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LOOP DE LOOP

London’s Universal unveils new NYC office with an interactive installation
On the heels of opening their first U.S. office in Manhattan, London’s Universal (formerly Universal Design Studio) unveiled a performance-based installation at A/D/O/ by Mini in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The participatory On Loop underpins the firm’s research and development-driven methodology, a process of collaborative experimentation to design unique spaces that interact with their users. In a sort of "formal-exercise-slash-performance-piece" hybrid, the installation underscores this ethos with a set up that asks visitors to experiment and co-create.  On view through the duration of this year's Archtober, On Loop highlights the design process with an unassuming setup. Fashioned from inexpensive materials—plywood, plexiglass, and masking tape—a half-painted loop and semicircular shelf circumscribe a round table and stools. Inspired by the Surrealist game Exquisite Corpse, where a drawing is arbitrarily finished by multiple artists, visitors are encouraged to participate in an on-going evolution of infinite accidental outcomes. In this context, masking tape is randomly placed on a plexiglass square on a spinning tabletop slide carrousel-like display. Over the 31 days On Loop remains on display, the “finished” works by individuals will contribute to a collective display on the installation’s surrounding shelf.  Universal will continue to activate its New York presence with a series of workshops co-led by local artists, designers, and makers. With the same premise as On Loop, the programming will ask visitors to participate in a similar Exquisite Corpse-like performance in different mediums. Including a clay, sound, drawing, writing, motion graphics, and food, the curious selection of medium-focused workshops can be found on the dedicated A/D/O/ Eventbrite page At their new location in the Manhattan wing of design agency AKQA, Universal will focus on continuing to collaborate with local architects, designers, and artists on various projects. When asked, they took particular interest in the hospitality typology—citing previous projects like the London Ace Hotel and Stockholm’s At Six Hotel. The design duo will operate on a bi-continental basis; codirectors Jason Holley and Paul Gulati will continue to work with founders Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby in London and at AKQA in New York.
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Made to Measure

AN Interior chats the future of workplace with Aaron Schiller
Since graduating from the Yale School of Architecture in 2013, New York–based architect Aaron Schiller, founder and principal of Schiller Projects, has completed a series of offices that are pushing the limits of what workplace design can be. Rather than create simple open plans or collaborative spaces with no direction, Schiller and his team analyze how businesses operate in order to deliver data-driven solutions that help employees work better. AN Interior’s executive editor Matt Shaw sat down with Schiller at his Hudson Yards studio to discuss. AN Interior: In your practice, workplace design is really more of a research process. What is the thinking behind that? Aaron Schiller: When we take on a new project, first we work with the company and all stakeholders to understand the core functionality underneath how they’re using their current space. The design solution is really that study; it’s analytical design. And out of this analytical design, we get to a new program. In a way, what we do is essentially community organizing within a workplace culture. AN: How do you think that is different from a typical client briefing on an office design? AS: It is about the level of investigation we get to. It takes real engagement on the side of ownership or leadership to commit to this path because it requires more time upfront, but it results in an analytics-driven playbook that looks somewhere between IDEO and OMA. Our workplace strategy and cultural engagement booklets have lots of infographics and charts. We don’t go into these workshops with just architects. We also bring in MBAs, data visualizers, people with experience in community organizing, or people with sociology backgrounds. We move in with the clients, we observe how they work in the space, and we get real data metrics behind it. They’re all distilled to attack the core issues of scale, duration, and frequency. In the law office we designed at Hudson Yards, they came to us and they said, “Look, we’re really collaborative, but we have a traditional space and we don’t like it.” We said, “OK, let us study you.” And we came back to them, and we said, “OK, you’re not going to be a trading floor, and you’re not going to be a traditional law firm anymore, either. Here is something in between that fits your model better.” Part of that was understanding that the majority of their collaboration—their meetings, so to speak—were only two or three people. So now we have a scale. They lasted 15 to 25 minutes, so now we have a duration. And the frequency is that these are 90 percent of all meetings in total. So now we know there’s a lot of what we call impromptus, and they happen all the time. So, we don’t create traditional dead spaces, which is what offices can largely be for a lot of companies. We’re not creating space for happenstance. We’re creating very clear multipurpose space. The great businesses are not getting rid of offices to be cheap toward their employees. They’re getting rid of offices to offer their employees what they think will be a richer working environment. Read the full interview on our interiors and design website, aninteriormag.com.  
