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CityViews: Act Now to Prevent Heat Deaths and Build a Greener Gowanus

In this season of bomb cyclones and polar vortexes, it is hard to remember how hot this town gets in the summer. Thanks to a phenomenon known as the urban heat island (UHI) effect, cities can be more than 20 degrees warmer than surrounding suburbs and countryside. UHI is deadly: extreme heat causes more deaths in the U.S. than all other weather-related events combined. And the risks are greatest in communities—like Gowanus, Brooklyn—that are impacted by poverty, pollution, and a lack of cooling green space.

Here’s the good news: The proposed rezoning of Gowanus presents an unprecedented opportunity to tackle the UHI effect, saving lives while creating a more equitable and sustainable community.

Gowanus faces daunting public health challenges. The neighborhood is home to more than 15,000 residents, some 4,000 of whom live in public housing where tenants tend to be lower-income and older than the population at large. The Gowanus Canal, designated as a Superfund site in 2010, has been a dumping ground for waste and contamination for decades and two major traffic arteries, the Brooklyn Queens Expressway (BQE) and the Fourth Avenue corridor, on Gowanus’ southern and eastern borders, contribute to poor air quality. Air and water pollution are linked to high rates of asthma and other chronic health problems.

UHI makes all of these problems worse. Because extreme heat can exacerbate chronic medical conditions, the impacts of UHI can be greater for at-risk populations that suffer from higher incidences of heat-related mortality. UHI also leads to higher energy consumption and costs, as well as increases in air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

Rezoning could turn up the heat in Gowanus. If higher density buildings are permitted without comprehensive sustainability plans to promote localized cooling, the UHI effect could worsen, further burdening vulnerable residents—many of whom are not able to afford air conditioning to keep cool, and who live in older buildings that have not been renovated to meet current housing code.

But rezoning also presents an opportunity for positive change. With Gowanus expected to see significant land use changes and new public investment as part of Mayor de Blasio’s plans to address the city’s growing population and long-standing affordable housing crisis, there’s no better time than now to focus on environmental justice needs and the health and overall quality of life for residents. The rezoning of Gowanus should include New York City’s first ‘Eco-District’ that directly addresses UHI and advances a number of local and city-wide sustainability and resilience efforts. As the country’s fairest and most progressive big city, New York City should be creating innovative land-use models that advance equity and sustainability to both meet local community needs and advance New York City’s bold affordable housing and climate goals.

To bring attention to the disproportionate negative health and environmental impacts to at risk populations, the Fifth Avenue Committee partnered with the Urban Land Institute New York’s Technical Assistance Panel. Ten real-estate, transit, and environmental experts—advised by public-housing residents and other local leaders—analyzed the existing conditions in Gowanus and proposed a series of measures to mitigate the impacts of UHI. These recommendations are included in a new ULI NY reportA Vision for a Greener, Healthier, Cooler Gowanus: Strategies to Mitigate Urban Heat Island Effect.

Steps include increasing vegetation by 20 percent to reduce air temperatures, support storm water retention, and help mitigate flooding. Vines could be added to the external walls of existing buildings to reduce outside temperatures and cool the buildings themselves. New buildings should use green infrastructure to reduce, rather than contribute to the UHI effect, by installing green roofs and double- or triple-pane windows; creating breezeways to provide ventilation and encourage airflow; and redirecting and reusing solar heat, which, if allowed to be wasted, can contribute to higher temperatures.

Transit systems should be more efficient to encourage people to take public transit rather than drive. This will help reduce congestion and decrease car emissions, which contribute to the UHI effect. There should be more frequent bus service, sufficient bike parking, and stop-sign and traffic-light improvements. And because Gowanus offers few places for pedestrians to escape the heat, the community’s network of hidden creeks should be daylighted, and areas of respite should be created to provide cool and inviting public spaces. In addition, green workforce development opportunities for local residents are essential to any rezoning effort.

While implementing green infrastructure is smart and sensible, it’s of even greater consequence to ensure that the anticipated multi-billion dollar public and private investments in Gowanus contribute to environmental equity goals before any zoning changes are approved.

No community should bear a disproportionate burden of impacts due to environmental, planning, and policy decisions. Today, we have an opportunity to put in place innovative and forward-thinking land use and sustainability standards while also advancing tangible and meaningful social, economic, and climate justice remedies. Let’s not waste this unique moment to make Gowanus a model community that is greener, healthier, cooler, and more equitable.

