Search results for "New York City Economic Development Corporation"

Placeholder Alt Text

A Call to Arms

Operation PPE creates 3D-printed equipment for the COVID-19 front lines
Things right now are undoubtedly, brutally rough. And when the going gets rough, the architecture and design community gets 3D printing. As part of a sweeping grassroots mobilization effort that expands and evolves daily, architects, designers, makers, and a small army of displaced students have banded together and fired up their 3D printers to produce the personal protective equipment (PPE) so desperately needed in hospitals that are struggling to provide necessary gear to the doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. “This is, without question, the worst public health crisis of our lifetime. The numbers are truly staggering, and for medical professionals, it is very much like a war, causing casualties and death,” said Dr. James Pacholka MD, a surgeon at Southern Ohio Medical Center, in a statement shared with AN. “No one wants to fight a battle without adequate protection and the PPE’s are our armor, so any help we get in that regard is incredible. And for people using their expertise to help us in any way that they can is honestly beautiful, and serves as a warm reminder of mankind’s goodness and generosity.” In that regard, the architecture and design community has more than risen to the occasion. The Operation PPE effort began in earnest with an SOS of sorts sent via email late on March 24 by Kirstin Petersen, assistant professor at Cornell University’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering to fellow professor Jenny Sabin, director of Sabin Lab at Cornell’s College of Architecture, Art, and Planning (AAP) and principal of the eponymous architectural design studio based in Ithaca, New York. Petersen relayed the dire need for PPE (personal protective equipment), specifically face shields, at Weill Cornell Medicine, the university’s medical school and biomedical research unit in New York City. The request—initially estimated by Weill Cornell to be 20,000 to 50,000 per day in New York City—rapidly disseminated throughout multiple departments at the university. By 10:00 a.m. the next morning, Sabin, with the blessing of Meejin Yoon, dean of Cornell AAP, had reopened the school’s Digital Fabrication Lab, fired up all 10 of its 3D printers, and got to work. At the same time, Sabin spread the word to faculty, staff, and students while providing detailed instructions on the lab website. Petersen and Amy Kuceyeski, associate professor of mathematics at Weill Cornell Medicine’s Feil Family Brain and Mind Research Institute, also started a Slack channel to keep lines of communication open and flowing in a single dedicated space. “We were able to respond to the need right away,” Sabin explained to AN. “And what started out as just a few labs on Cornell’s campus then began to grow.” Sabin and others that have since joined the Operation PPE movement are basing their output, which includes a laser-cut clear plastic shield alongside a 3D-printed visor band that snugly fits across a user’s forehead, on an open-source design file created by Erik Cederberg of Swedish company 3D Verkstan. That design, and that design only without any major modifications, has been verified for use by Weill Cornell. The shields, which can be discarded or sanitized and reused, are made from polyethylene sheets while the visor band component is generally made from PLA or ABS, both standard 3D printing materials. PET or PETG, however, is preferred by the medical community as it’s safer to reuse and longer-lasting. Once the components are distributed, hospital staff sanitizes and assembles the face shields. Ultimately, 3D-printed PPE is meant as a temporary solution, as desperate times call for creative measures. But as far as stopgap measures go at least one medical professional, an emergency room doctor at a major New York City Hospital, gave his approval: “The 3D shields and masks being made may be very useful, and can be designed with comfort, visibility, and re-usability in mind,” he said in a statement provided to AN.

A ground-up, grassroots movement grows

While Sabin’s Digital Fabrication Lab and other labs within Cornell departments that have access to 3D printers and laser cutters quickly got to work (all with an eye toward social distancing and overall safety), Yoon sent out an all-hands-on-deck email to the school’s vast network of alumni. Within 48 hours of Petersen reaching out to Sabin, a slew of major architecture firms—Terreform, Grimshaw, Bjarke Ingels Group, Handel Associates, Weiss Manfredi, and Kohn Pedersen Fox among them—had joined the effort. Edg, a mid-sized Manhattan-based architecture and engineering firm, also sprung into action. Notably, edg made a slight but critical adjustment to the visor band allowing for a tighter and more protective fit that also enabled production to increase by up to 20 percent. Currently, edg is producing up to 100 face shields per day and plans to launch a website to connect and coordinate those looking to pitch in. “In less than four days we had this massive web of people firing up their machines, dedicating material, and donating their time and effort,” remarked Sabin. As of this writing, Cornell's on-campus labs have donated 5,800 face shields, a number that jumps significantly when also including PPE made and donated by alumni architects and their networks. “Together and in a very short amount of time, we were able to respond to a gap within the supply chain by leveraging 3D printing and a network of digital fabrication labs. On one hand, 3D printing is not the best way to make these parts, and one 3D printer isn’t going to make an impact, but when you have thousands… it’s incredible.” Students and faculty from schools including Parsons, the University of Southern California, Carnegie Mellon, and Iowa State have since joined Operation PPE. “The power of people coming together is just amazing,” said Sabin. Mitch McEwen, assistant professor at the Princeton School of Architecture and founding director of Black Box Research Group, has also played an active early role on the design and organizational fronts. As noted by McEwen, one area of focus for the team has been on the material supply chain. “How do you widen the stream of materials coming into this, and how do we get ahead of the curve on the next PPE disaster?” she said, adding that the Department of Health and Human Services has mentioned a potential shortage of PPE gowns is on the horizon. “PPE shortages have been cannibalizing the materials they already have.”

