Outsiders for years, NYC yimbys move into mainstream

first_imgShare on FacebookShare on TwitterShare on LinkedinShare via Email Share via Shortlink TagsAffordable HousingGowanusRental Marketsoho Message* Email Address* Open New York’s Will Thomas and Kyle Dontoh (Photos via Getty; iStock: Open New York)It was a Wednesday night in April 2019, and Will Thomas was outnumbered.Only two other members of pro-housing group Open New York had made it to a public meeting about the future of Soho, which most attendees wanted to remain unchanged.Still, Thomas gamely took the microphone and declared that Soho should build more housing, especially affordable housing. That’s when the booing started.When he finished, someone cursed at him. Another called him a zealot.“After I sat down, one woman told me that if I wanted to live in Soho, I needed to make more money, and otherwise, too bad,” the 27-year-old recalled.Members of Open New York — the city’s only grassroots, yes-in-my-back-yard (or yimby) group — want the city to build its way out of the housing crisis, a viewpoint that can generate hostility at public hearings. Unlike housing activists who back subsidies, rent control or community land trusts, pro-development advocates have long lacked a safe space in city politics, as Thomas’s experience in Soho showed.But in recent months, Open New York’s call to add as much housing as possible in well-off neighborhoods has started to resonate. Behind the scenes, the organization is professionalizing its operation as it prepares for the biggest year in its five-year history, with two major rezonings — in Soho and Gowanus — up for approval.And it has made fans of people like John Sanchez, a Bronx community board district manager and City Council candidate. Open New York helps educate people about making housing affordable, he said, adding, “Supply and demand is a good place to start.”Showdown in SohoUntil recently, Thomas shared a one-bedroom in the East Village with two roommates (one has since moved to Bushwick). A fellow board member, Casey Berkovitz, 28, has lived in five apartments in three neighborhoods in four years.Casey Berkovitz, Open New YorkThe travails of its members in the city’s bruising housing market have led Open New York to push for affordability in a city where rent has grown four times faster than income and there are two low-income households for every one dwelling they can afford.But the group’s supply-oriented solution inflames passions in Soho and other wealthy areas it has targeted. For years it was largely ignored by City Hall.The political winds, though, are shifting in the group’s favor.This fall, with 15 months left in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, Open New York was preparing a last-ditch effort to put rezoning Soho on the agenda. But to its delight, the Department of City Planning finally released a proposal for the neighborhood in October, with the backing of the mayor himself. The plan, which faces an up-or-down City Council vote this summer, would trigger development of up to 3,200 new residential units, 800 of them affordable.Open New York pivoted, calling for even more housing — and girding for its most contentious clash yet.Preservationists in Soho are battle-tested, bearing scars from such fights as NYU’s expansion and a tech hub championed by the Bloomberg and de Blasio administrations. In the 1950s, their predecessors triumphed over Robert Moses’ plan for an expressway that would have run smack through Washington Square Park.But this time, as Open New York members see it, the gatekeepers of Soho and Noho are on the wrong side of history. For residents who benefit from elite public schools, immaculate parks and access to good jobs to oppose zoning changes that would let lower earners share their good fortune is “fundamentally selfish,” Thomas said.Unlike other yimby groups across the country, Open New York does not advocate for building everywhere. Its members are firm believers that adding supply would reduce the cost of housing, but know that notion has been increasingly rejected in low-income, minority neighborhoods.“We do not engage in working-class communities of color,” said Berkovitz.A former resident of San Francisco, Berkovitz feels the West Coast yimby movement has focused too exclusively on affordability at the expense of diversity and environmentalism.“The integration and sustainability cases for building more [urban] housing are just as compelling, if not more so, than affordability,” he said, noting that housing groups in Minneapolis and Oregon have also prioritized racial and climate justice.