All posts in East

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You Windermere Some, You Lose Some
The Observer is reporting that Windermere, an individual landmark dating from the late 19th Century located on West 57th Street, was recently purchased for $13 million, or an astounding $181-per-square-foot. The sumptuous red brick apartment building had fallen into disrepair some years ago after its Japanese owner apparently lost interest in it, leading to a lawsuit we covered last year. Last Thursday, the commission announced [PDF] a landmark victory in its civil suit, which netted a record $1.1 million payment to the city, $2.6 million for seven displaced tenants of the former SRO, and an agreement from the new owner of the building to restore it to its former glory. (The suits had to be settled before the sale could go through.) So it looks like a win-win for everyone: An affordable gem for some enterprising developers, a windfall for the city, and a victory, most importantly, for those poor tenants.
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A Standard Affair (VIDEO)
Last Thursday, AN hosted the kick-off event for Meatpacking District Design '09, a conversation between executive editor Julie V. Iovine and hotelier André Balazs at his latest creation, the Polshek Partnership-designed Standard, New York (which Julie wrote about back in February). If you couldn't make it, though, no sweat. For your vicarious pleasure, we've posted a highlight video, plus the full talk, both in video and audio formats--here at AN we're platform agnostic--plus a slew of photos of the party, the swanky new digs, and the now-in-bloom High Line. Highlights:
Full Length Interview:
Audio: Shared Space in the Public Realm: André Balazs & Julie V. Iovine
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Stimulus, Coming to a Street Near You
First Recovery.gov, now the NYC Stimulus Tracker. Yesterday, when Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled the $1.1 billion in new infrastructure spending resulting from the city's cut of the federal stimulus bill, he also announced the creation of a special website to lend transparency to the process, not unlike the model set out by our dear mayor. (Judging by WNYC and ProPublica's Shovelwatch map, though, everyone's getting in on the act, with all but five states and numerous municipalities launching such sites.) There are six projects receiving direct stimulus funding, including $47 million for the repair of the Brooklyn Bridge, $175 million for rehabilition of the St. George Ferry ramps in Staten Island, and the $9.7 million repairs of a dozen roads throughout the five boroughs. The mayor also announced 25 projects that will receive funds allocated at the state level, also known as displaced funds. Below is a list, but for more on both, see the mayor's release. As a whole, he said the projects will create or preserve 32,000 jobs. But to be sure, check the Stimulus Tracker. Individual projects by borough, with amount of stimulus money recieved and expected completion:
    BRONX
  • Improvements to Hunts Point, $22 million, Fall 2012
  • Reconstruction of Paulding Avenue (Bronxwood), $21 million, Fall 2014
  • Reconstruction of the Claremont Parkway Bridge (Bathgate), $7.0 million, Summer 2012
  • Reconstruction of the Decatur Ave Retaining Wall (Bedford Park), $7 million, Fall 2011
  • Improvements to Hugh Grant Circle (Parkchester), $3.5 million, Summer 2011
    BROOKLYN
  • Improvements to Brooklyn Navy Yard, $4.7 million, Summer 2011
  • Streetscape Improvements to Flatbush Avenue (Flatbush), $3.5 million, June 2011
  • Reconstruction of Nassau Avenue and Monitor Street (Greenpoint), $12.9 million, Fall 2011
  • Reconstruction of Coney Island Boardwalk, $15 million, Spring 2011
  • Reconstruction of Shore (Belt) Parkway East 8th Street Access Ramp (Bath Beach), $14 million, Spring 2011
  • Reconstruction of Eastern Parkway (Prospect Heights), $6 million, Spring 2012
  • Improvements to Bedford Stuyvesant Gateway Business District, $7.1 million, Winter 2011
  • Replacement of Protective Coating on Steel Structure of Six Belt/Shore Parkway Bridges, $6.8 million, Fall 2011
    MANHATTAN
  • Reconstruction of West 125th Street, $1.9 million, Fall 2014
  • Reconstruction of East Houston Street, $23.5 million, Fall 2011
    QUEENS
  • Improvements to Long Island City Queens Plaza – Phase I, $22 million, Spring 2011
  • Improvements to Long Island City Queens Plaza – Phase II, $15 million, Spring 2011
  • Reconstruction of Rockaway Boardwalk, $15 million, Spring 2011
  • Reconstruction of College Point / 32nd Avenue, $12 million, Fall 2011
  • Replacement of Hillside Avenue Sidewalk (Jamaica), $10 million, Fall 2010
  • Extension of 132nd Street / Linden Place Extension, $7 million, Winter 2014
    STATEN ISLAND
  • Rehabilitation of 11 Staten Island Railway Bridges, $8.2 million, Summer 2010
  • Completion of the St. George Ferry Terminal Retail Area, $6 million, Fall 2009
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SHoP Drawings
