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Thread: Staten Island Growth Management Task Force

  1. #1

    Default Staten Island Growth Management Task Force

    PR- 208-03
    July 22, 2003


    Initiative Aims To Protect Staten Islanders' Quality Of Life & Address Overdevelopment

    Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today announced the formation of the Staten Island Growth Management Task Force to address overbuilding and development issues on the Island. The task force’s goal is to outline specific actions to better regulate development, and to preserve and reinforce the quality of life and traditional neighborhood character of Staten Island. *In response to the explosion of new housing and population on Staten Island, which over the last decade grew at a rate almost double the City as a whole, the task force will also look at the borough’s changing needs and recommend ways to manage future growth consistent with the infrastructure capacity of the Island. *The task force consists of elected officials, City agency commissioners, and representatives of civic and other groups, with a direct stake in the future of Staten Island.

    “Today’s announcement underscores our commitment to comprehensively address the problem of rapid development, infrastructure support and quality of life issues that are facing the communities of Staten Island,” Mayor Bloomberg said. *“I am confident that the carefully selected members of this task force will examine all of the issues and provide appropriate solutions that we can quickly put into effect. *The investment that we make today in thoughtfully planning out transportation, infrastructure and other development initiatives is vital to the future of Staten Island’s neighborhoods.

    “I’m also pleased to announce that because of our concern about growth management, we have withdrawn six Staten Island parcels of land from the auction of City-owned land scheduled for tomorrow,” added Mayor Bloomberg. *“As part of our overall effort to address the issue of growth management, we need more time to evaluate the most appropriate use of these properties and therefore, felt it necessary to pull them from tomorrow’s auction.”

    The Growth Management Task Force announcement followed a tour of questionable developments throughout the island that were identified by Borough President James Molinaro and City Council Member James Oddo. *City Planning Director Amanda M. Burden, and Buildings Commissioner Patricia Lancaster joined the Mayor for the tour and announcement that followed at a construction site where a single-family residence had been demolished to make way for a townhouse development, across from the newly restored South Beach boardwalk.

    “I would like to thank the Mayor for recognizing and responding to the concerns of the people of Staten Island,” said Borough President James Molinaro. *“I am confident that this task force will address many of the misinterpretations that cause over and out of character development on Staten Island.”

    “I made an appeal to Mayor Bloomberg on behalf of all Staten Islanders describing the frustrations of inappropriate development in this borough,” said Councilmember James Oddo. “We asked for Mayor Bloomberg's assistance, and he responded by establishing this task force. *In my mind, this group can address opportunities for change and manage future growth that is consistent with the capacity of the public infrastructure and public services.”

    “Growing up on Staten Island was a wonderful experience for me, and with the work of this task force, the Mayor is committed to maintaining the quality of life that Islanders deserve,” said Senior Advisor to the Mayor Vincent La Padula. “This initiative coupled with our success in keeping crime down, our efforts to ensure that the Fresh Kills remains closed, and the work of the Homeport Task Force, will all go a long way to preserving and improving the character of this great borough.”

    “Over the past several years we have actively pursued new controls to restrict inappropriate development,” said City Planning Director Burden. “In February of 2002, zoning amendments were adopted that mandate all new developments built on private roads to build wider private streets, sidewalks, front yards and landscaping. *We are also working closely with Borough President James Molinaro to implement his downzoning applications. *Although many issues remain, I look forward to working with the Task Force to develop ways that preserve and enhance Staten Island’s unique character, its traditional low-scale neighborhoods, and its rich open space resources.”

    “The Task Force will ensure the continuing vitality of Staten Island,” said Buildings Commissioner Lancaster. *“By seeking ways to sensibly regulate growth, it will balance the need to preserve the current standard of livability while still encouraging the construction of much needed housing.”

    The task force is charged with examining the issues of overbuilding and development on the Island, and identifying short-term solutions, potential legislative changes, and strategic long-term planning that will protect and enhance the quality of life on Staten Island. *Recognizing that planning, transportation and building issues have become crucial to the quality of life for Staten Islanders, the group will begin working together immediately to establish an action plan that addresses these concerns. The Task Force, which will hold its first meeting on August 5th includes:

