Michael Sorkin might appropriately be called a visionary with a heart. He has understood that, with the universal buzz about people living in cyberspace and communicating primarily through global wavelengths, this is already a reality and just another convenient set of tools that will soon be assimilated into the realm of routine. In this respect, computers are just like every other exotic technology that has nourished science fiction hyperbole and ended up as nostalgic curios in antique auctions. In designing for the future city, Sorkin has acknowledged that people are weary of looking at digital screens all day and sit-coms all night; so why on earth would they want their neighborhood to be another extension of virtual reality? The fact is that people need and value human interaction more than ever because of computer technology. In the Sorkin city, they walk, talk, sit on stoops, tend their gardens, and breathe cleaner air. Preserving this desirable reality is the basic goal of sustainability and the primary urban design challenge of the future.Moshe Safdie, principal, Safdie Architects For several decades, Michael Sorkin has been a unique voice in architecture. In a period of competing schools of thoughts, transitioning from one “-ism” to another, his critical voice was clear and constant, unwavering, with a focus on the impact of architecture on peoples’ lives and well-being; on the principles that must sustain urban life. He spoke about morals, values and ethics as others reviewed architecture as an ongoing fashion parade. Michael’s commitment to the idea that architecture must be in the service of those for whom we build, led him to strip the discourse of architecture from jargon and private lingo; expressing ideas clearly and articulately to the general public. As a critic at The Village Voice, he reached many outside the profession. He became propagandist for architecture, both within the profession and to the public at large, expanding horizons of the impact of our built environment has on our planet. Michael was a great and passionate teacher. I vividly remember his attendance at design reviews at the GSD, where sometimes faculty comments verge on the esoteric. Michael responded with surgical precision, getting to the essence of a design, and doing so in plain-talk. In his practice, both in Michael Sorkin Studio and Terreform, he was a prolific provocateur, embracing scales from small neighborhood parks to entire cities. The studio produced numerous proposals. Alas, not enough were realized, but the impact on the current generation is profound. It is not often that we find, in one person, an architect, urban designer, educator, theorist, critic and writer. I will miss his voice, cut-off suddenly and untimely, at a time when it is most needed. I hope that the coming generation will embrace the professional ethic his life represents. Deborah Berke, partner, Deborah Berke Partners, and dean of the Yale School of Architecture Michael Sorkin was a great critic, inspired teacher, and a brilliant thinker. And happily for me, he was my friend. We would have a drink together once or twice a year and talk about New York. From old New York to the New York we loved to the New York we missed to the New York we hoped for in the future. Michael was a searing and insightful critic, all the way back to his days at The Village Voice, as well as in his many books and in his more recent criticism for The Nation. He was also an insightful teacher—he taught at Yale twice, first in 1990 as the William B. and Charlotte Shepherd Davenport visiting professor, then in 1991 as the William Henry Bishop visiting professor. He brought these same teaching skills to his strong leadership as the director of the master of urban planning program at the Spitzer School of Architecture at City College (CCNY). He was also one of the most learned and well-read people I’ve ever met. His interests were diverse and his memory was expansive. Michael argued for the greater good in every aspect of the built environment—from the smallest detail of a building to the largest gesture of a regional plan. He will be missed. His convictions, his voice, and his heart are irreplaceable. Barry Bergdoll, Meyer Schapiro Professor of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University I can still rerun lines in my head verbatim from some of Michael’s Village Voice pieces—especially the ones I just couldn’t stop rereading while howling with laughter. His send-up of the Charlottesville Tapes was a true classic, a teddy bear to reach for in the most desperate moments of trying to survive postmodernism. Michael was an arsonist to be sure, yet he also wanted to rebuild something of value and commitment in the place of pretension and posturing. He held out hope—to his last moments, bright more light on the horizon that he was—that architecture could still be an instrument for building community. When Reinhold Martin and I looked to launch our experimental Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream project in 2011, amid the ongoing foreclosure crisis, we turned to Michael, inviting him to participate in the opening panel discussion. He offered cogent analyses of our all-too vague brief as well as suggested lines of attack for making architecture that mattered. Along the way he also offered the audience gathered at MoMA PS1 and online a very moving description of his own upbringing in Holland Hills, Northern Virginia. Holland Hills was a place where Americans cultivated living together, Michael said, in language that starkly contrasts with the language of intolerance that has since invaded American life, virus-like. Ironically, I think he feared this virus more than the one that took him from us. Michael left us right when we needed him most. With his lucid intelligence, sense of purpose, and biting satirical way of writing, he could cut away the flack even as he focused us on the essential. Nothing he wrote is dated, even if much of it was provoked by immediate events. To reread his pieces is to be in conversation with one of the most truly original and free-thinking minds of architecture. I can’t imagine how anyone will fill the gap, but the texts will continue to delight us and offer refreshing insights. (Think how he knew, for instance, to appreciate Breuer’s Whitney at the moment when fashionable opinion was dead-set against it.) There are many ways to spend our evenings apart at the moment. I, for one, have found a superb tonic for these dark times: pour a glass of bourbon in Michael’s memory and prop open your favorite collection of his writings. We will miss you for years and years to come, Michael. Vanessa Keith, principal, StudioTEKA Design When I came