Expanding the network

Cornell AAP alumnus Jay Valgora, founder of multidisciplinary design firm STUDIO V, was among the first architects to enlist in Operation PPE and has been instrumental in helping get the word out wide and far. (His son, Jesse, an architecture student at Syracuse University, is also involved in the fabrication and material-sourcing efforts.) “Everyone wants to help and no one knows what to do,” Valgora told AN. “So it’s kind of great to not only do this—to get this equipment into the hands of medical workers who really need it—but it’s also great to give people a vehicle where they can help out and play a positive role.” Noting that his staff is now working from home remotely, Valgora said: “I can still go into the studio, which is empty now, so I went in there with Jesse and we dragged our 3D printers out and brought them home and set them up in our loft and started to print around the clock.” In addition to printing away alongside Jesse at his makeshift home lab, Valgora is teaming with Illya Azaroff, president-elect of AIA New York State, to help consolidate the growing number of different grassroots factions that have joined Operation PPE throughout the state. “We’re trying to create a larger movement to get more people involved,” said Valgora of his team-up with the AIA. “It would be great if the next step were to be to take this national.” While Valgora collaborates with AIA New York State to bolster outreach and involvement within the architecture community, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), acting as a clearinghouse, has also launched a formal intake process to better coordinate with local businesses looking to make and donate crucial medical supplies. The donations will be vetted by the Department of Health to ensure they meet safety protocols, at the scale needed for the city’s COVID-19 response. The NYCEDC has received over 1,700 queries from interested businesses in just several days Per Shavone Williams, vice president and chief of staff for public affairs at the NYCEDC, the businesses working directly with the city to produce PPE include Makerspace NYC, Adafruit, and Brooklyn-based custom fabrication company Bednark Studios. Between these three enterprises, 127,000 face shield kits were delivered to New York hospitals this past week.

The effort out West

In Southern California, similar PPE-producing efforts are underway including one directly inspired by Sabin Lab's call to arms that's spearheaded by Alvin Huang, an associate professor at the USC School of Architecture and founding principal of Synthesis Design + Architecture. Since putting out an open call week, Huang has brought together an initial network north of 80 people—largely USC faculty, alumni, and friends—working with 100 3D printers and three laser cutters. Students from other Los Angeles-area schools including SCI-arc and Santa Monica College have also joined the local effort as have firms including KAA Associates, ARUP, CO Architects, Michael Maltzan Architects, RCH Studios, Brooks Scarpa, and others. The gear produced by the Huang-launched campaign is being distributed to, via pickups coordinated by USC's Keck Medicine, to LAC+USC Medical Center, Keck Hospital, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, and MLK Willowbrook Hospital. “I’m proud to announce we’re mobilizing our architecture, design, and manufacturing communities to utilize 3D-printing technologies,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti at daily press briefing held earlier this week in which he discussed the city's larger L.A. Protects initiative. “We're getting this done by tapping into resources in our own backyard—developing prototypes and designs with USC's architecture, engineering, and medical schools. We're working with UCLA and other local universities, design schools, and architecture firms to utilize their materials and to use their expertise.” Like the effort originating at Cornell, Huang’s bourgeoning L.A.-centered network is creating and distributing protective face shields using a new design from Budman that’s been approved by Keck. The primary focus, however, is on producing 3D-printed “pseudo N95 masks,” which are also verified by Keck. N95 masks, which as others involved with the Operation PPE effort have pointed out, are not being produced at the same scale as face shield kits because 3D printers simply cannot replicate their complex design in a way that meets medical standards. “We brought this to the attention of Keck as we were concerned that we might be leading people to think they are safe when they’re not,” Huang told AN. “Keck said they were fully aware and had tested everything [...] they said these masks were not what they are using now, and they’re not a replacement for medical-grade PPE. They’re backups to the backup.” “This might be the scariest thing I’ve heard,” admitted Huang. “But Keck’s response was that this is wartime medicine, and we’re preparing for war, and in wars you need a backup to the backup. And Keck identified this as a backup that’s one level above using homemade cloth masks, bandanas, and socks.” It’s a grim assessment, for sure, but these are extraordinary times. As for Sabin, she’s looking past the bleakness and focusing on the synergetic, humane work being done by a community united by one common objective. “For me, the important thing to get out there is the network of people that have come together. The bridge, in terms of working across disciplines, has very much been the context of emerging technology, especially in digital fabrication and 3D printing,” she said. “There’s a kind of democratic space in that it is informal and bottom-up, and we’ve been able to make a real impact in that way. I think everybody’s been looking for a way to contribute during this difficult and unprecedented time, and I think this is a real and positive way to come together even though we can’t be near each other physically. And every visor, every shield, makes a difference.” For those without a 3D printer or digital fabrication skills, please see #GetUsPPE to explore other ways in which you can help.
Placeholder Alt Text

