Adams’s Blueprint for Recovery is Vague on Public Space, Trash, Parking Reduction and Other Key Initiatives

The squad: The mayor and his economic development team earlier this year at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Photo: Mayor's office
The squad: The mayor and his economic development team earlier this year at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Photo: Mayor's office

rebuild, renew reportMayor Adams on Thursday revealed a pretty hefty — but not-so-detailed — blueprint for reviving the city, and it included lots of his talking points since he launched his campaign for mayor years ago: more cops, more small business growth, decarbonizing private buildings, improving job opportunities for struggling workers, bolstering tourism initiatives, growing New York City’s “competitiveness as a global economic powerhouse,” making the city a digital game development center, and, of course, trying to get the World Cup.

But what’s in the “Rebuild, Renew, Reinvent” blueprint for the livable streets crowd? Here’s what we found:

Quality of life

In a section called “Tackle Public Safety and Quality of Life Concerns to Strengthen Corridors Where New Yorkers Live, Work, and Play,” Hizzoner said (as he has long said), “The prerequisite to our prosperity is public safety and justice. If New Yorkers do not feel safe on our subways, on our sidewalks, and in our parks, then we cannot thrive.”

What does that mean? “The city will expand coordinated efforts to address quality-of-life issues by cleaning and revitalizing public spaces across the five boroughs. … This initiative will provide high-need neighborhoods with intensive beautification efforts including sidewalk and street sweeping, garbage removal, and graffiti removal.”

Streetsblog note: That would have been a good opportunity to plug public safety as a much broader issue than merely hiring more cops, especially given the pedestrian health crisis going on in the city right now. But beautifying neighborhoods is nice, especially if it includes garbage containerization, which the city has long promised, but has failed to deliver.

Parking

In a section called, “Ensure all neighborhoods are meeting the need for housing opportunities,” the mayor raised a crucial issue pertaining to creating more affordable housing: “Strategies include allowing a wider range of unit sizes to meet different household needs, broadening existing density allowances for affordable housing, easing alterations or the addition of accessory units, and reevaluating existing parking requirements.”

Streetsblog note: The mayor obviously is hip to massive changes nationally and locally about mandatory parking minimums, which require developers to add parking spaces to their projects, even if they abut a subway station. Developers themselves have said the requirement to add parking raises their costs, which makes it harder for them to build affordable units. A handful of Brooklyn politicians has already said it will reject development proposals that don’t seek a waiver from the city parking requirement, and Adams is well aware that such a movement is growing. [City Hall declined to comment on this part of the document.]

Public space management

In a section called, “Revive the city’s vitality and dynamism by activating public spaces,” the report celebrates New York’s public spaces as “increasingly multipurpose spaces with outdoor dining, small business deliveries, outdoor cultural performances, bike lanes, digital kiosks, and other uses all jockeying for space.”

And the report rightly points out the “need … for better coordination across these critical, but at times competing, uses.”

The solution: Another task force!

“Our administration will launch an interagency working group to ensure holistic strategy and coordination of city initiatives and programs in our public spaces,” the report states, citing such participating groups as business improvement districts, the Department of Transportation, the Parks Department, City Planning, the Economic Development Corporation, the Department of Sanitation, and many others.

Streetsblog note: Many livable streets advocates, including our parent company Open Plans, have indeed called for a laser focus on public space management, and, indeed, a way to knock down agency silos. But an “inter-agency approach” also sounds eerily familiar to the supposed unified approach that the city took on Vision Zero, which ended up being more or less ignored by several of its pillar agencies (looking at you, Department of Health and NYPD).

In a section called “Support Open Restaurants, particularly in low income communities,” the mayor may have assuaged some complaints about the outdoor dining initiative begun under his predecessor, claiming he will “work with local designers and manufacturers to develop standardized, modular components for outdoor dining setups … that will follow the forthcoming permanent design guidelines currently in development. This program will … help to enliven retail corridors.”

Streetsblog note: Here was another missed opportunity to mention garbage containerization.

In another section called, “Invest in neighborhoods,” City Hall said that “every commercial corridor in the five boroughs deserves ample investments and public realm improvements to attract customers, support businesses, and improve quality of life.” To do so, the city promised “key public realm improvements” that include “additional benches, bollards, sidewalk bumpouts, planters, plazas, garbage cans, bike racks, and other local needs.” He also said there would be “investments in staffing and programming.”

Streetsblog note: Looks like the mayor read our memo.

Workplace improvements

In a section called, “Expand minimum labor standards to more app-based delivery workers,” the mayor addressed the elephant in the room of street safety: How roughly 80,000 app-based restaurant delivery workers are basically exploited because they are required to get around the city at breakneck speeds on roads that do not provide them with basic safety.

Hizzoner promised to make sure “these workers have a sustainable path to participating in this essential work.”

Streetsblog note: That’s awful vague, isn’t it?

In a section called, “Re-envision the city’s jobs hubs in response to shifting trends in living and working,” Adams raised a crucial issue about our city’s future as a city of the future. With commute patterns changing thanks to substantial work-from-home (especially among suburban commuters), Adams asked, “What is the future of the workplace, and what does it mean for our traditional office districts? How can public policy anticipate the economic transformations underway in our city? How can we best support New Yorkers in this transition and provide them opportunities to take part in a ‘new’ New York? How can we re-imagine the future of the Metro region?”

Streetsblog note: He didn’t offer many answers, except that his “New” New York Blue Ribbon Panel will deliver recommendations this fall, and that he’s looking forward to doing “neighborhood planning around the forthcoming Metro-North regional rail stations in the Bronx [to] focus on how to leverage new infrastructure investments with a robust workforce development strategy for nearby healthcare institutions.”

Again, pretty vague.

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