to New York City as a young architect 20 years ago, I was in search of a mentor. Coming from a fine arts background, I wanted someone who I felt was a truly great mind, who I could learn from, and who would take me under their wing. So when I met Michael while I was working on a project for the Spitzer School of Architecture at CCNY, I felt an immediate affinity. He reminded me in some ways of my academic parents and their radical lefty friends who dreamed of a better world while working on their PhD dissertations. From there, I started teaching studio at CCNY in 2002, and being invited to Michael’s UD juries was definitely a high point. He was so innovative, and he always had the backs of everyday people who don’t always get to have their voices heard. He made us think critically and differently, and he didn’t shut down ideas just because they were coming from someone younger or less “educated.” In 2007, Michael; Achva Stein, then head of CCNY’s landscape architecture program; David Leven, of LevenBetts and CCNY; and Ana Maria Duran, a good friend from grad school at Penn who was teaching at PUCE (Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Ecuador) in Quito, were doing a joint architecture, landscape, and urban design studio focused on a site in the Ecuadorian rainforest. Ana Maria invited me to lead a student charrette at the Quito Architecture Biennale, which I accepted. Once there, I received another invitation, this one to travel with the studio groups to Lago Agrio, taking Achva’s place. Again, I accepted, getting the yellow fever vaccine and some anti-malaria pills. Shivering and teeth chattering from a reaction to the injection, I jumped on the bus heading down the mountains. What a treat! We took trips up the river with local guides in canoes, avoided the areas marked “piranha,” and at a safer junction jumped into the muddy river water fully dressed in all our gear. The entire group stayed in the rainforest at a research station, saw butterflies in metamorphosis against the backdrop of oil installations, and had a jolly old time. Michael joked about making a calendar featuring scrappy Ecuadorian street dogs, the very antithesis of the Westminster Dog Show. He always rooted for the underdog, valuing the ingenuity and skills of local people and treating them with the utmost respect. Michael helped so many people, and he was so generous with his time. He was always up for coming to Studioteka and playing the role of critic for whatever we were working on in our annual summer research project. That’s how my book, 2100: A Dystopian Utopia — The City After Climate Change for Terreform’s UR imprint, came to be. Several years of in-office juries, occasionally zinging (but usually hilarious and on-point) critiques, and edits followed, and the book came out in 2017. Since then, Michael and the team at Terreform have offered incredible guidance, support and enthusiasm, helping us to get the word out, and cheering me on through each book event, lecture, publication, and milestone. More recently, we had our 2100 VR day at StudioTEKA and gave Michael, along with UR managing director Cecilia Fagel, their very first experience in virtual reality! They were dubious at first, but they were quickly among the converted. At one point in the VR tour, they were put on a plank changing a lightbulb hundreds of feet above the city, and in the end, they asked everyone to jump down. Michael demurred, Cecilia said yes, and we had to catch her! Michael was a brilliant mind, a champion of the dispossessed, and someone who fought valiantly for a just, equitable, and environmentally sustainable future. He believed in cities, in the power of collective action, and that doing better was always possible. Now we must strive to carry on without him, and push hard for the better world he laid out for us in his work. Sharon Zukin, professor emerita of sociology, Brooklyn College and City University Graduate Center Michael Sorkin was an architect’s writer and a writer’s architect. He had a brilliant wit, a ready command of politics, history, and principles of design, and a passionate commitment to social justice. He wrote in plain English and published prolifically. He scorned hypocrisy, shunned opportunists, and acted to build a better world. Although he had peeves—venal real estate developers, corrupt politicians, celebrity architects, that tin-plated hustler Donald Trump—Michael wasn’t peevish. He could not tolerate intolerance. He was impatient with himself, but he was also a generous teacher, colleague, and friend. During all the years that I knew him (I want to write have known him), I never understood how he could travel so far, write so much, or launch so many projects with so many people and always bring them to completion. Yet his genius ranged most freely, and his rage was most keenly charged, when he wrote about ego and power in the city that he loved: New York. I admired Michael as a writer before I knew him as either an architect or a friend. I had been a devoted reader of his architectural criticism in The Village Voice during the 1980s. At the time, New York was in transition, moving from widespread deprivation to Reaganite glamour, yuppie glitz, and localized gentrification, even as fiscal austerity penalized the Rust Belt of the outer boroughs and quarantined communities of color. Michael cut through the hype to the complicit collusion of the real estate industry and government agencies; I learned a lot from reading him. Although he and I walked the same streets—and lived in the same neighborhood, Greenwich Village—his streets were more layered than mine because he knew more, had a better eye, and directed his critiques with pinpoint clarity. Who could ever catch up with him? The elegant essays that make up the book Twenty Minutes in Manhattan—shaped by the walk from his home to his office—are my favorites in Michael’s considerable oeuvre. He starts with the stairs in the Old Law tenement where he and Joan, his wife and life-partner, lived for many years. He recounts the difficulties he has had climbing those stairs, especially on crutches after surgery, and then segues into a brief but exact description of their construction. This leads him to reflect on other, grander stairs. The long, straight flights of stairs in late-nineteenth-century industrial buildings that formed a “tectonic loft vocabulary” within the cultural syntax of New York. The elegant double staircases in the Château de Blois. The capacious stairs in the MIT dorm designed by Alvar Aalto, made wide so students would stop to talk to each other. Long before Prada stores and tech and other “creative” offices sprouted them, Michael had already taken the measure of a