Search results for "Public Design Commission"
Today Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Public Design Commission (PDC) announced this year's winners of the commission's annual Awards for Excellence in Design. “These thoughtful and innovative designs support the de Blasio administration’s commitment to providing quality, equitable, and resilient public spaces to all New Yorkers. By utilizing good design principles, these projects will provide the public with increased access to the waterfront, open spaces and parks; improved places for play and community gatherings; and inspiring artworks,” said PDC president Signe Nielsen, co-founding principal of Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects, in a statement. Justin Garrett Moore, adjunct associate professor of architecture at Columbia University and the commission's executive director, added: "Part of what makes our city great is the quality of our public realm and the creativity and ingenuity found in our design community and city agencies. These award-winning projects range from new technologies to improved neighborhood parks and public artwork. They show that design excellence is an important part of New York's leadership in promoting innovation, sustainability, and equity in cities." For the past 34 years, the PDC, New York's review board for public architecture and design, honors well-designed projects at all scales across the city. This year, honorees include James Corner Field Operations' and Diller Scofidio + Renfro's (DS+R) High Line spur, which will connect the celebrated park to Hudson Yards, as well as Bjarke Ingels Group's (BIG) police station in the Bronx, which The Architect's Newspaper (AN), revealed earlier this year. On the smaller side, the commission honored LinkNYC, the public information kiosks that until recently helped New Yorkers watch porn, and the FDNY's anti-idling ambulance pedals, devices that help reduce emissions from emergency vehicles out on call. See the ten winning projects (and two specially recognized) below. All quotes courtesy the NYC Mayor's Office: 2016 WINNERS: 40th Police Precinct BIG and Starr Whitehouse East 149th Street and St. Ann’s Avenue, Bronx Agencies: the Department of Design and Construction (DDC), and the New York City Police Department See AN's exclusive coverage of the 40th Precinct here. Waterfront Nature Walk by George Trakas George Trakas and Quennell Rothschild & Partners Newtown Creek Water Pollution Control Plant, 329 Greenpoint Avenue, Brooklyn Agencies: Department of Cultural Affairs’ (DCA) Percent for Art Program, DDC, and the Department of Environmental Protection "The Waterfront Nature Walk revives a long-inaccessible industrial shoreline for public use as a waterfront promenade and kayak launch. This project expands the artist’s conceptual focus from the local histories to ruminations on a broader history of ecology and human existence." Van Name Van Pelt Plaza/Richmond Terrace Wetlands Department of Parks & Recreation (NYC Parks) (in-house design) Richmond Terrace between Van Pelt Street and Van Name Street, Staten Island Agencies: NYC Parks and the Department of Transportation (DOT) "The Van Name Van Pelt Plaza/Richmond Terrace Wetlands a gathering space that can be programmed for educational use and features engraved maps that describe the evolution of the island in relation to the waterway. Woody understory and herbaceous planting in the wetland park increase shoreline resilience. The design prioritizes public access to the waterfront while preserving the wetlands and enhancing avian habitat." Luminescence by Nobuho Nagasawa Nobuho Nagasawa, Thomas Balsley Associates, Weiss/Manfredi Architects The Peninsula, Hunter’s Point South Waterfront Park, 54th Avenue, Center Boulevard, 55th Avenue, and the East River, Queens Agencies: New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and NYC Parks "Luminescence consists of seven sculptures, all of which are both beautiful and educational. A phosphorescent material integrated into the surface of each domed shape absorbs sunlight during the day and illuminates the phases of the moon at night with a soft blue glow. Additionally, the concrete and aggregate sculptures are etched with the moon’s pattern of craters, mountains, and valleys." Dock 72 S9 Architecture and MPFP Brooklyn Navy Yard, Brooklyn Agencies and firms: Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation, the Boston Properties, Rudin Development, and WeWork See AN's coverage of Dock 72 here. The High Line Park Passage and Spur JCFO, DS+R, and Piet Oudolf West 30th Street between 10th Avenue and 11th Avenue, Manhattan Agencies and nonprofits: NYC Parks, NYCEDC, and Friends of the High Line "The Spur is envisioned as a piazza with