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