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Down by the River

Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, David Adjaye selected to design Detroit's West Riverfront Park
Beating out a pool of over 80 international design teams, a team with Brooklyn-based landscape architects Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA) and Sir David Adjaye have been chosen to transform the 22-acre West Riverfront Park in downtown Detroit. While the nonprofit Detroit RiverFront Conservancy has stressed that they were choosing a team, not a design, MVVA’s presented plan for the park would substantially change the waterfront. While the final four competitors for the park presented big names in landscape architecture, including James Corner Field Operations, Hood Design Studio and Diller Scofidio + Renfro, and Gustafson Guthrie Nichol, the diverse programming proposed by MVVA ultimately won out. The $50-million redevelopment will present all-ages options throughout the shore, including the carving out of a beach inside of a secluded cove. Now that the design team has been chosen, the MVVA-led team and Detroit RiverFront Conservancy will solicit input from the community to nail down the final design details. The Detroit RiverFront Conservancy will also fundraise to reach the rest of the $50 million goal in the meantime, meaning the construction and completion date for the project are uncertain at the time of writing. MVVA’s design for the riverfront park mixes active uses with more passive recreational areas and mingles the park’s natural systems with the city grid, similar to firm’s approach at Brooklyn Bridge Park. On the western side of the park, there will be a pool house and built up “performance hill,” complete with a clamshell-shaped amphitheater that will sit on a pier in the river. The circular “Sport House” will go up to the east, which from the renderings looks like it will float above a basketball court and feature a green roof on top. Moving east, a tall, artificial bluff will surround the park house and picnic grove. Perhaps the most prominent feature in the proposal is the aforementioned beach at the park’s center, which will be hemmed in by a stone jetty to the west and a fishing pier to the east, likely to prevent erosion. MVVA’s renderings show kayakers and beach-goers relaxing in the summer and skating on the frozen river in the winter, part of the Conservancy's vision for an all-year-round park. Capping off the eastern edge of the park is the enormous “Great Lakes Play Garden” for children, and “Evergreen Isle.” The stone island sits parallel to the playground in the river and is designed to break up ice floes and anchor ecological improvements by creating a shallow, biologically diverse channel. The shore of the entire park will be bounded by the Detroit Riverwalk. “It was love at first sight when I saw the Detroit River,” said Michael Van Valkenburgh in a press release. “I immediately recognized that this new park could draw the city to the water’s edge.” West Riverfront Park is bounded by Rosa Parks Boulevard to the west and Eighth Street to the east, a stretch that had been in private hands for nearly 100 years before the Conservancy purchased it in 2014. A $345,000 grant from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation’s “Livable Communities” focus area financed the West Riverfront Park Design Competition. MVVA’s team for the project, besides David Adjaye, will also include Utile and Mobility in Chain, and local partners LimnoTech (Ann Arbor), PEA (Detroit) and NTH Consultants (Northville).
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Haute Hoyt

Studio Gang's new 51-story Brooklyn tower is revealed
Renderings for the new Studio Gang-designed 11 Hoyt condo development in downtown Brooklyn have been released. It will be the Chicago-based firm’s first residential project in New York City and located next to the downtown Brooklyn Macy’s building. Topping out at 51 stories at 664 feet, 11 Hoyt will be among the tallest buildings in Brooklyn—taller than any existing structure and only beat by the yet-to-be-completed City Point Tower III and the under-construction 1,066-foot skyscraper at 9 Dekalb Avenue designed by SHoP Architects. Built on the site of a former parking garage demolished for the project, 11 Hoyt is part of a broader set of changes and high-rise construction happening in downtown Brooklyn. The foundation is already laid with construction of the concrete superstructure to begin soon for an anticipated 2020 completion. The tower is distinguished by its rippling facade and punctuated by square windows, adding a textural quality to Brooklyn’s growing skyline.The luxury building will have 480 residences with interiors by Michaelis Boyd Associates, as well as 50,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor amenities. Landscape design of the significant outdoor space will be overseen by Hollander Design. The site is being developed by Tishman Speyer, who is also behind the major changes to the adjacent Macy’s building, which includes the addition of a ten-story office tower designed by Shimoda Design Group.
