Friday, July 10, 2015

CIVITAS in Action: Spring 2015

Zoning for Quality and Affordability 
The city has announced its plan to update zoning regulations throughout the five boroughs. A primary component of the plan is increasing height limits in most contextual zoning districts. CIVITAS has worked with the community for years to successfully secure contextual zoning. On March 25th, CIVITAS Executive Director Emma Bologna spoke at a press conference organized by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation and held on the steps of City Hall. Later that evening, the CIVITAS response statement was read at an overcrowded Department of City Planning hearing. It is clear from the outpouring of elected officials, community boards, community groups and residents that changes must be made to the proposal before it is approved. 

While CIVITAS has advocated for affordable housing and improved zoning, we recognize that the Zoning for Quality and Affordability proposal will change zoning across New York without thoroughly examining the varying needs of individual neighborhoods. It is crucial that the scope explores whether these changes are appropriate for each neighborhood, and considers the impact of larger and taller buildings on neighborhood character and residents, historic structures, community resources, parks, shadows and infrastructure. Please stay tuned for updates. 

CIVITAS Interviews Gridlock Sam on the Move the Ramp Proposal 
In December 2014, CIVITAS reached out to our local elected officials urging them to approach the Department of Sanitation and request that serious consideration be given to the Asphalt Green proposal to move the Marine Transfer Station entrance ramp. In April, CIVITAS interviewed Sam Schwartz (Gridlock Sam) who explained the concerns presented by the current proposal to construct a ramp at East 91st Street and the benefits of moving the ramp to East 92nd Street. If you would like to view the video, please visit the CIVITAS website ( CIVITAS agrees that there is compelling data demonstrating the dangers of approximately 150 sanitation trucks per day making right turns at the proposed 91st Street entrance. This poses a risk to the thousands of children, seniors and other pedestrians going to and from Asphalt Green and its playing field. Thus, CIVITAS supports the careful consideration of the alternate ramp proposal by city authorities. To sign the Move the Ramp petition, visit 

Asphalt Green, Ramp to Marine Transfer Station. 
Courtesy of Sam Schwartz Engineering. March 3, 2015 

81st Street Bridge Proposal 
In February, CIVITAS requested that work stop on the 81st Street Bridge until the community was provided sufficient time to express their concerns. The Department of Parks and Recreation, Department of Transportation and Department of Design and Construction are working together to
replace the current pedestrian bridge at 81st Street with a ramp. If constructed, the proposed foot ramp would occupy 450 feet of Esplanade park land, taking valuable open space from the community. Additionally it would be visually detrimental to a beautiful and valuable waterfront edge. CIVITAS believes that a newly constructed replacement of the existing bridge and stairs, along with the addition of an elevator down to the Esplanade for ADA accessibility in lieu of the waterside ramp is overall a better solution. On April 20th, Maura Smotrich, CIVITAS Esplanade Project Manager, presented our statement to a well-attended Public Design Commission (PDC) hearing. The PDC voted to approve the 450 foot ramp design with the condition that the following issues are resolved: a material choice that is acceptable to the community at the end of John Finley Walk; to revisit the lighting previously chosen; to revisit the 81st Street cul-du-sac ADA accessible ramp/fence/railing design; to maintain as much contextual appropriateness as possible with the surrounding buildings and Esplanade. CIVITAS will work with the community and city agencies to ensure these issues are resolved. 

CIVITAS & The Great Saunter 
On May 2nd, CIVITAS celebrated Shorewalkers and 30 years of the Great Saunter by handing out refreshments to Great Saunter participants during their 32-mile journey along Manhattan’s waterfront. 

East River Esplanade Jane’s Walk 
On May 3rd, Emma Bologna and Maura Smotrich led a tour exploring three nodes identified in the newly released CIVITAS Vision Plan for the East River Esplanade. Stay tuned for additional Esplanade tours. 

ESTA Press Conference 

On May 5th, Emma Bologna spoke on behalf of CIVITAS at the Empire State Transportation Alliance (ESTA) press event held on the steps of City Hall. Attendees called on the Mayor and the City to increase their funding for the MTA. CIVITAS advocated for increasing funding and proceeding with Phase 2 (96th through 125th Streets) of the Second Avenue Subway. With much of the tunneling finished for Phase 2, it is the most straightforward of the remaining phases to complete, and the logical next step. Continuing the subway line through East Harlem will provide more accessibility to jobs and services for one of New York’s most underserved communities. Also, constructing the subway north to 125th Street will aid in the development of the Harlem business district, increasing available jobs and benefiting the local economy. 

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