Search results for "NYC Parks"

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Tanked

Contested oil tanks in Bushwick Inlet Park are being demolished to make way for open space
The Tanks are tanked. The City of New York has nailed the coffin shut on one group's idea to turn massive abandoned oil tanks on the Brooklyn waterfront into a postindustrial playground. Instead, the parcel is being cleared of its industrial relics, cleaned up, and returned as an extension to Bushwick Inlet Park, the green space on the East River at the border between Williamsburg and Greenpoint. The demolition of the tanks marks a victory for area residents who want a park with ample wide-open space. For a newer group of designers and real estate professionals, however, the demolition represents a missed opportunity for a creative reuse of distinctive industrial infrastructure. For years, Williamsburg and Greenpoint residents fought for a park on the East River waterfront as the area transitioned away from its industrial roots. Many saw the future green space as a counterpoint to decades of pollution. In 2005, Mayor Michael Bloomberg made a deal with residents and area stakeholders to rezone the waterfront for residential uses in exchange for a 28-acre park. One prominent stakeholder, Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park, pushed for a park with ballfields, wide-open lawns, and the spectacular view of Manhattan that goes with it. Since the groundbreaking a decade ago, the city has acquired land piecemeal and at great expense. The current controversy centers on a seven-acre parcel that supported the Bayside Oil Depot, a petrol storage facility distinguished by ten five-story tanks that loom over the south side of Bushwick Inlet. The city bought that piece of land in March 2016 for $53 million. For those who want the oil tanks to go, the infrastructure is an ugly reminder of the environmental degradation brought on my heavy industry. For others, the tanks are a canvas for postindustrial regeneration that would draw on north Brooklyn's creative reputation. Three years ago, professionals in architecture, design, and real estate banded together to propose repurposing the tanks as galleries, gardens, and an oyster farm. Group leaders Stacey Anderson and Karen Zabarsky assembled a team that includes architect Jay Valgora of STUDIO V Architecture and landscape architect Ken Smith of Ken Smith Workshop. Together, they put forth a vision called The Tanks (formerly Maker Park) that pushed back on the idea that the industrial relics needed to be eliminated for the park to be a success. Ward Dennis, a member of the Friends group and a partner at New York's Higgins Quasebarth, dismissed The Tanks as a non-starter from the get-go. "The alternative proposal has never really gotten a lot of traction in the community. Open space was the priority," said Dennis. Another issue at play in the tanks debate centers on public safety; the ground around and underneath the tanks is toxic and needs remediation. The Tanks group hired an outside environmental consultant who determined that remediation can be accomplished with the tanks in-situ, but the city contends that the tanks must be removed for a full clean-up. A NYC Parks Department spokesperson told The Architect's Newspaper (AN) that demolition work began in July.
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The Bigger Picture

Mapping Community unveils how public buildings get built in NYC
A new exhibition now on view at the Center for Architecture explains how money moves across New York’s public building sector. It’s a complex system that, if you’re not directly involved in it, can seem unnecessarily confusing and slow. Mapping Community: Public Investment in NYC demystifies how things like libraries, schools, and parks pop up, as well as the players behind them. Curated by Faith Rose, former executive director of the NYC Public Design Commission, and David Burney, professor of urban placemaking management at the Pratt Institute, the showcase walks viewers step-by-step through the process of capital planning. It’s spread out over two floors and utilizes a very clear and graphic layout so that the information is distilled to the audience in a digestible yet still visually distinctive manner.  “No one entity is responsible for the entire process, and even people deeply involved in one part aren’t always aware what the other pieces entail,” said Rose in a statement. “I don’t believe there has ever been an exhibition that tracks the mechanisms of capital planning from start to finish.”  There probably hasn’t.  That’s likely because New York City boasts one of the largest local government systems in the United States and its beast-of-a-procurement-process is less than transparent. But things are changing and this big-picture view of the “ecosystem of agencies” involved reveals the work it takes to make tangible improvements to the city. This knowledge, for better or for worse, arguably gives a viewer (or in this case, a local resident), the agency to insert themselves into the planning process and help shape their own neighborhood.  To communicate the complexity of the subject, the curators pieced together an in-depth look into one public project per borough, separated by typology, and detailed the planning process at the community level. One of those case studies centers on Essex Crossing, the massive, mixed-use development on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. A contentious construction project from the start, it was once an empty six-acre lot but now houses everything from luxury condos by SHoP Architects, to an affordable housing complex by Beyer Blinder Belle, a senior living community by Dattner Architects, and the newly-opened Essex Market.  This part of the exhibition tells the story of how Manhattan Community Board 3 and other local organizations fought over a series of negotiations with the NYC Economic Development Corporation, as well as the site’s developer, to get a new K-8 school in the program. Here, it explains why the Department of Education has currently decided not to move forward with building a new school. It also reveals how local needs in other areas can affect capital projects.  Whether it was the right thing to do or not, garnering this information allows locals and exhibition audiences to better understand how the 1.9-million-square-foot Essex Crossing has come to be, what its future may look like, and how they can have a say in that. According to Hayes Slade, 2019 AIANY President and principal of Slade Architecture, that’s the key to improving the city. “New Yorkers should feel empowered to be part of community-building,” she said, “and that is only possible if they are knowledgeable of the process.” Mapping Community will be on view through August 31. 
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Mammoth of a Job

Three big-name studios shortlisted for La Brea Tar Pits master plan competition
The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHMLAC) announced yesterday that it would be reimagining its 12-acre campus in Hancock Park in Los Angeles, home to the iconic La Brea Tar Pits and George C. Page Museum. To that end, three firms will compete to lead a master planning team that will be responsible for renovating and future-proofing the campus. The NHMLAC first launched the search for a master planner in March of this year, and the three teams have been invited to create conceptual designs for review. The proposals will be unveiled in August of this year and the NHMLAC will take public feedback on each. After internal and public review, the winning team will be announced by the end of the year and will be responsible for leading the master plan team through the public review, planning, and construction phases of the renovation. The shortlisted teams are as follows: Dorte Mandrup is leading one team. While the Copenhagen-based firm's most recently publicized project may be a blockbuster tower in Denmark, the NHMLAC noted in a press release that the firm has worked on five UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the past, including several museums and libraries. The Dorte Mandrup team includes the London-based landscape architecture firm Martha Schwartz Partners, design firm Kontrapunkt, L.A.-based executive architects Gruen Associates, and Arup. The WEISS/MANFREDI team was singled out for its experience in designing large landscapes that invite public interaction, from Hunters Point South in Queens, to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, to the Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle. WEISS/MANFREDI’s collaborators are notably distinct in focus from the other teams: paleobotanist Dr. Carole Gee, graphic designer Michael Bierut, artist Mark Dion, and Karin Fong, renowned storytelling designer and cofounder of Imaginary Forces, were all tapped. Rounding out the three finalists is the team led by Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R). DS+R is no stranger to realizing large park projects either, and its Broad Museum project previously won the firm critical accolades in L.A. The DS+R team consists of the California-based landscape studio Rana Creek, and landscape architect, urbanist, and Hood Design Studio founder Walter Hood. Whoever wins will have to balance the preservation of a unique paleontological resource with improving the flow and visitor capacity of the park campus. “La Brea Tar Pits and the Page Museum are the only facilities of their kind in the world,” said Dr. Lori Bettison-Varga, president and director of the NHMLAC, “an active, internationally renowned site of paleontological research in the heart of a great city, and a museum that both supports the scientists’ work and helps interpret it for more than 400,000 visitors a year. We are excited to seize this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to not just renovate these facilities thoroughly but also to think deeply about how to make them function as well for neighbors and guests over the next 40 years as they have for the last 40—perhaps, even better.”
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Our Destiny, Our Democracy

