Search results for "New York City Economic Development Corporation"

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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.
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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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Future Fellows

Knight Foundation announces its first class of Public Spaces Fellows
Seven influential leaders, experts, and practitioners have been selected for the inaugural class of Knight Public Spaces Fellows. Launched this year by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, a non-profit committed to fostering community in service of democratic ideals, the program will grant each individual $150,000 to put towards building effective public space initiatives around the United States. Selected from an open call that drew of over 2,000 candidates, the Knight Fellows stood out for their track records of influencing or creating spaces that advance community engagement and connection in cities. Sam Gill, the Knight Foundation vice president for communities and impact, describes the individuals recognized in this inaugural class, saying in a statement, “These rare people see something different when they look at streets, parks, and sidewalks—they see a vision of how our communities could look, feel, and be different.” Knight has expressed a desire for their chosen nominees to incorporate and build upon their existing and former projects, while also using the fellowship to break ground on new projects and ideas for the field. Check out the list of seven recipients below:  Anuj Gupta (Philadelphia) As general manager of Reading Terminal Market, Philadelphia's famous 125-year-old food and retail hub, Gupta has helped bring a record number of visitors to the space in his tenure. He's integrated innovation distribution models for service, selected new and trendy vendors, and figured out special ways to keep people coming back to the market. He's widely recognized for his initiatives that connect people of different cultures through food.  Robert Hammond (New York) Hammond is the cofounder and executive director of the High Line on Manhattan's West Side. A vision that began 20 years ago, it's now one of the biggest tourist attractions in the city and has spurred a wave of development in the Chelsea neighborhood. In 2017, he established the High Line Network, which assists communities in the infrastructure reuse projects.  Walter Hood (Berkeley, California) Widely known for designing award-winning urban spaces for cultural institutions such as the Cooper Hewitt Museum, the Broad Museum, and the Solar Strand at the University of Buffalo, Hood creates projects that intersect with art, fabrication, landscape, research, and urbanism. He's a professor at the University of California, Berkley where he teaches landscape architecture and urban design, and is the founder and creative director of Hood Design Studio Eric Klinenberg (New York) As the Helen Gould Shepard Professor of Social Science at New York University, Klinenberg thinks and teaches on urban public spaces. He most recently served as research director of Rebuild by Design, the federal competition that sought innovative ideas for rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Last year, he published “Palaces for the People”, a book about how social infrastructure such as libraries, parks, and playgrounds can revitalize democratic culture and civic life. Chelina Odbert (Los Angeles) Odbert is co-founder and executive director of Kounkuey Design Initiative, a nonprofit design firm based out of Los Angeles, the Coachella Valley, Nairobi, and Stockholm. Her studio heavily focuses on community participation and its role in public development, as well as how design can integrate the strongest environmental, social, and economic strategies to help solve inequity.  Kathryn Ott Lovell (Philadelphia) Lovel currently serves as the commissioner of Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, one of the nation's largest parks systems. Appointed in 2016, she established the first strategic plan for the agency, "Our Path to 2020," which emphasizes citizen-centric service, a commitment to the city's well-maintained assets, and creating relevant and accessible programming such as the Parks on Tap mobile beer garden, and the Philadelphia International Unity Cup soccer tournament, among others.  Erin Salazar (San Jose, California) Salazar is the founder and executive director of Exhibition District in San Jose, a woman-owned and operated arts nonprofit that's helping create economic opportunities for artists to do work in downtown San Jose. A muralist herself, she is committed to city beautification and redefining the concept of public space while also drawing out the cultural authenticity of a city that's rapidly urbanizing and full of large corporations. Most recently, Exhibition District started Local Color, an incubator project that reactivates neglected buildings. 
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Torts, Tech, Towers

Weekend edition: Tech urbanism, liability explained, and more
Missed some of this week’s architecture news, or our tweets and Facebook posts from the last few days? Don’t sweat it—we’ve gathered the week’s must-read stories right here. Enjoy! Forty-five story jail tower could be coming to Lower Manhattan The plan to close the jail facilities on Rikers Island is chugging along, but community opposition towards the borough-based replacements is bubbling over. The origins and perils of development in the urban tech landscape Author and professor Sharon Zukin looks at the history and the origins of the urban tech landscape, and how it has manifested in New York and elsewhere. Are design professionals liable for failing to anticipate the effects of climate change? Two experts give advice to architects about their legal liability in designing for climate change in their projects—just following code may not be enough. After Hudson Yards, Sunnyside could be New York's next megadevelopment After New York City's Hudson Yards megadevelopment elicited critical disappointment when it opened, our editor in chief posits Sunnyside could be next. Mexico City’s cost-saving replacement airport to break ground in June President Andrés Manuel López Obrador canceled the $13 billion Mexico City airport after a public referendum, but the alternative will soon break ground. Have a great weekend, and see you Monday!
