Search results for ""department of housing preservation and development""

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Big-Time Bronx

See the four must-know developments coming online in the South Bronx
From artist studios to medical centers to sprawling mixed-use apartment buildings, various neighborhoods in the South Bronx have been facing a lot of new development this year. Over the past month, many of these projects have come into view through new renderings, names, and the beginning phases of construction. Despite popular opinions on the rising effects of gentrification, high-cost construction is inevitably altering the urban fabric of the borough. Here are four major developments to watch out for: Bankside 2401 Third Avenue & 101 Lincoln Ave. Mott Haven A couple of weeks ago, developer Brookfield Properties unveiled new renderings of its massive South Bronx waterfront redevelopment project titled Bankside. The seven-building project along the Harlem River in Mott Haven is one of the largest and most expensive development sites in the South Bronx, spanning 4.3 acres near the Third Avenue Bridge. With more than 1,350 apartments, a waterfront park, and ground-floor retail, Brookfield will invest $950 million into the project designed by Hill West Architects and MPFP. Construction is underway and anticipated for completion by 2021 to bring 450 apartments to the north side of the bridge.  The Peninsula 720 Tiffany St. Hunts Point The new mixed-use development that is replacing the Spofford Juvenile Detention Center is finally underway after four years of planning. Described as a “sign of gentrification” by Bronx Justice News, the five-building development called The Peninsula is said to include a mix of retail, recreational and industrial spaces, as well as health facilities, anchored by 740 units of affordable housing. The project was designed in collaboration with WXY Architecture + Urban Design and Body Lawson Associates. Phase one, which includes apartments for low-income households, is expected to be finished in 2021. Financed by the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development and the NYC Housing Development Corporation, the first phase is slated to cost upwards of $121.5 million. The entire $300 million dollar project should be done in 2025. Richard Pruss Wellness Center 362 E. 148th St. Mott Haven Late November, Samaritan Daytop Village and Manatus Development Group kicked off construction for The Richard Pruss Wellness Center in the medically-underserved Mott Haven community. According to the Bronx Times, the facility will serve more than 6,000 individuals annually and will provide outpatient treatment for substance abuse and mental health services, while 10 percent of the building will be used as a primary health clinic. Designed by GF55 Partners, the six-story, 84,000-square-foot building will cost around $35 million and is privately funded by TD Bank.   Occupancy is expected in early 2021.  ArtCondo Gallery and Studio Space 368 E 152 St. Melrose On November 7th, local art collaborative, ArtCondo, launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to build a new gallery and studio space in Melrose. A community-driven real estate enterprise, ArtCondo sets out to collectively organize artists so that they can purchase their own studio spaces. In 2017, co-founder, Michele Gambetta, and 15 artists purchased a vacant lot in Melrose with hopes of building a community arts space at 368 E 152 Street by March 2020. The campaign only has a few days left with under $8,000 of their goal. Renderings of the prospective building were created by Michael Muroff Architect.
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House of AOC

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez helps launch green affordable housing complex in Queens
U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was on hand at the opening of a new 67-unit senior housing complex in Corona, Queens—the first affordable housing to be built in the neighborhood in 30 years. In close alignment with the representative's leadership on climate change initiatives like the Green New Deal, the $36 million affordable development is also one of the largest low-income senior housing projects in the country to meet Passive House standards for energy consumption, according to a statement by New York City's Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). The 8-story senior housing project at 54-17 101st Street was designed by New York–based THINK! Architecture and Design and developed in a partnership between HANAC—the Hellenic American Neighborhood Action Committee—a community organization, and affordable housing nonprofit Enterprise Community Partners. All 67 units, a mix of 1-bedrooms and studios, are set aside for low-income seniors, with 21 units expressly dedicated to formerly homeless seniors. In addition, the project is a mixed-use development, with a preschool in the building that will serve 60 children and will be administered by the New York City School Construction Authority. Constructing the building 8 stories tall was needed to make the project financially feasible, and required rezoning. But because it is located in a largely low-rise neighborhood of two- to three-story buildings, the architects used a number of strategies to make the project seem less imposing. THINK! broke up the facade into "townhouse-like scales," using different planes and layering materials, window patterns, and colors to vary the surface, according to Jack Esterson, principal at THINK! and the lead architect of the project. The building was also designed so that an upper layer of floors is set back above the first four stories, with a transparent band of windows separating the two layers and making the upper level appear to float above the lower level. This level of windows also fronts an outdoor terrace for residents that connects to the lounge and laundry room. The Corona Senior Residence, as the complex is called, is one of the concrete outcomes of the Willets Point Community Benefits Agreement, a part of the negotiations over the controversial Willets Point Development Plan led by developers Related Companies and Sterling Equities. Funding for the project came from the city, including HPD, the City Council, city subsidies, the Queens borough president's office, Chase, and the low-income housing tax credit, among other sources. "Affordable housing is critical for our most vulnerable New Yorkers, especially our seniors. I am proud to support an organization that strives to provide community-centered, innovative, energy efficient housing," Representative Ocasio-Cortez said at the opening. "With a pre-K on the ground floor and additional programs and services, this is precisely the kind of development our borough needs. I am thrilled to join HANAC on this important occasion as we fight to keep Queens affordable for all." As the representative added on Twitter, "Today was a great example of what can be accomplished w/ a !"
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The Opposite of Big Lots!

