Thursday, February 17, 2011

New Atlantic Yards Movie

Perhaps I am late to the game on this one, but I just saw the trailer for a documentary about the Atlantic Yards controversy. The movie, called Battle of Brooklyn, tells the story of Brooklyn's use of eminent domain to build a sports arena. I am a big fan of eminent domain (hmm.. not sure if that is the right way to put it), but will likely see this movie that appears to focus on the protesters.

The main protester that the film follows actually agreed to a $3 million settlement and moved out. I wonder if they include that tidbit.

- Jessica Owley

 

February 17, 2011 in Affordable Housing, Community Economic Development, Constitutional Law, Development, Economic Development, Eminent Domain, Environmental Justice, New York, Property Rights | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Are the most productive environmental law scholars writing about land use?

Bridget Crawford and Emily Waldman at Pace have been doing some interesting research (especially considering the fact that neither one is an environmental law or land use professor). They have put together a list of the most productive environmental law scholars at the top ten environmental law schools. It is admittedly a narrow list, and I am not sure what it can tell us. Perhaps it gives guidance to those of us hoping to get our environmental law programs into the top ten. If so, the message appears to be (1) write more or (2) hire Dan Farber.

What I found interesting about this list in reference to our earlier discussions (here and here) of land use versus environmental law, is that these non environmental law scholars did not appear to make such a distinction. Specifically notable, is the prolific John Nolon ranks number 2 on the list. He is undoubtedly  a land use prof and yet recognized in this study as an environmental law scholar. See we should all just be one big happy family.

 - Jessica Owley

February 13, 2011 in Environmental Law, New York, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Eagle on Urban Revitalization, Eminent Domain, and Jane Jacobs

Steven J. Eagle (George Mason) has posted Urban Revitalization and Eminent Domain: Misinterpreting Jane Jacobs, forthcoming in the Albany Government Law Review.  The abstract:

This article reviews the implications for land use policy of Jane Jacobs’ The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Fifty years after its publication in 1961, Death and Life remains a clarion call for resistance to monolithic development and to the reigning paradigm of urban planning in the mid-20th century. The article asserts, however, that government officials and planners have learned the wrong lesson from Jacobs. Their emphasis on the top-down imposition of what purports to be varied development is evident in the growth of condemnation for retransfer for private economic redevelopment. Such policies are directly contrary to Jacobs’ insistence on bottom-up organic development.

The article further describes the muddled state of the U.S. Constitution’s Public Use Clause, evident in Kelo v. City of New London and in state cases such as Goldstein v. New York State Urban Development Corporation. It asserts that judicial unwillingness to provide meaningful scrutiny to condemnation for private redevelopment is based, in part, on acceptance of the revisionist, and incorrect, reading of Jacobs’ work.

Matt Festa

February 12, 2011 in Eminent Domain, History, Housing, New Urbanism, New York, NIMBY, Planning, Politics, Scholarship, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Fort on Laches and Indian Land Claims

Kate Fort (Michigan State) has posted Disruption and Impossibility: New Laches and the Unfortunate Resolution of the Iroquois Land Claims in Federal Court, 11 Wyo. L. Rev. ____ (forthcoming 2011). Here's the abstract:

That the law changes over time is no secret. That the law changes based on the parties involved is less obvious, but still no secret. In the case of the Haudenosaunee land claims cases, however, the law shifted dramatically and quickly based entirely on the identity of the parties. In less than five years, the federal appellate courts changed the law so drastically to all but end more than thirty years of modern litigation, reversing years of relative fairness at the district court level. These actions required a fundamental shift in the law of equity: the creation of a new equitable defense for governments against Indian land claims. How the courts accomplished so much in such a short amount of time requires a close reading of the cases and a few logical leaps.

The first part of this article will give a brief history of the New York land claims, focusing on the Oneida Indian Nation and the Cayuga Indian Nation of New York. While the tribes have been fighting the status of this land since the original agreements were signed in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, this article looks to the modern era of land claims in the federal courts. The second part of this article will review how a decision in the Oneida claims case directly informed City of Sherrill v. Oneida Indian Nation. The third part will focus on the Cayuga Nation line of cases and how Cayuga Indian Nation of New York v. Pataki changed the fundamental understanding of the equitable defense of laches into a new defense used to defeat tribal land claims. Finally, the fourth part of this article will look closely at the most recent loss, Oneida Indian Nation v. County of Oneida, where the court admits the creation of a new equitable defense. This defense, identified as “new laches” or “Indian law laches” is a defense that can prevent even the bringing of a land claim in the courts. The defense is no longer traditional laches, but rather an equitable defense that follows none of the rules of equity, and exists only in federal Indian law.