Shirley Chisholm monument designers discuss using space to honor a legacy
A green and golden lace-like structure will soon stand 40-feet tall at the southeastern edge of Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. From one angle it will unveil the profile of a woman and from another, the outline of the U.S. Capitol dome. That’s the winning design for the monument dedicated to trailblazing Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm. Created by artists Amanda Williams and Olalekan Jeyifous—both trained as architects—Our Destiny, Our Democracy was chosen among the top five proposals submitted through She Built NYC, the city’s new initiative to make more monuments dedicated to women throughout the five boroughs. The pair’s bold vision to honor Chisholm will be the first public project to be built through the program and is set to rise on the corner of Ocean Avenue and Parkside Avenues by late 2020. AN spoke with Jeyifous, a Brooklyn resident himself, and Williams via email about how they came up with the striking memorial design and why it best embodies Chisholm’s spirit. AN: How did you conceive of intertwining the image of the Capitol with Chisholm's profile? OJ + AM: It’s best described in our proposal: The U.S. Capitol dome figures prominently as a backdrop in many of her photographs. The strategy for our primary sculptural profile reverses this relationship so that her figure engulfs or embodies the dome iconography, thus claiming ownership. This composite symbolizes how she disrupted the perception of who has the right to occupy such institutions and to be an embodiment for democracy…When approached from the park, a symbolic opening breaks through the capitol silhouette, creating a threshold that reinforces Chisholm’s fight to ensure that everyone could access their right to participate in the political process. Not a basic bust or figure statue, why do you think this design best represents Shirley Chisholm and her legacy of "leaving the door open" for others? We are not sculptors (in the most traditional sense of the word) so we knew that we would not be proposing a cast bronze representation of a figure. We are, however, trained in how to use space as a medium. We both bring that into our artistic practices in different but complementary ways. That proclivity toward space as an occupiable object inherently begs to be participatory and invites engagement. That seemed like a perfect analogy to Chisholm’s philosophy on democracy. Making a sculpture commemorating this incredible political figure in our current climate is about remembering the long arc of democracy. Her words ring true because she was ahead of her time, but also because her philosophy was embedded in core values of inclusion and meeting people where they were in order to bring them into the process. We feel strongly that we have made a thoughtful and decisive piece that pushes the boundaries of what it means to embody the ideals of a person and not just their visage. What are the connections or differences between the monument's design and the traditional ironwork you might see in a gateway to a park? The design is ultimately a threshold into what is a major urban park and that is reflected in the vine and leaf motif that weaves through the monuments tertiary sculptural profile. This was an intentional nod to the traditional garden gate typology. Now that we’ve been awarded the commission, we will begin the process of actually researching specifics and refining the design. We want to do a deeper review of the historic language of gates and thresholds associated with public parks, that material language for Prospect Park’s history, and then what we would want to add as new motifs. In what ways do you foresee the sun playing a role in the way the monument is experienced? We envision at certain vantage points the patinated and bronzed steel to be a glowing beacon and for the detailed filigree in the screens and perimeter fence to cast marvelous shadows on to the plaza surface. That the installation can be occupied contributes to the various ways in which light will transform the experience of visitors to the site. Shadows will also give it dynamism and whimsy as the sun angle changes by day and year. Its intensity is also something we hope to carry into night hours through the considered placement of lighting.
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Decks (over) and Yards

After Hudson Yards, Sunnyside could be New York's next megadevelopment

Lawrence Halprin and William “Holly” Whyte both published books in the 1960s that highlighted the ad hoc and often bottom-up design decisions that make cities successful for their users and inhabitants. Facing the massive Nieman Marcus–emblazoned steel and glass street wall that greets visitors entering Hudson Yards from 10th Avenue, the lessons of Halprin and Whyte seem a quaint reminder of how city building has changed in the past 50 years. Hudson Yards, or as its developers like to call it, “New York’s next great neighborhood,” is not so much an accretive, incremental part of the city, but a pop-up assemblage of high-rise corporate boxes surrounding a shopping mall. There is little here that would interest Halprin or Whyte about how to design a city.

As America’s white middle class was abandoning the city for the suburbs, the authors wanted to rediscover and celebrate the joys of high-density living. Gentrification has gone from an obscure English academic theory to a popular derisive term to describe how our cities are being organized, planned, and developed. In New York City in 2019, even affordable housing has been handed over to large corporate entities, much as it was in the 19th century, when tenements proliferated and developers were allowed to do as they wished with their property holdings.

The urban critics writing about Hudson Yards yearn for a seamless Whyte-inspired urban fabric that gives as much as it takes from the city. Sadly, the Yards are described, variously, as “an urban failure,” a “$25 billion enclave,” “too clean, too flat, too art-directed,” and “a vast neoliberal Zion.” But how could it have been otherwise? It was conceived, planned, and designed by a corporation with little interest in anything but short-term profit, and it proceeded with little input from community boards, elected officials, or planners. The community boards had all been bludgeoned for years by proposals for sports stadiums on the site, and they gave the go-ahead to the first proposal that promised housing and a school, even if that meant luxury towers. Without serious input from community boards and city planners, this new quarter of the city was destined for failure. Developers only begrudgingly accepted the High Line—one of the most successful top-down planning projects of the past 25 years—into its 14 acres of “public” space when pushed hard by the department of city planning. The High Line, to its credit, makes provision for the sort of urban happenstance that we like about cities, and we can be thankful it wends its way through Hudson Yards and does not stop at its perimeter. The short High Line spur, with its still unfinished plinth for a rotating case of public sculptures, visible overhead to cars driving up 10th Avenue, is the sort of unexpected condition that makes the city richer. Unfortunately, the gigantic footprints of the Hudson Yards buildings and their corporate lobby design aesthetic makes it impossible for any bottom-up ad hoc events to take place.