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Sensual Skyscrapers

Design firm turns Hudson Yards towers into sex toys
New York-based design studio Wolfgang & Hite is taking a more intimate approach to critiquing the development boom in Hudson Yards. The studio’s newest project, XXX:HY, casts the controversial West Side development in a whole new light. A self-described “luxury real estate dildo experience,” the project presents a series of pink silicone sex toys modeled after Hudson Yards’ most iconic sites. Wolfgang & Hite specializes in interior architecture, exhibition design, and art production. In the past decade, the firm has completed a number of commercial, residential, and studio projects from Atlanta to Copenhagen. While the phallic undertones of skyscrapers may be old news, the inspiration for XXX:HY came from one particular comment by architectural critic Ada Louise Huxtable in 2008. In a Wall Street Journal review of Hudson Yards proposals, the 87-year-old Huxtable remarked that “Skidmore, Owings and Merrill's most conspicuous contribution is a pair of skyscrapers that look, in profile, alarmingly like sex toys.” While Huxtable never lived to see these buildings in all their not-so-subtle glory, Wolfgang & Hite has paid a grand tribute to the late critic by reducing SOM’s skyscraper (known as 35 Hudson Yards) to Huxtable’s interpretation—a hot pink silicone dildo. The collection includes a clitoral stimulator modeled after Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s The Shed as well as a ribbed butt plug mimicking Thomas Heatherwick's Vessel. All items were created at 1:100 scale and fit neatly into a base formed from a similarly scaled model of the entire 28-acre development. “There’s a lot to love in NYC’s recent building boom, but the city and developers have been jerking each other off for decades, so naturally we wanted to join in the fun… Masturbation is a great metaphor for the latest wave of development in New York City,” Wolfgang & Hite said in a statement about the project. “Architects design dildos all the time. We wanted to put these buildings to the test.” In a move to make its statement even more provocative, Wolfgang & Hite has gifted a full set of XXX:HY prototypes to the New York City Department of City Planning and Stephen M. Ross, chairman and founder of The Related Companies. "Sex does the body good. After the fiery criticisms of Hudson Yards this year, we thought city officials might need a healthy outlet for working through some of that guilt,” the firm said in a public statement.
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Bruce Almighty

Eskew+Dumez+Ripple reveals quarry-inspired addition to the Bruce Museum
New Orleans-based firm Eskew+Dumez+Ripple has unveiled designs for the much-anticipated $45 million renovation and expansion of the Bruce Museum. Located in downtown Greenwich, Connecticut, the 107-year-old institution for arts, science, and natural history hasn’t been significantly upgraded in 26 years, but that’s about to change as it prepares to double in size.  The design team, alongside Chicago studio jones/kroloff, will redesign the museum’s existing facility—a 30,000-square-feet private residence from the 1850s—and add new, state-of-the-art exhibition, education, and community spaces and more storage room. The result will be a seamlessly-connected, 70,000-square-foot structure, nicknamed the New Bruce, centered around a brand new three-story wing that will open onto the adjacent 30-acre Bruce Park. For the new wing, Eskew+Dumez+Ripple will create a contemporary look that plays off the geology of the surrounding region. The facade will be clad in cast stone and glass with striations that mimic Connecticut's coastal rock quarries. The interior will hold a new, public entrance lobby, a large lecture hall, and an events space. According to the architects, the design, like the museum itself, is intended to be a “repository for exploring the complex relationships between art and science. The Bruce is conceived of as a stone monolith that is carved and excavated to create a monument that celebrates the geology of the site and its impact in shaping the culture of Connecticut.” Reed Hilderbrand will revamp the landscape surrounding the Bruce Museum in an effort to connect it more strategically with Bruce Park. One of the boldest ways they’ll do this is by outfitting a central courtyard in the middle of the building between the lobby and gallery spaces to immerse visitors in lush greenery regardless of whether they are outside or indoors. Additionally, Reed Hilderbrand will preserve and restore the tree canopy around the museum and create a clear circulation system with a guided path for museum-goers to view outdoor sculptures.  Renovation work on the current gallery areas began last month and is expected to wrap up in early 2020 following the completion of the Permanent Science Galleries. Once open, the expanded art galleries will allow The Bruce to host larger exhibitions, as well as showcase more of the museum’s 15,000-piece permanent collection, much of which was previously hidden away in its basement. Construction on the new wing is expected to begin next summer. 