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Tort Talk

Are design professionals liable for failing to anticipate the effects of climate change?
We do not need more vivid reminders that extreme weather events have the potential to cause appalling loss of life and tremendous property damage. The deadly fires that burned through California in November 2018 followed hard on the heels of a series of hurricanes and floods that wreaked terrible human and economic damage from New York to Houston and Puerto Rico. We are becoming increasingly confident that these extreme events are caused by climate change or, at any rate, that climate change makes them significantly more likely. Recently, the Fourth National Climate Assessment warned that climate change will cost the United States economy hundreds of billions of dollars annually by the end of the century. Increasingly, stakeholders in the construction process are recognizing that buildings need to be designed to withstand the climate conditions of tomorrow as well as today. Naturally, this leads to the question of whether there will be a legal liability when design professionals fail to anticipate the conditions brought about by climate change. There are several avenues by which a design professional might be held liable for failure to adapt to climate change. This article focuses on torts and tort-like duties, which represent a significant risk for design professionals. There are other sources of liability, though. Contracts, statutes, and regulations may all impose particular requirements on architects and engineers. Representations that a project complies with certain standards might also generate litigation. For example, in the wake of the recent California wildfires, the state’s largest utility company was sued by shareholders alleging that it was liable to its shareholders for failing to prevent the fires. Tort law is the body of law that governs our duties to others and the damages that may be due if those duties are violated. It is tort law that generally governs lawsuits over medical malpractice, for example, the injured party claims that they should be compensated because the medical professional’s actions fell below an acceptable standard of care and caused their injury. Under tort law, the design professional owes a duty toward those who could foreseeably be impacted by his or her actions—potentially extending beyond those to whom design professional have contractual duties (such as project owners) to include others, such as users or neighbors. Generally, the duty extends only to those who suffer physical injury to person or property—a tenant whose possessions are damaged by floodwater might have a claim against the design professional; the store across the road that loses business due to a building closure very likely does not.

Tort suits alleging liability for failure to adapt to climate change are unusual, but there are signs that they may be becoming more commonplace.

Tort suits alleging liability for failure to adapt to climate change are unusual, but there are signs that they may be becoming more commonplace. An Illinois insurer recently filed (and then dropped) lawsuits alleging that various state municipalities were responsible for payouts because their stormwater management plans did not anticipate increased rainfall that caused flooding. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, plaintiffs argued, with some success, that it was foreseeable to the US Army Corps of Engineers that a navigation channel would change the local microclimate in ways that exacerbated hurricane damage (St. Bernard Par. Gov't v. United States, 121 Fed. Cl. 687, 721 (2015), rev'd on other grounds, 887 F.3d 1354 (Fed. Cir. 2018), petition for cert. filed, No. 18-359 (Sept. 9, 2018). Tort-like duties may arise in other contexts. Contracts might impose tort-like duties upon design professionals. For example, an architect whose contract specifies a useful life for a building might have a duty to anticipate the effects of climate change during that timeframe. Similarly, statutes can impose tort-like duties and may even be enforceable by private plaintiffs—a not-for-profit was recently found to have the standing to sue an oil company over allegations that its vulnerability to flooding made it incompatible with “good engineering practices” under the Clean Water Act. So, what is the standard of care? Simply put, design professionals have a duty to exercise the care of a reasonable practitioner in the location. Unfortunately, complying with this simple standard can be tricky, and the door is often open for someone to argue after a problem develops that the architect or engineer did not exercise the required level of care. The best way to minimize the chances of that door being opened is to pay careful attention to local best practices.

Compliance with local codes does not insulate the design professionals from liability if their peers are building to a higher standard.

