Search results for "New York City Economic Development Corporation"

Placeholder Alt Text

Compton's TLGB District

America's first transgender historic district planned for San Francisco's Tenderloin neighborhood
A recently struck agreement between Group I—the developer for a Handel Architects-designed mixed-use housing and hotel project in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood called 950 Market Street—and TLGB activists will soon yield the country’s first transgender cultural historic district. The new Compton’s Cafeteria Transgender, Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual (TLGB) District is being crafted as a result of neighborhood opposition to the project, originally designed by Bjarke Ingels Group, that aims to bring apartments and a hotel to the heart of the city’s historic TLGB enclave. A deal struck between activists, the developer, and San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim would utilize $300,000 paid by the developer to establish the cultural district the area in order to preserve the architectural and social legacy of the neighborhood’s many gay bars, several of which are being demolished in conjunction with the new project. The fund is to be administered by the San Francisco Mayor's Office of Economic and Workforce Development and will support local business and nonprofit organizations that serve transgender people in the district. The district is named for Gene Compton’s Cafeteria, the site of a two-day riot in 1966, an event that predates the Stonewall Riots in New York City by two years and is considered as the first major transgender protest in the United States. President Barack Obama elevated the Stonewall Inn—a gay bar in New York City’s Greenwich Village neighborhood—as a National Monument in 2016, the first such monument for the TLGB community in the country. The district encompasses a collection of roughly ten blocks in the Tenderloin neighborhood along Viki Mar Lane, 6th Street, and Market Street and surrounds an area formerly known as the “meat rack,” a stretch of town friendly to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer populations in the city from the 1950s through the early 1970s that is also home to many historic gay bars. Of these, the Old Crow, Rainbow Tavern, and Silver Rail bars will be torn down to accommodate the development. A two-story structure known as the Dean Building is also being town down. The roots of the district as a cultural site for TLGB populations go back to the Gold Rush era. In a press release touting the first-of-its-kind cultural district, Kim explained the importance the cultural site during a time of newly-restrictive social mores, as an ascendant conservative ideology permeates national political and social discourse, saying, “By creating the Compton’s TLGB District we are honoring this vibrant community built by transgender people, and are sending a message to the world that trans people are welcome here.” Handel Architects’ 12-story complex, with an eye toward the particularities of a neighborhood that is historically home to a collection of specialized communities, including low-income, homeless and under-housed populations, will aim to bring 242 new mixed-income units to the neighborhood. The developers behind the project also aim to work with the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD), the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation (TNDC), and Tenderloin Housing Clinic (THC) to develop between 60- and 70-units of off-site, deed-restricted affordable housing. The affordable complex, to be located at 180 Jones Street, will make use of a $14.8 million in fees and donations by the developer to come to fruition. When built, it will be operated by MOHCD. The project—articulated as a snaking apartment block decorated with a hexagonally-shaped structural grid populated by large expanses of floor-to-ceiling glass walls—is expected to take about two years to build and will contain, among other programmatic components, a neighborhood non-profit threater. The forthcoming Magic Theater, designed to occupy a 2,000-square-foot retail space at the corner of Turk and Taylor streets, will also contain a locally-owned cafe.
Placeholder Alt Text

Omni-Present

NYC to replace parking garage with hundreds of affordable units in Jamaica, Queens
New York City is set to replace an underused NYPD parking garage it owns with affordable housing on the eastern edge of Queens. “Under Housing New York, we committed to looking at every city-owned site as an opportunity to build affordable housing," said outgoing Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) Commissioner Vicki Been. "We are thrilled that in partnership with EDC and the NYPD, we now have a proposal to develop a dynamic mixed-use facility with affordable homes, a recreational facility, and commercial space in the heart of Jamaica, Queens.” A three-agency team selected Omni New York to develop the all-affordable complex, which will include 350 units plus commercial space. Plans for the 450,000-square-foot project put the NYPD parking garage below-grade, with street-level retail fronting 168th Street between Jamaica and Archer avenues—all busy neighborhood thoroughfares. The development is a partnership between the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), HPD, and the Housing Development Corporation (HDC). While Omni manages a portfolio of thousands of units nationwide, last month the city's Human Rights Commission charged that the company had discriminated against tenants who use housing vouchers and rental assistance, the Daily News reports. Omni denies all allegations. This project falls under the Jamaica Now Action Plan, a sweeping neighborhood revitalization initiative that launched in 2015. The $153 million plan emphasizes the community's "livability," which here includes workforce development and help for small business, as well as investments in public space.
Placeholder Alt Text