    Amanda M. Burden, Director, Department of City Planning
    James Molinaro, Staten Island Borough President
    James Oddo, Council Member
    Andrew Lanza, Council Member
    Michael McMahon, Council Member
    Patricia Lancaster, Commissioner, Department of Buildings
    Iris Weinshall, Commissioner, Department of Transportation
    Anthony Licciardello, Staten Island Director, Mayor’s Community Assistance Unit
    Pamela Adamo, Vice President, Community Development, Keyspan, Inc.
    Robert Englert, President, Staten Island Chapter of the American Institute of Architects
    Lester J. Figueroa, Real Estate Attorney
    Joseph E. Markowski, President, New Dorp Central Civic Association
    Michael Morrell, Westerleigh Improvement Society, Inc.
    R. Randy Lee, Leewood Real Estate Group, Builder
    Dr. Kenneth J. Saccaro, Former President, Staten Island Greenbelt Conservancy
    James Scarcella, President, Natural Resources Protective Association
    Pablo Vengoechea, Architect, Zone Architecture


    Edward Skyler / Jennifer Falk * (212) 788-2958

    Katie MacCracken * (City Planning)
    (212) 720-3471

  2. #2
    Forum Veteran
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Garden City, LI


    I hear this is kinda like a test run, then the same method will be used for other areas, like Throggs Neck in the Bronx and Bayside in Queens. I agree with it, as long as it's done right.

  3. #3

  4. #4


    Staten Island: Confronting Rapid Growth

    February 7, 2004

    By Kara Bloomgarden-Smoke

    Several key members of the Bloomberg administration attended the Columbus Day parade in Staten Island last year. After the festivities, Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro realized that he had a golden opportunity to tell them about a major issue of concern to island residents - overdevelopment.

    "I showed them a house in a new development where the front stairs led directly into the street," Molinaro later wrote. "There were no sidewalks, so children were forced to play in the streets. The streets were so narrow, vehicles couldn't turn around. Driveways were so small, cars jutted into the street."

    The tour paid off. The officials acknowledged the problem and brought it to the attention of Mayor Michael Bloomberg who, after seeing the situation for himself, convened a task force to investigate the issue further. Since then, Staten Island has become the pioneer borough in a citywide effort to preserve the character of many New York communities and to combat overdevelopment. It could well set an example for neighborhoods in the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn.

    The plan for preserving the island residential communities was set out by the Staten Island Growth Management Task Force. Bloomberg accepted the group's final report in December of 2003 and plans to implement its proposals by November of 2004. But some residents question whether the plan can really control the development that has so changed the city's least urban borough.

    Staten Island, with just under half a million people, has a third of the population of any other borough. But it has been growing rapidly. In the late 1990s, 58,304 people moved to the island. This population growth has been reflected in building development.

    Unlike many other places in New York, when people move to Staten Island, many from elsewhere in the city, they expect a house with a yard for their children to play in, parking spaces to accommodate their cars, and tree-lined streets. Many are lured to the island because it offers the character of a suburb at a fraction of the price of New Jersey or Long Island and because, while it is arguably removed from New York City, it is still a part of it.

    While offering some of the features of a suburb, the North Shore is more developed than the rest of the island. It is also more ethnically and politically diverse. But, like the rest of the borough, it has been characterized by a lack of planning, an increase in population and rapid development. Zoning laws enacted in 1961 allowed for the destruction of old, single-family homes and their replacement with townhouses. Many of the new homes go right to the edge of the property and do not have front or back yards, places for parking or sidewalks. Without yards or even adequate sidewalk space, children play in the street.

    The housing developments lead to increased traffic jams because each household in the borough has an average of 2.3 cars. The roads cannot handle the recent expansion.

    "We want housing that fits in with the area and maintains the character. Where there are already townhouses or apartment buildings, more can be built," explained Molinaro. "We want to guarantee that if somebody lives in a $15 million house, a housing development will not be built next door. We also want to guarantee that a factory cannot be built next to townhouses. We just want to guarantee neighborhood consistency.'

    The proposals of the Growth Management Task Force are intended to accomplish that. The new controls will be tailored to each community so developers can continue to build townhouses in neighborhoods that already have them. However, the future developments would have to have more parking spaces, more yard space, trees in front and a greater distance between houses.

    The plan will also reduce the density of houses in new developments. Under the old zoning, 55 attached townhouses could be built on a three-acre lot, but under the new changes, only 20 detached houses can be built.

    Opponents of the rezoning argue that such regulation will harm the island, "We are in the midst of a housing crisis. There are 800,000 new New Yorkers and only 200,000 new housing units. We need more housing, not less," says Allen Cappelli, spokesperson for the Building Association of New York City.

    Cappelli presents a vision of Staten Island, particularly the North Shore, as a lively and active part of the city. Instead of focusing on parking to solve traffic congestion, there should be a functional public transportation system, he says.

