One of the world’s most dogged transportation professionals—and former head of New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA)—will now head up Virgin’s venture into high-speed rail service. The Verge reported that Jay Walder has left his role as CEO of bike-sharing company, Motivate, in order to lead Los Angeles–based Virgin Hyperloop One, which appears to be in financial trouble after it publicly laid off 40 staff members yesterday. Walder will replace Rob Lloyd, who ran the young company for three years but stepped down for undisclosed reasons. After serving stints in both Hong Kong and London, helping both growing cities overhaul their mass transit systems, Walder comes to Virgin Hyperloop One with serious street cred that largely centers around the financial and physical success at his previous jobs. In his latest position, he led Motivate through a massive upswing, improving and expanding New York's Citi Bike and similar programs across the county. Motivate was acquired by Lyft this summer. During his tenure at the MTA, Walder instigated technological advancements and tried to pull the organization out of its never-ending financial troubles, despite his rocky time there. The news of Walder’s appointment comes as the transportation technology startup aims to spur more investment and build its first fully operational high-speed rail in India. The planned route will take people from Mumbai to Pune in just 25 minutes. Last month, Saudi Arabia nixed a deal to construct a hyperloop in that country after former chairman Richard Branson criticized the kingdom’s alleged killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The Saudis announced a $1 billion investment in Virgin Galactic, another venture by Branson, after Branson stepped down as the chairman at Hyperloop. While Hyperloop’s former chief executive Lloyd hasn’t explicitly named the controversy as his main reason for leaving the company, he did refuse to attend Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Future Investment Initiative conference late last month where the organization planned to make the hyperloop deal official. There they aimed to begin conducting a feasibility study on “the Vision 2030 Hyperloop Pod,” which Lloyd and his team unveiled last April. With Branson and Lloyd gone, Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has stepped in as the new chairman. His company, DP World, a UAE-based shipping and logistics group, is now Virgin Hyperloop One’s largest investor. Virgin Hyperloop One is currently testing its latest technology at a site in Nevada’s Mojave Desert and aims to begin construction on a six-mile test segment in India in 2019. It's working on a feasibility study for a Missouri track as well. Because of Walder’s track record of bringing struggling transit organizations into the 21st century and creating financial gains for giants like Motivate, many think his “real world” knowledge will bring tangible momentum to the futuristic Virgin Hyperloop One.
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The Hawaiian Supreme Court ruled on October 30 that construction of the $2 billion Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) can continue, setting the stage for a battle between scientists and native activists. In a 4-1 decision, the court ruled on the validity of a construction permit that would allow the telescope to proceed. Although there are already 13 other observatories on Mauna Kea, a mountain on the Big Island, the TMT would become the largest in the Northern Hemisphere once complete and allow an unprecedented look into sky; Mauna Kea is 14,000 feet above sea level and isolated from light pollution. But it’s also a sacred mountain and burial ground to the native Polynesian population, and they’ve been leading the charge against the construction of the TMT for over five years. Opponents have been using a combination of litigation and civil action, namely blockading groundbreakings and the construction site, to prevent the telescope’s development. The issue is one of native sovereignty and colonialism, a conflict harkening all the way back to the original annexing of Hawaii by the United States in 1898. Mauna Kea is where Polynesian Hawaiians originally refined their own star maps for navigation, and the mountain still holds a number of religious altars used by priests to this day. Support among Hawaiians for the TMT seems to be broad, however, at least according to a 2016 poll, adding weight to the push for telescope’s construction. Will the TMT’s 98-foot-wide mirror scan the atmospheres of planets outside of our solar system for markers of biological compounds any time soon? It doesn’t seem likely, despite the Supreme Court ruling. The 18-and-a-half-story observatory was originally scheduled to be completed in 2024 and is now five years behind schedule. For its part, the observatory’s board has vowed to continue talking with the mayor and local residents. Activists have pledged to continue protesting the telescope through non-violent means, their ultimate goal is to force the TMT to build on its backup site in the Canary Islands.
Look on the Sunnyside
Amazon to split HQ2 between New York and Virginia, but can they handle it?