Michelle de la Uz is the executive director of the Fifth Avenue Committee and oversees its mission of advancing economic and social justice. She is also a member of the New York City Planning Commission. This commentary was produced in collaboration with the Island Press Urban Resilience Project, which is supported by The Kresge Foundation and The JPB Foundation.

ULI Urges Mitigating Urban Heat Islands With Gowanus Rezoning

By: Betsy Kim,, January 16, 2018

NEW YORK CITY—The anticipated rezoning of Gowanus, Brooklyn in furtherance of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s housing plans, Housing New York: A Five-Borough, Ten-Year Plan and Housing New York 2.0, will increase development opportunities in the upcoming years.

The Urban Land Institute New York and the Fifth Avenue Committee, a South Brooklyn community non-profit group, organized a technical assistance panel (TAP) of environmental, real estate and transportation experts to study the Gowanus neighborhood. ULI then issued a report, recommending quality-of-life strategies, contemplating increased densification of buildings.

The report focuses on the Urban Heat Islands phenomenon, which occurs when buildings, asphalt and concrete replace plant life; and cars and air conditioners release additional heat into the environment. This heats up urban areas. The US EPA says in a city of a million people, this can increase the temperature 1.8 to 5.4 degrees hotter than its surroundings neighborhoods.

Urban heat islands can prevent cities from cooling off at night, getting up to 22 degrees hotter than neighboring areas. The CDC reports that each summer more than 65,000 people visit the ER for heat illnesses, and that between 2006 and 2015, heat caused the deaths of 1,130 people.

ULI states 4,000 public housing tenants live in Gowanus. It notes they tend to be lower-income, older, and having higher rates of asthma and other chronic diseases compared with the general population. The US Census Bureau reports 25% to 50% of Gowanus residents live below the poverty level.

Urban heat islands particularly affect the poor and underserved populations, as most do not have air conditioning and are vulnerable to heat-related health problems.

In addition, the report points out that extreme heat increases energy demands, air conditioning use, air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and water pollution.

“Offsetting the impacts of this UHI phenomenon should be a high priority during any redevelopment plan for Gowanus,” says TAP chairman, James Lima, president of James Lima Planning + Development.

“Gowanus faces a series of complex challenges ranging from UHI effect to Superfund site toxicity, and poor air quality, among other public health concerns. The anticipated rezoning process presents a timely opportunity to coordinate and implement numerous important measures that can help ensure the health and vitality of Gowanus residents for years to come.”

ULI NY Chairman Marty Burger, CEO, Silverstein Properties, commends the ULI NY TAP process for bringing together land use experts who provided advice and solutions on a volunteer basis. Burger also commends the process for including residents to share their concerns and ideas on making neighborhoods more livable.

Michelle de la Uz, executive director of Fifth Avenue Committee, says the process allows residents to voice concerns and make recommendations before any zoning changes are approved. She describes the cooperative efforts as transforming one of New York City’s most toxic and environmentally challenged communities into a example of sustainability and resilience.

The report includes the following key recommendations:

(1) Increase vegetation by 20%, which could reduce air temperatures by approximately three degrees, support stormwaterretention and help mitigate flooding.

(2) Provide incentives for green buildings in new developments. This could include green roofs, double or triple pane windows, breezeways and solar energy use.

(3) Design public areas and paths for pedestrians to escape the heat.

(4) Increase transportation system efficiency.

(5) Turn the Con Edison lot between Baltic and Butler streets into a temporary park, especially with the only neighborhood park, Thomas Greene Park, slated to be temporarily closed for remediation efforts of the Superfund clean-up.

Several green building incentives are already in effect in New York City and New York State including green roof tax abatements available through March 18, 2018, as well as green building programs, such as the Bronx Environmental Revolving Loan fund. This initiative provides zero interest loans of up to $100,000 to install measures that improve air quality.

The report supports encouraging developers, businesses and homeowners to pay for heat mitigation measures and to later get rebates. It describes similar environmental programs across the country.

In Minneapolis, Minnesota, building owners who improve storm water management, including a green roof, receive 50% credit towards storm water fees.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvia provides green roof rebates of 25% of cost up to $100,000.

The Seattle, Washington Rainwise program gives rebates for rain gardens or cisterns if the property is in a sewer overflow area.

Nashville, Tennessee allows $10 in sewer fee reduction for every square foot of green roofing.

