1. Shocker: The federal government is too incompetent to even sell its own buildings. Eh, oh well – it’s not like it holds most of that property in the city with the most expensive office space in America or anything.
2. Two State Senators from Queens are calling plans to toll the East River Bridges in exchange for relieving Long Island and Hudson Valley counties of the need to pay the MTA pay roll tax “nothing more than another tax on Middle Class families and small businesses.” First of all, it’s not a tax, it’s a user fee, but secondly, how many Middle Class (in caps, for christsake!) families are we supposed to believe really have to drive into Manhattan?
3. The FHA is loaning money to people with “less than stellar credit” to buy condos in New York City with only a 3.5% downpayment. In December I blogged an article claiming the federal government is shifting its subprime portfolio back to the FHA from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, whose implosion has cost taxpayers $150 billion.
4. Green roofs: Is there anything they can’t do? This report lists a whole slew of financial benefits, but if they’re such a great deal, why do developers need “significant public policy support” to install them? All the talk of creating jobs without even attempting to make a cost/benefit analysis is also disconcerting, but is typical of boosters of government programs. And are we really to believe that green roofs “reduce crime”? And if they really “improve property values for nearby buildings by 11 percent,” then why aren’t landlords falling over themselves offering to pay neighbors to install green roofs on their buildings? Seems like for such a supposedly huge benefit and relatively small number of beneficiaries, the collective action problem could be overcome. If even a quarter of the claims in this article were true, roofs across America would be coated in rainforest by now.
5. Philadelphia’s Historical Commission has rejected one homeowner’s plans to restore his house near Rittenhouse Square, first built around 1850, to something he believes to be closer to its original form. The building was “substantially altered” in 1962 and given modernist features, and in 1995 was included in a historic district that was obviously not intended to protect modernist buildings or alterations. Here’s one testy exchange between the architect and a committee member:
The owner’s architect, Andrew Curtis, felt compelled to point out that his client’s personal taste leaned toward restoring the property back to the mid-19th century, and that indeed this was his intent when he bought the residence. “If we looked to demolish the [modernist] chimney, would that be opposed?” he asked.
Gutterman said that the architect would have to provide a “basis” for that decision, to which Evans retorted, “there’s a whole neighborhood of basis!”
Gutterman then responded that part of the district’s charm “is that all the buildings are not the same.” And yet, does anyone seriously think that if someone wanted to build a modernist building there today, it would be allowed?
The parking stuff [in the update] is a little bit anemic. But in PlaNYC 1.0 we couldn’t even touch it, it was considered untouchable. It was our judgment that congestion pricing had more legs than taking on the parking question. That’s telling.
Since we tried to break open that barrier, there’s been maybe a gestation period for the city to start coming around to thinking, “Okay, here’s an area of public policy that we can and should address.” … Now we’re on the threshold of being able to look at it in a robust kind of way. Now let’s do it.
What does that second paragraph even mean??