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A Second Act for the Bam Cultural District

When the Brooklyn Academy of Music decided to throw its cultural heft into remaking its then-dingy neighborhood, it did so the BAM way, i.e., con brio. With a master plan from Rem Koolhaas’ OMA and Diller + Scofidio, and renderings of a state-of-the-art new public library by TEN Arquitectos, the future looked glamorous. And while it took almost nine years, new architects, scaled-back projects, and some political shifts, several significant pieces of the plan are about to go forward. By Alan G. Brake. 

When the Brooklyn Academy of Music burned to the ground in 1903, the New York Times opined, “In short, there has hardly been a great public movement of national import but the old Academy has been at one time or another its principal focus.” BAM quickly relocated from Brooklyn Heights to its present location on Lafayette Avenue in Fort Greene where it has enriched the city’s cultural life for more than a century. Over the last ten years, however, BAM has added an unusual element to its portfolio of offerings, and that is neighborhood redevelopment.

In 1998, Harvey Lichtenstein began to move out of his position as the institution’s director, and looked outward at the neighborhood. It wasn’t pretty: The 1970s and 1980s had not been kind to Fort Greene and downtown Brooklyn, and one of the most respected performing arts organizations in the country found itself surrounded by a nondescript mix of parking lots, liquor stores, and not much else. But with a location near commercial hubs and lots of subways, there seemed to be no reason why the area couldn’t come back. Lichtenstein formed the BAM Limited Development Corporation (LDC) as a catalyst for the transformation of the ten or so blocks immediately around the theater into an arts district. The organization hired New York’s Diller+Scofidio and the Rotterdam-based OMA to develop a conceptual masterplan in 2000. Two years later, it held a competition for a Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) branch for the Brooklyn Public Library; the jury chose TEN Arquitectos, and images of an ship-like building were published everywhere.

But things seemed to slow down soon after, and there wasn’t much news from the intersection of Flatbush and Lafayette Avenues. In 2004, WORK AC quietly took over the planning job. “The Diller +Scofidio/OMA masterplan still provides the basis for what will be built,” says principal Dan Wood. Wood founded WORK AC after leaving OMA and continued to be involved in the project. The main innovation of the latest version is shifting the site of the Theatre for a New Audience, a respected Shakespearian company, to Layfayette Avenue, next to the Mark Morris Dance Center and catercorner from BAM, opening up space on Lafayette for a substantial new park with the working name Grand Plaza. Toward the end of the process, WORK AC brought in Ken Smith’s firm to consult on open space and streetscape plans. The Grand Plaza will act as a front door for three of the major cultural institutions, making it a sort of Lincoln Center stitched into the fabric of brownstone Brooklyn. Parking will be built under the plaza and will match the existing number of spaces. “The modified plans allows us to create a park where you want to be, not just a remnant patch,” says Christian Gabrial, a designer at Ken Smith Landscape Architecture.

After the masterplan was complete, the teams switched roles to further develop the open space and streetscapes, with Ken Smith’s team as the prime consultant and WORK as the subsidiary. “A lot of time and energy are going into the streetscape, which will have a key role in pulling the district together,” says Louise Eddleston, a designer at Ken Smith. “The district is primarily residential and with more units of housing going in it will remain that way.” She says the short blocks and intimate scale of the neighborhood have to be understood and used to their best advantage. The firm will present schematic designs to the Economic Development Corporation in the Fall, and hopes to get the contract to build the project.

This is more likely to happen than it would have been even a year ago: Last year, the city, frustrated by the lack of action on the VPA and other projects, stepped in and moved the BAMLDC under the umbrella of the larger and more powerful Downtown Brooklyn Partnership (DBP), which includes business improvement districts for Metrotech and the Fulton Street Mall. DPB has close ties to deputy mayor Daniel Doctoroff, and this has clearly contributed to the recent up-tick in development activity in the district. “There was a sense in early 2006 that the city needed to step up, not just in terms or time, but also in terms of high-level attention,” says Joe Chan, the DBP president. “Coordinating development with cultural groups is a lot more complicated than private developers.”

The move is yielding results. Though the VPA library was recently declared all but dead by the Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner Kate Levin due to lack of fundraising on the part of the Brooklyn Public Library, several other significant projects are moving forward in the district. Along with the streetscape design, a revised design for the Theatre for a New Audience is in the works by Frank Gehry and the H3 Partnership, and the department of Housing Preservation and Development just concluded an Request for Proposals for a new mixed use building that will house Danspace, the contemporary dance incubator. All of this is happening in the shadow, metaphorically speaking, of Forest City Ratner’s controversial and gargantuan Atlantic Yards development.

But curiously, the fighting around Atlantic Yards seems not to have affected plans for the BAM cultural district, at least thus far. “It’s sort of an elephant compared to an ant,” says Wood. “The BAM cultural district can fold into an existing neighborhood, whereas Atlantic Yards will generate its own.” From the beginning, too, BAM LDC also worked with community groups, local churches, and elected officials to address concerns about rising rents and over development. “There was a call for many opportunities for input,” said Chan. “Gentrification and displacement is the greatest fear.”

Chan, however, sees Atlantic Yards and the cultural district as complementary projects. “Both projects emphasize the development of mixed-income communities,” he says. “They are a part of changing perceptions about Downtown Brooklyn and about catering to diverse and inclusive tastes for art, culture, entertainment, and sports.” Gabrial adds, “The cultural district operates within a web of existing neighborhoods, including Fort Greene and Downtown Brooklyn. It’s really a linchpin project.”

While coordinating multiple city agencies and cultural groups and meeting fundraising goals has somewhat slowed and altered development, the district’s largely positive reception in the community speaks to the thoughtful and neighborly scale of the project, as well as a flexible, piecemeal approach. The subtle way in which increased cultural programming,open space,and higher density are being woven into the neighborhood could prove to be a model for the borough and beyond. It also shows that Brooklynites aren’t averse to change, they just don’t like to get steamrolled.

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Dialogue: Shaun Donovan & Gwendolyn Wright

In March, the Department of Housing Development and Preservation announced that it had reached the one-third mark in its initiative to develop and preserve 165,000 units of affordable housing. To mark the occasion, AN asked housing historian and Columbia professor Gwendolyn Wright to sit down with HPD commissioner Shaun Donovan.

