November 13, 2014
By Marc Bussanich
New York, NY—The Public Advocate warned that unless the city takes a more direct role in shaping how development proceeds, New York City’s shrinking middle class will evaporate.
Ms. James spoke before the Association for a Better New York at the Grand Hyatt on Wednesday to put her stamp on the Public Advocate’s office and present her vision for restoring the city’s middle class.
‘We face a defining moment in New York City. Overall our middle class is evaporating and immediate action is required to protect and sustain our city,” said James.
She warned that the city is at a critical junction.
“[Either] we can turn down one road of short term, short sighted construction while ignoring infrastructure needs and a strong economic base for our population, or we can choose the path of a properly planned future where the profits and growth of business is tied to the long-term success of our city; it can be limitless and we can do it together.”
One way Ms. James envisions helping middle class families is for the city to hire a “master planner” who would work with different entities—the Mayor, City Council and City Planning Commission—to foster a more cohesive development plan.
“[Because] we’re at a critical junction I’m proposing that we create a sustainable city and middle class with a designation of a city master planner and new borough development plans who can bring more visionary thinking and progressive principles into the city land use and infrastructure policies,” James said. “Simply put we need someone that can connect the dots and ensure that smaller projects contribute to our larger vision as a city. The city should designate a new master planner to revamp mixed use residential and commercial, transit-oriented development in the outer boroughs similar to Willets Point, which I applaud and support.”
According to Ms. James, the “master planner” would be tasked with “balancing the needs of both the community and business sector.”
“The master planner would be responsible for developing innovative ways to expand transportation options which will in turn help to increase jobs and reduce commuting times,” she said.
She also noted that the borough development plan would improve transportation options for working New Yorkers by restoring the Rockaway ferry service in Queens and south Brooklyn, restoring inter-borough bus service, building out a light rail network along Staten Island’s West Shore and instructing the MTA to expand CityTicket to weekdays to allow Brooklyn, Queens and Bronx residents to ride Metro-North and the Long Island Rail Road for the price of a regular Metro-Card.
“We must expand transportation opportunities in neighborhoods where ridership has increased, such as along the G Line in Brooklyn, extend rail service into the Bronx and Co-op City and ensure that the MTA Capital Plan is funded,” James said.
In the accompanying video interview, we asked Ms. James if she expects the real estate industry to oppose her “master planner” proposal.
“No, I don’t think so. I think primarily in the city this is really an attempt to reach out to developers who too have complained regarding the pace of development in the city. I think they would embrace the idea.”