amphitheater-like seating steps that surround a central plinth for a rotating art program. The Passage and Spur will offer expansive views, dense woodland plantings, ample public seating, and a large open space for public programming, as well as public bathrooms for High Line visitors." Snug Harbor Cultural Center Music Hall Addition Studio Joseph and SCAPE/Landscape Architecture 1000 Richmond Terrace, Staten Island Agencies and nonprofits: DDC, NYC Parks, DCA, and the Snug Harbor Cultural Center "Outside the public entrance of the Snug Harbor Cultural Center Music Hall Addition, a landscaped courtyard and lawn provides flexible space for the Music Hall and Snug Harbor campus. This project will reinvigorate the historic theater, enhancing programmatic opportunities and operational efficiency that enable this cultural gem to put on its distinctive performances." SoHo Square Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects Sixth Avenue between Spring Street and Broome Street, Manhattan Agencies and BID: DOT, NYC Parks, and the Hudson Square Connection Business Improvement District "The renovation of SoHo Square, an under-utilized open space, will establish a distinct gateway to the thriving hub of Hudson Square. A central focal point at the mid-block crossing will be anchored by the relocated statue of General José Artigas (1987) by José Luis Zorrilla de San Martín, which will be conserved as part of the project." Anti-idling Ambulance Pedestals Ignacio Ciocchini and MOVE Systems Citywide Agency: Fire Department of the City of New York "The anti-idling ambulance pedestals will reduce ambulance vehicle emissions without disrupting the Fire Department’s critical emergency operations. By plugging into these curbside pedestals, EMTs can safely shut off their engines while keeping their communication systems live and temperature-sensitive medicines refrigerated. This smart industrial design improves neighborhood air quality and ensures that the City’s ambulances are ready to respond to emergencies at a moment’s notice." LinkNYC CityBridge (Antenna Design, Intersection, Qualcomm, and CIVIQ Smartscapes) Citywide Agency: Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications See AN's coverage of LinkNYC here. SPECIAL RECOGNITION FOR COMPLETED PROJECTS: Parks Without Borders NYC Parks (in-house) Citywide Agency: NYC Parks See AN's coverage of Parks Without Borders here and here. Community Parks Initiative NYC Parks (in-house); dlandstudio; Hargreaves Associates; Mathews Nielsen; MKW Landscape Architecture; Nancy Owens Studio; Prospect Park Alliance; Quennell Rothschild & Partners; Sage and Coombe Architects Citywide Agency: NYC Parks See AN's coverage of the Community Parks Initiative here.
Mayor Bill de Blasio appoints architect Laurie Hawkinson to the Public Design Commission
Earlier this week, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the appointment of Laurie Hawkinson, a partner at Smith-Miller + Hawkinson Architects to the Public Design Commission, New York City’s design review agency. “For this city to lead in the 21st century, this city must be designed for the 21st century,” said Mayor de Blasio in a statement. “Laurie’s years of work designing projects for a wide range of clientele, both domestically and internationally, as well as both privately and publically, demonstrate her expertise in the field. I look forward to working with Laurie on projects that will benefit this city for years to come.” Hawkinson is also a professor of architecture at Columbia’s GSAPP and serves on the Columbia University Professional Schools’ Diversity Council. With Smith-Miller + Hawkinson Architects, she has worked extensively in New York on projects such as the Corning Museum of Glass, the Wall Street and Battery Park ferry terminals, the Dillon residential complex, an Emergency Medical Services Station in the Bronx, and numerous private projects. What type of decisions might Hawkinson make in the commission? In an interview Hawkinson did with Arcade in 2014 she said she is happy to work with developers—especially those who are interested in design—but that “it’s important for architects to remember that development work is still about the bottom line.” As for determining good growth in Manhattan, she said: “Luxury condos are being built everywhere in Manhattan, which is very different from housing; in neighborhoods like Soho, it’s second and third homes for owners who don’t live in New York. We need more density in Manhattan, more housing. New York has made some good decisions with the 2030 zoning changes under the direction of the former Mayor Bloomberg and Amanda Burden, but now we need the policy to back it up.” We hope she considers this "Challenge Accepted" as she steps into her new role.