Design-Build

Lendlease and Turner win $1.5 billion contract for Javits Center addition
The long-awaited addition to the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center now has a design-build team. New York's Empire State Development (ESD) has selected Turner Construction and Lendlease, an Australian company, to design and develop a $1.5 billion expansion of the Javits Center, New York City's largest events space. Renovations will add 90,000 square feet of exhibition area, a 55,000-square-foot ballroom, 45,000 square feet of meeting rooms, an outdoor events pavilion that can hold up to 1,500 people, and a 6.75-acre green roof. In all, the new and old buildings will host a combined half-million square feet of exhibition space. ESD, the state economic development authority, owns the property, which hugs 11th Avenue between West 34th and West 40th streets on Manhattan's Far West Side. Crucially, improvements will re-route some 20,000 trucks off surrounding streets each year, a move that is expected to improve traffic and pedestrian flow in the immediate area. Faster loading and unloading will also free up 20 additional days for more events at what is now the United States' busiest convention center. When expansion plans were announced last yearGovernor Andrew Cuomo pegged costs at around $1 billion, though later estimates moved that figure higher. The state will pay $1 billion of the total cost, and the rest of the project will be bond-financed. Tishman Construction (an AECOM subsidiary) is overseeing the first phase of work to ready the site for a new building. That work began in September 2016, though at this time, there's no set construction timeline for the project overall.
Placeholder Alt Text

A Big Cover Up

City seeks firm to build, Hudson Yards–style, over Queens rail yard
New York City is searching for the right developer to build green space, housing, and retail over a Queens rail yard. The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), in collaboration with the MTA, put out a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the project today. Developers would have the opportunity to transform a 58,000-square-foot property in Long Island City into mixed-income housing development that includes commercial space, community facilities, and public open space. The city owns the air rights to the site, which sits close to public transit and MoMA PS1. The Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) currently uses the site, which is bounded by Jackson Avenue, 49th Avenue, and 21st Street, for storage. Like Manhattan's Hudson Yards, the development would need to be built over the yard, DNAinfo reports. Per the RFP, submissions are due April 21. This article appears on HoverPin, a new app that lets you build personalized maps of geo-related online content based on your interests: architecture, food, culture, fitness, and more. Never miss The Architect’s Newspaper’s coverage of your city and discover new, exciting projects wherever you go! See our HoverPin layer here and download the app from the Apple Store.
Placeholder Alt Text

All Shook Up

Maria Torres-Springer to lead New York's housing agency; Vicki Been steps down
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced this week that Maria Torres-Springer, current head of the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), will replace Vicki Been as commissioner of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). The shakeup comes on the heels of Carl Weisbrod's decision earlier this month to leave his job as chair of the City Planning Commission for the Trust for Governors Island. (Unrelated to architecture and planning, de Blasio’s commissioner of the Administration for Children’s Services, Gladys Carrión, left her post last month.) “It has been an honor and privilege to lead HPD, and to be part of the Mayor's all-star housing team. We came in with a bold agenda to change the paradigm for how we grow as a city," Been said, in a statement. "We promised to produce and preserve more affordable housing than ever achieved, to reach New Yorkers at a broad range of incomes, and to work with communities to ensure neighborhoods are diverse, inclusive, and rich in opportunity. We’ve financed 62,506 affordable residences, including the highest three years of new construction in the city's history. We've changed the way we work to ensure that we achieve more affordable housing for every public dollar spent, and that our housing reaches the New Yorkers who need it most." Been, a law professor, is headed back to New York University to teach and will return to directing the university's Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy. Torres-Springer is leaving her role as president and CEO of NYCEDC. At the agency she spearheaded the nascent revamp of Spofford, a former juvenile detention facility in the Bronx, into a mixed-use development with a large affordable housing component. “Having grown up in Section 8 housing, I know first-hand that the work we do is a lifeline to hundreds of thousands of families," said Torres-Springer, in a statement. "Housing is the top expense for New Yorkers, and for far too many rising rents threaten their ability to stay in the city they love. I’ve spent my career helping people secure better jobs with better wages, and developing neighborhood projects that provide affordable homes and economic opportunity. Vicki leaves big shoes to fill, but I’m honored to have a chance to keep up the record-breaking progress she’s achieved." James Patchett, deputy mayor Alicia Glen's chief of staff, will succeed Torres-Springer at NYCEDC. Agency leaders will assume their new roles on February 6.
Placeholder Alt Text

Flushed Out

More details emerge for the new Center for Community and Entrepreneurship in Flushing, Queens

A New York nonprofit powerhouse has commissioned two local firms to build out its mission in Flushing, Queens.

Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE), an advocacy and community development agency based in Flushing, selected JCJ Architecture and Leong Leong to design the Center for Community and Entrepreneurship, a 90,000-square-foot business incubator and event space that will serve as a fulcrum for the neighborhood.

The announcement comes at a time of great growth for the neighborhood, a major commercial center for New York’s Asian-Americans. 70 percent of Flushing’s 72,000 residents are Asian, and the area is home to one of the world’s largest ethnic Chinese enclaves. “Vibrant,” that go-to good streets descriptor, doesn’t adequately capture the level of activity along Flushing’s main thoroughfares—Roosevelt Avenue, Main Street, and College Point Boulevard. Main Street is second only to Times Square in New York City foot traffic. Here, shoppers from all over the region access multi-story mini-malls through ground-level stores whose wares spill onto packed sidewalks that the city is spending nearly $8 million to widen.