When I bumped into Gregg Pasquarelli at the LPC on Tuesday, I asked him about a certain map that had been floating around the Internet a day or two before. The SHoP principal began to fulminate. "That was totally taken out of context," Pasquarelli said. Turns out it's a SHoPping map. "It was one of a series of maps we had made to illustrate the retail landscape in New York and why an anchor store would work so well down there," he continued. "It has nothing to do with New York as a whole." He added that, yes, obviously, it's an omage to Maira Kalman and Rick Meyerowitz. And he couldn't help but wonder how anyone got a hold of the map since it was the property of General Growth. Granted, they don't own much anymore, now do they?
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Gov's Island: I'm Not Dead Yet
While it is well known that the recession has hobbled both the city and state's budgets for the coming fiscal year, one project has already been left for dead by certain press outlets. Which seems strange because one of the designers behind the recreational magnet that will one day become Governor's Island works in the same building as us, and they seem as busy as hell. So is it really sink or swim time? That depends. It all started back in January, when the Observer reported that there was no money in the state budget for Governor's Island. Then, on Friday, Curbed, cribbing from a story in Downtown Express, warned that Governor's Island might not even open this year. The Observer's take was a bleak one:
The island serves as an emblem of the cyclical nature of government planning, when grand amenities and far-reaching developments are drawn up during good times and canceled or scaled back in bad.
The confusion in the press, it seems, stems from the usual fiscal shell games Albany so enjoys. As Leslie Koch, president of the Governor's Island Preservation and Education Corporation, explained in a phone interview Friday, there's no money in GIPEC's operating budget for FY09, though the capital budget remains intact. Thus the hive of activity two floors down. Furthermore, the GIPEC budget line the Observer points to as missing was in the proposed, and not the final, budget. Put another way, the future is actually more secure than the present remains in doubt. Meanwhile, Koch is keeping her fingers crossed. "There's still time and we're still hoping there will be funds," she said. Should the state re-instate its 50-percent share of GIPEC's budget come April 1, when the state's is due, the city is expected to follow suit. (Last year's budget was $22 million, up from $16 million the previous year.) Mayor Michael Bloomberg seems happy to oblige, according to the aforementioned Express article, even proposing the state temporarily shunt capital money from Hudson River Park to fund the island's operating costs this year. Another determined, if far more skeptical advocate, is Ken Fisher, chair of the Governors Island Alliance, who said in a recent interview that there has been little movement on the issue at the state level. "My assement is this is one of those situations where everyone thinks it will get worked out because it ought to get worked out," Fisher said. "But it won't." "It's one of those things that could wind up without a chair when the music stops." Undeterred, the alliance has launched a public outreach campaign, Keep the Island Afloat, which implores New Yorkers to write and call Governor David Paterson, telling him to, as Fisher put it, "Put the governor back in Governor's Island." Koch may have an even better weapon at her disposal: the uber-design team--West 8/Rogers Marvel/Diller Scofidio + Renfro/Quennell Rothschild/SMWM--behind the project. One of their number recently told us that they were rushing to complete the project for a big public unveiling before the state budget is due, thereby helping GIPEC's lobbying efforts with some flashy new renderings. "We're busting our butts to get it out there," the designer said. Koch insists that the official unveiling is still scheduled for May, as it has always been, but she did admit that the design team would be previewing ideas to the alliance and other stakeholder groups in March, the first time new plans will be publicly unveiled.  Asked if this was meant to entice lawmakers, Koch replied, "I don't really think of it as P.R. It's really public outreach." Still, Fisher thinks any such efforts could be a big help, especially as his efforts continue to be stonewalled. "The more real the project is, the easier it is to sell," he said. GIPEC has already had one setback this year--it was forced to sell a prized but derelict ferry it bought last year for $500,000, which fetched only $23,600 on eBay when the auction closed Monday, a 95-percent markdown. Should GIPEC go broke this year, it could truly be sour one. Not only will all that fancy design work be for naught, but GIPEC has also spent this off-season preparing the once off-limits southern portion of the island for public access. There just has to be more to Governor's Island than another Water Taxi Beach.