The PDC is an overseer of design in the public realm: The commission is tasked with reviewing the design, construction, renovation, and restoration of public buildings; the installation and preservation of public art (including its art collection); and the building and rehabilitation of public parks. Its 11 unpaid members include a painter, sculptor, architect, and landscape architect to represent the building and visual arts. “Justin Moore’s talents in design planning have brought us some of our greatest public spaces,” noted Mayor de Blasio in a statement. “He will be a strong, passionate voice for inclusive, public design. I look forward to Moore’s future work with optimism and excitement.” At City Planning, Moore has worked on major projects like the Coney Island Plan, the Brooklyn Cultural District, the Greenpoint and Williamsburg waterfront, and Hunter’s Point South. He is a co-founder of Urban Patch, as well as an adjunct associate professor at Columbia University GSAPP. (He also holds degrees in architecture and urban design from that institution). Moore intends to further the de Blasio administration's goal of extending design to the far reaches of the five boroughs: "In this administration, there's been an important shift towards considering all the city's communities, especially the outer boroughs and lower income communities, majority-minority communities. People recognize the value that quality design can bring to the city. Design is not just aesthetics. It's about how systems work, it's about how environments make people feel." The PDC has a, uh, rigid reputation among design professionals. Moore would like to change that. The Department of City Planning, he explained, has a resource called the Urban Design Network, where design ideas are shared within the agency's many divisions. Moore is investigating the possibility of creating an equivalent model rooted in the PDC to bridge, for example, the design resources of the Parks Department with those of City Planning or the DOT. Moore will assume his post on April 18th.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has appointed Faith Rose, a former senior design liaison at the Department of Design and Construction (DDC), to lead the city's Public Design Commission. According to the mayor's office, in her new role, Rose "will be charged with building on the Public Design Commission’s history of prioritizing the quality and excellence of the public realm, enhancing and streamlining the Commission’s review process, and fostering accessibility, diversity and inclusion in the City’s public buildings and spaces." The commission's incoming executive director holds a masters from the Yale School of Architecture and cofounded the Brooklyn-based O'Neill Rose Architects in 2008. In July, AN covered the young firm's interior renovation of an Upper West Side townhouse, which is pictured above. "Our early interests in sculpture, fairytales and literary theory bring a richness and diversity to our work," explains O'Neill Rose on its website. "Our architecture seeks balance between the everyday and the unexpected, by exploring materials and exploiting methods of construction." "Faith is an excellent choice for the Design Commission," David Burney, the former DDC commissioner, told AN in an email. "From her work at DDC where she was the agency liaison with the Commission she has seen the process from the agency side. This perspective will enable her to ensure a smooth process for projects through the review process. Faith’s background in supporting the Design & Construction excellence program is also vital. The Design Commission may now be the only part of the new administration where design quality is in real focus, so the role of the Commission is vitally important."
Bend It Like Beckham
David Beckham’s Miami soccer village reveals Arquitectonica’s designs
After David Beckham and his Major League Soccer (MLS) partners unveiled the first glimpse of their billion-dollar, 73-acre soccer campus in early July, details about the development, and Miami’s possible first MLS team, have been coming fast and furious. This morning, Beckham, the potential Miami football club's owner and president, unveiled the new name and logo of the team. “Club Internacional de Fútbol Miami,” or Inter Miami CF, are scheduled to begin playing in 2020 if all goes according to plan and will be represented with an emblem that combines Miami’s signature pink with a pair of herons. Beckham and team co-owner Jorge Mas claim that every part of the team’s identity references Miami’s diverse global population, from the name to the “M” shape formed by the birds in the logo.
