Search results for "Bronx"

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BIG in the Bronx
Courtesy BIG

New York’s Finest will soon have BIG digs in the Bronx. Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) is designing a three-story, 59-foot-tall, 43,500-square-foot station house for the 40th Precinct in the Bronx’s Melrose neighborhood.

The 40th Precinct includes three South Bronx neighborhoods: Mott Haven, Port Morris, and Melrose. The squad will move out of its current location, a 1922 three-story Renaissance Revival station house, and into a new home on a city-owned lot bounded by East 149th Street, Saint Ann’s, Westchester, and Brook avenues.

The community space in the station has a perforated facade that signals openness and accessibility.
 

The Department of Design and Construction’s (DDC) set strict standards for police station design that provided the parameters. “Where the station houses of the early 1900s reflect an architectural language of fortification and stronghold, the design of the later 20th century clearly aims to express a sense of civic engagement,” explained Ingels. “Independent of era, all precinct designs reflect a sense of solidity and durability, and we tried to evoke this same robustness in the 40th.” Formally, this resulted in stacked boxes, or “bricks,” that reference New York’s classic redbrick police stations, and each programmatic element is meted out into its own rectangular space. There are four different-sized rectangular volumes per floor (except for the basement level) stacked irregularly with gaps in-between to create circulation spaces. According to Ingels, the team spent much of the schematic design phase working out the relationship between these volumes: “The building is essentially a physical manifestation of programmatic relationships.” Segregation of function is intrinsic to the plan, but potentially detrimental to the overall harmony of the building. A three-story atrium is a central organizing principle that diffuses this compartmentalization by visually connecting programs, allowing total surveillance from the main desk, and channeling light into the building’s core.

The station house entrance on St. Ann’s Avenue. In keeping with the NYPD’s philosophy of community policing, the public entrance beckons from the street, fostering connectivity between the precinct and the people it serves.
 

For security purposes, “glazing occurs only when the volumes are pushed back from the perimeter facades, affording protected views of the street below.” At street level, setbacks created by the layered volumes make entrances and exits legible. On the upper floors, the setbacks allow for large windows, removed from the street.

The building is sensitive to its context and the awkward site provided additional design constraints. Flush with St. Ann’s Avenue to the east, an abandoned, below-grade freight line swoops in from the north to bisect the parcel, turning what should be a roughly rectangular site into a right triangle fused to a hexagon. The station house sits within the hexagon, at the corner of St. Ann’s Avenue and East 149th Street, while the rest of the site is devoted to parking.

 

Looking to its neighborhood, the design communicates a desire to improve community-police relations. A multipurpose community meeting room sits adjacent to the main lobby. Nestled into the building but accessed through a separate entrance, the space is the first of its kind for the NYPD. Ingels noted that the facade communicates the department’s desire for openness. “We’ve detailed the precast such that small glazed openings read as a perforation of the larger panelized system. The perforation here calls attention to the special function of this particular building block, but also allows for a transparency that is essential to the way NYPD and the City of New York are conceiving of this new type of public space.”

 

Streetscaping around the lot’s perimeter will further integrate the site into the community. A sawtooth oak at the site’s southeastern corner, for example, will be the basis for a street planting scheme of the same trees. Two existing cottonwoods will provide ample shade for the larger lot. New York–based Starr Whitehouse Landscape Architects led the site design.

The DDC, New York City’s primary capital construction project manager, often commissions high-profile firms for civic projects. The department chose to implement a modified version of BIG’s 2014 stormwater protection plan for Manhattan as the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project (which Starr Whitehouse also collaborated on). It tapped Steven Holl Architects to design a library in Hunter’s Point, Queens, that broke ground last May, while Snøhetta was commissioned for the recently completed construction of new public spaces in Times Square. The DDC also picked Dattner Architects and WXY to design the Department of Sanitation garage and adjacent crystal-shaped salt storage shed that opened late last year.