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Oscars to Rock Well
Possibly channeling a youth well spent watching late night reruns, David Rockwell envisioned a stage set for the 81st Academy Awards straight from the dazzling finale of 42nd Street wherein a woman's face dissolves into a crescent moon.  And that would be almost as surreal as David Rockwell incorporating some paving ideas from the Piazza del Campidoglio.
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Remembering Max Bond
As we reported, Max Bond passed away yesterday. We're already getting condolences from far and wide--more on that soon--but we also wanted to open up the blog and encourage readers to submit their own thoughts and memories. Please submit them in the comments section below. UPDATE: Here's a thoughtful note from Michael Arad, who worked with Bond on the World Trade Center Memorial:
The last time I saw Max was shortly before the election - we were both filled with hope and apprehension - and in retrospect, we were both coming at it from very different places but with similar desires. I am glad that he lived to see the election and all that it represented, especially for him, and I am sorry that he won't be with us for the dedication of the Memorial.
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Frat Trashes Rudolph's House
One could make a living chronicling the iniquities visited upon the work of Paul Rudolph (lord knows we certainly have). From modest tract homes to cutting edge office towers, the trail-blazing, highly influential architect's work has not fared well of late. Of the handful already demolished, as many are on the chopping block, and it has become an ongoing struggle for the Paul Rudolph Foundation to protect what's left. One of the better projects to come along was the expansion of Rudolph's Art & Architecture Building at Yale, where he taught for so long. But it now turns out that that was not the only renovation of the great architect's work going on in New Haven. ArchNewsNow pointed us to a story in yesterday's Yale Daily News about the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity's renovation to what was once Rudolph's own New Haven home. According to the YDN, the fraternity spent $25,000 bringing the house up to code, while eliminating--inadvertently or not--many of Rudolph's signature design features, such as his customary cantilevered stair case.
Matt Eisen ’10, the president of SigEp, said many elements of Rudolph’s original design had become safety hazards to the brothers living in the house and the students who flocked to the fraternity’s parties. “I wish we could make it safe and retain architectural elements, but we had to take cautionary steps before an accident actually happened,” said Eisen, the executive editor for the News, noting that most of the fraternity’s brothers are probably not aware of the house’s significance. [...] The renovation project involved setting the stairs in sturdy steel frames with marble inserts, removing the fireplace and a platform on the ground floor — which Eisen described as “a tripping hazard that served no purpose,” — as well as stabilizing the balcony area that was nearly collapsing. Bob Esposito, the property manager SigEp contracted for the project, reiterated that the main goal of the renovation was to upgrade the house to current design standards. “Building codes and architectural tastes have changed a lot since Rudolph’s time,” he said. “We wanted to make the house easier to maintain and more user friendly while keeping a great percentage of Rudolph’s original design intact.”
The thing is, it remains unclear whether the building was actually unsafe, or simply unsafe to the greek brothers and sisters there-in. A glimpse of the pre-renovation building shows that it does not appear unsound, and perhaps only got that way after neglectful care. Indeed, in its own report on the story, the Paul Rudolph Foundation said that the house had been well cared for until recently, though the fraternity refused admittance to determine its most recent state prior to the renovation:
Through the various owners, and up until recently, many elements like the floating stairs were retained. A clearer example of which can be seen in Rudolph's Halston Residence on 63rd Street for the famous Fashion magnate. Much like his 23 Beekman Place residence which would follow (and he would intervene into and out of for 30 years), this house was a work in progress and always up for alteration and innovation.