when the jackhammers fall silent

New York puts freeze on all nonessential construction
Following in the cautious footsteps of cities like Boston and San Francisco, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has put the kibosh on all “nonessential” construction projects—and not just in booming New York City but also across the entire state during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. “We’re closing down nonessential construction sites,” said Cuomo during one of his oddly therapeutic daily press briefings held last Friday. “Some construction is essential to keep the place running, but nonessential construction is going to stop.” Similar to citywide construction pauses, New York’s temporary statewide ban includes several exemptions that allow for work to continue or commence on affordable housing projects, hospitals and healthcare facilities, homeless shelters, emergency repairs, transit, and public infrastructure including roads and bridges. Additionally, underway projects of any kind that could be considered unsafe if abandoned will also be allowed to proceed for now. Reads updated guidance issued by the state agency Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC):
At every site, if essential or emergency non-essential construction, this includes maintaining social distance, including for purposes of elevators/meals/entry and exit. Sites that cannot maintain distance and safety best practices must close and enforcement will be provided by the state in coordination with the city/local governments. This will include fines of up to $10,000 per violation.
Under his initial PAUSE shutdown directive, Cuomo had classified all types of construction sites as being “essential” along with banks, grocery stores, pharmacies, and the like. This, in turn, meant it was largely business as usual at building sites across the state although workers were instructed to follow difficult-to-enforce social distancing practices while on the job. Cuomo, however, faced considerable pushback from construction workers and their families along with city leaders, notably City Council members Carlos Menchaca and Brad Lander along with New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. “Anything that is not directly part of the essential work of fighting coronavirus and the essential work of keeping the city running and the state running, and any construction that is not about the public good, is going to en,” New York City Mayor de Blasio clarified on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show following Cuomo’s announcement. “So, luxury condos will not be built until this is over, you know, office buildings are not going to be built so that work's going to end immediately. We need to protect people.” The day before Cuomo ordered work to be halted on all nonessential construction projects, the New York Times published an article detailing how laborers in the city were being exposed to conditions that, although likely to raise very few eyebrows during ordinary circumstances, seemed downright perilous as a deadly, highly contagious rages through New York and beyond:
“Construction sites, even during normal times, are notoriously dirty. Workers often share a single portable toilet, which rarely has soap or hand sanitizer. Running water is not common. None of the recent safety protocols recommended by public health officials are practical at a job site, workers said. They share tools, and procedures require that they closely watch over one another. There is no social distancing. Some workers wear protective masks, which are in short supply.”
Cuomo’s directive also came after work on two infrastructure projects considered essential by the ESDC, the overhauls of LaGuardia Airport and at Moynihan Station, came grinding to a temporary halt when workers at both sites tested positive for COVID-19. Although initially not wholly supportive of a Boston-style moratorium on construction due to the so-called “devastating” economic impact, Carlo Scissura, president of trade group New York Building Congress and former president and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, has since thrown his support behind Cuomo’s updated directive. “The health and safety of building industry workers and every New Yorker remain the highest priority as we continue to respond to this pandemic,” said Scissura in a statement obtained by the New York Post. “Just as the governor has outlined, we must carry on with New York’s most critical projects, from infrastructure and public works to healthcare and affordable housing. These projects are essential to our region’s future and will benefit our most vulnerable populations.” Some have pointed out a not-so-tiny loophole, however, in the ESCD’s new guidelines, specifically with regard to the construction of affordable housing. The exemption that allows for work on affordable housing projects to continue doesn't just apply to project that are strictly affordable; rather, work on residential developments with at least 20 percent affordable housing can proceed. This, in turn, means that a lion’s share of residential constructions projects in New York are essentially off the hook.
Placeholder Alt Text