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Crane Game

Adjaye Associates' loggia-wrapped Manhattan condo tower starts to rise
The Adjaye Associates-designed 130 William, the firm’s first skyscraper in New York, is on the rise. AN has spotted crews working above grade, and a red kangaroo crane has gone up at the Financial District site to help the building reach its expected completion in 2020. At 66 stories and 755 feet tall, the building will be a substantial addition to the downtown skyline. However, unlike most recent towers built in this current boom, 130 William will eschew a glass curtain wall for a custom-tinted precast concrete accented with bronze. The texturally rich surface will be punctuated by arches and loggias on the upper floors, which will blur the divide between interior and exterior spaces for their inhabitants. The cutouts in the upper half of the building's façade invert the traditional window shape commonly found among historic buildings in the neighborhood (as well as on the tower's lower half). The project’s narrow, L-shaped lot on the corner of Fulton Street and William Street was assembled in 2015 through piecemeal acquisitions and demolitions by developer Lightstone group. Construction began in late 2017, well before the official renderings were released. The building’s location near the Brooklyn Bridge will afford many of the residents unobstructed views of the East River from the 244 light-filled units, which includes interiors also designed by Adjaye Associates. Residents of the luxury tower will also have access to a number of amenities, such as a black-tiled swimming pool with grandiose windows, a fitness center, a pet spa, shared outdoor spaces, a rooftop observatory, and not least of all, reportedly an IMAX theatre. According to City Realty, city paperwork also suggests that there will be ground-level retail and a plaza park, embedding the tower within the urban landscape below. David Adjaye has been ramping up the firm's presence throughout Manhattan as of late, including the Studio Museum in Harlem and the recently completed SPYSCAPE museum in Midtown.
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Retail Vision

New renderings revealed for Macy's-topping tower in Downtown Brooklyn
Although construction has been underway for some time, new renderings have surfaced for Shimoda Design Group's Macy's-topping tower in Downtown Brooklyn. The structure, a 14-story office tower, is slated to rise inside and on top of the three buildings occupied by the department store on Fulton Street. The strip, one of the busiest retail corridors in the city, has been targeted in recent years by investors due to its proximity to prime Brooklyn neighborhoods like Fort Greene, Boreum Hill, and Brooklyn Heights. Developer Tishman Speyer is calling this 256-foot-tall project the Wheeler. It will bring almost 844,000 square feet of office space to the area, with floorplates in the new building ranging in size from 34,000 square feet to 60,000 square feet. Macy's is staying on as a retail tenant in the bottom four floors, while offices will occupy the other ten stories. Because the four lower floors are an amalgam of different buildings, these volumes will feature 90,000-square-foot floor plates and 16-foot-tall ceilings. The new structure sports a glass curtain wall with angled fenestrations, and outside, the setbacks and the roof will be crowned with 11 terraces, YIMBY reportedPerkins Eastman as the architect of record. If all goes according to plan, the Commercial Observer noted the project is expected to be complete by the middle of next year.
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Easy as LPC?

Here's what NYC architects need to know about changes to Landmarks rules
This week the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) is holding a public hearing on changes to its rules of operation. Among other modifications, the new rules would allow the agency to move items off its public hearing calendar, a change the LPC says would alleviate pressure on the almost all-volunteer commissioners who meet weekly to debate and vote on new landmarks, as well as changes to historic properties. Many leading preservation groups, however, believe that channeling more items to agency staffers would deprive New Yorkers of the opportunity to meaningfully weigh in on changes to the historic built environment. Right now, select LPC applicants go through a public hearing, a Tuesday meeting at the LPC’s Manhattan office where architects and owners present their plans to the agency's 11 commissioners and to the public. These meetings let stakeholders weigh in on small items like the window replacement scheme for a private home in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and on headline-grabbing proposals like the landmark potential of Philip Johnson and John Burgee’s AT&T Building. Discussions on each item can last twenty minutes or one-and-a-half hours, depending on how controversial the item is or if the commissioners debate the owner's request vigorously. Other more minor issues, like small storefront build-outs in a landmarked building or railing replacement on a private home in a historic district, get evaluated by LPC staff and approved behind the scenes. The items in public hearings are seeking a Certificate of Appropriateness, while the items processed by staff are awarded either a Certificate of No Effect or a Permit for Minor Work. The draft of the new rules (PDF) addresses both changes to the public hearing process as well as issues like sidewalk modifications, appropriate materials, and “no style” buildings, to name a few. Together, they cover more nuts-and-bolts preservation issues than can be discussed in a single article, so The Architect’s Newspaper (AN) reached out to preservation leaders to get their take on the key issues the public, especially architects, should watch out for ahead of tomorrow’s hearing on the proposal. Many leading preservation groups are worried that the proposed rules would silence the public’s voice on changes that have a cumulative impact on the city’s historic fabric. Simeon Bankoff, executive director of preservation advocacy group the Historic Districts Council, was concerned about what he sees as a softening of requirements around materials for repairing and replacing historic building components. After six stories on masonry buildings, for example, the new rules would allow owners to use substitute materials like fiberglass in lieu of original stone or terra-cotta when replacing historic building elements. “Rather than lowering the standards—which we felt was being done in many cases in these rules—you want to raise them,” Bankoff said. “People are going to build to whatever standard you give them. If the reward is they don’t have to go through a public hearing, they should be held to the highest standards possible.” Under the new rules, rear yard additions, which can be contentious, would be heard by staff only, provided they met certain requirements. HDC believes that rear-yard addition should go before the public, because neighbors have a right to comment on what is (literally) going on in their backyards. On the plus side, Bankoff said, the proposal includes “nice language” on the collective impact of rooftop and rear yard additions, as well as signage. Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP), a leading downtown preservation group, expressed concern that, under the new public hearing rules, more buildings could wind up like Twin Peaks, an unusually proportioned Greenwich Village co-op that that exemplified the neighborhood’s bohemian spirit. The owner got staff approval last year to repaint the structure and its distinctive brown half-timbering beige and dark grey, a move that Berman believes could have been avoided had the public been given a chance to weigh in on the significance of the original contrasting color scheme. He was blunt about the impact of the changes to the public hearing. “The proposed rules are fundamentally anti-democratic, anti-transparency, and anti–public participation. This is the opposite direction the commission should be moving in.” Landmark West! Executive Director Sean Khorsandi echoed GVSHP’s concerns. “The New York City landmarks commission has been trendsetters, nationwide and globally,” he said. “The commission is in a league of its own; people have been looking to it to set the standards. We see these proposed changes as a little bit of a backtrack.” On the Upper West Side, the neighborhood for which Landmark West! advocates, Khorsandi said the new rules would have a substantial impact on current and future landmarks. The  rules would allow alterations to features not mentioned in the designation report, a change that would disproportionately impact earlier designations like The Belnord. The apartment complex’s one-page report doesn’t mention the property’s distinctive vault lights, as the LPC used to require short-and-sweet reports on all items, regardless of their size or importance. This leaves historic features on early designations vulnerable to inappropriate changes or outright removal. To ensure sensitive treatment of protected items, Landmark West! would like to see the agency hire more staff, instead of moving items away from public hearings. Architecture and urbanism advocates at the Municipal Arts Society (MAS) also believe the new rules might unintentionally incentivize removal of these vault lights, among other historic features. Tara Kelly, MAS’s vice president of policy and programs, explained that the group was concerned about the language around “no style” buildings, vague wording that covers structures that are undistinguished or don’t contribute to the look and feel of a historic district. The term originated in the Upper East Side Historic District around three decades ago, but, a “no style” structures of yesteryear might become historically significant years later. Kelly (a former executive director of Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts) cited 966 Lexington Avenue, a simple mixed-use building that wasn’t named in the original historic district, but probably would have been included had the district been designated today. “It takes time to appreciate a new style,” Kelly said. “We want to see the commission take a harder look at those buildings, not make exceptions for them.” To help the public understand all the changes afoot, MAS has released a set of interactive maps for each category of permit to help the public understand what landmarks currently exist and how they’ve been modified over time. Unlike other preservation groups AN consulted, however, MAS conditionally supports the changes that would move items out of the public hearings. “As long as these rules are strong, robust, and thoughtful and take into consideration the recommendations that we have for the rules, and the staff is well-trained and well-supported in their ability to execute the regulation, we don’t have a problem with the staff doing so,” Kelly said. Although the chatter around the changes to the public hearing is loud (especially on preservation Twitter), the new meeting rules would affect relatively few items. A LPC spokesperson said that each year, the vast majority of the approximately 14,000 permit applications are decided by staff, while fewer than 1,000 items get discussed at the public meetings. Right now, the agency has 36 staff members reviewing permits, and they will welcome three new permit-reviewing staffers in fiscal year 2019, which begins in July. Taken together, the number of permit-reviewing staff has increased 44 percent between fiscal years 2013 and 2019.  Even so, the increasing number of permit applications places stress on the commissioners at the public hearing—only LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan is paid for her work. The other ten commissioners take time away from their practices as architects and planners to serve in a volunteer capacity on the commission nearly every week. Of the items that go to public hearing, the LPC contends in its summary of the new rules that agency staff could “approve a variety of work-types that are consistently approved by the Commission utilizing established criteria.” AN spoke with a government insider familiar with the proceedings who confirmed that the changes are intended to save staff time and increase efficiency so LPC staffers can process more applications. Overall, the insider said the intended goal is to make the process easier for homeowners and developers. The rules changes were a long time coming. Beginning in February 2017, the LPC convened multiple meetings with eight leading preservation groups to discuss the agency's ideas. A LPC spokesperson confirmed that representatives from the New York Landmarks Conservancy, MAS, the Brooklyn Heights Association, HDC, Society for the Architecture of the City, Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts, Landmarks West!, and GVSHP were shown criteria for specific types of work and asked for input on the criteria. As part of its outreach, agency representatives also met with community boards, members of the public, and other preservation groups, as well as AIA New York (AIANY), Urban Green Council, the NY Bar Association, and REBNY. In addition to those groups, LPC staffers solicited input from window manufactures, expeditors, and preservation architects on the rules. The current draft was released in January of this year. Suzanne Mecs, managing director of AIANY, delivered a statement in support of the rule changes. The organization characterized the public hearings in pursuit of a Certificate of Appropriateness as “a process that can often be expensive, time-consuming, and complicated.” With more items decided on by staff, AIANY believes the public hearing process will improve because, it reasoned, the commission will have more time to focus on “complicated preservation projects with subjective design considerations or innovative technical solutions that do not readily conform to the previously-established criteria of the Commission.” The AIA held a forum on the changes with its members and Srinivasan in early March. For those who want to weigh in on the rules, the meeting begins tomorrow, March 27, at 9:00 a.m. The agenda and more details can be found here. Edward Gunts contributed reporting.
