site (picture above) is cited as a safety hazard. It contains the skeleton of an abandoned construction project. Complaints and violations date back 10 years and include rusted and leaning steel beams and structurally unsound fencing. Active violations include working without permits and other construction violations and according to Property Shark. The site is also described as a hazardous waste generator or transporter with a site address of 571 Ocean Avenue which would be the address and suggests the hazardous materials issue is not resolved.  Contact Walter Hang of Toxics Targeting.  A particular concern would be asbestos made airborne in site preparation.

Established in 1987, the intent of the Quality Housing Program is to maintain the architectural character of New York City neighborhoods. The program rules concern height, bulk, lot coverage, street line, and more. Quality Housing is mandatory in contextual R6-R10 districts, but only optional in non-contextual R6-R10 districts.

The contextual Quality Housing regulations are mandatory in this R7A district. Typically, they produce high lot coverage, seven- and eight-story apartment building, and blend with existing buildings in established neighborhoods. R7A districts are mapped along Prospect Park South and Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn, Jackson Heights in Queens, and in Harlem and along the avenues in the East Village in Manhattan. The floor area ratio (FAR) in R7A districts is 4.0. Above a base height of 40 to 65 feet, the building must set back to a depth of 10 feet on a wide street and 15 feet on a narrow street before rising to a maximum height of 80 feet. In order to preserve the traditional streetscape, the street wall of a new building can be no closer to the street line, than any building within 150 feet on the same block, but need not be farther than 15 feet. Buildings must have interior amenities for the residents pursuant to the Quality Housing Program. Off-street parking is not allowed in front of a building. Parking is required for 50% of all dwelling units.

Corridor Floor Area Deduction

Quality Housing grants two corridor deductions from the total floor area. Section 28-14 allows a 50% deduction of corridor floor area if there is a 20 square foot window in the corridor. Section 28-31 allows a 50% deduction if the dwelling units served by the corridor are less than the allowance in the section’s table. For instance, if a corridor serves 10 units or less, 50% of the corridor’s floor area is deductible offering some design flexibility trade-offs.

Recreational Floor Area Deduction

Quality Housing mandates the inclusion of recreational space as a percentage of residential floor area. For instance, R6 and R7 districts are required to include 3.3% of the residential floor area be recreational area. Section 28-21 states that no more than the required amount of recreational space in the table shall be excluded from the definition of floor area. Recreational areas can include space like gymnasiums, a popular building asset exempt from floor area.

For more see:

Other Sources (some may have been moved):

Applicant Website is not good, and not much housing. The need is to see some of the projects first hand and find the GC that worked the buildings

Business Phone: 718-765-1122Business Fax:     718-765-0813

$43M Sheepshead Bay Condo

Bentley Zhao developed building

Zhao’s New Empire Real Estate Development also operates an EB-5 regional center  
By Will Parker | March 30, 2017, 8:30 AM
Bentley Zhao and rendering for 2128 Ocean Avenue

Zhao filed an offering plan for a 56-unit condominium at 2128 Ocean Avenue in Sheepshead Bay, an application with the New York State Attorney General’s office shows. Zhao is shooting for a $43 million sellout at the 73,000-square-foot project, after buying the lot from Yu Xi-Liu last June for $3.9 million. The previous owners demolished a one-story garage at the site, but Zhao is yet to file new building permits.

Bentley Zhao’s New Empire

New Empire is based in Sunset Park where Zhao also operates the New Empire EB-5 Regional Center from the company’s 3rd Avenue headquarters. The investment center’s website shows that the EB-5 portion of the 2128 Ocean Avenue’s capital stack is already fully funded. Details on the website reveal that unit sizes at the project will average 890 square feet and range from studios to three-bedrooms. In addition to EB-5 money, New Empire obtained an $18.5 million loan from Banco Popular North America in September.

Zhao’s ambitions and current portfolio go beyond South Brooklyn, however. New Empire is planning a 49-story condo tower at 131 East 47th Street in Manhattan, a 122-unit project. Demolition of 19th-century rowhouses at the site commenced last spring. SLCE Architects is designing the new building, which will be at least partly funded with EB-5. Gary Barnett’s Extell Development sold the site to Zhao for $81 million in 2015.

New Empire is also raising EB-5 funds for a 105-unit condo in Prospect Park South, dubbed “Ocean Tower,” for a condo at 269 4th Avenue in Park Slope and at a boutique, seven-unit build at 409 West 45th Street in Hell’s Kitchen.

If you have any questions please review these Frequently Asked Questions, the Glossary, or call the 311 Citizen Service Center by dialing 311 or (212) NEW YORK outside of New York City.

