Smart Growth America Applauds Governor Cuomo for Signing Land Bank Act into Law

Washington DC- Today Smart Growth America applauded New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo for signing an innovative new policy into law. The Land Bank Act will give localities across New York State new tools for redeveloping vacant and abandoned properties. The “land banks” will be created and run by local authorities with the purpose of reducing the high number of vacant properties in many upstate towns and cities and returning those abandoned parcels to a more productive use.

Geoff Anderson, President and CEO of Smart Growth America, said: “I am thrilled that Governor Cuomo has signed this important bill into law. As the Governor noted in his urban agenda, blighted properties bring despair to communities and land banks are an innovative way to restore struggling neighborhoods. Also, I want to congratulate former Representative Hoyt, Senator Valesky, the Center for Community Progress, CenterState CEO and Empire State Future for their vision and commitment to getting this bill passed and signed into law.”

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Letter to the Editor: Land Bank Act will help N.Y.

Originally published Friday, July 22, 2011 in the Albany Times Union

Dear Editor,
New York cities face a daunting vacancy crisis. Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo, Rochester, Schenectady, Syracuse, Troy and Utica all have vacancy rates over 10 percent, according to recent census data. Vacant properties pose a serious threat to New York communities by lowering surrounding property values, attracting crime, cutting into local tax revenues and perpetuating cycles of disinvestment.

Across New York, leaders have coalesced around the Land Bank Act as an antidote to fight the plague of vacancies. The state Legislature passed the measure; now it is time for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign it into law.

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Smart growth news – July 22, 2011

Expert: Commuter rail will drive development
The Telegraph (Ga.), July 21, 2011
Folks need to re-learn that “transportation drives development,” a nationally renowned transit specialist said Wednesday during a transportation meeting in Macon. “The transportation comes first and it sparks development. … It’s how cities have been built for centuries,” said Chris Leinberger, professor and founding director of the graduate real estate development program at the University of Michigan.

Sale of New Rochelle Site Revives Development Talks
Wall Street Journal, July 20, 2011
Efforts to revive New Rochelle’s downtown have gotten a boost from the sale of a blighted former movie theater to a buyer who plans to rehabilitate the eyesore and, possibly, build an apartment building on the site.

Why Homes in the Exurbs Aren’t Built to Last
D Magazine (Texas), July 20, 2011
The next time you fly into DFW airport, have a look out the window. Somewhere down there—it could be Argyle or Double Oak or anywhere on the periphery of the North Texas sprawl—you’ll see half-built neighborhoods that look as if the assembly line simply stopped rolling. With names like Rambling Meadows, the developments have arbitrarily curved streets lined with tract homes, one after another. Different addresses, same house. What will become of these places in 20 years? How about 50?

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Grants will help revitalize communities through art

How exactly do art and smart growth fit together? The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) found a way to use art to help build great communities.

NEA recently announced its inaugural “Our Town” grants. Find out how they will help 51 communities reclaim their downtowns and revitalize their neighborhoods through art and smart growth strategies.

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Smart growth news – July 1, 2011

Mapping Home-Value Drops by Zip Code
Wall Street Journal Developments blog, June 28, 2011
Zillow’s maps show that poorer center-city neighborhoods and far-flung suburbs tended to fare worse even as trendy urban neighborhoods or established suburbs managed to either weather the storm with limited damage or see losses half that of other zip codes with 50% or 60% declines.

Transportation: Collapse of a Big Tent?
Roll Call, June 16, 2011
They could have battled among themselves for slices of the federal transportation budget. Instead, they have always pressed for a bigger pie — and bigger slices for everyone. The big-tent approach has largely worked. The past three highway bills (1991, 1998 and 2005) were enacted with broad support from all corners of the transportation lobby, with overwhelming bipartisan backing and with more money for everyone.

U.S. opens new round of transportation grants
Reuters, June 30, 2011
States, cities and local governments can now compete for $527 million in transportation grants, the federal government said on Thursday. The budget passed in April provided money for another round of the popular TIGER program created in the 2009 economic stimulus plan to grant money for road, bridge, rail and public transportation projects as well as streetcars and bicycle and pedestrian paths.