Design Will Still Exist by Then

Coronavirus cancellations hit New York Design Week
NYCxDESIGN, the weeklong annual celebration of design that encompasses 400-plus events from product launches, installations, exhibitions, talks, open studios, and more across all five boroughs, has been postponed due to precautions meant to curb the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Originally slated to kick off in May 12, NYCxDESIGN will now take place in October and coincide with a slew of previously scheduled citywide architecture and design events including the Cooper Hewitt, National Design Museum’s National Design Week, the Architecture and Design Film Festival, Open House New York Weekend, and the AIANY Center for Architecture’s Archtober—or Architecture and Design Month—programming. While the suspension of NYCxDESIGN is an unfortunate but necessary one, it appears that October will be an action-packed month for design professionals and enthusiasts in New York City. One element of NYCxDESIGN that will be moving forward in May as planned is the NYCxDESIGN Awards program, which will take place via a digital ceremony with another live event occurring in October. Additional details regarding rescheduled events will be announced in the coming months. “NYCxDESIGN was conceived to bring New York together in celebration of the incredible talent in the city, and the tremendous examples of international design that are shown here, said Edward Hogikyan, vice president and executive director of NYCxDESIGN, in a statement. “Gathering our community around design is so central to the work we do that, given the concerns around COVID-19, we are shifting from our annual Festival in May to a reconceived fall program to ensure the safety and well-being of all who participate in and visit NYCxDESIGN.” The largest and most widely attended of all design happenings scheduled for May, the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF), still, as of this writing, plans to run from May 17 through May 20 at the Javits Center in Manhattan per the ICFF website. Two other major design events coinciding with ICFF and NYCxDesign, WantedDesign Manhattan (May 17 to 20) and WantedDesign Brooklyn (May 14 to 18), have also not been suspended as of this writing. For the first time in its history, WantedDesign Manhattan plans to co-locate at the Javits Center with ICFF instead of at its normal venue, the Terminal Stores building.* Brooklyn Designs has also not announced if it continue as planned May 10-12 at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Relatedly, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and numerous other cultural institutions in New York City have also extended their closures until May 15. Now in its eighth year, NYCxDESIGN was previously operated by the New York City Economic Development Corporation. Starting this year, media company SANDOW has taken over that role. *ICFF and WantedDesign both canceled several hours after this article was first published. The next editions of both events will take place in 2021.
Placeholder Alt Text

Skyscraper in the Seaport

Howard Hughes and SOM attempt another tower in South Street Seaport
Manhattan’s South Street Seaport might look pretty different in a few years if the Howard Hughes Corporation (HHC) moves ahead with its new residential development. The Lower Manhattan historic district could soon have a new 990-foot tower. HHC has hired Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) to master plan a new mixed-use development for the Seaport. The project could feature a new building with four floors of office and retail space topped with a residential tower that could range from 570 to 990 feet at 250 Water Street. The tower could have between 550 and 700 units, 200 of which would be designated affordable housing, following the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing goals of the Department of City Planning and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development. “Together with the community, and with the necessary approvals, we have a rare opportunity to bring affordable housing to an area where it’s in short supply,” an HHC spokesperson told AN. “Following the stakeholder workshops, we are continuing to engage with a diverse range of neighbors, businesses, and civic groups as well as elected and government officials as we further develop our plans for the 250 Water site and other district improvements.” The current zoning for the Seaport only allows for 12-story buildings, and the proposal requires Howard Hughes to negotiate the purchase of up to 700,000 square feet of air rights from three surrounding properties with the New York City Economic Development Corporation, as well as complete the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, which ends in a city council vote. This project comes after earlier HHC’s failed attempt at building a 600-foot tower in the neighborhood in 2014. The project was ultimately rejected by the Seaport Working Group, a community task force, for being out of scale with the lower-rise Federal-style brick context. The HHC spokesperson said the company is looking forward to continuing the conversation with the community to create a long-term solution for the neighborhood. “Through our extensive community engagement process, we have been working to generate a planning framework for the Seaport historic district that everyone can get behind.”
Placeholder Alt Text

Moving Forward

NYC launches new website outlining timeline and process for the BQX streetcar
After much uncertainty and relative quiet, an updated timeline has been announced for the Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX streetcar) that would connect 11 miles of Brooklyn and Queens. The City’s Economic Development Corporation and the Department of Transportation have launched a new website detailing the proposed streetcar, along with previously released and new reports, which would run from Red Hook to Astoria and connect 13 subway lines and 30 bus routes. The BQX team proposes having at least five community board presentations and a minimum of five workshops this winter, and intend to collect public opinion on the $2.7 billion project via the new website and engage in on-the-ground outreach. There will be public hearings and the collection of comments in May and June, followed by a draft environmental impact statement in the spring of next year, with the final version to be released in fall of 2021 following public comment. Alternative options to the light rail line will reportedly be considered (the website gives the example of a dedicated bus lane). Currently, the city aims to open the line in 2029. If all goes according to plan, the city will then seek federal funding (as much as $1 billion according to previous reports) and undertake a land-use review, get the necessary approvals, and select designers, contractors, and companies to run the BQX. Funding has been a major hurdle for the streetcar. The federal government has certainly not been generous with infrastructure projects as of late, especially in areas the current administration sees as opposed to it. While it was suggested that Amazon (which was going to receive nearly $3 billion in subsidies, tax breaks, and incentives) might have footed part of the bill when they had planned to build their HQ2 in Long Island City, that option is obviously off the table. Many City Council members have questioned the price tag relative to the streetcar's projected ridership and the desperate need for upgrades to transit options elsewhere. Mayor Bill de Blasio continues to advocate for the project, however.
Placeholder Alt Text