BIS Menu  |  Application Data Privacy Policy     Terms of Use

Improving Schools

Issue: Children are not performing at grade level (Math & Language Arts (ELA). The implementation of state-wide school funding transparency with federal legislation incentives.

Response: The families of the Ninth CD hold a better life for their children in high esteem.

Will you introduce legislation to produce targeted federal support that help kids catch up to grade levels?  Will you assure the expansion of pre-K services will continue?

New York City’s career academies and vocational training centers will continue to excell with increases federal matching funds.

Will you support funds for the addition of smaller, high-quality High Schools and more learning choices for our kids?

Will you support for New York State’s elimination of tuition for all two- and four-year colleges operated by the city and state will strengthen and support federal legislation that supports this initiative?

In 2001, Lynn and Philip Straus, gave a $7 million endowment to Bank Street, its largest private donation. Ongoing support includes an additional $5 million endowment aimed at improving the educational opportunities of children from low- and moderate income households.  New York City is packed with universities and highly trained educational professionals.  Several new schools have been built in the Ninth Congressional District.

Will you work to understand the education districts and these new schools that are part of CD9 and help identify their needs with these professionals?  Will you get combinations of city, state and federal funds to close the edcation gap in these schools?

Downstate of Health

The health campus (below) in the Ninth Congressional District (below) is known to many as “Downstate”, but this location has a deeper and richer capacity for service. It has the infrastructure and location to become one of the world’s finest health care campuses

One out of three people in the Ninth Congressional District have jobs in education, health and social service industry. When health and social assistance services for low- and moderate-income is threatened by national and state policies – all of Brooklyn is under attack.

The health campus map (above) is known to many as “Downstate,” but this location is deeper and richer in its capacity. Downstate has a student body of nearly 1,800 and a staff and faculty community of about 8,000. No other organization in the entire state would be more informed regarding health issues. It maintains the Medical History Library.

It has the infrastructure and location to become one of the world’s finest health care campuses. The failure of federal leadership on health and social services traps CD9’s health professionals in a community where it is easy to blame the victims for the debt incurred by the “pounds of cure” called hospitals serving patients far too late in their health history. Funds for the “ounces of prevention” and that focused on the real health care needs in Brooklyn are cut far too easily.

The impetus and a national health care system will require a major change in public policy regarding health in communities of low- and moderate-income, especially in places with density and diversity like New York City. The question is simple.

How will you support “Medicare for All” legislation? 

The developed world knows this is the way forward.  Why doesn’t the United States understand? Comprehensive single-payer healthcare will bring stability to the Ninth Congressional District and start it on the path to community health, it will sustain good jobs and make health affordable.

For a draft of issues confronting the Ninth Congressional District review a slide presentation (here) and a draft paper on the issues (here).

IP Chill

If you openly don’t like 45 online, this guy wants your IP Address and the details of what you do not like.  The chilling details of the warrant in these two stories are worthy of following.

thanks for picking this one up….

the two-way WARRANT

August 15, 2017
DOJ Demands Files On Anti-Trump Activists, And A Web Hosting Company Resists

DreamHost is fighting DoJ request for 1.3M IP addresses of visitors to anti-Trump protest site

A Better Deal

The total estimated annual payroll for seven Congressional Districts with significant employment in health care and social assistance is just over $275 billion.   

This draft was edited thanks to a little help (March 2018)  This is a damn complicated issue.

A look at the details by Congressional District exposes weaknesses in the strategy of leaving the Affordable Care Act alone due to the failure of replacing/repeal.  

Nearly 22% of Velazquez’s (CD7), 27.6% of Jefferies’s (CD8), and 54% of Clarke’s (CD9) constituent payroll is the health care and social assistance, almost $6 billion. A reduction by a fraction of this can be devastating to the better jobs, more income strategy in NYC’s service economy environment. This part of the health care system is broken, and the debate to let the market drive the system vs. a broad national safety net in a single-payer design is designed to go on forever.

The American Community Survey (ACS) provides details by Congressional District (Here) are as follows:

Annual payroll ($1,000)ACS Estimate
Total for all sectors CD6 (Meng)$6,774,639
Health care and social assistance$2,614,886
Total for all sectors CD7 (Velazquez)$8,942,565
Health care and social assistance$1,920,162
Total for all sectors CD8 (Jefferies)$5,209,765
Health care and social assistance$1,435,548
Total for all sectors CD9 (Clarke)$4,591,698
Health care and social assistance $2,493,720
Total for all sectors CD10 (Nadler) $73,088,238
Health care and social assistance$  4,082,423
Total for all sectors CD11 (Donovan)$5,995,693
Health care and social assistance $2,405,251
Total for all sectors CD12 (Maloney)$170,281,639
Health care and social assistance $10,155,081
Total for all sectors CDs 6 through 12$274,884,237
Health care and social assistance $25,107,071

The seven districts covering all of Brooklyn include Bay Ridge and all of Staten Island, represented by the city’s only Republican. The table (above) also includes a bit of Queens (Meng).  Maloney and Jerry Nadler also have small parts of Brooklyn, but larger parts of Manhattan, and therein lies a surprise.