Building codes are one potential pitfall. While failure to comply with local building codes can lead to a finding of a per se (i.e., automatic) violation of the design professional’s duty, compliance with local codes does not insulate the design professionals from liability if their peers are building to a higher standard. Design professionals would be well-advised to be aware when local codes are outdated or backward-looking. For example, most states’ building codes do not account for sea-level rise. Similarly, relying on locally available climate data or projections may not be enough to protect the design professional from liability. Today, an architect in New York would have access to well-founded floodplain maps that take into account the potential impacts of climate change. However, this was not always the case. When Hurricane Sandy struck in 2012, many communities’ FEMA maps dated back to 1983. In this situation, it would be more difficult for a design professional to claim that reliance on official floodplain data was reasonable. And this is a significant problem—a 2017 government audit found that 58 percent of FEMA floodplain maps nationally were out-of-date. Further, although New York City benefits from an additional set of FEMA-drawn maps that anticipate the impact of rising sea levels, this is not the case nationally, meaning that even a brand-new floodplain map represents the chance of being hit with a flood in the last century rather than the next one. Practitioners should also be aware of codes governing public development. Future plaintiffs could argue that they are admissible to attack or to buttress expert opinions on the prevailing standard of care for private development. Our practitioner in New York should be aware of the city’s new Climate Resiliency Design Guidelines, which identify climate change risks and appropriate resiliency interventions for city projects—such as raising machinery when building in a potential floodplain. New York is not alone—various other state and local bodies, such as Boston, have developed or are developing similar standards. The Illinois lawsuits discussed above relied, in part, on rainfall predictions in the Chicago Climate Action Plan. Similarly, plaintiffs may argue that various nonbinding standards show prevailing practice. Industry bodies such as the American Society of Civil Engineers are attempting to develop such standards, and the Canadian Engineering Qualifications Board has published standards for engineers adapting to climate change. There is also the risk—as some design professionals have experienced with LEED certification—that undertaking to comply with otherwise nonbinding standards could create legal obligations. Our climate is changing rapidly. Design professionals already have plenty of incentives to make sure that our buildings and infrastructure are ready. A further incentive is that it reduces the risk of tort liability. Larry Dany is a partner at Eversheds Sutherland (US) LLP where he leads the Construction Industry Practice Group in New York City. He helps clients across the construction industry resolve a wide variety of complex business and legal challenges through planning, contract negotiation and drafting, dispute avoidance, claim management, arbitration, and litigation from inception through jury trial in state and federal courts across the country.  Nicholas Boyd is an associate at Eversheds Sutherland (US) LLP. He advises corporations, financial services companies, and state agencies on complex business and civil litigation matters. His practice has a particular emphasis on antitrust disputes, class actions and construction lawsuits.
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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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And the winner is...

Graham Foundation announces 2019 architectural research grants winners
The Graham Foundation recently announced the winners of 63 grants for projects that ranged from exhibits on suburban housing stock to research on the effects of MTV on postmodern space. The Chicago-based foundation awarded more than $460,000 to awardees from around the world, selected from more than 500 proposals. In total, more than 4,500 projects have been funded by the Graham Foundation since 1956. New domestic formations, the topography of epidemics, and an examination of architecture's relationship to riots are among the projects awarded Graham funding. Below is a selection of the exhibits, publications, programs, and research projects that were among this year's awardees, with text provided by the Graham Foundation. Lap Chi Kwong and Alison Von Glinow  for the exhibit Smuggling Architecture "The history of the suburban house has been and continues to be codified in a handful of builder's manuals that offer a huge selection of home plans to pick-and-choose buyers. These builder homes are living artifacts: a domestic typology rigidly embedded within the American landscape. Smuggling Architecture seeks to reclaim the suburban housing stock that has been neglected by modern architecture. The exhibition optimistically smuggles meaning and value into the interiors of generic suburban house plans through architectural orders." The Extrapolation Factory, practice founded by Elliott P. Montgomery and Chris Woebken for the public program Metro Test Zones "Metro Test Zones, a new initiative from The Extrapolation Factory, proposes studying the way think-tanks work and distilling those