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In the Bronx, delays seem interminable for long-anticipated Roberto Clemete Plaza
"The Hub," in the Bronx neighborhood of Mott Haven, couldn't be better named: it's the center of commercial activity in the South Bronx, and one of the busiest intersections in the city. As its dense avenues are packed with shoppers and commuters, the city moved to expand and improve Roberto Clemente Plaza, a public space that's a respite from the hectic nearby streets. In 2008, the NYC Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) upgraded streets and public space in the area, improving walkability with 15,000 additional square feet of sidewalks, pedestrian islands, and streets partially reclaimed for pedestrians. As part of these improvements, the NYCDOT remade Roberto Clemente Plaza, at Third Avenue and 149th Street. Extra street space was repurposed into a temporary pedestrian plaza with the addition of paint, planters, and gravel. In 2010, NYCDOT passed the torch to the NYC Department of Design & Construction (DDC) Design Excellence Program to create a permanent Roberto Clemente Plaza. The DDC partnered with Brooklyn-based Garrison Architects to design the plaza. Renderings show a curved green strip, lined with benches, that lets plaza visitors take in the streetscape. It's been over two years, however, since the project with an 18 month timeline began, and there's no firm end date in sight. The DDC estimates that construction will last through 2017 (though its website says construction will be complete by August 2016). Neighbors are furious. The constant construction has caused declining revenues for businesses bordering the plaza, and the ever-present construction equipment is an eyesore, residents and business owners claim. In conversation with Streetsblog, Third Avenue BID Director Steven Fish summed up the community's attitude towards the project. “General consensus is that this is a hellhole and there’s no end in sight.” The DDC claims to be "working diligently" with the contractor to minimize further delays.  
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New York opens the Randall’s Island Connector, linking the South Bronx to one of New York City’s best parks
South Bronx cyclists, skateboarders, and pedestrians now have easy access to Randall's Island, one of New York's largest recreation areas. Initiated by the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) in 2013, the Randall’s Island Connector opened this Saturday, November 14. https://vimeo.com/145758427 The quarter mile greenway extends over the Bronx Kill at East 132nd Street in Port Morris and under an Amtrak bridge to link Randall's Island to the South Bronx. The paths will give cyclists and pedestrians an alternative to the cumbersome access via the RFK Bridge. See the video above for a complete tour of the new route. At some points, only 50 feet of water separate the South Bronx from Randall's Island's 400 acres of green space. Due to circuitous access routes, many area residents do not know about or are unable to get to the island easily. The Randall's Island Connector is part of the South Bronx Greenway, a publicly funded initiative to create connected park space in the South Bronx while broadening access to green spaces borough-wide. The connector brings the borough, and the city, a step closer to their vision of building holistic green systems in an underserved area.
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With help from a TIGER grant, the Bronx River Greenway is one mile closer to completion
As of October 27th, the Bronx River Greenway is one mile closer to completion. The United States Department of Transportation awarded a $10 million TIGER grant to the city to build three bridges and a three-quarter mile path connecting the South Bronx's Concrete Plant Park with nearby Starlight Park. Though modest in scale, the grant adds momentum to the decades-long movement to green one of the most industrial areas in the borough. Two of the bridges will be built over the Bronx River—one near Westchester Avenues and the other adjacent to 172nd Street. The third bridge will be laid over Amtrak rail lines at East 172nd Street. When this critical link is complete, cyclists and pedestrians will be able to enjoy 1.8 miles of trails along the river, from East 177th Street to Bruckner Boulevard. Currently, recreation-seeking Bronxites who wish to travel between the two parks face a daunting and dangerous trek across a Sheridan Expressway access ramp. The New York State Department of Transportation committed funds to the project in 2008, but the DOT had to negotiate usage rights with Amtrak. The Acela runs adjacent to the Bronx River, in between the two parks. In total, the project is estimated to cost between $29 and $32 million. Federal, state, and local governments, as well as nonprofits, have pledged $12 million towards the project, in addition to the TIGER grant. Still, there is  $7 to $10 million dollar funding gap for the project. Construction will begin June 2016 and be complete by 2020.
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Aim High, Get Low: New “Lowline” linear park eyed in the Bronx
Call it High Line fever: since the first leg of James Corner and Diller Scofidio + Renfro's High Line debuted in 2009, High Line–like projects have popped up all over the city and across the country. Now, not ten miles from the original, the Bronx may be slated for its very own rail-to-park conversion. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. has asked Mayor Bill de Blasio to transform an unused slice of below grade train track in Mott Haven into a "lowline." The block-long site, bounded by Brook Avenue, East 156th Street, St. Ann's Avenue, and East 150th Street, is owned by CSX. In order to reclaim the space for parkland, the city would need to buy or seize the land from the railroad company. On a visit to the site in September, Mayor de Blasio deplored the condition of the trash strewn corridor, which doubles as a homeless encampment. Soon after the mayor's visit, city workers cleared out the belongings of the residents and removed debris from the site. Sandwiched between schools and their athletic fields, the lowline would be adjacent to mixed income housing projects Melrose Commons and Via Verde.
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Archtober Building of the Day 3> North Hall and Library, Bronx Community College
Archtober Building of the Day #3 North Hall and Library, Bronx Community College Robert A.M. Stern Architects Alex Lamis, FAIA, and Dennis Sagiev met a windblown gaggle of enthusiasts on the educational plateau of the Bronx: the former University Heights campus of NYU. Now Bronx Community College, it is a repository of ambitious plans. The first was the Jeffersonian campus plan of 1892 by Stanford White with its iconic Gould Memorial Library (1900) framed by the venerable Hall of Fame (1912). Marcel Breuer made his Modernist marks on the hilltop in 1956 and on into the 1960s. At North Hall it’s all about respect. The gang at Robert A. M. Stern Architects went straight to fitting in alongside the White masterpieces. The library itself is sturdily traditional in its up-to-the-minute technology hub – the information commons is awash with stand-up computer desks with scrolls. “A pent-up need,” according to librarian Theresa McManus, resulted in a project that “sends a message to the students.” There’s new building technology in the panel precast brick construction. And RAMSA designed an ironic postmodern histri-ionic column. Lamis explained that the fake rivets were part of the “artistic representation” of the structural steel. Historically, Lamis noted, the library is a “center for the retention of culture in its place.” Tomorrow’s excursion is to the Queens Botanic Garden.
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Affordable South Bronx
Via Verde in South Bronx, by Dattner Architects and Grimshaw Architects.
David Sundberg/Esto