Gwendolyn Wright: What surprises you about working in city government?
Shaun Donovan: One of the most pleasant surprises has been that in a city so famous for politics, how un-political this administration has been. I think Rolling Stone did a profile of the mayor that said New Yorkers have an opportunity to see what government can be without politics, and it actually feels that way inside. It’s amazing how much support we have from the mayor and City Hall to stand up and say this is why we do what we’re doing. 

GW: Having lived in New York for the last 25 years, I can tell you it wasn’t always that way. What does that actually mean in terms of the way things work downtown?
SD: It has a broad set of implications, but there’s a piece of it that’s all about leadership. For example, Iris Weinshall [the recently-departed transportation commissioner] called me the other day and said, “You know what, we’re going to give you these seven parking lots.” For her to make that decision is actually a remarkable thing inside government, because what’s the upside for the transportation commissioner? Not a lot. Even though a given lot is only 25 percent full most of the time, she’s going to get yelled at by the local merchants because the people who use it can’t get to their shops as easily. To me, that says there’s a clear message from City Hall that affordable housing is a priority for the mayor.

GW: What is the role of the private market in the New Housing Marketplace initiative?
SD: That has been the single biggest challenge and opportunity here. When I arrived, the mayor had already started to shift the strategies towards recreating a market in places where there wasn’t one, such as the South Bronx and lots of Harlem. He did this through the New Housing Marketplace plan. I think the real shift that I’ve tried to make is to figure out how to harness the market, rather than recreate it. In affordable housing, a $5 million condo can actually be your friend: It can be as simple as building a few market rate units for the cross-subsidy they create for affordable ones. I think it has also meant that we have a broader opportunity to create mixed-income communities across the city than we did before. One of the great failures of housing policy has been to think about low-income housing as something dangerous that has to be separated out. We try to blur the lines as much as possible, and leveraging the market is really important in doing that. 




Donovan (top) and Wright.  
Aaron Seward
 
 

GW: It is interesting that the mayor and your agency speak about a marketplace, which is different from the market. When people invoke the market they tend to mean the upper tier of it, and how to keep those guys happy—and they’re pretty happy right now! But the marketplace is a circumstance where you have the realities of economics: many different prices, many different groups, and many different kinds of markets. You’re allowing New York to function like a city as opposed to a place defined by the market aspirations of a few major developers.

SD: Housing advocates often focus on how much money government is putting into something, but the levers that we hold in government are often much more powerful than the money. Inclusionary zoning is a perfect example of that. We’ve got million-dollar condos going up on the waterfront in Greenpoint and Williamsburg, but we could never have thrown enough money at those projects to end up with what we’re getting, which is that 20 to 30 percent of these buildings are affordable. This is some of the most prime real estate available. The only reason it will be a truly integrated community is because we used the powers of zoning to say that there is a benefit to the marketplace, and we want the marketplace to flourish there. We’ll allow you to build taller, but if you do, you’ve got to give something back for that density.

GW: You seem quite interested in design innovations of various sorts. What are the possibilities for architects?
SD: At the simplest level, it’s about increasing our engagement in design and opening up the process to architects. I think [commissioner] David Burney has really done that for public work through the Department of Design and Construction, and I hope that we’re following that example. Look at all the entries for the New Housing New York competition we just held. I think it is the best example to date of a process that integrates architecture in a way that was not just about design, but about creating a sustainable community. We’re going to do more design competitions like that, but we can’t do it on every single project. It was an enormous effort and expense, but there are a lot of principles that we can integrate into our smaller projects. 

GW: One of the things that you’re doing, which is unusual and wonderful, is challenging architects to imagine and innovate in new ways.
SD: I think there has been a mutual fear within affordable housing and the architecture community about the failure of design in public housing. I strongly believe that design gets a bad rap for lots of other failures, most of them around the social makeup of a project or its financing, all of which have fed into the disintegration of many public housing communities. There’s disillusionment about the possibilities of architecture. I worry about the retreat into traditionalism and contextualism as a way of repairing that. In this competition, we had a long discussion about whether the city was ready for a tower in the park that wasn’t the traditional model. 

GW: I think you’re absolutely right. A lot of architects have felt that housing in general, beyond very expensive luxury housing, tied their hands; there was a demand that it be traditional because then it would seem familiar and somehow ease over all the social problems. It’s almost modernism in reverse. How do you think we can open up a definition of housing beyond the accretion of units in some kind of block or bar?
SD: I think a lot of that is thinking about urban design as part of the work that we do. If you look at Arverne [Arverne Urban Renewal Area, Far Rockaway, Queens] we’re essentially creating new towns there. Our relationship with City Planning is so much stronger than it once was.  

GW: Let me shift a little and ask you about homeownership. It’s emphasized in a lot of the literature put out by the Bloomberg administration. It’s also becoming more controversial due to the problem of subprime mortgages. Homeownership is not the right thing for everyone. What do you see as the advantage of homeownership?
SD: We just reached a record high of homeownership in New York City: 33.3 percent, though it’s the lowest rate of any metropolitan area in the country. We’ve created close to 20,000 low-income homeowners through the limited-equity properties we created through cooperative programs. These were city-owned buildings that we took in foreclosure, renovated, and sold for $250 a unit to the residents. That’s an incredible amount of equity that’s been created for low-income people, and has built a stable financial existence for them. In that sense, I think it’s an increasingly important tool that works within the marketplace. It will never be our primary strategy, but is an important piece of the overall strategy. 

GW: There are several exhibitions on Robert Moses in the city right now. He’s a controversial example of someone not elected to office who exercised enormous political power over the environment, social services, transportation, and housing. What does he teach political figures today?
SD: This goes back to my earliest experiences in government, when I realized the importance of balancing public consensus with moving ahead consistently. That balance is probably the single most important thing that a public servant can achieve, but it is extremely difficult to do. I think it’s very clear that Moses was too far on one side of the spectrum. There was no respect for the importance of building consensus. On the other hand, I think this administration has tried to move toward big things again. Look at Williamsburg: It’s two miles of waterfront. It’s not about small plans. A lot of it is about setting a framework for growth that has an organic quality. The city is a living organism and we have to think of it in that dynamic way. We can’t freeze New York at any time. We have to be ready for change.