A major problem for the Yards is that it sits on a 28-acre concrete pad and underground infrastructure complex that precludes any urban use that doesn’t generate billions of dollars in income. It’s the same problem faced in varying degrees by the World Trade Center site and Park Avenue, but these seem like triumphs of urban design compared to Hudson Yards.

Sadly, this blueprint for city building on concrete pads (and its economic and financing formula) may be the model for the next big development site in the city, Sunnyside Yard, as New York’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) has already begun planning its future. It was identified as a potential development site in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s 2030 plan, and the 180-acre site in western Queens is not far from Manhattan and the growing centers of Long Island City, Astoria, and Queens Plaza. It potentially has 19 million square feet of retail, commercial, residential, and mixed-use spaces, and has been identified by the EDC as a place that could potentially house up to 24,000 homes, 19 schools, and 52 acres of public parks.

In February 2017, the city unveiled a feasibility study of the Sunnyside Yard area, which showed that decking was in fact possible, and that there were various scenarios in which a development of the site could move forward. But again, expensive decking will almost certainly preclude anything but corporate high-rise offices and luxury residential towers with commercial and open space, exactly like that at Hudson Yards.

Sunnyside Yard sits next to one of the most important residential developments in the United States, Sunnyside Gardens, designed by Henry Wright and Clarence Stein of the Regional Planning Association of America (RPAA). If only the planners for Sunnyside Yard could look next door and have the expertise and nerve to propose something as revolutionary as the RPAA did in the 1920s. But let’s not hold our breath—we are more likely to get another version of Hudson Yards on this public land.

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Techtown USA

The origins and perils of development in the urban tech landscape

In most major cities of the world, an urban tech landscape has emerged. One day, we were working on our laptops at Starbucks, and the next, we were renting desks at WeWork. We embedded our small architectural and design firms in low-rent spaces in old factories and warehouses, and then we emerged as “TAMI” (technology, advertising, media, and information) tenants, heating up the commercial real estate market. Friends who could write computer code started businesses in their apartments before moving into tech incubators and accelerators, which then morphed into a “startup ecosystem.” Though a competitive city in the 1990s might only have had one cutely named cluster of startups—New York’s Silicon Alley, San Francisco’s Media Gulch—by the 2010s, many cities were building “innovation districts.” How did this happen? And what does it mean for these cities’ futures?

The simplest explanation is that cities are catching up to the digital economy. If computers and the web are one of the primary means of production for the 21st century, all cities need the infrastructure—broadband, connectivity, flexible office space—to support them. Companies that control the means of production also need raw material—the data that newly “smart” cities can provide—to develop concepts, test prototypes, and market their wares. Local governments and business leaders have always reshaped cities around the businesses that profit from new technology; In the 19th century, they built railroad stations, dug subway tunnels, and laid sewage pipes; in the 20th century, they wired for electricity and erected office towers. Maybe we should ask why it has taken cities so long to rebuild for digital technology.

Inertia is one answer, and money is another. Entrenched elites don’t readily change course, especially if a new economy would challenge their influence on local politics and labor markets. Think about the long dominance of the auto industry in Detroit and the financial industry in New York, both late converts to digital technologies like self-driving cars and electronic banking, respectively.

Another reason for cities’ slow awakening to the tech economy is the post–World War II prominence of suburban office parks and research centers, part of the mass suburbanization of American society. On the East Coast, tech talent began to migrate from cities in the early 1940s, when Bell Labs, the 20th-century engineering powerhouse, moved from Lower Manhattan to a large tract of land in suburban New Jersey. A few years later, on the West Coast, Stanford University and the technology company Varian Associates spearheaded the construction of an electronics research park on a university-owned site of orange groves that later became known as Silicon Valley.

Silicon Valley got the lion’s share of postwar federal government grants and contracts from the military for microwave electronics innovation, missile research, and satellite communications. Venture capital (VC) soon followed. Although VC firms began in New York and Boston, by the 1960s and ’70s they were setting up shop in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The Valley’s hegemony was solidified in the 1980s by the rise of the personal computer industry and the VCs who got rich by investing in it. The suburban tech landscape so artfully represented in popular mythology by Silicon Valley’s DIY garages and in physical reality by its expansive corporate campuses was both pragmatically persuasive and culturally pervasive. Its success rested on a triple helix of government, business, and university partnerships, defining an era from Fairchild, Intel, and Hewlett-Packard (the first wave of major digital technology companies) to Apple, Google, and Facebook.

In contrast to the suburban postwar growth of Silicon Valley, the urban tech landscape was propelled by the rise of software in the early 2000s and gained ground after the economic crisis of 2008. Software was easier and cheaper to develop than computers and silicon chips—it wasn’t tied to equipment or talent in big research universities. It was made for consumers. Most important, with the development of the iPhone and the subsequent explosion of social media platforms after 2007, software increasingly took the form of apps for mobile devices. This meant that software startups could be scaled, a crucial point for venture capital. For cities, however, the critical point was that anyone, anywhere, could be both an innovator and an entrepreneur.

The 2008 economic crisis plunged cities into a cascade of problems. Subprime mortgages cratered, leaving severely leveraged households and financial institutions adrift. Banks failed if they didn’t get United States government lifelines. Financial jobs at all levels disappeared; local tax revenues plummeted. While mayors understood that they had to end their dependence on the financial sector—a realization most keenly felt in New York—they also faced long-term shrinkage in manufacturing sectors and office vacancies.

London had already tried to counter deindustrialization with the Docklands solution: Waterfront land was redeveloped for new media and finance, and unused piers and warehouses were converted for cultural activities. In Spain, this strategy was taken further in the 1990s by the construction of the Guggenheim Bilbao museum and the clearing of old industrial plants from that city’s waterfront. By the early 2000s, Barcelona’s city government was building both a new cultural district and an “innovation district” for digital media, efforts that bore a striking resemblance to the 1990s market-led development of the new media district in Manhattan’s Silicon Alley and the growth of tech and creative offices in Brooklyn’s DUMBO neighborhood.

Until the economic crisis hit, both spontaneous and planned types of urban redevelopment were connected to the popular “creative city” model promoted by Charles Landry in London and Richard Florida in Pittsburgh (later, Toronto). In 2009, however, economic development officials wanted a model that could create more jobs. They seized on the trope of “Innovation and Entrepreneurship” that had been circulating around business schools since the 1980s, channeling the spirit of the economic historian Joseph Schumpeter and popularized in a best-selling book by that title by the management guru Peter Drucker. Adopted by researchers at the Brookings Institution, urban innovation districts would use public-private partnerships to create strategic concentrations of workspaces for digital industries. It seemed like a brilliant masterstroke to simultaneously address three crucial issues that kept mayors awake at night: investments, jobs, and unused, low-value buildings, and land.