“The Times Square of the South Bronx” is an apt moniker for a place more commonly known as “the Hub”. Situated at the crossing of subway lines, bus routes, and major thoroughfares, the Hub is one of the busiest commercial districts in New York City. The corner of East 149th Street and Third Avenue constitutes the center of this half-mile, spoke-like network of traffic arteries that radiate into the Melrose and Mott Haven neighborhoods. You cannot stand in one place here: Hordes of commuters boarding buses and entering and exiting narrow subway entrances sweep you along. Street vendors occupy much of the sidewalk selling everything from sunglasses to sodas. Salsa music blares from curbside radios and the heavy smell of food being fried at street stands wafts through the air. On a weekday afternoon in June, virtually all passersby were Hispanic or African American, and a great many were wearing jeans and sneakers. No hipsters were apparent, and no one was wearing a suit.

Throughout this bustling area there are still stately old masonry theaters from the era when the magician Harry Houdini and actors such as Lionel Barrymore performed here. Today, many of these historic buildings are bedecked in a riot of awnings and signs advertising beauty parlors, pawnshops, and electronics stores. In some cases, billboards and posters—such as a long brown one advertising Envy Nails—cover entire rows of second story windows. Alongside the faded Beaux-Arts buildings are more recent arrivals—Lego-like cinderblock structures with plate glass windows. You can see unfulfilled potential in the dusty upper story windows of 149th Street‘s sturdy old loft buildings decorated with faded “Offices for Rent” signs that might be appropriate for tenants such as tech startups or design studios.

 

Today’s Hub

In many ways the Hub is still recovering from the dark days of the 1970s, when the South Bronx became the most notorious symbol of urban blight in the country. Community District 1, which includes the Hub, lost 43 percent of its population during that decade. Fires and abandonment destroyed up to 97 percent of the building stock in some census tracts. Take a turn off East 149th Street, one of the Hub’s main drags, and north on Bergen Avenue and you will find trash-strewn sidewalks and fenced-off, weed-covered lots abandoned for so long that small trees have taken root. Back when the Bronx was burning, many property owners stopped paying taxes, and the city used foreclosures and eminent domain to acquire a vast inventory of such properties. However, the area as a whole has improved recently, thanks in part to better policing, say local residents such as Tanjy Davis, a former restaurant owner out for a walk with her daughter. “Brook Avenue has changed so much,” she said. “They used to have prostitution over there and young kids were shooting guns.”