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Architects of Austria

Resident Alien: Austrian Architects in America explores the globalization of locality in design
The Austrian Cultural Forum’s iconic building by Austrian-American architect Raimund Abraham plays a fitting setting and set-piece for Resident Alien: Austrian Architects in America. The exhibition, jointly curated by Stephen Phillips and Axel Schmitzberger, opened on September 25 with a standing-room-only panel and five galleries showcasing the iconic works of expat Austrian masters, from the classic modernist forms of Adolf Loos to the current high-tech work of Peter Trummer.  The opening night panel used the contextual significance of the exhibition as a springboard to address broader themes, opening with a conversation between the Austrian passport-carrying panelists including Herwig Baumgartner, Andrea Lenardin, Christoph Kumpusch, Peter Trummer, Bettina Zerza, Duks Koschitz, and Matias del Campo. Their varying generations resulted in the discussion of the contemporary meaning of hyphenated Austrians, as well as the implications of being from an era of voluntary, rather than forceful, migration stateside, differing from their predecessors in the ‘30s and ‘40s.    Andrea Lenardin referred to this 20th/21st-century transition as stemming from a collective “idea of the misfit,” to the nods and agreement of everyone else on the stage; “we weren’t forced out, we were free to come here. Hopefully, the 21st-century idea of who you are will not be tied to locality,” said Lenardin.  With ideas of identity and the weight of the creators of modernism on the mind, visitors were invited into the galleries after the panel, which was forced to end on time despite the high energy circulating through the conversation to the very end. The galleries are thematically split into the five themes: Primitive Domains, Aggregate Families, Urban Terrestrials, Cloud Natures, and Media Atmospheres, all said to explore the idea of bicultural heritage. However, while the stated intent was ascribed to the sort of heritage discussed on the panel, these five themes were presented more so as shelves on which to categorize interesting projects and objects, rather than come alive as platforms for deeper cultural ideas or placemaking. Starting with Primitive Domains, drawings, models, and photographs explore the beginnings of modernism as geometries set in landscapes, free from ornamentation and following the concept of form and function. As the galleries progress, towards Aggregate Families and Cloud Natures, the architectural forms acquire added complexity, both in form and context—including an evolving urban setting. The works and representations on the walls reach towards increasingly digitized methods of creating, viewing, and building, with the uppermost gallery housing Media Atmospheres, a darkened and immersive space where spatial manipulation—even intangible elements, like neon light—is explored as a manipulation of the human condition itself.  While this exhibition explores the physical outcomes of the flow of ideas and design culture from Austria to the U.S, the objects and concepts read more as being a part of the flow of contemporary messages we recognize today, global in scale and adaptation—there is a continuous feedback loop, not a one-way street, in the design world. Today, practicing architects are often true global citizens, like the panelists, all of whom have worked in their home country, the U.S, and around the world, not just as “cosmopolitans” in the dated sense, according to Duks Koschitz.  Design and architectural representation, pushing new limits in digital and post-digital worlds, is a language in itself, with an identity untethered from locality, the same untethered existence that Lenardin hopes for the professionals themselves. So while there may indeed be some truth in the humorous myth of the Trummer-suggested Austrian “architect gene” that sent laughs around the stage, it’s no longer contained, but carried by the self-proclaimed misfits in the lab, studio, and world.  Resident Alien is on display at the ACFNY until February 17, 2019.
