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DOWNTOWN'S BIG SURPRISE

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DOWNTOWN'S BIG SURPRISE
Liz Berger, Time Warner Center, Oct. 19, 2012
Educated workers are so over commuter rail. We found Downtown Alliance prez Liz Berger Friday at Municipal Art Society's summit at Jazz at Lincoln Center, where she unveiled a study of recent Census data. The survey revealed a "monumental shift" in where 18- to 44-year-old college-educated workers live; they've moved to within half an hour of Lower Manhattan, she says, and nine of 10 of those live along the subway. (We should all go to Connecticut this weekend because it's feeling really lonely.) Liz says there are now more financial services, insurance, and real estate workers living in the East Village, Lower East Side, and Chinatown than in Scarsdale, Hastings, and Westchester. The point: Businesses no longer need to put a premium on locating near Penn Station and Grand Central. Liz's take on a smart place for them to go (no surprise, given her title) is Lower Manhattan.
Bill de Blasio, Time Warner Center, Oct. 19, 2012
The two-day event—a Who's Who of 132 visionaries in the urban-planning and related fields—also included NYC Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, who says NYC's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure is unduly cumbersome; he says he's heard from developers that a compressed timeline would arm developers with the certainty they need to commit to projects and to concessions for the community. He also says gentrification presents a challenge to maintain diversity (read: affordable housing). He wants to avoid other cities' pitfall of a monied center surrounded by a ring of poor and working-class residents and maintains that it's time for the federal government to re-establish an urban-planning policy. The economic future of the country runs through the cities, he says, and if US cities don't thrive, neither will the country's economy—especially as they compete against other global markets.
Eugenie Birch and Ron Shiffman, Time Warner Center, Oct. 19, 2012
Pratt Institute prof Ron Shiffman (with MAS board chair Eugenie Birch) talked about involving the community in development decisions. When he consulted on the renewal of Melrose Commons in the Bronx, he says, the people who lived in the area disrupted a public meeting on the City's plans. The mayor gave Ron six months to work with the community, which hadn't been consulted despite City Planning staff's intense efforts. What emerged, he says, was significantly better than the original. It has the state's first LEED Stage II Silver certification for neighborhood development and includes six-story, mixed-use commercial and residential buildings, once thought impossible to build there.