Montgomery County, Maryland offers rebates of up to $10,000 to property owners installing approved stormwater management systems.

The report also recommends creating a green infrastructure fund, using both public and private money.

It states Gowanus is likely to experience increased density. Thus, “Rezoning provides an opportunity to leverage the tremendous real estate value created to proactively address UHI risk and incorporate strategies for mitigation.”

Urban Land Institute Report Proposes Ideas to Alleviate Urban Heat Island Effect in Gowanus

By: Pamela Wong, Bklyner, January 9, 2018

GOWANUS – The Urban Land Institute New York (ULI NY) released a report on Monday outlining recommendations on how new developments, that will be built as part of the rezoning of Gowanus, will be able to help mitigate the urban heat island (UHI) effect.

UHI occurs when buildings, cement, and pavement replace natural vegetation, and cars and air conditioners convert energy to heat and release it into the air. ULI NY’s report notes that the extreme heat from UHI increases energy costs, air conditioning use and costs, air pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions. It also affects water quality and can exacerbate chronic health conditions.

Gowanus is more vulnerable to extreme heat because of the area’s heavy traffic and lack of shade trees, parks, and greenery that cool and improve air and water quality, the report states. If higher density buildings start rising in Gowanus, ULI NY says UHI risks could increase unless measures are taken to implement green infrastructure.

Extreme heat events cause more deaths in the United States than any other weather-related hazard, including hurricanes, tornadoes, and flooding, according to the report. Studies show heat-associated deaths primarily affect low-income and environmental justice communities—highly polluted areas with significantly fewer trees and less green space, according to ULI NY.

In April 2017, ULI NY and the Fifth Avenue Committee assembled a ten-person Technical Assistance Panel (TAP)—a group composed of environmental, real estate, and transportation experts who spoke with community stakeholders, analyzed existing conditions in the neighborhood, and compiled a list of strategies to address UHI in Gowanus in anticipation of rezoning projects.

The goal of the report is to make Gowanus safer and healthier, as well as more comfortable and pleasant. The panel’s recommendations aim is to help reduce energy use in the neighborhood which will benefit local homeowners, tenants, business owners, and manufacturers.

The Gowanus UHI TAP team created a series of measures to mitigate the UHI effect, some of which include creating more green spaces and implementing measures that encourage human-powered transportation.

Some of the key items the Gowanus UHI TAP proposed include:

  • Increasing vegetation coverage in Gowanus by 20-percent (approximately 1,000,000 square feet) in an effort to reduce air temperatures by approximately 3 degrees. This would also support stormwater retention and help combat flooding. The panel suggests planting trees and adding vines to exterior walls of buildings to help reduce outside temperatures and cool the interiors. They also suggest adding planters at locations where soil contamination or groundwater levels prevent trees from being planted.
  • Incentivizing green building and green infrastructure technology, such as green roofs and green walls, as well as promoting efficient building design including double or triple-pane windows, insulation, and breezeways for natural ventilation.
  • Creating “areas of respite” where pedestrians can escape the heat during the summer, such as green spaces, green corridors, and “micro parks” featuring cooling green infrastructure, trees, and other structures that provide shade and encourage social activity.
  • Improving transportation options and encouraging locals to use public transit and/or human-powered transportation instead of driving to reduce congestion and decrease emissions. The panel suggests more frequent bus service, more bike parking, and stop sign and traffic light improvements at major intersections. The team also suggests the addition of a new pedestrian bridge on Degraw Street over the Gowanus Canal to provide easy foot access across the canal.
  • Creating a temporary park at the Con Edison lot located on Nevins between Baltic and Butler Streets while the area’s only public park, Thomas Greene Park, is closed for several years as part of the Superfund clean-up. Like Thomas Greene, the temporary park would feature a pool to help locals stay cool and serve as a community space. The panel also suggests redesigning Thomas Greene Park with additional green space when it reopens.

Founded in 1936, the Urban Land Institute is a non-profit research and education organization that provides leadership in responsible land-use by facilitating the sharing of ideas, information, and experience among industry leaders and policy makers committed to creating better environments.

You can read Urban Land Institute New York’s full report titled A Vision for a Greener,Healthier, Cooler Gowanus: Strategies to Mitigate Urban Heat Island Effect here.

Group Study Ways To Cool Down Gowanus

By: NY1 News, January 9, 2018

While a warm up is in the forecast this week, people in one Brooklyn neighborhood are looking for ways to keep cool.