In the absence of federal government funding, real estate developers would have to be creative. They built new projects with money from the city and state governments, the federal EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program for foreign investors, and urban impact funding that flowed through investment banks like Goldman Sachs. Federal tax credits for renovating historic buildings and investing in high-poverty areas were important.

Though all major cities moved toward an “innovation economy” after 2009, New York’s 180-degree turn from finance to tech was the most dramatic. The bursting of the dot-com bubble in 2000 and 2001, followed by the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center and an economic recession, initially kept the city from endorsing the uncertainty of tech again. Michael Bloomberg, mayor from 2001 to 2013, was a billionaire whose personal fortune and namesake company came from a fusion of finance and tech, most notably the Bloomberg terminal, a specially configured computer that brings real-time data to stock brokers’ and analysts’ desks. Yet, as late as 2007, Mayor Bloomberg, joined by New York’s senior senator Chuck Schumer, promoted New York as the self-styled financial capital of the world, a city that would surely triumph over its only serious rival, London. The 2008 financial crisis crumpled this narrative and turned the Bloomberg administration toward tech.

By 2009, the city’s business elites believed that New York’s salvation depended on producing more software engineers. This consensus motivated the mayor and his economic development officials to build big, organizing a global competition for a university that could create a dynamic, postgraduate engineering campus in New York. Cornell Tech emerged as the winner, a partnership between Cornell University and the Israel Institute of Technology. Between 2014 and 2017, the new school recruited high-profile professors with experience in government research programs, university classrooms, and corporate labs. They created a slew of partnerships with the city’s major tech companies, and the resulting corporate-academic campus made Roosevelt Island New York’s only greenfield innovation district. Not coincidentally, the founding dean was elected to Amazon’s board of directors in 2016.

The Bloomberg administration also partnered with the city’s public and private universities, mainly the aggressively expanding New York University (NYU), to open incubators and accelerators for tech startups. After NYU merged with Polytechnic University, a historic engineering school in downtown Brooklyn, the Bloomberg administration made sure the new engineering school could lease the vacant former headquarters of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority nearby, where NYU’s gut renovation created a giant tech center.

Meanwhile, the Brooklyn waterfront was booming. The Brooklyn Navy Yard added advanced manufacturing tenants and art studios to its traditional mix of woodworking and metalworking shops, food processors, and suppliers of electronics parts, construction material, and office equipment, and began to both retrofit old machine shops for “green” manufacturing and build new office space. While tech and creative offices were running out of space in DUMBO, the heads of the downtown Brooklyn and DUMBO business improvement districts came up with the idea of marketing the whole area, with the Navy Yard, as “the Brooklyn Tech Triangle.” With rezoning, media buzz, and a strategic design plan, what began as a ploy to fill vacant downtown office buildings moved toward reality. 

Established tech companies from Silicon Valley and elsewhere also inserted themselves into the urban landscape. Google opened a New York office for marketing and advertising in 2003 but expanded its engineering staff a few years later, buying first one, then two big buildings in Chelsea: an old Nabisco bakery and the massive former headquarters of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Facebook took AOL’s old offices in Greenwich Village. On the next block, IBM Watson occupied a new office building designed by Fumihiko Maki.

Jared Kushner’s brother, the tech investor Jonathan Kushner, joined two other developers to buy the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ former headquarters and printing plant on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. The developers converted the buildings into tech and creative offices and called the little district Dumbo Heights. By 2015, the growth of both venture capital investments and startups made New York the second-largest “startup ecosystem” in the world after Silicon Valley. Within the next three years, WeWork (now the We Company) surpassed Chase Bank branches as Manhattan’s largest commercial tenant.

All this development was both crystallized and crucified by Amazon’s decision to open half of a “second” North American headquarters (HQ2) in the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens, New York, in 2018. Amazon organized a competition similar to the Bloomberg contest that resulted in Cornell Tech, but in this case, the contest was a bidding war between 238 cities that offered tax credits, help with land assemblage, and zoning dispensations in return for 50,000 tech jobs that the company promised to create. But in announcing its selection, Amazon divided the new headquarters in two, supposedly placing half the jobs in New York and the other half in Crystal City, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, D.C. Many New Yorkers erupted in protest rather than celebration.

The amount of tax credits offered to the very highly valued tech titan, almost $3 billion in total, appeared to rob the city of funding for its drastic needs: fixing the antiquated subway system, repairing the aging public housing stock, and building affordable housing. The decision-making process, tightly controlled by Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, enraged New York City Council members, none of whom had been given a role in either negotiating or modifying the deal. The deal itself was closely supervised by New York State’s Economic Development Corporation behind closed doors, without any provision for public input or approval.

Housing prices in Long Island City rose as soon as the deal was announced. A city economic development representative admitted that perhaps half of the jobs at HQ2 would not be high-paying tech jobs, but in human resources and support services. In a final, painful blow, Amazon promised to create only 30 jobs for nearly 7,000 residents of Queensbridge Houses, the nearby public housing project that is the largest in the nation.

Amazon representatives fanned their opponents’ fury at public hearings held by the New York City Council. They said the company would not remain neutral if employees wanted to unionize, and they refused to offer to renegotiate any part of the deal. Opponents also protested the company’s other business practices, especially the sale of facial recognition technology to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE). Yet surveys showed that most registered New York City voters supported the Amazon deal, with an even higher percentage of supporters among Blacks and Latinos. Reflecting the prospect of job opportunities, construction workers championed the deal while retail workers opposed it. The governor and mayor defended the subsidies as an investment in jobs. Not coincidentally, Amazon planned to rent one million square feet of vacant space in One Court Square, the former Citigroup Building in Long Island City, before building a new campus on the waterfront that would be connected by ferry to Cornell Tech.

After two months of relentless, vocal criticism, in a mounting wave of national resentment against Big Tech, Amazon withdrew from the deal. Elected officials blamed each other, as well as a misinformed, misguided public for losing the economic development opportunity of a lifetime.

Yet it wasn’t clear that landing a tech titan like Amazon would spread benefits broadly in New York City. A big tech company could suck talent and capital from the local ecosystem, deny homegrown startups room to expand, and employ only a small number of “natives.”