New York City and the AIA team up for a vacant lots competition
New York’s five boroughs are plagued with vacant lots, even as the city finds itself in a housing crisis. Architects and planners have explored potential solutions like modular construction and basement units, and now the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and the AIANY are trying to recruit architects to design sensitive infill housing. Big Ideas for Small Lots NYC is soliciting design proposals for scalable solutions across 23 vacant lots around the city. The design competition is just one piece of the de Blasio administration’s Housing New York 2.0 plan, which aims to create or preserve 300,000 units of affordable housing by 2026. For the project’s first phase, competitors have until March 24 to submit their proposals for a 17-foot-wide, 100-foot-deep vacant plot at 113 West 136th Street in East Harlem. Teams that submit the best-realized drawings and project narratives will be given a $3,000 stipend, have their materials exhibited at the Center for Architecture, and will be invited back for the competition’s second phase. Immediately after the finalists are chosen, HPD will assign the remaining teams different lots to develop proposals for, and the most promising may be built. New York currently has 1,023 acres of vacant public land across 1,367 lots citywide, according to Living Lots NYC, and many of them have sat unused for decades. A holistic solution is hard to come by, as some of the lots are as narrow as 13-feet-wide and others are nearly 10,000 square feet. Although the city hasn't exactly defined what “affordable” means for these lots, the New York Times noted that HPD is shooting for two-to-three family homes and may include below-market-rate rents. The nine-person Big Ideas jury reads like a who’s-who of New York–based architects and city officials: Jury Chair: Hayes Slade, AIA, IIDA, president, AIA New York and principal, Slade Architecture Deborah Berke, FAIA, LEED AP, dean, Yale School of Architecture and founder, Deborah Berke Partners Claudia Herasme, chief urban designer, NYC Department of City Planning Nick Lembo, chairman, Monadnock Construction, Inc. Ruchika Modi, studio director and associate partner, Practice for Architecture & Urbanism Justin Garrett Moore, AICP, executive director, NYC Public Design Commission AJ Pires, president, Alloy Development Katherine W. Swenson, vice president of design, Enterprise Community Partners Claire Weisz, FAIA, principal, WXY architecture + urban design
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Basement Boom

New York City pilots basement housing program to expand affordability
For the past two years, the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (DHP), the Department of Buildings, the Fire Department, and the Department of City Planning have been working with city council members to legalize more basement apartment rental units, and this June the city took a major step forward. According to City Hall, “The City is using innovative strategies to unlock more affordable housing at every level – including the basement.” Currently, thousands of people are occupying basement and cellar apartments deemed not fit for habitation. According to Council Member Rafael Espinal, “In East New York, I can comfortably estimate that over 75 percent of the basements are being rented illegally.” Also, they haven't been properly registered with the Department of Finance. Following an initial feasibility study, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Council Members Brad Lander, Rafael Espinal, and Inez Barron proposed legislation this summer to establish a three-year pilot program to facilitate the creation and renovation of apartments in the basements and cellars of certain one- and two-family homes in Brooklyn Community District 5. This demonstration program intends to provide clearer guidelines for landlords looking to make qualifying basements legally habitable. The de Blasio administration has invested $11.7 million in the new program. According to a City Hall press release, “This innovative program will provide safe and legal housing options to more New Yorkers.” Modifications of existing construction codes are designed to improve health and safety standards for occupants while reducing the overall cost of conversions. Barron said, “This bill will enable landlords to make necessary structural adjustments to their basements so that these potential living spaces can be legalized and legitimized.” The DHP is seeking a qualified community-based organization (CBO) to administer the program. The DHP will fund the CBO to assist landlords with completing low-interest loan applications and selecting approved contractors to complete the work. To qualify as a landlord, a homeowner must have an income at or below 165 percent of area median income and occupy the one- or two-family home as their primary residence. If the pilot program succeeds it will potentially expand to all five boroughs.
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House in a Box