Only hours after the news leaked that Amazon was considering Crystal City, a suburb in Arlington, Virginia, that bounds D.C. for the site of its second headquarters, sources are reporting that two cities will actually be taking home a shiny new HQ2. Long Island City in Queens and Crystal City in Northern Virginia will both be getting a mini-HQ2 of sorts and the accompanying 25,000 employees, raising concerns that both neighborhoods will soon face an influx of wealthier residents that will further strain already stressed housing and transportation systems. Although the Chicago Tribune noted that Amazon’s decision to split up its headquarters may have been to head off criticism that it would overburden any city that HQ2 landed in (echoing complaints of Seattle residents), it may not be enough. Over the last year, 1,436 new residential units were built in Long Island City during a time when New York is already struggling—and using increasingly novel means—to hit affordable housing goals. The decision appears to have been weeks, if not months, in the making. Both Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio have met with representatives of Amazon in the past few weeks, with the mayor’s office leading tours of the Queens neighborhood.
Just last week, the city announced that it would be infusing the waterfront neighborhood with $180 million in investments toward improving schools, infrastructure, transportation, and open space; it now appears that the announcement’s timing was more than coincidental. The city may also be banking on the future development of Sunnyside Yard, the 180-acre active rail yard situated between Long Island City and Sunnyside, to soak up some of the expected influx of new residents. Although Long Island City, directly across the East River from Midtown Manhattan, is served by eight subway lines, the Long Island Railroad, and easy connections to both John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports, New York’s subway and bus systems are already in the middle of a crisis. Sky-high ridership in recent years, overcrowding, cascading mechanical failures, and struggles to find the funding necessary to fix the subways’ most pressing issues have all contributed to a decrease in the quality of New York’s transportation network. Governor Cuomo, for his part, has been quiet on whether the incentives offered to Amazon include money to improve, or at least fortify, the subway system, though to this point, the administration has already pledged hundreds of millions of dollars in tax incentives. Yesterday, the governor joked that he’d go as far as to “change my name to Amazon Cuomo if that's what it takes." We’ll see if he follows through.
I don't know exactly where in LIC Amzon HQ2 will be, but the majority of LIC is categorized as opportunity zones. If HQ2 is built in an opportunity zone, Amazon will not pay taxes on land. In New York City. pic.twitter.com/IwTpYDK5Rt— Lena Afridi (@lpafridi) November 6, 2018
At an awards ceremony at Manhattan’s Center for Architecture on October 8, representatives from AIA New York (AIANY) and the New York chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLANY) gathered for the first annual Transportation + Infrastructure Design Excellence Awards (T+I Awards). The winners, winnowed down from a pool of 67 entrants, showed excellence in both built and unrealized projects related to transportation and infrastructure, with a heavy emphasis on work that integrated sustainability and engaged with the public. Outstanding greenways, esplanades, and transit improvement plans were lauded for their civic contributions. A variety of merit awards were handed out to speculative projects, and the Regional Plan Association (RPA) was honored a number of times for the studies it had commissioned as part of the Fourth Regional Plan; it was noted that many of the solutions proposed in past Regional Plans had eventually come to pass. The jury was just as varied as the entrants: Donald Fram, FAIA, a principal of Donald Fram Architecture & Planning; Doug Hocking, AIA, a principal at KPF; Marilyn Taylor, FAIA, professor of architecture and urban design at the University of Pennsylvania; David van der Leer, executive director of the Van Alen Institute; and Donna Walcavage, FASLA, a principal at Stantec. Meet the winners below:
Best in CompetitionThe Brooklyn Greenway Location: Brooklyn, N.Y. Designers: Marvel Architects, Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects, WE Design Landscape Architecture, eDesign Dynamics, Horticultural Society of New York, and Larry Weaner Landscape Associates Now six miles long and growing, the waterfront Brooklyn Greenway project kicked off in 2004 with a planning phase as a joint venture between the nonprofit Brooklyn Greenway Initiative (BGI) and the RPA. The 14-mile-long series of linear parks has been broken into 23 ongoing capital projects under the New York City Department of Transportation’s purview—hence the lengthy list of T+I Award winners. Funding is still being raised to complete the entire Greenway, but the BGI has been hosting events and getting community members involved to keep the momentum going.
HonorHunter's Point South Park Location: Queens, N.Y. Park Designers: SWA/Balsley and Weiss/Manfredi Prime Consultant and Infrastructure Designer: Arup Client: New York City Economic Development Corporation With: Arup The second phase of Hunter’s Point South Park opened in June of this year and brought 5.5 new acres of parkland to the southern tip of Long Island City. What was previously undeveloped has been converted into a unique park-cum-tidal wetland meant to absorb and slow the encroachment of stormwater while rejuvenating the native ecosystem. Hunter’s Point South Park blends stormwater resiliency infrastructure with public amenities, including a curved riverwalk, a hovering viewing platform, and a beach—all atop infill sourced from New York’s tunnel waste.
