Today’s Headlines

  • Might an Election-Year Transit Crisis Force Albany to Step Up? (GG)
  • Paterson Officially Seeking New Term, But Straphangers Have Little Cause to Get On Board (NYT, SAS)
  • Despite 2009 Dip, MTA Ridership Remains at Near-Record Levels (SAS, NY1)
  • President Prendergast: Budget Restraints Won’t Stop Service, Station Improvements (News)
  • Livable Streets Foe Helen Sears Gunning for Hiram Monserrate’s Senate Seat (News, WNYC)
  • TLC Cab-Share Program Launches This Week (Post)
  • Statewide Study Says the Bronx Rates Last in Public Health (Post)
  • City Hall Staffer Left Brain Dead After Brooklyn Hit-and-Run (News, NY1)
  • Driver, 15, Charged With Homicide in Fatal December Crash on Bruckner Expressway (News, Post)
  • NYSDOT Previews What It Will Be Like to Walk and Bike the New Kosciuszko Bridge (City Room)
  • Did Jane Jacobs Ruin New York? (City Room)

More headlines at Streetsblog Capitol Hill

  • I thought that was supposed to be sarcasm about the Kosciuszko: I thought the answer was going to be “you can walk and bike in the breakdown-lane as long as you don’t get in the way of swerving vehicles.”

    But no, there really is a ped/bikeway, included at the end of the simulations. Not bad…

  • Ask Chuck Scarborough of WNBC-TV about local news, at City Room this week. My question:

    ‘Mr. Scarborough, it often seems to me as if local television news is skewed toward the interests of drivers as opposed to subway and bus riders. One example would be the many minutes spent on road traffic reports all over the region, which takes time away from news reports of more general interests. What do you think about this “windshield perspective,” and do you ever take a subway or bus to or from work?’

  • Larry Littlefield

    According to the MTA report cited by SAS, the average New York City transit fare is now three cents higher than in 1996, before the Metrocard discounts.

    There were three sides to the “everybody wins” deal. The unions got pension enhancements, though not the 20/50 pension the TWU struck for. The State and City of New York got to divert general fund revenues elsewhere, de-funding the MTA. And, fact is, riders also de-funded the MTA.

    Needless to say, MTA costs have not remained unchanged, they have soared — particularly retirement costs. And now, debt, because that (and a temporary windfall in real estate transfer taxes during the bubble, now all blown) is how the “everybody wins” deal was paid for.

  • glenn

    Nice one Jonathan!

    My guess is that news like conflict and there’s no group of people that generate more conflict in NYC than motorists.

  • Jacobsian Ruination: I look forward to reading the article and the work of zukin, but as presented by the short article in the Times, the charge of ruination by Jacbos seems laughable. Neighborhoods which developed and retained in the cast of a Jacobsian “authentic” urban village are desirable because of this “authenticity,” but wealthier people who value this attribute move in, drive up real estate prices, and push working class residents out. Would we have been better off ignoring Jacobs and going with “inauthentic” types of development superblocks full of Mitchell-Lama projects, because that would create accommodation that wealthy folks would not want to push working class people out of? of course not. You can argue that the rent stabilization rules do not go far enough, that the decontrol threshold should be indexed for inflation or set higher, that there should be more curbs on market forces to ensure socioeconomically mixed neighborhoods, but you can’t lay this kind of economic sorting of people by market forces at Jacobs’ doorstep. That was one of the prime evils she identified with “inauthentic” housing projects, that she thought could be overcome with more heterogeneous types of development.

  • BicyclesOnly nailed it. Jacobs addressed this “loss of authenticity” and called it self-destruction of diversity. She (IMO correctly) didn’t see the solution in rent regulation, but rather in increasing the supply of neighborhoods that can support diversity. That way, you get the urban villages Jacobs talks about with only a few of the choicest ones becoming hedge funder paradise.

    I’d add one more thing. People need to be incentivized to choose walkable neighborhoods capable of this sort of Jacobsian diversity. This diversity is an externality, just the same way that emmissions and cul-de-sac road structures are. Left to their own devices, people don’t account for these externalities in their choices and everyone ends up worse off as a result.

    Rent regulation may sound like the solution, but it’s too short term and causes it’s own problems (not saying that we should abolish ALL rent controls, just that it’s not the answer here…) Incentives such as congestion pricing correct for these problems and, in addition to all the positive results streetsblog catalogs, is the correct long term solution to the negative effects of modern gentrification.

  • A walkable neighborhood is an externality? So nobody cares how far they live from grocery stores, restaurants, transit, dry cleaners? “Close to shopping” means nothing?

  • ddartley

    The hit and run is like a mirror copy of what happened to my sister and her friend in Boston (Erin Phelan’s family is from MA).

    In both cases the perp tried to get away after running down two young women, and would have gotten away but for a cabbie who pursued.

    In our case, the perp was the one connected to something famous (he was on the Boston Celtics); in this case it’s the victim; she works for Bloomberg.