Gowanus, a notorious industrial area suffers from what experts call urban heat island effect or U-H-I.

Because of the high number of concrete buildings and little green space, higher temperatures last for longer periods of time and plague the neighborhood in the warmer months.  Experts say U-H-I can worsen the effects of pollution and cause health problems.

Members of the Urban Land Institute and the Fifth Avenue Committee conducted a study to come up with ways to alleviate the problem.

“If you walk down third avenue on a hot summer day, it is hard to find a tree in the entire length of the community and so it is something that resonated for people,” said Michelle de La Uz, Executive Director of the Fifth Avenue Committee.

The groups recommendations include adding new parks, more vegetation and giving developers more incentives to construct green buildings.

Their findings come as the city prepares to rezone the neighborhood which would likely spur more development.

City should consider heat effect in Gowanus rezoning: report

By: Rich Bockmann, The Real Deal, January 8, 2018

A portion of an estimated $600 million in value that could be created by rezoning Gowanus could be captured to help fund infrastructure investments to help mitigate the “urban heat island” effect, according to a new report.

As the city considers rezoning the industrial Brooklyn neighborhood, the Urban Land Institute put out a report that recommends the city take into consideration how new developments could impact heat and temperature in the neighborhood.

Gowanus, unlike neighboring areas such as Park Slope and Carrol Gardens, was developed without the abundant tree coverage and shade that cools neighborhoods. As a result, Gowanus is more vulnerable to heat than its neighbors.

“Offsetting the impacts of this [urban heat island] phenomenon should be a high priority during any redevelopment plan for Gowanus,” said James Lima, president of James Lima Planning + Development, who chaired the ULI panel that produced the study. “The anticipated rezoning process presents a timely opportunity to coordinate and implement numerous important measures that can help ensure the health and vitality of Gowanus residents for years to come.”

ULI put forward several proposals for how to mitigate the heat effect, such as creating a Green Infrastructure Fund – which could be funded through tax assessments or penalties on developers who don’t comply with certain requirements – or providing density bonuses for buildings that include things like green roofs.

Report: Rezoning could cause Gowanus heat waves; Green mandates recommended

By: Mary Frost, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, January 8, 2018

Gowanus is one of the trendiest neighborhoods in Brooklyn, but will its upcoming rezoning make the neighborhood way too hot?

Gowanus — an area already subject to a poor air and water quality, heavy traffic and lack of parks and open space — could suffer the effects of a phenomenon known as the urban heat island effect as higher density buildings are developed, according to the nonprofit Urban Land Institute New York (ULI NY).

In the urban heat island effect, buildings, cement and asphalt paving cause cities to be hotter than surrounding, less developed areas, especially at night. While daytime temperatures can be as much as 5 degrees Fahrenheit hotter, evening temperatures can be as much as 22 degrees hotter than neighboring areas.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, increased heat from the urban heat island effect has been linked to respiratory difficulties, heat cramps, heat stroke and deaths.

Gowanus is one of several neighborhoods facing rezoning as part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s affordable housing push.

ULI NY was invited to look into the issue by the nonprofit community development corporation Fifth Avenue Committee. Together, they convened a Technical Assistance Panel in April to study the potential rezoning and offer recommendations to ameliorate drawbacks. ULI NY issued a report on Monday.

Some of the recommendations in ULI NY’s report include more trees and plantings, green roofs and breezeways, “paths of respite” along windy corridors, better public transit, and turning the Con Edison lot between Baltic and Butler streets into a temporary park while the area’s only public park, Thomas Greene Park, is closed as part of an area Superfund cleanup.

Land values in the area north of Third Street are expected to explode following rezoning, according to the panel.

“What if you could capture some of the value of the real estate and use it for public benefit?” James Lima, chair of the Technical Assistance Panel and president of James Lima Planning + Development, told the Brooklyn Eagle on Monday. Lima said requirements and incentives aimed at addressing urban heat island effect could be incorporated into the rezoning.

The effect would be to “leverage” the planned rezoning for the benefit of the community, Lima said. While building requirements for developers into rezoning plans is not unique, Lima said, Gowanus has “extraordinary existing conditions,” such as very little tree canopy.

Although the exact details of the rezoning are not yet known, maximum building height and Floor Area Ratio (FAR) are likely to increase in portions of the district, resulting in an overall increase in height and bulk. Tall buildings prevent surrounding streets from releasing their heat at night.