More information about the contentious Miami Freedom Park soccer complex has also been made public. The potential development would rise on the city-owned Melreese Country Club golf course, and Beckham and partners successfully convinced city commissioners to put the development on the ballot in November. If voters approve, Beckham’s partnership would lease about half of Melreese from the city for 39 years (with an option to extend their lease to 99 years), while the city would need to renovate the rest of the country club using taxpayer funds. Beckham and Mas have enlisted hometown favorite Arquitectonica to plan and design the complex. In addition to the 10.5.-acre, 25,000-seat soccer stadium that anchors the plan, Freedom Park could contain 23 acres of soccer fields, 3,750 parking spots (a radical departure from Beckham’s first stadium proposal), 600,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space, 750 hotel rooms, and 400,000 square feet of offices. In the updated renderings, Arquitectonica has included a playground, skate park, and golf facility on the city-owned portion of the park, which, if built, would be constructed with public funding. The curving canopies of the stadium, which swirl around the open field and resemble an aperture, will extend out to beyond the building proper and seemingly cover other public areas. Miami residents will vote on whether to move ahead with Freedom Park this November.
Tucked away in the corporate international style Citigroup Center in midtown Manhattan lies a spiritual sanctuary designed by one of the 20th century's great artists. The Chapel of the Good Shepherd, also known as the Nevelson Chapel, is the work of Louise Nevelson, a flamboyant New York City sculptor who rose to prominence for her postwar abstract assemblages that turned street detritus into enigmatic works of art. An interdisciplinary team is restoring the space, both conserving the painted relief sculptures that line the walls and installing modern mechanical systems to better condition the room. The Nevelson Chapel is a privately owned public space (POPS) in the Citigroup Center, which opened in 1977 and features a distinctive raised base and a slanted roof. The building was landmarked in 2017. POPS began in 1961 when New York City started offering developers FAR bonuses on developments if they would build public spaces as part of the projects. Dozens of these areas are now scattered through the city. As a POPS, the chapel is open to visitors. Saint Peter’s Church originally commissioned the chapel and currently operates the space as part of their worship areas in the complex. The restoration is part of a $5.7 million initiative made possible by donations from nonprofits and individuals, many of whom are connected to Saint Peter's. Objects Conservation Studio and Pratt Institute students are treating painted wood surfaces to reveal Nevelson's original paint using a technique developed in Florence, Italy. Jane Greenwood of Kostow Greenwood Architects, Michael Ambrosino of ADS Engineers, Michael Henry of Watson & Henry Associates, Ryoko Nakamura of Loop Lighting, and Sarah Sutton of Sustainable Museums are installing new lighting and mechanical services. According to the Saint Peter's website, the Nevelson Chapel is accessible every day at almost any hour. The chapel will be open while the artwork is being restored through October 15, after which time more intense construction will take place, and the chapel will close. The space is scheduled to reopen in spring 2019.
Winning design chosen for Sandy Hook memorial
A final design has been unanimously selected for the Sandy Hook memorial in Newtown, Connecticut, the Newtown Bee reports. On Friday, the Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission announced that out of the top three concepts unveiled in May, The Clearing by Ben Waldo and Daniel Affleck of SWA Group will be presented in front of the city’s Board of Selectmen at the end of this week as the commission’s official recommendation. The board is slated to make the final approval this month. It’s been five years since the commission was created to establish a public memorial honoring the 26 victims and survivors of the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. From 189 international submissions, Waldo and Affleck’s vision for the 5-acre site became the top choice after a July 17th presentation by the three final teams. The Clearing features a sprawling landscape of winding pathways, trails, lakes, and flowery woodland centered around a young sycamore tree planted in a fountain. The names of the victims are prominently carved into the fountain's stone edge. The latest design iteration, which the team updated for the most recent presentation, includes an added manmade pond and an alternative entrance and pavilion. It also includes more details on the proposed materials for the site. Waldo and Affleck are based out of SWA Group’s San Francisco office. The design team also includes Justin Winters of SWA/Balsley, Jim Garland, AIA, of Fluidity, as well as Jason Loiselle, principal at Sherwood Design Engineers and his colleague, design engineer Gabe Duque. The Board of Selectmen will meet Friday, August 9 to review the commission’s recommendation.