“Yimbys are known as being from the West Coast,” Thomas said on recent morning in Soho, where outdoor dining cabins had replaced throngs of tourists. “But Manhattan rent has been pretty high for a long time.”Unlike its left-coast counterparts, Open New York only advocates for new housing in better-off neighborhoods. Besides Soho, Noho and Gowanus, the group is pushing to rezone the South Street Seaport area and Prospect Heights.True to its strategy, it was silent on de Blasio-backed Bushwick and South Bronx rezoning proposals, both of which were killed last year by City Council members.Muddy watersThe group is fighting a similar battle in Gowanus, where the de Blasio administration is trying to push an even larger rezoning through the City Council.In the Brooklyn neighborhood, a mixed-use area where residents have relatively high incomes, rezoning could bring 8,000 new apartments, 3,000 of them affordable, in place of defunct, low-rise industrial buildings strewn with rusty scrap metal.A view of the Gowanus Canal (Getty)In addition to bringing in new housing, the rezoning would accelerate an environmental upgrade. The neighborhood’s eponymous canal, once the busiest commercial waterway in the country but now a polluted eyesore, is being cleaned up. Under the city’s plan, it would be adorned with a developer-funded esplanade.To Open New York, such a plan is like red meat to a pack of hungry wolves. And its message on Gowanus is clear and unified: upzone and build.Opponents of the rezoning, by contrast, mix predictions of the neighborhood being overwhelmed by newcomers with doubts that the new units will fill up.“The canal will never be clean,” said Nora Almeida, a CUNY librarian and representative of Voice of Gowanus, an environmental group against the rezoning.She questions whether anyone should live near the foul waterway, noting that adding residents could worsen pollution. When it rains, raw sewage flows directly into the canal because the city’s pipes cannot handle the water from the sky and effluent from toilet-flushers at the same time.While city officials work on that problem, Open New York members say that adding population to places like Gowanus as progress on climate change.“Moving to New York City is probably the single best thing someone can do for the environment,” said Thomas, alluding to Gotham’s per capita carbon footprint being 30 percent that of the U.S. average.Academic research supports Open New York’s cause. Building affordable housing in wealthy neighborhoods makes what Harvard economist Raj Chetty calls “high-opportunity areas” accessible to people who would most benefit from them.Studies have shown that when children get to live in areas with good jobs, transit, and low rates of crime and poverty, their likelihood of attending college increases and their total lifetime earnings grow by $200,000 for each year they live there.This advocacy strategy aligns Open New York’s interests with those who oppose upzoning in minority communities — a powerful combination that could push the Gowanus and Soho plans across the finish line.The strategy also helps Open New York dodge the most charged word in real estate: gentrification.The median income in Soho is about $150,000. It is already gentrified. Who could object to development that allows lower-earning New Yorkers to live there?Andrew Berman, for one.Andrew Berman, Village PreservationWhen Open New York members discuss opponents of upzoning, Berman enters the conversation as the archetypal nimby (not-in-my-backyard) foe. As executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, Berman spends about $1 million annually to celebrate and preserve the status quo, with most funds coming from his well-heeled, well-organized membership.By comparison, Open New York has an annual budget of a few thousand dollars, no staff and no formal membership. It has an email list of about 800, a Slack channel with about 300 and a monthly meeting that draws several dozen participants.Berman thinks the yimbys are Ayn Rand’s spawn, practicing “ivory tower economics.” They, in turn, view Berman as a defender of the selfish and privileged — folks for whom affordable housing means people should live in neighborhoods they can afford.“It’s reprehensible,” Thomas said.Berman says Noho and Greenwich Village preservationists are “against zoning changes which would be detrimental to the neighborhood’s character.” He opposes the taller, denser buildings that would be allowed by the mayor’s plans for Soho and Noho, especially commercial ones.Open New York doesn’t want office towers either, but for a different reason — it wants apartments.The group wants the city to reduce the allowed size of commercial buildings in its plans, making mixed-income housing a more lucrative alternative.“We think there is a risk the city is making high-density commercial buildings too attractive,” Thomas said.Professionalizing advocacyCoalition partners and a persuasive argument can win a policy war in New York, but resources help. To that end, Open New York is trying to close the financial chasm with groups like Berman’s. It completed its first real fundraising drive in October, banking $70,000 in cash — a paltry sum for a citywide group and less than half of Berman’s salary, but enough to start advertising for an executive director (target salary: $80,000 to $90,000). Membership dues are also in the works.Mayoral candidate Kathryn GarciaThe group plans to register as a 501(c)4 social welfare organization, which allows participation in political campaigns. It sent questionnaires to 2021 candidates for mayor and other offices and in mid December issued its first endorsements, backing eight City Council contenders, including Sanchez. On Dec. 29, the group hosted a virtual Q & A with mayoral contender Kathryn Garcia.To its detractors, Open New York remains a conundrum. Most assume it is a tentacle of the real estate lobby and motivated by principal, not principle.