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Making Moves

Galerie Perrotin opens downtown after a five-story renovation by Peterson Rich Office
Famed mega-gallery Galerie Perrotin made the move downtown from the Upper East Side last April to the Beckenstein Building, an industrial space dating from the 1880s. Fourteen months after construction began, the gallery has finally unveiled all three floors of their new Lower East Side home. Brooklyn-based Peterson Rich Office (PRO) oversaw the 25,000-square-foot, five-story renovation of the building, which includes not only three floors of public exhibition space, but also storage, office and private exhibition space, as well as a street-level shop featuring art books and affordable small editions. While both Miriam Peterson and Nathan Rich, the principals of PRO, have developed art spaces with previous firms and have collaborated with galleries like Luhring Augustine to create exhibition displays, this is the first commercial gallery designed by the office. And they hardly started small. By far the largest gallery on the Lower East Side, it is also perhaps the most pronounced. From the outside, a sleek black steel and glass entryway that conforms with Perrotin’s signature look contrasts with the colorful signage overhead—original painting from the fabric manufacturer and wholesaler that historically occupied the building, updated with Perrotin-specific accents. Edged by a black steel stairwell that connects the three floors of exhibition space, each floor is punctuated by its own desk space and entryway, providing a break and lending rhythm to the experience of moving through the galleries. The second-floor gallery, which for its inaugural show displays the work of Brooklyn-based artist Artie Vierkant, is smaller, which principal Nathan Rich suggests is ideal for staging more experimental exhibitions with younger artists.   At the top floor, just beyond the landing, one emerges into a vast, light-filled space, where rippling arches are punctuated by the pyramid of a skylight. The dramatic room, with its 20-foot ceilings, required major structural interventions to make it possible. The building originally had a central courtyard, which the architects filled in to create the exhibition space. Since residences still exist above the gallery, this was no simple matter of just knocking down some walls. Besides the obvious engineering challenges, noise disturbance was a concern. To dampen the noise of the falling walls, builders laid a matrix of tires in the center of the space for bricks to fall into. The white columns that remain in the space are the remnants of these original outside walls.   Luckily, thanks to its manufacturing past, the building’s floors can withstand tremendous weight for heftier sculptures and installations. Not content to place heavy art low to the ground, PRO developed hidden tracks in the ceilings designed to support substantial projects of up to 3,000 pounds. This load-bearing ability is ideal since the inaugural exhibition of French artist Jean-Michel Othoniel features heavy hanging helixes of glass and metal. Integrating the necessary functional infrastructure, like the hanging tracks, is part of what Peterson refers to as “the ballet of designing an art exhibition space,” where so much has to be made to look like so little, and a great deal of effort goes into making it all seem effortless. PRO’s new Perrotin deftly performs this architectural ballet for a cohesive, and even meditative, experience.
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Demo Day

URBAN-X’s latest startups bring AI to urban roads, floating cameras to the skies
At URBAN-X’s latest demo day, held at the nARCHITECTS-designed ADO creative hub in Greenpoint, Brooklyn yesterday, the incubator's third batch of cohorts presented technological solutions to urban problems, ranging from a “smart crane” to collaborative retail for small stores. URBAN-X, a startup accelerator and partnership between MINI and Urban Us, takes on up to 10 companies every six months, invests up to $100,000 in each, and connects them with business and design expertise. The most recent group, with nine companies, debuted products and services that were designed to change the way we live in cities, with a focus on the human-centric experience. Qucit (Quantified Cities) is attempting to improve not only urban mobility, but happiness, through artificial intelligence. While other companies have focused on monitoring narrow bands of things such as transit ridership, street usage, bike docking and other urban information, Qucit wants to integrate all of this information vertically into a cohesive model. By aggregating usage data, Qucit has already helped redesign a dangerous roundabout in Paris, and will be bringing its machine learning services to Downtown Brooklyn for a pilot project in early March. Swiftera is approaching similar problems from the air. By using a balloon and floating a camera above what drones can reach, but below satellites, the company is promising high-resolution imagery at specific locations with a short turnaround. By selling actionable geospatial data to planners, developers, architects and municipalities, Swiftera would be able to help monitor traffic and accessibility, as well as things such as roof conditions. Blueprint Power is addressing the disconnect between the energy grid and buildings by creating a market for the surplus energy that buildings are capable of producing. When the grid is stressed, buildings with co-gen plants or solar panels should be able to transfer their extra electricity back to the larger network, benefiting both the building owner as well as the general public and utility companies. This transformation of buildings into “intelligent energy nodes” would ultimately see the buildings’ energy systems automated and managed by an AI system. The complete list of cohorts and their pitch videos can be found here, as well as a video of their evening conference. While most of the group has already begun working with real-world companies, they will also be seeking venture capital funding in the near future. Keep an eye out for URBAN-X’s fourth cohort, which will be announced in May of this year.