Pittsburgh's Postmodern Posterboy
Exclusive: Venturi Scott Brown-designed house suffers secret demolition
Only a month-and-a-half after a colorful Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown-designed house in Shadyside, Pittsburgh was put up for sale, AN has learned that the new owner plans on tearing it down. The Abrams House, commissioned by Irving and Betty Abrams and completed in 1979, is a striking example of Venturi’s playful postmodernist style. One-half of the roof curves and swoops like a cresting wave over the more traditionally-shaped rectangular portion, with a 20-foot-high vaulted ceiling below. The house’s front facade is capped with a window arrangement that resembles both a ship’s wheel as well as the rising sun and is accentuated with green-and-white “rays” emanating from the window assembly. A ribbon window wraps around the house and illuminates the interior, allowing the primary colors used everywhere from the soffits to the furniture to stand out. A mural by Roy Lichtenstein in the living room accentuates the house’s pop art aesthetic. Other than the colorful flourishes, the Abrams House is particularly notable for its location; the house is surrounded by midcentury work from well-known architects, including the Frank House by Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer and the Giovannitti House by Richard Meier. The two-bed, two-and-a-half bath was put up for sale in mid-June of this year for $1.1 million, and the new buyer, Bill Snyder, closed on the building on July 20. Preservationists had briefly hoped that Snyder, who also owns the Giovannitti House, would restore the building, but a demolition permit was filed on July 23. Pittsburgh requires a 15-day wait period between the filing of a demolition permit and the start of work, but an anonymous source has informed AN that the interior of the house has already been gutted. The large Lichtenstein piece has been covered and removed, either causing or revealing significant degradation in the wall behind, and fixtures throughout the house have been cleared out. Snyder had purchased the Giovannitti House from its original owners, Frank and Colleen Giovannitti, in 2017 and is currently restoring the exterior of the home to its original condition. With the demolition of the Abrams House, the entire lot may become a landscaped addition to complement Meier’s building. Brittany Reilly, a board member at the nonprofit Preservation Pittsburgh, has been trying to raise awareness of the house. According to Reilly, the home is a unique piece of architecture for Pittsburgh in a neighborhood full of architecturally-significant houses. The problem? The Abrams House isn’t visible from the street, and Reilly believes that seclusion has led the public to overlook it. The next step for preservationists is to “respectfully” drum up community attention to the demolition. Preservation Pittsburgh has reached out to VSBA Architects & Planners, who were unaware of the demolition, as well as other Pittsburgh-based preservation groups, and is currently trying to establish a dialogue with Snyder. Update: After this story was originally published, the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation (PHLF) has been working to mount an individual landmark nomination with the Historic Review Commission, planning commission and Pittsburgh City Council before the 15 day period elapses. Denise Scott Brown expressed her displeasure with the demolition reached for comment by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "Why does he need to do that? Why doesn’t he save it,” said Brown. “This is not very honorable.” AN will follow this story up as more details become available.