Culture Cap

Andrea Steele's L10 Arts and Cultural Center will bring integrative cultural space to Brooklyn
Set inside Enrique Norten’s towering residential project in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, the upcoming L10 Arts and Cultural Center will bring together multiple mainstay institutions like the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA), the Brooklyn Public Library, and 651 ARTS. The 32-story triangular 300 Ashland Place already boasts several pieces of booming retail on the property, including a Whole Foods Market 365 and an Apple Store. But the addition of a 50,000-square-foot space owned and operated by the city will ensure the building, designed by TEN Arquitectos and Andrea Steele Architecture in 2017, features more than stop-and-shop amenities. The Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) and NYC Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) aim to make it a community gathering place and give 651 ARTS—which teaches African Diaspora-inspired contemporary dance, theater, and music—its first dedicated permanent home. “For both visitors and residents alike, Fort Greene is a destination for arts and entertainment, and I’m thrilled to celebrate the addition of this new community space and all it has to offer,” said NYCEDC President and CEO James Patchett in a press release. “The opening of the L10 Arts and Cultural Center officially marks the completion of the entire BAM South Tower project, which has brought invaluable affordable housing, jobs, and community and public space to the neighborhood.” BAM South Tower, as 300 Ashland Place is referred to here, stands on a pivotal corner near downtown Brooklyn and in between the residential neighborhoods of Fort Green and Park Slope. Located near BAM’s other buildings within the Brooklyn Cultural District—a city-led invested area—it’s a central spot with its own public plaza to connect people crossing into either community. The uniquely-shaped site was previously a parking lot but was later transformed via a collaboration between the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership and Two Trees Management.  Andrea Steele Architecture, which recently acquired the New York office of its longtime partner TEN Arquitectos, has designed individual spaces for each institution within the L10 Arts and Cultural Center. For BAM, a new education center will be built, as well as a reading room where the public can access its 150-year-old collection. 651 Arts will get its own affordable dance studios and performance space, while a new branch of the Brooklyn Public Library will open for locals. In time for its 20th anniversary, MoCADA will receive a new gallery and performance space.   According to Andrea Steele, the project embodies Brooklyn’s burgeoning civic landscape: “The design elevates the public walk to connect the community to new resources,” she said. “While the exterior landscaped terrace has already become a vibrant destination and venue for dance performances, concerts, markets, and festivals; the new cultural spaces will bring critical activation and extend the public realm within, resulting in a 360-degree panorama of city life.” The L10 Arts and Cultural Center broke ground today, and with the project's expected completion in winter 2021, the BAM South Tower project will be fully realized. 
Placeholder Alt Text

Street Smart

2019 Best of Design Awards winners for Urban Design
2019 Best of Design Award for Urban Design: Brooklyn Army Terminal Public Realm WXY was commissioned by the New York City Economic Development Corporation to play a role in continuing the legacy of the Brooklyn Army Terminal (BAT) as an engine for industrial innovation and the long-term growth of businesses and quality jobs in New York. BAT’s history of providing industrial jobs informs the campus’s new identity, which embraces a language of logistics. The public realm design opens up the campus to pedestrians, drawing them through the site to the new ferry stop, also designed as part of the project. The open space features connector elements of unearthed cobblestone and pioneer landscape as well as brightly colored signage and striping that codes the space for pedestrians, cars, and trucks. Designer: WXY Architecture + Urban Design Location: Brooklyn, NY Wayfinding, Signage, Graphics: Manuel Miranda Practice Civil and Electrical Engineer, Landscape Architect: Stantec Lighting Design: Domingo Gonzalez Associates Parking Consultant: Walker Consultants Construction Manager: Hunter Roberts Construction Group Honorable Mention Project Name: City Thread Designer: SPORTS
Placeholder Alt Text

Shedding the Shed

the_shed_is_a_shack pokes fun at Hudson Yards and corporate malfeasance
On June 21, a couple of months after the opening of the Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Rockwell Group-designed Shed, the anonymous group behind the_shed_is_a_shack Instagram account began trolling the billionaire-real-estate-developer-funded arts center. Its organizers, who include an artist and an executive director of an arts institution, followed their friends' Instagram accounts to attract followers and began lampooning the Shed. They published a photo of a cracked electrical outlet cover and an electrical box with wires sticking out, poked fun at design and programming decisions, and savaged the financing behind the project. Increasingly they focused on its embodiment of extreme economic stratification, poor labor practices, and the "artwashing" of real estate the project embodies. We asked The Shack—as they call themselves—about the account, their trolling of the Shed and Hudson Yards, and their view of what should have happened there instead. They responded with a remarkably cogent argument for an alternative decision-making process for development on public property. AN: Can you tell us about your backgrounds or professional affiliations? Are you connected to any activist groups or have you been in the past? the_shed_is_a_shack: We are arts professionals with many years of experience with cultural institutions and in different aspects of the art world. The Shack includes an executive-level arts leader and an artist who is also active in a number of other social justice/advocacy issues. We are also people who care about our communities, our fellow citizens, and the importance of civic engagement.
 