MeritRoberto Clemente State Park Esplanade Location: Bronx, N.Y. Landscape Architect: NV5 with Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects Client: New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation With: AKRF, CH2M Hill
CitationSpring Garden Connector Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Landscape Architect: NV5 Client: Delaware River Waterfront Corporation With: Cloud Gehshan, The Lighting Practice
MeritThe QueensWay Location: Queens, N.Y. Architect: DLANDstudio Architecture and Landscape Architecture, and WXY Architecture + Urban Design Client: The Trust for Public Land Could a High Line ever land in Queens? That’s what The Trust for Public Land set out to discover, tapping DLAND and WXY to imagine what it would look like if a 3.5-mile-long stretch of unused rail line were converted into a linear park. The project completed the first phase of schematic design in 2017 using input from local Queens residents, but fundraising, and push-and-pull with community groups who want to reactivate the rail line as, well, rail, has put the project on hold.
MeritNexus/EWR Location: Newark, N.J. Architect: Gensler Client: Regional Plan Association With: Ahasic Aviation Advisors, Arup, Landrum & Brown
MeritThe Triboro Corridor Location: The Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens, N.Y. Architect: One Architecture & Urbanism (ONE) and Only If Client: Regional Plan Association Commissioned as part of the Fourth Regional Plan, Only If and ONE imagined connecting the outer boroughs through a Brooklyn-Bronx-Queens rail line using existing freight tracks. Rather than a hub-and-spoke system with Manhattan, the Triboro Corridor would spur development around the new train stations and create a vibrant transit corridor throughout the entire city.
HonorFulton Center Location: New York, N.Y. Design Architect: Grimshaw Architect of Record: Page Ayres Cowley Architects Client: NYC Metropolitan Transit Authority With: Arup, HDR Daniel Frankfurt, James Carpenter Design Associates Fulton Center was first announced in 2002 as part of an effort to revive downtown Manhattan’s moribund economy by improving transit availability. Construction was on and off for years until the transit hub and shopping center’s completion in 2014, and now the building connects the 2, 3, 4, 5, A, C, J, and Z lines all under one roof (the N, R, and W trains are accessible through an underground passage to Cortlandt Street). Through the use of a large, metal-clad oculus that protrudes from the roof of the center, and the building’s glazed walls, the center, which spirals down from street level, is splashed with natural light.
MeritNumber 7 Subway Line Extension & 34th Street-Hudson Yards Station Location: New York, N.Y. Architect: Dattner Architects Engineer of Record: WSP Client: MTA Capital Construction With: HLH7 a joint venture of Hill International, HDR, and LiRo; Ostergaard Acoustical Associates; STV
MeritMississauga Transitway Location: Ontario, Canada Architect: IBI Group Client: City of Mississauga, Transportation & Works Department With: DesignABLE Environments, Dufferin Construction, Entro Communications, HH Angus, WSP
MeritDenver Union Station Location: Denver, Colorado Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) Landscape Architect: Hargreaves Associates Client: Denver Union Station Project Authority (DUSPA) With: AECOM, Clanton & Associates, Kiewit Western, Tamara Kudrycki Design, Union Station Neighborhood Company
StudentTurnpike Metabolism: Reconstituting National Infrastructure Through Landscape Student: Ernest Haines Academic Institution: MLA| 2018, Harvard Graduate School of Design Anyone’s who’s ever cruised down a highway knows that equal weight isn’t necessarily given to the surrounding landscape. But what if that weren't the case? In Turnpike Metabolism, Ernest Haines imagines how the federal government can both give deference to the natural landscapes surrounding transportation infrastructure and change the design process to allow nature to define routes and structures.