Residents and officials seek reforms to fund local public transportation
WAMC (N.Y.), June 30, 2011
“These efficiencies will impact existing routes by adjusting their runs to reflect the times of higher utilization by the public. We are looking to minimize impact on individuals by adjusting routes with route deviation where possible. Our goal is to streamline our times or our services, not so much to change service.”

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Smart growth news- June 29, 2011

After 55 Years, Where Are We on Highways?
National Journal, June 27, 2011
How far have we come since this first highway bill? Is the highway system now true to Eisenhower’s vision of a workable, free, transcontinental roadway? Are there new technological or demographic changes since 1955 that should be incorporated into the surface-transportation goals? If Eisenhower was alive now, what would you tell him about his proudest domestic accomplishment?

If baby boomers stay in suburbia, analysts predict cultural shift
Washington Post, June 28, 2011
The nation’s suburbs are home to a rapidly growing number of older people who are changing the image and priorities of a suburbia formed around the needs of young families with children, an analysis of census data shows. Although the entire United States is graying, the 2010 Census showed how much faster the suburbs are growing older when compared with the cities. Thanks largely to the baby-boom generation, four in 10 suburban residents are 45 or older, up from 34 percent just a decade ago. Thirty-five percent of city residents are in that age group, an increase from 31 percent in the last census.

Green Transportation Research Bill Introduced in the House
AltTransport, June 28, 2011
While a lot of attention is being paid to new surface transportation authorizations from the House and Senate, Representative David Wu (D-Oregon) introduced another transportation-related bill Monday that aims to fund research on alternative transportation.

California: Mission Bay Prepares for Makeover
The Wall Street Journal, June 23, 2011
San Francisco’s effort to transform an abandoned rail yard on its eastern shore in Mission Bay into an urban center is poised for a serious boost from plans by Salesforce.com Inc. to build a sprawling corporate campus in the area. Urban-planning experts say the arrival of Salesforce will provide a vital stimulus for a once-neglected part of the city. But the bold design for the campus is just beginning a monthslong approval process, and Chief Executive Marc Benioff is leaving open the possibility that the company could simply pick a different location for its new headquarters.

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Smart growth news – June 28, 2011

The Atlantic Looks for New Audience with Cities Site
Ad Week, June 27, 2011
The Atlantic, whose online push was key to getting the brand into the black last year, is launching another major expansion online, but with a new tack. In a first for the magazine, TheAtlanticCities.com is launching as a single-topic, standalone site. Coming in September, the site also is a departure in that it will be centered around Richard Florida, an urban studies expert who comes from an academic rather than a journalism background. Florida is the author of The Rise of the Creative Class, among other titles, and has a longstanding relationship with the magazine and its offshoots.

Sinking G.O.P. Poll Numbers May Put Florida in Play
New York Times, June 27, 2011
Mr. Scott’s unpopularity is mostly rooted in his aggressive push for large cuts in the budget and the public-sector work force, his decision to reject $2.4 billion in federal money for a high-speed rail project, and the dismissive and even abrasive way he deals with those who disagree with him or ask a lot of questions.

Housing vouchers a golden ticket to pricey suburbs
Washington Post, June 25, 2011
“There goes the neighborhood,” one homeowner said when she heard that her potential new neighbor had a federal housing voucher known as a Section 8. But Jackson could well be Pinebrook’s salvation, a means by which landlords can rent an empty, crime-magnet of a house to a tenant with a steady, government-backed check.

Complete Streets

Smart growth news – June 27, 2011

Champion of Cities
Wall Street Journal, June 23, 2011
Chairing the City Planning Commission since 2002, Burden, age 67, has revolutionized its role in the city, transforming a once-sleepy bureaucratic agency into an activist department championing good design by using zoning as a weapon to enforce her vision. In her second-floor office near New York’s City Hall, she reviews applications for all new buildings that come before the commission, instructing developers and architects on what they can and cannot do—something that comes as a dramatic shift in the order of business to executives accustomed to getting their way.