staircase’s possibilities. “Architecture,” Michael drops into his conversation with the reader, “is produced at the intersection of art and property.” He exhumes the grid plan from its origins in the fifth century BC and relates it to the well-known scheme for laying out potential profit-bearing plots of land throughout Manhattan. Adopted in 1811, the grid not only set New York’s major money machine in motion but also set the course for its buildings, their heights and morphologies, and, yes, the stairs inside them. Which naturally makes him consider the pitch of the treads at the pyramids in Chichen Itza, only to return, once more, to his New York brownstone. This is—was—typical of Michael in writing as in casual conversation: erudition wrapped in humor that didn’t allow pomposity. Like Jane Jacobs, whom he greatly admired, and in whose honor he founded a lecture series at the Spitzer School of Architecture, he was a citizen of both the Village and the world. Like Jacobs, too, he saw the world in the city—but he also saw the city in the world. Michael traveled constantly, giving lectures, pitching projects, taking his students on field trips to South Africa one year and to Cuba another. During his career, he wrote about many different cities. Wherever a community of architects, activists, and urban designers protested a plan, or struggled to turn back an egregious intrusion of monumentalism into a skyline or streetscape, Michael was there. You could count on him to fire broadsides, mobilize the troops, and persuade strangers to join him. A few years ago, he persuaded me and others to write a short essay for a collective book he was putting together with people in Helsinki. This group strongly opposed the city government’s plan to contract with the Guggenheim Museum, then still in its expansionist phase, to build an expensive branch on a stretch of waterfront better left for public use. With these collaborators, Michael organized an anti-competition for design ideas and made us scholars into a jury. This mobilization, echoed by the popular opposition within Helsinki, helped to sink the Guggenheim plan. (Or, at least, it forced the city council to reveal its lack of funds.) The last time I saw Michael, one month before he died, he asked me to come by his office. We talked about a Hungarian artist’s book project on luxury apartments for which we were both writing essays, dished some dirt about various cultural figures on the South Side of Chicago, and looked at the old photographs of Michael’s family on his shelves. We laughed about the double portrait of Joan and himself in front of the Taj Mahal that he had painted in Vietnam; Joan, considering it trashy, would not allow it in their home. Michael asked if I could recommend someone who could write about race and class in the neighborhoods near the University of Chicago for a book he was planning for his publishing house UR, and then asked if I would write something for yet another book he was planning, on smart cities. Although he was not in the best of health, a frailty that the virus would exploit, he still pushed forward. He was only prevented from taking another trip—to Africa—by the emerging blockade of travel restrictions. My last email from Michael came one week later. He heard me talking about my new book on the radio and immediately sent me fan mail. This, too, was Michael: he acted on friendship. Almost twenty years ago, he and I edited a book of essays by New York urbanists where we tried to put together our abundant sorrows and critical thoughts about the World Trade Center. The words Michael wrote about the fallen Twin Towers surely apply to him. He was, in all respects, “the Everest of our urban Himalayas.”
Search results for "NYC Parks"
Today's Hotel, Tomorrow's Hospital
From parking garages to parks, these are the pop-up medical facilities of the COVID-19 pandemic
Convention centersBoasting boundless and easily adaptable floor space, robust loading docks for moving in and out a high volume of equipment and gear, high-powered ventilation systems, and more than a few ADA-compliant bathrooms, convention centers are natural places to establish temporary hospitals. Manhattan’s Jacob K. Javits Center, normally one of the busiest convention centers in the United States, was one of the first to undergo the transformation into a sprawling, nearly 3,000-bed capacity overflow hospital operated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. (The Army Corps of Engineers, the New York National Guard, and a team of civilian staffers can be credited for the rapid turnaround.) A large number of other convention centers across the country are either being eyed as potential makeshift medical hubs or are currently being converted into them including the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, Detroit’s TCF Center, McCormick Place in Chicago, the Baltimore Convention Center, the Los Angeles Convention Center, and the Santa Clara Convention Center in California’s Silicon Valley.
Parking garagesWhile many hospital parking structures are now home to drive-though coronavirus testing sites, in at least one major medical facility, Nashville’s Vanderbilt University Medical Center, beds are being moved into a parking garage to treat those potentially infected by the novel coronavirus at a safe distance from other patients.
This is a photo from a parking garage at Vanderbilt University Hospital in Nashville, TN: pic.twitter.com/phWMTVybVE— Roshan Rinaldi (@Roshan_Rinaldi) March 22, 2020
Sports fields/stadiumsOriginally and still largely used as a military term, field hospitals get their name from their strategic location on wide-open spaces in close proximity to sites of mass injuries and casualties such as, well, battlefields. Twenty-first-century field hospitals are now being erected on battlefields of a different kind that normally see a different sort of frenzied combat: football. CenturyLink Field, home to the Seattle Seahawks, is being converted into a large temporary treatment center by the Army and will be dedicated to treating patients with ailments not related to the coronavirus so that beds in overwhelmed Seattle area hospitals are freed up for those suffering from the deadly respiratory disease. Elsewhere in hard-hit Western Washington, another 200-bed field hospital will be erected on a turf soccer field in the Seattle suburb of Shoreline. Relatedly, football pitch-bound field makeshift hospitals are now somewhat de rigueur in countries like Brazil. A section of the famed Billie Jean King Tennis Center at Flushing Meadows, Queens–in better times, home to the U.S. Open—will also be covered into a 350-bed auxiliary medical center by New York City Emergency Management.
