Brooklyn Bridge Park Girl Cartwheel

Brooklyn Bridge Park

HR&A served as a strategic advisor to Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation by guiding the development of the award-winning master plan.

The transition of 85 acres of vacant, post-industrial piers into active open space and development marks a reconnection of Brooklyn’s vibrant neighborhoods with its waterfront. The park commenced construction in 2009 and is now nearly complete, with over 85 acres are now open to the public. Planned development to support the park includes residential, retail, hotel development and parking. HR&A’s effort helped break a 20-year log jam by identifying a funding strategy for this award winning public space. Michael Van Valkenbergh’s extraordinary design provides residents and visitors with one of the great parks of New York City.

HR&A led predevelopment planning for Brooklyn Bridge Park.

HR&A was retained to staff a new citizen-led organization commissioned to prepare a plan to develop one of the most dramatic sites in urban America. This successful effort combined skills in public facilitation, design management, financing and executive leadership. Specifically, HR&A:

 

  • Led a complex, multi-year stakeholder outreach process to the project’s numerous constituencies, including City, and State officials as well as diverse interest groups;
  • Created a funding plan that uses future, on-site development to sustain the Park’s operating costs;
  • Worked with the City and State to create a memorandum of understanding to provide capital funding; and
  • Procured and managed the BBPDC’s team of master planners, counsel, and other consultants.

 

  • Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence, Silver Medal,  2011
  • American Society of Landscape Architects Honor Award,  2009

Defining NYC’s Tech Ecosystem to Guide Public and Private Investment

In 2014, New York City’s tech sector was growing rapidly on the heels of significant public and private investment, as Big Tech firms such as Google and Facebook and homegrown startups such as Etsy and Zocdoc established significant footprints in the city, and the city continued to draw tech talent from across the world. Amid a change in mayoral administrations, tech industry supporters – led by the Association for a Better New York (ABNY), Google, Citigroup, and New York Tech Meetup – sought to understand the scale of the tech economy in New York, the types of job opportunities that were created by the tech economy, and what investment would be needed to continue growing the tech economy and ensure that growth benefited a broad range of New Yorkers. The consortium hired HR&A to conduct a comprehensive industry assessment and guide an approach to briefing the incoming administration.

Unlike most industries that are neatly defined by the North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS), HR&A recognized that tech jobs are embedded in industries throughout the economy, requiring a customized methodology for accurate measurement. Through interviews and case studies with a broad set of New York City employers, HR&A developed a definition that reflected the full range of tech ecosystem jobs. A guiding principle of HR&A’s definitional process was that the tech ecosystem should be defined based on both industry and occupational data to capture all jobs enabled by tech, including: 1) tech roles (e.g. software developers) within tech industries, 2) non-tech roles (e.g. sales associate) within tech industries, and 3) tech roles in industries that are not classified as “tech,” such as finance or health care. This latter category, often excluded from economic analyses, makes up a significant share of all New York City tech jobs.

HR&A’s analysis found that, as of 2013, the tech ecosystem employed almost 300,000 New Yorkers and had grown by 18% over the preceding decade, outpacing overall job growth in New York City (12%) and nationally (4%). Additionally, the economic activity engendered by these direct jobs supported an additional 250,000 jobs throughout the City’s economy, generated $125 billion in total spending, and created more than $5.6 billion in annual tax revenue. A major finding of the study was that 44% of tech jobs did not require a bachelor’s degree, and those jobs on average had wages nearly 50% higher than jobs in all other industries that did not require a bachelor’s degree. Based on this finding, the study recommended workforce development and hiring practices focused on job candidates without a four-year degree, including community college students, and actions by employers to remove the bachelor’s requirement as a barrier to employment for positions that, elsewhere in the industry, did not require that credential. The report also included policy recommendations to sustain the growth of New York City’s tech ecosystem, many of which have since been adopted, including the creation of centralized tech hubs across the city and investment in step-up space for growing startups.

The findings and recommendations from the report – NYC’s Tech Ecosystem – were reported in media outlets including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, National Public Radio, Bloomberg, and numerous technology-related media outlets.