Urban heat island effect presents “a pressing health issue,” Katharine Burgess, senior director of Urban Resilience at ULI told the Eagle. The tactical approach taken to the issue in Gowanus could be repurposed as a national model, she said.

Urban heat island’s effects are not insignificant. In Europe during a heatwave in August 2003, for example, the effect was estimated to cause up to 70,000 excess deaths, according to the March 8, 2016 issue of the journal Environmental Health.

In 2016, the NYC Department of City Planning announced that Gowanus would be one of 15 neighborhoods to be rezoned by the de Blasio administration. In anticipation of potentially dramatic changes to the neighborhood, Fifth Avenue Committee convened a coalition of local tenants, workers, businesses and community organizations to focus on issues of economic and environmental justice, protecting tenants from displacement, investing in NYCHA and other issues.

More details on recommendations in report

*    Increase vegetation in the area by 20 percent, which could reduce air temperatures by approximately 3 degrees. This includes not only trees, but vines on the external walls of existing buildings and planters. This also would support stormwater retention and help mitigate flooding.

*    Incentivize green building in new development. Strategies include installing green roofs, using double or triple-pane windows, and implementing envelope improvements such as insulation and breezeways. Builders could redirect and reuse the solar heat that is captured in buildings, which, if allowed to be wasted, can contribute to higher temperatures.

*    Design areas and paths of respite. Major thoroughfares in Gowanus currently offer few places for pedestrians to escape the heat. Areas or paths of respite could feature cooling green infrastructure. To maximize impact, the areas could follow the area’s prevailing winds, and involve the community’s currently hidden network of creeks.

*    Make the transportation system in the area more efficient. Encourage more people to use public transit to help reduce congestion and decrease emissions, which contribute to the urban heat island effect. The panel recommends more frequent bus service, sufficient bike parking, and stop sign and traffic light improvements at key intersections. The addition of a new pedestrian bridge over the Gowanus Canal on Degraw Street would allow residents to traverse the canal without using public transit.

*    Turn the Con Edison lot between Baltic and Butler streets into a temporary park. With the only public park in the area, Thomas Greene Park, slated to be closed temporarily for Manufactured Gas Plan (MGP) remediation efforts in support of the Superfund cleanup, transforming the Con Edison lot into a temporary park would help residents stay cool while also serving as a place for recreation. Recommendations include a pool to compensate for the closure of the community’s only public pool, installing a pop-up tree nursery to grow trees for neighborhood streets, and adding shade elements such as trellises with vines.

The full report may be found at:

Gowanus development presents timely opportunity
A chance to address neighborhood’s unique challenges

OP-ED By: Marty Burger, Crain’s, January 8, 2018

Nearly eight years after the Environmental Protection Agency named the Gowanus Canal a Superfund site, throwing long-envisioned plans to redevelop the area into uncertainty, Gowanus is once again on the precipice of a development boom.

The South Brooklyn neighborhood is undergoing a major revitalization that is bringing residential and mixed-use development. Just last year Mayor Bill de Blasio selected Gowanus as one of several communities where developers could build bigger if 25% or more of any project’s residential units are set aside as affordable housing.

New residential dwellings, along with retail and community amenities, are welcome news for an area once dominated by industry including gas and chemical plants, paper mills and tanneries that discharged waste into its waters. But it’s important that any new development in Gowanus only move forward if it incorporates responsible green infrastructure.

The neighborhood’s troubled environmental past—along with the challenges associated with it being an urban heat island—are exactly why planners and developers need to implement a comprehensive plan to create a thriving and sustainable Gowanus.

As noted in a new report by the Urban Land Institute New York, Gowanus is significantly warmer than its surrounding neighborhoods due to a phenomenon known as the urban heat island effect. UHI happens when structures and concrete replace natural vegetation and as cars and air conditioners convert energy to heat, releasing it into the air.

UHI can lead to serious economic and health impacts, particularly for children, the elderly and underserved populations. Extreme heat events cause more deaths in the United States than all other weather-related events combined.

Gowanus is particularly vulnerable to the UHI effect because of heavy traffic, poor air and water quality and a lack of parks and other open space. And the urban heat island effect could worsen if higher-density buildings are permitted without plans in place to promote localized cooling. With responsible development, the effect can be mitigated at the same time developers are transforming Gowanus into a desirable and thriving neighborhood.

As outlined in the Urban Land Institute report, green strategies include increasing vegetative coverage wherever possible, undertaking a series of transit improvements and significantly increasing building efficiency.