Of the $275 billion in these districts’ total income, 88.5% is in CD10 (Nadler) and CD12 (Maloney). The incomes of the households in these two districts dwarf the other five that cover most of Brooklyn. Maloney and Nadler represent 11% of the employment in the health and social assistance sector.

More work on this is needed regarding the impact on CD9  where over 50% of the community’s income is in the health sector and the majority of it is Medicaid.

The listing of industry in these areas is in the North American Industry Classification System (here) and reports on  examining business & Industry are available in both annual & quarterly service reports (here).


So what, if a few people get stopped and if they refuse to respond to a lawful order to give up the data on their phones (little computers really). If you do, you can be detained for because you gave them reasonable suspicion. (Catch 22s are real.)

You say I’ll give my phone up with nothing to hide  They might catch somebody that would blow up a car or something and kill me, members of my family or people I know. Even though,  you know the odds of such an event are better on a lightning bolt. This is not a security vs. privacy issue this is a fear problem.

Remember, President Franklin D. Roosevelt said this is about “fear itself,” for many reasons. Fear is the main lever of Fascism because people in fear become its fulcrum. Fear is a lever that can destroy a country’s financial stability, and it is “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

Volunteer to summarize the following and to watch this issue over the next couple of years and join others who doing the same.

  • NBC News, “American citizens: US border agents can search your cell phone,”
    March 13, 2017.
    BuzzFeed, “New bill would outlaw warrantless phone searches at the border,”
    April 4, 2017.
    The Hill, “Border agents, demanded searches of US citizens’ phones: report,”
    March 13, 2017.
    NPR, “More travelers are being asked for their cell phones and passwords…”
    April 11, 2017.
    CNN, “Bill would stop warrantless border device searches of US citizens,”
    April 4, 2017.

All of this despite the Supreme Court June 25, 2014, unanimously ruling (9-0) that police may not search the cell phones of criminal suspects upon arrest without a warrant — a sweeping endorsement for privacy rights. Wallets, briefcases, and vehicles remain subject to limited examination by law enforcement.  The C-22 here is clear, go “all the way” in the justice system on the one hand or handing it over for a data upload on the other.

In the House of Representatives Jared Polis (D), Denver CO was elected in 2008 and defeated a Republican incumbent and Blake Farenthold (R) defeated an incumbent Democrat in 2016.  Both along with two Senators, Rand Paul, and Ron Wyden have introduced legislation that would require law enforcement to obtain a warrant before they can search your phone when you, (a citizen) enters the US.

The bill extends the privacy principles clarified in the Supreme Court decision Riley v. California. In that case, the High Court ruled that warrantless searches of electronic devices during an arrest are unconstitutional. Read the complete Protecting Data at the Border Act here, and a summary here. (both pdf).

Thanks so far, y’all are brilliant.

Wireline 2017

It was a busy April morning in 2017 when three clean, Verizon Cable trucks rolled onto the Terraces with a bunch of scrappy linemen eager to drag us into the twenty-first century. Data-structure, Inc. was just leaving, and it seemed very appropriate to re-read their motto, “You deserve peace of mind.”

All of our right-of-way forms signed, our dedicated research, calls, and inquiries have become fruitful.   We even discovered that William Freshwater is, in fact, a real person who is responsive and professional.  With this arrival, we have a complete understanding of intent, even though Verizon, remains puzzled about the future of its technology.  It’s OK, Verizon is big like the trucks they use to get the job done, it takes a while to get them rolling.  The best metaphor for investments that really pay off.

Taking complete stock of the fiber-optic cable question is complicated. The initial assumption was Verizon would follow the old Cooper, and establish new household ports of extraordinary capacity, then the cap expenditure folks at Verizon began to anticipate technology changes upward of 5G of the wireless world.

The long line strategy is the build out to places like us. It will be useful for densification from wireline to wireless.  We remain in your service as you ours.  Until, of course we are not.  Capitalism at its best.

Survey Visit

Byers Logo



Byers Engineering Company
285 Davidson Ave., Suite 203Chris of Byers
Somerset, NJ 08873-4153

Survey visit “for right of way” occured again on August 20, 2015 with a drop by visit from Chris Wojtowicz of Byers Engineering  He confirmed Verizon’s Engineer, Wasserman’s opinion that a Fiber line presented along the roof-top gutter was the best option. See image below as the best solution for the north and south side of Albemarle Terrace. One cable about the size of the pinky finger.  Yea!

