Wednesday, April 23, 2008

New Vision For The St. George Waterfront

From The Staten Island Advance:

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- A sweeping new vision for the St. George waterfront that includes four 18-story apartment towers and townhouses where a parking lot now sits was unveiled at a high-powered economic development meeting in Sea View last night.

It will be years before the concept for the residential plan, dubbed the St. George Waterfront project, and a retail counterpart eyed for another nearby, approaches reality -- if ever.

Still, there was plenty of enthusiasm at the Staten Island Economic Development Corp.'s "pre-conference" held last night at the Joan and Alan Bernikow Jewish Community Center in Sea View.

"It's like driving toward a mountain; it doesn't seem to get any closer but if you keep driving toward it you'll get there," said R. Randy Lee, SIEDC chairman.

Last night was the first public showing of a development plan for the parking lots straddling the Richmond County Bank Ballpark, which a consultant called typical of the massive investment needed to jump-start the whole area.

On the parking lot to the west of the ballpark, urban planner Tom Jost envisions four 18-story apartment towers lining Richmond Terrace, followed by 12-, 8- and 6-story towers and townhouses, and ending with a redeveloped waterfront park, all above an underground parking garage.

Where the parking lot between the ballpark and the Ferry now lies, the concept calls for a pedestrian-centered shopping and retail area, anchored by an IMAX theater, an urban grocery store like a Whole Foods Market, and restaurants with a waterfront promenade.

"At this point we're still in development; you need to have a plan to show to the city and to get developers interested," said Jost, director of urban planning for the consulting group ARUP. "These two sites are the best economic development sites on Staten Island."

Yesterday was what organizers called "a teaser," and more details on the St. George concept and other development projects are expected to be unveiled at the development corporation's 10th annual SI Conference 2008, slated for the Hilton Garden Inn, Bloomfield, on Tuesday.

The SIEDC also threw its full support behind other business and retail projects already under way all over the Island.

They include:

The Waterfront Commons, a 1.3 million-square-foot, open-air retail and entertainment center to be built on the Tottenville waterfront directly south of the Outerbridge Crossing. Permits are still pending but the developer hopes to have it finished by 2010.

Prodigal House Pick: $1,700,000

Our favorite St. George, Staten Island waterfront mansion is for sale. It would make a glorious art gallery, museum, restaurant, catering hall, bed and breakfast, charter school, or a really incredible home. The views are to die for and you are practically across the street from the ferry terminal. We had heard that this place was being offered for much less so we suppose they will look at all reasonable offers. This building is landmarked so thankfully it is protected from the wrecking ball and greedy investors who wish to build a high-rise in its place. It has a large parking lot which would be great for any of the businesses listed above.
CONTACT: Robert Defalco Realty (click on the headline above to go to their website), MLS #: 1044007, Giacomo Montuori, 718-987-7900 X121, or cell 347-247-5785.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Downtown Drive-In Movies

For the past four years, the Downtown Staten Island Council (DSIC) has hosted its annual community event The Downtown Drive-In Movies. Beginning May 2, 2008, and running for four consecutive weekends, the "Downtown Drive-In Movies" will be held in the parking lot of the Richmond County Bank Ballpark, and will feature a selection of nine of the most popular movies in American cinematic history.

The intent of the Downtown Staten Island Drive-In Movies is to create an event the whole family can enjoy, while simultaneously exposing islanders and off-islanders to the downtown Staten Island area. Ticket prices are kept at a modest amount of $25 per car to encourage families and couples to spend a night out without worrying about the affordability. In 2007, The Downtown Drive-In Movies was a huge success, drawing over 7,500 attendees.

National Grid, (formerly known as KeySpan Energy Services) and NYS Senator Diane Savino are the event's title sponsors. Councilman Domenic Recchia, Assemblyman Matt Titone, Bay Harbor Motors and Muss Development are also major participating sponsors for the event.

"While our event is primarily seen as entertainment, The Downtown Drive-In Movies seeks to change the perceptions of our district and highlight our community's uniqueness" explains DSIC's executive director, Kamillah Hanks. "It gives our local businesses an opportunity to benefit from the high volume of people that come down to the area to attend our event. The younger generation are used to the multiplex, digital sound and stadium seating, but you still get the folks who love drive-in experience!" Hanks said.

For more information, visit the Downtown Staten Island Council website by clicking on the headline above.

May 2: E.T. The Extra Terrestrial 8:30 pm
May 3: Transformers 8:30 pm
May 9: Shrek the Third 8:30 pm
May 10: Titanic 8:30 pm
May 16: Grease 8:30 pm
May 17:* Young Frankenstein 8:30 pm/Rocky Horror Picture Show - 12:00 am
May 23: Wizard of Oz 8:30 pm
May 24: Dreamgirls 8:30 pm
*Double Feature

Fee: $25 per car

Monday, April 7, 2008

Downtown Staten Island Urban Design Plan Released

I was able to take a sneak peek at this exciting plan before it was released. It is great to see all my friends and neighbors working to make the North Shore a better place to live and work. Tevah Platts's article from The Staten Island Advance explains the details of the plan below. She writes "creative suggestions such as a kayaking boathouse (next to Joseph Lyons Park, Tompkinsville), a bike-sharing program and an outdoor ice-skating rink (near the St. George ballpark) are scattered throughout the proposal like hidden candy." Let's find the candy!

