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Don't Go Chasing Waterfalls
Sasaki fountain at Citicorp Center may be demolished
I was and am incredibly proud of the work we did on the sidewalks, plaza, cascading fountain, and interior atrium of the Citicorp Center. The response from the public was immediate and strong: they loved it. As the fate of this work is up in the air I cannot help but to return to the original idea that carried through all aspects of the project: the idea of connection. At the time, we asked why not carry the fountain and broad steps all the way from street level; to chapel and atrium entrance level; to the subway level? While it required difficult permitting and multiple bureaucratic maneuvers, it seemed well worth the effort—and it was. It was a first! And today, as I learn that the plaza we designed is in danger of demolition I ask that we consider connection once more. I would like to see the plaza live on, connecting one era of design into the next. Once again, it may take some persistent maneuvering but I believe it will once more be worth it.
Christabel Gough of the advocacy group Society for the Architecture of the City told AN that the Sasaki project has "fallen between the cracks of arcane inter-agency procedures and is not protected. Boston Properties would earn the gratitude of so many New Yorkers by abandoning the demolition plan revealed today."
According to the LPC, the changes put forward by Gensler and Boston Properties were approved by the City Planning Commission prior to 601 Lexington Avenue’s designation as a landmark in December 2016 and that permits to alter the plaza had already been filed with the Department of Buildings (DOB). Despite an extensive search, at press time AN was unable to locate the permits on the DOB's website.At the hearing, preservationists and commissioners raised questions about the missing foundation. "The HDC wishes to express its regret at reports that the water feature may be removed from the space, which seems like an unfortunate loss," said Barbara Zay, of advocacy group the Historic Districts Council. "We would suggest that the LPC retain a seat at the table in discussions for the fate of courtyard by working closely with the owner, and perhaps the MTA, to find an alternative or return this decorative feature which provides an element of civility and whimsy to the space.” Echoing Zay, Commissioner Michael Goldblum expressed regret about the turn of events. "It’s a shame that the plaza will be changed and the fountain lost," he said, adding that the fountain was a "key element of how the public experience this complex." Fellow commissioner John Gustafsson clarified that no decision on the plaza could be made. "We’re not expressing an opinion here because we can’t," he said. The only changes on the agenda then, were to that of the facade, particularly on 53rd Street. Here, a recessed entrance would be eradicated, but the LPC voiced weariness ahead of this decision.
AN asked representatives from Gensler and Boston Properties at the hearing about why they are eliminating the plaza. Both declined to comment.In her closing statement, chair Meenakshi Srinivasan noted that "the Citicorp Building has a long history of changes... We recognized that these spaces will continue to change." She concluded that the proposed modifications were consistent with the building's history, and retained the spirit of the original design intent, particularly with the building's zoning history in mind. Prior to granting its approval, the LPC suggested that the proposed changes to the recessed entranceway be reconsidered. But questions remain as to why a plaza so integral to the landmark is beyond the LPC's oversight in the first place. AN will keep readers updated on this story as it develops. Update 3/22/17: This article originally stated that Sasaki's plaza was not included in the building's December 2016 landmark designation. It was in fact included in the designation. The post was also updated to include clarifying information about the plaza's jurisdiction and additional background on the statement of regulatory intent. The text was updated to reflect that Sasaki Associates principal emeritus Stuart Dawson designed the fountain.
This new transit map will help you prepare for the L train shutdown
More than a quarter-million people take the L train to get to and from Manhattan everyday, but riders are already bracing for that fateful day when the line's underwater tunnel closes for crucial repairs in 2019. In response to the shutdown, a group of New Yorkers are taking post–L train survival into their own hands with a new interactive map that may help all of us travel a little smarter.In collaboration with transit advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, Google's New York–based Sidewalk Labs has put together an interactive map to illustrate how the L train shutdown will impact riders across the system. Now in beta, NYC Transit Explorer reveals transit access visually, encouraging New Yorkers to think more broadly about how to get around. Here's how it works: The map aggregates the MTA's GTFS feeds for subways, buses, and the Staten Island Ferry to ascertain how long it would take to get to point A to B or point B from A, C, D, and E. NYC Transit Explorer allows users to tweak the variables to their liking—if a bus-loving Queens-to-Brooklyn rider prefers to walk fewer than ten minutes at any given point in the trip, she can adjust variables to access the most surface transit possible, while a Bronx-to-Manhattan rush hour commuter might prefer the faster subway. The map depicts travel time on a gradient from each location, and it allows you to compare travel times to the same destination via a bus-only, subway-only or combination routes. Best yet, users can see, via a time gradient, how long it would take to get from two different points. If a person is moving, for example, he can plot his commute from his current home and get a sense of where he could relocate to preserve the same (or shorter) travel time. Looking towards the future, the map also allows users to see commutes without the L train, or with the newly-opened Second Avenue subway. Sidewalk Labs' handy video offers an explainer and how-to for getting around New York faster: For those whose map skills start and end with Google Maps, some of the Transit Explorer's features are less than intuitive. Addresses are added through a pin drop, while minor streets remain unlabeled even in the closest zoom. Nevertheless, the map reveals transit deserts and hubs outside the city center (hello, Jamaica) and could be a useful tool for L-train dependent Brooklynites wondering how they'll get to the city when their train powers down.
Subway to Century City
L.A.’s Purple Line subway extension receives in $1.6B federal funding
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx was in Los Angeles this week to commemorate the announcement of $1.6 billion in federal funding toward the extension of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (LAMTA) Purple Line subway route.