The AKNA IT Team has his phone and email address, and many months latter and…

in early March 2017, two Verizon technicians in white hard hats were walking the block.  Excitedly I approached and said, Hey! Are you guys from Verizon FiOS. They smiled, and said yes.  They were carrying drawings of the route around the building extensions at the back.  On the south side of the Terrace they are called sun rooms.

The line drawn by the engineer’s appeared to be around each of the extensions and entering the block, reportedly from east to west via Fabco Shoe building. The blue line below shows a straight line below the second story gutter line that appeared many months ago to AKNA as the best way to go.  We shall see.


What to Expect

I’ll believe it when I see it. Expectations are difficult to manage and different for everyone as everyone needs will vary. I found this presentation to be one the few YouTube presentations that describe the FiOS installation process in a pleasant way. If you come across any others that might be helpful, I’ll put them here.

20 Questions

We are all challenged in one way or another with a learning disability.  It could be a place on the autism spectrum, or a kid that knows learning stuff is so easy, it doesn’t really matter that much.

When your are about to commit to tens of thousands of dollars over the next four to five years it is time to hone your consumer skills. Applications to a minimum of ten to twelve colleges (or alternatives) will be needed to get the best deal for your kid and thankfully the digital revolution has made it easy, maybe too easy. Like any other consumer function, higher education is as caveat emptor as any other buying experience. The questions regarding the choices available start with what would be best for your kid(s).

With acceptances, it is time to assess the offices in the university that realize the need for a learning differences center (often bundled with their office of disability services (ODS) programs. I don’t know your kid, I only know mine.  Too make a final decision about which higher education experience is best and meet the family’s financial needs best it is time to ask yourself and your kid some questions. These are mine. I know you will find some of them useful

  • Based on the disability or learning difference, are there specific evaluations or test results that need to be submitted to become eligible to receive services?
  • How current should the documentation be?
  • What is the process for reviewing documentation and eligibility determination?
  • How many staff members are there in the ODS?
  • What are the main roles of the staff members?
  • What is their level of training?
  • Do staff members in the ODS have previous experience working with students with an area of need that is like my own?
  • If yes, what types of accommodations and services have been provided in the past?
  • How many students at the college receive assistance through the ODS?
  • What types of accommodations and services are provided directly through the ODS?
  • (e.g., extended time on tests, a distraction-free testing environment, the use of a calculator on tests, note taking assistance, audio books, adaptive or assistive technology resources, priority registration, professional tutoring, peer tutoring, study skills training, academic advising…).
  • Are there any unique or additional services offered through the ODS that students seem to find helpful?
  • Does the ODS offer a place for students to take exams or to study (e.g., a distraction-reduced environment or a place to finish exams when extra time is needed)?
  • If I am a student at the college, who would be my primary contact person in the ODS?
  • Would I have a separate advisor outside of the ODS
  • Are there any fees for the services that are offered by the ODS?
  • What types of general academic support services are available for all students on the campus?
  • Are there services provided to assist freshmen students with the transition from high school to college?
  • How are professors at the college notified about the academic accommodations for students with disabilities?
  • What provisions are in place in case an issue occurs with receiving accommodations?
  • What types of housing options or housing accommodations are available on campus?
  • What types of resources are available on the campus that may be helpful to me (e.g., health center, counseling services…)? Are there fees for any of the on-campus services?
  • What types of community resources are near the college that may be helpful for me (e.g., medical facilities, psychological services, consultants, specialists…)?
  • Is the ODS connected with any of these resources?
  • Are there any considerations that students with disabilities should know about regarding the admission process at the college?
  • Do you provide information about the graduation rate and/or the retention rate for students who are served by the ODS?
  • Are there provisions made for having to miss classes based on the nature of an incapacity or a medical condition?
  • Are substitutions available for required courses at the college if they are needed based on the nature of a disability (e.g., world language courses)?
  • Is there any additional information that you can share with me about the ODS at your college?

Ask yourself does my kid:

  1. know how to use a washing machine?
  2. wash dishes
  3. clean the bathroom/toilet
  4. consult the college’s website routinely – faculty and admin us this regularly
  5. use his telephone for communication, banking, networks, other?
  6. run a monthly budget

Embed Density


We live in a culture that embeds information, and where the most important things tend to go unsaid. All of us put information into machines that will retrieve data on practically anything imaginable from an alarm clock to an AI for more complex decision-making. Perhaps this will release the unsaid portions about the vital function of cities in human life.