Hailing the Future

For tired, cold New Yorkers stranded far from home, there’s no better sight than a yellow cab. But sometimes the sight can be less welcome. 

When a taxi passenger door swings out unexpectedly into the path of a cyclist, it can be a mortal threat. According to a Department of City Planning survey, being “doored” by cars is the number-one cause of crashes for cyclists in New York City. Taxis are a frequent culprit, due to their chaotic passenger pickups and drop-offs. 

But if taxis were better designed, cyclists would have less to fear. 

To that end, Antenna Design has come up with a highly visible roof light that declares when passengers are entering or exiting. The light is just one of many prototypes on display through April 15 at Taxi 07, a free exhibit created to spur discussion and development of the ideal taxis for the future. 

The exhibit is staged outside the New York International Auto Show at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, on the convention center's inner roadway near the corner of 35th Street and 11th Avenue. Visitors can check out several full-scale, functional taxi prototypes. One model can zoom along at 200 miles per hour; dubbed the World’s Fastest Taxi, it's driven by a 1,000-horsepower hydrogen-fueled engine. 

Less sexy but more spacious internally, the Standard Taxi is wheelchair accessible. The Kia Rondo offers a smorgasbord of good design, including a Birsel + Seck child-safety seat that folds up when not in use, a light from Smart Design that illuminates the ground when passengers exit at night, and Antenna Design’s LED roof light. On the nearby sidewalk, visitors can view small-scale models, a film about taxi drivers, and a rendering of Weisz + Yoes’ concept for a GPS-enabled taxi stand that would let riders hail taxis digitally. 

The exhibit coincides with the centennial of New York’s gas-powered taxi, an appropriate moment to reflect on the less-than-progressive current state of our taxi system. Grimy, uncomfortable, toxin-spewing cabs constitute as much as half of all traffic at some times of day, according to Deborah Marton, executive director of the Design Trust for Public Space, the organization behind Taxi 07

The exhibit is just one part of a multifaceted program. The Design Trust will soon release a report with the working title “Taxi 07: Roads Forward.” Examining the current state of affairs and offering strategies for improvement, the report will be available online at www.designtrust.org. The group is also planning to launch an advocacy group to fight for reform. 

While there is growing momentum to explore green alternatives, of the 13,037 taxis currently operating in New York City, just 327 are electric hybrids and one is fully electric-powered, according to Allan Fromberg, a spokesperson for the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission. Only 47 are wheelchair accessible, though more are on the way. And many cabs remain startlingly low-tech, though by the end of 2007 all cabs will offer at least a credit-card payment system and personal information monitors that provide maps, news, and entertainment. 

“The goals of Taxi 07 are to recognize that the New York City taxi is already an icon,” Marton said. “We think that the taxi should also be a symbol of our commitment to sustainable mobility, access for all, and good design. There’s no reason the taxi shouldn’t have the highest level of design for its usability, its access, its fueling systems, and its looks.” 

These issues don't only concern design geeks, political activists, urban planners, and nonsuicidal cyclists. Since most New Yorkers don’t have automobiles of their own, Marton observed, “the taxi is basically our shared family car.” Maybe it’s time to consider a serious upgrade. 

Piano vs. Rudolph Fight Called Off

It was a bad week for Boston businessman-cum-developer Steve Belkin. On March 13, the Boston Landmarks Commission (BLC) issued a 90-day stay against the demolition of Paul Rudolph’s 1960 Blue Cross/Blue Shield Building. Belkin owns the building and had planned to pull it down to make room for a tower in the city’s financial district designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW), which, at 80 stories, would have become the city’s tallest. Four days later, Piano quit the project in a battle for creative control of the design.

Piano was not driven away by the preservation of 133 Federal Street, Rudolph’s boxy 13-story concrete building, but by the urge to preserve his own work. "There have been requests to change,” an anonymous executive at RPBW toldThe Boston Globe. “Some modifications were asked for. We felt they weren't appropriate." RPBW declined requests from AN for comment.

“We hired the Renzo Piano Building Workshop to undertake a conceptual design for our proposed tower,” Belkin said in a statement, but a source from the Boston architectural community suggested that this was not the original arrangement. Executive architects CBT are now in charge of the design. No word yet as to whether the project will continue to carry the Piano name or how much his designs could still change. Mayor Thomas Menino, who vigorously supports the project, referred to the new plans as “Renzo Piano–inspired.” 

And Belkin still has the BLC to contend with. Though the commission has limited authority over buildings outside historic districts or not designated as individual landmarks, it reviews all buildings in downtown Boston slated for demolition. If the BLC deems a building of historical, cultural, recreational, or, in this case, architectural significance, it can issue a demolition delay, which protects it for 90 days.

During this time, preservationists who supported the delay are encouraged to discuss alternate plans with the developer and the city. These alternative plans are nonbinding, and the developer is free to proceed how it sees fit once the demolition delay expires. “It is certainly our intent to sit down and listen,” a spokesperson for Belkin said. “But this all happened a week ago, so nothing has happened yet.”

For preservationists and Rudolph fans, the fact that Belkin wants to demolish an early work by one of modernism’s most controversial and influential practitioners is bad enough. But they are further angered because the tower would not rise directly off the Rudolph footprint but instead from that of an adjacent city-owned parking garage. A public plaza would occupy the space where 133 Federal Street now stands.

Nonetheless, the city still supports plans to demolish Rudolph’s work. “It behaves like a freestanding structure even with the garage on two sides,” said Kairos Shen, director of planning for the Boston Redevelopment Authority, which is overseeing the project for the city. “You couldn’t really integrate it with another building.”

Sarah Kelly, director of the Boston Preservation Alliance, disagrees. “We’d like to see a range of alternatives,” she said. “No one is opposed to development, but the project should not be just new or old. I’m always optimistic that we will be able to find a win-win situation.”