The field hospital at Century Link will address non COVID-19 medical needs to free up our health delivery system to deal with this virus.Thanks to partners at the federal, state and local levels for making this happen. pic.twitter.com/9juaAP5BXf — Governor Jay Inslee (@GovInslee) March 28, 2020
Decommissioned hospitalsShuttered hospitals, many of which have never been closed in the first place, are coming back to life due to the coronavirus pandemic. A wide number of bed-equipped, recently closed medical facilities—including the old Sherman Hospital in Elgin, Illinois, San Francisco’s California Pacific Medical Center, and Laurel Regional Hospital in Maryland—have already or will potentially reopen to accommodate a surge of COVID-19 patients or patients in need of other types of urgent care in overburdened areas.
So the shuttered hospital (old Sherman Hospital in Elgin, IL) where the movie "Contagion"was filmed will be reopened to potentially treat Coronavirus patients.https://t.co/vxI56HrNmp— Rational Galaxy Brain 🌌🧠 (@RationalGenius) March 31, 2020
Dorms/college campusesWith students at an overwhelming number of colleges and universities dismissed from attending in-person classes for the rest of the academic year, an ample amount of available real estate has suddenly opened up. As COVID-19 first began to spread across New York City, New York University pledged to make available some of its now-vacated dormitories for COVID treatment-related purposes if needed. Student housing at New York’s expansive system SUNY and CUNY public colleges could also be potentially turned into emergency medical facilities, quarantine units, and/or temporary housing for healthcare workers. While dorm rooms can be easily retrofitted into treatment spaces, college and universities are also considering converting or already have converted other on-campus facilities into field hospitals. The McCormack-Nagelsen Tennis Center at the College of William & Mary in Virginia, and Liacouras Center at Temple University in Philadelphia, are two examples of non-dorm collegiate spaces that will serve a new purpose during the pandemic.
Central ParkPlenty of strange, sometimes disturbing sights can be seen within Central Park. None, however, quite match the surreally sobering heights of witnessing volunteers erect a tent-based respiratory care center in the middle of New York City’s backyard. Said facility, which will have a capacity of 68 hospital beds and also include an on-site morgue, was established this past weekend in Central Park’s East Meadow by humanitarian aid organization Samaritan’s Purse in partnership with Mount Sinai Health System to “provide care for patients seriously ill with COVID-19.”
I don’t think I’ll ever get over this image, not for all of the days I am on this earth. pic.twitter.com/78pTPMUvZ0— Lisa Lucas (@likaluca) March 30, 2020
FairgroundsGenerally only used at a very high capacity for a few weeks of the year, fairgrounds over a vast amount of space with the needed infrastructure—electricity, water, various buildings, arenas, parking lots the size of a small town—already in place. The Santa Clara County Fairgrounds in San Jose, California, for example, will take advantage of this advantageous arrangement and temporarily house members of the region’s sizable, highly vulnerable homeless population during the pandemic. Elsewhere in California, the Orange County Fairgrounds are being mulled as a potential site to accommodate overflow from established medical facilities in the area; it’s a similar story at the Riverside County Fairgrounds in Indio. Outside of California, the massive Washington State Fairgrounds are being considered as an emergency medical site about 30 miles south of Seattle in the city of Puyallup. In Florida, where the virus is on the verge of exploding in certain areas, a 250-bed facility is already under construction at the Miami-Dade Fairgrounds. In several states, fairgrounds and their parking lots are already being used to host drive-up coronavirus testing sites.
Hotels and motelsHotels and motels are perhaps the most versatile and, due in part to low occupancy rates brought on by the COVID-19 outbreak, the most readily available spaces to repurpose during a pandemic. Providing privacy, some level of comfort, and isolation, they can be used to treat non-critical patients recovering from the COVID-19-related illnesses, quarantine patients suspected to be infected, house exhausted, high-risk healthcare workers on the frontlines (in sometimes deluxe accommodations), and provide a temporary safe haven to vulnerable populations like the unsheltered. Officials in various cities including New York, Chicago, Seattle, New Orleans, and Oakland, California, have leased hundreds, even thousands, of hotel and motel rooms to be used in various capacities in the coming weeks, with the Army Corps of Engineers working to identify and then convert many of them into fully functional temporary medical facilities. Many, of course, have their own ideas as to which specific hotels should be used.
What does the coronavirus pandemic mean for architects?
Takin' it to the streets
Cities open up streets to pedestrians as parks overcrowd
In San Francisco, pedestrian advocacy groups are pressing the city to close off certain streets to vehicular traffic, already dramatically reduced in numerous on-lockdown cities, so that pedestrians can exercise and get around while at a remove from their fellow fresh air-seekers. The idea has garnered support from local officials although no plans have been formalized. As reported by the San Francisco Examiner, safe streets advocate Patrick Traughber has even crowd-sourced a number of streets—Divisadero Street, Valencia Street, John. F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park, and Haight Street among them—that would particularly benefit from 24/7 traffic closures during the pandemic. “You absolutely have to walk in the street to pass people,” said Traughber. “Since the streets have car traffic, it’s a dangerous situation. It feels like we could convert some of the road capacity to walk while the car traffic is down.” Yesterday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also announced a four-day street closure test-run in Queens, Manhattan, the Bronx, and Brooklyn. The shuttered streets, totaling 1.6 miles of over 6,000 miles of roadway in the city, include Park Avenue between East 28th and East 34th streets in Midtown Manhattan; Bushwick Avenue from Johnson Avenue to Flushing Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn; 34th Avenue from 73rd Street to 80th Street in Jackson Heights, Queens; and Grand Concourse between East Burnside and 184th Streets in the Fordham Heights section of the Bronx. Staten Island has been excluded from the pilot. “Everyone wants to make sure there are spaces for folks to get their exercise, to get fresh air, there must be enforcement,” said de Blasio. “It has to be places the NYPD and other agencies can enforce effectively.” While limiting vehicular traffic on New York City streets—even if just limited stretches of them—is the long-held dream of safe street advocates, de Blasio’s plan has been greeted with a mixed reception. Some have criticized the limited nature of the scheme and the fact that it will only be enforced nine hours a day from 10:00 a.m. through 7:00 p.m. Because the number of street sections being closed off to traffic is minuscule compared to the total amount of roadway in the city that could potentially be made off-limits to cars during the duration of the pandemic while not interfering with the movement of emergency vehicles, there are concerns that the sheer number of people congregating in the sparse car-free streets could devolve into an out-of-control health hazard. Simply put, some think de Blasio, who also has temporarily banned contact sports like basketball at city parks and threatened to shut down playgrounds, should have thought much, much bigger.