 

There are signs that the South Bronx as a whole is reviving. In 2013, the Opera House Hotel, the Bronx’s first luxury boutique hotel opened for business in a renovated 1913 theater on 149th Street. And in the past year there has been a tremendous amount of real estate speculation in the Bronx. According to the New York Daily News, multifamily sales rose 67 percent and sales of development sites were up by 85 percent. However in the area around the Hub virtually all the new residential buildings have been built as affordable housing, and they owe their existence to generous government subsidy programs that generally include the sale of city owned land to private developers for nominal sums of money. A case in point is Via Verde, the award-winning affordable housing development completed in 2012 at the corner of 156th Street, just beyond the empty lots on Brook Avenue. Via Verde received a slew of subsidies from the New York City Council, NYC Housing Development Corporation, The New York State Affordable Housing Corporation, the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), and other government agencies.

Much of the new City-subsidized development in and around the Hub is targeted toward alleviating poverty. The 88,000-square-foot Triangle Plaza Hub is currently under construction on the site of a former municipal parking lot at 149th Street. The $40 million development will provide the South Bronx with essential goods and services that most Manhattan neighborhoods take for granted, including a primary care medical center for the federally designated medically underserved community. Triangle Plaza Hub will also house a Fine Fare Supermarket, which will benefit from tax incentives under the City’s FRESH program for grocery stores selling nutritious, affordable produce and meats in underserved communities.

La Central apartments in the South Bronx, by FXFOWLE and MHG Architects.
Courtesy FXFOWLE
 

La Central

The potential capstone to the Hub’s redevelopment is a proposed $345 million project called La Central, slated for the last large assemblage of vacant city-owned land in the South Bronx. A draft proposal for the project calls for a mixed-income affordable housing development of five buildings with 992 rental apartments, 2.2 acres of publicly accessible open space, and a host of new ground-level retail spaces. The project, which spans three existing blocks including a superblock created years ago by the de-mapping of a city street, will fill in the gaping hole between the residential developments along Brook Avenue, such as Via Verde, and the commercially-oriented areas around the Hub.

With so many government approvals and so many government subsidies required for such a large project to move forward, community support is critical. The draft proposal was presented at Bronx Community Board 1’s land use committee in June by a development team that packed the hearing room. There were representatives from La Central’s lead developer, the Hudson Companies, as well as the non-profit development partners for the project, which include Common Ground and the YMCA. In addition, there were representatives from a large design team that included FXFOWLE, MHG Architects, and Future Green Studio.

Aaron Koffman, a principal at the Hudson Companies, told the community board that La Central’s facilities and amenities were intended to provide services and recreational opportunities for the entire neighborhood. “It is about community, education, and affordable housing—those are the three pillars,” he said. One such space is a 10,000-square-foot studio and classroom space for BronxNet, a non-profit public access television station devoted to community-based programming and broadcast skills trainings for local residents. BronxNet would be joined by spaces for other non-profits, including music education program Music Has No Enemies, a day care center, and the South Bronx’s first YMCA, home to a diabetes prevention program run by Montefiore Medical Center.

 

FXFOWLE partner Dan Kaplan described how the project was designed to enhance the Hub with substantial open space within the development and a public plaza on an adjacent lot. Its street walls with ground-level retail seek to connect the buildings to the existing neighborhood fabric, and a pedestrian thoroughfare will reestablish a neighborhood connection lost when a section of East 152nd Street was de-mapped years ago. The massing ranges from a 25-story tower on the northern part of the site to 12-story buildings with two-story attached maisonettes. Articulated facades with recessed sections and bands of different colored bricks are intended to break down the scale of the development into smaller elements so as not to overwhelm immediate neighbors, among them low-lying warehouses along Bergen Avenue.

Because HPD is in charge of selling the land, the critical subsidy for such developments, it is able to exact a great many concessions in return. For La Central, HPD is mandating that the developers meet special green design standards established for affordable housing, setting the terms on the affordability of the units, and even requirements that the units be larger than those currently required by the city’s building code. The city‘s various stipulations might appear to be a difficult proposition for a private developer, except for the fact that the taxpayer will undoubtedly be picking up the tab for many of the features and amenities described in the draft development proposal. If the La Central deal goes through, the Hudson Companies and its non-profit partners will be able to buy the land for their development for a dollar per tax lot and potentially benefit from a number of subsidies that could include various government loans, tax-exempt bonds, and tax abatement programs that can last for up to 40 years.