View this post on Instagram
 

A post shared by The Shack (@the_shed_is_a_shack) on

Are you creating some of the memes or are you mostly sharing other things you see? We create all of the content ourselves, except in a very few select cases where we have reposted and clearly credited the original poster. Our audience also sometimes sends ideas or news articles to us, and occasionally that’s a prompt for us to create a particular meme or post around that idea.
 
View this post on Instagram
 

A post shared by The Shack (@the_shed_is_a_shack) on

How do you see this action: As advocacy or activism, or are you mostly just having fun trolling the developers? The account is light-hearted about a dark-hearted thing, and so we’re poking fun while also highlighting some very serious issues. There are a lot of problems with how money and power are distributed and abused in the art world, and also in the world at large, and what has happened (and is happening) at Hudson Yards and with the Shed is representative of some of the most egregious examples. There’s also such a huge gap between how Hudson Yards and the Shed were sold and marketed to the public, and what they have actually become. So much marketing hype was built into the selling of it, and so it feels right that the response should be similarly structured in terms of tone, as memes, faux ads, and hype-speak. Also, we’re in the art world, so we like our visuals. There’s a long history of art world projects that critique the structure and internal systems that underpin cultural institutions. We’d like to see that critique contribute to change, so there’s an advocacy element to our trolling.
 
View this post on Instagram
 

A post shared by The Shack (@the_shed_is_a_shack) on

Is it connected to a particular set of positions? No matter how much we might have a laugh at some of the more outrageous details of Hudson Yards and the Shed, the development is actually a slap in the face to the people of New York and thus in need of more serious examination. A select group of wealthy individuals and corporations are benefitting from Hudson Yards, along with government officials who actively championed and pushed through the development to advance their own political or business interests (including Bloomberg, De Blasio, Dan Doctoroff, and others). But what did everyone else get? Our tax dollars went to build a private luxury neighborhood billed as “Little Dubai,” while many New Yorkers don’t have access to affordable housing, reliable subway lines, or adequate healthcare. The developers tried to cut out unions and limit worker safety standards, and people lost wages and got hurt. And with the Shed, our tax dollars helped pay for a building and organization that is not serving the cultural community or the public as promised, and instead has created a tax-deductible structure and plaything for the developer and his pals to utilize and benefit from. So, our position is about advocating for the public interest and for the cultural community.
 
View this post on Instagram
 

A post shared by The Shack (@the_shed_is_a_shack) on

What motivated you in particular to start it, and is Instagram an effective tool so far to forward a message? The account started really just as a cathartic response and half-joke. We visited The Shed soon after it opened and were stunned by the experience. The building itself was in disarray. Hardware was falling off the walls or not properly installed, there were cracks in the glass and electrical socket plates, puddles of leaking lubricant from the escalator, peeling and chipped paint on multiple walls, exit signs with wires sticking out, obvious building code violations, and more.  
 
View this post on Instagram
 

A post shared by The Shack (@the_shed_is_a_shack) on

For a brand-new, wildly expensive building supported by taxpayer money and on city-owned land—and touted by the developers and the city as representing the future of cultural institutions and civic public-private engagement—it was a massive failure. So many cultural institutions around the city are struggling to pay the bills, and money got poured into this development. It’s unconscionable that it turned out this way and that there has not yet been a reckoning for abusing the public trust. So what started as a joke among friends expanded as we realized how serious and ongoing the problems there were. Instagram is the art world’s preferred social media for the most part, at least for the moment, and so it seemed like a natural choice.
 
View this post on Instagram
 

A post shared by The Shack (@the_shed_is_a_shack) on

What would be an ideal outcome? The desired outcome is to expand the conversation around the Shed and Hudson Yards. It’s also important to us to emphasize how the final shape of the development is not an accident; it’s what happens when a development that is privately owned and controlled does not include the appropriate level of input, regulation, and safeguarding by community groups and the public. The Shed is an extension of that core problem, with a board controlled by the developers and their buddies, and even the building itself is literally infected by and physically trapped inside the development Alien-style (The Shed ended up being constructed with much of its operational guts shared with and located inside of the skyscraper next door). So now we have a major NYC neighborhood and cultural institution that is being controlled by a small group of private investors, continuing to benefit from tax incentives and public money, in order to advance personal interests that are largely counter to the public’s.
 
View this post on Instagram
 

A post shared by The Shack (@the_shed_is_a_shack) on

Although Hudson Yards is mostly owned by private developers, the Shed sits on public land owned by the city and is a nonprofit entity that is required to benefit the public good. So we—the public—need to hold the Shed accountable and see that necessary changes are made to the way it operates. There are many different options that might be proposed as an alternative; for example, a consortium of existing cultural institutions and community organizations could come together to re-envision how the space should operate and who should run it. The building could serve as an outpost/off-site programming space for other arts and culture organizations on a rotating basis, among other possibilities. It could also be converted into free or subsidized office/studio space for cultural nonprofits, artists, and community organizations that can’t afford rent because of developments like Hudson Yards, or for events like pop-up free healthcare clinics or other services for those in need. Further, there should be a public conversation to include government officials that rethinks how the next phase of Hudson Yards is allowed to proceed, with an eye toward much more community oversight, regulation, and built-in systems for clawing back public money/tax incentives if and when promises aren’t kept.
 