A recent Rolling Stone article by Jeff Goodell (Flooded City) does not make this point directly but exhibits its results with great clarity. Goodell talks about flooding in New York involving high or low ground impacts with storm surge or microburst variables. The unsaid stuff defines a vast combination of intellectual and architectural ramparts outlined as plans in a series of locations throughout New York City.

A talking head presentation at the New America Civic Hall (9.15.16) proved to be very un-civic but managed to remain polite. All New Yorkers will look at a sea rise map, make a quick am “I in or out” assessment and log that in for a personal assessment of risk. Many of the people attending were either outside the lines. Those who were wet on the map and had an obvious self-interest with the prospect of land poverty, but could not express them over all the talk of the new walls, ramparts, bounded rationality and cognitive dissonance in the presentation about investments in resilience.


I have a suggestion on how to escape the Chicken Little problems the “flooded city” approach creates. The last half of the American century has offered two promises (maybe three). The first is the promise to eliminate disadvantage as discovered by the individual, the family, community, and nation. The American vocabulary, its literature, art, law, and architecture present an exquisite language born of the poetry and forums of each for change and communication. The framers of the Constitution strengthen us. We have been given the tools, created the space, and found ways to speak truth to power. We are skilled in the dialogue. We remain encouraged by each battle for social justice and civil society. We are routinely encouraged to confront the world’s history in ways that will keep that promise alive.

The second promise while not as refined, adds powerful new energy to the promise of eliminating disadvantage.  It is the promise of sustainability. From the Club of Rome to its reflective twenty-five-year reunion at the Smithsonian, a more accurate word, Resilience, now communicates the correct challenge as well as imply a variety of post-trauma conditions. We now deploy resilience officers throughout the world, but their task is not to look at high water and low land. The resilience mission is different – find ways to draw a line in the sand. It matters far less about where there will be high water until we know how to draw that line in the sand. There is no crystal ball. Pointing to facts is all that can be done. Describe where a part of the sky has fallen. Right now that is more useful than why to avoid tragedy.


Historically, when it comes to a resilience challenge, there is the “duck and cover” hedge and the old MAD way. The worldview of mutually assured destruction is also composed of private investors who are very active in their demand for public dollars to drive down risk. We need a much broader outline of ways to invest publically in resilience that may come down to clearly explaining the difference between the circle and the grid in urban design as we see it in the national highway system and the urban crisis.

The content embedded in the promises leading to eliminating disadvantage through fairness and sustainability can help define the architecture presented as walls and ramparts that encircle something. In this design here is an inside and an outside. Without injecting these two promises into the process, the design of the walls and ramparts will do more damage than any violent fire or storm.

Future articles and public discussion should take a lesson from Elizabeth Kolbert. Her extraordinary review of the science of global change over the last half-billion years defines our entry into the Anthropocene epoch, the knowledge of which might save us all.

Elizabeth Kolbert is author of Pulitzer Prize-winning, The Sixth Extinction

The Isle de-Jean Charles

It is time to get dangerously practical about the local impact of global problems. I would apply the Isle de-Jean Charles Climate Change Refugees (video here) to a New York City example: The action taken in Louisiana occurred when they were down to the last two-percent of their land. (get the untold story on the 98%). Can New York or any other city afford to set that standard or hedge that bet, that way?

Un-rough the math here,  $100 million in relocation funds for 20 households applied to the 35,000 families in let’s say, Canarsie, a neighborhood in Brooklyn. The bill would come to $175 billion. Resettlement at 20HH/year would take a millennium. At 500 HH/year, the cost would be $2.5 billion/year, and it would take 70 years. Buy the property, strip it of its toxins, wait for the ocean to come and you have an artificial reef over the foundations, counter the acidity and make seafood.

An investment of this kind protects the future. It would prevent the “land poverty” plan currently in play that will reflect the tragedy of the ramparts, not the water. For a place like Canarsie, or the Rockaways (the natural rampart), the test should be whether a quid pro quo is in place, or just another caveat emptor slap in the face, aimed at people of color.

Truth to power, you cannot get that pitiful amount today for a place like Canarsie. The policy for change remains in the MAD world of catastrophic resolution. The Chicken Little approach does not have a chance unless you do one simple thing. Put that line in the sand and be a little scary.  Draw the wall, present its ramparts across the landscape of NYC or any other place on the planet, and have the courage to ask and answer two questions.  

Who’s In? Who’s out? Straight up, without weapons, humans are not built to kill, no claws or fangs, but when one group of humans is forced to say to another group facing a life-threatening condition “you are not selected” now or even in the evolutionary sense, I do not know which group is worse off.

