Cover story: A New Deal for New York
By Marlene Naanes, Emily Ngo and Ryan Chatelain
Even before the president-elect takes office next month, New Yorkers are already putting together a wishlist of critical projects they hope will be funded under Barack Obamas infrastructure-building initiative.
New Yorkers should see it as a great opportunity to rebuild our infrastructure and make our city even stronger, Brad Hoylman, chairman of Manhattan Community Board 2, said of Obamas stimulus package. As well as creating jobs, it would ensure our city is able to grow in the next century.
Certainly there is no shortage of mega-undertakings improvements at Kennedy and LaGuardia airports, Hudson River rail tunnel, etc. that may vie for aid. amNewYork reached out to a number of community boards throughout the city and selected some neighborhood-oriented projects the new administration should also consider:
Revamping Pier 40
Pier 40, a two-story structure at the Hudson River and Houston Street that hosts a parking garage and soccer and baseball fields, is crumbling and no one yet has come up with a financially feasible plan that is acceptable to the West Village community.
A city and state entity, which oversees the pier, has put out requests for proposals but there does not seem to be enough private sector money to complete an almost $300-million renovation, Hoylman said.
Plans to create an entertainment complex with park space have drawn ire from some community members who want to preserve all of the athletic fields. An influx of cash from the federal government would help save the pier and provide much-needed jobs.FDR Drive
Realigning the FDR Drive north of 34th Street, and reconstructing the aging artery, could help grant East Side residents wish for more park space along the East River.
The roadway is in need of repair, and such a project would allow for pedestrian overpasses to the river, said Lyle Frank, Community Board 6 chair.
The better your roads, the better your infrastructure, the better to attract people, Frank said.
Realigning that part of the roadway would cost about $40 million, state transportation officials estimate.
A greener New York
Obamas plan calls for green jobs that include developing alternative forms of energy and installing fuel-efficient heaters and air conditioners. Helen Rosenthal, Manhattan Community Board 7 chairwoman, hopes that includes retrofitting government buildings, such as public schools and city-run housing, with energy-efficient technology.
The city Department of Education recently opened its first green school this year, a project that rehabbed a former dormitory for about $50 million. The department plans to build new green schools and also add environmentally sustainable features during improvement projects of existing schools, said spokeswoman Margie Feinberg.
Rec centers to promote healthy living
Obesity and diabetes are some of the most pressing issues in Washington Heights and Inwood, and local community board district manager Ebenezer Smith feels one way to solve them is through building recreation centers.
Residents, especially children, need affordable, YMCA-like places to exercise and play sports in the area, which is deficient in recreation centers, Smith said.
The centers could also provide nutrition information. We need to educate the people [that] this is the type of food we should be eating, not the food you can buy in the bodega, Smith said.
No studies have been done yet on how much building a series of centers in the neighborhood would cost.
Bush Terminal Piers Park 1-5
Sunset Park, a Brooklyn community first helped in 1936 by funds from President Franklin Roosevelts New Deal economic programs, still finds itself with among the lowest amounts of parkland per capita in the city.
The Bush Terminal Piers Park 1-5 had been a possible solution, but plans to build additional green space were stymied by the sagging economy.
We were finally starting to see positive investments made in this community, said Community Board 7 district manager Jeremy Laufer, and then suddenly, the financial crisis hits and those things are jeopardized.
The park, which could later offer restaurant booths and concession stands for sporting activities, would cost between $20 million and $30 million.
Replacing the nearly 70-year-old Kosciuszko Bridge, which carries the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway over Newton Creek, with two lower, parallel spans will relieve traffic congestion and increase safety, transportation officials said.
The project is estimated to cost $630 million. Federal funding is anticipated but not yet secured, officials said.
The proposed work is currently open to public comment, and construction would begin no sooner than 2012.
Flood-resilient sewer systems
Already a decades-old problem, flooding in Queens seems to be worsening, evident by the July 2007 deluge that caused $1.6 billion in damage to homes and crippled the subways. Many blame aging sewers, development and more intense storms for flooding in neighborhoods such as Rego Park, Woodside, Fresh Meadows and Jamaica.
In the last couple of years, weve been getting more complaints, said Marie Adam-Ovide, district manager of Community Board 8. One of the synagogues [in Fresh Meadows] had to spend thousands of dollars to renovate their basement floor, and as soon as they did, it rained and flooded again.
The Department of Environmental Protection plans to spend $2.8 billion to rebuild the entire citys sewerage system by 2017. In the meantime, dozens of other projects to alleviate flooding in Queens are slated to begin in the next few years, but officials fear budget constraints could stall the work further.
Aline E. Reynolds contributed to this story.