One of the most popular alternatives was put forth by Tim Rohan, a professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who is writing a book about the Blue Cross/Blue Shield Building. The proposal draws on Rudolph’s own 1987 studies for a seven-story addition to the building. 

But Rohan is uncertain such a plan would be successful without the involvement of RPBW. “In a way, I would rather have seen Renzo Piano involved,” he said. “He is a great architect, and I thought it was a great opportunity for him to work with an existing structure or a fragment of it, because he had been so successful with that in the past, like at the Morgan Library.” 

Piano vs. Rudolph Fight Called Off

It was a bad week for Boston businessman-cum-developer Steve Belkin. On March 13, the Boston Landmarks Commission (BLC) issued a 90-day stay against the demolition of Paul Rudolphhs 1960 Blue Cross/Blue Shield Building. Belkin owns the building and had planned to pull it down to make room for a tower in the cityys financial district designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW), which, at 80 stories, would have become the cityys tallest. Four days later, Piano quit the project in a battle for creative control of the design.

Piano was not driven away by the preservation of 133 Federal Street, Rudolphhs boxy 13-story concrete building, but by the urge to preserve his own work. "There have been requests to change,, an anonymous executive at RPBW told The Boston Globe. Some modifications were asked for. We felt they weren't appropriate." RPBW declined requests from AN for comment.

We hired the Renzo Piano Building Workshop to undertake a conceptual design for our proposed tower,, Belkin said in a statement, but a source from the Boston architectural community suggested that this was not the original arrangement. Executive architects CBT are now in charge of the design. No word yet as to whether the project will continue to carry the Piano name or how much his designs could still change. Mayor Thomas Menino, who vigorously supports the project, referred to the new plans as Renzo Pianooinspired..

And Belkin still has the BLC to contend with. Though the commission has limited authority over buildings outside historic districts or not designated as individual landmarks, it reviews all buildings in downtown Boston slated for demolition. If the BLC deems a building of historical, cultural, recreational, or, in this case, architectural significance, it can issue a demolition delay, which protects it for 90 days.

During this time, preservationists who supported the delay are encouraged to discuss alternate plans with the developer and the city. These alternative plans are nonbinding, and the developer is free to proceed how it sees fit once the demolition delay expires. It is certainly our intent to sit down and listen,, a spokesperson for Belkin said. But this all happened a week ago, so nothing has happened yet..

For preservationists and Rudolph fans, the fact that Belkin wants to demolish an early work by one of modernismms most controversial and influential practitioners is bad enough. But they are further angered because the tower would not rise directly off the Rudolph footprint but instead from that of an adjacent city-owned parking garage. A public plaza would occupy the space where 133 Federal Street now stands.

Nonetheless, the city still supports plans to demolish Rudolphhs work. It behaves like a freestanding structure even with the garage on two sides,, said Kairos Shen, director of planning for the Boston Redevelopment Authority, which is overseeing the project for the city. You couldnnt really integrate it with another building..

Sarah Kelly, director of the Boston Preservation Alliance, disagrees. Weed like to see a range of alternatives,, she said. No one is opposed to development, but the project should not be just new or old. IIm always optimistic that we will be able to find a win-win situation..

One of the most popular alternatives was put forth by Tim Rohan, a professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who is writing a book about the Blue Cross/Blue Shield Building. The proposal draws on Rudolphhs own 1987 studies for a seven-story addition to the building.

But Rohan is uncertain such a plan would be successful without the involvement of RPBW. In a way, I would rather have seen Renzo Piano involved,, he said. He is a great architect, and I thought it was a great opportunity for him to work with an existing structure or a fragment of it, because he had been so successful with that in the past, like at the Morgan Library..

Matt Chaban

Pike Chic

On March 5, the Pike County Public Library in Milford, Pennsylvania, selected Frederic Schwartz Architects to design its new building. Other proposals came from New York–based BKSK Architects and Bolin Cywinski Jackson in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Architectural writer Alastair Gordon organized the jury, which included historian Kenneth Frampton, artist and art writer Sylvia Kolbowski, architect Jonathan Marvel, among others. The library will vacate the landmarked building it has outgrown and relocate to a site between Harford Street and the Sawmill Creek ravine.

Schwartz has sited the building at the lot’s rear, creating a small public lawn along Harford Street that echoes the greens fronting other local municipal buildings. At its rear, the building’s upper volume cantilevers out and exposes ceiling-height windows to the ravine, acting as a bridge between the town and the wild landscape of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. The design includes a café and a lightfilled atrium, which will double as a gathering space for events like the town’s annual film festival. A fundraising campaign kicks off in April. A construction timeline has not been set. 

LPC Delays Vote on Tower

At a January 16 public hearing, the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) urged Foster + Partners to modify the designs for the proposed addition to 980 Madison Avenue in order to win approval for the project. The firm presented a scheme for a 30-story glass tower to stand atop a five-floor mixed-use building, originally known as the Parke-Bernet Galleries, a gallery and art auction building completed in 1950. The idea of planting a modern tower on top of a historic building echoes Foster’s recently completed Hearst headquarters.

The project’s developer, Aby Rosen’s RFR Holdings, and Foster plan to modify the design and present to the LPC yet again. Cheri Fein, spokesperson for Rosen and Foster, stated that the twomenwere“pleased that a vote was not taken and that there is now the opportunity to redesign.” A followup presentation to the LPC has not yet been scheduled.

The January hearing was a continuation of the public hearing held on October 24, 2006, where a large public contingency voiced both opposition and support for the design. Among the opponents was the Municipal Arts Society, which testified that the design of the addition was inappropriate in terms of “height, massing, design, and materials in relationship to the Parke-Bernet Building and the historic district.”

LPC chair Robert Tierney called the January 16 hearing “a good exchange of views and ideas.” Many comments centered on the height of the tower, which LPC vice chairperson Pablo E. Vengoechea deemed overwhelming. Others took issue with the materials and the way the glass tower would contrast with nearby buildings. One member of the commission, architect Jan Hird Pokorny, supported the project.