New York City issues first call for affordable housing requiring modular construction
New York City’s affordable buildings are now going up in blocks as part of Mayor de Blasio’s Housing New York 2.0 plan released late last year. The more ambitious sequel to 2014’s original Housing New York, the new plan calls for a shift towards modular construction on affordable housing projects as a time- and cost-saving measure. Now, the first request for proposals (RFP) has been issued for a city-owned modular development. As reported by The Real Deal, NYC's Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) first issued the RFP for a modular, 100 percent affordable building in East New York on May 24. The L-shaped plot is owned by the city and covers approximately 49,397 square feet at 581 Grant Street, between Pitkin and Glenmore Avenues along Elder Lane, adjacent to the Grant Avenue A station. For the city’s first mandated modular project, HPD is looking to develop a mixed-use building with 100 percent of the units allocated for affordable housing across all income levels. Ten percent of the units will be set aside for the formerly homeless. Interested parties have until September 10, 2018, to submit their proposals. Modular construction has taken off in a big way as of late and is one of the many tools that the de Blasio administration wants to use to hit 300,000 units of new or preserved units of housing by 2026 (up from 200,000 units in the 2014 plan). Boston is gearing up to open a new modular unit factory, and modular design/build start-up Katerra is continuing its impressive expansion across the West Coast. AN will follow this article up after a team for 581 Grant Street has been selected.
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Sumner Vacation

An exclusive look at Studio Libeskind's first New York City building
Daniel Libeskind has been a New York City resident since his teenage years, but, as has been noted, the acclaimed architect has yet to realize a ground-up project there. That may be about to change, as Studio Libeskind has released renderings of its geometric Sumner Houses Senior Building, set to rise in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. The collaboration between Libeskind and the city is part of the broader Housing New York 2.0’s “Seniors First” program, a commitment to build affordable senior housing on land owned by the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). The move was first announced in a January press release where NYCHA, the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), and the New York City Housing Development Corporation (HDC) jointly announced four new partnerships under its 100% Affordable Housing program, its NextGen Neighborhoods program, and its FHA Vacant Homes program. Libeskind has been tapped to design senior housing on the western “site 2” parcel of the Sumner Houses superblock, a NYCHA-owned plot on the northern edge of the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. The 10-story, 129,928-square-foot apartment building will hold 197 permanently affordable units, along with over 10,000-square feet of ground-level community space for residents along Marcus Garvey Boulevard. “I am extremely grateful and inspired by this opportunity to contribute to the Bed-Stuy community,” said Libeskind in a statement sent to AN. “I believe I can speak for our entire team that our goal is to serve the senior community by creating homes that give a sense of civic pride and create more much needed affordable housing in New York City.” The firm’s design is a definite break from the boxy brick buildings commonly seen in affordable housing throughout the neighborhood. Libeskind has taken a more geometric approach, twisting and cutting away at the typical rectangular form to create an almost crystalline structure. According to Libeskind, the alternating open and solid elements and series of lifts and cuts are meant to create a lively interaction with the street and surrounding area. The building’s mass twists and lifts as it rises, and the double-height, glazed entrance lobby should give expansive views of the surrounding Sumner Houses block. Inside, corridor sightlines have been aligned to look inward on a central public courtyard. Construction on the Sumner Houses Senior Building should be complete in 2020. A comprehensive fact sheet on the building's affordability breakdown can be found here.
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Harlem Rezoned