The existing Purple Line opened in 1993 and begins in Downtown Los Angeles’s Union Station, sharing track with the system’s Red Line along most of its length. The route separates from the Red Line in the MacArthur Park neighborhood and currently terminates as a two-stop spur along the city’s Wilshire Boulevard corridor. Eventually, the Purple Line is expected to reach the oceanside community of Santa Monica and is being built in a piecemeal effort to achieve that goal.
The first, 3.9-mile long extension from the current terminus at Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue to La Cienega Boulevard is currently under construction and is expected to open for service in 2023.
The second phase of expansion will run from La Cienega Boulevard to Century City, roughly two-thirds of the way between Downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica.
The new round of funding announced by Foxx includes a $1.187 Federal Transit Administration Capital Investment Grant, a $307 million Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loan, and a $169 million grant from the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program. The remaining $747 million in funding for the $2.41 billion expansion will come from Measure R funds, a voter-approved transportation sales tax increase passed in 2008. Construction on the phase two extension is expected to begin in 2018 and will be completed by 2026. There is a possibility that construction on the extension could be sped up so the line would be operational for the 2024 Olympic games, should the city be selected as that year’s host.
Phase three of the extension will move the end of the line 2.6-miles further west to the upscale Westwood neighborhood and the nearby Veterans Administration Hospital (VA) complex. Plans for extensions beyond the VA campus have not been announced.
The current round of funding was bolstered by the passage of Measure M this November, which entails an additional county-wide tax increase to fund transportation infrastructure projects across the region in perpetuity. According to government officials, the guarantee of these future funds compelled the Transportation department to move forward with the latest round of grants and loans.
The new transit line has the potential to reshape the city’s Westside neighborhoods and could usher in a new era of dense, transit-oriented development along Wilshire Boulevard. Anticipation for the future line is building, as a similar transformation has already begun to occur along the system’s recently-opened Expo Line that runs several miles to the south along a parallel trajectory.
Already, several high-rise housing projects have been announced along the eastern portions of the Wilshire corridor, including a 15-story residential luxury tower designed by Steinberg Architects in the Mid-Wilshire area and a Pei Cobb Freed & Partners-designed addition to Minoru Yamasaki’s Century Plaza Hotel in Century City.
It is very clear that Governor Andrew Cuomo is fed up with the sorry condition of New York's infrastructure, particularly its airports.A barrage of recent projects suggests he is on a mission to restore infrastructure glory to the state. Over the past year, the governor has been spotted on top of the new Tappan Zee bridge, breathing fire down the neck of the MTA to finish the Second Avenue Subway on time, showcasing plans for a spiffy LaGuardia and a gussied-up Penn Station, and breaking ground on a new hotel attached to Saarinen's TWA terminal. To drive the need for better airports into the brains of constituents, there are not one, but three cartoon planes shooting off a logo for the state's new mantra: "Building today for a better tomorrow." Today the state, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and other agencies have revealed long-awaited $10 billion vision plan for a new-and-improved JFK International Airport. The many proposed changes, driven by $7 billion in private investment, have three common goals: Modernizing the terminals, improving road access to the airport, and expanding mass transit options to accommodate a projected increase in passengers. In a statement that channeled Rocky, Cuomo declared that “New York never backs down from a challenge, rather we step up to take on the ambitious projects that are often thought to be impossible. That’s exactly what transforming JFK International Airport is all about. Our vision plan calls for the creation of a unified, interconnected airport that changes the passenger experience and makes the airport much easier to access and navigate. We are New York, and we remember the bravado that built this State in the first place, and that is the attitude that will take JFK and turn it into the 21st-century airport that we deserve. I want to thank the panel, especially Chairman Dan Tishman, as well as all of our many partners who join us in this effort.” Tishman is the CEO of Tishman Construction Company and chair of the Governor’s airport master plan advisory panel. The video above features some project highlights, as well as renders for what we could see at the airport in the coming years. Right now, JFK may be ugly and dysfunctional, but it's busy: Last year the airport welcomed over 60 million passengers, and that number is expected to grow to 100 million by 2050. Plans call for the unification of terminals to provide passengers with a more coherent visitor experience; redesigned the ring roads to allow better car access; expanded parking lots and taxi access; added train service; more amenities like the Beyer Blinder Belle–designed hotel addition to the TWA Terminal; and of course, added privacy-slashing security features like facial recognition and video tracking software to ensure that no terrorists destroy the new airport and to prevent hapless travellers from endangering us all with carry-on batarangs and loaded guns. One of the biggest frustrations of traveling to JFK by car are the bottlenecks along the Kew Gardens Interchange between the Grand Central Parkway, the Van Wyck Expressway, the Jackie Robinson Parkway and Union Turnpike. Plans call for expanded lane capacity between the Grand Central and the Van Wyck, among other changes. In conjunction with today's announcement, the state unveiled a competition to design welcoming public art that will grace twenty new auto crossings over the Van Wyck. In all, New York will spend $1.5–$2 billion to improve roadway access to the airport, and is considering plans to increase mass transit capacity on the subway, LIRR, and AirTrain. Notably, the state is exploring the feasibility of a "one-seat" ride to JFK, which would mean no more getting off the A train to board the AirTrain only to find your MetroCard doesn't have enough cash so you have to wait behind 20 clueless tourists on line at the machine when your flight leaves in 30 minutes—amirite?