Final Parcels Developed in Battery Park City

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The completion of the skyline in Battery Park City comes at a crossroads moment for the neighborhood, which was conceived in 1968 by the State of New York as a way to redevelop a moribund shipping area. Trade Center dirt later filled in rotting piers, though it was not until the 1980s that construction really ramped up. Today the area has 34 residential buildings and a population of 13,000.

[Link to Final Parcels Developed in Battery Park City]

Toward a More Bike-Friendly Future

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Today, I want to announce a sea change. People across America who value bicycling should have a voice when it comes to transportation planning. This is the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized.

We are integrating the needs of bicyclists in federally-funded road projects. We are discouraging transportation investments that negatively affect cyclists and pedestrians. And we are encouraging investments that go beyond the minimum requirements and provide facilities for bicyclists and pedestrians of all ages and abilities.

The U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Ray Lahood announced a major shift in policy and attitude toward making urban transit bike-friendly.

Bottom-Up Growth in New Orleans

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Much is being said about the grand libertarian experiment in rebuilding New Orleans. We saw how reforming the education system was considered a case against public education and overall government intervention. Nicole Gelinas at the City Journal looks at the urban renewal efforts in New Orleans that are taking a similar libertarian slant and at how the city is evolving post-disaster. Although also a firm believer in the free market mechanisms and individual choice, it is not that simple in New Orleans and the rant against planners might be slightly misplaced. The decentralized planning system hasn’t exactly worked wonders in Houston at least in terms of creating a sense of place or identity.

As John McQuaid at Huffington Post points out, the basic problem of New Orleans is “its siting, mostly below sea level, on an eroding, hurricane-prone river delta.” This context demands state and federal intervention if at all New Orleans should be considered suited for habitation. Man’s desire for controlling nature to suit his habitation needs does not necessarily triumph’s nature eventual dominance. I’ve no strong opinions whether New Orleans should or should not be developed but if it is meant to be built through a bottom up approach, it should continue on that path even in eventuality of a natural disaster.

Update: Nicole writes in to mention that she believes in good government that maintains flood control infrastructure and protect citizens from crime. I agree but like any rational entity, government will not giveth unless it can taketh even it means control over planning processes. Extremes in governance systems be it totally state-controlled or completely individualistic may not work and efforts should be made to find an amicable middle-ground.

Governing Land Use in Hazardous Areas with a Patchwork System

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Protecting areas subject to natural hazards is often a dilemma between balancing economic and legal uses of land and promoting public safety and protecting the lives of residents. The government’s role in protecting the people from natural hazard must tread the line between safety and not infringing on property rights of land owners. The federal, state, and local government primarily regulates land uses from natural hazards by incorporating disincentives or promoting land use planning. Local governments are often averse to regulating land use planning for hazard mitigation. The perception of disaster unless directly affected in the recent past infuses a sense of complacency. Also focus on other problems on the agenda puts hazard mitigation at a lower priority level. Remedial actions for built up areas can be expensive and difficult to implement due to social and political pressure.

However two factors can directly affect the use of local government’s use of land use planning and development management programs – commitment of local officials and capacity of local governments. These factors can be directly affected by the extent of community resources that public officials are willing to dedicate for mitigation and the influence of the political climate that pushes these issues up in the public consciousness.

The federal government addresses mitigation issues through a range of programs aimed at land use and development in vulnerable areas. Although the federal government prefers the local government to intervene to regulate land use planning, it also uses an overarching controlling role in preserving wetlands and high-risk areas. The federal government primarily uses investment policies to offer incentives in order to put in place remedial measures; for e.g. The National Flood Insurance Act.

The Stafford Act is intended to offer a comprehensive look at mitigation strategies and provide integrated approaches but differing goals in different states and bureaucratic tangles have not made much difference. The federal government however acts in patchwork of programs that target specific areas instead of providing a broad-based approach and strategy. The federal programs have instead shown a stronger preference for protective methods rather than mitigation and preventive approaches that effectively increase the potential for damage. Stronger land use provisions are avoiding in federal mandate and instead rely on the local governments to enforce them, who in turn differ widely in their application of such regulations.

The states on the other hand have developed a variety of programs for vulnerable regions. Although special attention has been paid to environmentally sensitive areas, protection of regions vulnerable to natural hazards such as flooding, earthquake, or hurricanes has been given low priority. The variation in state programs is attributable to various factors that stem from either the economic or political climate of the regions. The state comprehensive planning mandates have provided a sense of direction to the local governments but due to lack of regional cooperation, such mandates lead to limited and sporadic changes. The goal divergence and mistrust among different levels of the governments are also partly to blame for the inconsistencies of different state policies.

Reference: Summary – Chapter 3: Cooperating With Nature: Confronting Natural Hazards With Land-Use Planning for Sustainable Communities (Natural Hazards and Disasters)