From San Francisco to Seattle to New York, complaints about tech companies’ effect on cities center on privatization and gentrification. In San Francisco, private buses ferry highly paid Google workers from their homes in the city to the company’s headquarters in Silicon Valley, green space and cafes in the Mid-Market neighborhood proliferate to serve Twitter employees and other members of the technorati, low-income Latinos from the Mission district are displaced by astronomical rents—all of these factors stir resentment about Big Tech taking over. In Seattle, Amazon’s pressure on the city council to rescind a tax on big businesses to help pay for homeless shelters also aroused critics’ ire. Until recently, moreover, tech titans have been unwilling to support affordable housing in the very markets their high incomes roil: East Palo Alto and Menlo Park in California, and Redmond, Washington.

It remains to be seen whether urban innovation districts will all be viable, and whether they will spread wealth or instead create highly localized, unsustainable bubbles. Venture capital is already concentrated in a small number of cities and in a very few ZIP codes within these cities. According to the MIT economist David Autor, although the best “work of the future” is expanding, it is concentrated in only a few superstar cities and only represents 5 percent of all U.S. jobs.

Yet urban tech landscapes emerge from a powerful triple helix reminiscent of Silicon Valley. Elected officials promise jobs, venture capitalists and big companies make investments, and real estate developers get paid. Though these landscapes glitter brightly compared to the dead spaces they replace, they don’t offer broad participation in planning change or the equitable sharing of rewards.

Sharon Zukin is a Professor of Sociology at the City University of New York, Brooklyn College, and is author of the forthcoming book The Innovation Complex: Cities, Tech, and the New Economy.

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Fort Less-Than-Greene

Neighbors and preservationists sue N.Y.C. Parks Department to save a rare brutalist landscape
After a year and a half of radio silence, a contentious plan to transform the northwest entrance of Brooklyn’s Fort Greene Park is back in the spotlight. Friends of Fort Greene Park, a collection of neighborhood residents and preservationists, and the Sierra Club have brought a lawsuit against the N.Y.C. Parks Department in the New York State Supreme Court over plans to modernize the park and remove a rare landscape intervention from Arthur Edwin (A.E.) Bye, Jr. Jump back to 2017, when the proposal to build a new grand entrance at the northwestern corner of the park first came before the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). The 30-acre Fort Greene Park was Brooklyn’s first and originally grew out of the military fort from which the neighborhood took its name. The city brought Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux on in 1868 to turn the green space into an official park, and the duo cut tight, winding pathways that offered wide views of the planted landscape, similar to their work in Prospect Park and Central Park decades later. The park has been updated three times since then, but the basic layouts and deference to the Olmsted and Vaux plan have remained consistent throughout. In the early 1900s, McKim, Mead & White cut across the meadow in the park’s northwest corner to improve access to the Prison Ship Martyrs’ Monument, a 150-foot-tall column dedicated to the over-11,500 American prisoners who died on British ships during the Revolutionary War. The monument is reached by climbing a 100-foot-wide granite staircase cut into the side of a hill. In 1971, landscape architect A.E. Bye was commissioned to accentuate the path from the park’s entrance to the sweeping monument steps using cobblestones and native plants. Bye, who rarely took on public projects, proposed a series of subtle, multipurpose brutalist mounds reminiscent of graves—a reference to the prisoners interred in the crypts below the monument. Bye worked largely through sculpture and drawings to realize his designs, and a pre-Diller Scofidio + Renfro-era Ricardo Scofidio was enlisted to help create a drawing set that the city could build from. A $10.5 million renovation and a “grand new entrance” to the park would scrap that. The improvements are part of the Parks Department’s Parks Without Borders initiative, which seeks to break down barriers between city parks and the street to create a more inviting landscape. The new scheme would move the park’s entrance to the corner and create a direct route to the monument through the existing circular garden…and Bye’s mounds. Those would be leveled to create a tree-lined “boulevard,” while 58 trees would be removed. The Parks Department claims that the mounds impede ADA accessibility, although the new flattened concrete plaza would terminate at the steps of the monument. Those changes were unanimously approved by the LPC in November of 2017. Then, on April 1 of this year, Friends of Fort Greene Park, the Sierra Club, and Michael Gruen, president of The City Club of New York and the attorney for Friends, filed a petition (here) with the State Supreme Court over the decision. The Parks Department claims that of the 52 mature trees it would be removing, 38 are for design purposes and 14 are in failing health. Twenty-eight of those trees are Norway maple, a species that the department classifies as an invasive species with a typical lifespan of 60 years in City parks, and many are at least 50 years old at the time of writing. Additionally, another 31 trees would be removed for a drainage project near the park—13 for design reasons and 18 for their condition. The department states that in keeping with their tree restitution plan, 80 trees would be planted in and around Fort Greene Park. Additionally, the department states that these improvements, as well as adding a basketball court and expanding the barbecue area, were all researched with input from elected officials, the community board, and the surrounding neighborhood. Friends of Fort Greene Park disagrees with that assessment, claiming that the department was able to avoid conducting a full environmental review. When the group had previously filed a Freedom of Information Act request over the environmental impact statement, it received a heavily redacted version. Over one-quarter of the 150-page report was blacked out. “Despite community outcry, the Parks Department is proceeding with plans to cut 58 park trees, and to bulldoze popular landscape features in the historic park,” reads a statement from Friends of Fort Greene Park. “Neighbors had no alternative but to sue the Parks Department, to compel the city to do the required environmental review assessing the impact of the proposed project. Neighbors had earlier brought a successful court action against Parks to release secret documents about the decision to remove mature park trees. “Despite a court order, Parks has refused to fully comply with the release of documents. Neighbors believe that documents will reveal that Parks had misled city officials about the health of the park trees, creating a false impression that the trees were in poor health when the opposite is true. Fort Greene neighbors commissioned an independent arborist's report that proved the trees were in excellent health. “In addition to removing scores of trees, the Parks Department plan would also demolish a picnic area and rolling landscape mounds that are popular with neighborhood families. In what neighbors see as a scandalous act of social engineering, the Parks plan would relocate the leafy picnic grounds to a new, and more exposed site across the street from an existing NYCHA building, and away from the planned luxury high-rise.” While the lawsuit is still pending (the first filed at the state level to protect a brutalist structure), Friends has pledged that it will continue to raise awareness of the issue. When reached for a statement, the Parks Department wrote that it doesn't comment on pending litigation. AN will follow this story closely as it develops.
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A Timeless Trailblazer