The Center for Community and Entrepreneurship addresses a dark side of this prosperity: International real estate investment and a growing population have raised property values and commercial rents, making it tough for new enterprises to get off the ground. The center will sustain AAFE’s holistic development approach and build on its legacy of community investment. Since its founding 42 years ago, the organization has created more than 800 units of affordable housing and given $44 million in loans to 1,000-plus small businesses.

For design inspiration, the two firms looked both at AAFE’s mission and the surrounding area. “In Flushing, there are already a lot of pre-existing hybrid typologies,” said Dominic Leong, cofounding principal of Leong Leong. “It’s an interesting urban context—because of the history and the influx of immigrants from Asia, there are mixed-use typologies that just don’t exist anywhere else in the city. This project falls in line with that DNA, and takes it to an institutional level.”

The building’s seven-story gradient of public-to-private use beckons residents inside, while the program—a twist on the Flushing commercial typology of stacked retail—tackles challenges posed by the neighborhood’s rapid growth. A public plaza at 39th Avenue and College Point Boulevard, the architects explained, anchors the building to the neighborhood by drawing people in from the street, while private offices occupy the upper levels.

The space is organized as four connected volumes, each joined to an outdoor terrace. At ground level, the plaza’s 5,000-square-foot marketplace connects to Flushing’s street life, while upstairs, a flexible event space opens onto an adjacent terrace. A three-story open staircase, wide enough at its base for seating, connects the space through the third level. “From the plaza up to the stairs, you are metaphorically tracking the mission of AAFE,” said JCJ principal Peter Bachmann.

A third-floor incubator will provide co-working space, where emerging businesses will get assistance from the AAFE-affiliated Renaissance Economic Development Corporation. “The center is not only about providing affordable space,” said Christopher Kui, AAFE’s executive director. “It’s about networking opportunities and resources.” The nonprofit, whose offices will occupy the fourth floor, will lead entrepreneurship classes geared specifically to small businesses. As they grow, firms can rent space on floors five through seven.

A reflection of the hybrid program, the facade is most transparent at the two lowest and most public floors. The glass increases in opacity as the eye ascends to the upper, non-public floors, explained Chris Leong, Dominic’s brother and cofounder of the firm. The lot line wall is clad in metal panels and roughly mirrors the glass walls’ spacing.

Overall, the building respects its lot line, but, unlike a “jewel on the block,” it’s not trying to define itself against its context, Dominic said. It has a slight curvature in plan that brings it up the lot line, while the corner lot ensures that adjacent developments will respect the building’s profile.

AAFE awarded the project to the firms last fall, and the center is expected to be complete in 2018. Leong Leong and JCJ have mutual respect for each other’s desire to work with mission-driven organizations, and the architects stressed the strengths they bring to the project. JCJ has seven offices and a deep portfolio of community-minded projects, while Leong Leong is known for bringing its impossibly cool aesthetic to projects like the U.S. Pavilion at the 2014 Venice Biennale and the Anita May Rosenstein Center, a new campus for the Los Angeles LGBT Center.

In Flushing, both firms see architecture as a platform for community. “We are in a post-icon paradigm. This generation is trying to understand a different way to relate to context.” Dominic said. “Here, we interface with the community on the urban level of the plaza, then create building forms that respond to those criteria.”

Placeholder Alt Text

GMDC + NYEDC

90,000-square-foot modern industrial workspace to be developed in Ozone Park, Queens
Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center (GMDC) has been selected by the New York Economic Development Corporation (NYEDC) as the first awardee of the city’s Industrial Developer Fund. With the support of the fund, GMDC will create a 90,000 square-foot workspace in the Ozone Park neighborhood in Queens. According to the NYEDC, the new workspace will be designed for small and medium-sized industrial and light manufacturing businesses, and will be LEED-certified, partially solar-powered, and equipped with new freight elevators and new electrical infrastructure, among other features. "Now more than ever, we must ensure that our economy is diverse, equitable, and provides opportunity for all New Yorkers. Supporting the industrial sector is critical to that effort," said NYCEDC President Maria Torres-Springer. The new workspace will support 24 new businesses and 80 workers earning an estimated average of $51,500 per year, which is consistent with tenants in other GMDC-developed sites. Queensborough president Melinda Katz praised GMDC for its approach to equitable economic development, calling it "a great model for how to better assist smaller manufacturing companies and keep those jobs in New York." Since 1992, GMDC has rehabilitated seven industrial buildings in New York City to provide affordable and flexible production space for small and medium-sized manufacturers. The GMDC Ozone Park Industrial Center will be geared toward tenants similar to those of other GMDC projects, including custom woodworkers, set builders, metal workers, and home goods manufacturers, among others. GMDC will receive $10 million from the Industrial Development Fund, and a $3.7 million loan from NYEDC to get the $37 million project off the ground.
Placeholder Alt Text

Prison Break

A notorious former Bronx prison site to become affordable housing

The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) recently unveiled plans to redevelop a former Bronx juvenile prison into a mixed-use development centered on affordable housing.