Committee Poised to Introduce Transportation Bill
Journal of Commerce, June 23, 2011
Leaders of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee are ready to introduce a new surface transportation bill, but want a commitment from the Senate Finance Committee to find a way to pay for it, a Capitol Hill source said this morning. The committee will propose a two-year transportation bill that will cost $12 billion more than anticipated revenue from the Highway Trust Fund. Committee leaders believe it has a better chance of passing than the traditional six-year bill.

Group working across state to aid vacancies
The Newark Advocate (Ohio), June 26, 2011
Smart-growth advocate Greater Ohio has been pushing for redevelopment of abandoned properties and keeping vacant properties from blight through policy and code enforcement. They’ve put the housing stock of Akron, Youngstown and other large cities under the microscope, but Lavea Brachman, executive director, said the same basic strategy applies for a mid-sized or small city.

Cleaning the Central Corridor in St. Paul, courtesy of the EPA
Twin Cities Daily Planet, June 24, 2011
The construction-burdened Central Corridor can seem like a messy ordeal to drivers, walkers, bikers, and bus riders, but a cleaner future lies ahead. University Avenue property owners in St. Paul could receive aid to get the ball rolling on future developments due to a $1 million grant awarded through the EPA’s Brownfield Program.

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Smart growth news – June 24, 2011

Poor transit system, sprawl make trips to work difficult
Kansas City Star (Kan.), June 22, 2011
A Washington think tank ranks Kansas City’s transit system among the worst in the country at getting people to jobs. Part of the blame belongs to our spread-out growth pattern, which has pulled an ever-larger share of jobs to the suburbs — beyond the easy reach of buses. “We don’t just have a transit problem, we have a job-sprawl problem,” said Ron McLinden, a public transportation advocate with the Transit Action Network in Kansas City. The recent report by the Brookings Institution ranked the Kansas City area 90th among 100 metro areas based on how well its bus system serves the workforce.

Headquarters come and go – it’s jobs that count
Raleigh News & Observer (N.C.), June 23, 2011
The Triangle: A great place to live and work; not so great for a corporate headquarters. You’d never hear this region’s boosters utter such a line, but it’s hard not to at least think it after a week in which the Triangle received another economic pat on the back and downtown Raleigh lost another headquarters. The accolade came from the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, which ranked the Triangle among the 20 strongest performing metro areas in the U.S. through the first quarter.

Transformation Detroit: Dan Gilbert’s grand plan for downtown tech hub, retail and residential
MLive.com (Mich.), June 23, 2011
These days, it seems like everybody has a plan to revitalize Detroit. But unlike many would-be visionaries, Dan Gilbert has what it takes to get it done: Money. Boatloads of it. The Quicken Loans founder and chairman is in the process of purchasing the 23-story Dime Building near Campus Martius, which would be his fourth major downtown real estate acquisition in the past 10 months, including the First National Building, Chase Tower and the Madison Theatre Building.

Walking expert prescribes ‘road diets,’ traffic circles for cities seeking street makeovers
Associated Press via Washington Post, June 20, 2011
Today, with the health, environmental and quality-of-life benefits of walk-able neighborhoods, they can’t get enough of Burden. Even in car-dependent Southern California, where he spent a few of his roughly 340 days a year on the road this spring, city planners are literally walking the talk alongside him.

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Land Bank Act passes New York legislature; awaits Governor Cuomo’s signature

Late last week, in a victory for smart growth advocates across the state, the New York State legislature passed the Land Bank Act (A373A/S663A). Now awaiting signature into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo, the legislation would allow towns and cities in New York State to create land banks – entities that can hold and manage vacant and abandoned properties and return them to productive use.

New York’s Land Bank Act would provide major benefits to local economies by reversing cycles of decline and improving property values in communities across the state. Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, the bill’s lead sponsor in the Assembly, described the positive economic impacts land banks can provide in a recent press release about the bill:

“Just as one vacant building can set off a cycle of contagious blight, with declining property values leading to further abandonments, a smart redevelopment plan, implemented by a land bank that can acquire, hold and assemble parcels of land for development, green space, or public works projects can reverse this non-virtuous cycle. Their work adds value to surrounding properties and strengthens local real estate markets.”

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