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RPA-OK

Tristate regional plan proposes more equitable, resilient future with better mass transit
Picture New York, 2040: Buses replace the subway at night, but when they’re open, subways are quieter, wheelchair-accessible, and clean. Everyone’s ditched tiny apartments for cozy mother-in-law units, built into single- family suburban homes. Working in the Bronx and living in Brooklyn isn’t a two-hour slog anymore, because there is rail service from Co-op City to Sunset Park. Craving fresh air? The national park in the New Jersey Meadowlands is a one-train ride from Queens, or there’s a long-haul hike from the Catskills to the Pinelands. This is a sliver of the tristate future envisioned by the Regional Plan Association (RPA), a nonpartisan, nonprofit Manhattan-based organization that periodically analyzes the region from exurbs to downtowns to generate recommendations for a thriving future. When all 782 towns and cities in the tri-state area do their own planning and zoning, true regional planning seems daunting. The almost 400-page doorstopper of a plan, the RPA’s fourth since 1922, contains recommendations on a range of issues, from closing health disparities to fairer school redistricting and property tax reform, to making it easier to reverse-commute or travel from suburb to suburb without a car. The New York-New Jersey–Connecticut area is home to 23 million people, and only a third of them live in New York City proper. With that distribution in mind, the RPA identified four top priorities that affect everyone’s life. The group believes that, for the next 25 years, a thriving region depends on fixing the MTA, constructing more affordable housing to prevent displacement, building equity in one of the most unequal regions in the area, and adapting to rising sea levels. “Our plans carry zero weight of law, but they are very influential,” RPA President Tom Wright told reporters at a November briefing. It’s not possible to analyze all of the plan’s 61 prescriptions here, but there are key takeaways for architects, planners, and policymakers who live and practice in the region. The idea that the subway needs a total overhaul is a no-brainer to anyone who has been late due to massive train delays. To improve the system, the group wants to reconsider around-the-clock subway service. Surface transit would replace trains between 12:30 a.m. and 5 a.m. on weeknights, as only 1.5 percent of daily riders use the service during these four and a half hours, almost 20 percent of the day. Ending 24/7 service, the RPA argues, would allow the beleaguered MTA to make needed repairs faster, now that there are more riders than ever. New Yorkers didn’t take kindly to the idea. Commuters took to Twitter to denounce “the worst idea ever,” and even Mayor Bill de Blasio weighed in, calling full service a “birthright.” If current trends continue, the city’s growth rate from 2015– 2040 will be half of its 1990–2015 rate, but NYC officials say the city doesn’t have enough infrastructure to support more than nine million residents, even though the RPA believes the region (including NYC) could accommodate four million more people and add two million jobs. The organization argues that more and better transit options— and more affordable housing— will prevent the region from turning into California’s Bay Area and make it easier to grow inclusively. Packed trains and sky-high rents reflect many people’s desire to live in the New York City area, but unchecked housing costs could put a damper on growth. Adding more units—two million more— would alleviate the real estate crunch over 25 years. To meet demand, the RPA estimates that changing zoning near train stations could allow 250,000 homes to be created just on surface parking near rail lines while maintaining the neighborhood balance of schools and social spaces. Reforming zoning restrictions could also encourage homeowners to create accessory dwellings units (mother-in-law apartments) within the existing building envelope, while NYC’s 12 FAR cap could be lifted to build up density. Value capture from real estate development, especially those that benefit from big-ticket projects, could fund affordable housing near transit. All housing construction will be in vain, however, if the region doesn’t step up to address the immediate and terrifying effects of climate change. The RPA wants to reduce carbon dioxide emissions via a California-style cap-and-trade plan, and convene a regional commission to help local governments adapt to extreme weather and rising seas. But, according to the RPA, the carbon pricing system we have isn’t comprehensive enough; the region should switch to California’s model, which does more to reduce emissions by covering those from buildings, transportation, power production, and industry. One million people from Connecticut to New Jersey live in areas likely to flood, and municipalities are gearing up to fight Hurricane Sandy-like storm surges. There is less emphasis, though, on the everyday flooding that’s likely to result from sea-level rise in the near future; the RPA says areas that can’t be protected should be gradually transitioned to higher ground. A tristate regional coastal commission would help communities plan for sea-level rise, and a small surcharge on property insurance would be used to fund resiliency measures like buyouts and coastal hardening. The retreat from vulnerable areas is painful for people who have built lives there, but there are opportunities in the changes. A national park in the marshy, industrial Meadowlands would provide recreation space and educate visitors on climate change mitigation. Denser Meadowlands towns like Secaucus, New Jersey, would be protected from sea-level rise, while the Teterboro Airport and surrounding communities would retreat, and nature would take over. To illustrate these recommendations more richly, the RPA applies its thinking to nine sites, imagining what they could be in 2040. In that year, Jamaica, Queens, has capitalized on its rich transit connections and proximity to JFK Airport to become a destination in its own right, while retaining its income and ethnic diversity. Further east, Long Island’s central Nassau County is a “model suburb” thanks to regionally integrated schools and a new North Shore–South Shore rail link that’s made it easier to access job centers in Hempstead and Garden City. “Nothing is off the table,” Wright said.