View this post on Instagram
 

A post shared by The Shack (@the_shed_is_a_shack) on

What should Hudson Yards have been? Hudson Yards should have been a true public-private partnership, which means careful input, oversight, and regulation by the community at every stage and ongoing for the life of the development. That’s a hard and challenging process, but it’s necessary and fair if developers want to get decades of tax incentives, city- and state-paid infrastructure, and other public money. Hudson Yards could have and should have been an actual mixed-use community, with truly integrated housing for low-income, middle, and yes even some luxury, as well as a range of nonprofit, business, and retail spaces that genuinely serve the neighborhood needs more broadly. It should have true public space (not privately owned space that the developer controls on whim) and cultural venues that more fully reflect the needs and interests of the community. Cultural and creative programming and public artwork should be informed by and ultimately decided by those with expertise in the field alongside community members, not by one rich guy who wants a big Heatherwick bauble because he thinks it’s what other rich guys like. If he wants a Heatherwick (or anything else), he’s welcome to buy it and build it—but not with the support and help of public money and infrastructure.
 
View this post on Instagram
 

A post shared by The Shack (@the_shed_is_a_shack) on

Because the developers of Hudson Yards are claiming private control of the entire space (even though this isn’t actually correct, with the Shed on city-owned land and the Hudson Yards subway part of the MTA), they are asserting that visitors don’t have the same rights they would normally have in a public space. That’s deeply problematic on many levels (impacting everything from the right to protest, to who gets to sit on benches or be otherwise harassed under what conditions, as well as in their use of facial recognition technology in the kiosks and other surveillance measures by the developers). So there should be requirements that dictate how any development that benefits from public support can control that space.
 
View this post on Instagram
 

A post shared by The Shack (@the_shed_is_a_shack) on

Also if you have anything to add about the processes by which public property is developed . . . Similar to what we noted should have happened with Hudson Yards, the process for [the] development of public space and property (and public-private developments) needs to be more carefully safeguarded and regulated, and there needs to be oversight by independent community experts and individuals who are not in any way affiliated with the developers. And this oversight should continue for the lifetime of the property and with teeth to match (heavy fines and claw-backs for developers who renege on promises, for example). We all know how arduous these kinds of processes can be, but it’s necessary if we want to ensure projects truly benefit the public. That doesn’t mean there needs to be total consensus on every aspect of a project (which is impossible to obtain in any case and often leads to art-horse-by-committee outcomes), but it means the decision-making needs to be led by a sense of true commitment to the public good and strict, proactive measures to ensure there are not conflicts of interest. There also needs to be a more nuanced understanding and recognition of how we assign expertise and decision-making power within this oversight and community process; for example, there’s a tendency to assume “expert” in the arts only applies to a well-known museum president, a wealthy collector, or a big name artist, when in fact it should include arts workers and others who have active, on-the-job experience within cultural organizations, or an avid arts goer who is not financially able to be a donor/collector but loves art with the same zeal as an Aggie [Agnes] Gund, among other examples. There are many of these people throughout the city, and their voices should be given a place. Not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because our public spaces will be made better by their input.
Placeholder Alt Text

The Ole Two-Step

Hunter’s Point South Park completes a Queens coastline years in the making
What goes into a park? We dug into the parts and pieces of landscape design to explore and illustrate the forces, material histories, and narratives that hide beneath the surface. This article is the first of three such deep dives, which includes Tongva Park in Santa Monica, California, and The Gathering Place in Tulsa, Oklahoma. All illustrations were done by Adam Paul Susaneck.

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.”

Lighting

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.

Structures

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.

Furniture

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.

Transportation

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.

Vegetation

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.

Infrastructure

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.

Art

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.

Placeholder Alt Text

New Nexus

WXY and city will reimagine Brooklyn’s Broadway Junction

In an ongoing effort to reimagine the transit nexus at Broadway Junction in East New York and its surrounding built environment, officials in Brooklyn have released preliminary ideas of what the area could look like. City leaders convened the Broadway Junction Working Group for the first time in October 2017 and, working with WXY Architecture + Urban Design, have since assembled a list of recommendations for improvements to the area in terms of transit equity, economic development, neighborhood amenities, and public space. With a series of interconnected subway stations that services the A, C, J, Z, and L lines, the area presents a significant opportunity to provide, as the recommendations suggest, “more good jobs, new retail and services, and active streets and public spaces—with an improved and accessible transit hub at its core.”