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Precast and Stacked

Studio Gang's first residential tower in New York ripples with scalloped concrete
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Since rezoning under the tenure of Michael Bloomberg, Downtown Brooklyn has undergone a tremendous transformation from a relatively low-slung commercial district to a burgeoning neighborhood defined by row upon row of residential towers. 11 Hoyt, located on the southern boundary of the district, is another addition to the area set to be completed in 2020. The tower, developed by Tishman Speyer, is Studio Gang's first residential project in New York City and breaks from the fairly lackluster design typology of the area with a unitized curtainwall of scalloped precast concrete panels. The 770,000-square-foot project rises to a height of over 600 feet and is tucked in midblock—the tower will be ringed by a street-wall podium which is in turn topped by a private park.
  • Facade Manufacturer BPDL Guardian Glass Stahlbau Pichler Metra
  • Architect Studio Gang Hill West Architects (Architect-of-Record)
  • Facade Installer Midwest Steel Enterprise Architectural Sales
  • Facade Consultant Gilsanz Murray Steficek
  • Location Brooklyn, New York
  • Date of Completion 2020
  • System Custom Metra system, Custom Stahlbau Pichler window system
  • Products BPDL precast concrete panels Guardian Glass SunGuard® Neutral 50/32
The approximately 1155 precast concrete panels were produced by Canadian manufacturer Bétons Préfabriqués Du Lac (BPDL), and measure just under twelve feet in both height and width. The panels are composed of white concrete with a thin veneer of light grey calcite. They are arranged in seven sweeping undulations along the east and west elevations, and three to the narrower north and south elevations, creating diagonal strands of bay windows that protrude from the otherwise flush curtainwall. According to Studio Gang senior project leader Arthur Liu, "the design process and digital design tools helped create a small number of discrete facade elements arranged in a way that offered variation and flexibility to the design of the facade while simultaneously aligning with interior spaces and respecting the limits of constructability." The custom aluminum window systems fabricated by Stahibau Pichler were, for the most part, installed by BPDL into the precast while at the factory. In total, over 110,000-square-feet of glass, produced by Guardian Glass and cut by Tvitec, was used for the project. Prior to the construction of the park-topped podium, the multi-lot space has served as a staging ground for the installation of the oversized panels. The panels are split into two categories; the 22,000-pound "scalloped" panel and the 11,000-pound flat panel. Both are hoisted into position and connected for lateral and gravity support at the floor slab with multiple galvanized steel anchor assemblies. A particular challenge of the project was waterproofing associated with the exposed horizontal precast panels. "The waterproofing had to be applied at the BPDL plant to avoid costly and difficult installation in the field and it had to be done immediately at the time of production without disrupting BPDL's plant workflow," said Gilsanz Murray Steficek Partner Achim Hermes. "Due to winter weather restrictions in Alma, Quebec from October to April, the application of the waterproofing had to be done indoors. That meant it had to occur shortly after the precast panels were stripped out of their forms."      
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1962 - 2019

Pratt Institute’s Enrique Limon has passed away
“It is with heavy hearts to write that our Pratt School of Architecture mourns the passing of Enrique Limon this past Friday, September 20th,” Pratt Architecture professor Dagmar Richter wrote to AN last week. “He has been a professor and dedicated teacher at Pratt since 2004. Students and colleagues alike adored him.” Enrique Limon received his MSAAD from Columbia University and BArch from the University of Southern California. He was the founder and principal of limonLAB, a Manhattan-based urban laboratory dedicated to experimentation in architecture and design. He was also an associate of Groundlab, an international landscape urbanism firm with locations in London, Beijing, and New York. Limon’s practice engaged in work across disciplines—graphics, furniture, interior design, and urbanism—and has been recognized in many publications and exhibitions including as an Emerging Architect in Architectural Record and as a participant in the Emerging Professionals show at the AIA headquarters in Washington D.C. He had given lectures across Europe, Asia, and the US.  According to Richter, he had also just finished and published a design of a new sustainable, “smart city” in Nepal as well as large-scale housing projects in Mexico and Jamaica. Limon not only advocated for sustainable building practices but used his research to foster knowledge of local building materials and design that supported the health of the communities that it serves.