Power to the People
How an architect is using solar power to prevent Puerto Rico's next disaster
Like millions of other Americans, Jonathan Marvel, founding principal at Marvel Architects, remembers watching media coverage stream in from Puerto Rico in September 2017 after Hurricane Maria struck the island. The devastation was extraordinary. As later studies would reveal, an estimated 2,975 people died as a result of the storm and 3.4 million people lost power. It was one of the worst natural disasters to ever strike the U.S. Now, one year after Maria, Marvel and his partners at Resilient Power Puerto Rico (RPPR) are building a series of solar installations that are bringing emergency power to community centers in informal settlements across the island. Using state-of-the-art Tesla Powerwall batteries, RPPR has enabled these centers to generate solar power during good weather and store it for the blackouts that follow hurricanes and other disasters. Local people can use the centers as shelters where they can charge their phones to find their loved ones, store perishable food, or power life-saving home healthcare devices. The goal of the group was not to rebuild the island's existing infrastructure after Maria, but to provide a new resilient system that would support informal communities when the next storm would inevitably arrive. “When Maria hit," Marvel said, "it hit home.” Marvel had just returned from Puerto Rico when Maria arrived. He had been helping his mother, who lives on the island, recover from Hurricane Irma, which had blown through only two weeks before. Rather than just sending money to aid organizations, Marvel worked with friends and colleagues Cristina Roig-Morris, ESQ, and José J. Terrasa-Soler, ASLA, to do what architects do best: design a solution to a problem. “Architects jump in,” Marvel said. “We’re the first responders from the professional world. We’re trained to think comprehensively; we’re trained to put the social impact first and foremost.” Rather than tackling the entire enormity of the disaster, Marvel's team focused on power. Electricity, as Marvel put it, "is the basis of all things in the 21st century,” and according to CNN, the hurricane caused the worst blackout in U.S. history. The goal of the group was not to restore electricity to the whole island; that would be an enormous task and one that a slew of government agencies were already working on. Instead, they looked at how they could create supports in the electrical web to catch the most vulnerable when they fell. RPPR’s solution is straightforward but steps neatly aside of the established way of doing things. “We’ve been very deliberate to stay outside of local politics and federal politics,” Marvel said. Instead, the group looked for creative solutions permissible under existing laws. The sun being an abundant resource on the tropical island, solar power provided an obvious place to start exploring possibilities, but they found there were restrictions on what they could do with private generation. “Before Maria, there was a lot of solar power, but it was illegal to store with batteries,” Marvel said. “After Maria, batteries were allowed without permits, which allowed us to start our system legally. But we still can’t distribute past the property line.” Across the country, small-scale solar generation is tightly regulated by power authorities that have been accused of trying to squash home power generation so that utilities can maintain a monopoly on the electricity market. Puerto Rico allowed domestic power storage in Maria's wake, but still would not allow RPPR to create an alternative power network. RPPR would have to make the most of small-scale installations. Doing a lot with a little is a common practice in Puerto Rico, where resources don't always flow as easily as they do on the mainland. Marvel’s mother, the architect and planner Lucilla Fuller Marvel, had worked extensively with community centers in informal settlements across the island (her book Listen to What They Say presented a bottom-up approach to planning in Puerto Rico), and the group realized that they could focus on powering existing hubs. By installing solar panels and batteries, each community center was able to serve a broad population with relatively little effort. “Each site serves a population about 3,000–5,000 people because of the density,” Marvel said. Thousands of people are able to take advantage of the basic amount of electricity available at each installation during post-disaster blackouts when the central power grid collapses. The focus on informal communities also helped RPPR avoid federal bureaucracy, which, Marvel said, “was completely caught off guard.” While President Trump has recently insisted that his administration got “A Pluses” for their response to the storm, Marvel saw the situation differently: “The federal government does not have a great track record on the lower 48 when it comes to hurricane recovery…but states really help each other out." Puerto Rico, being an island and a relatively isolated territory in the Carribbean, is often forced to go it alone. "Puerto Rico doesn’t have anybody waiting to help. The governor of Puerto Rico was counting on the feds…but the feds didn’t step it up.” When it came to designing the installations, RPPR focused on efficacy rather than looking for a flashy, aesthetically-driven design. Panels are installed in prosaic rooftop setups, but Marvel said that he looked for lessons from what survived the storm when it came time for detailing, and the results have proved resilient. The project’s successes have won new backers and collaborators, and enabled it to broaden its ambitions. Tesla joined the project by providing their home storage batteries, and a variety of foundations have provided hundreds of thousands of dollars in support. Now the project has 28 installations across the island, with 30 more in the pipeline. RPPR and Marvel’s work in Puerto Rico tells the story of a resilient network of communities, badly battered but bouncing back from catastrophe. It’s far from the narrative perpetuated by the current presidential administration, which maintains that the federal government saved a helpless island from impending doom. The project also presents a model for how architects can engage with their communities aside from multimillion-dollar cultural projects or philanthropic endeavors in remote countries. “I think it is very easy for architects to jump into these disasters and think of these solutions. Architects are really well equipped and we do it all the time.” The design’s success comes not out of formal gymnastics or phenomenological effects, but from the social and political structures the project engages and builds on. Ultimately, Marvel credited the served communities for the project’s success. “It’s a generous population,” he said. “They open up their hearts and their houses to each other.” The project shows that when people are willing to lend a helping hand, powerful resilience is possible.
