Search results for "Greenpoint and Williamsburg waterfront"

Placeholder Alt Text

Warehouse Modernism

Brooklyn’s East River waterfront is defining itself in unexpected ways
Taking shape along Greenpoint’s once-industrial waterfront district is a series of surprisingly contextual modern condo developments using red brick and exposed black steel to tactfully insert tens of thousands of new residents along this sleepy East River shoreline. The largest of them, a 30-story tower that is part of Handel Architects’ Greenpoint Landing, includes 5,500 units sprawled over 22 acres at the mouth of Newtown Creek, with 1,400 apartments renting for as little as $393 to $1,065. Initial renderings presented for public review surfaced as bland massing diagrams, but the subdued details of Handel’s build-out hold promise for communities becoming accustomed to glossy, glassy, boxy towers in districts where rezoning permits greater height and bulk. To the stakeholders’ credit, the developer showed them a selection of schemes to choose from, including designs by Renzo Piano Building Workshop. In contrast to Long Island City’s gleaming, generic masses and Williamsburg’s spotty, uneven edges, Greenpoint’s waterfront retains enough of its traditional shipping warehouses to sustain the contours of a characteristically industrial neighborhood along West and Commercial Streets, even if most of the industry is gone. Despite a major waterfront rezoning passed by the city council in 2005, until a few years ago, most of West Street continued to host storage for building material and scaffolding, a lumber manufacturer, and a crane and equipment rental company. After large portions of Greenpoint Terminal Market were lost to a ten-alarm fire in 2006, Pearl Realty Management adapted the remains into a studio-and-workspace rental complex, an extension of its Dumbo-based green desk co-working enterprise. Slowly, smaller firms like Daniel Goldner Architects, Karl Fischer Architect, STUDIOSC, and S9 Architecture populated the upland side of West and Commercial with renovated warehouses and upscale condos echoing the material palette of the existing low-rises. Much of the post-rezoning development along West and Commercial stalled due to the 2008 mortgage-backed securities crisis. In 2009, the former Eberhard Faber Pencil Company building became the Pencil Factory lofts, and Daniel Goldner Architects filled in the corner lot with a syncopated colored brick addition and perforated aluminum garage. The project struggled in the post-crash housing market. But in the past two years, a rush of new buildings began to rise up along West and Commercial with a distinct material selection: red and light-colored brick and exposed black-painted steel, with glazed entryways and antique fixtures. Karl Fischer Architect’s 26 West Street opened in 2016, its redbrick and black steel facade filling out the six-story street wall, its large overhang resembling a meat market loading dock. The warehouse modern–aesthetic even extends all the way around the mouth of the Newtown Creek, where a 105-unit building by S9 Architecture employs the same neotraditional style—red brick, exposed black steel, industrial awnings, antique fixtures. An upscale ground-floor grocery store warmed some nearby loft residents up to it after months of sound-based trauma from the drilling of pilings. With leases from $3,350 to $4,350, locals will never be at peace with the rent pressures that come with these buildings, but at least they have the virtue of not extravagantly showing off their residents’ income. Not everything conforms to this trend: The expansive 140-unit development under construction by Ismael Leyva Architects at 23 India Street more crudely fills in its zoning envelope with affordable housing ranging from $613 for studios to $1,230 for winners of the NYC Housing Connect lottery, capped by a 39-story, 500-unit condo tower that promises in every way to form a bland massing diagram in the sky. In any case, contextual exterior cladding is little consolation for a community that fought hard for its 197-a plan—completed in 1999 and adopted by the city council in 2002—which would have allowed significantly less bulk and height, aimed to retain more light-manufacturing jobs, and mandated more affordable housing along with waterfront access. Jane Jacobs, in one of her final written statements, penned a strong defense of the original community plan against the eventual zoning resolution. Of course, the trade-off forced by the city—an upzoned waterfront in exchange for publicly funded parks and developer-mandated walkways—has already helped reduce heavy-industrial pollution, killed a proposed Con Edison power plant, and reduced and eliminated waste-transfer facilities and truck fumes. Some residents are just waiting for the dust and noise of construction to subside, while others hope for another recession to slow down the accelerated activity. In 2009, Andrew Blum published “In Praise of Slowness," for the launch of Urban Omnibus that, in retrospect, should have a more durable life as a critique of fast development. For New York City neighborhoods, slowness provides a much-needed stability in the absence of state-level expansion of rent regulation to protect against predatory development. Yet if there had to be luxury condos facing the former industrial piers, the emerging Greenpoint warehouse modernism was a more subtle and site-specific solution than anyone expected or imagined.
Placeholder Alt Text