Rex L. Curry

A third promise awaits development given an implementation plan.  The positive side of the formation of ramparts and walls is the opportunity to recognize a dense, contained urban life offering new forms of growth. The challenge is to put a stop to the grid humans have drawn on the earth.  The grid is a symbol of the infinite. The sphere or circle is limited. The fuel of unlimited growth within this circle (ramparts and all) is to develop methods for all that enters the encircled urban world will leave in a non-toxic form. Today over 80% of what flows out is toxic.

Today the planners, engineers, architects, and climate scientists assess the impact of the sea rise, storm surges and microbursts pounding down the Hudson River Valley on the city’s property. The Flooded City article points out the big picture these professionals paint for owners and policymakers.

For example, a rise in sea level far less than a meter places 71,500 buildings and $100 billion of property in NYC’s high-risk flood zones. Sea rise is not a complex assessment. Remote earth sensing devices can measure elevation to less than a meter. Some devices calculate small fluctuations in gravitational forces, and for any area in question, can do so in real time. The ramparts and walls encircling vulnerable properties using these tools also exhibit a variety of wrongheaded priorities of great value for reforms and the discussion of fairness.

The below-ground world of tunnels and conduit (vehicles, gas, power, clean, gray and black water) of New York City is not climate proof.  Given the positives of the walls and ramparts, the capacity to fragment infrastructure systems to function independently is implied, but the policy is dishonest unless the question “who is in and out” is answered.

Global processes are geologically instantaneous events in the context of the last half-billion years. They occur daily but remain well outside of human experience. We are unlikely to “duck and cover” or step back from the waves of an unobservable rise of the ocean at the base of a massive river basin. Creating the incentives to do so is the challenge of our time.

Nevertheless, insisting the acquisition and removal of toxins from NYC’s waterfront and flood-prone zones may be the best plan of action for no other reason that it will take a century to accomplish. The planning work as it stands today favors protecting property in the short term. It emanates from the boardrooms and public conferences in the old way.  It is about producing jobs through relatively high yield, short-term investments under the heading of resiliency. The discussion of the chemical, biological, and most importantly, financial toxins encircled by these old ways requires a sharper focus by its critics.

Verizon’s Political Contributions

The Center for Responsive Politics keeps a record of corporate dollars for political representatives. The table and map (below) looks at the House of Representatives for Brooklyn and surroundings.

AKNA’s representative is Yvette Clarke (D-NY District 9, First elected 2006, election 2016 (won) next election November 6, 2018.

She serves on two committees: Energy and Commerce and Small Business. She received $3,500 from Verizon and $4,000 from Cablevision Clarke’s total campaign contributions was $519,110.  But a total of over $80,000 is from the communication and electronics sector. (Source)

The purpose of the money from Verizon and the others is obviously designed keep Clarke’s office away from Verizon.  Is that why there is (no FiOS, bad cable and poor wireless service) in her district?

Yvette D. Clarke received 82% of campaign contributions ($537,295) from outside the district. (Rank: 206 out of 421.) and received 32% of campaign contributions ($211,772) from outside the state. (Rank: 399 out of 421.) That was 2016.

For more government information, sources see Call to Action (service map) and Representatives for additional research on political leaders and other candidates for relevance.

Notes: In the 2014 Cycle, Senator Schumer received $5,000 from Verizon, and Senator Gillibrand received $10,000 from Cable Vision. Congressman Joe Crowley (Queens District 14 Elected in 1998) received $35,700 from Verizon and Cablevision in 2014.  Since the 1998 election, he has received over $3million in total contributions. Crowley serves on the powerful Ways and Means Committee that determines all Federal methods for raising revenue.  Some insight comes from the huge increase in contributions to members elsewhere:  

See Tweet re: Communications and Technology Subcommittee.

Disclosing: Broadband Internet providers gave, on average, 2.9 times more money ($67,272) to members of the Communications and Technology Subcommittee compared to members of the entire House of Representatives ($23,186).

Verizon Timeline

The strike over the next few weeks is as good a reason to begin the clock on how long it will take to get high-speed service following the completion of the AKNA end of the process.  The main question is simple.   How long will it take? The clock is ticking.

By The Associated Press:
April 11, 2016, 3:42 P.M

NEW YORK — Unions representing more than 36,000 Verizon landline phone and cable workers threaten a strike starting Wednesday morning if the company doesn’t agree to a new contract.

The unions, the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, say Verizon wants to freeze pensions, make layoffs easier and rely more on contract workers. Verizon says health care issues need to be addressed for both retirees and workers as medical costs have grown, and it wants “greater flexibility” to manage its employees. The latest contract had expired last August. Both sides say negotiations have been unsuccessful.