Jim K.

February 11, 2011 in Caselaw, New York, Property, Property Rights, Remedies, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Fracking Conference

We've got a lot of exciting things going on here in Buffalo these days. At the end of March, we'll be holding a symposium and community forum on fracking. I hope to see some of you there!

- Jessica Owley

 Hydrofracking: Exploring the Legal Issues in the Context of Politics, Science and the Economy

March 28-29, 2011 at University at Buffalo School of Law

Buffalo, New York

On March 28-29, 2011 the University at Buffalo Environmental Law Program and the Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy will host the conference: Hydrofracking: Exploring the Legal Issues in the Context of Politics, Science and the Economy.

Horizontal-gas drilling involving hydraulic fracturing, also known as hydrofracking or fracking, and its potential effects is an important environmental and energy concern for the nation. This conference provides an opportunity for a scholarly exchange of ideas regarding the issue as well as a forum for community discussion.

We welcome submissions on any related topic, including the following:

  • Hydrofracking and Nuisance Law
  • Impacts on Tribal Lands
  • Administrative law and the EPA Rulemakings
  • Environmental Review Processes    
  • Application of federal environmental laws, including the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act
  • Energy issues, in including the Energy Policy Act and DOE policy
  • Endocrine Disruption and Human Health Impacts

Authors will have an opportunity to publish their work in the Buffalo Environmental Law Journal. You are invited to submit a paper or presentation proposal for of no more than 250 words by Monday, February 21st to jol@buffalo.edu.

For more information, contact Jessica Owley [jol@buffalo.edu or 716-645-8182] or Kim Diana Connolly [kimconno@buffalo.edu or 716-645-2092]

February 7, 2011 in Clean Energy, Climate, Conferences, Environmental Justice, Environmental Law, Environmentalism, Exurbs, Federal Government, Local Government, New York, NIMBY, Nuisance, Oil & Gas, Planning, Politics, Property, Property Rights, Scholarship, State Government, Sustainability, Water | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, February 4, 2011

Snow Days in Texas and Elsewhere

Today I am in my hometown of Albany NY, trudging through waist-high ramparts of plowed snow.  Much of the US has suffered tremendous snowfalls/blizzards in the past week.  Back in my current home of Houston, TX, my family and students are having a "snow day" because they anticipate maybe getting some white stuff.  Since the typical transplanted-yankee reaction is to scoff at the inability of southern cities to deal with snowy weather, I think it's worth editing and reprising this post from last year, where I defend the local government choice to take the occasional shutdown over the necessary land use investment for snow removal:

Snow Day in Texas

Hard to believe, but it might snow today in Houston. Such weather is pretty rare in Houston.  My law school has closed for the day in mere anticipation of snow.

I grew up in upstate New York [where I am today, in Albany], where the average January temperature is 22 F (compared to Houston's 55 F); average winter snowfall was 64" (compared to Houston's < 0.05").  Tennessee, where I lived for about eight years as an adult, is just far enough north to get some decent snowstorms each winter, but overall it has a much warmer, and shorter, winter.  Yet it seemed that in Tennessee the authorities were constantly cancelling school and shutting the city down.  Often the schools had to extend their year to make up for all of the snow days.  In New York we hardly ever lost a day of school due to snow; perhaps 0-2 per year.  Even a 12-inch snowfall was not a problem, while in Tennessee they would preemptively close for a forecast of snow.