West Side Wonderland
New renderings revealed for western expansion of Hudson Yards park
Finally, we have a visual of what the rest of the rail yards at New York City's Hudson Yards will become. CityRealty reported that new renderings have been revealed of the expansion of the 17-million-square-foot megaproject, detailing how the development will take over the entirety of the Amtrak railyard. Phase two of construction on Hudson Yards’ intertwining parkland will add winding stone paths, a lush open lawn, food kiosks, and a bright children’s playground overlooking the Hudson River next to the High Line. Manhattan-based landscape architecture firm Nelson Byrd Woltz (NBWLA)—which also designed the currently-under-construction Public Square and Gardens at Hudson Yards—will bring more, much-needed green space to the West Side enclave that’s recently gotten flack for its record-breaking price tag. The expansion also includes the final build-out of Michael Van Valkenburgh (MVVA)’s Hudson Boulevard Park that runs directly through the site from 33rd to 36th Streets. Once complete, the extension will bring it up to 39th Street. MVVA finished the first phase of the elongated greenway in 2015, which included the MTA’s 7 train extension in what’s known as Eastern Yards. Together with the boulevard and far West Side parkland, the long-awaited landscape at Hudson Yards will cover a total of 12 acres. NBWLA’s renderings show that the park will sit on the same level as the adjacent High Line, meaning the team will likely use the same engineering to construct a ventilation cover for the rail yard below and a deck to support the landscape. Officials say groundbreaking on the second phase of parkland at Hudson Yards will begin in late 2020 and is slated to open in winter 2023. Once complete, Hudson Yards Development Corporation, which is building out the plan, will transfer care of the parkland over to the city’s parks and transportation departments.
Off the Rails
New York’s subway temperatures surge past 100 degrees
A study released by the nonprofit Regional Plan Association (RPA) last week found that temperatures in New York City’s busiest subway stations are soaring and that the average temperatures hover around 94.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Although temperatures climbed past 104 degrees at the Union Square station on 14th Street, solutions are stymied by the design of each station, aging infrastructure, and the trains themselves. The RPA surveyed 10 of the busiest stations in New York and found that the sweltering temperatures were exacerbated by the heatwaves that much of New York (and the world) have been experiencing this summer. The constantly late trains aren’t helping commuters either, as passengers have been forced to wait for longer periods of time on the platforms. Why exactly are these stations so hot? As the Village Voice explains, the city’s busiest stations are often its oldest and their design precludes centralized climate control; this is also the official reason given by the MTA. The trains themselves output a large amount of heat as well, both through their air conditioners as well as braking. Each full train weighs around 350 to 450 tons depending on the make and length, and the kinetic energy required to brake is converted to heat when a train stops at a station. The hottest stations surveyed were where trains idled the longest. The Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall stop in Tribeca was unsurprisingly featured as well, as the 6 train makes its last stop there then idles before departing on its uptown route. When WNYC surveyed 103 of New York’s stations during the July 2015 heatwave, the Brooklyn Bridge stop clocked in at 107 degrees. For its part, the MTA has pledged to keep the trains running more efficiently to reduce the time passengers have to wait on these overheated platforms. While the MTA tests new communication and signal technologies that could improve wait times and braking efficiency, New York City Transit Authority President Andy Byford has pledged that most of the subway system will use communications-based train control by 2030. Still, as the climate warms, these types of heat waves are only going to become more common, and the fixes required to keep the city’s subway stations tolerable are solutions that will require long-term investments on par with the MTA's other sustainability initiatives.