In 2019, on behalf of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, and in collaboration with LaGuardia Community College and Jobs for the Future, HR&A updated the original tech study with a focus on broadening opportunity in the tech ecosystem. The report – Building a More Inclusive Tech Workforce – found that NYC’s tech ecosystem grew at an accelerated pace from 2013 to 2018 and continues to offer higher wages at all educational levels; yet female, Black, and Latinx workers are severely underrepresented across the ecosystem and especially within tech roles at tech companies. Although women make up 50% of NYC workers, they hold only 35% of ecosystem jobs and only 23% of tech roles at tech companies. And whereas Black or Latinx workers make up 37% of the workforce, they hold only 23% of ecosystem jobs and 17% of tech roles at tech companies. The report – the most detailed analysis of underrepresentation in NYC’s tech ecosystem to date – summarizes findings from employer interviews and student surveys regarding barriers to more inclusive hiring and recommending changes to employer recruiting, hiring, and retention practices, as well as potential City actions to support jobseekers from underrepresented backgrounds and incentivize companies to invest more deeply in building diverse teams and leadership.

LIRR Third Track: From Economic Study to Construction

On behalf of the Long Island Index, HR&A conducted a comprehensive study of the economic and fiscal impacts of the proposed Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) Main Line Third Track project. The project will add an additional track to a 10 mile segment of the LIRR between Floral Park and Hicksville, improving system reliability and significantly enhancing reverse peak service to and from Long Island. Initially part of the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s (MTA) 5-year capital plan, the project was met with significant opposition from local elected officials and affected communities. In an effort to resuscitate the project, HR&A undertook complex and dynamic economic modeling to quantify the benefits of improved employer access to a skilled regional workforce, higher productivity in denser transit-oriented employment nodes, and rider time savings. Using transportation impacts modeled by project partner Parsons Brinckerhoff, HR&A employed the REMI Policy Insight model to estimate benefits the project would generate for Long Island during its construction and operational phases.

HR&A found that by improving regional mobility, Third Track will position Long Island for sustained economic growth by making it a more attractive place to live and work. Implementing Third Track and enacting complementary land use policies facilitating transit-oriented development (TOD) in station areas would generate 14,000 new jobs on Long Island by 2035, along with $5.6 billion in annual gross regional product and $143 million in annual tax revenues to Nassau and Suffolk Counties. Long Island would also attract 35,000 new residents by 2035, helping stem the outflow of talented young workers and their families. During the five-year construction phase, Third Track would generate $910 million in gross regional product and an average of 2,250 jobs annually, providing employment opportunities for construction workers hit hard by the Great Recession. HR&A summarized its findings in a compelling, graphically strong briefing book that has enabled the Long Island Index to communicate the benefits of Third Track to a range of stakeholders, including the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) and LIRR, elected officials, businesses, and residents. The study was instrumental in reviving the project and winning approval and funding from New York Governor Cuomo. The $2 billion project is now under construction and is expected to be completed by late 2022.

NYC Internet Master Plan

NYC’s groundbreaking Internet Master Plan lays the foundation for more equitable internet infrastructure, unlocking private sector innovation to connect all New Yorkers to expanded economic opportunity.

Challenge

High-speed internet access is the seminal infrastructure of the 21st Century and will shape the future of New York City. If made affordable and accessible to everyone, broadband can be a lever for increasing opportunity for residents, expanding the City’s position as a global economic leader, and supporting NYC as the fairest big city in America. Failure to connect all New Yorkers all but guarantees that some portion of the population will be left behind.
 
Broadband connectivity is a prerequisite to economic inclusion, yet nearly one third of NYC households (29%) currently do not have broadband in their homes. A striking 18% of city residents—more than 1.5 million New Yorkers—have neither a mobile connection nor a home broadband connection, yet both are required for full connectivity. Choice among residential broadband providers—a key driver of affordability, performance, and privacy—is limited relatively wealthy and dense neighborhoods. Today, commercial fiber is concentrated in Manhattan, starkly disadvantaging the economic viability of the City’s outer boroughs.

Solution

HR&A worked with the Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer (MOCTO) to identify challenges, opportunities, and ambitions to deliver broadband infrastructure in New York City. We led an interdisciplinary team to craft an expansive outlook including:

     

  • A future-proof approach to infrastructure design and delivery
  • Strategies to leverage City assets for broadband use, creating value for public and private partners
  • A preferred business model and recommended public-private financing strategy for implementation
  • A governance strategy that consolidates oversight and reflects broadband’s status as core infrastructure
  • A benefits case for ubiquitous, affordable broadband, quantifying the economic and fiscal impacts associated with greater access for households, businesses, and improved municipal services
  • Potential initial implementation approaches that quickly make a difference in the lives of New Yorkers and serve as meaningful steppingstones to a longer-term implementation roadmap
  •  

    Impact

    The HR&A team’s research, findings, and recommendations have shaped the City’s first ever Internet Master Plan, released in January 2020.
     