Building state-of-the-art affordable housing can be quite profitable for private developers according to housing advocates. “The Hudson Company is certainly going to make money off of this and off of anything that is city sponsored,” said Moses Gates, Director of Planning & Community Development for the Association of Neighborhood and Housing Development, “If you have all of these great design elements, it is not the developer paying for them,” said Gates. “It is the public paying for them that is how it works, the developer has their return in mind and if they want to do all of this cool fancy stuff, they find funding for it and that funding is various subsidy programs.”

 

The proposed rents for La Central are designed to be affordable for households from a wide range of the income scale: between 30 percent and 100 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI), or equivalent to an annual income of $18,150 to $60,500 for an individual or $23,350 to $77,700 for a family of three. The housing units awarded through government run lotteries that generally attract a tremendous number of applicants. In 2014, the tenant lottery for 2,500 subsidized apartments in New York City drew 1.5 million applications—a 600 applicant to unit ratio. To help preserve the neighborhood, the city is requiring the developers to fill 50 percent of the units at La Central with local residents from Community District 1.

However, despite being given preference on 50 percent of the units, for many Community District 1 residents, the rents will be unaffordable. According to data from New York University’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, in 2013 Community District 1 had a 16 percent unemployment rate and half of household incomes were under $21,600. Further, close to a third of households in Community District 1 are “severely rent burdened”—which means that their rent equals at least 50 percent of their monthly pretax income.

 

Although his organization is focused on helping the poorest New Yorkers find housing, Anthony Winn, Chief Operating Officer of the influential local housing advocacy organization Nos Quedamos (We Stay), said that it is critical to have developments that can accommodate a variety of income ranges. “Often times you get an overemphasis on housing for the poor, which is important,” said Winn. “But when you are trying to grow and develop a community, you want to keep a balance between making sure that those with the most need are served while also making sure that you are not creating a concentration of poverty.”

For La Central to move forward, the land that it is slated to occupy must be rezoned from its current manufacturing designation to allow a residential use. And because the project involves a rezoning, the sale of city owned land and other government actions, the plan must pass through the City’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), a lengthy process that requires approvals from various agencies and public hearings before the New York City Council and the local community board. At the CB1 hearing on La Central, residents expressed concern about the building slated to be solely owned by the non-profits Common Ground and Communal Life, which would provide 96 studios at 30 percent AMI, 60 percent of which would be set aside for veterans with mental illness and low-income elderly people with HIV/ AIDS from throughout the city. Several board members said that the proposed supportive housing should address the needs of local elderly residents rather than accommodate populations with serious problems from across the city. Hudson’s Koffman responded that government financing was not available for an alternative supportive housing program and that his company was addressing guidelines set by the City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD): “We are doing nothing different from what they [HPD] are doing all over the city.” However, many at the hearing said that their community already bears too much of that burden. “There is and there has been a concern with an oversaturation of particular populations that cause major quality of life issues,” said Bronx Community Board 1 Land Use Chair Arlene Parks, “and the burden on a police department, the 40th Precinct, who already is so overburdened that they cannot respond to all of things we have going on here.”

Although the supportive housing component of the proposed La Central project remains contentious, the overall program wins praise from community members. “We are looking to have a diverse population in the district and for different persons of different incomes to be able to afford to live here,” said Cedric Loftin, District Manger of Community Board 1. “Those portions are going to have to be discussed, but we feel that the project will meet those needs.”

Melrose Commons

“It looks like a very exciting project in terms of what it is going to do for the community dynamic,” said Winn from Nos Quedamos, although he noted that his organization has not yet taken a formal position on the project. “There is diversity in what the structures are going to look like,” added Winn. “They are bringing in a diversity of formats in terms of the housing units, and it is looking at community use and community resources that go beyond the residents of the building—that YMCA, for example, is going to serve the greater Bronx community.”

Community-based organizations in Melrose, especially Nos Quedamos, have a formidable track record when it comes to influencing development outcomes. In the early 1990s, city officials made plans to raze the remains of a 30-block swath of Melrose and replace it with massive new developments. Neighborhood leaders found out about the City’s tabula rasa plan and formed Nos Quedamos to preserve what was left of their neighborhood. The New York City firm Magnusson Architecture and Planning (MAP) worked pro bono with the group to produce the alternative Melrose Commons Urban Renewal Plan in 1993. The plan, which included local residents in the design process and prioritized their housing needs, was adopted by the city the following year. “The vision was for a mixed-income neighborhood,” said Magnus Magnusson, Principal of MAP. “And although it was very hard to envision middle income there originally, we felt that it was very important to make the buildings look like middle income.”