New York City’s subway system may have the most stops of any in the world, but many of them are inaccessible to the disabled and mobility-impaired. This month New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer published a report highlighting accessibility issues in the city's subway system and calling for immediate action. According to the report, “of the 122 New York City neighborhoods served by the subway system, 62 do not have a single accessible station.” Of the 62 stations that do not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 55 are located in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens. These inaccessible stations are serving 199,242 residents with impaired mobility, 341,447 seniors, and 203,466 children. This amounts to a total of 640,000 residents who are “confined to neighborhood” as they cannot access the city’s subway network. They are restricted in terms of housing options, and those who are mobility-impaired also show a much lower labor force participation rate than the able-bodied. “Too many New Yorkers are left stranded by the MTA,” said Comptroller Scott M. Stringer in a statement. “Decades of underinvestment and neglect have real-life consequences. For every inaccessible station, there is a New Yorker who can’t get to work, pick up their children from daycare, or visit their doctors. It’s simple–a person’s livelihood should not be dictated by their mobility status, and we must take action immediately to address this crisis.” In light of this, the Comptroller supports Fast Forward, a plan proposed by the MTA and its President Andy Byford, which promises making fifty more stations ADA accessible in the next five years. It also assures that “no rider is more than two stops away from an accessible station,” across the five boroughs. However, the Comptroller recognizes the difficulty in funding a plan of that scale. Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo, ever at odds, have yet to agree to support the plan. Stringer urges the state legislature to introduce an $8 billion Transit Bond Act to fund the much-needed upgrades to the city’s transit system. Read the full report at this link.
L Train Apocalypse
NYC announces expanded Citi Bike service and new busway for L train shutdown
New York City's dreaded L train shutdown looms ever closer, set to begin in April 2019. In the past week, however, new details have emerged about the city’s plan for Citi Bike and buses, transportation alternatives that riders will flock to once the train no longer runs from Bedford Avenue to 14th Street/8th Avenue in Manhattan. In an effort to accommodate the estimated 225,000 riders that will be displaced from the train, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced earlier this week that Citi Bike will expand its service around Williamsburg and Manhattan between Canal and 59th Streets. There will be an additional 1,250 bikes and 2,500 docks. Citi Bike’s operator, Motivate, is also planning to introduce a temporary “Shuttle Service,” which will come in the form of pedal-assist electric bikes. They will only be available in four locations—two in Manhattan and two around the Williamsburg Bridge—where cyclists may require a small boost to help navigate the steep slope. Citi Bikes can only handle a limited amount of the offload of L train riders, however. Most of the brunt is expected to divert to alternative subway lines like the J/M/Z, and surface travel: buses. In a separate announcement on Monday, the city Department of Transportation (DOT) revealed plans to turn 14th Street into a “busway” for 17 hours a day as an alternative commuting plan, as first reported by NY Daily News. Car traffic will be limited from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. DOT also revised its bike path plan—there will also now be two one-way bike paths on 12th and 13th Streets to handle the anticipated increase in cyclist traffic. “We’re solving, hopefully, the local mobility and access challenge while discouraging through traffic on 14th St.,” Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said in the Daily News. Following the dedicated busway announcement, DOT presented their proposed plans to the City Council Committee on Transportation, revealing four “short, intense routes” that are expected to carry 17 percent of L train riders, as reported in am New York. The routes include: Grand Street (Brooklyn) – First Avenue/15th Street (Manhattan); Grand Street (Brooklyn) – SoHo; Bedford Avenue (Brooklyn) – Soho; Bedford Avenue (Brooklyn) – First Avenue/15th street (Manhattan). The MTA is also adding five trains to the M line, making G and C trains longer, and offering increased E line service. The L train shutdown will be taking place for 15 months, where the Canarsie Tunnel under the East River will undergo infrastructure repairs necessitated after flooding by Hurricane Sandy.