    The plan charts a path to expand the City’s role in broadband infrastructure and service delivery by facilitating public partnerships to fill gaps in the market, close the digital divide, and deliver universal, affordable broadband to all New Yorkers. The plan has been lauded by experts in the telecommunications and public policy. In a Brookings article titled “New York City and the FCC have two very different plans for expanding broadband access”, Nonresident Senior Fellow, Blair Levin praised the Internet Master Plan’s novel approach to combating broadband challenges through multi-stakeholder partnerships and prioritized problem-solving.
     
    Reliable high-speed internet is a prerequisite for full participation in our society; when COVID-19 hit, home broadband became undeniably essential. In May 2020, the City established the Universal Solicitation for Broadband (USB), a new procurement strategy outlined in the Internet Master Plan, with a Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) for ready-to-deploy ideas for free and low-cost internet service to New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) residents.
     
    In July 2020, the City doubled down on universal broadband to advance racial inclusion and equity through COVID-19 response and recovery. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the acceleration of the Internet Master Plan, committing $157 million to expand affordable broadband access to 600,000 New Yorkers, including 200,000 NYCHA residents. New York City’s commitment and strategy is among the boldest plays of any city in the country to achieving universal broadband.
     
    Check out the full Internet Master Plan here and read coverage from national and local news sources including, Gothamist, City & State, Next City, State Scoop, Ars Technica and CNET.
     
    For questions and inquiries, please contact Danny Fuchs at danny@hraadvisors.com or (212) 977-6171.

The High Line Transformation

HR&A demonstrated the economic rationale for transforming the High Line into a vibrant public park. The park, created by Robert Hammond and Joshua David, reinvigorated Manhattan’s far west side with new jobs, mixed-income housing, and arts and cultural development, providing an internationally-renowned model of civic leadership.

The High Line, an elevated freight railway running 1.8 miles along Manhattan’s far west side, was built in the 1930s as part of a public works project to remove trains from the street level. After decades of abandonment and disuse, the mayor of New York City signed an order to demolish the High Line in 1999. Visionary neighborhood residents formed Friends of the High Line, a non-profit organization that pledged to preserve the historic structure and create a neighborhood public amenity by converting the abandoned railway into a public park.

HR&A has supported the Friends of the High Line throughout the development and operation of the High Line

  • HR&A prepared an economic and fiscal impact study to demonstrate that the economic and social benefits of such a conversion would far outweigh the necessary capital costs of development.
  • We also worked with Friends of the High Line and the New York City Department of City Planning to craft the award-winning West Chelsea rezoning, which allowed the transferal of air rights under and around the High Line to nearby land parcels. The rezoning preserved private property rights, protected the historic railway structure, catalyzed contextual real estate development, and enhanced the position of West Chelsea and the Meatpacking District the center for art and culture in Manhattan.
  • HR&A worked closely with Friends of the High Line to create the park’s operating model and transform advocacy organization into a conservancy. Relying on an agreement with the Parks Department, Friends of the High Line is responsible managing the park’s public space, which receives over three million visitors a year.
  • Despite the Bloomberg administration’s embrace of the High Line’s first two sections, the final and most beautiful section was threatened with demolition as part of the Hudson Yards development. Even before a developer was selected, HR&A supported the Friends of the High Line in its successful effort to ensure the preservation of the entire structure.

HR&A Chairman, John Alschuler served as Board Chair of Friends of the High Line from 2009 to 2014.

The park opened to the public in 2009 to tremendous success, and now sees over five million annual visitors. Over 30 new residential commercial, and cultural development projects have been planned or constructed in the area, including Frank Gehry’s IAC Interactive headquarters, Jean Nouvel’s 100 11th Avenue residential condominium building, and a new home for the Whitney Museum designed by Renzo Piano. HR&A continues to support to Friends of the High line, providing economic and fiscal analysis to determine the High Line’s impact on the City’s municipal property tax revenues and net new economic activity.