Sweeping East Harlem rezoning greenlights a wave of new development
After rounds of contentious public hearings and protests from those on both sides of the debate, the New York City Council unanimously approved a wide-ranging rezoning for the East Harlem neighborhood on November 30th, as well as the 750,000-square foot, mixed-use Sendero Verde development. The latest rezoning plan covers a 96-block area from East 106th Street to East 138th Street and is meant to address the looming affordable housing crisis facing the neighborhood. Proponents of the move have said that East Harlem, where half of all residents are rent-burdened, or spend more than one-third of their income on rent, will lose 200 to 500 units of affordable housing per year without intervention. Officials from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development have argued that, by allowing higher density development, mandatory inclusionary housing requirements will be triggered and necessitate that 20 to 25 percent of the units in new developments will be affordable. After Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Viverito formed a neighborhood plan in 2015 that laid out what the community wanted out of a potential rezoning, neighborhood groups and Community Board 11 later pushed back after they felt their recommendations had been ignored. A new deal, struck by City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Mayor Bill de Blasio before the final vote, now caps building heights at a maximum of 325 feet along the neighborhood’s transit corridors, to limit density and address pushback from East Harlem residents. Other than the new development limits, city officials included a $222 million investment into improving the lives of current residents, including a $50 million concession for New York City Housing Authority’s (NYCHA) East Harlem buildings and $102 million for a new public park between East 125th Street and East 132nd Street. Still, some residents feel that the new deal doesn’t hew closely enough to the Neighborhood Plan, that the city should have taken rent-stabilized buildings out of the rezoning area, and that the definition of “affordable housing” will need to be more reflective of a neighborhood with a median income of $30,000 a year. Also on the City Council’s docket was the approval of the Handel Architects-designed Sendero Verde project, a 680-unit, fully affordable mixed-use development built to passive house standards. Anticipating that the rezoning would pass, Sendero Verde will occupy an entire block, from East 111th to 112th Street, between Park and Madison avenues. Although the development will replace four existing community gardens, it also includes a DREAM charter school, grocery store, YMCA, restaurant, and Mount Sinai-run health facility. East Harlem is already changing rapidly, with several new projects from well-known studios, such as Bjarke Ingels Group’s (BIG) Gotham East 126th Residential having broken ground in recent months. The full, finalized list of changes made to the East Harlem rezoning plan can be read here.
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Checking In

Inwood has questions as city quickly prepares to develop new library with affordable housing
"This entire process feels like window dressing for decisions already taken." So read a guerilla message plastered on design boards at a recent library visioning session in Inwood, a neighborhood at Manhattan's northern tip. The city announced last month that it will sell the Inwood branch library, on busy Broadway, to a developer who will build all-affordable housing and a new library on-site. The New York Public Library (NYPL) said that after the demolition, the rebuilt Inwood branch would be the same size and provide the same services. The Robin Hood Foundation, an antipoverty nonprofit, is putting $5 million towards the project to match the city's contribution. Although the housing would be privately developed, the city would maintain ownership over the library. The Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) expects construction on the new building to begin in 2019. To prepare for changes, HPD has organized three visioning sessions about the library's future. The first was held last Wednesday night, and attracted about 60 people: HPD planner Felipe Cortes noted that the crowd was mostly older and whiter, an observation reflected in the number of stickers on the respective English and Spanish-language design and programming visioning boards. Residents were asked to express their preference for a new building at 115, 145, and 175 feet in height with 90, 110, and 135 units, respectively. Not included: an option to preserve the building, which dates to 1952. At the session, some residents felt the project was moving ahead too fast, and that public input would not substantially impact the city's plans; similar concerns were voiced earlier this month at a Manhattan Community Board 12 meeting, DNAinfo reported. "Bill de Blasio is too eager to cave to developers," said resident Sally Fisher. "It's like the city put a 'For Sale' on Inwood." She wondered where teenagers and children will congregate once demolition is underway. The impending sale follows two others that the city has authorized in Brooklyn Heights and Sunset Park, Brooklyn, both of which have sparked community outcry. (Brooklyn Public Library is a separate system from the NYPL, which covers Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island.)  For the Inwood deal, it's not yet clear who will own the deed—HPD says those details have yet to be determined. The library, one of the most-used in the system, is in dire need of repairs and upgrades. Pointing to a water-damaged drop ceiling, library manager Denita Nichols said that the building is showing signs of wear and tear, and the full renovation 16 years ago has not kept pace with changing technology or current community needs. Nichols said library, which is one of the few open seven days a week, has to accommodate quiet study spaces and more social spaces. "I would love to see a flex space with a culture center—that would really be great to me if it happened," she said. NYPL will continue to do community outreach around the project before any design decisions are made.
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All Shook Up