Sandy Hook memorial moves forward with three potential designs
Three teams are in the running to design a memorial honoring the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012. The top groups are set to present their concepts to the memorial commission on Tuesday, July 17 in Newtown, Connecticut. The chosen teams, representing various cities and firms throughout the U.S., were selected out of 189 international submissions due last December and were narrowed down from 13 shortlisted designs in May. The project is the result of a five-year-long development by the memorial commission which was established in late 2013. Per the submission guidelines, entrants were asked to envision a public memorial that stretched across five acres of donated land located a quarter of a mile from the elementary school. Designers were challenged to consider the existing site’s rural setting and to maximize the use of its woods, wetlands, and ponds as well as to include native plants suited to the region and microclimate. In addition, entrants were asked to incorporate the “sacred soil” of incinerated items such as stuffed animals and flowers that were left as temporary memorials throughout the town following the shooting. Up until this summer, all submitted designs were kept anonymous as the family members, public and memorial commission reviewed them privately. Now that the design teams have been made public, each group will present updated iterations of their initial proposals below at Tuesday's meeting. The Clearing was designed by Berkeley-based designers Ben Waldo and Daniel Affleck. It features an encircling landscape of winding pathways and trails that wrap through a flowery woodland. At the center is a young Sycamore tree planted inside a fountain with the names of the 26 victims of the shooting engraved around the stone edge. According to the team, the design symbolizes that the healing process does not end, but rather continues to grow and bring people closer together. The inspiration behind the Sandy Hook Memorial Garden revolves around 26 gardens and miniature fountains, each dedicated to the individual lives lost that day. A 36-inch-tall stone wall will be erected at the edge of the site and will include four separate dedications to the town of Sandy Hook, the first responders, the surviving teachers, and classmates as well as the American community who offered loved and support after the shooting. The concept was created by Justin Arleo of Arleo Design Studio LLC from Tempe, Arizona. Let the Earth Hold Us + Heal Us features six experiential elements including an open green space dubbed the Breathing Field, a Memorial Grove, a Reflection Pool as well as a Belonging Bench and Community Arbor. The project was conceived by Joan MacLeod of Damon Farber Landscape Architects, Teri Kwant of RSP Architects, and Julia McFadden of Svigals + Partners, who worked on the design for the new elementary school. Once the memorial commission reviews the designs above, the chosen proposal will go before the Newtown Board of Selectman. A final decision will be announced in August.
Keeping Up A-Pier-Ances
SHoP and Field Operations bring a mall, public space, and balloons to Lower Manhattan
As SHoP Architects and the Howard Hughes Corporation continue to put the finishing touches on Pier 17, AN took a behind-the-scenes look at the Manhattan seaport’s reinterpretation of the big-box mall and the massive rooftop gathering space above. The 300,000-square-foot mall and public space has been under construction since 2013 and has undergone several design tweaks since its original presentation before the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). The proposed glass pergola on the roof has been cut, as has the lawn shown in earlier renderings. The roof is now covered in pavers and designed for flexibility; the planters are modular and can be moved to accommodate larger crowds, and a freight elevator allows food trucks onto the roof directly from the adjacent FDR parkway. According to Howard Hughes, the roof can accommodate up to 3,400 (standing) guests. SHoP took suggestions from the LPC and surrounding community into account when linking Pier 17 with the surrounding waterfront and in their decision to wrap the East River Esplanade around the building. The Esplanade extends into the interior of the first floor, as the building’s base is wrapped in double-height glass doors that can be fully raised if weather permits. The restaurant and retail sections have been reimagined as two-story 'buildings', separate from but still attached to the main structure and aligned on a grid that preserves views of the Brooklyn Bridge and surrounding skyline. SHoP has clad each building-within-a-building in materials that correspond to the area’s nautical heritage, including sustainably harvested tropical hardwood, corrugated zinc sheets, and overlapping zinc tiles. Howard Hughes has already locked down several big-name anchor tenants for Pier 17, including a two-floor restaurant from David Chang and upper-floor office space and a green room for ESPN. Outside, SHoP has collaborated with James Corner Field Operations for the landscaping and furniture, and global firm Woods Bagot has designed the Heineken pavilions. Visitors looking to soak in views of Brooklyn will also find a bar and lounge on the eastern side of the building in the shadows of artist Geronimo’s massive multicolored balloon sculpture. Her creative process is documented in the video below: The top half of Pier 17 has been clad in vertical panes of foggy green-gray channel glass, which rises and falls as it wraps around, in reference to the passing East River below. Some of the crazier renderings have shown the building’s upper floors lit up in technicolor at night, and internet-connected color-changing lights have been embedded in the facade. The public can experience Pier 17’s rooftop when it opens to the public on July 28, complete with an accompanying concert series.