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L-pocalypse Plans

City and MTA reveal alternate transit plans for L train shutdown
Last night the two agencies in charge of transit in New York kicked off an open house series for the public to learn more about plans to move commuters between Brooklyn and Manhattan during the 15-month L train shutdown. The events are being held over four weeks in neighborhoods that will be most impacted by the closure.
About 70 people filled the cafeteria of Williamsburg's Progress High School for the first open house, which was jointly hosted by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and the New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT). Employees of both agencies stood by boards outlining transit options, science fair–style, as members of the public approached to ask questions about the bus, train, ferry, and bike routes that will carry them to Manhattan and back. The shutdown begins April 2019. During that time, the Canarsie Tunnel under the East River will close so workers can replace infrastructure that was damaged by flooding from 2012's Hurricane Sandy. Each weekday, 225,000 riders move through the tunnel, and 50,000 rides take the L just in Manhattan. The agencies are in the process of soliciting community feedback on the transit options; no plan has been determined yet. In Brooklyn, proposed changes include three-person HOV restrictions on the Williamsburg Bridge during peak hours, as well as new protected bike and bus lanes to ferry riders between the J/Z/M and G trains, L-adjacent lines the city expects 70 to 80 percent of affected riders will utilize to get across the river. Work is being done to ensure these lines can handle additional capacity, and the bus routes could be upgraded to give buses priority over private vehicles. The city estimates an additional 5 to 15 percent will use buses only, with new Williamsburg Bridge–bound buses, dubbed L1, L2, and L3, slated to carry approximately 30,000 riders, or 13 percent of the weekday total. After that, the agencies say five percent of straphangers will switch to the ferry, two percent will cycle to work, and between three and ten percent of riders may use taxis or ride-sharing services for their commute. In Manhattan, 14th Street (the crosstown thoroughfare under which the L train runs) would be converted into a busway, with only local private car access allowed. A block south, protected two-way bike lanes would be added to 13th Street to accomodate cyclists headed to and from the Williamsburg Bridge, which touches down on the Lower East Side. The next public meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, January 31, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the 14th Street Y in Manhattan.
Residents had many questions—and more than a few concerns—about the proposed routes. "The main impetus of the plan is to keep people out of North Brooklyn," said Felice Kirby, a longtime Williamsburg resident and board member of the North Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. "There are a couple of thousand small businesses and manufacturers who, along with residents, made this area famous. We're in a lot of trouble if people can't get into our area to eat, shop, and work." She grilled an MTA official on why ferry service wasn't being expanded to increase the percentage of L-train riders who might use the boats to get to work.
"It's a timid and meek approach," she added.
Lifelong Williamsburg resident Vikki Cambos has already started thinking about alternative travel plans. Though she lives off the Grand St L and works off Hewes Street J/M, she is weighing the shutdown as she job-searches. "I don't want something directly off the L, because that will be a headache," Cambos said. As another option, she's considering jobs in lower and upper Manhattan that are easily accessible by trains other than the L. She's worried too that the proposed shuttle will add crowds in a neighborhood that's already undergone extensive gentrification.  "I'm excited to see people move out," she said. Jeff Csicsek, a software engineer who volunteers with the North Brooklyn arm of transit advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, wants Grand Street in Brooklyn to be for bikes, buses, and pedestrians only—no private cars allowed. He cited Downtown Brooklyn's no-car Fulton Street, one of the city’s most profitable retail corridors, as an example of how the streetscape could be retooled to favor pedestrians and mass transit on Grand.  "I don't think it's physical changes [that are needed] so much as policy," he said. "A do-not-enter sign for private cars would make this actually work." Even Andy Byford, the newly-appointed president of MTA New York City Transit, showed up to hear the public's questions. DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg was also in attendance. "We simply have to get this right," he told a small crowd of reporters. The MTA, he added, is soliciting community feedback to decide on final transit options. "The plan is not set in stone," he said.  This post has been updated with the MTA's map of possible transit alternatives during the shutdown.