For example, increasing vegetation in the area by 20% could reduce air temperatures by approximately 3 degrees, as well as support stormwater retention and help mitigate flooding. This could be accomplished by adding green roofs where possible and vines to the external walls of existing buildings, thus helping to reduce outside temperatures and cooling the buildings themselves.

Also, exposing the community’s network of hidden creeks and creating a network of green space, or areas of respite, could offer a cool and inviting public amenity. Linked together, these green corridors—aligned with prevailing winds and underground streams—could be established along wider east-west streets to capture summer breezes and circulate the air, allowing the neighborhood to cool off at night.

When building, developers should include green infrastructure technology, so their buildings can reduce the UHI effect rather than contribute to it. They should install green roofs and implement envelope improvements such as insulation to minimize energy waste. Breezeways can provide natural ventilation and encourage airflow that helps keep buildings cooler. In addition, builders should redirect and reuse solar heat that is captured in buildings rather than let it contribute to higher temperatures.

Because transit also plays an important role in mitigating the UHI effect, steps are needed to make the transportation system in the area more efficient. To entice more people to use public transit—which will help reduce vehicle congestion and emissions—there should be more frequent bus service, sufficient bike parking, and stop-sign and traffic-light improvements at key intersections. The addition of a pedestrian bridge over the Gowanus Canal on Degraw Street would allow residents to cross the canal without the need for transit.

We have a unique opportunity at hand to make Gowanus a better place to live and work for generations to come. As developers set their sights on parcels ripe for residential and mixed-use development, and as city officials plan a rezoning that will allow new high-rise complexes to grace the skyline of South Brooklyn, comprehensive plans for green infrastructure must not be overlooked.

Marty Burger is Urban Land Institute’s New York chairman and CEO of Silverstein Properties.

Seven Brooklyn developments are competing in categories such as market-rate and affordable housing, mixed-use, civic space, hotel and retail in the Urban Land Institute’s Awards for Excellence in Development

The Urban Land Institute New York (ULI NY) announced this week the 2018 final nominees for the Awards for Excellence in Development, a statewide competition that honors responsible land use and development practices. Among the 19 finalists are seven Brooklyn developments including the affordable housing development Camba Gardens, Fort Greene’s 300 Ashland and the gigantic mixed-use space City Point.

“From Buffalo to Brooklyn, our 2018 finalists represent the best in industry standards,” said Marty Burger, chairman of ULI New York. “I am delighted to announce the final 19 nominees who are the driving force behind New York’s most innovative, transformative and responsible land use projects.”

The annual Excellence in Development Awards recognize New York’s real estate leaders who demonstrate a strong commitment to planning, design, sustainability and resilience, market success and community impact. Awards categories include market-rate and affordable housing, office, mixed-use, institutional, civic space, repositioning or redevelopment, hotel and retail. Seven Brooklyn developers and development projects are among the 19 total finalists.

In the category Excellence in Housing Development – Market-Rate Housing, One John Street, a 130,000-square-foot residential development transformed from a vacant lot along the Dumbo waterfront, competes against Fort Greene’s 300 Ashland, the cultural hub and residential development that includes a 32-story residential tower and a public plaza. East Flatbush’s Camba Gardens was named a finalist in the category Excellence in Housing Development – Affordable Housing.  The development was chosen as a model for public-private partnerships between a public hospital, nonprofit community-based affordable housing developer and a social service provider to facilitate tenant and community health and economic stability. Camba Gardens is competing against 461 Dean Street in Prospect Heights.

City Point, the 1.9-million-square-foot mixed-use development with a 700,000-square-foot retail center, creative office space and three residential towers with over 1,000 residential units, was named a finalist for Excellence in Retail Development. The eco-conscious 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge & Pierhouse at Brooklyn Bridge Park is competing against Manhattan’s Four Seasons in Excellence in Hotel Development. And last, but not least: Empire Stores, a former 19th-century coffee warehouse reimagined as a creative workplace and community hub that features retail, dining, public space and exhibition galleries in Brooklyn Bridge Park, was picked for the category Excellence in Repositioning or Redevelopment.

In September, ULI NY, which works to promote responsible use of land and the creation of sustainable communities through open exchange of ideas, information and experience, invited the development community from all across the state to submit their projects for consideration.