San Francisco’s public toilets get a futuristic redesign
San Francisco is one step closer to finalizing the redesign of its public, self-cleaning toilets. On Monday, the city selected a futuristic design concept created by SmithGroupJJR from a trio proposals that included bids by Min Design and Branch Creative. The three finalists were unveiled in April, with SmithGroupJJR ultimately selected in an effort to boost the contemporary stylings of the city’s public facilities, according to the San Francisco Department of Public Works. Initially, 12 teams were in the running for the design competition. The public toilets will operated by bus stop advertising agency JCDecaux and will be funded via income generated from informational and retail kiosks that will be deployed in conjunction with the toilets. Bill Katz, design principal at SmithGroupJJR, told The San Francisco Chronicle, “The big idea is to combine sculpture and technology. We want an object that literally reflects the surroundings and the neighborhoods that it is in, but also will be forward-looking.” The changes come more than 20 years after San Francisco debuted an initial, Art Nouveaux-inspired public toilet concept in 1996 that has been loved and hated alike by the public. The forest green-colored, pill-shaped facilities are currently dispersed throughout San Francisco’s urban core and are also used in Los Angeles, among other localities. In all, the city aims to install or replace 28 public toilets and 114 kiosks in conjunction with the redesign. The proposed bathroom facilities will make use of recycled water and are wrapped in reflective metal panels. Current plans call for topping the structures with a rooftop garden. Renderings for the concept include an integrated bench assembly and a ground-level planter, as well. The new proposals, however, are not uniformly loved, either. Darcy Brown, executive director of the San Francisco Beautiful group, told The Chronicle, [It’s a] “pity we lean toward ‘modern,’ which has a shelf life, as opposed to classic, which is timeless.” San Francisco Beautiful opposed all three of the redesign concepts. Next, SmithGroupJJR’s proposal will next head to the San Francisco Arts Commission and the Historic Preservation Commission for joint approval. Approval is expected in the fall.
Though it’s one of the smaller departments in New York City’s large municipal government, the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s impact is as vast as the five boroughs. The regulatory body that identifies and protects the integrity of the city’s most significant structures is an important shaper of its present, future, and the understanding of the past. Yet the LPC finds itself rudderless. On June 1, Commission chairwoman Meenakshi Srinivasan served her last day, having given public notice six weeks before. Mayor Bill de Blasio has not put forward a replacement–and he only filled the vacant vice-chair position last week. (The job went to Commissioner Fred Bland, a prominent architect accused of having conflicts of interest.) The four years of Srinivasan’s tenure marked a significant break, in both substance and style, from her predecessors. To preservationists, Srinivasan has been the most overt supporter yet of the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), one of New York City and State’s most powerful interest groups, and preservationists’ most reliable opponent. Because the next appointee will be chosen by De Blasio, as was Srinivasan, preservationists see little cause for hope that her departure will be any more helpful to the Landmarks cause. Just past the halfway mark between De Blasio’s two terms as mayor, it’s an inflection point for his land use program overall. De Blasio has made his affordable housing plan central to the mayoralty, and observers say that it can seem like other elements of land use fall into place around that, rather than being guided by a holistic urban planning agenda. Another recent political move illustrates the dynamic of influence: a move at the state level to eradicate NYC’s longstanding floor area ratio (FAR) zoning requirements has no support from city representatives, but plenty from upstate legislators who are courted by REBNY for votes. “This mayor seems not to have a personal opinion about preservation,” said Anthony C. Wood, a preservation activist and historian. “It appears he needs REBNY to advance his priorities in affordable housing, so he’s willing to facilitate their priorities when it comes to landmarking.” REBNY tends to oppose landmarking protections as obstacles to new development. Under Srinivasan, Wood said, “The philosophy appears to have been a constrained view of what the Commission can and should do. The strategy seems to have been operationally