Fellow northern transplants and I would snicker at all this.  You call this a snowstorm?  I chalked up the different approaches to the hardiness of our yankee constitutions.  But eventually I think I figured out what might be the biggest factor in the different regional reactions, and it's a land use & local government issue.  Albany County's snow removal budget for supplies alone (salt, fuel) is $1,217,500.  This doesn't include the operating costs for personnel, nor the capital outlays for the equipment; a new snow plow can cost a city around $200,000.  Chicago's total snow removal budget is $17 million

So while these types of expenditures are necessary in northern cities, it wouldn't make sense in warmer climes to purchase and maintain the equipment, supplies, and personnel necessary for snow removal capability.  In Houston a freak storm like today's doesn't happen often enough to remotely justify the expense.  It becomes a more difficult question for places in the latitudinal middle, like Tennessee and Kentucky.  One could measure the economic impact of lost school and work days and business in the area, and compare it to the costs of snow removal.  But even that would still need to make some predictive assumptions based on variance from year to year.  (Besides, why invest in a snow plow when Georgia will soon be underwater due to global warming?) 

Assuming rational actors, one would think we could draw lines between the places where it is more efficient as a matter of municipal policy to do snow removal, and those where it is more efficient to simply ride out the storms as they come.  Obviously there are a lot of other factors for planners in making this decision, including geography, the urban/suburban/rural character of the place, and other unique factors.  Plus there are the politics of snow removal (a blizzard is said to have altered the outcome of Chicago's mayoral primary in 1979). 

But obviously it would never make sense on the Gulf Coast, so we'll just hunker down as we watch the freak snowfall today (my three-year-old [now four, and still talking about last year's snow] has no idea what this stuff is).  But don't feel bad for me-- it will be back up to 74 F by Tuesday. 

So take that, yankees.  As Jessica points out, in Buffalo they make the social land use adjustments that are necessary, but they take a rational approach in Houston too.  I might reconsider this stance tonight after I freeze off my fourth point of contact. 

Matt Festa

UPDATE: No snow in Houston, but everything's frozen.  Contrast the icy fountain in front of my Houston apartment with the snowdrifts piled high in front of my childhood home in NY.  Yet the local government responses are as different as the respective amounts of frozen H2O. 

MJF 2-2011 113 Albany Feb 2011 017

 

 

 

 

 

 

February 4, 2011 in Climate, Georgia, Houston, Local Government, New York, Planning, Politics, Sun Belt, Texas | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

One of the Many Reasons I Love Buffalo

While the rest of the country is reeling from the huge snow storms, it was just another winter day here in Buffalo. (Most of the schools were closed today, but the consensus seems to be that they shouldn't have bothered because the snow didn't arrive in the amount expected.) Buffalo has already surpassed 60 inches of snowfall this winter, but no one here is fazed by it.

Having grown up in Wisconsin, I am used to snow but I have been impressed with the snow culture here. In particular, I assumed that being a home owner in Buffalo meant buying a snow blower. However, in my neighborhood this doesn't seem to be the case. Only one or two people on each block buy a snowblower snow thrower and then those wonderful souls clear the snow for the entire block. We moved to Buffalo this past summer. When our neighbors told us not to buy a snowblower because someone else already had one, we thought they were kidding. We have two such snowblower owners on our block. One of them even took the time to do our entire driveway. I rushed out to thank our neighborhood snowblower owner one day last week. "Just being a good neighbor!" he said.

Thinking about land use and community here in Buffalo necessarily involves considering weather snow. Locations of public services, uses of public spaces, and protection of natural resources must be approached differently in a place where you can't see the sidewalks for three months. Sure lots of cities are walkable, but how many are cross country skiable? It is always interesting to move to a new city and learn about the different communities, traditions, and landscapes. Although Buffalo is beautiful in the summer (admittedly the best time to visit), you have to be here in the winter to understand how the community comes together.

- Jessica Owley

February 2, 2011 in Climate, Community Design, New York, Pedestrian, Property, Water | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Housing Fellowship Program in New York

Here is an announcement that may be of interest to your students:

HPD-HDC Housing Fellows Program 2011-2013

The NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) is the nation’s largest municipal housing preservation and development agency. Its mission is to promote quality housing and viable neighborhoods for New Yorkers through education, outreach, loan and development programs and enforcement of housing quality standards.  It is responsible for implementing Mayor Bloomberg’s New Housing Marketplace Plan to finance the construction or preservation of 165,000 units of affordable housing by 2014.  Since the plan’s inception, a total of more than 108,600 affordable homes have been created or preserved.  For more information, please visit www.nyc.gov/hpd