Governor Andrew Cuomo’s LaGuardia Airport AirTrain project is one step closer to reality after he signed state legislation authorizing the project on Monday. The AirTrain will provide a corridor between the airport and the Mets-Willets Point station in Flushing, Queens, which serves the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) and the 7 train. State legislation, which was passed earlier this month, allows the New York State Department of Transportation to acquire city or MTA-owned land in order to build this project. Cuomo, who first proposed the project three years ago, promises that the new train will connect passengers from Manhattan to LaGuardia in under 30 minutes. Engineering firm Parsons Brinckerhoff was selected in 2017 to oversee and analyze preliminary engineering and design process for up to two new AirTrain stations. Estimated costs for this project have risen to $1.5 billion from the original $450 million projected cost in 2015, according to The New York Times. But Cuomo’s proposal has been met with criticism, mainly for the circuitous route that the AirTrain would take. It would take passengers past LaGuardia in order to reach Mets-Willets, and only then would they transfer to the AirTrain and reverse course back to the airport. Critics have also been skeptical of Cuomo’s promise of an under-30-minute commute. It takes 16 minutes of train time by LIRR from Manhattan to Willets Point, but Cuomo did not take into account the time it would take waiting for trains or for passengers to get to and from the LIRR, which operates out of Pennsylvania Station. Currently, the LIRR also only operates to Mets-Willets Point during the Mets season and during off-peak hours, only runs once every 30 minutes. The actual AirTrain time is estimated to take six minutes with trains running every four minutes. Altogether, total commute time may end up being much more than the 30 minutes and may even take longer than using existing infrastructure like the express buses, according to Yonah Freemark of MIT. The AirTrain project is a part of Cuomo’s $8 billion push to update the deteriorating airport. A new Terminal B is scheduled to be completed in 2020 and the new Delta Terminal C in 2021. Although the AirTrain project is not finalized, the next step will be an environmental review that will begin later this year.
Dia Art Foundation is undergoing major changes at all its locations, overseen by New York-based architects Architecture Research Office (ARO), with partners Adam Yarinsky and Kim Yao taking the lead. The plan is to upgrade and expand the flagship New York City and Beacon locations, reactivate a programming space in Soho, and revitalize two New York exhibitions of Walter De Maria, The New York Earth Room (1977) and The Broken Kilometer (1979), which have been in Dia’s care since the 1970s. Dia, which has been around since 1974, has exhibited primarily in former industrial sites, such as a converted Nabisco factory in Beacon, NY. As director Jessica Morgan told The New York Times, “The idea of new architecture is so antithetical to Dia.” ARO was chosen for its notable sensitivity to existing spaces and its experience in renovating art spaces, such as the Judd Foundation and the Rothko Chapel. In Beacon, ARO will redesign the former factory’s lower level to open up 11,000 square feet of exhibition space. Dia’s Chelsea location will also see an expansion. Walter De Maria’s The New York Earth Room and The Broken Kilometer Beyond will be getting climate control to keep them open through the summer. Beyond renovations and improvements of existing sites, the project also includes the reclamation of a 2500-square-foot gallery in Soho that had previously served as a retail space. Renovating existing spaces rather than engaging in new construction also aligns with Dia’s financial mission. These renovations are made possible in part by a $78 million campaign, which Dia is hoping to mostly direct to their endowment and to operating finances, rather than to construction. As Jessica Morgan, the Nathalie de Gunzburg Director of Dia, puts it, “Our work with ARO builds on Dia’s history of repurposing and activating found architectural spaces and will help us reinvigorate our mission and program across the range of sites that make up Dia today.”
For New Yorkers, it’s no secret that the MTA is rapidly deteriorating. Practically defined by delays and diversions—and not to mention the impending L train shutdown—the financial and political behind-the-scenes of the subway system has come under increasing scrutiny. While numerous articles, commentaries, reports, and angry tweets have been published on the state of the MTA and its causes, Everyday Arcade has released what might be the first video game on the crumbling system, MTA Country. Styled after a classic Nintendo-style platformer (its name references the 1994 SNES game Donkey Kong Country), MTA Country is a ride through a roller coaster of subway tunnel. For players, the goal of MTA Country is to get its main character, Gregg T (Gregg Turkin, a lawyer, NYPD Legal Bureau member, and much meme-ified face of the NYPD’s “If You See Something, Say Something” subway campaign) to work. Luckily, he has help from his friends Bill (de Blasio) and Andrew (Cuomo). After watching the trio be launched from a trashcan, gamers can ride down tracks collecting coins as they leap over track fires, stopped trains, broken rails, the notorious Pizza Rat. Graffiti in the background reads “Giuliani was here,” among other commentary. Without giving away any spoilers, users skilled enough to collect all the letters that dot the tracks will be in for a special high-speed transformation à la Elon Musk and rocketed off to a new destination. Luckily for New Yorkers, MTA Country also works on your phone, making it an ideal way to pass time when your train inevitably gets stuck.