approaches to make them accessible to communities and individuals. Providing tools for visualizing dreams from all sorts of cultural perspectives opens up new rhetorical spaces for questioning the world with greater potential for change." Frida Escobedo and Xavier Nueno for the research project An Atlas of New Mexican Ruins "If archeological ruins were rearranged during the postrevolutionary period in museums and historical sites to construct Mexico’s postcolonial identity, “designed ruins” have become the testimony of the undoing of the Mexican nation-state under the close supervision of transnational institutions and corporations... An Atlas of New Mexican Ruins aims, through a series of visual and theoretical case studies, to explore the destructive—although productive—architectural work of neoliberalism in Mexico." Nahyun Hwang & David Eugin Moon for the exhibit: Interim Urbanism: Youth, Dwelling, City "Youths represent a dynamic yet precarious section of today’s populations. No longer belonging to safe spaces of childhood, but not yet, if ever, integrated into the expected paradigms of traditional family structures, a large portion of today’s youths, while seemingly spontaneous in lifestyle choices and welcoming mobility, occupy the vulnerable spaces of the in-between and the prolonged interim. The project investigates the spaces that youths reside in, as they intersect with sustained sociopolitical and economic uncertainties, inequalities, and emergent lifestyles." Nandini Bagchee and Marlisa Wise for the exhibit: Homesteading and Cooperative Housing Movements in NYC, 1970s and 80s "The exhibition Homesteading and Cooperative Housing Movements in NYC, 1970s and 80s, tracks the impact of collective, self-organized practices such as squatting, homesteading, and resident mutual aid in New York City and examines the way in which they have shaped the city. By analyzing ownership models, construction methods, spatial techniques, and material practices deployed by the cooperative housing movement, and presenting them through an immersive and interactive environment, the exhibition asks audience members to imagine new models for equitable development and spatial commoning." Heather Hart  for the research project Afrotecture (Re)Collection "This work is unearthing, interpreting, and constructing architectures for liminal spaces that emerge from the intersection of notable African American narratives, architectural form, and theory. What might happen if the balcony of the infamous Lorraine Hotel—the Memphis, TN, establishment where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968—was replicated in a gallery space? Beatriz Colomina, Ignacio G. Galán, Evangelos Kotsioris, and Anna-Maria Meister for the publication Radical Pedagogies "Radical Pedagogies is a collaborative history project that explores a series of pedagogical experiments that played a crucial role in shaping architectural discourse and practice in the second half of the twentieth century. As a challenge to normative thinking, they questioned, redefined, and reshaped the postwar field of architecture. They are radical in the literal meaning stemming from the Latin radix (root), as they question the basis of architecture. These new modes of teaching shook foundations and disturbed assumptions, rather than reinforcing and disseminating them. They operated as small endeavors, sometimes on the fringes of institutions, but had long-lasting impact." Sara R. Harris and Jesse Lerner  for the film These Fragmentations Only Mean ... "In the late 1980s, the artist Noah Purifoy retired from his position of many years on the California Arts Council and moved from Sacramento to a remote desert site just north of Joshua Tree National Park. There, over the last fifteen years of his life, he created a complex series of assemblage sculptures and precarious architectural constructions that sprawl over ten acres of the high desert land, administered by the Noah Purifoy Foundation. With the support of the Noah Purifoy Foundation, this remarkable site is at the center of this documentary project." The full list of grantees is below and at the Graham Foundation site. EXHIBITIONS Florencia Alvarez Pacheco, (Buenos Aires, Argentina) Petra Bachmaier, Sean Gallero, and Iker Gil (Chicago, IL) Nandini Bagchee and Marlisa Wise (New York, NY) Shumi Bose, Emma Letizia Jones, Guillaume Othenin-Girard, and Nemanja Zimonjić (London, United Kingdom and Zürich, Switzerland) Nahyun Hwang and David Eugin Moon (New York, NY) Lap Chi Kwong and Alison Von Glinow (Chicago, IL) Sahra Motalebi (New York, NY) Anna Neimark (Los Angeles, CA) FILM/VIDEO/NEW MEDIA PROJECTS Rodrigo Brum and Sama Waly (Cairo, Egypt) Dani Gal (Berlin, Germany) Sara R. Harris and Jesse Lerner (Los Angeles, CA) Sean Lally (Lausanne, Switzerland)Lisa Malloy and J.P. Sniadecki (Evanston, IL and Redmond, WA) PUBLIC PROGRAMS The Extrapolation Factory: Elliott P. Montgomery and Chris Woebken (New York, NY) Anna Martine Whitehead (Chicago, IL) PUBLICATIONS Pep Avilés and Matthew Kennedy (Mexico City, Mexico and University Park, PA) Andrea Bagnato and Anna Positano (Genoa, Italy and Milan, Italy) Claire Bishop (New York, NY) Anna Bokov (New York, NY) Larry D. Busbea (Tucson, AZ) Sara Jensen Carr (Boston, MA) Beatriz Colomina, Ignacio G. Galán, Evangelos Kotsioris, and Anna-Maria Meister (Munich, Germany; New York, NY; and Princeton, NJ) Elisa Dainese and Aleksandar Staničić (Delft, the Netherlands and Halifax, Canada) Marco Ferrari, Elisa Pasqual, and Andrea