The NYC Housing Development Corporation (HDC)provides a variety of financing programs for the creation and preservation of multi-family affordable housing throughout New York City.  In partnership with the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development, HDC works to implement Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s New Housing Marketplace Plan to finance the creation or preservation of 165,000 affordable housing units by the end of the 2014 fiscal year.  Since the plan launched in 2004, HDC has financed nearly 47,521 homes for low- , moderate- and middle-income New Yorkers.  The New York City Housing Development Corporation is rated AA by S&P and Aa2 by Moody’s.  For more information, please visit www.nychdc.com

The HPD-HDC Housing Fellows Program is designed to bring talented young professionals to HPD and HDC to expose them both to the inner workings of New York City government and to the field of affordable housing, with the goal of developing the next generation of affordable housing leadership.  The Fellowship provides a forum for the exchange of fresh and current ideas with those who shape the City’s housing policy through housing- and community development-related lectures, site visits, hands-on policy work and mentoring.

For more information: http://www.nyc.gov/html/hpd/html/jobseekers/fellowship.shtml

- Jessica Owley

February 1, 2011 in Affordable Housing, Development, Historic Preservation, Housing, Local Government, New York, Planning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Road running as a land use tour

IMG_0112 Today was the Houston Marathon, in which your humble blogger was joined by 26,000 others in self-inflicted pain and suffering.  It occurred to me--in between bouts of cursing my foolhardy decision to enter the race--that running is a great way to observe land use in a city or town.  It allows one to tour cities and neighborhoods more slowly than in a car, but faster than walking.  And a race as long as a marathon gives you the chance to visit several areas in a city and observe both the use patterns within each neighborhood and the differences between them.  The Houston Marathon course directs its runners through several of the more interesting neighborhoods in the city (albeit all in the "favored quarter").  The official race program describes several of the neighborhoods on the course:

Downtown. Downtown Houston is the seventh largest downtown business district in the United States and has the third most concentrated skyline after New York City and Chicago.  [I should also note that the race started and ended at Discovery Green, a new urban park generally thought to be a highly successful planning and local government accomplishment.] 

The Heights.  Founded in 1891, The Heights was one of Houston's first suburbs and is best known for its tree-lined streets, beautiful parks and assortment of new homes, Victorian-era houses, and Craftsman bungalows.  [One of the original "streetcar suburbs."  In the Unzoned City, HP is a big issue in The Heights as a way of controlling development.]

Montrose.  The Montrose area is considered one of Houston's most eccentric areas, and hosts a diverse community of young adults, business professionals, punk rockers and artists . . . . It is an area made for pedestrians where people can walk and cycle easily.  [The APA named Montrose one of America's Top 10 Neighborhoods].

Texas Medical Center/Rice University.  The Texas Medical Center is the largest medical district in the world, containing 42 medicine-related institutions.  [You may have seen in the news recently that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is now being treated here].

The Galleria.  The Galleria area, also known as Uptown, is Houston's best-known shopping district and second-largest business district.  [One unusual thing about Houston is that there are four or five disparate business districts that would each qualify as "downtown" or the CBD in most cities].

Memorial Park.  Opened in 1924 and covering 1,466 acres, Memorial Park is one of the largest urban parks in the United States.

Just from these introductory descriptions, you can see how a comparison of one city's neighborhoods invokes both local and national land use issues.  Running through the city was a great way to get a tour of the visual characteristics on the ground.  At least that's what I'll be telling myself as I hobble to land use class in the morning. 

Matt Festa

January 30, 2011 in Downtown, History, Houston, Local Government, New York, Planning, Texas, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Panel on "Premature Subdivisions" for New Partners Conference

As I previously posted, the New Partners for Smart Growth Conference is happening in Charlotte, NC February 3-5.  Here's an announcement from the Lincoln Institute about their panel at the conference.

Call them the new ghost towns - "premature" subdivisions that have been laid out in anticipation of a continuing housing boom and unfettered growth at the periphery. In many areas there is a large surplus of already platted lots, improperly located to foster smart growth. Teton County, Idaho has granted development entitlements in the rural countryside sufficient to quadruple their population. Most of these lots have non-existent or poor services.

Even in areas that expect large increases in population, these premature subdivisions are in the wrong location to foster smart growth patterns. In Arizona's Sun Corridor, approximately one million undeveloped lots, many not even platted yet, have been entitled and would lead to further sprawl.