Excellence in Design Awards

Bomb squad building, verdant library, and others score NYC design awards
Today officials revealed winners of New York's annual Awards for Excellence in Design, a recognition of the city's best civic projects. Timed to NYCxDESIGN, the city's annual celebration of all things design and architecture, the projects being recognized contribute to the city's public life, preserve its history, and exemplify sustainable approaches to buildings and landscapes. The awards, now in their 35th year, are presented by the Public Design Commission, an 11-member group of designers and representatives from New York's cultural institutions that reviews art, architecture, and landscape architecture on city property. "The best public projects are purposeful and use design to build a sense of community and civic pride," said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, in a prepared statement. "We commend the teams behind these critical and creative projects that will help build a stronger, more equitable city and improve services and recreational activities for every New Yorker." Tonight, the mayor, along with Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, Public Design Commission President Signe Nielsen and Executive Director Justin Moore, will present awards to this year's and last year's honorees at a City Hall ceremony. Get a sneak peek at the eight winners below (unless otherwise noted, all images and project descriptions in quotes are from the Mayor's Office): AWARD WINNERS Greenpoint Library and Environmental Education Center Marble Fairbanks; SCAPE Landscape Architecture Greenpoint, Brooklyn Brooklyn Public Library "Exceeding LEED Silver goals, the center will become a demonstration project for innovative approaches to sustainable design, and an environmental learning tool for the community." Double Sun Mary Temple Williamsburg, Brooklyn Department of Cultural Affairs’ Percent for Art Program and Department of Parks & Recreation "Gracing the interior of McCarren Park Pool’s dramatic archway entrance, Mary Temple’s paintings create a subtle and elegant visual disturbance." Downtown Far Rockaway Streetscape  W Architecture and Landscape Architecture Far Rockaway, Queens Department of Design and Construction, Department of Transportation, and Department of Parks & Recreation "Incorporating Vision Zero strategies, this comprehensive streetscape design will foster a safer, more inviting, pedestrian experience in this central business district and transportation hub." Bomb Squad Building Rice + Lipka Architects; Liz Farrell Landscape Architecture Pelham Bay Park, Bronx Department of Design and Construction and New York Police Department "The simple and smart design of this resilient office and training facility elevates critical program elements above the floodplain and allows flood waters to flow through without damaging the building." Treetop Adventure Zipline and Nature Trek  Tree-Mendous The Bronx Zoo Department of Cultural Affairs, Department of Parks & Recreation, and Wildlife Conservation Society "Two new adventures provide unique perspectives at the zoo—visitors can zip across the Bronx River and navigate a series of bridges with narrow beams, obstacles, and climbing wiggling surfaces." FIT New Academic Building SHoP Architects; Mathews Nielsen Fashion Institute of Technology Agency: Department of Education and the Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York "The first newly-constructed building on the FIT campus in nearly 50 years has an NEA award-winning design that reflects FIT’s commitment to openness, community engagement, and the robust exchange of ideas across many platforms." Woodside Office, Garage, and Inspection Facility TEN Arquitectos; W Architecture and Landscape Architecture Woodside, Queens Agency: Department of Design and Construction and Taxi and Limousine Commission "Serving as the central inspection location for over 13,500 taxis, this facility will provide a welcoming and dignified experience for drivers, reduce queuing times, and increase inspection capacity by more than 200 cars per day." The Cubes Administration and Education Building LOT-EK Astoria, Queens Agency: Department of Parks & Recreation and Socrates Sculpture Park "Constructed of 18 shipping containers, the Cubes will be Socrates Sculpture Park’s first permanent structure in its thirty-year history and a manifestation of the organization’s emphasis on reclamation and adaptive re-use, as well as a reference to the neighborhood’s industrial roots." SPECIAL RECOGNITIONS: The Department of Environmental Protection, for the agency’s thoughtful design of green infrastructure in the watershed to help protect the city’s water supply. "DEP’s use of green infrastructure in its upstate properties not only results in resilient and innovative designs, but is a critical component of the agency’s ability to maintain the high quality of New York City’s drinking water supply." Conservation and Relocation of three WPA-era murals EverGreene Architectural Arts; Fine Art Conservation Group; Morphosis; Weiss/Manfredi Roosevelt Island, New York Economic Development Corporation and Cornell Tech "Commissioned in the 1940s by the Work Projects Administration (WPA), these murals were painted over and forgotten for decades. As part of the new Cornell Tech campus, the murals were uncovered and conserved and will be integrated into new campus buildings for public enjoyment." Tottenville Shoreline Protection Stantec; RACE Coastal Engineering Staten Island Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery, the Department of Parks & Recreation, the Department of Transportation, and the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York "In tandem with ReBuild by Design’s Living Breakwaters Project, this shoreline initiative will increase public access by creating an interconnected and seamless waterfront trail, incorporating wetland enhancement, eco-revetments, hardened dune systems, shoreline plantings, maritime forest restorations, and earthen berms."
Placeholder Alt Text

Final Puzzle Piece

NYC acquires last parcel needed for new Bushwick Inlet Park
8Yesterday, Mayor de Blasio announced that New York City had acquired, for $160 million, a large parcel needed to create the new Bushwick Inlet Park, located on the East River shoreline of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The parcel in question is the 11-acre CitiStorage storage facility, which was ravaged by a seven-alarm fire back in 2015. The site's owner had been demanding up to $250 million for the land, and there were rumors the city would use eminent domain, though that appears to not have happened. “Today’s acquisition is proof positive that we keep our promises,” said Mayor de Blasio in a press release. “We are one step closer to realizing the vision of the completed Bushwick Inlet Park North Brooklyn deserves.” “On a per capita basis, Brooklyn Community Board 1 has one of the city’s lowest ratios of open space," said Brooklyn Community Board 1 Chair Dealice Fuller, also in a press release. "Since the 2005 rezoning our community has added tens of thousands of new residents, but the creation of new open space has not kept pace with the influx of new people. We are highly pleased that the Administration finally lived up to its promises and acquired the parcels that comprised the CitiStorage site. With the NYC Parks now leading the charge, we can begin moving forward to make this park a true reality.” This final parcel is just one of six that will go into the new 27-acre park; 3.5 acres are already finished and open to the public. The already-completed section, designed by Brooklyn-based Kiss + Cathcart, features a multi-purpose sports field, viewing platform, and community activities building, in addition to other amenities. Many ideas have been floated for the new park's design, including a "Maker Park" that would make sure of derelict industrial facilities near the inlet, though the City and NYC Parks have not released final plans. Four other parcels are currently in various stages of environmental remediation and development; the CitiStorage site must also go through a similar evaluation and remediation process. Once such an evaluation is complete, the City said in a press release, it will formulate a timeline for development. (The article's first image was taken from a 2005 Greenpoint – Williamsburg master plan created by Mayor Bloomberg's administration.)
Placeholder Alt Text