Bagnato (Milan, Italy) Natasha Ginwala, Gal Kirn, and Niloufar Tajeri (Berlin, Germany) Vanessa Grossman, Charlotte Malterre-Barthes, and Ciro Miguel (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Zurich, Switzerland) Jeffrey Hogrefe and Scott Ruff (Baldwin, NY and Lancaster, PA) Eric Höweler and Meejin Yoon (Ithaca, NY and Boston, MA) Beth Hughes and Adrian Lahoud (London, United Kingdom and Sydney, Australia) Robert Hutchison (Seattle, WA) Pamela Johnston (London, United Kingdom) Seng Kuan (Cambridge, MA) George Legrady (Santa Barbara, CA) Zhongjie Lin (Philadelphia, PA) Brian McGrath and Sereypagna Pen (New York, NY and Phnom Penh, Cambodia) Lala Meredith-Vula (Leicester, United Kingdom) Ginger Nolan (Los Angeles, CA) Todd Reisz (Amsterdam, the Netherlands) Erin Eckhold Sassin (Middlebury, VT) Steve Seid (Richmond, CA) Katherine Smith (Decatur, GA) Susan Snodgrass (Chicago, IL) Penny Sparke (London, United Kingdom) Mark Wasiuta (New York, NY) Folayemi (Fo) Wilson (Chicago, IL) RESEARCH PROJECTS Miquel Adrià (Mexico City, Mexico) Joshua Barone, Phillip Denny, and Eléonore Schöffer (Cambridge, MA; New York, NY; and Paris, France) Kadambari Baxi (New York, NY) Gauri Bharat (Ahmedabad, India) Santiago Borja (Mexico City, Mexico) Michael Borowski (Blacksburg, VA) Frida Escobedo and Xavier Nueno (Mexico City, Mexico) Assaf Evron and Dan Handel (Chicago, IL and Haifa, Israel) Beate Geissler, Orit Halpern, and Oliver Sann (Chicago, IL and Montréal, Canada) Heather Hart (New York, NY) Alison Hirsch (Pasadena, CA) David J. Lewis, Paul Lewis, and Marc Tsurumaki (New York, NY) Onnis Luque and Mariana Ordóñez (Mexico City, Mexico) Jonathan Mekinda (Chicago, IL) Giovanna Silva (Milan, Italy) Léa-Catherine Szacka (Manchester, United Kingdom) Jessica Vaughn (New York, NY) Edward A. Vazquez (Middlebury, VT)
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Restoration Plaza

David Adjaye to help build strategic plan for Central Brooklyn community
David Adjaye is teaming up with the U.S.’s first community development corporation (CDC) to revitalize its home of 50 years. Restoration Plaza, headquarters of the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation in Brooklyn, New York, will get a total revamp through a five-year strategic plan that will include input from local residents. Located on Fulton Street, the campus has long been a community anchor in Bedford-Stuyvesant, or Bed-Stuy, as the neighborhood is known. The complex currently houses office space, a restaurant, commercial tenants, the Brooklyn Business Center, and the recently-renovated, historic Billie Holiday Theatre. Adjaye Associates will work with Restoration and local residents to redefine the 300,000-square-foot commercial plaza and add 400,000 square feet of office space to the site. For the influential nonprofit, the massive undertaking will further its mission of disrupting and closing the racial wealth gap in Central Brooklyn—something that’s becoming an even bigger focal point as the area gentrifies and longtime residents feel the pressure of higher rents. Through the plan, Restoration will create new centers—one for personal financial health, one for community asset building, one for social entrepreneurship and enterprise, as well as new accommodations for its existing RestorationART program. These initiatives will help bridge existing inequities by providing locals the assistance they need to continue investing in Bed-Stuy’s future amidst its rapid growth. Since it was established in 1967, Restoration has played a key role in the neighborhood’s development. A predominantly low-income area, it served as a testing ground for the Special Impact Program, an amendment to the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 that was started by Senator Jacob K. Javits, Mayor John W. Lindsay, and Senator Robert F. Kennedy. The plan saw business leaders from around the country, including those from the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation and the Ford Foundation, invest in the build-out of what would become the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation. The plaza, which envelops all of Restoration’s offices and the businesses its attracted over the years, was renovated in the early 2000s, and has been repeatedly updated since then. This new overhaul and expansion by Adjaye Associates will bring a modern feel to the site in hopes of boosting job growth across various industries in the area, including tech, fashion, and hospitality—sectors that are largely burgeoning along the Brooklyn waterfront. Though no specific details for the site’s renovation have been released yet, the nonprofit said it aims to build new spaces that better attract these innovative businesses. For Adjaye, he’s ready for the chance to physically build upon Restoration’s rich legacy and announce its influence through new architecture that the locals deserve. “Our team is embarking on a notable mission to re-imagine Restoration Plaza and showcase its impact on the Bed-Stuy community and the country,” said Adjaye in a statement. “As the nation’s first CDC, Restoration has a long history of setting a high standard for the advancement of African American and Caribbean residents who built Central Brooklyn and poured their soul into the community. It’s our honor to be a part of this powerful five-year plan to remake this iconic community epicenter and tackle the large challenge of sustained wealth through the closure of a heartbreaking wealth gap in this city.”    