The current economic downturn provides an opportunity to address past impacts, better anticipate and prepare for future growth and improve property values, says senior fellow Armando Carbonell, who will be moderating a panel, Reshaping Development Patterns, at the New Partners for Smart Growth conference in Charlotte Feb. 3.

Carbonell sees an opportunity to redesign communities to transfer development pressure from previously approved development areas to foster more sustainable development. For example, in the suburbs of the Northeast, there are projects that remake the suburban highway, turning "edge city" districts into compact mixed-use centers, and using green infrastructure strategies for shaping new communities at the metropolitan fringe."There's a sponge-like capacity to accommodate population growth without any further peripheral development," says Carbonell.

The panelists exploring these issues will be Arthur "Chris" Nelson, Metropolitan Research Center, University of Utah, on demographic and population trends; Jim Holway, head of Western Land and Communities, the Lincoln Institute-Sonoran Institute joint venture; and Thomas Wright, executive director of the Regional Plan Association of New York, Connecticut and New Jersey.

New Partners for Smart Growth this year marks its 10th anniversary as a collaboration of the Loal Government Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency.

"Premature subdivisions" aren't just a western or northeastern problem - we've seen a fair number of them here in Georgia as well.  If any of our readers attend this session, or any other session at the New Partners conference, please send us a report!

Jamie Baker Roskie

January 26, 2011 in Conferences, Development, Exurbs, Lectures, New York, Planning, Property, Smart Growth, Sprawl, Subdivision Regulations, Suburbs, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Scouting, Walking, & Blogging New York

Among the many reasons that I am passionate about the subject of land use law, these three are among the most important: First, it is historical--studying land uses in our cities, towns, and rural areas gives us a sense of how we lived and how our places have changed over time.  Second, it is an essentially visual subject--to see the land and the built environment, whether in person or through pictures, is an important part of thinking about the effects of law and policy.  Third, and related to the first two, is that land use tells stories--whether over the course of time or within present-day issues and controversies, land use provides a narrative about how we live with each other in our communities and in society. 

That's a long-winded way of leading up to the observation that I really like two websites that I stumbled across recently and want to share with you.  Neither is written by a lawyer or a professor, but both involve the efforts of thoughtful and observant people to walk the streets, drive around the region, and post pictures, descriptions, and stories about the land, buildings, neighborhoods, and cities, both past and present.

The first is Scouting NY.  Its proprietor is a professional film scout, who describes his endeavor thusly:

I work as a film location scout in New York City. My day is spent combing the streets for interesting and unique locations for feature films. In my travels, I often stumble across some pretty incredible sights, most of which go ignored daily by thousands of New Yorkers in too much of a rush to pay attention.

As it happens, it's my job to pay attention, and I've started this blog to keep a record of what I see.

And we all benefit from that.  For an example, the current feature at the top of the blog is a collection of photos and descriptions of an abandoned mental asylum in Rockland County.  Creepy and fascinating. 

The second website I want to link to is Forgotten NY, run by graphic designer Kevin Walsh.  This one seems to be more focused on the city proper and its various neighborhoods.  The MO seems to be more about the street-level observation, by talking walks around the various parts of the city and reporting descriptions and photos, and giving us an insight in to the New York of the past through the evidence that still lingers today.  The current feature is "A Walk from South Williamsburg to Bedford-Stuyvesant," with copious photos.  This site looks like it's been around for about a decade and has a strong readership, but I never came across it until just recently.   

These two happen to be about New York.  I suspect that there are many more great blogs and websites out there, about New York and also about other places, which seek to illuminate, record, preserve, and tell the stories of our places, run by folks who are passionate about their communities past and present.  If you know of or would recommend any similar sites, I'd love to hear about them. 

Matt Festa

January 25, 2011 in Architecture, Historic Preservation, History, New York, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Connecticut vs. American Power

Kermit Lind just alerted me to a case the rest of you are probably already following, Connecticut vs. American Electric Power.  Following is a synopsis from the Climate Change and Clean Technology Blog.