The second hearing again drew many Upper East Side residents who have been vocal about their opposition to the proposal, including writer Tom Wolfe. No limit was set for what height the committee would deem appropriate, although it is clear that the majority of the LPC board and neighbors think that 30 stories is too tall. Rosen said in a statement,” We appreciate the thoughtfully considered comments at the LPC meeting, and have returned to the drawing board to come up with a design that responds to these comments yet remains viable.” For approval, the design must win six of the 11 LPC member votes.

A. Stewart Walker and Alfred Easton Poor designed the 980 Madison building with a simple limestone facade. Foster’s proposal includes restoration, which Tierney praised as “an impressive return to the building’s historical origins.” The plan would have refurbished the building, including removing more than 50 windows cut into the building over time, removing the fifth floor added in 1957, reintroducing the original roof garden, and adding 25,000 square feet of public gallery space.

When asked if he felt thatmodernconstruction could fit in with the historic character of the Upper East Side, Tierney pointed out, “Renzo Piano’s expansion of the Whitney was quite striking, modern, and contemporary, and was approved.” Despite winning the LPC’s approval, however, the Piano project was ultimately scrapped, after the Whitney decided to build an expansion in the Meatpacking District rather than engage in a prolonged battle with neighbors.

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Pike Chic



Rear view of Pike County Library scheme facing the Sawmill Creek ravine (top); interior atrium (bottom).
COURTESY Frederic Schwartz Architects

On March 5, the Pike County Public Library in Milford, Pennsylvania, selected Frederic Schwartz Architects to design its new building. Other proposals came from New Yorkk based BKSK Architects and Bolin Cywinski Jackson in Wilkes- Barre, Pennsylvania. Architectural writer Alastair Gordon organized the jury, which included historian Kenneth Frampton, artist and art writer Sylvia Kolbowski, architect Jonathan Marvel, among others. The library will vacate the landmarked building it has outgrown and relocate to a site between Harford Street and the Sawmill Creek ravine.

Schwartz has sited the building at the lotts rear, creating a small public lawn along Harford Street that echoes the greens fronting other local municipal buildings. At its rear, the buildinggs upper volume cantilevers out and exposes ceiling-height windows to the ravine, acting as a bridge between the town and the wild landscape of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. The design includes a caff and a lightfilled atrium, which will double as a gathering space for events like the townns annual film festival. A fundraising campaign kicks off in April. A construction timeline has not been set.

CARL YOST

LPC Delays Vote on Tower

At a January 16 public hearing, the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) urged Foster + Partners to modify the designs for the proposed addition to 980 Madison Avenue in order to win approval for the project. The firm presented a scheme for a 30-story glass tower to stand atop a five-floor mixed-use building, originally known as the Parke-Bernet Galleries, a gallery and art auction building completed in 1950. The idea of planting a modern tower on top of a historic building echoes Fosterrs recently completed Hearst headquarters.

The projectts developer, Aby Rosenns RFR Holdings, and Foster plan to modify the design and present to the LPC yet again. Cheri Fein, spokesperson for Rosen and Foster, stated that the twomenwereepleased that a vote was not taken and that there is now the opportunity to redesign.. A followup presentation to the LPC has not yet been scheduled.

The January hearing was a continuation of the public hearing held on October 24, 2006, where a large public contingency voiced both opposition and support for the design. Among the opponents was the Municipal Arts Society, which testified that the design of the addition was inappropriate in terms of height, massing, design, and materials in relationship to the Parke-Bernet Building and the historic district..

LPC chair Robert Tierney called the January 16 hearing a good exchange of views and ideas.. Many comments centered on the height of the tower, which LPC vice chairperson Pablo E. Vengoechea deemed overwhelming. Others took issue with the materials and the way the glass tower would contrast with nearby buildings. One member of the commission, architect Jan Hird Pokorny, supported the project.

The second hearing again drew many Upper East Side residents who have been vocal about their opposition to the proposal, including writer Tom Wolfe. No limit was set for what height the committee would deem appropriate, although it is clear that the majority of the LPC board and neighbors think that 30 stories is too tall. Rosen said in a statement,, We appreciate the thoughtfully considered comments at the LPC meeting, and have returned to the drawing board to come up with a design that responds to these comments yet remains viable.. For approval, the design must win six of the 11 LPC member votes.

A. Stewart Walker and Alfred Easton Poor designed the 980 Madison building with a simple limestone facade. Fosterrs proposal includes restoration, which Tierney praised as an impressive return to the buildinggs historical origins.. The plan would have refurbished the building, including removing more than 50 windows cut into the building over time, removing the fifth floor added in 1957, reintroducing the original roof garden, and adding 25,000 square feet of public gallery space.

When asked if he felt thatmodernconstruction could fit in with the historic character of the Upper East Side, Tierney pointed out, Renzo Pianoos expansion of the Whitney was quite striking, modern, and contemporary, and was approved.. Despite winning the LPCCs approval, however, the Piano project was ultimately scrapped, after the Whitney decided to build an expansion in the Meatpacking District rather than engage in a prolonged battle with neighbors.

SARAH COX

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LMDC’s Legacy
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Courtesy WEISS / MANFREDI
Weiss/Manfrediis concept design for Park Row introduces a landscaped, terraced pedestrain connection to the elevated Police Plaza.

The mandate of the LMDC, formed by Governor George Pataki and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in the aftermath of 9/11, was not only to oversee the rebuilding of the WTC site but to spearhead the comprehensive, integrated urban renewal of all of Lower Manhattan. To that end, it commissioned several major urban studies in areas below Canal Street by top-tier design firms, and encouraged them to truly think big-picture about rebuilding downtown. Weiss/ Manfredi, H3 Hardy Collaborative Architects, Robert A. M. Stern, and Smith-Miller + Hawkinson were all awarded contracts, amounting to over $2 million in fees, according to research compiled by AN at the time of these particular planss completion in 2004 (see World Trade Windfall,, AN 19_11.16.2004). When the LMDC announced last July that it would dissolve in the months to come, it maintained that its primary responsibilitiess selecting a masterplan and memorial design for the WTC site and allocating more than $2.78 billion in federal grants toward fostering business, residential, and cultural growth downtownnhad been fulfilled. Construction of the memorial and development of urban design guidelines for the site has been since delegated to the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, but the fate of the urban studies the LMDC initiated has been more difficult to assess.