Zoning In

Bushwick residents push for grassroots rezoning
Residents of Bushwick, Brooklyn are taking planning into their own hands to preserve their neighborhood's character and forestall gentrification. Residents, neighborhood organizations, and members of Brooklyn Community Board 4 hosted a land use meeting this week to discuss the Bushwick Community Plan, a grassroots rezoning agenda to bring more affordable housing to the neighborhood's main thoroughfares, prevent tall towers at mid-block, and create a historic district along Bushwick Avenue, among other objectives. Around 200 residents showed up to the meeting, the culmination of work that began four years ago in response to the Rheingold Brewery rezoning. "I live in Bushwick, I don't know who I displaced out of my apartment," resident Sean Thomas told DNAinfo. Thomas has called the neighborhood home for two years, and he came to learn about his role in gentrification. The next meetings, in April and May, will focus on transit and open space planning, and economic development, respectively. Stakeholders will then draft a proposal for consideration by the city later this year. "It's crucial for this plan to be successful," said local activist Edwin Delgado. "If we leave things the way they are it's just going to be a continuation of what's going on... It's sad." More information on the Bushwick Community Plan and upcoming meetings can be found here. Despite residents' enthusiasm for community planning, New York has an uneven record of actually implementing these grassroots rezoning proposals. In 2001, the city accepted Greenpoint and Williamsburg residents' rezoning proposal—only to enact zoning in 2005 that contradicted the community's wishes. The city's plan encouraged tall towers on the waterfront, which caused property values to rise and engendered the displacement of mostly low-income residents of color. More recently, Mayor Bill de Blasio has made neighborhood-scale rezoning a priority, with plans to rezone Jerome Avenue, the Bronx; East Harlem, Manhattan; and East New York, Brooklyn (plus a now-tabled rezone of West Flushing, Queens).
Placeholder Alt Text