On December 6, 2010, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in American Electric Power Co. v. Connecticut, a federal nuisance case on appeal from the Second Circuit. Plaintiffs -- eight states, the City of New York and three non-profit land trusts -- seek abatement and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from defendants, who include some of the United States’ largest electric utility companies. The Second Circuit ruled that: (1) the case did not present a non-justiciable political question, (2) the plaintiffs have standing, (3) the plaintiffs stated claims under the federal common law of nuisance, (4) the plaintiffs' claims are not displaced by the Clean Air Act ("CAA"), and, finally, (5) the Tennessee Valley Authority (“TVA”), a quasi-governmental defendant, is not immune from the suit. See Connecticut v. American Electric Power Co., 582 F.3d 309 (2nd Cir. 2009).

This is a case to watch out for during this Supreme Court term.

Read more here.

Jamie Baker Roskie

January 18, 2011 in Climate, Environmentalism, Federal Government, Industrial Regulation, Land Trust, Local Government, New York, Nuisance, Property Rights, State Government, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Carousels vs. Conservation in Brooklyn

In the small world department, at a wedding in December I met a student of Patricia Salkin's.   Andrew Stengel, a "non-traditional" second-year student at Albany Law School, is a member of the school’s Government Law Review.  Andrew has also served in a variety of positions in government and progressive advocacy organizations.  He worked as the political director for Harvey Weinstein, co-founder of Miramax Films, and he got his start in the administration of Gov. Mario Cuomo.

Andrew e-mailed me recently to let me know about his recent posts on the Government Law Review blog regarding a plan to put a carousel in an area of a park in Brooklyn that is meant to be protected in perpetuity as a natural and scenic area. Read his posts here and here.

Jamie Baker Roskie

UPDATE - on April 10, 2011 a federal judge in New York temporarily blocked the plan for a carousel. Stay tuned!

January 18, 2011 in Historic Preservation, New York, Water, Wetlands | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Robert Moses, The Musical

Not too long ago, Jamie posted about a musical based on Atlantic Yards.  It seems like the New York theater scene just can't resist land use topics (not that I blame them).  Now we have . . .

"Robert Moses Astride New York," a new show based on Robert Caro's Pulitzer-winning biography of the legendary New York figure, The Power Broker.  From the NY Times article by Robin Pogrebin:

So a reporter invited Mr. Caro to join her for a sneak peek at the budding musical, “Robert Moses Astride New York,” a work in progress that will have its world premiere in a one-night-only free performance at 7 p.m. on Saturday at the World Financial Center in Lower Manhattan.

To be sure, the musical is considerably less comprehensive than Mr. Caro’s 1,286-page 1974 book, “The Power Broker,” which follows Moses’ career as city parks commissioner and chairman of the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority. “Robert Moses Astride New York” moves through major chapters of history in just a few stanzas, and the piece to be performed Saturday is only a sampling of what the composer, Gary Fagin, ultimately hopes will become a full-fledged production featuring additional characters like the neighborhood activist Jane Jacobs and Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia. Saturday’s concert will feature the Knickerbocker Chamber Orchestra (Mr. Fagin is its music director and conductor), which will also perform classics by American composers like Aaron Copland, Charles Ives, Leonard Bernstein and Bob Dylan.

I'm about halfway through Caro's The Power Broker--it's a great read, but very long.  If you're in New York, you can get the abridged version (+ songs!) at tonight's free world premiere at the World Financial Center

Matt Festa

January 15, 2011 in History, Humorous, Local Government, New York, Planning, Politics, State Government | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Upcoming Conference at Pace - Call for Presentations

From Patricia Salkin at Albany:

Save The Date and Call for Presentations

May 5, 2011 at Pace Law School in White Plains, New York

Practically Grounded – Best Practices for Skill Building in Teaching Land Use, Environmental, and Sustainable Development Law

This conference – co-sponsored by the Center for Excellence in Law Teaching and the Government Law Center of Albany Law School and the Land Use Law Center of Pace Law School – offers professors an opportunity to showcase and learn about context-based learning strategies in these dynamic practice areas.  Due to the community-based nature of proposed land use projects and environmental disputes and the fast-paced development of litigation and policy formulation at all levels of government, opportunities abound to take students into public and private practice arenas and to bring practitioners and policy makers into the classroom.