Currently, Broadway Junction suffers from a variety of factors that inhibit its potential as a hub of economic and social activity. Poor lighting under the elevated subway structures, as well as numerous parking lots in the immediate vicinity of the stations, make the surrounding blocks particularly hostile to people. With the integration of seating, greenery, public programming, and new infrastructural elements under the tracks, city officials and WXY hope to open up Broadway Junction’s public spaces for use by residents of the surrounding communities.

Overall, the plan calls for a mixed-use district that responds to the needs of the neighborhood without risking the widespread displacement of small businesses and residents that often accompanies major transit-related development projects. With the resources of the New York City Department of Small Business Services (SBS) and the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) at their disposal, business owners will be able to take advantage of commercial tenant legal services, business training courses, and other services. There will also be an effort to render the streetscape safer for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists alike. Improvements to road circulation and various traffic-calming measures will ensure that those who drive, take transit, or walk in the area will be able to interact under less dangerous conditions. The subway stations at the junction will also be retrofitted to be more accessible to passengers with disabilities.

The Broadway Junction Working Group is supported by the Department of City Planning (DCP), the New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT), the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation (DPR), among other agencies.

Placeholder Alt Text

Shake It Up

Why doesn't the U.S. design buildings to survive earthquakes?
Earthquakes have been in the news lately with increasing regularity: Southern California recently experienced a July 4th quake registering 6.4 on the Richter scale followed by one just a day later at 7.1. It's predicted that within the week there's an 11 percent chance that a major quake could follow, and, of course, there's the looming specter of the so-called Big One. But despite the relative frequency of seismic activity on the West coast and in other parts of the United States, in general, the U.S. lags behind other earthquake-prone countries, especially Japan, in terms of earthquake readiness. A recent New York Times investigation asked why, when buildings can be designed to stand up to earthquakes, the United States has so few of them. Though there are notable exceptions—like older retrofits such as Los Angeles’s city hall, and luxurious new construction like Apple’s Foster + Partners-designed headquarters, a ring that floats on base isolators rather than being fixed to a traditional foundation—most buildings in the States feature concrete cores, relatively un-rigid construction, and no seismic shock absorbers or isolation systems. Even those that do, the Times reports, are of varying quality of construction, with many failing basic preparedness tests. Simply put, while Japanese buildings are, in general, designed to sway in an earthquake and minimize damage (and use a steel grid to make up their core), American buildings are designed primarily to fail and collapse in a way that will hopefully minimize loss of life. This can mostly be chalked up to not only weak regulations, but to economics. It’s more costly to build an earthquake-ready building, though obviously only in the short run. A federal study demonstrated that rebuilding after a quake in urban centers will cost billions of dollars, and is four times as expensive as simply building a structure that can stand up to an earthquake in the first place. However, with lax laws and a real estate and development market that prioritizes short term ownership and thinking, building owners and developers remain wary of spending the extra cash up front; estimated to only add approximately 13–15 percent in cost in a seven-story building, according to the Japanese construction company Nice Corporation. Though, per the Times, engineer Ian Aiken says that some systems “can cost as little as 5% more.” Tokyo, which experiences more than 1,000 seismic events each year, is also anticipating its own big quake in the next 30 years, a follow up to the devastating 1923 earthquake. while predictions of the potential damage remain calamitous, there is perhaps no city more ready to take the hit. Not only are high rises, skyscrapers, and smaller buildings all designed to withstand significant seismic activity, but, as The Guardian reports, “parks feature hidden emergency toilets and benches that turn into cooking stoves, and the city has the world’s largest fire brigade, specifically trained to prevent the kind of flash blazes that spread after earthquakes.” The city is not only a world population and business center, but also a major tourist destination, something that's likely to become only more true with events like the upcoming 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics. But even new construction for the Olympics is getting the high tech treatment. Seismic isolation bearings are being placed inside the new Tokyo Aquatics Center and the Ariake Arena, which will be home to Olympic volleyball and wheelchair basketball games. The aquatics center and arena are using Bridgestone Seismic Isolation Systems, an update to older methods that relied on increasing the rigidity of buildings or adding additional framing. Instead of adding greater rigidity, base isolation systems use rubber bearings ranging in size between approximately 23 inches and 70 inches to allow structures to sway slowly and cause only minor disturbances, if any at all, on the floors above, instead of allowing the whole structure to shake violently. Similar such bearings can be found in buildings like Tokyo Station and Los Angeles's City Hall. While the isolators are often placed in the foundations of buildings, for the new arenas, they’ve been located in the roofs, a common approach for buildings with large open spaces that helps decrease the stress on the roof’s support elements. Still, all the technology in the world only goes so far if the community isn’t prepared. As Tokyo-based disaster preparedness specialist Ronin Takashi Lewis told The Guardian, even all this tech, “If you look around the Tokyo skyscrapers it’s incredible how advanced a lot of technology here is, especially seismic resistance – but my concern is preparedness at the community and individual level.” As per usual, technology alone won’t save us. Still, hopefully the United States can learn from Tokyo and invest in resilient buildings for safer cities and communities.
Placeholder Alt Text

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.