Maria Torres-Springer to lead New York's housing agency; Vicki Been steps down
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced this week that Maria Torres-Springer, current head of the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), will replace Vicki Been as commissioner of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). The shakeup comes on the heels of Carl Weisbrod's decision earlier this month to leave his job as chair of the City Planning Commission for the Trust for Governors Island. (Unrelated to architecture and planning, de Blasio’s commissioner of the Administration for Children’s Services, Gladys Carrión, left her post last month.) “It has been an honor and privilege to lead HPD, and to be part of the Mayor's all-star housing team. We came in with a bold agenda to change the paradigm for how we grow as a city," Been said, in a statement. "We promised to produce and preserve more affordable housing than ever achieved, to reach New Yorkers at a broad range of incomes, and to work with communities to ensure neighborhoods are diverse, inclusive, and rich in opportunity. We’ve financed 62,506 affordable residences, including the highest three years of new construction in the city's history. We've changed the way we work to ensure that we achieve more affordable housing for every public dollar spent, and that our housing reaches the New Yorkers who need it most." Been, a law professor, is headed back to New York University to teach and will return to directing the university's Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy. Torres-Springer is leaving her role as president and CEO of NYCEDC. At the agency she spearheaded the nascent revamp of Spofford, a former juvenile detention facility in the Bronx, into a mixed-use development with a large affordable housing component. “Having grown up in Section 8 housing, I know first-hand that the work we do is a lifeline to hundreds of thousands of families," said Torres-Springer, in a statement. "Housing is the top expense for New Yorkers, and for far too many rising rents threaten their ability to stay in the city they love. I’ve spent my career helping people secure better jobs with better wages, and developing neighborhood projects that provide affordable homes and economic opportunity. Vicki leaves big shoes to fill, but I’m honored to have a chance to keep up the record-breaking progress she’s achieved." James Patchett, deputy mayor Alicia Glen's chief of staff, will succeed Torres-Springer at NYCEDC. Agency leaders will assume their new roles on February 6.
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Bronx Commons

WXY and Local Projects–designed theater included in new Bronx affordable housing complex
Today officials broke ground on Bronx Commons, an affordable housing complex designed by Danois Architects and WXY Architecture + Urban Design. The mixed-use development, in the South Bronx's Melrose, includes 305 affordable apartments and is developed by local nonprofit WHEDco and BFC Partners in conjunction with New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). In a distinctive twist, the project is grounded by a 14,000-square-foot, 300-seat arts and cultural center and performance space. The Bronx Music Hall, which grew out of WHEDco's storefront music "lab," will bring programming to thousands annually and focus on nurturing the borough's artists. A public plaza and 22,000 square feet of retail at East 163rd Street rounds out the program. “As we build more and more needed affordable housing, there is no finer tribute to New York’s deep artistic history than including a music hall in this Bronx development," said Mayor Bill de Blasio, in a statement. "The projects will transform long-vacant City land into a vibrant cultural mecca and residential community for the borough and the City. I congratulate the Melrose community, and the future residents of this 100 percent affordable development." True to its diverse programming, the project is being executed by three different New York firms. Danois Architects is designing the housing, while WXY and Local Projects are designing the Bronx Music Hall. The latter firm specializes in interactive media design and its work anchors the new and stellar permanent exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York. The 426,000-square-foot project is being built on vacant city-owned land, the last free parcel in the Melrose Commons Urban Renewal Area. The city is touting its "deep" affordability, with units for households making between 30 and 110 percent of the Area Median Income, or $22,032 and $89,760 for a family of three. The borough's median household income was $34,299 for 2015. This article appears on HoverPin, a new app that lets you build personalized maps of geo-related online content based on your interests: architecture, food, culture, fitness, and more. Never miss The Architect’s Newspaper’s coverage of your area and discover new, exciting projects wherever you go! See our HoverPin layer here and download the app from the Apple Store.
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Prison Break

A notorious former Bronx prison site to become affordable housing

The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) recently unveiled plans to redevelop a former Bronx juvenile prison into a mixed-use development centered on affordable housing.

WXY architecture + urban design (WXY) is collaborating with Body Lawson Associates (BLA) to transform the infamous Spofford Juvenile Detention Center into the Peninsula, a $300 million project that will create 740 units of 100 percent affordable housing.