You are invited to submit a proposal for making a presentation on skill building in law school courses on these subjects at this day-long conference.  Authors of selected proposals will present at this event and be given an opportunity to submit papers and essays that will be published by the Pace Environmental Law Review online.  Presentation and paper proposals should contain no more than 150 words and should be submitted by Tuesday, January 18th to:

Professor John R. Nolon, Counsel
Land Use Law Center
Pace Law School
78 North Broadway
White Plains, NY  10603
jnolon@law.pace.edu

For more information, contact Professor John Nolon at Pace Law School (914) 422-4090 or Professor Patricia Salkin at Albany Law School (psalk@albanylaw.edu).

I'm sure this will be a fantastic conference - I encourage you to submit a proposal and attend!

Jamie Baker Roskie

January 5, 2011 in Conferences, Environmental Law, New York, State Government, Sustainability, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Rockefeller Center and Big Development Projects

I just saw a CNBC documentary on The Rockefellers.  It was well done (not sure when it was originally made).  One segment that I found very interesting from a land use perspective was the story of the development of Rockefeller Center in NYC-- you know, famous for the Christmas tree, the skating rink, Radio City, and the place where Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey hang out at 30 Rock (coincidentally, I thought that the middle-aged Nelson Rockefeller had an uncanny resemblance to Alec Baldwin).  

The gist of the narrative is that John Rockefeller Jr. bought the land--several blocks of midtown Manhattan--from Columbia intending to redevelop it as a new home for the Metropolitan Opera.  Then the Great Depression hit.  Unable get traditional investors and real estate financing, Junior took the bold move of deciding to go ahead and build.  He commissioned an ambitious plan for developing several blocks with buildings, theaters, the plaza, and the 70-story skyscraper.  Rockefeller paid for most of it himself up front, and put thousands to work.

You can read more about it in Daniel Okrent's book Great Fortune: The Epic of Rockefeller Center.

One thing it made me think about is the feasibility of large-scale redevelopment projects.  The story seemed to be that Rockefeller Center was a big risk, but paid great rewards (both financially to its owners, and culturally to the city).  But the current political mood seems to disfavor large-scale redevelopment.  The high-profile failures of places like Poletown and even New London seem to caution ambitious planners away from undertaking too-ambitious plans for fear they might fail, and this is leading to some of the criticism of planned projects like Atlantic Yards.  

One way to look at it is that the history of real estate development (as well as business generally) is probably replete with more failures than successes, so perhaps it isn't fair to judge all future projects by anecdotal examples of recent failures.  There's also context: while one of the academics in the CNBC documentary described Rockefeller Center as "the biggest development project since the great pyramids," it was still just a few blocks of New York City, so as large as it was it probably wouldn't have singlehandedly sunk the fortunes of Gotham had it failed--where as a place like New London has much more at stake in a major economic development project.  There's also the issue government involvement.  While I don't know the full story of Rockefeller Center (I'll have to read Okrent's book!), it seems as though it was principally planned, organized, and paid for by private actors.  The modern trend toward more government involvement may be necessary to execute a massive project given the regulatory issues and the need for eminent domain for land assembly.  The question is whether governmental involvement comes with a price-- complicating the project politically, legally, and financially, and putting the public fisc at risk if the project tanks.  

I know there are a million variables that influence why some projects succeed and others fail, and I don't have a scientific theory on the matter.  It would be interesting, though, to compare modern and historical large-scale development projects and to account for historical failures as well as the successes that we can remember so much more easily.

Matt Festa

December 28, 2010 in Architecture, Books, Development, History, Local Government, New York, Planning, Politics, Real Estate Transactions, Redevelopment, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Furman Center's NYC Quarterly Housing Report

NYU's Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy has published its New York City Quarterly Housing Update for 3d Quarter 2010.  A taste from the press release:

NYU’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy released, for the first time, a quarterly update on six key indicators of housing market performance, based on a variety of administrative data sources.

The Furman Center found that while the volume of home sales declined by 14% from the second to third quarter of 2010, it remains higher than it was in the third quarter of 2009. Citywide, prices have stabilized, increasing slightly between the second and third quarters of 2010, and changing little since the same period last year. Prices in the third quarter of 2010 were 22% lower than they were at the peak of the market.

There's lots of great data and analysis in the full report.