See the top 5 proposals for Brooklyn's upcoming Shirley Chisholm statue
New York is apparently moving fast to bridge the gap in the number of public monuments dedicated to men versus women. Last November, the She Built NYC initiative announced its plans to erect its first statue of the political trailblazer Shirley Chisholm and just yesterday, the group unveiled the top five artist proposals in the running for the monument's design. Among the all-female finalists are Amanda Williams and Olalekan Jeyifous, Mickalene Thomas, Tanda Francis, La Vaughn Belle, and Firelei Báez. Slated for the Parkside and Ocean Avenue entrance of Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, the designs all feature grand visions of Congresswoman Chisholm’s “trailblazing” legacy. La Vaughn Belle Chisholm is well-known for the now-famous line: “If they don’t give you a seat the table, bring a folding chair.” Belle showcases Chisholm walking ahead of a sea of folding chairs, carrying one in her hand and stepping on what appears to be a symbolic presidential seal. The title of the piece, Chisholm Trail, alludes to her West Indian roots and how she empowered immigrants and people of all backgrounds by leaving a path for further equality in the United States. Mickalene Thomas Thomas described Chisholm in her proposal as someone who was “deeply in touch with the people” of Brooklyn. Her proposal shows the Congressperson sitting on a parked car, legs crossed as if in casual conversation, instead of at a podium or on a stage as a politician. Creating her figure at human-scale, the artist aimed to place her at eye-level with viewers in order to enhance engagement and encourage a communal atmosphere. “The monument is meant to highlight the fortitude of both Shirley Chisholm and the people she represents,” Thomas wrote in her submission. Amanda Williams and Olalekan Jeyfious Inspired by Chisholm's life as a civil servant—she was the first-ever woman and African American to seek the Democratic Party’s pick for president in 1971—Williams and Jeyfious envisioned the monument as a nod to Chisholm's legacy as someone who “left the door open” for others to pursue a place in politics and fight for equality. From one angle, the outline of the statue looks like the U.S. Capitol dome; from another, it’s Chisholm’s profile. According to the artists, this “symbolizes how she disrupted the perception of who has the right to occupy such institutions and to be an embodiment for democracy.” Tanda Francis The Chisholm Trail Memorial by Tanda Francis takes the form of a bold, bronze bust of Chisholm framed by vertical jets of water and light. A towering structure with her face looking upward in hope, the monument will feature a pathway surrounding the statue with Chisholm's inspiring quotes embedded into the sidewalk. Firelei Báez Báez’s monument centers around a series of 10- to 15-foot hand-painted metal columns. Inspired by the famous monument of Nelson Mandela in Howick, South Africa, the artist has created three portraits of Chisholm that reveal themselves when viewed from different vantage points. Each visage showcases different aspects of her public role and accomplishments. An aerial view of the sculpture reveals that the beams are arranged in the West African symbol of a bird, the Sankofa. The NYC Department of Cultural Affairs’ Percent for Art program has opened the proposals up for a public commentary period through Sunday, March 31. The winning design will be chosen in early April and is estimated to be built by the end of 2020.
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The Bigger Apple

Facades+ New York will explore trends reshaping international architecture
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On April 4 and 5, Facades+ is returning to New York for the eighth year in a row. Organized by The Architect's Newspaper, the New York conference brings together leading AEC practitioners for a robust full-day symposium with a second day of intensive workshops led by manufacturers, architects, and engineers. Doriana and Massimiliano Fuksas, and Toshiko Mori are respectively leading the morning and afternoon keynote addresses for the symposium. In between the keynote addresses, representatives from Renzo Piano Building Workshop, Permasteelisa, Cooper Union, Gensler, Heintges, Atelier 10, Transsolar, Walter P. MooreSchüco, Frener & Reifer, and Behnisch Architekten, will be on hand to discuss recently completed innovative projects. New York-and-Frankfurt based practice 1100 Architect is co-chairing the conference. In anticipation of the conference, 1100 Architect's Juergen Riehm sat down with AN to discuss the firm's ongoing work, the conference's program, and trends reshaping New York City's built environment. The Architect's Newspaper: It is safe to say that New York City is undergoing a tremendous period of growth. What do you perceive to be the most exciting trends within the city? Juergen Riehm: You’re right; New York City is undergoing big change and growth. I would say that one of the big drivers of that change—and one of the exciting trends—is the investment in the city’s public spaces. There has been such transformation along the waterfronts and in parks across all five boroughs, and that has really catalyzed growth. We have worked with several city agencies for many years and in different ways, including with the Department of Parks & Recreation, which has been an exciting partnership, contributing to these changes. One of the projects we currently have in design for NYC Parks is a new community center in East Flatbush, Brooklyn. There, we are designing a 33,000-square-foot community center. The facade will perform in a number of ways. Since it is a community center, we want it to be as open and transparent as possible, and it also needs to be robust and durable. The building is on track to meet the city’s new sustainability standards LL31/32 and LEED Gold. There has been so much attention on new large-scale developments like Hudson Yards or the supertall towers in Midtown, but one of the other exciting trends right now is the renewed attention on optimizing the performance of existing buildings. It is something we will address during Facades+ NYC, but there is great work happening now on restorations of historic buildings—at the Ford Foundation or the United Nations, for example—that not only addresses decades of wear and tear, but that also brings these structures up to full 21st-century performance standards. AN: 1100 Architect is based in both New York and Frankfurt. What are the greatest benefits of operating a trans-Atlantic practice? JR: Our practice has always been deeply rooted in New York—just as it has also always had an international footprint. From our earliest days, we delivered projects overseas, so it seems like part of 1100 Architect’s DNA to have an ongoing dialogue with other geographies. We launched our Frankfurt office about 15 years ago, and, as you suggest, it does bring benefits. In general, we find that it has a reciprocal sharpening effect, with each location informing the other with different materials, technologies, and delivery methods. AN: Which projects are 1100 Architect currently working on, or recently completed, that demonstrate the firm's longstanding demonstration of sustainable enclosures? JR: Well, the NYC Parks community center in East Flatbush is a good example. It’s an exciting project in many ways—including the fact that we are designing it to the City’s new LL31/32 sustainability standards. In every way, we are really pushing for optimal performance, and the high-performance envelope plays an integral role toward that end. We were recently awarded a contract with the U.S. Department of State, so we are poised to begin working on diplomatic facilities around the world, so the safety and security of facade systems will be a paramount consideration. In Germany, we are renovating a 19,000-seat soccer stadium and adding a new training facility, using an innovative and high-performance channel-glass facade. We recently completed a Passive House–certified kindergarten there, too, which involved a high-performance facade. AN: Are there any techniques and materials used in Germany or the EU that should be adopted in the United States? JR: In Germany, I find that there is a more closely integrated relationship between government, the building industry, and the architectural profession. With environmental standards, for example, the goals set by the government are quite ambitious, and it has resulted in a closely integrated process of meeting those goals. In this moment of deregulation in the U.S., it seems like a good time to consider the value of the government’s role in moving toward energy efficiency. AN: Where do you see the industry heading in the coming years? JR: By necessity, I see it moving toward higher standards of energy performance. Climate science is calling for it and the marketplace is increasingly looking for it, so the architecture and building industry will need to deliver. And as I mentioned at the start of this conversation, I also think there will be a lot of focus on updating existing buildings to enhance performance. Further information regarding the conference can be found here.
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Aslan(y)'s Picks