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Little Dubai

Welcome to Little Dubai, New York City’s newest neighborhood
In a recent review titled “The Case Against Hudson Yards Diningon Eater, the inimitable food critic Ryan Sutton examined the food and beverage options at the mirage-like, instant Hudson Yards (henceforth Little Dubai), New York City’s newest neighborhood. The dining scene is not a pretty picture, and the food options are just part of the bigger picture, dovetailing with the urbanism to expose the ugliness of 21st-century development culture. As Sutton notes, Little Dubai “is a taxpayer-subsidized development that solidifies Manhattan’s slow transformation from one of the world’s most distinctive urban centers into a nondescript international mall for the wealthy.” His biggest gripe? Rather than representing the wonderful melange of cultures that thrive in New York, the food and beverage programming is a cynical commercialized selection that has no roots in the place it resides. “The only place for pizza—New York’s quintessentially affordable street food—will be a D.C.-based chain where a lunchtime Margherita starts at $11.50. The only Chinese-leaning restaurant will be an ‘East meets West’ spot run by a Dutch guy known for his competent Continental spots in airports, concert halls, and museums,” he laments. The condition Sutton describes could easily be in a number of cities around the world, where international flavors are imported wholesale and in no particular fashion or relationship to the place they now inhabit. This cultural importation is a new ideology: In an era where financial markets and soft power makes national borders less and less important, it makes sense that a new type of immigrant cultural exchange would begin to take hold—one that no longer even requires physical, transnational immigration. Cultural exchange can now take place on airplanes, waves of capital, and wires of data in an age of nearly frictionless globalization. That is how New York’s newest neighborhood, Little Dubai, got its character. As much as Little Dubai’s food selections should shock us, so should the art and architecture. The art follows a similar path as the food with superstar curators—ubercurator Hans Ulrich Obrist is a senior advisor—brought in to inject the place with some kind of pop-up world-class culture, much like what the UAE did at the Louvre Abu Dhabi, where the name and collection were rubber-clone-stamped from the old world of Europe to the open expanses of the 21st-century Gulf, where anything goes. Or consider Rain Room, the phenomenon that had lines around the block at MoMA in 2013. The Sharjah Art Foundation has not only acquired Rain Room for its permanent collection, but they built an entire new building to house it. This kind of cultural exchange—that of international consultants—relies on enormous amounts of capital to lubricate its mechanisms. No longer does it require, however, actual immigration or imperialism to carry culture from one place to the next, as was the case in the 19th and 20th centuries when neighborhoods like Little Italy’s, Chinatowns, Koreatowns, and Little Ethiopias naturally popped up around the world. Rather than streets of mom-and-pop shops, entire campus-like neighborhoods are instantly animated as breathing lungs of cultural import-export, with nothing to stop them. Which brings us to the architecture of Little Dubai. There are several similarities to Dubai at Hudson Yards. The most obvious is that the towers themselves look like those non-descript condos and offices that make up most of the building stock in Dubai. Moreover, the neighborhood was master planned by KPF, who also crank out towers in the Gulf and Asia more generally. The similarities run deeper, from the food to the development patterns to the urban experience. Like any good enclave, the mechanisms that have produced Little Dubai look a lot like those that produced the original Dubai and its urban environment. This is not to say that Little Dubai necessarily comes from Dubai itself. It is not that simple. In fact, New York and developing nations such as the UAE and China are in a constant feedback loop, where the West exports ideas about managerial production systems such as large architecture firms and the corresponding banal corporate aesthetics. As Michel Foucault once noted,
that while colonization, with its techniques and its political and juridical weapons, obviously transported European models to other continents, it also had a considerable boomerang effect on the mechanisms of power in the West, and on the apparatuses, institutions, and techniques of power. A whole series of colonial models was brought back to the West, and the result was that the West could practice something resembling colonization, or an internal colonialism, on itself.