That Rudolph primarily modified the buildings interior--there was a a rearyard addition--means that the latest renovations leave almost no traces of the original building, as the foundation notes. "The current look, all decked-out in Ikea, with "state-of-the-art" projection TV, as photographed by Calgary Leveen of the YDN is hardly recognizable as Rudolph's one-time home and can no longer be realistically considered as 'Rudolph space.'" And now we are obliged to make a snide remark about the thuggish clumsiness of the debauched Yalies who could not help but fall down the elegant stairs at parties, and thus defiled a modernist masterpiece. Except that Rudolph accolate, Yalie, and architecture school dean Robert A.M. Stern, in speaking with the YDN, does it for us.
“The house was spectacular, innovative, glamorous,” said School of Architecture Dean Robert A.M. Stern ARC ’65. “It’s too bad they modified the cantilever steps, but it’s true that there are safety concerns without the railings, and at frat parties — it gets a bit lively, shall we say.”

Stimulus and Sandwiches
The second of the “Not Business as Usual” lunchtime conversation series last Wednesday at the Center for Architecture in New York had quite a turnout, including laid off designers, freelancers, and managers of struggling firms. Everyone was looking for ideas in these turbulent economic times. “We are trying to give information to people, to help them keep in contact with the industry so that they feel like they haven’t lost all their friends,” Steve Glenn from Lutron, one of the sponsors of the series, told AN. In the light of the current economic situation and the much debated stimulus package, this luncheon focused on federal and local government efforts to spark economy, and how these efforts could affect the design professions. The idea was to get architects and designers to participate and have their say on how the AIA, elected officials, and city agencies advocated for high quality public design as a part of the economic recovery plan. Last week, members of the AIA went to Washington to express their position on Federal Transportation Policy and to advocate for healthy and safe communities. “The AIA urges members of Congress to support community-based planning and design programs in the upcoming reauthorization of SAFETEA-LU that helps enhance the quality of life, reduce congestion, and provide long term economic and environmental benefits,” according to a statement by the AIA. Sherida Paulsen, president of the AIA New York Chapter, urged those present to address these concerns in coherent written form to congresswoman Carolyn Maloney. The session broke down into different groups addressing different advocacy areas, including transportation, infrastructure, healthcare, and small business issues, Design Corps, energy policy and sustainability, and other issues. In a session that could very well have been a support group for struggling architects, many of the attendees were eager to participate and jot down their proposals, but many others were disappointed for not getting the answers they had come for: How to start their own businesses? What about start-up benefits and unemployment compensation? Will there be tax exemptions? How much of the stimulus package will be directed to architecture firms as opposed to engineering firms? The truth is, the stimulus package is evolving by the hour. We will likely be unpacking it for months to come.
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Their Heart Will Go On (in Times Square)
Correction: Apparently, we can't keep our Marc/ks straight. In a previous version of this post, quotes attributed to Bailly were incorrectly attributed to Gage. Apologies all around. UPDATE: We've added some shop photos Mark (not Marc) kindly sent over. While not quite a standalone building, digitally-driven firm (and 2006 New Practices winners) Gage/Clemceau Architects will celebrate its coming out on February 11, when Marc Clemenceau Bailly and Mark Foster Gage deliver their "Valentine to Times Square." As Bailly told AN, "This is our first big thing that we've built, outside of a few exhition pieces and some interiors work." The 10-foot tall, two-ton heart is made up of some rather high tech components, including two stainless-steel ventricles precision-cut with water jets by Milgo Bufkin and then layered with "Strawberry Ice" translucent Corian that was CNC-milled and then embedded with purple LEDs by Evans & Paul. "We wanted to make something to showcase some of the technologies we're up to," Bailly said. (The project, which will be up for about two weeks, is not only a promotional for the Times Square Alliance, but also Zales, which will be hosting some sort of "Profess Your Love" competition with the heart as a back drop.) As with all the firm's work, this one began with some pretty heavy-duty computer modelling. "The software is really freeing us from platonic geometries," Bailly said. "We're getting to the point where we can make the surfaces do all the work." He said he hopes this project will serve as a showcase of what the firm's approach can bring to a project, and thus attract interest for more ground-up work, perhaps even some buildings. "With the steel skin and the Corian plates--floor plates, if you will--it's almost like a small building," Bailly said. But not only is computer modelling helping Gage/Clemenceau push the boundaries of their designs, but also their production. Bailly said it's took just over a month--and during the busy holiday season no less--to design, mock-up, and fabricate the heart, which is currently being assembled in Long Island City. Given that the client ran short on time to produce a Christmas tree, the original idea presented by the Times Square Alliance, speed was especially important on the second go-round.. Bailly said he's psyched on the results thus far, though he can't wait to see the project installed in Times Square. "The shapes are right on, which is nice because it means everything worked," Bailly said. "But it'll still be interesting to see how everything goes, especially in Times Square, with all those lights, and all that intensity. The stainless steel will hopefully capture all that, but we won't know what that's like until it's up." "The name, 'Valentine to Times Square,' is really what it's all about," Bailly added. "It's really a gift to the city."