The South Bronx is still one of the five poorest congressional districts in the country. But some of the government subsidized housing built in Melrose Commons over the past decade undoubtedly would attract a long line of prospective affluent tenants were they located in one of the city’s pricier precincts. One such development is the MAP-designed Aurora, an eight-story, 91-unit condominium building located on a tree-lined block of Washington Avenue. The boxy, brick-faced building is a good neighbor—it features setbacks to break up the massing and a supermarket and restaurant featuring Mexican food made from family recipes at ground level. The Aurora, which received subsidies from the Affordable Housing Corporation and the Bronx Borough president’s office, has every amenity on a checklist for middle income housing: bamboo floors, ceramic bathroom fixtures, and a gracious landscaped terrace for residents with play equipment for children.

According to the architects and developers who designed the recently completed Melrose Commons, because city-subsidized affordable apartments are built to guidelines imposed by HPD and are generally larger, they are also often are of better quality than market-rate units under construction in wealthier neighborhoods. And as opposed to the tower-in-the-park typology prevalent in other urban renewal areas, the affordable housing developed in Melrose typically relates to the street, with ground-level retail along the avenues and lower-scale townhouse buildings along side streets.

Although the South Bronx has not yet managed to attract much market-rate housing, the population moving into its affordable housing has become increasingly income diverse. “For many years the top income level at the typical new building in the South Bronx was 60 percent of AMI,” said Ted Weinstein, HPD’s Bronx director. In the case of La Central, the development proposal calls for half of the units to be between 80 percent and 100 percent AMI.

The city’s development policies in the South Bronx have also won support from affordable housing advocates. “On the whole it has been an unqualified success,” said Moses Gates from ANHD. “However, the availability of City-owned land has been critical to subsidizing that success,” explained Gates. “When you have land that is government-owned, you can go from the ground up and say how do we make it happen, rather than everybody throwing out bids and just taking the highest one.”

Frank Rivera
 

Sustainable Building

Over the past decade, in addition to shepherding the construction of thousands of units of rent stabilized affordable housing in the South Bronx, HPD has promoted the use of environmentally friendly designs and materials by awarding competitive points for green features in requests for proposals and by instituting minimum green building standards. “In the old days it was how many units and how cheap,” said Les Bluestone, a developer who in 2009 completed the Eltona in Melrose Commons, the first LEED Platinum affordable rental building in New York State. Bluestone credits the city for raising the bar: “The Bloomberg administration started looking at quality issues that weren’t studied so much in the past, and that is continuing under the present [de Blasio] administration.” Melrose Commons became the first neighborhood in the city to join the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Neighborhood Development Pilot Program (LEED-ND) in 2010.

Sustainable design certainly provides a host of benefits for people from any socio-economic group. But in the South Bronx, green features can be critical to the physical and economic health of low- and moderate-income residents. “In affordable housing, when it is a family of three and every dollar counts, the fact that utility bills could be knocked down by a significant percentage makes a difference,” said Kaplan, the architect from FXFowle. The development, which is aiming to achieve a LEED Silver rating, also includes a plethora of green features, such as solar panels to power a co-generation plant, which will reduce reliance on the city’s electric grid by 50 percent. A rooftop variable refrigerant flow system will eliminate the need for wall air conditioning units, allowing for tighter sealing throughout the building.

One of the primary ways La Central will reduce energy loads is through traditional block and plank construction, which utilizes precast concrete planks for the floor system and concrete cinderblocks for bearing walls, in contrast to the steel-beamed, market-rate buildings with glass facades being built in other parts of the city. “With market-rate housing you are trying to maximize the amount of glass that you have within the confines of the energy code and that generally means 45 percent glass,” said Kaplan. “La Central and other affordable housing projects we are designing are probably within 20 to 25 percent range for glass,” he said, noting that despite advances in glazing, glass generally is the biggest source of heat transfer in residential buildings.

Courtesy The All-Nite
 

The green features at new developments like La Central also have the potential to reduce the South Bronx’s high rates of asthma, linked in part to substandard building conditions like mold infestations. At The Eltona, developer Les Bluestone prohibited smoking and installed continuous background ventilation to reduce the impact of formaldehyde off gassing from residents’ furniture. In addition, non-toxic pest control systems such as non-cellulose wall structures and steel mesh termite barriers prevent the infestations like the recent ones that have been linked to repertory problems in New York City public housing projects. According to a recent Mount Sinai study, The Eltona’s features appear to have substantially reduced asthma attacks among residents. “It was absolutely amazing,” said Bluestone. ”People who were being hospitalized multiple times a month all of a sudden weren’t going to the hospital.”