“Firms like KPF and Foster take on these projects overseas where they can grow and practice working as larger firms,” said Todd Reisz, assistant professor at Yale, “Once they get big and good enough, they can bring these ideas about—how to make a city from the ground up—back home.” This is how New York’s Little Dubai came to be. The original Dubai was opened up to private land ownership in 2002 in an attempt to become a stable place post-9/11 for foreigners—especially Middle Easterners, Africans, and South Asians—to park their money. Special economic zones were established that allowed business and development to operate without the strict controls of Shariah that governed the rest of the UAE. In these economic zones, international trade was encouraged by specially crafted civil legal code geared specifically toward port businesses (foreign investment.) For example, a team of international consultants from mega-firm McKinsey advised the Dubai government in 2002 to draft a set of UK-style regulations for the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) free zone, a “state within a state” that would operate with a different official currency—the U.S. dollar— and a different official language—English—than the rest of the UAE. It was designed by none other than architectural behemoth Gensler. This international managerial complex was the logical conclusion of some 300 years of colonial urbanization of developing nations around the world, perfected by the UAE government. Companies like Emaar and Dubai Holdings buy and develop enormous plots of land that serve as self-sustaining neighborhoods that don’t need to have much connection to their surroundings. Because of their sheer size, and the scale of the projects they oversee, these massive companies also obscure the relationship between public and private. In New York’s Little Dubai, a similar situation exists. The New York City Department of City Planning (DCP) acts a bit like the real estate state of the UAE, doing large rezonings and tax incentives to foster these big developments. Nearly 1 billion dollars in tax abatements were given to Related Cos., Little Dubai’s developer, in addition to nearly 4.6 million in infrastructure improvements and other incentives. And often, because of the private nature, DCP has little authority to begin with. Because the development is on state-owned land, there was no oversight from community boards. The parcel became part of a larger economic development strategy that usurps local regulation, leaving the citizens of New York City more-or-less out of the conversation. Little Dubai is regulated by a network of rules and capital that transcends physical territory, just like the “Old World” Dubai in UAE (this model is also being pursued by ultimate cloud-based dark-power-mongers Google in Toronto). This has led to a sort of Free Economic Zone, where Stephen M. Ross, Related’s chairman, is a sort of urban autocrat, pushing through what he wants when he wants. For example, in Little Dubai, Thomas Heatherwick’s 154-staircase monument Vessel was simply ordered for $200 million, shipped from Italy, and fastened together in about 18 months, with little in the way of design review or public process. It is not necessarily a bad thing, but it raises important questions. At 28 acres (0.042 sq miles, or 11 hectares), Little Dubai has the characteristics of an entire neighborhood, with its own circulation paths, central public space, and complete set of programmatic functions from retail, residential, commercial, “cultural,” and leisure/hospitality spaces carefully orchestrated in both plan and section. Dubai is a place where these large private developments have happened so fast that they do not relate to one another on the street-level. The piecemeal nature leaves hotels and malls and gated communities difficult to access because nothing was planned to connect at the street. While Dubai’s infrastructure haphazardly connects these megadevelopments with curls of spaghetti-like roads and onramps, Hudson Yards has similarly managed to bend New York’s infrastructure to its will—the 7 subway line was extended to the northern entrance to Little Dubai’s main plaza. Vessel and its counterpart, The Shed, occupy an important niche in the rich culture of Little Dubai: they serve as the attractors to get tourists to come and play, and thus spend money at retail options. Like the spectacular Dubai Aquarium, Dubai Frame, and man-made islands such as Palm Jumeirah, Vessel acts to bring attention to the place. The High Line is already doing this, but these new spectacles will bring in tourists en masse, possibly so much that this area will be like a cleaner and even less exciting Times Square. This centralization of power—via a marriage of government and private interests—gives power to consultants to plan whole districts, as well as ties together Little Dubai and its namesake (and the other countless cities like it). It should not come as a surprise that this is taking place in New York. In fact, it is a very New York phenomenon, as much of this type of culture was shipped from New York’s office towers (literally and metaphorically.) The process of globalization and the complete control of technocratic consultants has crystallized in spectacular fashion before our eyes in New York’s newest neighborhood, Little Dubai. What remains to be seen is how the local context will absorb this pseudo-neighborhood. What is scary for New Yorkers is that it seems like it is going to fit right into its place at the apex of the Highline.