Maker Park

New park unveiled for controversial Williamsburg waterfront site
The development team behind Maker Park has released new renderings for an inventive green space that grows from industrial relics on the Brooklyn waterfront. With this design, and last week's announcement that the city will buy a critical strip of vacant land to complete a large riverside park, it seems the wheels are finally starting to turn on the waterfront's conversion to parkland, a process that began in response to a 2005 Williamsburg-Greenpoint rezoning that produced more luxury condos than public space. Maker Park—which its creators stress is in its ideas stage—adapts the infrastructure on an isolated slice of the East River into performance venues, gardens, and open space, an adventure playground writ large for longtime residents and visitors alike. The idea, its creators say, honors the neighborhood's creative types through a guiding ethos of exploration influenced by the city's maker scene, a technology-infused offshoot of DIY culture that stresses interdisciplinary collaboration. The park is one vision for a waterfront green space that is more than a decade in the making. Last week the city announced a deal that brings a park—Maker Park, a competing vision, or a blend of stakeholders' ideas—one step closer to completion. City officials say $160 million will be spent to acquire the last remaining parcel in a necklace of city-owned land that runs along Kent Avenue from North 14th to North 9th streets (a seven-acre state park occupies two blocks to the south on the same strip). The Maker Park vision for that 27-acre expanse—which is officially called Bushwick Inlet Park—has precedent in the citizen-led efforts that gave birth to the High Line and now spur parks like the QueensWay. A grassroots team led by three young New Yorkers—Zac Waldman, who works in advertising, Karen Zabarsky, the creative director at Kushner Companies, and Stacey Anderson, director of public programs at the Municipal Arts Society (MAS)—has partnered with a team of architects and designers to reimagine the city-owned site's otherworldly white fuel containers, the remnants of Bayside Fuel Oil Depot, as galleries, stages, reflecting pools, art galleries, and hanging gardens. In collaboration with New York–based firms STUDIO V Architecture and Ken Smith Workshop, the group officially unveiled its vision for the ruins in May. In the renderings, Maker Park would stretch from Bushwick Inlet (at North 14th Street and Kent Avenue) south to North 12th Street, right across the street from present-day Bushwick Inlet Park. "Most of the developments on the Williamsburg-Greenpoint waterfront have made it anonymous," said Jay Valgora, founding principal of STUDIO V. "Much of the waterfront is kind of generic, and that's a shame, because the neighborhood is not. We think the park has to be as special as the community it's going to support." Initial renderings deliver on that promise. In dialogue with the cylindrical oil storage tanks, a curved boardwalk sweeps visitors over the inlet and back to shore in a terraced open lawn. The inlet would be planted with native grasses to create a wetland—and natural flood barrier, and a former Bayside building that fronts North 12th Street could be converted to green-roofed galleries or an events space. Maker Park's do-it-yourself ethos isn't meant to override community input. "These renderings are meant to inspire, not to prescribe," said Zabarsky. "The reason they're so magical and have these different elements is to bring about new ideas." Anderson added that community stakeholders have worked with the city for more than ten years to realize the park and that "this is alternate design vision for one portion of the park" grounded architecturally in adaptive reuse. Though they have detailed renderings and site plans, the team says their ideas are a stake in the ground—it is up to the neighborhood, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, and other agencies to conceive and execute a final plan. To that end, Maker Park is hosting a design exhibition in Greenpoint next week to solicit ideas from neighbors on how to develop the designs moving forward (more information on the event can be found here). The group has drafted ten guiding principles—centered on transparency, public input, and the preservation of open space along the river—to follow in its work. The street-facing green space adheres to the Parks Department's Parks Without Borders, a new initiative that opens up the edge conditions of the city's many gated parks, while a soccer field on the southern edge mirrors an adjacent space in Bushwick Inlet Park. Despite their ambition, the plans should work "within a typical park budget," said Valgora, but it's ultimately up to the city to allocate funds. One component that could cost more is the reuse of the Bayside building, though he said Maker Park is doing a financial feasibility analysis right now to get a clearer idea of those costs. Outside the group, the conservation of the industrial heritage is anathema to the neighborhood's progress and public image. Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park (FBIP), an advocacy group instrumental in the creation of its namesake green space, have been vocal in their distaste for the "glorification of oil tanks." It sees Maker Park as a spiteful gesture to a community that has borne a disproportionate share of environmental hazards over the course of the city's industrial history. Not surprisingly, FBIP supports the city's open space master plan, which does not include plans to preserve the fuel tanks. The Maker Park team is keenly aware of the site's environmental challenges. One guiding principal is the safe remediation of the site's environmental hazards, and the group has recruited landscape experts to develop a mitigation strategy. The contamination on site is not unusual for waterfront development in New York, said Michael Bogin, environmental lawyer and principal at Sive, Paget & Riesel P.C. There are other ways to contain toxins—recovery wells, barrier walls, and clean-fill—besides destroying the infrastructure to ensure that mobile contaminants do not escape from the soil or water. "If you take the tanks down, then put in two feet of clean-fill material, then all you've really done is destroyed the architectural value of those tanks. You haven't created a different remedy." Landscape is crucial to the remediation strategy. Ken Smith, founding principal of Ken Smith Workshop, said that the sculpted topography of the site would be built on two to three feet of clean-fill material. Capping the site, which itself is a hundred-year-old landfill, also raises it out of "high frequency" floodzones, he said. Wetlands, planted with native grasses, would be accessible via the boardwalk and cross-hatched waterside beds, and the great lawn, a counterpoint to the contextual native flora, is encircled by trees and could host large events. Both men signed onto the pro bono project to secure the city's ever-threatened manufacturing legacy. "The East River is the heart of the city, the focal point of 21st-century New York City," Bogin said. He has worked for clients who, in his view, have degraded the historic quality of the waterfront or blocked access to the shore. "We're losing the history of the river. I don't want Brooklyn's waterfront to become Times Square. Let's save something."
Placeholder Alt Text

Build Like Lazarus

Real estate and unions bring 421-a tax break back from the dead
Union leaders and real estate power players have brokered a deal to revive an expired property tax break that many see as key to developing affordable housing in New York. The two groups agreed on a multipart deal to revive 421-a, one of the largest property tax exemptions for rental housing in the city. In its expired version and its just-forged incarnation, 421-a gives developers tax breaks for constructing multi-unit buildings on vacant land in certain areas of the city. The deal expired in January when the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), an industry association, and the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York (BCTC), an organization of building trades unions, could not reach an agreement on wages. Real estate developers said they could not finance affordable housing projects and pay the wages unions demanded, while unions argued that wealthy developers could pay, but didn't want to cut into profit margins. Unions also argued that their knowledge of workplace safety and skilled labor pool create job sites that are safer than non-union ones. One major part of the new deal is that union construction workers on 421-a property tax exempt projects be paid an average of $60 per hour, benefits included, for new construction in Manhattan south of 96th Street with 300-plus rental units. A second component applies to buildings of the same size in Queens and Brooklyn Community Boards 2 and 1, an area that roughly includes Astoria, Long Island City, Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Brooklyn Heights, and Fort Greene, plus any eligible construction within one mile of the Brooklyn-Queens waterfront. On these 421-a eligible projects, construction workers would be paid $45 per hour, benefits included. The third portion paves the way for opt-outs. Any 421-a project where more than 50 percent of rental units are reserved for below-market-rate households is exempt from wage agreements, and these affordable units would remain so for 40 years. The property tax exemptions on these sites would be active for 35 years, up from 20 under previous 421-a rules. “We are pleased to have reached an agreement that will permit the production of new rental housing in New York City, including a substantial share of affordable units, while also ensuring good wages for construction workers," REBNY chairperson Rob Speyer said in a prepared statement first shared by Politico. The governor expressed measured approval, too. "The deal reached [last Thursday] between these parties provides more affordability for tenants and fairer wages for workers than under the original proposal," Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a prepared statement. "While I would prefer even more affordability in the 421-a program, this agreement marks a major step forward for New Yorkers." The proposed deal would apply to a 421-a bill passed (but not signed into law) by the state legislature in June of last year. That agreement would apply citywide, and it includes provisions that developers must hire independent auditors to review payroll. Developers will not have to hire unionized workers as long as they enter into labor agreements voluntarily with unions. If state legislators sign off on the REBNY and BCTC agreement, 421-a will be revived. Cuomo has indicated he will sign the changes into law in a special legislative session prior to the regular session that begins in January. Concurrently, the governor is urging lawmakers to sign a Memorandum of Understanding to release $2 billion in funds to build affordable housing for low- and middle-income households statewide. Right now, that money is entangled in other negotiations. In New York City, Mayor de Blasio is still reviewing the proposal to see if it passes his administration's standards. Politico points out that the deal that a similar he designed in association with REBNY last May was criticized by the governor. For their part, affordable housing developers are not pleased by the deal between the powerful groups. "Adding an additional 10 years (to the) exemption, on top of (an) already grossly excessive 25-year proposed exemption, yields a tax break that is unprecedented and unjustifiable on any fiscal or programmatic grounds," Benjamin Dulchin said in an email to Politico."[It's] unconscionable on its face." Dulchin is the head of the Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development, a group that represents affordable housing developers. Since 421-a expired, applications for residential construction have dropped precipitously, so affected industries are hoping its revival will spur new construction.
Placeholder Alt Text