La Central will not be the most high-tech or environmentally sustainable building in the area around the Hub. Across Brook Avenue from the fenced off vacant lots where La Central is slated for construction is the aforementioned Via Verde, designed by Dattner Architects and Grimshaw Architects. Via Verde is the most state-of-the art affordable housing development in New York City. With its colorful prefabricated aluminum, cement and wood panel facade, and rooftop farm, it can hold its own against the new iconic buildings along the High Line in Manhattan. Further, although it features ground-level retail and a community health center, Via Verde is a relatively self-contained development—a gated courtyard, although originally intended for public use, is generally open only to residents. And with 222-mixed income residential units, Via Verde is much smaller than the La Central development, which with its commercial spaces, public thoroughfare, and large public greensward promises to redefine the neighborhood. “One of the reasons that we like La Central from a design point of view is that it is bigger than a single building,” said Kaplan, “and we had an opportunity to create a neighborhood.”

With close to half of its units slated for renters making above 80 percent AMI and 11 percent slated for renters making up to 100 percent AMI, La Central promises to alter the demographics of this poverty stricken community. However, there is no way that the proposed development with its low- and moderate-income guidelines and its supportive housing component can be construed as being an agent for the kind of gentrification that is sweeping other New York City neighborhoods. “Somebody like me, who doesn’t make that much money, still makes too much money for buildings like these,” said Winn from Nos Quedamos. “If you make halfway decent money, you cannot get in because you make too much for the rental requirements and the number [of units] available at 100 percent AMI usually is just a fraction of the building, and then there is competition for those units.”

The developers hope to complete the ULURP process by April 2016 and purchase the property from the city the following month. Much about the project’s design could change as a result of the various reviews required under the city’s land review process.  However, neighborhood leaders say that things are off to a good start. “Community-based organizations are aware of what will be happening on the site and I am sure that there will be interactions short-term and long-term,” said Loftin from Community Board 1. “People are going to be looking at bringing educational engagement to the process and also seeing involvement long term, once the project is developed—so we are very excited.”