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Prime Locations

Amazon announces the 20 cities that made its HQ2 shortlist
Ending months of speculation and handwringing, Amazon has announced that the company has cut its list of prospective locations for its second headquarters from 238 down to 20. Competition over HQ2, a $5 billion co-headquarters expected to bring 50,000 jobs to the area it touches down in, has been fierce, as cities submitted bids that aggressively gave away land and tax breaks to the tech giant. While Amazon had received offers from all over North America, including Canada and Mexico, their shortlist skews heavily toward the East Coast of the United States. All of the following metropolitan areas met Amazon’s requirements of having at least one million people, and zoning capable of building up to eight million square feet of office space. The full list includes: Atlanta Austin, Texas Boston Chicago Columbus, Ohio Dallas Denver Indianapolis Los Angeles Miami Montgomery County, Maryland. Nashville Newark New York Northern Virginia Philadelphia Pittsburgh Raleigh, North Carolina Toronto, Canada Washington, D.C. The selection is notable not only for the cities it includes but the locales that didn’t make the cut. Los Angeles is the only west coast city on the list despite competing bids from Seattle, which holds Amazon’s current headquarters, and cities throughout California. Detroit is absent, as is Baltimore, even as both cities had promised to give Amazon hundreds of developable acres. Tax considerations seem to have played a major role in the final decision, as the inclusion of two cities in Texas, as well as Nashville and other southern cities and regions might attest to. While none of the Mexico-based bids made it through to the final round, Toronto may have been chosen for the money Amazon could save owing to the weakened Canadian dollar; $1 USD at the time of writing is worth $1.25 CAD. Details on what these 20 metropolitan areas have offered Amazon in exchange for HQ2 have been hard to come by. Muckrock has been tracking down bid packages for all 238 of the areas that submitted initial proposals, and while many of them have refused to release detailed packages, giving away unrestricted development rights or heavy tax breaks have been common. Chicago, for instance, has offered to return 50 to 100 percent of the income tax collected from Amazon employees straight back to the company itself. Newark, New Jersey, has explicitly offered to give Amazon a $7 billion tax break, which is the highest among any of the other finalists. New York, for its part, had offered potential space in four neighborhoods across three boroughs: Midtown West, Lower Manhattan, the Brooklyn "Tech Triangle" between Downtown Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Navy Yard and DUMBO, and Long Island City. The RFP for HQ2 can be read here, and should give some idea of what the headquarters will mean for the winning city when Amazon chooses its final location later this year.
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Brooklyn Boom

Morris Adjmi-designed tower revealed for Brooklyn’s Clinton Hill
Morris Adjmi Architects and developer Jeffrey Gershon's Hope Street Capital have presented plans for a 29-story apartment building in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, to the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) for permitting. The rise of the 312-foot-tall tower at 550 Clinton Avenue is contingent on the developer’s plan to consolidate the rest of the block into a single lot, and transfer the resultant air rights to 550 Clinton. 60,000 square feet of the 70,000 square feet required would come from the nearby Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew, a landmarked church in dire need of façade repairs. The air rights transfer hinges on LPC approval of the church’s renovation, spearheaded by Li/Saltzman Architects, and the commission kicked the project back for minor tweaks at Tuesday’s meeting. Adjmi’s tower would rise on top of a 52-foot-tall base that snakes around the lot to Atlantic Avenue and Vanderbilt. While the entire building would be clad in tan precast concrete throughout and feature windows with metal mullions, the LPC presentation indicates that the windows on the tower portion would be tripartite and span from the floor to the ceiling of the units within. Most distinctively, the tower would taper at the base and twist on the south side to meet the cantilevered upper portion. While 550 Clinton could only be built at 96,000 square feet as of right now, with the spot rezoning being requested and transfer of air rights, the final project could be as large as 238,000 square feet. 34,000 square feet would be for commercial use in the building’s base, while 202,000 square feet would be allocated for residential units. This would be allowed only through the application of Section 74-711 of the city Zoning Resolution, which allows concessions for height and bulk if a maintenance plan is set up for a landmark on the same lot. The LPC’s chagrin on the 9th resulted from questions over the materials that would be used for the façade repair of the church at 520 Clinton Avenue. Commissioner Michael Devonshire took aim at the developer’s use of composite materials to patch the front of the brownstone church instead of the original stone, noting such repairs typically last for only 25 years. Instead of voting on the residential development or restoration, the commission has asked Li/Saltzman Architects to address this issue and present at a later date. Adjmi’s design didn’t escape the meeting unscathed either, as critics called the tower project “severely stark” and inappropriate for a neighborhood where the buildings are typically brick or sandstone. The proposal comes amidst a development boom in the Downtown Brooklyn area, and 550 Clinton is only blocks away from the Pacific Park megaproject. The full presentation given to the LPC is available here.