“It has to be connected to developers,” said Almeida, the Gowanus activist. Berman believes that Open New York, as much as it claims to care about housing, shills for developers who would build retail space. (Berman’s preservation group does have a connection to brokers, helping them meet licensing requirements through courses about historical preservation.)Kathryn Wylde, CEO of Partnership for New York CityBut Kathryn Wylde, president and CEO of the business organization Partnership for New York City, cautioned that people should not leap to conclusions. “Groups can represent the interests of people you wouldn’t expect,” she said, alluding to Open New York and perhaps her own entity. “That happens sometimes in New York.”One founder of the group, Ben Carlos Thypin, does come from a real estate family. In 2015, Thypin started a distressed assets data firm and became an industrial broker. For the fledgling pro-housing group, he said, a question arose: Where would its members and funding come from?“The easiest thing would have been for Open New York to harvest my contacts in real estate,” Thypin said. “But we decided against it.”Thypin stepped away from the group as other leaders emerged. Today a recusal policy mitigates conflicts of interest among real estate professionals who join.“Let’s make something very clear,” said board member Kyle Dontoh, 26. “We don’t take any money from real estate lobbyists, REBNY, or developers who are working on projects we advocate for.”A spokesperson for the Real Estate Board of New York said it has not worked with Open New York and does not know how it operates.Thypin said unlike Open New York, the industry is actually divided over new development. Limiting new housing increases prices, benefiting property owners and brokers. “Brokers are not the most civically engaged people,” Thypin said.There is no apparent division in Open New York, with its resolute support for adding housing in high-opportunity areas. In addition to the Soho and Gowanus rezonings, the group has advocated for 80 Flatbush Avenue, a mixed-use skyscraper at the edge of Boerum Hill that was approved in 2018; Haven Green, a controversial senior affordable housing development in Nolita; and 250 Water Street, which would bring affordable apartments to the South Street Seaport.Almeida calls rezoning a “neoliberal” approach, but Thomas sees it as a throttle to speed the creation of housing.“Rezoning is a tool the city has,” said Thomas. “It’s imperfect, but we recognize it’s also very effective.”The next nine months or so will reveal whether the same can be said for Open New York.Contact Orion Jones Full Name* Share via Shortlinklast_img read more

US Clears Moderna Vaccine For COVID-19, 2nd Shot In Arsenal

first_imgUSAF / Kasey Zickmund WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. added a second COVID-19 vaccine to its arsenal last week, boosting efforts to beat back an outbreak so dire that the nation is regularly recording more than 3,000 deaths a day.Much-needed doses are set to arrive Monday after the Food and Drug Administration authorized an emergency rollout of the vaccine developed by Moderna Inc. and the National Institutes of Health.The move marks the world’s first authorization for Moderna’s shots. The vaccine is very similar to one from Pfizer Inc. and Germany’s BioNTech that’s now being dispensed to millions of health care workers and nursing home residents as the biggest vaccination drive in U.S. history starts to ramp up.The two work “better than we almost dared to hope,” NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins told The Associated Press. “Science is working here, science has done something amazing.” Early results of large, still unfinished studies show both vaccines appear safe and strongly protective although Moderna’s is easier to handle since it doesn’t need to be stored at ultra-frozen temperatures.A second vaccine represents a ray of hope amid despair as the virus continues to spread unabated even before holiday gatherings that are certain to further fuel the outbreak.The scourge has claimed more than 312,000 U.S. lives and killed 1.7 million people worldwide. New cases in the U.S. are running at over 216,000 per day on average. Deaths per day have hit all-time highs, eclipsing 3,600 on Wednesday.California has emerged as one of the most lethal hot spots, with hospitals running out of intensive care beds and ambulances lining up outside emergency rooms in scenes reminiscent of the calamity around New York City last spring. California on Friday reported over 41,000 new cases and 300 more deaths.When New York’s hospitals were in crisis, health care workers from across the country came to help out. This time, “there’s no cavalry coming” because so many hospitals are swamped, said Dr. Marc Futernick, an emergency room physician in Los Angeles.The nation is scrambling to expand vaccinations as rapidly as Moderna and Pfizer can churn out doses. Moderna’s is for people 18 and older, Pfizer’s starts at age 16.It’s just the beginning of “what we hope will be a big push to get this terrible virus behind us, although it will take many more months to get to all Americans,” Collins said.Moderna expects to have between 100 million and 125 million doses available globally in the first three months of 2021, with 85-100 million of those available in the U.S.Even with additional candidates in the pipeline, there won’t be enough for the general population until spring, and shots will be rationed in the meantime. And while health workers are enthusiastically embracing vaccination, authorities worry the public may need more reassurance to ensure more people get in line when it’s their turn.