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Plan unveiled to transform the South Bronx with public space and waterfront access
The New York Restoration Project (NYRP), a non-profit founded by Bette Midler in 1995 to support public space, has unveiled its vision for a greener, cleaner, artsier, bike-friendlier, and overall healthier South Bronx. The master plan, known as the Haven Project, was created with a range of stakeholders including community groups, designers, and health professionals “to promote physical activity, improve pedestrian safety, and increase social interaction in neighborhoods saddled with some of the city’s heaviest industrial uses and suffering from high rates of poverty, diabetes, asthma and obesity.” The master plan would see the creation of a new waterfront park along 134th street, and bike and pedestrian paths that feed into the upcoming Randall’s Island Connector, which will run between the Bronx and the open spaces of Randall’s Island. A pier on the river would be also redeveloped to “protect the neighborhood and industries from storm surge and foster waterfront recreation.” Conceptual renderings of the new public spaces in the Bronx were drawn up by the Denver-based landscape architecture firm Civitas and include a series of public art installations. The master plan also calls for the implementation of green infrastructure and landscaping throughout the South Bronx, starting with the planting of 800 trees in Mott Haven this year. An NYRP official told Capital that the nonprofit hopes to break ground on the pier redevelopment in 2017. But, as the publication noted, for that to happen, the NYRP will have to navigate through a series of land use and landmark issues, as ownership at the site is unclear and includes two landmarked gantries. But, importantly, the plan has support from local community leaders and a host of city, state, and federal officials. Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story said the NYRP was founded in 1955, it was founded in 1955. 
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With this purchase of five acres of waterfront land, is the South Bronx New York’s newest development hot spot?
The Chetrit Group and Somerset Partners are betting big on the Bronx. The developers have recently purchased 5 acres of industrial land along the Harlem River. The Wall Street Journal reported that they plan to build up to six 25-story market-rate apartment towers on the land. According to the Journal, “overhauling the area would cost at least $500 million in private investment and at least $200 million in local, state, and federal funds, with a percentage from developers for roads, sewers, flood prevention measures, and work to integrate a freight rail line with the public areas.”
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Archtober Building of the Day #26> SLO Architecture adds art to Middletown Road Station in the Bronx
Archtober Building of the Day #26 Middletown Road Station Middletown Road & Westchester Avenue, Bronx SLO Architecture The “steel river,” as Alexander Levi of SLO Architecture referred to the Pelham Line #6 train on last weekend's Archtober tour, makes its way north towards Pelham Bay, crossing over four different waterways along its route. These bodies of water are cleaner now than they used to be, due in part to community-based efforts to clear unwanted debris and waste. As a result, plants and animals have returned to the area, and a feeling of pride has returned to the community. To uphold this stewardship and help maintain the waterways, Levi and Amanda Schachter of SLO designed Cross-Bronx Waterway for the Middletown Road Station, commissioned by MTA Arts & Design and chosen through a panel process. Cross-Bronx Waterway shows the evolution of the river cleanup projects. The series of eight stainless-steel panels, fabricated by AMI-Metal, depict birds, fish, boats, bottles, and other living and nonliving inhabitants of the surrounding rivers. The objects float within ribbons of steel, or “water,” assembled in different patterns on each panel. The birds depicted are species recently found along the Bronx River that had not been spotted for years, including herons. Despite signs of improvement, Schachter stressed that there are still objects found in the river that are not meant to be there. By including unwanted objects in the art as well, the architects have created a reminder that community members must continue to care for the natural environment and prevent the rivers from returning to their previous state. Levi and Schachter also wanted to create a sense of being underwater for people waiting for trains on the elevated platforms. Looking at the sculptural panels, subway-riders see the bottom of boats and the underside of birds. From the street, pedestrians looking up see the objects that protrude from the panels from an above-water angle. The architects intentionally changed the sense of view.
Emma Pattiz is Policy Coordinator for the AIA New York Chapter.
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Tuesday> Reception at the Bronx Museum’s “Beyond the Supersquare” exhibition
Beyond the Supersquare: Art and Architecture in Latin America After Modernism at the Bronx Museum is the most exciting and challenging architecture and urbanism exhibit in New York at the moment. The focus of the exhibit is the influence modern architecture and architectural thought has had on contemporary art in the Caribbean and Latin America. But while it features the work of artists and not primarily architects, all the works selected by Bronx Museum Executive Director Holly Block and Independent Curator María Inés Rodriguez were chosen for their insights into architecture and the immediate challenges of the region's exploding urbanism. supersquare2 In addition the museum has commissioned artist Terence Gower to create SuperPuesto, a colorful outdoor temporary pavilion that creates a modernist space in which visitors can immerse themselves in the themes highlighted in the show. The Architect's Newspaper, along with New York architects Carlos Brillembourg and Belmont Freeman, both of whom have personal and professional roots in the region, will host a reception at the museum this Tuesday, September 16 from 6–8:00p.m. We will also walk across the Grand Concourse and visit Superpuesta and meet the artist, Terence Gower. View more images from the exhibition in AN's recent Portfolio piece here.
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Grimshaw’s transit-oriented public plaza breaks ground in the Bronx
The New York City Department of Transportation recently broke ground on the second phase of Fordham Plaza's reconstruction in the Bronx. The revamped space will have all the standard-issue pieces of a New York City pedestrian plaza—the planters, benches, seating, trees, lights, and kiosks—but, ultimately, the plaza represents a significant investment in existing transportation infrastructure. Along with the new seating and the new café, the renovation of Fordham Plaza also includes a new canopy and ticketing machines for the adjacent Metro North station, as well as a new bus loop, seating, and shelters for commuters. The project also incorporates elements of Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero agenda through shortened pedestrian crossings, new direct crossings, and an overall increase of pedestrian space by 25 percent. “This project will significantly improve transit riders’ access to the area’s 12 bus lines and rail transportation while also taking advantage of the more than 80,000 pedestrians and potential customers that walk through the area daily,” Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said in a statement. Streetsblog reported that WXY completed a conceptual design for the plaza in 2010, but documents from the Department of Design and Construction show that Grimshaw, with Mathews Nielsen, is behind the updated site plan. The $10 million project is funded through a TIGER Grant from the federal Department of Transportation and is expected to open next fall. According to the NYC DOT, there are currently 46 pedestrian plazas in the city with 18 more in the works. Four of those already-open plazas are in the Bronx and there are three more on the way.