The LMDC was never intended to be the agency that implemented such plans. Moreover, there is never a guarantee that any commission will translate into a realized work. But the fact that so little has been publicly discussed with respect to urban design at the WTC site or its surrounding neighborhoods since 9/11 merits a closer look at these plans, and at how or whether the ideas they propose might be expressed in built form.

According to LMDC spokesperson John DeLibero, all of the above-mentioned plans have been transferred to the Department of City Planning (DCP). Rachaele Raynoff, DCP press secretary, confirmed that the DCP is in possession of them but could not specify how the plans are being prioritized. At present, the DCPPs biggest initiative in Lower Manhattan is the East River Waterfront Study by SHoP Architects and the Richard Rogers Partnership.

One piece of news that gives reason to be optimistic that the plans wonnt end up in a drawer is Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Patakiis announcement in May 2005 of a comprehensive allocation plann for the LMDCCs unspent $800 million. The plan earmarked $110 million to implement certain elements of the LMDCCs urban plans, including the studies conducted by Weiss/ Manfredi, H3, and Stern. For some of the designers, the announcement was the last concrete news they received regarding their projects.

Raynoff confirmed that the DCP, together with the Department of Transportation (DOT), is currently studying one aspect of Weiss/ Manfrediis larger plan, which looked at the area surrounding the Brooklyn Bridge Anchorage (see A View from the Bridge,, AN 10_6.08.2005). The plan envisions connecting Chinatown to the seaport through streetscaping, and makes specific recommendations for reinvigorating the closed-off area under the Brooklyn Bridge and replacing the concrete retaining wall behind Police Plaza on Park Row with a grassy, stepped pedestrian path to connect the elevated plaza with the street.

After the architects presented the plan to the LMDC in 2005, the LMDC and other consulting city agencies focused on their recommendations for Park Row as a feasible project. Shortly after, as part of Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Patakiis allocation plan, $32 million was granted to fund components of their study and a related Chinatown study, including Park Row. As of yet, however, the DCP and DOT have not announced any concrete plans or schedule for the project.


Courtesy H3 HARDY COLLABORATION ARCHITECTURE
H33s design for Greenwich Street South proposed roofing over the entrance to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to create a park along with new residential and commerical space.

Aspects of the Greenwich Street South Study, developed by a team of seven design and consulting firms headed by H3 Hardy Collaborative Architects, also appear to have a promising future. This study proposes decking over the existing entry to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel (owned by the MTA), which currently separates Battery Park City South from the financial district south of the WTC site. The plan suggests that the new surface area of the deck would create valuable buildable space in an area where opportunities for largescale development no longer exist. In that new space, it recommends the creation of a 2-acre park surrounded by residential and commercial developments, as well as a bus garage south of Morris Street that would decrease current street-level congestion and house buses that might be displaced by potential developments on the East River Waterfront and Pier 40.

At H33s last meeting with the LMDC in September, attending city officials agreed that if the engineering required to build the deck could be coordinated, the MTA would revisit the proposals. The DCP anticipates working with the Governor Eliot Spitzerrs administration to realize this plan. Though the prospects for the plan seem positive, principal designer Hugh Hardy still worried, With the fading of the LMDC, [the plan] doesnnt have a champion.. Senior associate John Fontillas added, The unfortunate thing is that [the LMDCCs former vice president of planning and development] Alex Garvin intended for all of these parts to knit together. With personnel changing, therees little institutional memory.. Though the designers have not received any updates on the status of the plan, it has been allotted $40 million under the 2005 Bloomberg-Pataki initiative.

By comparison, aspects of Sternns Fulton Street Revitalization seem to be moving forward. With $38 million (again, part of Bloomberg and Patakiis 2005 initiative) approved by the LMDC board of directors in February 2006, the parts of the plan that have been retained for implementation, according to the DCP, include: enhancing the 35,000-square-foot Titanic Memorial Park and Pearl Street Playground, both set for completion in 2008; improving retail, facades, and streetscape elements along Fulton toward the East River; and creating a new open space at corner of Fulton and Gold streets. It is difficult to know, however, how close these elements are to the original design recommendations of Stern and partner on the study, Gensler. A public presentation of the study in 2005 was cancelled at the last minute, and even then, the plan was reportedly only in draft form (see Fulton Street Plan Chugs Along,, AN 12_7.13.05). Moreover, both then and now, the designers have declined to comment, barred by the LMDC from speaking about the plan.


COURTESY SMITH-MILLER+HAWKINSON ARCHITECTS
Louise Nevelson Plaza is the result of a larger study by Smith-Miller + Hawkinson Architects to identify open-space possibilities in the blocks east of the WTC site. View west toward William Street.

The most tangible results from any of the studies are from Smith-Miller + Hawkinsonns comprehensive urban study Strategic Open Space: Public Realm Improvement Strategy for Lower Manhattan. The study, which won a P/A Award in 2003, canvassed 500 acres of Lower Manhattan in the area roughly bound by Fulton, Church, and Water streets to identify possibilities for creating new public spaces and bolstering existing ones. One site, Louise Nevelson Plaza, a run-down traffic island at the corner of William and Liberty, stood out as a feasible location to move forward on right away. The architects worked with the LMDC and other consulting city agencies to draft construction documents, and had successfully gone through the majority of the approval process well before the LMDC began to phase out. Since the LMDCCs dissolution, the Department of Design and Construction has taken over execution of the project, and has folded it in among its general infrastructure improvements on Liberty Street.

The design for the plaza involves a series of changes meant to create, in principal Laurie Hawkinsonns words, a 24/7 open spacee in an emerging mixed-use neighborhood. The park will feature benches of cast glass, new lighting and planting, and seven restored Nevelson sculptures that the artist herself donated to the park in the 1970s. The project will break ground this summer, and is expected to be completed in 2009.