Verizon Communications Inc. says it has trained thousands of non-union employees to fill in if the strike occurs in nine Eastern states and Washington, D.C. The company had 178,000 employees as of December.

The last Verizon strike was in 2011 and lasted for two weeks.

Inside Information? In March 2016, the following letter portended the Verizon strike. Please read it for the exquisite use of political sentiment that suggests inaction on their part while pointing out their $39 billion profit.

“It is our understanding that the [CWA and IBEW] have offered to negotiate substantial savings in health care for the wireline workforce, but there are additional areas of concern for your workers, including job security, the treatment of sick and injured workers, pensions and the contracting out of work. While we recognize that changes in technology and customer preference have led to a decline in landline service, driving the need for some contract changes, we also want to be sure that Verizon preserves good, family-supporting jobs in our region.”  Click to read.\

Senate Letter

VZ Engineering (Com-Hydra)

VZ Engineering is terrible and likely to be the only Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier (ILEC) that decides not to upgrade a single strand of wire and resist fiber placement.  The proof is in, and 30% to 60% of the old network rots. Decades of unmaintained, old copper lies struggling to offer Digital Subscriber Line Access Multiplexers (DSLAM) and landline phone from the 1970s.

Therefore, the Verizon business plan must include selling these wrecked lines to other providers eager to serve this self-made vacuum. Verizon’s sale of the old stuff to Fairpoint in New England is a recent example of a local effort to sustain DSL copper investment for the lack of an alternative.  There would be life and speed in copper if kept dry, and many long for POTS. That is a plain old telephone service network and manly saw PANS, the pretty amazing new stuff, as distractions to the higher purposes of communication.

Historians may write it this way. The old technology was focused, and the com-network regularly improved to sustain the win/win principle of Universal Service. When traded in for competition between long-distance carriers, we lost it all, and for what? The 1984 breakup of Ma Bell produced a monster, the Com-Hydra.

Bottom line, the mountain of negative service problems throughout the Northeast makes one wonder if Verizon is an agent operating a cyberwar strategy. Willing or unwilling, true or false, the national interest and security are not as threatened by the bad guy with an encrypted cell phone. It is by a huge local exchange carrier that is making our LFAs (franchise agreements) worthless. Shouldn’t I hear a bell ringing in every attorney general’s office in the Northeast?

Verizon aggressively seeks the wealthiest clients and government agencies.  Verizon refused to replace copper service for many buildings inundated by hurricane floodwaters in lower Manhattan, forcing owners and tenants to go months without service when the copper solution was a couple of weeks. Is the impossible possible here? The neat thing about lures, like the old bait and switch, is the surprise. Right in your face, they are promising a modern communications network and at the same time saying it will never happen.  AT&T and CenturyLink, and so on, are similar, but only because they appear to be chasing the big VZ wireless-dog.

The following is provided as a musical interlude to provoke thought. Use it to evaluate this question and decide on an action.  Share it if you feel like doing so, and 2X speed is OK if rushed (the little gear bottom right).

In other words, it is not just a metaphor. A moment of reflective thought is also offered (HERE) below. The story is HERE.

Midtown Eastside


Manhattan is a “playground” for wealthy people; public policy is interested in keeping enough households to ensure the maintenance and basic services. It is called eighty-twenty. The building at 432 Park Avenue is its new beacon, sans the “twenty.” All 104 condos are sold, including the penthouse, at $95 million. The lower-cost units started at $7 million.

New York City’s building machine exhibition has begun. (Have a look  What do machines need?  People to maintain them.

In October 2012, Aaron Betsky of Architect thought it oozed privilege and wealth, but it did so with, “elegance, borne out of its simplicity as much as its height, that makes it clear that it is still possible to make a beautiful skyscraper.

More about Aaron Betsky’s argument is in this 12min. video

432 Park Avenue is taller than One World Trade Centre by ten meters, discounting the height of its spire and it has started something that is much bigger than big buildings.  It is the percentages.

“I see the Macklowe building down Park when I step out my front door at East 89th. In the morning, the pure square building, with its huge square windows, does have a Brutalist cast, but it also has a haunting aspect, like a painting by Giorgio de Chirico. The night is my favorite time, the deep blue of the protective film on the window glass giving the building a lonely, melancholy aspect as if it were the only one of its type on Park Avenue. Which, for the moment, it is.”

December 2012, the Real Estate Section of the New York Times

432 Park Ave. is not on Park Avenue, but it is “big” enogh to be there.

A machine city is a thing of parts designed and operated by people running corporations to fulfill functions. The fate of 36 East 57th St. next to 432 Park Avenue illustrates the function of density as a creator and destroyer of the city’s machine parts.