rewriting the law rather than legislatively.” The ways that Srinivasan’s tenure broke with precedent are many. Based on interviews with LPC staff, commissioners, and preservation advocates, top complaints include: pressure from the chair on staffers to provide certain action recommendations, and on commissioners to vote certain ways; sudden campaigns by the chair to make major overhauls (a rush to clear a decades-long backlog between 2014 and 2015, and a push for rules changes this year are just two examples); moving some business from the portfolio of the Commission to that of the staff, thus removing these items from public deliberation; a lack of interest in maintaining high standards for historically congruous building envelopes and materials; a demoralized and overworked staff with higher-than-normal turnover and open positions that go unfilled, and a commitment to outer-borough landmark designations, even when they come before at the cost of more-deserving Manhattan locations. One such example is the designation of the Coney Island Boardwalk–which is no longer all-wood, nor in its original location–as a feel-good photo-op, while the history-drenched Bowery between Cooper Square and Chatham Square, recognized by the National Register of Historic Places, has been rebuffed by LPC and is being redeveloped day by day. Other sources of preservationist angst include the potential razing of iconic Lower East Side tenements that served as a crucible of American immigration, as well as Sunset Park, Brooklyn, where a historic district desired by residents has not been embraced by the LPC, among many examples. But the Mayor’s office points to a variety of Srinivasan’s actions as meaningful achievements, and anticipates nominating her replacement this summer. Not only did the LPC designate over 3,800 buildings and sites across the five boroughs during her tenure (including 67 individual landmarks, 3 interior landmarks, 1 scenic landmark, and 9 historic districts); it ruled up or down on the many “calendared” properties that had never had hearings; enhanced the consideration of cultural, not just architectural, significance for designations, and created new online databases, such as this website about NYC archaeology, among other initiatives. Asked for specific comment on several questions, REBNY, for its part, supplied a positive review of Srinivasan, who previously chaired the city board that reviews requests from property owners for zoning variances. REBNY President John H. Banks said: "As she did at the Board of Standards and Appeals, Meenakshi effectively balanced competing interests for the public good. She did a terrific job of fairly administering the Landmarks Law, protecting our city's architectural and historic resources, and professionalizing the operations of the agency to benefit all New Yorkers.” Michael Devonshire, a LPC commissioner and the body’s most outspoken preservationist, isn’t so sure. Devonshire has held the unpaid volunteer post since 2010, while working as director of conservation at the architecture and preservation firm Jan Hird Pokorny Associates, and as a teacher at Columbia University. He worries about the Commission’s recent turn toward approving more ahistorical modifications to landmarks. “We have been given a legacy in this city of buildings that are culturally and architecturally significant, and we have the ability to recognize that and designate buildings and districts,” said Devonshire. “My fear is that the incremental loss of the significant sites and buildings results in an aggregate loss for the generations to come. You can’t recreate them.” On its best day, the LPC faces an uphill battle because adding new landmarks and historic districts means continually increasing its own regulatory workload. It remains to be seen whether the Commission can regain its footing under a new chairperson. Advocates say they are not optimistic about a “true preservationist” being appointed under Mayor De Blasio, and they’re wary of naming favorite candidates for fear of jinxing their chances. (REBNY also declined to name a shortlist.) Instead, Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic Districts Council, said it’s not about who, but what. Bankoff says the mayor should instruct the new chair to do three things: “Respect their promises to neighborhoods who want to be landmarked (e.g. Sunset Park). Make preservation an actual part of the municipal planning process (e.g. in Gowanus, East Harlem, the Bronx, etc.). Stop signing away the farm to every plush bottom with a fat wallet.” Soon he’ll find out whether, in De Blasio’s New York, that’s too much to ask. Karen Loew is a writer in New York. She worked at the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation from 2013-2015.