Under New Management

AN talks to Michael Samuelian, the next president and CEO of the Trust for Governors Island
With new leadership at its helm, Governors Island, the 172-acre island in the middle of New York Harbor, is poised for some exciting changes. The Architect's Newspaper (AN) spoke with Michael Samuelian about balancing public and private space in new developments, changes on the New York City waterfront, and his soon-to-be-finalized new job as president and CEO of the Trust for Governors Island. AN: You are a board member of Friends of Governors Island. How were you selected for your new role? Michael Samuelian: Through conversations with the mayor's office, with [deputy mayor] Alicia Glen's office, a few key people on the board of the Trust, some of whom I knew, some I didn't know. I don't know how many people they were speaking with at the time, it was not an atypical series of conversations; we spoke about the position, about why I wanted it, and how I can give back to the city. As a vice president at Related Companies you were responsible for the development of Hudson Yards, a project that weaves together public and private space. What lessons from that project will you be bringing to Governors Island? For the last couple of years I was predominately responsible for public space at the Yards, and its interaction with the High Line, the Shed, the Community Board, and the BID, all of the outward-facing entities, so I certainly learned about the balance of public and private needs on the job. I think that's one of the most important things I'll bring to Governors Island. Governors Island is not about creating the most value, necessarily, it's about creating the right mix of uses. That's what I'm most excited about. With Hudson Yards, it was about integrating the project with the rest of the neighborhood. With an island, there's not a lot of integration you can do, but you can focus on some of the most important aspects of public space, which are connectivity and vitality. That's what we want at Governors Island... to create a place that's a real destination, that New Yorkers fall in love with. There's a lot of development happening on the island's south side: The Hills were just completed and there are more opportunities for private development there as well. Could you speak to how you see those public and private spaces being integrated? The most important thing—one of the things the mayor and I discussed about the role—number one, is do no harm. Governors Island is a fantastic place today, and like a good doctor, you don't want to kill the patient, you want to make him better. Our challenge on Governors Island is that it's a fantastic place already, but how do we make it better? The issue of balance is important to me, figuring out what the right balance of public and private uses while making it even more accessible to people. While we have half a million people coming there per year; that pales in comparison to other public parks. One of my first priorities is getting more people, more New Yorkers, to the island and figuring out that right balance of uses. That will be through some additional private uses. But the number one thing is enhancing accessibility, getting more people to the island. There's some concern about private uses there and honestly I don't come with any predisposed notion of what should happen on the island. The other important concept is plurality. There's not one big idea that will make the island magical, it's already magical. It's really about finding the right balance of uses there. Aside from the public space, not one use should dominate the island; all the other uses should support the public space. I hear you. Is there an ideal balance of uses in your mind, though, or the Trust's mind? We have to figure that out. We really want to harness the energy of the city, and aside from housing, that could be any use under the sun: Institutional, cultural, commercial, retail, hotel. Our first task is to figure out what the appropriate mix of uses is, in order to answer the number one goal, which is enhancing access to the island. What are the great public uses that will get people to experience the island? All of the historic buildings, and the public spaces that just opened, those are starting to gain traction with visitors. For the first time, more people are coming to Governors Island from the Brooklyn side rather than the Manhattan side. I think that's an important thing for people to know. It's an island for everyone, not just north Brooklyn or lower Manhattan. It's an island for the entire city. The more we can get this on people's radar, the better we've done our job. In terms of broadening access to the island and on the island, are there any specific projects we should be looking out for? I think the mayor's plan for enhanced East River Ferry access is a great first step to get New Yorkers thinking about the water and waterborne transportation. Obviously, we are an island so we'd be the main beneficiary of that [laughs]. But with all the waterfront development that's happening in Greenpoint and Williamsburg, all along the Brooklyn waterfront, all of that will help us as more and more people build a relationship with the water, and being an island on the East River Ferry route, it's important that we are part of that conversation. There's so much development, as you said, happening on New York's waterfronts in all five boroughs. Do you see Governors Island setting a model for waterfront development in the city? I'm coming there as a neutral party, not predisposed to any particular uses, but we are starting with relatively neutral territory: We have a million square feet of empty historic buildings, we have the potential for a lot more development on the south side of the island, but there's no magic number, no magic piece that will make it all sing together. To use kind of a difficult term, it's about curating the right types of uses that will make Governors Island even more special. Interview edited and condensed for clarity.
Placeholder Alt Text

Poison Paradise!