We hope you’re finding some solace and beauty in Philly parks at this time. Here’s a photo of beautiful magnolia trees 🌸 in bloom along MLK Drive yesterday. It’s closed to vehicles 24 hours/day to allow for more social distancing. 📸 Share your photos by tagging #myphillypark! pic.twitter.com/YC6GpWIbGo— Fairmount Park Conservancy (@myphillypark) March 22, 2020
Prospect Park, hopes that its strict existing rules prohibiting activities like dog-walking, bicycling, and jogging will make it a more attractive destination to social distance-observing New Yorkers simply looking to enjoy long, quiet solo walks. “Green-Wood was designed to be a different kind of experience,” Lisa Alpert, Green Wood’s vice president of development and programming, told the New York Times. “It’s a more contemplative, less recreational one, intended to connect people with nature, and we are especially happy now to serve as a green space for people to get away.” As Sara Bronin, an attorney, architect, and advisor to the National Trust for Historic Preservation wrote in a recent op-ed for the Philadelphia Inquirer, now is the time for urban green spaces—specifically spacious urban green spaces that aren’t as easily prone to overcrowding—to shine. After all, many of America’s great historic city parks and rural cemeteries like Green-Wood were expressly created in the mid-19th and early 20th centuries as places for city dwellers to escape cramped residential neighborhoods and the rampant infectious diseases such as tuberculosis that spread through them. “The scale of these carefully-designed grand parks, and the ambitions of their designers, far surpass the vision behind the small-minded ‘pocket parks’ local leaders seem to favor today,” opined Bronin. “Other communities should restore the grand historic parks that are getting us through the current crisis and will serve as vibrant places of social cohesion long after COVID-19 is conquered,” continued Bronin, singling out Philadelphia and Hartford, Connecticut, as two cities dedicated to preserving its historic park infrastructure. “Special attention should be paid to equity and ensuring that investments are spread fairly across neighborhoods. Let’s do what we can to renew our commitment to those places that are giving so much right now to our bodies, hearts, and spirits.”
I'm not a city planner, but if you want to do this, you have to close a LOT of streets over long distances, in a bunch of neighborhoods. And if you need to do a pilot to figure out logistics, do it quickly and quietly—not four days of closures for nine hours a day over a weekend.— Angus Johnston (@studentactivism) March 26, 2020
Dominick DeAngelis, RA, AIA, Vice President of Architecture and Engineering, NYC School Construction Authority Mr. DeAngelis is responsible for the design of $18 billion of construction over the next five years that will create 57,000 seats in 87 new schools or additions, and upgrade 1,840 additional NYC public schools. Wendy Feuer, Assistant Commissioner for Urban Design + Art + Wayfinding, NYC Department of Transportation Ms. Feuer’s DOT office makes streets attractive and welcoming for all users, and publishes a street design manual for City agencies, consultants and community groups. She has been a public art peer for the federal General Services Administration’s Design Excellence program for over 15 years. Erik Fokkema, Architect, Partner, EGM Architecten Mr. Fokkema has expansive experience in the Netherlands in institutional facilities, as well as private residential and public buildings. He is an expert in building operations, making the complex simple, and designing humane and user-friendly buildings. Mark Gardner, AIA, NOMA, Principal, Jaklitsch/Gardner Architects New York-based architect Mark Gardner’s experience scales from buildings to interiors to product design, and he works to understand the role of design as a social practice. He is an expert and strong advocate for diversity and inclusion in architecture and design. Rosalie Genevro, Executive Director, The Architectural League of New York An architectural historian and urbanist, Ms. Genevro has led initiatives at The Architectural League addressing housing, schools, libraries and topics such as climate change. She is a frequent contributor on the City’s building environment. Samantha Josaphat, RA, Founding Principal, Studio 397 Architecture Ms. Josaphat’s portfolio includes architecture and interior design of higher education projects, as well as large- and small-scale residential projects, to which she brings impressive knowledge of the City’s building regulations. She is President of the New York Chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects. Purnima Kapur, Urbanism Advisors, former Executive Director, NYC Department of City Planning Ms. Kapur was a key architect of the City’s groundbreaking Mandatory Inclusionary Housing regulation, which has led to five Integrated Neighborhood plans, and has been integral to the redevelopment of Brooklyn over the past two decades via