The LMDC has never been forthcoming about its undertakings, despite the fact that these compelling urban design studies are nothing to hide. Even now, no one from the LMDCC including Kevin Rampe, chair of the LMDC boarddwill comment on the planss respective fates. The arrival of Governor Spitzer, who has been critical of the way the LMDC has been operating, may bring a change in direction. A. J. Carter, spokesperson for Empire State Development Corporation, the LMDCCs parent body, offered, We are taking a fresh look at everything and re-evaluating whatts been done and what needs to be done as we get started with the [Spitzer] Administration..

SAMANTHA TOPOL IS AN EDITOR AT AN.

New York’s Policies Catch Up to Sustainabilty

New York City may not be the greenest American city, but a new law, a new building code, and new department in the Mayorrs Office aim to change that.

The first large-scale changes began last year when Local Law 86 was passed on October 3, 2005. (See sidebar.) For many city-funded projects, the law, which established green building practices for municipal construction, will take effect on January 1, 2007. Its impact, however, is already apparent, according to John Krieble, the director of Sustainable Design at the Department of Design and Construction (DDC). The DDC serves as the managing agency for the construction projects of dozens of city agencies, from the Fire Department to the Department of Transportation, Libraries to Parks and Recreation; of its 400 active projects, which represent $2.4 billion, nearly 30 are expected to receive LEED certification. In the next year alone, the DDC will be kicking off 15 new LEED projectssequivalent to the total number of DDC-managed LEED projects completed in the last eight years.

BKSK Architectss design of the Queens Botanical Garden administration building, a DDC project, is on track to achieve the first LEED Platinum rating in New York state. The drive to go for
the highest LEED rating comes from client support. The reward
is in the bragging rights,, said Krieble. Though the rating does
not offer any monetary award, the public relations opportunities
can be significant..

Local Law 86 was not an easy victory for environmentalists; nor
is it as stringent as it could be. During its formation, for example, it met with resistance from the Carpenterss Union. The bill originally included a requirement for Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)) certified wood products, which promote sustainable forestry; the union raised opposition because members felt it would diminish their work, so the stipulation was removed before the bill passed.

Still, the city is making a concerted effort to include environmental concerns in its future development. On September 21, Mayor Bloomberg announced the creation of the Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability within his Office of Oper-ations. The new office, led by former McKinsey consultant Rohit T. Aggarwala, is charged with helping to develop a plan for the cityys long-term growth with sustainability in mind, and to make New York City a green operation,, according to a press release. Given its incipience, the office has yet to detail specific initiatives and would not comment for this article.

The Mayor has also convened a Sustainability Advisory Board, which met for the first time on September 27. Chaired by Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff, the 17-member board includes architect Robert Fox, partner of Cook + Fox Architects, whose firm designed the Durst Corporation and Bank of Americaas One
Bryant Park, which is the first highrise in New York to seek LEED Platinum certification. The board also includes Ashok Gupta of
the Natural Resources Defense Council and Robert Yaro of the Regional Plan Association. The Mayorrs Office will also benefit
from a partnership with the Earth Institute of Columbia University, which will provide pro bono academic and scientific expertise.

In order for the city to prioritize its goals, it must first assess its current environmental impacts. With the looming threat of global warming, the city has taken first steps toward developing a greenhouse gas inventory, by measuring the carbon emissions
of all municipal operations, from the electricity consumption of
city buildings to the exhaust of city vehicles. The Mayor also announced an effort to measure the carbon emissions of the
entire city by March 2007.

Krieble would like to see this inventory used to develop baselines for carbon emissions against which reasonable targets for reduction can be established. He suggests helping city agencies
to work toward lowering their emissions by providing incentives
or access to revolving funds to enact necessary changes.

Raising the bar for municipal buildings and operations is
perhaps an obvious first step for any city with sustainability
goals. However, in a city like New York, where development is
dominated by private builders, itts almost more crucial to
establish policies that regulate or encourage green building practices. For the past few years, the Department of Buildings (DOB) has been working to revise the cityys building code, consistent with the efforts of many cities and states to adhere
to the International Code Councills (ICC) construction codes.
The state of New York adopted a version of the ICC codes in
2002; New York City stayed exempt from the process because
of its size and complexity. The current city building code, though often amended, was last overhauled in 1968. The DOB hopes
that the new codeeits first part was signed in December 2005,
and its second part will be submitted for approval in early 20077will reflect the density and high-rise capacity of New York.

As they currently stand, the ICC and NYCCs building codes do
little to promote green building practices. But Deborah Taylor,
AIA, LEED AP, who serves as the DOBBs executive director for special projects and MEA (Materials and Equipment Acceptance Unit), expects that we will see two major changes that will be unique to the New York City code. First, fee rebates may be offered for seven different types of achievement: energy conservation, renewable energy, water conservation, use of brownfield sites, construction and demolition waste-recycling, bicycle facilities, and achievement of LEED. The commissioner
will be able to draft specific standards to initiate the rebates,
which may apply to new construction, renovations, and existing buildings.

Second, the plumbing code could permit a water conservation
plan that, if approved, will make it possible to use graywater systems and waterless urinals, which are not permitted by the current code without special permission from the DOB. Provisions in the code could also establish green roof standards, to ease
their approval process. The new electrical code, passed into
law in 2001 and with an amendment before City Council, makes
it easier to build with photovoltaics by providing parameters that
were missing prior to the electrical codees own overhaul.

While our current code is not particularly green, we look
forward to passage of the proposed code and further greening
in the future,, Taylor acknowledged. New York, like all cities, is constantly looking at other cities for examples of good green practices. For example Houston is already using the ICC code.

Although the city lacks any formal green building incentive programs, New York became the first state to start a tax
incentive program in May 2000 through the New York State
Green Building Tax Credit (NYSGBTC), in collaboration with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). Both offer multiple programs to offset energy modeling and other protocols like commissioning and
incorporating green strategies. The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), which administers the tax credits, began accepting applications for the first period of funds on September 30, 2002, and disbursed $25 million in seven credit component certificates,, which allow recipients to claim credits over five
. In 2005, new legislation was passed to provide another $25
million for tax credits; the DEC has until 2009 to accept
applications for the second period of funds that will be distributed from 2006 through 2014.