A new beginning for the North Shore
The Staten Island Advance
Sunday April 06, 2008, 7:21 PM

A new plan for the redevelopment of Staten Island's North Shore focuses on an energized arts scene, tall condo buildings, architectural restorations and an unbroken retail corridor along the waterfront.

This latest proposal from the Downtown Staten Island Council is the brainchild of St. George architect Pablo Vengoechea, a team of urban planners and a six-member local advisory committee.
It suggests concentrating revitalization efforts within four areas anchored by Bay Street and Richmond Terrace along the shoreline, close to existing rail stations in St. George, Tompkinsville, Stapleton and Clifton.

The 64-page Downtown Staten Island Urban Design Plan outlines an ambitious vision for a roughly 2-mile stretch of the North Shore.

The plan includes opportunities for housing, retail and arts spaces; new parks and civic plazas; transportation improvements, including a downtown trolley; new and widened streets with improved signage; incentives for restoring old buildings and fostering local arts and culture; high-rises clustered to maintain waterfront access and area views; environmentally friendly building requirements, and aesthetic suggestions that could brighten some the area's uglier corners.

"I think this is a really great beginning toward taking ownership of our neighborhood," said Kamillah Hanks, executive director of the Downtown Council. "We have to get people excited about what the downtown area could be."

Other proposals, old and new, have already charted the area's untapped potential; the Urban Design Plan represents just one vision of the area's future. But Ms. Hanks contends this proposal is significant and unique in its comprehensive detail, its vision of neighborhood continuity, and usefulness as a resource to developers and neighborhood stakeholders she believes should have first say in their own city's future.

While rumors that the North Shore is poised for renewal are decades old, the winds of change have been blowing harder as of late -- and from so many directions, they can be difficult to assess. Along with projects planned, completed or under way-- including the proposed development of the Stapleton home port, new initiatives are afoot, including a not-yet-public rezoning plan for St. George and Tompkinsville in the works at City Planning; a forthcoming waterfront study by the American Institute of Architects and the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce, and capital projects from the Staten Island Economic Development Corp. (SIEDC) to be introduced at its SI Conference on April 22.

Thus far, this Urban Design Plan is one of the more thorough visions put forward.

As Downtown Council chairman Michael Behar said at the members-only unveiling of the plan at the Staaten, West Brighton, project leaders seized on the opportunity to create a cohesive, ambitious blueprint they hope will "leave a legacy for our children."

Members of the Council ratified the plan and its definition of North Shore flaws that stand to be rectified.

"Much more work needs to be done," according to the proposal. "Tourists still do not leave the ferry terminal nor can they easily find local attractions; the area still has too many sectors that are neglected and deteriorated; the SIR stations are unattractive and unsafe; the existing zoning is inadequate to the task of contributing the to rebirth of the area; ... the pedestrian experience is marred by unappealing streetscapes and public places, and cultural activity needs to be made a center piece of this revival."

Creative suggestions such as a kayaking boathouse (next to Joseph Lyons Park, Tompkinsville), a bike-sharing program and an outdoor ice-skating rink (near the St. George ballpark) are scattered throughout the proposal like hidden candy.

More likely to prove contentious are designs for buildings of unprecedented height on Staten Island -- mixed-use structures on which neighbors could pin hopes for improved retail along with fears of blocked views, crowded schools or insufficient parking.

In each district, the planners aimed to strike a balance between preserving historic character while fostering density to achieve the critical mass needed to stimulate local economies.

"Skyscrapers and a bustling metropolis won't be created overnight," said Dan Marotta, real estate attorney and chair of the design plan advisory committee, "but the area is ready to pop."

In addition to Marotta, five members of the plan's advisory committee contributed ideas and opinions about how the coming "pop" could happen. They were James Prendamano of Casandra Properties; architect Kevin Rice; entrepreneur Kevin Barry, and artist-slash-community-leaders Theo Dorian and Cynthia Mailman.

The proposal's designation of each neighborhood as a cultural or arts district underlines what could be an auspicious marriage of real estate interests with the North Shore's art scene. As the designers point out, linking community development to nourishing artists and cultural institutions has been fruitful in revitalizing other urban centers, including Baltimore, Providence, Pittsburgh and Tucson.

In addition to providing housing and work spaces for artists, the Urban Plan calls for the installation of a Staten Island Museum of Contemporary Art (SIMOCA) in St. George, a new High School of Art and Design and a multimedia center for the arts in an area of Clifton they would dub the Alice Austen Cultural District.

Not included in the proposal are zoning specifics and funding sources, but the authors sought to put forward a vision that might be used and elaborated by policy makers in the future.

In conjunction with the plan, the Council will launch an Adopt-a-Town-Center initiative next year that will seek support from civic and business leaders to bring action to the proposal's big ideas. Plans to enact a streetscape improvement initiative are already under way, said Marotta, and the Council is seeking political partnerships to begin improvements at and around the Ferry.

"Once you've shown the pubic that there is something coming, and you've shown developers the reasoning behind it, it's going to be a tremendous catalyst," said Marotta.

---- Tevah Platt