ASLA-NY announces its 2019 Design Award winners
The New York chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA-NY) has announced its 2019 Design Award recipients, highlighting exemplary landscape projects from New York–based firms. The projects span a wide breadth, from the ever-popular industrial waterfront regeneration schemes, to mixed-use commercial developments, to residential suburban landscapes. This year, one Award of Excellence, 14 Honor awards, and 17 Merit awards were handed out. All of the winners will be fêted at an awards ceremony held at the Center for Architecture in lower Manhattan on April 11. Following that, all of the winning projects will be put on display in the Center through April as part of World Landscape Architecture Month. 2019 Award of Excellence James Corner Field Operations (JCFO) Domino Park Brooklyn, New York The revitalization of the 160-year-old industrial Williamsburg waterfront by JCFO deftly weaves the site’s history together with the park’s programming while simultaneously protecting it from future floods. The shoreline of the SHoP-master planned Domino Sugar Factory development is intended to draw in the greater community while serving as an amenity space for the adjacent residential and office towers. The park utilizes remnant pieces of the sugar refinery to line its Artifact Walk, including screw conveyors, signs, four 36-foot-tall syrup tanks, and 21 of the refinery’s original columns. A line of repurposed gantry cranes forms the basis of an elevated walkway and the roof of chef Danny Meyer’s Tacocina stand. By greening the coast and breaking up the hardscape that lined the esplanade previously, JCFO has also provided Williamsburg with another line of defense from natural disasters. Honor Awards CIVITAS + W Architecture and Landscape Architecture Julian B Lane River Center and Park Dirtworks Landscape Architecture Resilient Dunescape Future Green Studio Sections of the Anthropocene LaGuardia Design Group Bridgehampton Sculpture Garden HIP Landscape Architecture The Art of Collaboration: Bringing Landscape Architecture into the Classroom Studio Hollander Design Landscape Architects Dune House Hollander Design Landscape Architects Topping Farm Renee Byers Landscape Architect Hillside Haven SCAPE First Avenue Water Plaza SCAPE Public Sediment for Alameda Creek Jungles Studio, in collaboration with SiteWorks Landscape Architecture The Ford Foundation Center for Social Justice SWA/Balsley + WEISS/MANFREDI Hunter’s Point South Waterfront Park Phase II SWA/Balsley Naftzger Park Terrain NYC Landscape Architecture No Name Inlet at Greenpoint Merit Awards BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group Islais Hyper-Creek Doyle Herman Design Associates Ecological Connection Future Green Studio Brooklyn Children’s Museum Joanna Pertz Landscape Architecture Campos Plaza, NYCHA Housing Complex Joanna Pertz Landscape Architecture Stuart’s Garden LaGuardia Design Group A River Runs Through It Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects Freeman Plaza NYC Parks Playground 52 RAFT Landscape Architecture Queens Boulevard Urban Design Plan Renee Byers Landscape Architect Village Sanctuary Sawyer|Berson Residences in Bridgehampton Sawyer|Berson Residence on Sagg Pond SCAPE Madison Avenue Plaza Steven Yavanian Landscape Architecture Dumbo Courtyard Terrain NYC Landscape Architecture Newswalk Entry Garden Terrain Work Broadway Bouquet W Architecture and Landscape Architecture Chouteau Greenway - The Valley Beeline
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The co-ops are alright

Co-op City celebrates 50 years of affordable housing in the Bronx
Off I-95 in the northern Bronx, just past the swamps at the mouth of the Hutchinson River and the paved paradise at Bay Plaza mall, arise 35 massive, brick and concrete tower blocks. Most residences nearby are single-family, but Co-op City's 24-story towers shoot out of the ground like sore, red-brick thumbs. But, as out of place as they seem, there are many similar complexes all around New York City and the rest of the country: Stuyvesant Town by the East Village, Riverton Square in Harlem, and the gone-but-never-forgotten Pruitt-Igoe projects of St. Louis. According to Adam Tanaka, a New York–based urbanist who studied these Bronx housing blocks for his Harvard graduate dissertation, Co-op City is the country's largest and most successful cooperative living facility. Many of its 35,000 residents have been living in them since they opened 50 years ago. In a mini-documentary published with CityLab, entitled "City in a City," Tanaka interviewed residents, building managers, representatives, and others involved in the conception of the towers to understand what makes these buildings so successful compared to other projects. On top of interviews and historical analysis, documentary footage shows what life at Co-op City is like. During most weekends of fair weather, tenants and local merchants buy and sell art and food, local musicians perform while residents dance, and children play on the swing sets. Wildlife even has a large presence there: residents have reported seeing deer. What is so special about Co-op City that allows for beautiful scenes like this to be the norm? Tanaka suggests the towers owe their success not to the City of New York, nor to any federally-funded programs, but to their fellow resident, architects, and the coalition of labor unions responsible for the towers’ development. The documentary highlights several of the complex's relatively unique features: a ban on market-rate apartment resale, permanent rent control (which was established in the early '70s after the state tried to increase rents for Co-op City’s tenants), affordable down payments, an elected representative board, self-funded maintenance, and a racially, culturally, and financially diverse group of tenants. But architectural features like larger-than-average apartments with grand windows and ample living and storage space, as well as multiple communal parks and green spaces—all of which was designed by architect Herman J. Jessor, inspired by Le Corbusier’s Villes Radieuse and Contemporain—play major roles, as well. In the documentary, Alena Powell, a resident of Co-op City since 1973, said a friend from the Upper East Side “was amazed because [Powell’s] living room could hold her [friend's] living room and kitchen all together.” Powell also “likes the fact that [she’s] not on top of other people as if [she] was living in Manhattan.” Other residents remark about how “spacious” the apartments are, and how they love the consistent natural light. Pleasing as they may be for many who live there, the Co-op City buildings were (and are) not without criticism. According to an article in Curbed by historian James Nevius, the Co-op City buildings stand as a testament to the ethics of erasing "slums," and to the power of the infamous Robert Moses, whose "bulldoze it" approach to entire neighborhoods is a highly-debated matter, to say the least. During construction in the early 1970s, many rallied against the design and construction of the towers, citing the cheap and unpleasing exterior. Nevius cites Jane Jacobs, who stated they were “truly marvels of dullness and regimentation, sealed against any buoyancy or vitality of city life.” Nevius also references criticisms by the AIA: "Similarly, the American Institute of Architects complained that 'the spirits of the tenants' at Co-op City 'would be dampened and deadened by the paucity of their environment.'" However, many in Tanaka's documentary do not share those opinions and come to the towers' defense. Ken Wray, former executive director of the United Housing Federation, says “the aesthetic was ‘Why waste money on the outside of the building?’ You don’t live on the outside of the building…People driving by might think it’s ugly but people who live there know what [the apartments] look like.” Often overlooked, too, is a sprawling meadow laced among the buildings. According to Nevius, over 80 percent of Co-op City's footprint is dedicated to landscaping: grass and trees with play structures, courts, benches, and market stands on the perimeter. For the people who use these daily, these are helpful amenities that similar developments do not have. Co-op City raises questions about the emphasis on policy or architecture, about interior design versus exterior, about the house and the outdoors, and about ownership and citizenship. Regardless of where one lands on these issues, there's something to be learned from these 35 towers in the Bronx.
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Building Public Trust