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Over Troubled Waters

Controversial Lower Manhattan flood protection plan moves forward
New York City's City Planning Commission met last Monday to vote on the future of the $1.45 billion resiliency plan to bolster flood protection in Lower Manhattan, a mammoth scheme designed and planned by One Architecture & Urbanism, Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects, AKRF, and Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). The approved East Side Coastal Resiliency (ESCR) project will stretch from Montgomery Street to 25th Street and, controversially, rebuild the East River Park eight feet higher than it currently stands. That plan, which was first unveiled in January, was designed to withstand a 100-year coastal flood scenario through 2050. In addition to elevating the East River Park, the ESCR project will also replace several bridges and build new flood walls, flood gates, and underground flood protection.  The ESCR is one of several projects initiated in the wake of Hurricane Sandy to prepare the city for the continued threats of sea-level rise. The complete 10-mile-long plan, initially envisioned by BIG as the "BIG U," will wrap around the southern tip of Manhattan from West 57th Street to East 42nd Street. As far back as 2015, the original design proposal for the ESCR was rejected by Community Boards 3 and 6. Three years later, the city released the current iteration of the project, shocking some residents with its huge price tag and new design. The current version of the project will cost $1.45 billion, up from the original $338 million, but will shorten construction time by 1.5 years compared to previous proposals. The new scheme would also allow equipment to be brought in via barge to avoid closing the neighboring FDR Drive.  While the park and surrounding area were heavily flooded in 2012 by Sandy and fall well within FEMA’s 100-year flood zone, residents expressed outrage at the flood protection plan. Protestors were distrustful after previous plans were unexpectedly scrapped, and doubt the city's ability to meet the new  2023 deadline. Residents have expressed such intense opposition to the project that Manhattan Borough President, Gale Brewer, recently commissioned an independent review by the Dutch group Deltares to assess it. Despite weighing the pushback, the City Planning Commission ultimately voted to approve the project, citing the immediate threat that rising sea levels pose. The ESCR plan will next need to receive the City Council's blessing before it can be voted on by Mayor Bill de Blasio for final approval.
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Carbon Canceled

A built environment symposium closes out Climate Week NYC 2019
With Climate Week NYC coming to a close, the Built Environment Symposium was a fitting finale, gathering together political bodies, industry professionals as well as architects and designers to speak openly about their collaborative efforts to make New York City a greener place The third panel discussion in particular, “New York City’s Climate Mobilization Act: Significantly Reducing Building Emissions,” brought together preeminent voices working to address the environmental impacts of New York’s buildings. Melanie La Rocca, commissioner of the Department of Buildings (DOB) sat down with Jason Vollen, director of architecture for Metro New York at AECOM and Christopher Toomey, vice president of major projects at McKinsey & Company to discuss the importance of addressing the costs of the built environment, and why pieces of legislation are invaluable to instituting rapid change.  With 67 percent of the city’s emissions stemming from its buildings, the need for action is acute, and the mayor’s office has accentuated the urgency by implementing Local Law 97, a mandate that all buildings over 25,000-square-feet comply with aggressive carbon caps by 2024. The very building the panelists sat in, the Midtown Manhattan office of host firm AECOM, is one such building that will fall under the new jurisdiction.  Local Law 97 is the first of its kind to make the financial penalties for non-compliance so significant that building owners will have to address the issues head-on. Fines start at $268 per metric ton over the predetermined limits (based on a building’s size and class) and additional fees are added for non-submittal of records, as well as false or flawed reports, all on an annual schedule. Hopefully, these financial roadblocks will incentivize building owners in ways that previous legislation has only wagged fingers.  This regulation doesn’t just apply to new buildings, but all buildings in New York City. That’s roughly 50,000—and this measure has sparked controversy as older buildings will have to invest in major renovations, as many did not incorporate energy efficiency in their original designs. Aged technologies like boilers and old-fashioned window glazing will need to be replaced, likely at a great initial cost to those landlords.  The panelists talked very seriously and practically about the realities of retrofitting all these spaces. “We could build an entire industry around retrofitting structures,” Toomey said, adding that there are studies that speculate that this would necessitate the creation of up to 140,000 new jobs.  However, the bureaucracy involved in clearing thousands of new buildings in the next four years in advance of the “penalty stage,” where non-complying structures will be fined heavily for carbon use, is intimidating even for the DOB: “We don’t want 20,000 applications coming in 2023,” said La Rocca. To avoid this, the DOB, architects, and project managers are encouraging companies to act now and stay ahead of the curve for not only the 2024 benchmarks but the 2030 ones as well. “No one wants to be an SUV in a Prius world,” said Vollen, “It would be an embarrassment down the line.” Architects like Vollen are encouraging high-profile companies to handle their compliance measures sooner than later with a leading mindset—to both leverage their names as well as allow for more time to design creative, innovative solutions to emissions targets rather than hasty adaptations.  While the panelists all acknowledged the risks and experimentation needed in NYC’s fight to lower emissions, La Rocca closed the discussion, saying, “This is an opportunity for us all to reimagine what we do.” 