WXY architecture + urban design (WXY) is collaborating with Body Lawson Associates (BLA) to transform the infamous Spofford Juvenile Detention Center into the Peninsula, a $300 million project that will create 740 units of 100 percent affordable housing.

Claire Weisz, principal-in-charge of WXY, said that “no parts of the former prison [were] being reincorporated” into the development. “The goal is to create a campus that incorporates living and working to reimagine this promontory place in Hunts Point,” she added.

The rest of the team—Gilbane Development Company, Hudson Companies, and Mutual Housing Association of New York (MHANY)—was chosen through a 2015 request for expressions of interest (RFEI).

The team is working with longtime neighborhood stakeholders like the Point CDC, BronxWorks, Casita Maria Center for Arts and Education, Urban Health Plan, Sustainable South Bronx, and others.

In 2014, Majora Carter—the urban revitalization activist and founder and former executive director of Sustainable South Bronx—partnered with AutoDesk to imagine alternatives to the Spofford site, which operated as the Bridges Juvenile Center when it was shuttered by the city in 2011 over appalling conditions and inmate abuse.

Along with the typical deliverables that come with a project this size—retail, community, and green space—the Peninsula will bring 49,000 square feet of light industrial space to the Hunts Point neighborhood.

Weisz said that “recreating and reconnecting the street grid” while “making a courtyard space [that] expresses the permeability and openness to the community” was a “priority of the team’s proposal.” Victor Body-Lawson, principal at Body Lawson Associates, added that the team “designed the courtyard as a hub that will foster interactivity between the community, residents, and visitors while melding commercial, manufacturing, and residential activities around a central space.”

In addition to providing housing, the plan integrates different types of workspaces, including artist work studios and light industrial space for Bronx-based businesses to both launch and expand. The Peninsula will host a business incubator, job training facilities, school space for pre-kindergarten (an on-site Head Start program will be incorporated into the project) and higher education, 52,000 square feet of open space, and an 18,000-square-foot health and wellness center operated by Urban Health Plan. “The housing and these work spaces will together create a lively and open addition to the neighborhood of Hunts Point,” said Weisz.

Food, too, is key to the Peninsula: The NYCEDC stated that in addition to a 15,000-square-foot supermarket, local favorites like Il Forno Bakery, Soul Snacks Cookie Company, Bascom Catering, and Hunts Point Brewing Company will be setting up shop in the development. According to Weisz, these “will serve as anchor tenants for the Peninsula because they provide access to fresh produce, offer health care services, and strive to be part of a larger vision that benefits their growing business and the community they serve.”

The five-building development is coming online in three planned phases: Phase one is expected to be complete in 2021, with phase two coming online the year after and the third phase set to open in 2024.

Placeholder Alt Text

Gimme Gimme!