 

International Economic Development Council Neighbourhood Development Prize, 2010

Images Courtesy of: Iwan Baan

Redevelopment Strategy and Entitlement Management in Long Island City

CHALLENGE

Plaxall is a family-owned plastics manufacturing company operating in Long Island City, Queens for more than 70 years. Over seven decades, the family invested in local cultural and community institutions and acquired a significant portfolio of properties. Their holdings include a 12-acre assemblage surrounding Anable Basin and along the East River, which features spectacular views of Midtown Manhattan. However, the site’s obsolete built form and low-density industrial zoning prevents Plaxall from realizing the true value of its unique waterfront property in one the nation’s strongest markets for new development.

SOLUTION

Alongside a team of architects and land use attorneys, HR&A worked with Plaxall to design a development vision for the future of Anable Basin to create long-term value for Plaxall’s shareholders while addressing community needs and City policy goals.
 
Drawing on our deep understanding of New York City’s policy priorities, HR&A recognized that Plaxall’s experience with light industrial and artist tenants would be a key asset in discussions with the City. The team devised a unique plan that integrated industrial and artist space into new residential buildings, addressing local interest in job creation and fears of industrial displacement. The plan comprised almost 5 million square feet of new development, including 5,000 mixed-income residential units, and more than three acres of waterfront open space. The design of building forms reflects the neighborhood’s industrial heritage.
 
HR&A oversaw all planning activities associated with the site, including managing a 9-firm consultant team, evaluating the financial performance of this pioneering mixed-use development, leading engagement with City leadership on a rezoning, overseeing a successful application process to New York State’s Brownfield Cleanup Program, and working with Plaxall to create a long-term redevelopment strategy.

 

IMPACT

In fall 2018, Amazon selected the Anable Basin site as one of two main sites for the company’s East Coast headquarters, though it ultimately withdrew its selection. Since then, Plaxall has partnered with neighboring developers in the YourLIC consortium, which has engaged with City Council leadership and community stakeholders in a visioning process for redeveloping 28 acres of the Long Island City waterfront.

Climate Adaptation Strategy for Lower Manhattan

Challenge

New York City, like many other coastal cities around the world, must face the realities of climate changes and its impact on the urban environment. Over the next century, regular tidal flooding caused by rising sea levels, coastal surge from stronger and more frequent storm events, heavier precipitation, and higher temperatures will all impact New York City and threaten its quality of life and economic vitality. Lower Manhattan, due to its global importance and heightened exposure, is one of the most vulnerable neighborhoods in the City.
 
The New York City Economic Development Corporation and the New York City Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency engaged HR&A to co-lead a team that developed a strategic plan for Lower Manhattan as part of the Lower Manhattan Coastal Resiliency Study.

Solution

Drawing on deep experience with the dynamics of Lower Manhattan and the design and implementation of innovative climate adaptation strategies, HR&A and the team undertook a climate vulnerability assessment that looked at long-term climate hazards, including chronic stresses, to inform the development of potential strategies for Lower Manhattan’s resilience. Strategies were evaluated based on the ability to mitigate against climate hazards and their positive economic and community impacts.
 

Impact

As part of the Study’s development, HR&A conducted a financial feasibility assessment and identified a series of next steps towards implementation. The recommendations of the study were released as part of Mayor de Blasio’s March 2019 announcement for a Lower Manhattan Climate Resilience plan, including a bold op-ed penned for New York Magazine. The City is currently moving to develop a master plan focused on climate adaption in the Financial District and Seaport.

Climate Ready Boston Climate Adaptation Strategy

The City of Boston developed a climate adaptation plan to address emerging climate challenges while planning for future growth.

Challenge

A dense, coastal and riverine city partially built on tidal fill, Boston is confronting significant climate challenges. As the City planned for equitable growth through its comprehensive plan Imagine Boston 2030, it sought to understand local vulnerabilities to the changing climate and what actions it could take to prepare.
 
The City of Boston and the Green Ribbon Commission engaged HR&A and a team a climate scientists, engineers, planners, and designers to develop Climate Ready Boston, a comprehensive climate adaptation plan for the city and the regional systems it relies on.