Claire Weisz, principal-in-charge of WXY, said that “no parts of the former prison [were] being reincorporated” into the development. “The goal is to create a campus that incorporates living and working to reimagine this promontory place in Hunts Point,” she added.

The rest of the team—Gilbane Development Company, Hudson Companies, and Mutual Housing Association of New York (MHANY)—was chosen through a 2015 request for expressions of interest (RFEI).

The team is working with longtime neighborhood stakeholders like the Point CDC, BronxWorks, Casita Maria Center for Arts and Education, Urban Health Plan, Sustainable South Bronx, and others.

In 2014, Majora Carter—the urban revitalization activist and founder and former executive director of Sustainable South Bronx—partnered with AutoDesk to imagine alternatives to the Spofford site, which operated as the Bridges Juvenile Center when it was shuttered by the city in 2011 over appalling conditions and inmate abuse.

Along with the typical deliverables that come with a project this size—retail, community, and green space—the Peninsula will bring 49,000 square feet of light industrial space to the Hunts Point neighborhood.

Weisz said that “recreating and reconnecting the street grid” while “making a courtyard space [that] expresses the permeability and openness to the community” was a “priority of the team’s proposal.” Victor Body-Lawson, principal at Body Lawson Associates, added that the team “designed the courtyard as a hub that will foster interactivity between the community, residents, and visitors while melding commercial, manufacturing, and residential activities around a central space.”

In addition to providing housing, the plan integrates different types of workspaces, including artist work studios and light industrial space for Bronx-based businesses to both launch and expand. The Peninsula will host a business incubator, job training facilities, school space for pre-kindergarten (an on-site Head Start program will be incorporated into the project) and higher education, 52,000 square feet of open space, and an 18,000-square-foot health and wellness center operated by Urban Health Plan. “The housing and these work spaces will together create a lively and open addition to the neighborhood of Hunts Point,” said Weisz.

Food, too, is key to the Peninsula: The NYCEDC stated that in addition to a 15,000-square-foot supermarket, local favorites like Il Forno Bakery, Soul Snacks Cookie Company, Bascom Catering, and Hunts Point Brewing Company will be setting up shop in the development. According to Weisz, these “will serve as anchor tenants for the Peninsula because they provide access to fresh produce, offer health care services, and strive to be part of a larger vision that benefits their growing business and the community they serve.”

The five-building development is coming online in three planned phases: Phase one is expected to be complete in 2021, with phase two coming online the year after and the third phase set to open in 2024.

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Location, Location, Location

From the Everglades to the Rockaways, this Brooklyn firm works with communities to design for resiliency

Walter Meyer and Jennifer Bolstad, founders of and partners in Local Office Landscape and Urban Design (LOLA), are earning a reputation for their innovative resiliency projects at the edges of civilization—coastlines and islands. With a multipronged approach that they describe as part architecture, part environmental remediation, and part community organization, Meyer and Bolstad are battling the effects of environmental change on cities and their populations. Managing editor Olivia Martin talked with them about LOLA’s approach to resiliency and future-proofing the planet—from working on post-Hurricane Sandy conditions in the Rockaways to remediating coastal areas of Florida.

The Architect’s Newspaper (AN): You say that resiliency is the new sustainability. Why?

Walter Meyer: It’s a new buzzword, so people confuse it and interchange it with sustainability as though they are the same thing. But sustainability is a derivative of Frederic Clements’s climax theory, in which a field, for example, will change each decade, from soil to weeds to shrubs to trees and then climax as a hardwood forest—this is a snapshot of nature in 3-D.

What emerged after World War II was a new theory of the natural cycles of time. Rather than seeking an equilibrium theory of nature, there is a disequilibrium, where nature is trying to balance itself and adapt to change. Those who can anticipate and respond to change quicker are the ones who have the upper hand.

The big difference is that resiliency is dynamic and changing, while sustainability is static. In terms of scale, sustainability is holistic and more big-picture, and resiliency is more local. So I think of sustainability as an old model but still an important tool.

AN: Do you have examples of where sustainability failed us and why it should no longer be considered the gold standard, so to speak?

Jennifer Bolstad: Well, a few years ago, I consulted on One World Trade Center, which is a very sustainable building [LEED Gold]. But when the mechanical system drowned in Hurricane Sandy and couldn’t be used anymore, the firm in charge ultimately decided it was cheaper to abandon it and leave several floors uninhabited rather than fix it.