AN Editors' gift picks
In addition to our gift guide from the December issue that featured some of our favorite architects and designer's tops picks, here are some ideas from our diverse team here at The Architect's Newspaper! Take a look below at what our editorial staff is craving, ranging from funny to fabulous.  William Menking, Editor-in-Chief Here’s one for the serious urbanist in your family. Books from Urban Research on the daily life we all face in the ‘Age of Trump.’ One Star Press creates affordable artworks for the working designer and for slightly less than $1000. Two chairs designed by Rirkrit Tiravanija and John Baldessari (both with Sébastien de Ganay) are the perfect gift for the average art collector. They are cut out of four pieces out of simple plywood on a local CNC machine to make the chair's carbon footprint as low as possible—and assemble it in a minute with no screws or glue. Matt Shaw, Senior Editor Props by Besler & Sons These stylish terrazzo objects are as durable as they are ambiguous. Each is uniquely patterned with colored glass and marble chips, and the shapes can be used for a variety of functions. The Allen Sock The Allen Sock is patterned with the crown of the Chrysler Building and is named after architect William Van Alen, who completed the skyscraper in 1930. Insulation Scarf Insulation Scarf takes the universal drawing symbol for insulation and applies it to an actual piece of human insulation: The scarf you wrap around your neck. Begin With The Past This book tracks the long process of designing and building the National Museum of African American History, including how to create consensus about a building for an entire group of underrepresented people. Zachary Edelson, Web Editor Vertical: The City from Satellites to Bunkers Newly-released, this book uses verticality as a way to explore a complex web of global inequality, cities, architecture, history, and more. It's a unique perspective on how architecture intersects with politics and culture. Dymaxion Folding Globe For fans of Buckminster Fuller, a great little desktop addition. Portable Pico Projector One of the top rated micro projectors of 2016, it's great for giving presentations anywhere (and can double for entertainment as well). Olivia Martin, Managing Editor Oto for East Japan Project Speaker This handmade ceramic smartphone holder, speaker, and dish by KiBiSi (Bjarke Ingels's side project with Lars Larsen of Kilo and Jens Martin Skibsted of Skibsted Ideation) and Kengo Kuma is not only a whole lot of starchitecture in one tiny object, but is also practical and elegant. The Japanese walnut wood naturally amplifies sound and the ceramic comes in fun colors like matcha green and sumi black. Available at design shop. Shinola Bolt Necklace I don't know if a collaboration between the super hip powerhouses of jewelry designer Pamela Love and Detriot manufacturer Shinola is genius or obnoxious, but the resulting new jewelry line is very nice. If bling isn't your thing, Shinola's partnership with GE yields some seriously sleek power strips and extension cords (be still my heart). Dustin Koda, Art Director
Encyclopedia of Flowers III, Flower Compositions by Makoto Azuma, Photography by Shunsuke Shinoki In this three-volume series, Encyclopedia of Flowers, Azuma Makoto works within the constraints of a rapidly changing flower market and the ephemeral nature of botanical life to create sculptural and spatial experiences. Through Shusuke Shiinoki's photographs, Makoto transforms the prosaic into works of transcendent expression and existentially examines our ongoing interest with beauty, context, and mortality.
Marble Bench by Muller Van Severen Belgian duo Fien Muller and Hannes Van Severen created a bench strict in form yet whimsical in color. The luxurious cuts of marble belie the bench's commodious practicality. Becca Blasdel, Products Editor Nobel Truong Fluorescent Cacti  For someone with a brown thumb, or an apartment with very little natural light, Nobel Truong's fluorescent cactus sculptures are just the ticket. Plus, they are available in lamp versions, so you can have a mini desert disco when it's too cold to leave the house. Eames Coffee Table Book
This book is a feast for the eyes for any Eames fan. With drawings, photographs, and plans–all of the dynamic duo's projects are in chronological order from their earliest furniture designs to their short film, Powers of Ten.  Antonio Pacheco, West Editor Nimbus Cork Square Side Table Here’s a very cool-looking chair made of steel and cork that is also very comfortable to sit in. The seat is milled from thick slabs of renewable cork from Portugal that have been buffed soft and shaped to have bullnose corners. Dekalog Kieślowski’s Dekalog is a film series from 1980s-Poland that chronicles the lives of the residents of a Soviet-era housing complex. Each of the ten, hour-long films draws on the Ten Commandments for thematic inspiration.

Dark Age Ahead was Jane Jacobs’s last and perhaps most dystopian book. In it, she foretells the nationalist, anti-neoliberal political wave sweeping the western world today. Jacobs explains our current situation as a necessary crisis resulting from our transition toward a technology-focused society.

Jason Sayer, Editorial Assistant

Budget Brutalism When your love for concrete is bound only by your wallet then you’ll be pleased to know of Polish firm Zupagrafika and British artist Oscar Francis. If you feel like recreating your own Brutalist block, Zupagrafika has you covered with a cardboard edition of Ernő Goldfinger’s Balfron Tower (also known as Trellick Tower). If that doesn’t take your fancy, Oscar Francis’s wash bag comes enamored with a print of Sulkin House in Hackney, north east London on it. Art Deco Wrapping paper Art Deco and geometry go hand-in-hand so the style seems ready-made to be used for pattern work, in this case, on wrapping paper. This subtle approach will most likely bring a warm smile to most design types before they’ve even opened your gift. Just make sure the gift is as good! Frank Lloyd Wright Bird Feeder Frank Lloyd wright had an affinity for the natural world, often celebrating it in his work—Falling Water being the most obvious example. "Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you,” he once said. Now you can feed Frank’s feathered friends with this bird feeder whose glass artwork emulates patterns found in the architect's Darwin D. Martin house in Buffalo. Audrey Wachs, Associate Editor

Stop. Close your forest of Amazon Prime tabs right now, and make a gift to nonprofits that make our built environment more just, equitable, and beautiful. Better yet, make a donation for the architect in your life: She has enough crap already, and you get a tax deduction. Win-win, right? Here’s a few suggestions:

If you care about fairness and equity in the field, become a member of the Architecture Lobby. The national organization promotes the value of architecture in the public realm and advocates for structural change within the profession to produce better working conditions. For general donations, the group’s Architecture Initiative funds public forums and the Lobby’s educational mission. To the uninitiated, gender and architecture have more synergy than meets the eye. Organizations like QSPACE, a queer architectural research organization based at the New Museum’s NEW INC, center sexuality and gender in its analysis of the built environment. In addition to donations, the group, founded this year by GSAPP grads, also solicits technical expertise for ongoing projects. QSPACE isn’t the only group accepting in-kind donations. In the wake of the Oakland warehouse fire that killed 36 people, architects Melissa J. Frost and Susan Surface founded national nonprofit Safer Spaces to help artist-run venues and live/work lofts get up to code. Right now, the group is soliciting donations of fire extinguishers, smoke alarms, and other fire prevention tools, as well building services, project assistance, and plain old-fashioned cash. Check out their local meet-ups and skill-share document here. For the architect-urbanist, a great way to give back to your city is a gift to your nearest Community Development Corporation (CDC). These nonprofit, hyperlocal organizations typically operate in disinvested, low-income neighborhoods to develop affordable housing, spur economic development, plan neighborhoods, and make streets beautiful. There are CDCs in nearly every city, and for New Yorkers, this list from NYU’s Furman Center is a good place to start.
Placeholder Alt Text

Silicon Alley

New York City will fund a virtual reality and augmented reality lab
In a bid to trump their West Coast rivals, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and the Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME) yesterday announced that they will invest $6 million into a virtual reality (VR) and augment reality (AR) lab—the first of its kind on the East Coast. The NYCEDC and MOME are set to release a request for proposals early next year to set up and run the lab. According to NYCEDC President Maria Torres-Springer, the decision was made to make the most of the rapidly emerging VR technology scene. The lab (whose location is yet to be decided) will also be the country's first ever publicly funded institution of its kind. Earlier this year, Antonio Pacheco, the west editor of The Architect's Newspaper, noted the rise of VR being used by architecture firms such as Gensler, NBBJ, and Özel in California. The lab in New York will serve as an incubator for VR/AR businesses. In a press release, the NYCEDC and MOME said that the city's VR/AR industry has seen more than $50 million invested in the past year along with a 125 percent increase in job demand. In terms of operation, the lab will support the growth of VR/AR companies by providing space, infrastructure, and resources. Additionally, it will serve as a place for people involved in the industry to gather. “The timing could not be better. The talent in New York City, along with its anchor industries, place this city in a unique position to propel its sprouting VR/AR sector from early disruption to everyday, cross-sector application. Convening the technologists, academics, storytellers and start-up veterans that New York City hosts and attracts will create an invigorating boost to VR/AR’s momentum as we head into 2017,” said Adaora Udoji, managing director of The Boshia Group and adjunct professor of storytelling, New York University.
Placeholder Alt Text

BIG U-pdate

What's new with the BIG U?
Four years after Hurricane Sandy, New York City is one major step closer to flood-proofing its shores. The Mayor's Office of Recovery and Resiliency (ORR) and the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) have officially selected three firms to collaborate on the second phase of resiliency measures planned for lower Manhattan. AECOMBjarke Ingels Group (BIG), and ONE Architecture will work on the Lower Manhattan Coastal Resiliency (LMCR) Project, a flood-proofing and park-building measure that extends from the Lower East Side up to the north of Battery Park City. "The project is landscape architecture as public realm, design as policy, and urban planning on an architectural level," said Kai-Uwe Bergmann, partner at BIG. In concert with heavy-duty resilience measures, the LMCR project, he said, aims to improve access to the waterfront and augment green space in the neighborhoods it will traverse. The 3.5-mile-long project will extend from the northern portion of Battery Park City to the Lower East Side's Montgomery Street to pick up where its sister initiative, the East Side Coastal Resiliency (ESCR) Project, leaves off.

Like the ESCR, the LMCR visioning process will begin with extensive community engagement to figure out what, exactly, neighbors want to see on the rivers' edge. The firms plan to take lessons from the ESCR, now in its final stages of design, to this one. Besides the resiliency measures that provided the impetus for the construction, Bergmann said the East Side ESCR constituents expressed a strong desire for more green space, open space, and recreation areas.

Initial renderings for the ESCR depict sinuous parks, lighting to illuminate dark and foreboding highway underpasses, and novel play spaces that bring citizens close to the waterway. BIG and ONE Architecture are working in concert to design the 2.5-mile strip, which costs an estimated $505 million, in collaboration with local, state, and federal agencies. Construction is expected to begin in 2018.

For that project and for the LMCR, Bergmann says there's no one design solution that fits all of the waterfront, especially the working waterfront. What Bergman called the LMCR “pinch points”—the tighter areas beneath the raised FDR Drive, or the Staten Island Ferry Terminal—present distinctive design challenges, though he said it’s too early to speak to specific solutions. Public meetings began this summer, and with the next set of meetings planned for February, "we hope the community can see there is traction and movement forward from a devastating event like Hurricane Sandy." 

The city says that by 2018 the LMCR team is to deliver an actionable concept design for the project area, with design and implementation to follow.

The plan, as its realized in stages, differs from the original BIG U, the sexy proposal that wowed both architects and the bureaucrats at HUD. When it first debuted, the floodproofing infrastructure extended all the way up to West 57th Street. “My hope," Bergmann said, "is that the vision will reach its full intention because that completely protects the entire lower Manhattan area."