All the toxic sites in two of Brooklyn’s most expensive neighborhoods, mapped
On a Jane's Walk tour of the Williamsburg-Greenpoint industrial waterfront last year, our guide gestured to the luxury-high rises that have sprouted from former industrial areas along Kent Avenue in recent years. "See those buildings? See all the strollers? EVERY SINGLE ONE of their kids is exposed to TOXIC POISON." Though the North Brooklyn neighborhoods are now known for servicing the lifestyle needs of bourgeois bohemians, the cold-press juice shops and midi-ring purveyors are, a new map confirms, laid on a foundation of seriously toxic earth. Yesterday Neighbors Allied for Good Growth (NAG) launched their ToxiCity Map, an interactive tool that shows how environmental risks correlate with the neighborhoods' population density, average income, and health outcomes. NAG advocates for policies that promote "healthy mixed-use communities," works with Williamsburg and Greenpoint residents to access the waterfront, and partners with citizens and businesses to reduce area environmental threats. The map was created with the help of a NYS Department of Environmental Conservation grant in partnership with Pratt Institute's Spatial Analysis and Visualization Initiative (SAVI). The ToxiCity Map lets users pinpoint environmental hazards and gives an idea of how specific hazards could impact a given neighborhood zip code. Waste transfer stations, scrap metal and recycling sorting facilities, for example, are all sites which divert materials from the waste stream but are often surrounded by idling materials delivery trucks that degrade air quality. The location of these facilities can be overlaid onto district asthma rates: The map suggests that the number of waste transfer stations is positively correlated with higher rates of asthma. On the toxic waste side, the map features fine-grained explanations of the difference between, say, highly regulated sites versus "E" designated sites, or spills versus brownfields versus Superfund sites. Handily, the map links to the group's industrial history walking tour, the same one this reporter took last year.
Placeholder Alt Text

Make It Happen

“Maker Park” emerges as newest idea for development of Bushwick Inlet
A new idea recently emerged for a piece of property, which has long been in dispute, along the Bushwick Inlet. The initial plan for the Bushwick Inlet was to convert the industrial “wasteland” into a 28-acre park. That was what was promised to the people of Williamsburg and Greenpoint in 2005 following the Waterfront Rezoning Agreement, introduced under the Bloomberg administration. Advocates for this proposal, including Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park, have continually voiced their desire that the property be used for green space. However, Citistorage owner Norman Brodsky still possesses an 11 acre triangle of land needed for the park. It currently holds the old Bayside Oil Depot. Brodsky wants to sell the property for $250 million to the city. However, the city has far exceeded initial cost estimates for the park—$60 million to $90 million—having already spent around $224 million. Rumors are circulating that city may use eminent domain to take the land. If that were to happen, the city would have to compensate Brodsky for a certain amount, then additionally pay for the extensive environmental remediation needed to make the site usable. As of yet, the city has not make decision. More recently, however, local stakeholder Zac Waldman has floated a vision for a “Maker Park” at the site's industrial facilities. In fact, Waldman has assembled a team of supporters to translate that vision into a more definitive plan. They include the events coordinator for the Municipal Art Society (MAS); Stacey Anderson, a creative director at Kushner Companies; Karen Zabarsky; and architect Jay Valgora of New York City–based firm STUDIO V Architecture, along with other designers and developers. Valgora is known for his adaptive reuse projects, such as Empire Stores, the redevelopment of an empty and neglected brick storehouse in DUMBO, Brooklyn. While no definitive plans have been revealed for Maker Park, the development team is working to devise a strategy to convert the warehouses, garages, and cylindrical fuel containers into an artisan marketplace and industrial playground. The Maker Park website describes the vision as “a beautiful and otherworldly industrial topography.” However, Natalie Grybauskas, a spokesperson for Mayor de Blasio, has stated that Maker Park is not a feasible use of the site due to the need for environmental remediation, according to The New York Times. Previous projects of this nature have proved successful, notably the on-going Freshkills Park project and the Croton Water Filtration Plant. Freshkills was the world’s largest landfill until 2001, when it stopped receiving trash (save the debris from post-9/11 cleanups). Over the course of two decades, each of the Staten Island landfill’s massive mounds have been capped, allowing development of 2,200 acres of parkland that offer hiking, biking, playgrounds, and a number of other amenities not typically accessible to residents and visitors of New York City. The site even harvests natural gas from the contained landfill. The Croton Water Filtration Plant, designed by New York City–based Grimshaw Architects, is situated beneath a golf driving range in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. An article in The New York Times notes that 290 million gallons of water are treated each day at the $3.2 billion plant. Additionally, the plant provides 100 million of gallons of water each day to the western edges of Manhattan and areas of the Bronx. While adaptive reuse has played a significant role in breaking up the monotony of the congested metropolitan landscape in these projects, the concept of an "industrial theme" for the Maker Park remains vague. Although the use of existing infrastructure presents advantages, there are still many considerations to take into account before this is deemed feasible and worthy of the community. The fact remains that Citistorage still owns 11 acres of the property needed to pursue any development for public use of the site, or development, period, since anyone could snatch up the property.
Placeholder Alt Text