The awards jury, consisting of New York developers, architects, urban planners, construction managers, lenders and investors,  will analyze each finalist’s project to determine how well it exemplifies the principles of ULI and the awards criteria. The winners will be announced at the Awards for Excellence Gala at Gotham Hall in NYC on April 10, 2018.

Prominent downtown Syracuse tower a finalist for development award

By: Rick Moriarty,, January 3, 2018

Syracuse, N.Y. — A vacant downtown Syracuse office building that was turned into a mixed-use structure with apartments, office and retail space, is a finalist in the Urban Land Institute’s 2018 Excellence in Development Awards.

Icon Tower at 344 S. Warren St. is one of three finalists in the Excellence in Repositioning or Redevelopment category of the Urban Land Institute New York’s awards.

This is the third year of the statewide competition, which recognizes real estate leaders who demonstrate the strongest commitment to planning, design, sustainability and resilience, market success, and community impact.

A total of 19 finalists have been selected in eight categories. The winners will be announced at the Awards for Excellence Gala at Gotham Hall in New York City on April 10.

The Syracuse tower went vacant in 2006 after its tenant, the Excellus BlueCross BlueShield insurance company, moved to DeWitt, a Syracuse suburb.

The Icon Cos. redeveloped the building and reopened it last year with 89 apartments, office and retail space.

“By incorporating innovative and creative design, Icon Tower is now one of the centerpieces in the revitalization of Syracuse’s central business district,” the Urban Institute said.

“Featuring great city views, the ground floor is home to a thriving 5,000-square-foot restaurant, the second-floor features 20,000 square feet of Class A office space, and what had once been a 2,000-square-foot mechanical room is now a glass enclosed 24/7 rooftop fitness center.”

Completed in February 2017, all 89 apartments were leased within six months, bringing increased pedestrian traffic and new businesses to the Warren Street corridor, a previously dormant neighborhood, the institute said.

“Icon Tower not only exemplifies the resurgence of Syracuse’s central business district, but it serves as a model for the adaptive reuse of underutilized and vacant buildings in urban centers throughout Upstate New York,” it said.

Icon Tower is one of only two Upstate New York buildings among the finalists in the competition. The other is the Roswell Park Cancer Institute’s Scott Bieler Clinical Sciences Center in Buffalo. The other finalists are all in New York City.

Here is the full list of finalists:

Excellence in Housing Development:Market Rate

  • One John Street – Brooklyn, NY (Alloy Development Holdings LLC, Monadnock Development Inc., and DLJ Real Estate Capital Partners)
  • 300 Ashland – Brooklyn, NY (Two Trees Management)


  • CAMBA Gardens – Brooklyn, NY (CAMBA Housing Ventures)
  • 461 Dean Street (B2) – Brooklyn, NY (Forest City New York)

 Excellence in Repositioning or Redevelopment:

  • Empire Stores – Brooklyn, NY (Midtown Equities, HK Organization, and Rockwood Capital)
  • Walker Tower – New York, NY (JDS Development Group)
  • Icon Tower – Syracuse, NY (The Icon Companies)

 Excellence in Mixed-Use Development:

  • 250/252 East 57th Street Redevelopment – New York, NY (World Wide Group and Rose Associates)
  • 35XV – New York, NY (Alchemy Properties)

Excellence in Institutional Development:

  • The House at Cornell Tech – New York, NY (The Hudson Companies, Inc., Cornell University, and The Related Companies)
  • Scott Bieler Clinical Sciences Center – Buffalo, NY (Roswell Park Cancer Institute)

Excellence in Civic Space:

  • Moynihan Train Hall & James A. Farley Building Redevelopment – Phase 1 – New York, NY (Empire State Development and Amtrak)
  • Washington Square Park House – New York, NY (NYC Department of Parks and Recreation)

 Excellence in Retail Development:

  • 195 Broadway Master Retail Redevelopment – New York, NY (L&L Holding Company)
  • City Point – Brooklyn, NY (Acadia Realty Trust and Washington Square Partners)

 Excellence in Office Development:

  • The Bridge at Cornell Tech – New York, NY (Forest City New York)
  • 4 World Trade Center – New York, NY (Silverstein Properties)

Excellence in Hotel Development:

  • 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge & Pierhouse at Brooklyn Bridge Park – Brooklyn, NY (Toll Brothers and Starwood Capital Group)
  • Four Seasons Hotel New York Downtown and Private Residences at 30 Park Place – New York, NY (Silverstein Properties)