Matt Festa

December 3, 2010 in Affordable Housing, Financial Crisis, Housing, Mortgage Crisis, Mortgages, New York, Real Estate Transactions, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Atlantic Yards: The Musical ("It's Not")

From The New York Times:

An alternative theater company has created a work based on the controversial Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn.

“So there’s ULURP,” begins the second song in a new musical about Brooklyn. “ULURP is the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure/Which required community involvement and public review/Of all kinds of New York City land-use projects.”

If this seems like something you might read in the notes of a community board meeting, that’s because it is. The song goes on to define the Empire State Development Corporation and the New York State Urban Development Corporation (E.S.D.C. and U.D.C., for musicality) and describe how they function together. “And that’s how eminent domain works!” it concludes. Jaunty, no?

As far as I know, this is the first attempt to set a land use code to music, but I'd love to hear if anyone knows of another example!

For Steve Cosson, a founder of the inquisitive musical theater troupe the Civilians, dramatizing this wonky subject led to a fertile multiyear examination of politics, race, democracy, money and community, centered on the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. Titled “In the Footprint,” the show mines the New Yorkiest of obsessions — real estate — to present a layered portrait of a city and a neighborhood changing, sometimes under duress. “Atlantic Yards: The Musical!” it’s not.

The songs in “In the Footprint: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards” (the creators call them blogosongs) serve not as emotional showstoppers but as commentary and explanation — the Greek chorus of the digital age. The show, which begins previews at the Irondale Center in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, on Friday, and opens on Nov. 22, is based on interviews with business owners, neighbors, politicians, bloggers and activists touched by Atlantic Yards, the developer Bruce Ratner’s divisive project to reconfigure 22 acres of urban landscape in Brooklyn, displacing scores of residents and small businesses in the process.

There are so few examples of artistic effort based on land use law.  If you're in New York during the run, take it in and send us a review!

Jamie Baker Roskie

 

November 11, 2010 in Development, Economic Development, Eminent Domain, Humorous, New York, Planning, Politics, Property, Property Rights, Race, Redevelopment, State Government | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

National Preservation Conference in Austin . . . and Buffalo

We mentioned that last week the National Trust for Historic Preservation had its annual meeting in the Weird City, Austin TX.  There are reports from the conference available on the Trust's website.  There is a video available of the opening plenary session, featuring National Trust President Stephanie Meeks, Laura Bush, and New Yorker architecture critic Paul Goldberger.  

Now the HP community can look forward to next year's National Preservation Conference in Buffalo!  If you're skeptical, check out this video, which correctly points out that Buffalo is a gem for architecture, late 19th/early 20th C. city planning and design, and a great site for discussing contemporary preservation issues with respect to older cities.  The video has gotten some local attention and has allegedly "gone viral" in Buffalo.

Matt Festa

November 4, 2010 in Architecture, Conferences, Economic Development, Historic Preservation, History, Lectures, New York, Texas | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween: Top 10 Haunted Homes in U.S.

From the Zillow Blog comes this entry: Top 10 Haunted Homes in U.S.  Here's the list:

1. Winchester House, San Jose CA

2. Lizzie Borden House (you know, the girl with the axe who gave her parents 40/41 whacks), Fall River MA.

3. LaLaurie Mansion, New Orleans LA

4. The White House, Washington DC

5. Franklin Castle, Cleveland OH

6. Sprague Mansion, Cranston RI

7. Chambers Mansion, San Fransisco CA

8. Mytrles Plantation, St. Francisville LA

9. Stranahan House, Ft. Lauderdale FL

10. Whaley House, San Diego CA

Go and read the blog post for the interesting stories behind each haunted house.  The post explains why it left the Amityville Horror house off the list, but that's not my beef, of course: where is the house from Stambovsky v. Ackley?  That's the property law casebook staple, where after a real estate transaction, the buyer learned that the house was reputedly possessed by a poltergeist.  The NY Appellate Division (1991) held that for purposes of rescinding the contract, the house was haunted as a matter of law.  And it's beyond dispute that Property casebooks have terrified generations of law students!

Happy Halloween everyone, and watch out for the Dead Hand.  

Matt Festa 

October 31, 2010 in California, Caselaw, Housing, Humorous, New York, Real Estate Transactions, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)