    Maybe the closeness to him will help get him on board with doing more to prevent such car-on-ped violence from being so easy and likely, and help wake up one more influential person to the fact that asshole driving is not just an okay, normal part of city life, but should be prosecuted fiercely and thoroughly.

  • @Jonathan That’s not what I’m saying. Of course walkable neighborhoods have desirable traits! I’m actually talking about two separate things that I didn’t really clarify in my comment…

    The supply of walkable neighborhoods is the result of long term decisions made collectively by people. Any choice you make in how to live has effects that you don’t feel, both long and short term. The choice to drive has the short term negative effect of emissions and the long term negative effect of cul-de-sac development to make it easier to drive. The choice to walk has the short term positive effects of contributing towards street life and the long term effects of encouraging transit-oriented dense development to make it easier to walk.

    The walkable outcome is desirable, but the decision is weighted towards cars because of un-accounted for externality. People will not arrive at the best outcome by themselves. They need to be tipped in either direction for the virtuous cycle described above to take hold.

  • J:Lai

    Jonathan, Charley referred to the diveristy, not the walkability, as an externality.
    Walkability is economically desirable and people will pay a premium for it. This may lead to decreased diversity, at least in terms of the economic composition of the neighborhood. Since the marginal contribution of each person’s decision to pay a premium for walkability is very close to zero, it can create an externality in which walkable neighborhoods become homogenous – only rich people live there.
    I’m not sure I agree that this is a major problem which requires any type of government intervention, as there are many other factors besides walkability that have greater contribution to the relative cost of living in a neighborhood.
    I do, however, agree with the general assertion that it would be good to stop dis-incentivizing development of walkable neighborhoods through subsidies for driving, parking, and car ownership.

  • Charley: for good examples of how to keep neighborhoods affordable in a supply-constrained city, look to Monaco, Hong Kong, and Singapore. What all three cities have in common is that they rely on public or otherwise subsidized housing instead of regulation. In all three cities densities are so high that new construction is always high-rise, but public housing is so widespread, and often visually indistinguishable from condos for the rich (as in Monaco), that there’s no stigma against it.

    So the way it would work if New York followed those cities’ example is, every time new land became available, for example after land reclamation or paving over a railyard, it would map out a street grid on top, making an effort to make it continuous with the streets of the surrounding neighborhoods. It would not sell the land to developers, but instead develop it itself, renting ground floor retail at market price but rent some of the apartments at cost for the working and middle classes. It’d make money on renting the rest of the apartments at market price.

  • @Alon I could muse about this for hours! I think we’re actually working towards something similar to this in NY. A lot of new developments get tax abatements for providing units at subsidized costs. Mitchel-Lama is also a good example of an older program where there is definitely not a stigma for government assistance!

    IMO, these solutions are arbitrary and come with their own problems… Not saying there shouldn’t be any public housing, but it should remain somewhat limited.

    I think the main cause of the problem is the structure of the city itself. By definition, if there is one center that’s desirable to be near and is the basis for surrounding development, there is a limited amount of land that is available close to that center. If things are more decentralized (but still dense!), the entire region has more evenly distributed value, not just value based off of it’s distance to a center. In this structure, the prices of land are more randomly dispersed. You end up with something like LA (but with an actual walkable density). Streetsblog LA actually wrote a piece on this sort of structure comparing LA to Paris.

  • The tax abatements don’t really exist in Monaco, Hong Kong, or Singapore. Singapore and Monaco have a public or private scheme: housing is either private and market-rate, or public and affordable. It raises the price of market-rate housing, but the alternative is mass homelessness. I believe Hong Kong is largely the same, though it may also have a small amount of government-subsidized but private housing. I’m almost 100% it doesn’t have the New York-area insanity of giving regulatory bonuses to developers who subsidize housing on their own dime.

    Monaco has high property values throughout because it’s so small, but Hong Kong and Singapore don’t. In Singapore, there are rich areas and poor areas, based on proximity to the center. The projects there aren’t poverty-free; they have the same gang problems as in the US. But that’s because they’re low-income, not because they’re public housing. There’s still no stigma against living in the middle-class projects there. Hong Kong has richer and poorer neighborhoods as well.

    By the way: Paris is not decentralized at all. It has a distinct pattern of rich people living in the city and the western favored quarter suburbs, and the poor living in the other suburbs. Even employment is not decentralized, if you consider La Defense to be a CBD and not a dispersed suburban office park complex.

  • Alon, I’m surprised you don’t remember that the piece Charley is referring to portrayed Paris as “multicentric.” That’s what Charley meant. Why pay so much attention to the word, and not the message?

  • @Alon I can’t really comment on the specifics of the programs as much as you have. I’m not even sure if I fully agree with the NYC subsidies I mentioned before.

    I agree with the main message of your comment though. While arbitrary sometimes, government options such as this should be seen as trade offs. Instead of just thinking “market distortions – BAD”, you should think about whether or not the market distortions are worth the loss of diversity and displacement that having only market prices would cause. In this case, the market failure is not only geographical inequality, but the labor force implications of losing these income groups.

    @Cap’n You were the one who showed me that article about LA! It was a good read.