projects including the Greenpoint-Williamsburg Waterfront, Downtown Brooklyn and Coney Island. Bruce Kuwabara, OC, OAA, FRAIC, AIA, RIBA, Partner, KPMB Architects One of Canada’s leading architects, Mr. Kuwabara’s diverse portfolio encompasses cultural, civic, educational, healthcare and performing arts projects in North America and Europe. Luis Medina-Carreto, Project Manager, Press Builders Mr. Medina is an expert in New York City construction management and methods, with a reputation of bringing projects to completion on schedule and on budget in the City’s complicated building environment. Gudrun Molden, Architect, Founding Partner, HLM Architects Gudrun Molden comes to the City from Norway with extensive experience in detention facility architecture in an urban context, including Oslo city center and Åna prison in Norway. Nancy Prince, RLA, ASLA, Chief of Landscape Architecture, NYC Department of Parks & Recreation Ms. Prince establishes the design aesthetic and vision for the Parks Department’s large and varied portfolio of projects. Prior to entering public service, Ms. Prince spent years designing New York City’s parks and playgrounds. Stanley Richards, Executive Vice President, The Fortune Society With decades of experience in the criminal justice field, Stanley leads Fortune’s management, direct service programs, fundraising and advocacy work to promote alternatives to incarceration and support successful reentry from prison. Annabelle Selldorf, AIA, Principal, Selldorf Architects Ms. Selldorf founded her practice in New York City over 30 years ago. Her firm’s broad expertise has been applied in cultural, educational, industrial and residential projects throughout the United States. Lisa Switkin, FAAR, ASLA, Senior Principal, James Corner Field Operations Ms. Switkin has helped to reshape New York City’s public spaces for 20 years, including the design and delivery of the High Line, Brooklyn’s Domino Park and the public spaces at South Street Seaport’s Pier 17. Andrew Winters, AIA, Head of Development Services, Sidewalk Labs While serving as Director of the Office of Capital Project Development under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Mr. Winters oversaw the development of public assets such as the High Line, East River Waterfront and Brooklyn Bridge Park. More recently he has overseen the planning, design and construction of the Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island.“Superior design is an essential element for creating the City’s more humane and more equitable justice system,” said DDC commissioner Lorraine Grillo in the panel’s announcement press release. “These buildings will be important civic structures, reflecting the ambition of the City’s justice reforms, ensuring the dignity and well-being of those who are incarcerated, work and visit them, and integrating into the city centers where they are located,” the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice director Elizabeth Glazer added. Workshops and community feedback have informed the process, including an emphasis on using community space, and the public meetings will give citizens the opportunity to give input on the ground floor sections. However, some feel that the city has not done enough to listen and reach out. A series of lawsuits are pending against three of the four facilities. Activist and neighborhood groups in Manhattan claim that the city did not reach out to the community, namely senior citizens living at the nearby Chung Pak center, and that the city knew about Native American human remains in the area that could be affected. The suit was filed by Neighbors United Below Canal and the American Indian Community House. A lawsuit in the Bronx claims the de Blasio administration failed to consider alternative sites, ignored environmental impact reports, and went around the required public review processes. In Queens, Queens Residents United and the Community Preservation Coalition make similar claims about top-down planning and lack of engagement with residents of the neighborhood. The DDC is proceeding with the projects, a spokesperson for the department told AN, while Nick Paolucci at the NYC Department of Law told AN that, “This litigation is ongoing. We stand by the city and its approvals for this important initiative.” “Our borough-based jails plan is the culmination of years of collaboration between the city, local elected officials, and the communities they represent,” City spokesman Avery Cohen told Court House News. “We will vigorously defend our work in court as we move forward with our commitment to close Rikers Island and create a justice system is that is smaller, safer, and fairer.” The fight is far from over. The RFP guidelines will be reviewed by the City Planning Commission, NYC Department of City Planning Design, an Advisory Group appointed by the City Council and affected Borough Presidents, and the Public Design Commission, who will also review the final proposals as the massive project moves through ULURP.
Sunny Days Ahead?