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System Update

URBAN-X 6 showcases new tech solutions at A/D/O
This past Thursday, URBAN-X hosted its sixth demo day in Brooklyn at A/D/O, where startups that were showing what Micah Kotch, the startup accelerator's managing director, called “novel solutions to urban life.” URBAN-X, which is organized by MINI, A/D/O’s founder, in partnership with the venture firm Urban Us, began incubating urban-focused startups back in 2016. Previous iterations have seen everything from electric vehicle companies to waste management startups, and for this session, the brief was intentionally broad, said Kotch. On display was everything from machine-learning solutions to building energy management to apps that let people buy leftover prepared food from fast-casual restaurants and cafes to prevent food waste and generate some extra revenue.  Pi-Lit showed off a networked solution to highway and infrastructural safety. Many lives are lost each year as people sit after accidents, or as construction workers operate in dangerous work zones. The California-based company has developed a smart solution of mesh-networked lighting that can be deployed by first responders or work on existing work zone infrastructure. In addition, they’ve developed an array of sensors that can be affixed to bridges, roads, and temporary barriers—which founder Jim Selevan says are prone to impact but without transportation departments being aware, leading to unknown compromises that can cause accidents later on. Sensors could also let relevant parties know if a bridge is vibrating too much, or when roads begin freezing and warnings need to be put out, providing users with “real-time ground truth.” 3AM also presented their plans for using mesh networks, with a focus on safety, as their program relies on drones and portable trackers to help support operational awareness for firefighters. More whimsically, Hubbster showcased their solution—already deployed in Paris and Copenhagen—to support urban play: basically an app-based rental system for basketballs, croquet set, and everything in between, which would deploy from small, battery-powered smart lockboxes. Less glamorously but quite critically, Varuna is trying to make a change in the old-fashioned U.S. water infrastructure system, which exposes as much as 63 percent of the country to unsafe water and largely relies on manual testing, even for federally mandated across-the-board chlorine monitoring. They hope that by introducing AI-equipped sensors to utility systems, U.S. water can be delivered more safely, efficiently, and cheaply, addressing "operational inefficiencies in water supply, outdated tools, and a lack of visibility.” Also working with utilities was the Houston-based Evolve Energy, whose AI behavioral classification solution, currently available in parts of Texas, allows electricity to be bought at wholesale prices at the times of day when it is cheapest, for the comfort and needs individual users value most. For example, a home can pre-cool with cheap electricity and then turn off when prices surge. Variable rates, a la airline tickets, were a common theme—for example, Food for All, an app that is designed to reduce food waste and create extra revenue for fast-casual restaurants, offers flexible pricing for customers to pick up food that might otherwise be tossed. Most relevant to architects, perhaps, were Cove.Tool’s recent updates. The startup reports that they’ve made big strides on their cloud-based app that helps architect’s create efficient buildings. Reportedly cutting down energy grading from tens of hours to mere minutes, the app can now simulate the effects of sunlight—through various types glass—on utility usage, among many other new micro-climatic simulation features.