“Frankly if we don’t succeed in getting 80% or so of Americans immunized against COVID-19 by the middle of this 2021 year, we have the risk that this epidemic could go on and on and on,” Collins said.He is especially concerned that accurate information about the shots’ value reaches communities of color, which have been hard-hit by COVID-19 yet also are wary after years of health care disparities and research abuses.To try to help instill confidence, Vice President Mike Pence received the Pfizer-BioNTech shot on live TV Friday, along with Surgeon General Jerome Adams.FDA’s decision could help pave the way for other countries that are considering the Moderna vaccine, the first-ever regulatory clearance for the small Cambridge, Massachusetts, company. European regulators could authorize its use as soon as Jan. 6. Britain, Canada and a few other countries already have cleared the Pfizer-BioNTech shot, with a European Union decision due Monday.“What we want to always remember is one size does not fit all. We want to have options,” said Dr. Paul Duprex of the University of Pittsburgh.Moderna has about 5.9 million doses ready for shipment set to begin over the weekend, according to Operation Warp Speed, the government’s vaccine development program. Injections of health workers and nursing home residents continue next week, before other essential workers and vulnerable groups are allowed to get in line.Both Moderna’s and Pfizer-BioNTech’s shots are so-called mRNA vaccines, made with a groundbreaking new technology. They don’t contain any coronavirus – meaning they cannot cause infection. Instead, they use a piece of genetic code that trains the immune system to recognize the spike protein on the surface of the virus, ready to attack if the real thing comes along.Their development less than a year after the coronavirus first emerged set a speed record, but Collins stressed that shouldn’t worry people. The speed was due to billions in company and government investments paired with years of earlier scientific research, not any cut corners.“The rigor of the analysis of these vaccines is unprecedented,” Collins said. “We’re not done with this but hope is on the way, and the hope comes from this scientific brain trust that has pulled out all the stops.”Experts are hoping the two vaccines together will “break the back of the pandemic” when combined with masks and other precautions, said Dr. Arnold Monto of the University of Michigan, who chaired an advisory committee that publicly debated the shots’ evidence ahead of FDA’s decisions.The FDA’s main messages:Both the new Moderna vaccine and the Pfizer-BioNTech shot require two doses several weeks apart. The second dose must be from the same company as the first.In a study of 30,000 volunteers, the Moderna vaccine was more than 94% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 in people 18 and older. It also strongly protected older adults, who are most vulnerable.The inoculated can’t throw away their masks as it’s not yet clear either vaccine prevents silent, symptomless virus spread. But there was a hint that Moderna’s shot might provide some protection against asymptomatic infection.The Moderna study uncovered no major safety problems. Like with the Pfizer-BioNTech shot, expect sore arms, fever, fatigue and muscle aches, which are signs the immune system is revving up.Both vaccines carry “a remote chance” of causing a severe allergic reaction. Moderna’s study turned up none of these, though a handful were reported in Britain as the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccinations got underway and the FDA is looking into five in the U.S., including a severe reaction in Alaska. The vaccines’ ingredients aren’t identical. Still, after any COVID-19 vaccination, people should stick around for 15 minutes – or 30 minutes if they have a history of severe allergies – so if they do have a reaction, it can be treated immediately.Both vaccines remain experimental, and the government is closely monitoring safety in case rare problems crop up.Additional studies are needed to tell if the vaccine should be used by pregnant women and children. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should discuss whether to get the vaccine with their doctor.Associated Press reporter Amy Taxin contributed to this report from Orange County, California. The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content. Share:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)last_img read more

Two simple (but not easy) strategies for data mastery

first_imgNearly every industry’s front-runners are pursuing data mastery. Today, many consumers are surprised to learn the enhanced experiences they encounter are data-driven. Pretty soon, they’ll expect it.For this reason alone, it’s imperative credit unions become the kind of data-centric organizations that can meet consumer demand for personalized, intuitive and predictive financial services.What can you do from the C-suite, as a board member or as a senior leader to cultivate a data-centric culture in your credit union? Focus on two simple (but not easy) strategies – Top-down leadership, bottom-up engagement.Top-Down Leadership There is no substitute for a CEO with a vision. When he or she is on a personal mission to instill a culture of data-driven insights and fact-based decision-making, the chances of success are exponentially greater. That said, C-suite