Solution

The team first assessed how Boston’s climate will change throughout the 21st century, developing up-to-date, localized, consensus projections for multiple climate factors. Using those projections, the team evaluated the city’s current and future exposure to climate hazards – extreme heat, stormwater flooding, and coastal and riverine flooding – and quantified the potential impact on the city’s people, buildings, infrastructure, and economy.
 
With a clearer understanding of near- and long-term risk, the team recommended actions to improve Boston’s climate preparedness and increase citywide resilience. The team identified each action through HR&A’s five key principles of resilience-building to generate multiple benefits, leverage multiple funding sources, incorporate local involvement, create layered solutions, and leverage regular building cycles to rehabilitate and improve over time.
 
These actions were incorporated into a phased strategy and implementation plan, which includes roles and responsibilities, timing, and key milestones. HR&A aligned the findings and recommendations from Climate Ready Boston with the Imagine Boston 2030 comprehensive plan. As Boston is a waterfront city, many of the growth areas identified in Imagine Boston 2030, along with many existing stable neighborhoods, are in the current or future floodplain. To grow in these areas, Boston will need to implement multi-layered solutions for flood resilience and leverage some of the value of new development to support these solutions.
 

Impact

The City and the Green Ribbon Commission released Climate Ready Boston in 2016, and have since launched many of the recommended initiatives to increase Boston’s ability to thrive in the face of intensifying climate hazards. These actions will improve quality of life for all residents, especially the most vulnerable, and create stronger neighborhoods and a healthier environment.
 

READ THE FULL REPORT

Creating a Racial Equity Agenda for the United States Conference of Mayors

The United States Conference of Mayors developed a comprehensive understanding of the programs, policies, and projects that are effectively advancing racial equity across the country.

CHALLENGE

Across the country, discriminatory policies and practices have created lasting disparities in social and economic outcomes across races. To work against this harmful legacy, the United States Conference of Mayors, with its strong tradition of leadership on issues of civil rights and social justice, is using its national platform to help mayors and cities understand and implement the policies and practices that can reduce racial inequities in cities.
 
The organization engaged HR&A to survey existing racial equity programs in cities and create a set of recommendations for how it could help member cities proactively make meaningful change in their policies and practices.

Solution

To understand their most pressing challenges, we interviewed mayors and staff from 13 cities. The collective feedback showed that some cities are incorporating racial equity through place-based initiatives, programmatic initiatives, and policy change. Additionally, cities are seeking help from external partners to directly address race in their communities. We learned the importance of mayoral leadership and that clear definitions of equity are needed to translate commitments into practice. Synthesizing our findings, we outlined the ways that the U.S. Conference of Mayors could serve as an important convener for mayors and a source of best practice and technical assistance.
 
Our deepest insight emerged from our conversations with economic development departments. Unlike many social services, these functions are siloed from conversations on racial disparity even though they are charged with decisions that impact the physical, demographic, and economic realities of communities. This insight helped us design a program that would connect these departments with training, resources, and technical assistance to embed equity into daily practice.
 

READ THE BRIEF

Innovation Asset Assessment for Lehigh University

Lehigh University identified its best opportunities for development that reflect the university’s programmatic and innovation strengths, as well as the real estate potential of the Lehigh Valley.

CHALLENGE

Lehigh University, a private research university in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, sought to strengthen its research capabilities by building its first innovation campus and redeveloping two additional non-core campuses. As a growing regional university in a tertiary market, Lehigh’s real estate group wanted to better understand the program alignment for an innovation campus and the market potential for real estate development and industry partnerships. HR&A worked with Lehigh’s real estate team to generate excitement and momentum for the redevelopment of its non-core real estate assets by crafting a feasible development vision and detailed strategies for development, funding, activation, and governance.

Solution

Through HR&A’s analysis of market potential, discussions with industry leaders in the Lehigh Valley, and collaboration with some of Lehigh University’s top academic researchers, HR&A recommended a holistic redevelopment approach.

The university would align its campuses around the development of new concepts and ideas, where each campus offers unique opportunities to entrepreneurs and researchers at every stage of business development – from basic research through start-ups and maturation. This work guided the university’s in moving forward with a clear vision and actionable strategies for each campus to foster innovation in Lehigh Valley and elevate the university’s standing as a premiere research university.

Impact

As of August 2018, the University is moving forward with a solicitation process to identify a private sector partner for a revenue-positive first phase of redevelopment.