The difference in the photograph (top left) to the photo below illustrates the power of the 432 building (bottom). It displaced the little 36 building (middle photo) for $65 million. Its land area is just 5,020 sq. ft. The gross floor area of the building was just 77,500 square feet. A new building can be four times this amount but wait. The 432 building topped off at 96 stories in 2015. The lot area is 34,472 sq. ft. While the 432 lot is seven times larger than the 36 building, it produced a tenfold increase in gross floor area at 745,174 sq. ft.. Three hundred people in the building would make the density per square mile at just over 200,000 people. A density handled easily in New York.  If density is not the problem, what is?  Can you give me a twenty on that?

The $65M acquisition of the 36 building brings the cost of an acre in this part of Manhattan to $1.2 billion. The price is high, but it is an expense of an inconvenience adjacent to the extreme presented by 432 Park Avenue. The 21st century like every century before will consume everything in the 20th deemed unworthy of its history. The bar is set high and the demand for more feet, more stories, more rent, people, and machines to run them is clear.

The current resident community known as Turtle Bay and Midtown East responded with their own zoning initiative, but the issue is less about zoning that what the old zoning allowed developers to conceive and what it portends for the future of Manhattan.  They hired consultants and produced detailed images and zoning text available (here). As the East River 50s Alliance, they resist the possibility of the following potential development scheme produced for them by Michael Kwartler & Associates (ESC). The 432 Park Ave. building is not pictured.  It is on 57th Street and three blocks to the east (Third, Lexington and Park). The building’s Park Avenue address, when it is actually on 57th Street between Park and Madison is side story on corruption.  You out there, any ideas?

Current Zoning

The Right Questions are not about Zoning and Height

The right question is why these new, enormously profitable buildings are not LEED Platinum and engaged in creating the demand for new industry, jobs, and investment that address global warming issues, affordable housing. It just because of the condo loop-hole?

Require them to be sustainable (not just profitable).  If they are not, the rest of the city will pay the price in more ways than one.  Let someone count the way, to the depth and breadth a city’s heart can reach. As this neighborhood (wealthier than most NYC neighborhoods) confronts the Department of City Planning’s substantial zoning powers, the entire question of unsustainable development is drowned and silenced by the litigiously dull, sad, and excruciating weak arguments against the police power of zoning. The fear of building height or the effect of a building’s mass on the city is a fear of the unknown.  It is composed of two main elements. The unknown of mass and the volume of people with money (m = ?V). It should be called the 80/20 problem in reverse.

Inclusionary zoning (IZ) is a tool developed in New York City’s never cold housing market to produce workforce housing units.  The deal is 80% market rate 20% affordable based on the chart below. This policy, among others, helps to assure an accessible labor force and economic diversity nearby. Rent is affordable if it is around one-third of a household’s income.

A family of four would pay around $2,300 a month if 33% income using this measure.  Several adjustments are possible, but even this amount is less than the 2016 median rent in New York City at around $3,200 a month. Households that fit into the following income ranges meet the affordability thresholds for housing eligibility.

  30% of AMI50% of AMI60% of AMI80% AMI
Income:extremely lowvery lowtax credit maxLow

The East River Alliance neighborhood has a $109,000 median income, which means a substantial portion of its 45,000 households can smell the hot specter of displacement caused by dropping this new mass into their community.  Being offered a lottery shot at long-term affordability is not a solution. It is a threat. It is not the buildings. It is the policy, stupid (I love that line in all its forms).

If comments on this subject are of any interest the deep end stuff is here:

City website: An excellent initial summary of the issues. The Community Group’s website: The text and the argument for change. The City Planning website: for a look at the area.

NYS Attorney General

As we keep our fingers crossed about Verizon’s accountability to AKNA and NYC, please take a moment to add this squeak to our wheel.  It only takes a minute to do this speed test recommended by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and now Latitia James with the question are you getting what you are paying for using this link.

The Office of the New York State Attorney General is investigating consumer Internet speeds. We encourage New Yorkers to test their broadband speed at home and submit the test to help our office determine what internet speeds consumers are receiving.

We are way below the speed promised, so it is imperative to help this office.  Eric is probably the best AG NYS has seen in a very long time.  The top law enforcement officer of NYS will have a great deal to say about Verizon’s franchise agreement if we help him do it…

If you are wondering where Scott Stringer is on this you have to go back to 2013 for the audit report: have a look here Audit Report on the Compliance of Verizon New York, Inc. with Its Cable Franchise Agreement FM12-085A December 9, 2013  He is pressing for Mayor – perhaps he knows where this body is buried.

The Do it Now AKNA IT Team