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Design by Community

Take a sneak peek at NYCxDESIGN's 2019 events
NYCxDESIGN 2019 is right around the corner, and AN has a selection of highlights from what design-savvy visitors and NYC residents alike can expect. At a press conference held at the Parsons School of Design, officials from the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) laid out a selection of events from the fair, which will run from May 10 through May 22, 2019. The Diner, a collaboration between David Rockwell, Surface Magazine, and the design consultancy 2x4 will return after a successful debut at the 2017 Salone Del Mobile in Milan. The pop-up restaurant will bring a “coast-to-coast journey” to diners, offering a mélange of American food and eatery aesthetics. DESIGN PAVILION will return to Times Square for the duration of NYCxDESIGN, bringing performance spaces, interactive kiosks, seating, an information kiosk, and a collaboration with Nasdaq. Sound & Vision, a two-week long show from the American Design Club on the confluence of sound, technology, and design will use the area as staging. New outdoor furniture from the Times Square Design Lab will also be making an appearance, as will a competition for public-space furniture. ICFF will once again take over the Javits Center from May 19 through the 22. This year’s showcase of high-end interior design will focus heavily on integrated smart home and office technology via ICFF Connect. Over 900 global exhibitors are expected to present their wares at the 2019 show. WantedDesign will return to Brooklyn’s Industry City in Sunset Park with more participants than ever; graduate students from over 30 international schools are expected to present their work. At WantedDesign Manhattan, SVA’s Products of Design MFA students will present Tools for the Apocalypse, a showcase of products designed for life after a climate change-induced apocalypse. Each contribution is grouped thematically into one of four categories (fire, water, earth, and air) and addresses the evolution of essential materials in a time of dramatic ecological uncertainty. While the details have yet to be finalized for the city’s five design districts, expect a collection of architectural walking tours, happy hours, and installations across New York's various Design Districts (Downtown, Madison Avenue, TriBeCa, SoHo Design District, and NoMad). Museums across the city are also participating. At the Cooper Hewitt, Nature will gather work from designers across all disciplines to paint a picture of a more harmonious, regenerative future. At the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), The Value of Good Design gathers design objects from every corner (from home goods to toys to transport-related items) from the late 1930s through the '50s. Through the Good Design initiative that MoMA championed during that period, design was made more democratic and accessible throughout society, and this exhibition will track that shift. At the Museum at FIT, the School of Art and Design will host the 2019 Graduating Student show, not only at the museum but with pieces across the campus. Work from over 800 BFA students will be exhibited and represent areas ranging from jewelry to packaging to interior design. The Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) will spice things up with Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die: Punk Graphics, 1976-1986. The show will look back on the often DIY flyers, posters, and albums from the era through a contemporary lens, similar to the Met’s 2013 examination of the lasting impact of punk fashion. On the architecture side, Fernando Mastrangelo Studio (no stranger to experimenting with concrete) will be casting a full-scale tiny home from cement, glass, sand, and silica. The “home” will contain a living room, bedroom, and exterior garden, and visitors can explore the house after its completion. Following a kick-off party at the studio’s space in Brooklyn, the house will be placed on a trailer and moved around the city for a “Where’s Waldo” experience. Empire Outlets, the SHoP-designed outlet mall in St. George, Staten Island, opens in April. During NYCxDesign, architects from SHoP and representatives from Empire Outlets will lead tours of the sprawling shopping complex. The first El-Space, a repurposing of the area under the Gowanus Expressway in Sunset Park, was such a success that the Design Trust for Public Space and NYC Department of Transportation have followed up with El-Space 2.0. On May 16, a jointly-held event will reveal the project’s next iteration in Long Island City as well as the framework for planning future “El-Spaces.” The Center for Architecture is also planning to get in on the action, and from May 14 through 18, interested architecture buffs can take a sneak peek of this year’s Archtober lineup. Both the “Building of the Day” tours, which will highlight five buildings across the city’s five boroughs, and Workplace Wednesday, where architecture studios open their doors to the public, will be previewed. Of course, NYCxDESIGN, now in its seventh year, hosted nearly 400 events; too many to chronicle in one article. For now, those interested in staying abreast of the talks, workshops, gallery shows, retail options, and more can stay updated on the festival’s website.
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Get SANDOWn

NYCxDESIGN hands the 2020 reins to SANDOW, privatizes operations
Although NYCxDESIGN 2019 begins in May, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) is already looking ahead to the future. The scope of the 12-day design festival continues to grow, and as a result, the EDC has announced the selection of an outside operator. SANDOW, the parent company of Interior Design, Material Bank, and other resources for designers, will take over for the EDC as the celebration’s operator in 2020. NYCxDESIGN, now in its seventh year, attracted more than 330,000 visitors across 400 events last year and generated over $109 million in sales. The EDC claims that in order to keep growing the festival, it needed to pass off the operations management aspect. The department issued a public Request for Expressions of Interest in the summer of 2018, and ultimately selected SANDOW, in part because of the company’s vast media reach. It’s expected that SANDOW will be able to use its media portfolio to both thoroughly advertise the event as well as expand the types of programming available in New York. At a press conference this morning at the Parsons School of Design, Adam Sandow, CEO and founder of the eponymous company, took the stage to laud the decision and affirm his company’s commitment to strengthening the ties that the EDC had worked hard to make. SANDOW has been involved with the festival before; Interior Design has been an NYCxDESIGN Awards partner since 2016, and Luxe Interiors + Design has partnered with high-end interior showcase ICFF since 2015. Of course, the decision to hand a city-run festival over to a private corporation has raised questions about what the 2020 iteration will look like. The festival’s programming is led by a steering committee of New York–based designers, educators, institutions, and officials from the city, so the agenda and key NYCxDESIGN events are unlikely to change. The EDC is currently educating SANDOW on the day-to-day logistics of running the event to ensure a smooth transition, but until planning for NYCxDESIGN 2020 begins, it remains to be seen what the itinerary will look like.