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Ciao, Bryant Park
The AP first reported last night, and the mayor confirmed it earlier today: Fashion Week is departing Bryant Park for Lincoln Center. But not just any Lincoln Center. The new-and-improved, Diller Scofidio + Renfro-approved Lincoln Center. According to Bloomberg--in this case, we mean both the mayor and his eponymous news service, via the latter link above--the festivities will take place at the center's Damrosch Park. We emailed the ever-fashionable "R" in DS+R, Charles Renfro, to get his take on the news:
In general, Fashion Week is one of the most vibrant events that New York has to offer. We are pleased that they have chosen Lincoln Center as their venue. It suggests that Lincoln Center’s efforts to shift perceptions of the facility from elitist acropolis to popular forum have been effective. Those efforts include the redesign of course, but also include more youthful and affordable programming. For heaven’s sake, I saw Sufjan Stevens perform there. And my tickets were free!
Now while we agree with that sentiment, Fashion Week seems to run counter, more exclusive elitism than than inviting populism. Still, our dear Renfro persists:
Like most events at Lincoln Center,  one can purchase tickets to Fashion Week tent shows, though I will admit that price points are higher than the current $20 Met cheap seats. And they sell out fast. Fashion Week is not that different than a Giants game: If you have any desire to go, you can buy a ticket. If you can get one, a seat on the 50 yards line will set you back $700 while a fashion week tent ticket will set you back $150, and all the tent seats are essentially 50 yard line seats.
If you say so. As for the park itself, "We haven’t moved into that phase of the redesign yet," Renfor wrote, and it remains to be seen if, whether, or how Fashion Week might impact the redesign--a rather controversial one at that, because it will remake one of Dan Kiley's more famous landscapes. Best known for free summer concerts--we especially enjoyed Mahmoud Ahmed last year--the new digs will almost certainly be fancier than the former ones, at least after DS+R is through with them. The trade offs: far less subway access--the Times points out that Chelsea Piers posed a similar challenge in 1997--and a departure from the industry's psychic home, the Garment District. Still, the move was inevitable, as Times fashion writer Eric Wilson makes clear:
Although the fashion shows, now operating as Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week to reflect a corporate sponsorship, were welcomed in Bryant Park in 1993, there were frequent clashes with the management company that controls its maintenance and security. The dispute intensified in 2006, when the Bryant Park Corporation announced it would no longer allow the shows to happen in the park, because they were interfering with plans to operate a skating rink in the winter and public use of the main lawn in the late summer.
And so, greener pastures have now been traded for chicer ones.
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Legoland, NY
For those of you who haven't already seen Christoph Niemann's great blog for the Times, "Abstract City"--the expat illustrator renders the city we love in terms of its subway lines and coffee stains--today's post proves to be his best work yet. At least that's the case for those of us whose obsession with architecture began with a pile of LEGO bricks many years ago. (Guilty as charged.) Here are a few of his more architectural pieces, but be sure to check them all out, as his clever renditions are just too good to be missed. Talk about (de)constructing New York.