Meyer: Also during Hurricane Sandy, all of the buildings that ran on photovoltaics failed because the city grid was down. So, literally, every single building with solar was down. This is because there is a law that if the grid goes down, you can’t back charge the line with your solar panels, because you’ll zap the workers trying to fix the grid. Since then, they invented a hybrid inverter that “islands” the building into a microgrid, so it can function independently off of the grid. There needs to be a dynamic relationship with nature, and we should be creating multilayered systems.

AN: You have a lot of work in Florida right now that deals with water management. How does resiliency factor into those projects?

Meyer: All of the articles written about Miami focus on the ocean and city. It’s all about the ocean—and that makes for good headlines. But what’s missed is that Miami’s most vulnerable areas are in the Everglades, on the west side of the city, because they have freshwater, five feet higher than the ocean, that can’t become diluted with salt water or else Miami loses its water source.

The area near Everglades National Park is particularly at risk because the main flow of the water runs north–south, down from Lake Okeechobee to Florida Bay, and a secondary flow of water runs east–west—like a spine and ribs. Originally, the secondary water flow moved through transverse glades and occasionally wet bogs and sloughs. Since the channels weren’t actual rivers, the city filled them in, and now, when it rains, the houses on those streets along these former sloughs flood. The homes are considered Repetitive Loss properties and the owners cannot collect insurance for the damage anymore. The buildings’ foundations are cracking, due to the water infiltrating the alkaline bedrock, literally melting it. We are trying to open up more options to the people who are stuck in these houses but don’t want to leave their community.

Normally, there is a lot of discussion about design activists, but we are more like community organizers—we want to engage the residents themselves. It’s a lot of listening and then designing and showing them what legal options are available, or creating new ones. One option is a CLT, a community land trust—where everyone buys into this idea, and you work with a public–private partnership, such as a developer and the county. For this neighborhood, it’s about creating high density along the edge of the vulnerable corridor, along the slough of the transverse glades, and doing this three blocks at a time.

If you can organize just three blocks—the center of the slough, a transitional, and a bank—then this creates a housing swap, where the residents can continue their normal lives and not have their schedules disrupted. So, for example, you can move out of the home into a temporary housing unit; then the home will be demolished and turned into a flood storage park, and you will have the option of moving or the right of first refusal to a new high-density, 40-percent affordable housing unit nearby. This makes more sense than simply moving everyone to higher ground because, then, those who are already at higher ground could be dislocated due to rising real estate costs—already Florida developers are looking at luxury housing inland—and this creates new levels of climate refugees.

AN: So, resiliency aside, is relocating more responsible than fixing?

Meyer: Well, that is what leads to climate gentrification; the issue of scale is a major one. If you take a holistic approach and just get everyone out of harm’s way, then you aren’t paying attention to the social fabric. For example, Staten Island was a state buyout project; the government essentially said, “We’ll buy your house, and you can take the money and run.” The problem with that is then the people basically had to move out to Newark because the buyout price point doesn’t acknowledge the gentrification, and $200,000 or $300,000 won’t get you another house in the city. In the Edgemere Urban Renewal Area, in Rockaway, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development and the Office of Recovery and Resiliency offered more options than just a buyout—such as housing swaps and other solutions at the neighborhood scale.

Bolstad: We focus on the built environment in a way that looks at how cultural issues touch the ecological issues. In the Florida project, people very much want out of their houses that are constantly flooding, but they still want to stay within a five-mile radius so they can be near family and keep their routines. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach, even if you believe in a long-term retreat from those areas. Otherwise, you end up with people who are not there by choice, like when Robert Moses dislocated people in the Bronx in the 1960s and moved them out to the beach. Economically vulnerable populations ended up in environmentally vulnerable areas.

And it’s not just the built environment. Even if we aren’t preserving the area for housing in the long term, then the environmental situation needs to remain. That barrier [the Rockaway peninsula] is the first line of defense in the city and Lower Manhattan, and, without active management of the environment of that place, it risks the rest of New York City.

Meyer: I like to quote my mentor and city planner Ronald Shiffman when we talk about these issues: “These disturbances don’t discriminate, but our reaction to them can.” We want to make the most just city we can.

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