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Train Talk

Here are key takeaways for architects from Cuomo's 2018 State of the State address
If everything goes according to the governor's plan, New York City could get a new subway line to Brooklyn, and a new park in Jamaica Bay. Today New York Governor Andrew Cuomo outlined plans for 2018 and beyond in his State of the State address. Over the course of 92 minutes, the 56th governor of New York unspooled a long list of major projects and new investments, many of which could shape the cities we live in, change how commuters get to work, and add to what we see when we step away from the city outdoors. Citing the Red Hook waterfront's "untapped potential," the governor wants to study the possibility of a subway from Red Hook, Brooklyn to lower Manhattan. Red Hook, a low-slung, low-lying, largely low-income waterside neighborhood, still hosts shipping operations, but in the past two decades, artists and other creative types have flocked to the area and opened up restaurants, galleries, and interesting shops—with chains like IKEA and Fairway fronting the harbor. Despite the influx of new residents and businesses, the neighborhood has remained relatively sedate, in part because it's so hard to get to by public transportation. To spur growth, Governor Cuomo is asking the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to improve transit access by relocating the shipping industry industry. The move, Cuomo said, will revert the waterfront to "more productive community uses" that could enable the MTA to add an underwater subway tunnel to lower Manhattan. The Port Authority would have to move the 80-acre Red Hook Container Terminal about two miles south to the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. In 2012, the port handled only 110,000 containers annually, a paltry load compared to the three million containers processed by nearby ports. While the terminal provides roughly 100 jobs, it has been operating at a loss since the mid-1990s. As recently as last year, though, the Port Authority said it did not have plans to develop or sell the site. Politico noted the Red Hook plans bear strong resemblance to a study AECOM produced on South Brooklyn that proposed a 1 train extension to Red Hook. AECOM executive Chris Ward was the Port Authority executive director, but quit in 2011 due in part to his fraught relationship with Cuomo, who was sworn in that year.

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The new subway tunnel wasn't the only one on the governor's mind. Cuomo floated a tunnel for vehicles under the Long Island Sound to connect Long Island with Westchester County or Connecticut. He also pledged to accelerate the L.I.R.R. modernization project, announcing the state would kick $6.6 billion towards adding new rail lines and fixing up stations up and down Nassau and Suffolk counties. All of those L.I.R.R. trains terminate at the beleaguered Penn Station. The governor didn't hesitate to fire shots at the busiest—and arguably most miserable—transit depot in the U.S. "I call it the seven levels of catacombs," he said. Cuomo emphasized the need to rebuild Penn Station, citing ongoing construction on the conversion of the James A. Farley Post Office into the Moynihan Train Hall as one way to relieve capacity on the overburdened station, which receives trains from New Jersey and Long Island. He even invoked the state's ability to seize land for public projects via eminent domain, a veiled shot at Madison Square Garden, the arena and venue across from Penn Station that some experts say should be converted to transit uses only. The subways were another hot spot in the speech. The governor proclaimed funding to fix the broken-down subway system must be provided "this session." His comments on funding follow a New York Times investigation on the subways' performance that revealed political indifference at the state and local level prompted overspending on splashy new projects at the expense of routine maintenance. "We can't leave our riders stranded anymore, period," he said.

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The governor also touched on another controversial project only a few blocks away. Late last year, stakeholders reached a compromise on the lawsuit-plagued Thomas Heatherwick–designed Pier 55 in Hudson River Park on Manhattan's West Side, and plans for the development are moving forward. Cuomo said a full completion plan for Hudson River Park, which will stretch from West 59th Street to Battery Park City, will roll out this year. Cuomo also unveiled the third round of investments in the New York State downtowns. First introduced in 2016, the Downtown Revitalization Initiative gives select cities and towns all over the state and gives them $10 million apiece to invest in their core commercial districts. This latest round allocates $100 million for development, and the Regional Economic Development Councils will select the cities. There were some curveballs, too. The governor revealed plans for a new, 407-acre state park on Jamaica Bay, a wetland estuary which sits between Brooklyn and Queens. The Architect's Newspaper (AN) reached out to the governor's office for comment on the park but has not yet heard back.