    The borough president does not disagree. But he sees the new zoning laws as crucial for the borough. "Why," he asks, "would anybody be opposed to a better quality of life?"

  5. #5


    February 4, 2005

    What's Eating Staten Island?


    The Charleston section of Staten Island has had a sharp increase in construction that is changing its rural feel.

    ew York City's last frontier is on Staten Island.

    The island's southern toe still has three stables for trail riding, a red barn or two, winding roads without sidewalks and lots of ramshackle houses that would fit nicely into the hardscrabble hills of West Virginia. There is a Currier and Ives village called Tottenville, where city emblems on police cars seem like anomalies. There are salt marshes galore and rare plants that grow almost nowhere else.

    But the march of change in what is the state's fastest-growing county is trampling even such vestiges of countrified character. A wave of development has rolled across Staten Island - 23,000 tightly packed, carbon-copy town houses and other homes were built in the 1990's - and continues to blot out leafy plots of Victorians and colonials that once gave the island its sleepy, roomy feel. A stone's throw from the stables, bulldozers are clearing 42 acres of woods for a mall that will include a Home Depot, a Target and a Bed Bath & Beyond, and there is talk of a Wal-Mart in the borough as well.

    Elaine Cohen, who boards her chestnut gelding, Willy Sho Maker, at Equus Stables and rides four times a week, said that until recent years the neighborhood known as Charleston looked more like the rustic upstate than the city.

    "Now, forget about it!" she said. "They're taking the ruralness out of the area."

    Because the island was a collection of self-reliant villages and hamlets until 1898, Staten Islanders have not, with a few notable exceptions, been much for boroughwide uprisings. Still, some are banding together against what they consider overdevelopment as well as the resulting traffic congestion and school overcrowding.

    On Jan. 12, at the historic courthouse in Richmondtown, representatives of 20 neighborhood civic and environmental groups met for the first time as the "Coalition to Save Staten Island" to bring more muscle to fights like that against the mall, Bricktown Center, in which the Home Depot is planned.

    "Staten Islanders are rallying to save what's left of Staten Island," said David Burg, 54, who heads Wild Metro, a two-year-old environmental group that convened the meeting but is based in Manhattan. He blamed a history of "strong cooperation between builders and political leaders" for much of the development.

    Of course, development has always presented a puzzle for political leaders, and many emphasize its upside - increased tax collections, construction jobs, and new houses that would allow Asian and Russian immigrants, among others, to forsake apartments in Brooklyn for their first houses in America. The 2000 Census counted 4,331 Chinese, 3,499 Indians and 3,452 Russians in the city's least urban borough.

    James P. Molinaro, the borough president, does not like the word overdevelopment. What he opposes is development that is out of character.

    He talked proudly of how he and the administration of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg succeeded in the last two years in rezoning large regions of the island so that clusters of attached homes could no longer be jammed into single-home plots. While the old zoning language permitted backyards no wider than a human arm span, the new regulations require larger backyards.

    "On the same three-acre parcel that you could build 55 homes before I became borough president, you can now build only 20," Mr. Molinaro said.

    But he made clear that he supported the continued building of homes and stores, arguing, for example, that town houses were appropriate as starter homes as long as they were built in neighborhoods that already had lots of them. He would welcome a Wal-Mart "with open arms," he said, because if Staten Island does not build stores it will lose sales taxes to New Jersey. He holds no love for the protesters.

    "There are obstructionists and environmentalists," he said. "I'm dealing with a lot of obstructionists."

    A snapshot of what is happening to southern and western Staten Island would look pretty much like Queens in the 1950's, when grasslands, woods and swamps in neighborhoods like southern Flushing and Bayside were gobbled up for housing and Queens took its present densely populated shape.

    Even Staten Island, which had 191,555 people in 1950, began to dissolve as a bucolic redoubt after 1964 with the opening of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. Andrew J. Lanza, the Republican councilman who represents southern Staten Island, attributes much of the urbanization to city officials who auctioned off large swaths of land cheaply during the 1970's and 1980's to help stave off municipal bankruptcy. A 1961 zoning code did allow for dense housing, but Staten Islanders did not worry back then since much of the island was without sewers, a fact that would have discouraged development.

    All that started to change in the 1970's as residents of the other boroughs clamored to leave neighborhoods where crime was surging and school quality plunging. The velocity of change accelerated in the 1980's, and during the 1990's the island's population grew by 65,000 people, or 17 percent, to 443,728. Now Staten Islanders are trying to seize what is left of its countrified soul before it fades into memory.