The only component that's fully funded is the ESCR, so in order to realize both components—and possibly the whole BIG U vision—government at every level would need to open their budgets. Although Trump's infrastructure plan seems like it will focus on prisons, pipelines, and border walls, maybe the president-elect will put aside his climate change denial for a moment to help out his hometown?

Placeholder Alt Text

Sink or Swim?

Climate change displacement is becoming the new gentrification—here's how to stop it

Partisan political discourse still pretends as if there’s a climate change “debate,” yet the government is already acting extensively to prevent crises from rising global temperatures. Across the country, local and federal agencies are working with architects and planners to protect communities and redevelop neighborhoods in the aftermath of climate-related natural disasters. But what happens to residents who are too poor to get out of the way of storms—and too poor to return—and why is anyone rushing to live in disaster zones?

Catastrophic natural disasters share a common feature with accelerated processes of economic development: at vastly different rates, both can result in large-scale displacement. An article by Brentin Mock on environmental news site Grist uses a pithy phrase for the disparate impact climate change can have on lower-income residents: it’s the “ultimate gentrifier,” he wrote, citing the exodus of more than 300,000 low-income residents from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

The description may be provocative, but studies by environmental scientists at the EPA’s Climate Change Division partly support the notion. Within the 6,000-square-mile area at high risk of flooding by 2100 due to a mid-range two-foot sea-level rise, almost 750,000 residents belong to the most socially vulnerable groups. These are most likely to be disproportionately impacted by storms and least likely to have the resources to move.

But are rich people really are moving into areas where low-income residents are being displaced by storms? Sadly, in some cases, yes. A New York Times story on high-rise condo construction in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, reports that, far from retreating from flooded areas, a building boom is driving up prices.

Currently, local and federal agencies only spottily provide the necessary infrastructure and policy frameworks to protect against climate-related catastrophes ranging from forest fires in Southern California, earthquakes along the Pacific Coast, tornados and flash flooding in the Midwest, and hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico. Adequate planning, federal aid, and environmental regulations can and should prevent disparate impacts of climate-change related severe weather events on low-income residents. In practice, prioritizing where to improve infrastructure falls to local governments that have worse financial constraints and often carry an implicit economic bias toward the most financially important areas.

In Alaska, higher temperatures are increasing erosion and thawing the permafrost, causing homes to sink in the mud. More than a dozen Inuit towns have already voted to move, including Newtok, which has acquired a relocation site through an act of Congress, and the 650-person Bering Sea village of Shishmaref, which commissioned AECOM’s Anchorage office to study the feasibility of relocation sites. Yet the cost of these moves, estimated at $214 million for Shishmaref alone, is far beyond the means of the inhabitants; a UN report on climate change and displacement notes the lack of state and federal governance structures to support these moves.

Some low-lying neighborhoods in New Orleans are undergoing a similar policy of unofficial abandonment, swallowed up by nature through neglect. These places are not gentrifying—they’re simply disappearing.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), reorganized in 2003 under the Department of Homeland Security and reformed since 2009 by Obama administration appointee Craig Fulgate, now talks about what it calls a “whole community” approach, emphasizing participation and engagement of a wide range of stakeholders. It needs to do more.

“FEMA has changed its rhetoric,” said Deborah Gans, who has conducted planning studies for low-lying neighborhoods in New Orleans and Red Hook, Brooklyn, most of which flooded in 2012 during Hurricane Sandy. “They don’t really know how to do it yet, but at least they’re talking the talk.”

In 2008, Homeland Security established the Regional Catastrophic Preparedness Grant program to encourage collaborative emergency planning in America’s ten largest urban regions. In New York’s combined statistical area, which includes New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut, the Regional Catastrophic Planning Team coordinated a series of Participatory Urban Planning workshops that included city and state agencies, nonprofits, community groups, private sector representatives, and even local Occupy affiliates to streamline emergency preparedness, housing recovery plans, and recovery processes in five types of communities.

In the New York area, Hurricane Sandy has increased the sense of urgency. “In New York, about a third of our housing is within our six evacuation zones,” said Cynthia Barton, who participated in the workshops as manager of the Housing Recovery Program for the New York City Office of Emergency Management.

Barton leads the FEMA-supported initiative to prototype interim housing units, designed by James Garrison, which would substitute for the improvised mesh of hotels that sheltered displaced low-income residents in the aftermath of Sandy. The interim housing units, IKEA-like prefab condo boxes that stack up to three stories high in various configurations, facilitate an urban density allowing vulnerable residents to remain within their neighborhoods in the aftermath of severe storms.

“The basis for the project has always been that none of the federal temporary housing options would work in cities and that it’s very important to keep people close to home after a disaster,” Barton said. “In terms of economic stability for people and for neighborhoods, it’s important to keep people close to their jobs. It’s important for mental health reasons to keep people close to schools and close to their support networks.”