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Pollution Resolution

EPA rejects tunnel plan for Gowanus Canal cleanup, says tanks will happen
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has rejected a proposal by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection to clean up the Gowanus Canal with increased efficiency. The 1.8-mile-long canal in Brooklyn has long-been considered one of the nation’s most contaminated bodies of water. The canal’s pollution can be traced back as far as the 19th century. Located in a major industrial hub, it served as an active dumping site for chemicals from the paper mills, gas plants, and leather tanneries that surrounded it. Today, the canal faces the harmful effects of combined sewer overflow (CSO), which occurs when substantial rainfall causes the sewer system to release wastewater into the canal. Since 2010, the Gowanus Canal has been a designated Superfund site, marked by the EPA for high-priority cleanup because of contamination by hazardous waste that poses a threat to public health or the environment. As residential development continues to add luxury buildings to Gowanus, the push to save the canal has gained even more momentum. Dredging of the waterway began in the fall of 2017. In a letter to the City, the EPA formally rejected a proposal to construct a 16-million gallon underground CSO tunnel to divert pollutants. Instead, Peter Lopez, regional administrator of the EPA, announced that the agency planned to move forward with the installation of two CSO retention tanks along the canal. Lopez cited several EPA concerns in the letter, including cost impacts, insufficient protection, and external factors outside of the agency’s federal jurisdiction. In addition to holding four million more gallons than the tanks, the tunnel’s design would have given the City the opportunity to expand it in the future if necessary. While the EPA has remained steadfast in its plans to fix the canal, it claims that the City’s proposal was given careful consideration; the letter concluded with the following statement from Lopez:
“In terms of advising the community of this decision, we plan to concentrate our outreach to advising them that we have cooperatively reviewed the City's proposal and focus on the many steps occurring as we move ahead with the selected remedy. We look forward to our continued, close collaboration as we work to bring the benefits of this critical work to the Gowanus community.”
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Basin-Based

Plans for ex-Amazon site in Queens aim to move forward with the community in mind
Shortly after Amazon backed out of building a new headquarters in Long Island City, Queens, (LIC) on February 14, developers and city officials began revisiting earlier plans for a mixed-use development on the 28-acre waterfront site. Due to the controversy of the failed Amazon proposal, all plans for the site will now have to face New York City’s public review process, meaning the community board, borough president, and city council would all have a say in the plans moving forward.  According to the Licpost, a coalition of community organizations have been calling on the developers since April to produce one comprehensive plan for the area as opposed to rezoning separate sites with different goals. Back in 2017, Plaxall’s residential redevelopment proposal was centered around rezoning the former industrial shipping port, Anable Basin, through the creation of the “Anable Basin Special District” which would include eight mixed-use buildings, light manufacturing, and retail space.  Out of the group of property owners who recently spoke with the de Blasio administration and City Council, one landowner was noticeably absent: Plaxall, who had proposed the original conversion on the site before Amazon moved to claim it and commissioned WXY to create a master plan. However, Plaxall’s managing director, Paula Kirby, told POLITICO earlier this week that they “remain committed to pursuing a vision that builds on LIC’s history as a center of innovation and creativity, and to working with our neighbors and the city on a plan to make Anable Basin an integral part of the future LIC waterfront." While their scheme would require rezoning, the general idea seems to be guiding the future of the site.  Throughout the Amazon debacle, it seems all participants have learned that the swath of land has a great untapped potential for bringing in jobs, but that community needs must be addressed first. Rather than building more condos, developers are now welcoming the idea of multifamily buildings that would have some income-restricted units, per city mandate. Other priorities discussed with the community organizations include several new schools, an arts center, a contiguous bike lane, and open parks.  According to one consultant, the number of new jobs doesn't have to be sacrificed to achieve those things. “Just based on the scale, the scope and breadth of the district, including the Plaxall site…in its full build-out, it approximately comes out to about 50,000 jobs,” MaryAnne Gilmartin of L&L MAG told POLITICO Brent O’Leary of the Hunters Point Civic Association told the Licpost that, “Instead of developers telling us their plans for our neighborhood, the community should express their vision and needs and the developers work within that vision so that the neighborhood develops properly.” He has helped organize meetings with TF Cornerstone and L&L MAG which are expected to take place in October at a currently undecided date.