How the Trust for Public Land is converting schoolyards to playgrounds
The third and last case study in this three-part series related to breaking borders is an interview with Carter Strickland, the New York State director of the Trust for Public Land (TPL), regarding the TPL's Schoolyard to Playground Program. The previous interview was with Deborah Marton of the New York Restoration Project. The Architect’s Newspaper: Can you give me some background on the Trust for Public Land Schoolyards program and how it breaks down borders? Carter Strickland: Since 1996, the Trust for Public Land (TPL), has been working out of its New York City office to partner with the City of New York and its Department of Education, to transform low-performing asphalt “play yards” into multi-benefit play spaces used by the schools during the school day and the local community after school, on weekends, and on holidays and vacations—including all summer. Our work breaks down the physical border between schools and the surrounding community by unlocking fences and opening a new neighborhood park and breaks down institutional and other borders by involving the community in the visioning and design process before the park is built, and in the programming and use of the park after it is built. AN: How do you choose where to work? CS: Over the last 20 years, TPL has worked with the city to identify asphalt schoolyards that offer little in play value—mostly barren, uninspiring asphalt yards that have no play equipment except for rundown basketball courts, that shed water from their impervious surfaces to the storm sewers and retain pools of water days after rainstorms, and, because they are black asphalt and absorb the sun’s rays, are increasing the urban heat island effect. These areas are surrounded by high wire mesh fences; they have all the charm of a prison yard. Worse, they were historically locked up, only used by the school, and not available to poor communities starved for open space. We look for principals, teachers, and custodians who are ready and willing to invite the community in. AN: How has the program grown? CS: That model was pursued on a small scale initially dependent on corporate funding, with 12 sites built in the first eight years. By 2004, the city had obtained mayoral control of the school system and was open to public-private partnerships, and TPL was able to formalize its partnership in an MOU with the NYC Department of Education and the NYC School Construction Authority to renovate schoolyards. The agreement provided 2 to 1 matching funds from the City of New York for the development of five playgrounds a year for five years, a pace maintained from 2004 to 2007. Former mayor Michael R. Bloomberg launched PlaNYC, a comprehensive sustainability plan for the city that adopted a goal of having every New Yorker live within a 10-minute walk of a park. To meet this goal the city encouraged creative approaches and especially cross-silo efforts, and the program really took off. The city entered into a partnership with TPL, which would serve as the community engagement intermediary with schools and neighbors, the Department of Education (which Mayor Bloomberg got control of from the State of New York), and the Department of Parks & Recreation, which designed and built the playground transformations, and approximately 150 more part-time schoolyards were transformed into full-time community playgrounds between 2007 and 2013. The PlaNYC work wrapped up but NYC Department of Environmental Protection stepped up as a funder for parks that absorb water to meet the goals of the NYC Green Infrastructure Plan, and many councilmembers and borough presidents sought to fund these mini-parks for the benefits of their communities. Recently, New York State has funded playgrounds in central Brooklyn as part of its comprehensive Vital Brooklyn health initiative. To date, TPL has worked with the city and various funders to build 197 green playgrounds, with 15 more in various stages of design and construction. AN: What are the environmental benefits of the initiative? CS: Since 2013, TPL has designed playgrounds to include green infrastructure elements such as rain gardens and absorbent turf fields, turning each of the spaces into a stormwater capture system. This has helped the city to meet its legal mandate to reduce stormwater runoff going onto the Combined Sewer System (CSS) in NYC that contributes to Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) during rainstorms, a significant source of pollution to the nearby rivers and harbor waters. AN: Can you explain the design process? CS: TPL and its consultant landscape architects work with students, teachers, and neighbors to design a new, full-service playground for the school’s use, with new play equipment, sports fields with synthetic turf (it was determined that real grass would not survive even one week of intense use), a running track, performance areas, trees, and gardens with both flowers and places to grow vegetables. We spend five-to-ten weeks in the schools and community, with schoolchildren measuring the grounds, undertaking a sun/shade analysis, surveying the community for a recreational needs analysis, and learning about budget and other constraints. Our professionals turn this data and vision into alternative designs, which are then voted on by the school community. In this way, we transform not only public spaces but empower the community and students with knowledge and the experience of improving their neighborhood. AN: How is TPL using New York City as a prototype for work across the country? CS: The TPL Schoolyard to Playground model has been replicated in other cities in the US, including in Philadelphia, where it works with the very progressive Philadelphia water department in creating “water-smart” playground in both parks and at schools, as well as in Newark, New Jersey, and in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Epilogue Use of vacant lots for parks and community gardens is not a new idea. A March 28, 1896, article in Scientific American article titled “Cultivation of Vacant Lots by the Poor,” described prototypical gardens on New York City vacant lots intended to be a prototype for cities across the country. While the focus was on food production the social value cannot be discounted. An important difference between this work and that of the three leaders interviewed is an attitude that works across demographics and socioeconomic borders. They are opening up space and expanding attitudes about how we treat one another. This progressive move away from the anti-planning that Commissioner Silver described to an open and inclusive process is helping us move beyond postwar attitudes that created so many urban ills. Every organization is buttressed by new data, analysis, and design tools to make more public space available in the growing city. Parks Without Borders has very meaningful perceived and real physical impacts. To the extent that that streets, sidewalks, neighborhoods, and parks become more fluidly connected to the city, quality of life in neighborhoods across the five boroughs will improve. The work of NYRP in developing vacant lots and underused NYCHA property for community gardens has had a transformative impact on the social and economic well-being of underserved communities. At Trust for Public Land, opening up schoolyards has direct benefits on local neighborhoods, and engagement of kids, teachers, and principals in a design process that involves both form-making and environmental considerations will have a long-lasting impact on the people involved in the development process. The city of the future is evolving as a greener connected polis thanks to the efforts of these and other visionary leaders. Borders are opening on the city level as political rhetoric nationally suggests a grim alternative.