Justin Garrett Moore named executive director of New York City’s Public Design Commission
The PDC is an overseer of design in the public realm: The commission is tasked with reviewing the design, construction, renovation, and restoration of public buildings; the installation and preservation of public art (including its art collection); and the building and rehabilitation of public parks. Its 11 unpaid members include a painter, sculptor, architect, and landscape architect to represent the building and visual arts. “Justin Moore’s talents in design planning have brought us some of our greatest public spaces,” noted Mayor de Blasio in a statement. “He will be a strong, passionate voice for inclusive, public design. I look forward to Moore’s future work with optimism and excitement.” At City Planning, Moore has worked on major projects like the Coney Island Plan, the Brooklyn Cultural District, the Greenpoint and Williamsburg waterfront, and Hunter’s Point South. He is a co-founder of Urban Patch, as well as an adjunct associate professor at Columbia University GSAPP. (He also holds degrees in architecture and urban design from that institution). Moore intends to further the de Blasio administration's goal of extending design to the far reaches of the five boroughs: "In this administration, there's been an important shift towards considering all the city's communities, especially the outer boroughs and lower income communities, majority-minority communities. People recognize the value that quality design can bring to the city. Design is not just aesthetics. It's about how systems work, it's about how environments make people feel." The PDC has a, uh, rigid reputation among design professionals. Moore would like to change that. The Department of City Planning, he explained, has a resource called the Urban Design Network, where design ideas are shared within the agency's many divisions. Moore is investigating the possibility of creating an equivalent model rooted in the PDC to bridge, for example, the design resources of the Parks Department with those of City Planning or the DOT. Moore will assume his post on April 18th.
Placeholder Alt Text

Waterfrontin’
A view along the planned pedestrian walkway designed by AECOM.
Courtesy AECOM

Greenpoint and Williamsburg waterfront advocates recently celebrated two small, but pivotal, victories in a decades-long battle for walkways along the East River in North Brooklyn and 28 acres of waterfront parkland that were promised but never delivered by the Bloomberg administration’s 2005 rezoning. Both victories could signal an important turn by Mayor Bill de Blasio toward community control and could restore a slight measure of confidence in the citywide rezoning process currently underway. Most remarkably, AECOM’s incorporation of FEMA-recommended flood levels, a terraced amphitheater bluff, and a living shoreline into plans for the Greenpoint Monitor Museum waterfront are evidence of the penetration of resilient design into every corner of New York City’s shoreline.

The district’s residents spurred the first victory last fall when they voted to award $599,200 of the $19.5 million Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund (GCEF) to the Greenpoint Monitor Museum’s visionary waterfront design and permitting project. AECOM’s Gonzalo Cruz, a Harvard Graduate School of Design alumnus who directs the firm’s Urban Design and Landscape Architecture studio, prepared the support materials, leading the conceptual design pro bono. The project, dedicated to honoring the pioneering Civil War battleship manufactured there, its engineer John Ericsson, and Greenpoint patriots who fought to preserve the Union, presented a unique opportunity.

 

“They owned the land so the project did have the potential to go somewhere,” Cruz said. “It was incredible for us to be able to help them. They’re very committed to the site and the history. We provided a one-stop shop: People who can provide coastal and marine engineering services as well as design services.”

To protect the land from erosion and to create a natural habitat, a living shoreline wraps the edge of the site with plantings of cordgrass, sea lavender, switchgrass, black needlerush, glasswort, and groundsel bush. An ecological walkway and scenic overlook loft above, providing a continuous public right-of-way that ties into the 2005 zoning resolution. During Hurricane Sandy in 2012, Bushwick Inlet flooded five blocks inland, so the team designed a tiered amphitheater facing the Manhattan skyline that ascends 12 feet above sea level, with berms that reinforce the upper edge, softened by a retaining lawn featuring educational displays about engineering and history. At the top, Cruz reserved a section of the site for the future Greenpoint Monitor Museum.

 

“It was a wonderful thing they did,” said Janice Lauletta-Weinmann, president of the museum. “Without those conceptual drawings, it would have been very difficult to get the idea across what would have been nice in the neighborhood.”

The GCEF award acted as a signal for the city government to eliminate the threat of eminent domain that has dogged the nonprofit since the 2005 rezoning clumsily designated its property as part of the anticipated 28-acre Bushwick Inlet Park. The Greenpoint Monitor Museum gained title to the one-acre parcel along the Bushwick Inlet in 2003 but has been unable to effectively fundraise with the threat hanging over it. Meanwhile, the Bloomberg and de Blasio administrations neglected to acquire the other parcels designated for parkland before rezoning caused land values to explode. With the GCEF grant and AECOM’s design moving to the next phase, the Greenpoint Monitor Museum project is now embarrassingly far ahead of the city’s barely preconceptual zoning diagrams.