Master plan for Sunnyside Yard megadevelopment places affordable housing front and center
Encircled by thriving neighborhoods that are both tall and small, artistic and prosaic, diverse and even more diverse, Sunnyside should connect, celebrate, and enhance its surroundings. Like the rest of Queens, with its vast industrial and residential neighborhoods, the World’s Fair grounds, MoMA PS1, the Noguchi Museum, Socrates Sculpture Park, and Gantry Plaza State Park, the ideas for Sunnyside must be diverse, creative, and contemporary. These places—like the future-facing borough they call home that led New York into the Jet Age—have never been about the same old same old, never about nostalgia, and never succumb to the banal. Neither should Sunnyside Yard, which could portend our future as a city.“It’s unprecedented in the last 50 years and it’s amazing,” Jonathan F.P. Rose, an urban planner and affordable housing developer, told the Journal. “When you combine those things with schools, parks, health care, social services, it creates the platform for people to move forward economically with their lives.” How Sunnyside Yard will be paid for is a detail that’s yet to be ironed out, and backers of the project admit funding will be an uphill battle moving forward. Cash will likely come from a mix of federal, state, and city resources including affordable housing subsidies and tax-exempt bonds. Sunnyside Yard recently made news when the project's EDC-organized steering committee lost Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sylvia White of the Justice for All Coalition as members. Their resignation came after local residents and leaders strongly objected to the project during a months-long public outreach period. Those in opposition believe that the funds that would be allocated by the city to develop and build Sunnyside Yard should instead be used for more urgent community needs. In her resignation letter, Ocasio-Cortez argued that funds “should be invested in shoring up the existing transportation infrastructure that already exists there or investing it in other under-funded public resources that our community relies on.” “Sunnyside Yards presents an opportunity to build a stronger New York for generations to come that includes more open space, transit, affordable housing, jobs and green infrastructure in western Queens,” wrote an EDC spokesperson in response. “This planning process has always put community engagement at the center. We’re committed to continuing our work with the community to build a strategic vision that can better serve local residents and all New Yorkers.” It was first announced that the New York-based PAU had been selected to develop the project master plan in May 2018. Landscape architecture firm Nelson Byrd Woltz and Carlo Ratti Associati are among the collaborators that worked alongside PAU in realizing the vision, which as the Sunnyside Yard executive summary states, is “not a shovel-ready mega-development plan, but rather a long-term framework to guide decisions, ensuring that they are led by public priorities, and centered on human needs.” “As an architecture firm deeply committed to advancing equitable, ecological, and joyful cities, PAU has been honored to collaborate with the City, Amtrak, the Steering Committee, our extraordinary consulting team, and innumerable local stakeholders on this intensively community-based, long-term vision for Sunnyside Yard,” said Vishaan Chakrabarti, founder of PAU, in a statement. “At over 180 acres, the Yard represents our city’s most significant opportunity to realize shared progressive goals all in a carbon neutral environment that will set a model globally for sustainable urban growth while maintaining a scale and density reflective of Western Queens. Neighboring communities now have a unique opportunity to leverage this Plan to address long-standing needs in terms of transportation, housing, jobs, open space, social infrastructure, and environmental resilience.” In a 2019 article about Sunnyside Yard, AN editor-in-chief William Menking speculated that “we are more likely to get another version of Hudson Yards on this public land.” Although nothing yet is set in stone, PAU's ambitious master plan helps to ensure that this won't be the case.
Green Light, No!
NYC Parks Department required to rethink controversial redesign of Fort Greene Park
The transformation of Hunter’s Point South in two phases from a contaminated strip of coast in Long Island City, Queens, to an ecologically sensitive 11-acre park was 11 years in the making. Stretching along the East River south of Gantry Plaza State Park and Steven Holl’s Hunter’s Point Community Library (see page 16), Hunter’s Point South Park sits on a conveniently sited piece of land that was neglected for decades before the park opened at the end of last year.
The park was designed by Thomas Balsley Associates (TBA; the firm became SWA/Balsley in 2016) and WEISS/MANFREDI to be a sustainable storm buffer and public green space for the new Hunter’s Point South development, a 5,000-unit housing complex on the southern shore of Long Island City.
The idea for Hunter’s Point South Park had been percolating long before plans for it officially started coming together in 2007. Thomas Balsley told AN that back in 1990, when Gantry Plaza State Park was being planned, he envisioned a whole-coast master plan that would stretch from Anable Basin in Long Island City (the site of Amazon’s failed HQ2 bid) all the way down to Newtown Creek in Greenpoint, Brooklyn (now home to a wastewater treatment plant known for its iconic “biodigester” eggs). To Balsley, Gantry Plaza State Park was supposed to be the start of a line of parks running down the Queens–Brooklyn shore. Design on Hunter’s Point South Park began in 2009, and Balsley and Weiss/Manfredi’s early sketches are remarkably close to what would be built nine years later.
The linear park provides views of the Manhattan skyline and has an amphitheater-like arrangement that also blocks noise from the busy Queens streets to the east. Because of tight siting requirements, budget constraints, and the harsh microclimate that the park has to endure, SWA/Balsley filled the site with resilient native salt-marsh plants. Besides acting as a natural flood buffer, the plants don’t require active irrigation, meaning none was built into the site. The plants also filter and clean the river, a job that Balsley likened to “acting as the park’s liver.”
Arup was also responsible for specifying the park’s lighting fixtures. Most of the fixtures used were New York City Department of Transportation/Parks Department–standard pedestrian- and street-lighting poles and Holophane helm fixtures. Linear lighting by Wagner was used to illuminate the benches and overlook handrails and as uplighting. Step lights by Bega were integrated into the wooden furnishings and concrete walls. The nonstandard lighting features were all intended to be as minimal and unobtrusive as possible, so as not to detract from the landscape and views.
WEISS/MANFREDI was responsible for designing structures for both phases of the park, with Galvin Brothers serving as the general contractors. In Phase 1, that meant the 13,000-square-foot bent-steel pavilion that houses Parks Department offices, restrooms, and a COFFEED cafe at LIC Landing, the park’s ferry dock. Fabrication of the structure and canopies was done by Powell Steel Corporation of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which permanently closed in 2013. Stainless steel cladding came from Westfield Sheet Metal Works in Kenilworth, New Jersey.
For Phase 2, the towering steel overlook structure (below) was fabricated by Newport Industrial Fabrication in Newport, Maine, while the freestanding precast panel walls were fabricated by Bétons Préfabriqués du Lac (BPDL) in Alma, Quebec.
The custom wood–slat lounge chairs and banquette seats and custom precast concrete benches were designed in-house by SWA/Balsley and WEISS/MANFREDI, with galvanized steel framing and Kebony USA–provided Kebonized southern yellow pine. Steel benches with aluminum seat dividers were provided by Landscape Forms and manufactured in Kalamazoo, Michigan, with raw materials mined from within 500 miles of the facility to reduce environmental impact.