    Equus Stables, a dirt corral surrounded by 50 stalls, is now hard to spot among the commercial buildings rising along Veterans Road West. Its owner, Sandy Dono, recalled how until five years ago there were just a few houses and barely a car passing. Horseback riders could trot up the road to the trails in Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve.

    But the woods near the stable were cut down for a postal sorting center, a self-storage company was opened and a giant billboard was put atop a 100-foot column. "We cried when they cut down the woods," Ms. Dono said. Now construction of the mall is making it difficult for riders to reach the trails, though she said city politicians had promised to preserve some access.

    The swallowing up of open space is happening elsewhere as well, and there are house-by-house, neighborhood-by-neighborhood battles.

    Kathleen C. Meaghan, 48, who lives in the same house in Richmondtown her family has owned since 1919, is trying to prevent 15 acres of wetlands and adjacent woods from becoming home plots, arguing that development would pollute gurgling Richmond Creek. The creek is part of the island Bluebelt, a system of protected streams and ponds operated by the city to manage storm water runoff.

    "We want to save our open space, whether it's environmentally significant or it leaves a little breathing room between us," she told the revolutionaries at the Save Staten Island meeting last month.

    Environmentalists have had their eyes on a large swaths of the west shore between the Goethals Bridge and the Outerbridge Crossing, much of which has been forsaken by oil storage and other companies. But home builders covet the marshy land, which is zoned for manufacturing but serves as nesting and roosting sites for shore birds. The city's Department of Planning is studying the area.

    One 450-acre swampy region just south of the Goethals Bridge was bought in December by the International Speedway Corporation for $100 million. The company wants to convert the former petroleum tank farm into a three-quarter-mile Nascar racetrack, a beachhead for stock-car racing in the Northeast. Guy V. Molinari, the borough president from 1990 to 2001, is the company's lobbyist.

    Mr. Burg, Wild Metro's founder, has put together a list of 33 threatened sites - marshes, creeks, and woodland - on the island. Still, the site that has received most of his attention has been the proposed Home Depot mall. The Blumenfeld Development Group, which has spent heavily on lobbying, worked out a deal to develop 42 of the 134 acres. The city hopes to use the rest for schools, housing for the elderly and ball fields.

    Mr. Burg has tried to shrink the mall's footprint by arguing that the area is home to a rare species, Torrey's mountain mint, a two-foot-high stalk with an oval seed head that exists in only 20 colonies worldwide. But he has lost in court, and so far has succeeded only in getting the builder to fence off strips of brush where the mint grows.

    A model often cited for protecting open land is the purchase several years ago of 194 acres of Mount Loretto, a onetime Roman Catholic orphanage overlooking Raritan Bay and the Atlantic. The Trust for Public Land, a national conservation group, negotiated a sale with the Archdiocese of New York and got the state to put up the $25 million purchase price.

    Rather than housing, the area is now a refuge of coastal bluffs and moist grasslands that nurture bird species like the bobolink, meadowlark and savannah sparrow.

    Adrian Benepe, the city's parks commissioner, thinks the island is not starved for parks. One-quarter, or 9,600 acres, is already parkland, and the conversion of the Fresh Kills landfill will bring the total to 12,000, or 30 percent. And not everyone is happy with all that the protesters have done. Councilman Lanza said the suit to stop the Bricktown mall had stalled not the mall but the building of adjacent ball fields at a time when families must travel to New Jersey to play soccer.

    Still, Mr. Lanza wants to keep something of the Staten Island of his childhood, when he chased frogs and soaked up the island's beauty, yet had enough friends nearby to play sandlot ball.

    "I've talked about the Huckleberryesque, idyllic life I had here," he said. "I've got three kids, aged 7 down to 8 months, and I want to see them grow up in a place that had a certain way of life for raising families."

    Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

  6. #6
    Forum Veteran
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Garden City, LI


    I've been to SI only a couple of times (once for a High School swim meet and the rest b/c my wedding photographer moved there from Brooklyn), and only once to the Southern part of the island. It still is pretty damn rural in many places. Kinda crazy. But, there is development all over the place, with lots of big, pricey houses going up, along with townhouses and semi-attached houses.

    Some developments were very pricey looking, suburban-style cul-de-sacs. The prices for the new homes seemed very high for SI, too. Starting often times in the $700s and going into the millions.

    Tottenville is a very quiant town, though. It's the very tip of the island, with lots of old Victorians, etc. Different world down there. Not sure if it should be totally taken away.

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