Asked if the city should consider mirroring the state policy, architect Chris Garvin, co-chair of the New York AIA Committee
the Environment, stated, Financial incentives are appropriate sometimes, but private industry can make money by saving energy and there is no need for the citizens to subsidize that. [Building green is] a smart way to do business.. However, in
cases where the ownerrs additional expense does not result in savings, incentives could help. For example, owners of buildings that hold water from the cityys overly burdened sewer system
do not typically receive a financial payback. Retaining water
in holding tanks on site burdens owner and helps the city, by reducing combined sewer outflows (CSOs) to our rivers.
Incentive should encourage this type of practice.

Though New York is clearly planning for the future now, in other parts of the country, city initiatives have already had a great
impact on their development. On February 22, 2000, the Seattle City Council approved the Sustainable Building Policy, part of the cityys Environmental Management Program. Under the policy,
new city-funded projects and renovations with over 5,000 square feet of occupied space must achieve a LEED Silver rating. According to the cityys 2005 five-year report, 38 projects were either completed, under construction, or designed to achieve a LEED rating. In the fall of 2001, Seattlees LEED incentive Program began offering $15,000 for LEED-certified buildings and $20,000
for a certification of Silver or above. A year later, the city released strategies for creating more sustainable affordable housing projects in a document entitle seaGreen: Greening Seattlees Affordable Housing. The initiative is part of the cityys Office of Housing and has resulted in the construction of 18 SeaGreen multifamily housing projects as of 2005. Seattle also encourages green roofs via financial incentives. By 2005, the city had
provided over $300,000 for design and consulting fees for LEED projects.

Chicago, too, has enacted several policies to encourage green building strategies. In November 2005, the city announced a new grant program for green roofs. Owners of residential and small commercial buildings may apply for a $5,000 grant to help with
the planning and installation of a green roof. In January 2006,
20 grants were awarded.

While New York is prioritizing green construction, for now, the current trends in green building are driven more by enlightened clients and architects than lawmakers. Though the Mayorrs Office may be feeling the pressure to catch up, the drive to change the building industry continues to come from the private sector.

Sarah Cox is a New Yorkkbased writer who has
worked Previously for Dwell and Architectural Record.

Local Law 86


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Dia’s Moving Plan D.O.A.


Dia's Moving Plan D.O.A.
Whitney now eyeing Meatpacking District site 


Dia's now-defunct design by SOM 
COURTESY SOM 

When the Dia Art Foundation’s galleries at 548 West 22 Street closed in January 2004, it left a temporary void in New York’s cultural landscape, filled later that year with the promise of a new location connected to the proposed High Line Park. But on October 24, as reported in the New York Times, Kate Levin, commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) received a letter from Dia’s new board chair, Nathalie de Gunzburg, announcing that the institution would not occupy the city-owned building at 820 Washington Street as intended. The announcement was followed by the surprising news that the Whitney Museum of American Art is considering the site as an alternative to expanding its Marcel Breuer–designed home on Madison Avenue.

The Dia’s Gansevoort proposal matched the pioneering spirit the foundation embodied. Just as the museum settled in the then-burgeoning West Chelsea area in 1987, spurring its rise as an arts district, Dia would have created a stronghold for art in the transitioning Meatpacking District, and become a crucial part in the transformation of the High Line from an aging elevated railway into a dramatically landscaped public space.

In February of this year, Dia’s director Michael Govan was hired away after a 12-year tenure to become director and CEO of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Shortly thereafter, Leonardo Riggio, chairman of Barnes & Noble, stepped down from Dia’s board after serving for eight years, thrusting the institution into a state of instability as both men were key leaders in Dia’s growth.

Sources close to the situation suggest that between time pressure from the city, which aims to open the building by 2009, and the Whitney Museum’s expressed interest in the location as an alternative to their much-contested uptown expansion plans, Dia was forced to make a decision before they had a new director in place. Laura Raicovich, Dia’s deputy director, conceded that timing was a factor. She stated that going forward with the Meatpacking District plan did not make sense until the foundation had a director in place and the “New York City program is developed.” 

While construction on the Meatpacking site had yet to begin, Dia had been working with Roger Duffy of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) on the design of the 92,600-square-foot location. “It would have been a perfect project for the city,” Duffy said. “We worked closely with Ricardo Scofidio and James Corner [the masterplanners of the High Line] to make sure that the projects would interface well. I am a huge fan of Dia, and anyone who thinks highly of them is disappointed by the news.

“The site wasn’t entirely easy,” he continued. “There are meat lockers close by, and the maintenance and administration areas for the High Line—and public bathrooms—had to be in the building. But we managed an elegant solution. Maybe a wiser person would have seen the writing on the wall when Michael left.” 

Joshua David, co-founder of Friends of the High Line, maintains that despite Dia’s decision, the emphasis of the High Line continues to be on its cultural and artistic value, but added, “That site is unusual because it’s owned by the city of New York, so the city has the ability to shape how it is used.”

Despite the disappointment, City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden seemed sure that another cultural institution will take over the space. “A cultural use at 820 Washington is ideal for the southern terminus and principal entry to the High Line. The city will be actively seeking another cultural use,” Burden wrote by email.

Whitney spokesperson Jan Rothschild declined to comment about the museum’s intentions at 820 Washington Street other than to reiterate that the Whitney is “keeping its expansion options open.” But, she added, “No matter what we do, we are committed to working with Renzo Piano, and he is committed to us.” In an interview with Newsweek on November 2, Piano said that in September the museum asked him to consider the notion of designing a new building on a downtown site, and brought him to 820 Washington Street.

The Whitney’s attempts to expand its facilities spans 20 years, during which time it has hired and fired two architects—Michael Graves in 1985 and Rem Koolhaas in 2003—before hiring Renzo Piano to draw up plans in 2005. Piano’s initial plan met with stiff resistance from the community and the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) but ultimately won all the necessary approvals and was granted several zoning variances in July from the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals. A new hurdle took shape when a coalition of Upper East Side neighbors filled suit against the museum in late August to contest the variances.

Meanwhile, Dia remains committed to finding another location in New York. “The Gansevoort site is a great location, but New York has other great locations,” Raicovich said. “Dia’s top priority is looking for the site that will best accommodate its programs.”