vision alone does not necessarily equal top-down leadership. Gaining alignment among the executive leadership team is crucial.The Economist Intelligence Unit looked at senior management alignment around a data-centric culture and financial performance. It found companies with senior managers who were aligned around the importance of a data-driven strategy financially outperformed their counterparts.Senior management team members have many years of experience, and their intuition has served them well over the course of their careers. It’s a big part of why they are helping guide the organization. The day will come when the data presented to them will run counter to that intuition. These leaders must commit to trusting the data, even when it points the credit union in new directions.Of course, senior managers must also be sure to avoid grasping at those few data points that may re-enforce “The way we’ve always done it around here.” When it comes to leading a successful, data-driven financial institution, leaders must remember: outliers are just that.Bottom-Up Engagement There are three components to nurturing bottom-up engagement when it comes to success with data:Making data availableTraining staff on data analysisFocusing on critical business issuesMaking Data AvailableData should be available to every staff member in your credit union. Now, that does not mean all data must be available to every staff member. When determining which data to supply to which employees, ask yourself: Does this data allow staff to perform their assignments to the best of their abilities? Does this data help staff understand how their contributions are advancing the organization?The second of these questions is particularly important, and that’s because putting data on display is a terrific way to inspire staff engagement. Post graphs on the breakroom bulletin board; display data over strategically placed monitors throughout your branches or in all-staff presentations. The manner in which data is displayed isn’t as important as displaying it, pointing to it often and declaring, “This is how we are managing our business.”Training Staff on Data AnalysisThink about the last time you were presented with data you couldn’t easily interpret. That brings us to the second component of building bottom-up engagement – training.Everyone who uses data to make decisions can benefit from training. Do not assume staff members know how to read the data necessary for their success. Train, re-train and re-train again, from sessions on how to read graphs and interpret tables to learning new analytics tools and techniques. Enroll everyone from frontline staff to board members and IT executives in your training programs. Raising the level of data literacy throughout your organization will raise the effectiveness of the organization at the same time.Focusing on Critical Business IssuesOnce these issues are identified, frame them in terms of consumer-focused outcomes. This approach holds two advantages.First, it will help avoid the trap of attempting to capture, store and analyze ever-increasing volumes, varieties and velocities of data. Second, focusing on the few critical business issues in terms of consumer-focused outcomes means using only the data that’s relevant – usually data you already have.The process for implementing this discipline looks like this:Define the issue in terms of specific desired outcomes. Do this from the consumer’s perspective, identifying only that data which must be measured to inform the outcomes.Identify the steps needed to collect, store, analyze and visualize the data.Integrate these steps into the service or process you’re using to deliver the desired consumer outcome.Begin to collect data and measure outcomes.Integrate the learnings into the refined product or service.Following this disciplined approach to data-driven strategies will help you avoid those “Oh, isn’t this interesting!” moments that can shift focus away from your credit union’s most critical business issues.From a data analytics perspective, the credit union industry may very well be further behind than it was last year. Yet, we’re not as far behind this year as we will be next year, and the year after that if we don’t take the steps necessary to shift the culture.Credit union leaders have been asking themselves what they can do to cultivate a data-centric culture in their organization. By setting their sights on top-down leadership and bottom-up engagement, these executives, managers and directors will lead their credit unions on courses to success within the big data revolution.Eric Schurr is chief strategy officer for TMG Financial Services, a top-70 credit card agent issuer and credit card portfolio advisor. He is focused on emerging lending and financial products, as well as industry innovation that will trigger the development of competitive solutions for TMG Financial Services’ credit union and community bank partners. In addition to contributing to industry publications, Eric blogs for a consumer audience at ericschurr.com. He can be reached at [email protected] 41SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr,Eric Schurr Eric Schurr is chief strategy officer for TMG Financial Services, a top-70 credit card agent issuer and credit card portfolio advisor. He is focused on emerging lending and financial products, … Web: www.tmgfinancialservices.com Detailslast_img read more