The park is easily accessible despite its coastal locale. It can be reached via the 7 train’s Vernon Boulevard–Jackson Avenue station; by the Q103 bus via the Vernon Boulevard/49 Avenue stop; by the Long Island Rail Road, which stops at 49-13 Vernon Boulevard; by numerous street-level bike paths; by car; and via the Hunter’s Point South ferry landing.
Plant species were selected for their hardiness and nativity and include juniper trees and a variety of shrubs and grasses for the park’s bioswales. Besides cutting down on maintenance costs, the flora used by SWA/Balsley can thrive on the edge of a briny river, and hosts native fauna. Plants were sourced from nurseries in New York, New Jersey, and Maryland.
Arup, which was responsible for the structural, civil, and bridge engineering of both phases, oversaw the installation of 7,500 feet of sanitary and storm sewers and 3,700 feet of water main.
Infill and hardscaping
Prior to the park’s construction, the site had been used in the 19th and 20th centuries as a dumping ground for soil excavated from rail-line construction sites around the city, and many portions of the site had since grown wild. To build out and sculpt the shoreline, existing infill was repurposed and moved to the water’s edge. Around the shore, board-formed and precast concrete walls were used to create the harder edges, while Jet Mist and Stony Creek granites mined from Stony Creek, Connecticut, were used for the riprap (below) and to fill in steel gabions.
Because this was a city project, the NYCEDC was tasked with appointing an artistic consultant. After a search, Suzanne Randolph Fine Arts was chosen, which in turn picked Nobuho Nagasawa to create a site-specific installation. Seven photoluminescent sculptures resembling different phases of the moon were installed in 2017 in the winding, peninsula-like amphitheater forming a piece titled Luminescence. Each “moon” in the series was cast from Hydrocal, a mixture of plaster and portland cement.
Funding and Labor
In 2009, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) selected the project’s developer, TF Cornerstone, and TBA, which brought on WEISS/MANFREDI as collaborators. The project was split into two phases from the beginning. Phase 1 broke ground in January 2011 and opened in August 2013, after the NYCEDC spent $66 million for the 5.5-acre park and an accompanying 3,400 feet of linear roadway. Phase 2, which began construction in November 2015, opened at the end of June 2018, at a cost of $99 million. This 5.5-acre section, which came with another 3,500 linear feet of new roadways, was funded through the NYCEDC as part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Housing New York plan, as the park fulfilled the green space requirement of the adjoining housing development and is intended to mitigate flood damage there in the event of a storm surge.
The NYCEDC shepherded the project through two mayoral administrations and hired the LiRo Group to act as construction manager for the build-out, which then subcontracted the actual construction to the Great Neck, Long Island–based Galvin Brothers. The standard design-bid-build process was used for both sections. Park maintenance is handled by the NYC Parks Department.
Protestors shut down the New Museum’s IdeasCity Bronx
In a public statement McEwen made on Twitter, she ends with a series of questions aimed to open dialogue and to keep the conversation going. “NYC Parks Department—I have no words,” she asks, “what would a functional democratic process around public space look like for New York City?” She urges for a “radical imagining” of the spaces in which we exchange knowledge outside of the academic institution, and of a place where the pain expressed by the protestors can “coexist in dialogue with the technical, creative, and spatial work involved in change.” In a statement shared via email, the New Museum told AN:View this post on Instagram
The DreamYard Project will no longer be participating in IdeasCity Bronx—based on the lack of clarity, collaboration and communication in the planning of IdeasCity Bronx, as well as the compromised integrity of DreamYard’s community-centered values. . Three months ago, we were approached by IdeasCity for the opportunity to uplift our young people and community’s work around Arts and Activism. We were asked to collaborate in organizing a panel discussion, a student performance and community-based organization /activism booths; since then, a small team of DreamYard staff members have worked diligently to organize these parts of the event, and ensure fair compensation for our young people and representing CBOs that we have asked to get involved in this event. DreamYard staff members initially created a panel discussion on the relationship between politics and grassroots movement, “Who’s Got the Power?” which centered a young DreamYard participant, and a DreamYard alumna and current staff member. Since then, IdeasCity renamed the panel discussion we were organizing, shifted the original intention of the discussion (shaped by intentional labor of Black Indigenous Queer Femmes), and was essentially handed over to another party who was not involved in the concept, the process, nor the work we do and are seeking to uplift. We do not feel safe having our young people participate, nor having DreamYard’s name further implicated in what has turned out not to be a collaboration, but something in which DreamYard’s name has seemingly been used as merely a means to an end. . We entered this collaboration in good faith, and since then have been made aware of the missteps inherent in the planning of IdeasCity. Based on the feedback from the community as well as the challenges in planning this event, we have decided not to participate in IdeasCity Bronx. . <Continued in comments>
We wholeheartedly support V. Mitch McEwen’s curatorial vision for IdeasCity over the past year, and the ciphers and convenings that have advanced thinking in significant directions. We believe it is more important than ever to continue to provide platforms for productive dialogue, debate, and healing in a challenging and divided world. Knowing this can only happen through deeper engagement, proximity, authentic and time-tested connectivity, and sustained commitment, IdeasCity will continue to organize events in the hope that, going forward, groups of every type can come together, voicing differences, but collaborating on possible futures.