“There was some sort of idea of a beach situation, which at the time the plan was put together, was ten years ago,” Cruz said. “There were some trends at the time where people were just latching on. Besides that there was nothing more. There was just a path full of benches; that’s what the original master plan had along the site.”

In December, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and Mayor de Blasio’s spokesman publicly affirmed for the first time that they would not support the use of eminent domain on the site.

Meanwhile, the battle for the rest of Bushwick Inlet continues: The Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park has been organizing regular street actions and protests aimed at pushing the city to acquire an 11-acre parcel for the park where the CitiStorage building burned down last January in a suspicious fire. Activists predicted a real-estate development would soon follow; six months later, Midtown Equities and East End Capital signed an option to purchase the land, floating the offer to build a section of the park in exchange for a variance to add residential units. Related Companies reportedly joined talks to provide capital; the developers could already build up to 600,000 feet of as-of-right commercial space. In late December, waterfront activists scored another important victory: A de Blasio spokesman affirmed in Crain’s New York Business, “The administration would never accept a rezoning here that did not have the support of the councilman and community.” CitiStorage is the last section of the now 27-acre Bushwick Inlet Park remaining to be acquired; activists say legislation sitting in a State Senate committee in Albany would use eminent domain to force its sale.

“A great park will be such a boon to this neighborhood,” said Katherine Thompson, cocaptain of Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park. The people that have lived here for a long time and have done the fighting, it’s going to be a really big disappointment if they feel like this neighborhood has been taken away by rampant outsized development that has disregarded the fabric of our community.”

Placeholder Alt Text

Royal Flushing
The Flushing waterfront is targeted for development.
Courtesy NYCDCP

Don’t be fooled by the name: Main Street in downtown Flushing is decidedly nongeneric. One of the busiest commercial strips in New York, Main Street’s shops and restaurants cater to the 69 percent of Flushing residents who identify as Asian, particularly the neighborhood’s sizable Chinese and Korean populations. As in East Harlem, East New York, and Long Island City, the Department of City Planning (DCP) is studying rezoning possibilities for Flushing West. The DCP would like to activate underutilized industrial space along the waterfront, giving the downtown room to grow westward.

 
Flushing’s new zoning proposals aim to spur mixed-use growth.
 

The Flushing West Neighborhood Planning Study (FWNPS) is building on a master plan initiated in 2011 by the Flushing-Willets Point-Corona Local Development Corporation. With a $1.5 million Brownfield Opportunity Grant, the LDC tapped SHoP, AKRF, and Mathews Nielsen to study zoning and land use between Flushing Creek and downtown Flushing. The master plan outlined strategies to spur economic development, add affordable housing, improve city services and infrastructure, and broaden access to the waterfront.

The FWNPS is now in its environmental review and public scoping phase. The plan’s rezoning proposal targets a 32-acre, ten-square-block area east of Flushing Creek, bounded by Northern Boulevard, Prince Street, and Roosevelt Avenue.

Since May, the DCP has invited residents to articulate Flushing’s core needs in a series of public meetings. Residents identified primary concerns, like building more housing for seniors, preventing displacement of small businesses, improving streetscapes for pedestrian safety, creating separate bike lanes, building more recreation space, and cleaning up the heavily polluted Flushing Creek.

Thomas Smith, director of studies for the DCP’s Queens office, explained that existing zoning in downtown Flushing “already allows for a significant amount of development potential.” The zoning encourages hotels (because of a low parking requirement), and buildings with wide, low bases topped by residential units.

New zoning would encourage similar mixed residential-commercial development, and adhere to current land use near Northern Boulevard: heavy manufacturing on the waterfront and light manufacturing inland. Those fearing a Williamsburg- or Greenpoint-style tower building boom need not worry. Airport zoning for LaGuardia, across Flushing Bay, sets restrictions on the height of buildings in adjacent neighborhoods.

Though plans from 1998 set out to beautify the waterfront, today the public access area is narrow and uninviting. Downtown streets leading to the water are long and drab, doing little to entice the eye and move pedestrians creekside. The proposed zoning changes would allow for a 40-foot-wide access area, a new street network, and restaurants and shops along the waterfront. At a November DCP public hearing, councilman Peter Koo praised the DCP’s plan, but encouraged the agency to clean up Flushing Creek, claiming that “no one wants to go there because it stinks!”

Besides poor water quality, the affordability of affordable housing is a top community concern. Smith explained that the rezoning would allow for affordable housing rates at 25/60 or 30/80. Translation: In some new construction, 25 percent of units will be available to households making up to 60 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI), or, 30 percent of units will be available to those making 80 percent of the AMI. In 2015, the AMI for a three-person household in New York City is $77,700 for a family of three. If approved, the plan could add 938 total units of housing. Of those units, 516 to 619 units would be permanently affordable.

Jung Rae Jang, an organizing fellow at the Flushing-based MinKwon Center, noted that the AMI affordable housing guidelines are a poor fit for the neighborhood, which has an AMI of approximately $39,000. To Jang, “the city’s 25/60 plan simply does not address the [average] income level of the Flushing downtown area, and for people who are making less than that.”

A coalition of community organizations has formed the Flushing Rezoning Community Alliance to speak out on the zoning changes that could negatively impact current residents. The DCP hopes that, after a public comment period, the neighborhood plan will be approved by fall 2016.