The Adams administration promises to improve the built environment in New York

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Judging by the hesitant responses from various press outlets within Eric Adams’ newly formed mayoral administration to a basic question about his infrastructure priorities, I expect that within weeks New York City will be reduced to a pile of fiery rubble: its bridges will fail; its subways are constantly flooded with rainwater; and its inhabitants, who have made their way to self-made rafts, will begin to search for food, water and shelter. More patient, less alarming observers suggest the mayor’s staff simply doesn’t yet know how to answer the question.

But clues to the Adams administration’s intentions for better governance can be found in a few places, including an economic recovery plan released by the mayor’s office in March, a two-page report shared by the Department of Transportation (DOT). , and a trickle of information from other sources.

Suggestions from former mayors, academics and experienced practitioners could also help steer infrastructure policies towards a greener, fairer and more beautiful city (if they still exist). We learn from Thaddeus Pawlowski, who worked as the city’s emergency planner in the Bill de Blasio administration, that the former Mayor’s Office for Climate Resilience will be renamed the Mayor’s Office for Climate and Environmental Justice to consolidate multiple offices under one roof. Crucially, the office will also be placed under the supervision of the Department for Environmental Protection (DEP), which has sizeable capital budgets.

The appointment of top officials like Rohit T. Aggarwala, who have been hailed as smart and competent, as DEP commissioner has also prompted optimism from outside observers like Pawlowski. (Initial missteps by the Adams administration, including hiring Bernard Adams as director of mayoral security and increasing the police presence on local public transport, were deflationary, to say the least.) However, none of these officials were made available to speak A Neither were current agency employees, after dozens of inquiries, although three deputy mayors and an acting commissioner from the Department of Building spoke at a breakfast sponsored by the New York Building Congress in early April.

(Leonid Furmansky)

At the April 7 event, the facility’s Deputy Mayor, Meera Joshi, was asked about the details of Adams’ Infrastructure Act. She responded with a series of questions. “Are we reconnecting communities? Do we think of justice? Are we thinking about resilience?” Joshi said, adding: “There will be everything from our broken highways and bridges that need help – the BQE – and there will be things that have not traditionally been considered as part of infrastructure bills, like many [of] our resilience projects, lead pipe replacements and really reconnecting communities: how do we reconfigure?”

Mayor Adams was released on March 10 Rebuild, Renew, Reinvent: A Blueprint for New York City’s Economic Recovery, a 63-page report that outlines, among other things, plans to mitigate the pandemic through investment in neighborhood infrastructure. The report teases improvements to public spaces and a long-awaited rollout of street-by-street cleaning across the city. The mayor should take the lead in cleaning up and reconfiguring the streetscape to mandate a regulated system for trash cans that would address the impact of trash disposal on sanitation, according to Lisa Chamberlain, communications director at the World Economic Forum’s Center for Urban Transformation. “The fact that we don’t have bins on the street that are regularly picked up,” she said. “It’s not rocket science. There’s nothing futuristic about that.”

The economic recovery plan, co-signed by Maria Torres-Springer, who has been appointed deputy mayor for economic and jobs development, will support small businesses by relaxing regulatory requirements and streamlining permitting processes, creating “one-stop shops”. will allow companies to complete all their paperwork in a single office, using online databases to improve smooth communication between authorities.

The initiative signals the intelligent use of new technologies that Chamberlain hopes can be implemented on a larger scale to make cities’ construction and services more efficient. She points out that for more than a decade, companies like IBM and Deloitte have offered “command center-style tools” to integrate and visualize data across multiple agencies, as well as manage incidents and inquiries, geolocate information, and operate to monitor. “To break down those silos, you need to have very robust data exchange capabilities,” Chamberlain said. “Machine learning can be included, so you don’t have to rely on humans to spot patterns or spot every potential problem. For example, the data center can tell you that the pattern of flooding is repeating here.”

the Manhattan skyline seen from across the Hudson River
(Leonid Furmansky)

Local public transport has been a particular problem for the city over the past year. A press contact for the mayor’s office said many of the large investments in public transport it expects to make will be controlled by agencies committed to the state and overseen by Gov. Kathy Hochul. A double-page spread on the mayor’s priorities has now been published A by a DOT spokesman provides an overview of potential projects that could be funded through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Eligible projects include long-neglected bridges across the five boroughs — 789 of them, according to the document — and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, which is in dangerous need of repair.

“There are well-known infrastructure emergencies that have been developing for 50 years, but just thinking about these and we’re already falling behind on what’s actually needed,” Chamberlain said. “We are already ten years behind with the electrification of local transport. If we can only make up for lost time in 50 years, we will never get out of this.”

But the mayor’s economic recovery plan, the DOT spread, and Deputy Mayor Joshi all suggest transit will be a priority for the Adams administration. There are proposals for street charging stations for electric vehicles, greenway improvements for bicycling, rail transportation and the Staten Island Ferry Service. In addition, the Vision Zero initiative to reduce traffic fatalities will be expanded through capital projects at key intersections in Manhattan (Delancey Street), Queens (Queens Boulevard) and Brooklyn (Myrtle/Wyckoff Avenue Pedestrian).

Marc Norman, associate dean of New York University’s Schack Institute of Real Estate, said A that these infrastructure investments could be associated with upzoned neighborhoods and an increase in density near public transportation. He said he expects state lawmakers to allow the 421-a tax break by sundown, meaning the government could reinvest the billions in new revenue into publicly subsidized midrise housing near public transit.

Norman, citing Adam’s enthusiasm for cycling, suggested that expanding bike lanes would be an effective measure to slow traffic in neighborhoods. Likewise the COVID-era restaurant sheds, which also have the benefit of increasing public space; these could be expanded, Norman suggested. “During COVID, the sidewalk shed was all about restaurants, but in reality, the public space is being reconfigured and reimagined,” he said. “What if neighbors wanted to build a shed, yard, or butterfly habitat? I imagine we could use this flexibility that we’ve given restaurants to claim street space for all sorts of other things.”

The documents checked by A Also, prioritize storm water resilience projects, like the already ongoing East Side Coastal Resiliency Project. Pawlowski, executive director of the Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, the planning and conservation center for resilient cities and landscapes, looks ahead to a desolate and restored city. Drawing on principles developed by landscape architecture firm SCAPE, Pawlowski advocates the use of wetlands, forests and natural systems to absorb rainwater, and the removal of surface parking whenever possible. “We need to get back to the top priority of living better with nature and reintroducing natural landscapes into the way we manage our space and our stormwater and connecting people and places and people and each other. ” he said.

One of the essential functions of government is to communicate with the public and provide guidance on its policies, as well as ensuring its competence and transparency. Independent journalists covering the city are not unlike small businessmen; Finally, we rely on the administration to provide quick access to information, as well as interviews with staff and officials, to give the public a glimpse of how it works. Judging by his interactions with this release, his first steps are worrying. It has left a great opportunity to show improvements.

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