But on the federal level, long-term infrastructure improvements are not adequately funded. In New Orleans, landscape architect Susannah Drake of DLANDstudio is working on a gray and green streetscape program for 20 blocks of the St. Roch neighborhood. “The issue is that the base condition was low in terms of the infrastructure that existed,” Drake said. “We’re adding basic amenities for what would be a normal streetscape in New York, but we’re also dealing with the challenge of having very little infiltration and having a lot of water to manage…They’re not things the federal government is necessarily willing to pay for.”

Without federal insurance and public investment in infrastructure, wealthy homeowners don’t tend to move into flood zones. But storm protection, unevenly funded by federal grants, frequently has to be supported by local real-estate development tax revenues that provide lopsided advantages to upper-income residents.

“There’s a historical inequity environmentally in a lot of these neighborhoods in need, and it’s exacerbated by climate change,” said Gans, who led a Pratt Institute planning study on how to locate emergency housing in low-lying Red Hook, Brooklyn. “New York City Housing Authority projects were generally located on land that wasn’t that valuable, and guess what? It tended to be low-lying and out of the way.”

The problem centers on whether to save the threatened neighborhoods or rezone them to exclude residential use. Shoring up a city’s flood defenses can become an opportunity to improve a neighborhood’s environmental equity, but using the prevailing market-based model, focusing stormwater infrastructure in a waterfront community will only push more housing into vulnerable areas.

“As long as we keep allowing people to build market-rate waterfront property, there will be gentrification,” Gans said. “Any development that takes place on the water will be so expensive that it will necessarily gentrify the waterfront. There’s just no doubt about it.”

In Red Hook and Sunset Park, AECOM recently released a plan to place 30-50,000 units of new housing on the waterfront—25 percent of it affordable—as well as subsidize a new subway stop, and implement green and gray infrastructure for coastal protection and flood management. Arguing for the plan as a boost to Mayor de Blasio’s OneNYC ambition to build 200,000 affordable units by 2020, the proposal also runs counter to the idea of limiting exposure to areas of growing risk.

“Why would you build more housing in an area that’s underserved by transportation and that’s in a really dangerous zone, a flood area,” asked Drake, who designed the Sponge Park concept as a green infrastructure element for the Gowanus Canal. “I’m not an economist, but I’m very pragmatic and down on building in flood plains.”

Officially, there is no means testing of emergency planning or recovery aid. Eligibility for the National Flood Insurance Program and high insurance rates affect individual decision-makers. Not so for public housing, where residents’ lack of access to resources makes issues of planning that much more grave. Because of its 6,500 public housing residents, two-thirds of the Red Hook is below the poverty line. Economically, the light-manufacturing industries scattered among its low-rises generate relatively little revenue for the city to justify hundreds of millions in flood protection.

The conflict between access to revenues and local needs seems to underlie the rapidly advancing East Side and Lower Manhattan Coastal Resiliency projects, sections of Bjarke Ingels Group’s winning Rebuild by Design competition proposal for the protection of Lower Manhattan up to 59th Street. The projects essentially erect a wall adorned with parks as a bulwark against the sea. They implicitly prioritize the centrally important economic drivers of New York City.

“Ultimately there’s a cost-benefit analysis,” said Drake. “I’m not saying that lives are less valuable in other parts of the city, but when you do an economic cost-benefit analysis between Lower Manhattan and Red Hook, and you’re looking on purely financial terms, then Lower Manhattan wins because it’s an economic driver of the city.”

If it can really be done for that amount, the estimated cost for the Lower Manhattan projects is negligible in comparison to the economic benefit. The Office of Recovery and Resiliency and the Economic Development Corporation of New York have dedicated $100 million to an integrated flood protection system (IFPS) for Red Hook. City capital is supporting a $109 million Raise Shorelines Citywide project that would mitigate sea level rise in Old Howard Beach, Gowanus Canal, East River Esplanade, Mott Basin, Canarsie, Norton Basin, and the North Shore of Coney Island Creek.

“Emergency planning should really be about future planning,” Gans said. “The way you avert an emergency is by making sure you have integrative future plans that don’t put people in harm’s way and mitigate all of the bad decisions you made historically.”

In contrast to the oblivious political climate change “debate,” local governments have already learned from recent extreme weather events that they need to act to improve their planning capacity and infrastructure. Federal agencies are also acting, putting limited resources into protecting against climate change-related disasters. Highly engineered solutions are possible, but they’re unwise as a long-term strategy in the absence of a leveling off of global temperatures and will be cost-prohibitive for low-income communities. Unless the next Congress is prepared to fund a national infrastructure program, the best way to equitably protect low-income residents will be to downzone vulnerable areas and build new public housing on higher ground. Otherwise, we’ll need to accept the fact that our celebrated revitalized waterfront is mainly for the rich.