Search results for "Bronx"

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4 Corridors

Regional Plan Association unveils the final designs for the Fourth Regional Plan
The Regional Plan Association (RPA) has unveiled the final designs for the Fourth Regional Plan. The four schemes envision a New York–New Jersey–Connecticut metropolitan area 25 years into the future while addressing the emerging challenges the region faces and also capitalizing on new opportunities. Initiated by The Rockefeller Foundation, the competition began in January and asked architects, planners, and designers to incorporate elements such as policy changes, future investments, and growth patterns into the plans. The winning proposals were selected in March and, through a grant from The Rockefeller Foundation, they were each awarded $45,000 to work with RPA and a team of professionals to develop their ideas further. In doing so, the four winners expanded their programs, looking at four regional corridors. Dubbed "4C," the RPA describes the designs as a "principal component" of its upcoming Fourth Regional Plan, titled A Region Transformed. The four corridors in question are: Coast Rafi A+U and DLAND Studio Creating what they call a "bight," the two studios propose an artificial coastline that bridges the boundary between the built environment and the water, addressing rising sea levels around Long Island with half-submerged communities able to continue living when change inevitably happens. https://player.vimeo.com/video/227158218 City Only If and One Architecture Defined as the "Triboro Corridor," the plan sees light rail utilizing already-laid freight rail tracks in Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens. The project would foster development around the new stations; new rail service would connect to existing subway and commuter rail lines. As One Architecture told The Architect's Newspaper, the plan aims to "transform the region’s transportation system from a hub and spoke system to a more resilient network with circumferential connections, greater redundancy, and community amenities." Suburbs WORKac Just as with Only If and One Architecture's scheme, WORKac's plan is centered around transit and connecting underserved neighborhoods around a ring of suburbs from the New York cities of Port Chester and White Plains, through the New Jersey cities of Paterson, Montclair, Rahway and Perth Amboy. Highlands PORT Urbanism and Range Covering the entire region, this proposal spans from the Delaware River to Northern Connecticut. The scheme allows wildlife—not humans—to enjoy the area and migrate north as a result of climate change. The Highlands Corridor would also utilize streams and valleys to connect to the coast. An exhibition of the of final design can be found at Fort Tilden through September 17. Find out more here.
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Syracuse University

The (Un)Affordable Housing Fair will change how you see gentrification

In response to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Housing New York plan, Syracuse University’s Gentrification Lab is exhibiting its (Un)Affordable Housing Fair, a show of six provocative ideas that challenge the idea of an affordable city.

The fair will present six imaginary agencies and their housing proposals for the Bronx, Harlem, and Midtown Manhattan. The work is the result of Syracuse’s annual summer architecture studio, which is based in Manhattan.

Propelled by de Blasio’s commitment to build 200,000 units of new affordable housing, the exhibition's works form a manifesto of architectural prototypes that serve as a counter proposal to normative gentrification. The designs are meant to rethink the relationship between public and private space, addressing questions like: Can public space and public housing be used as an antidote to practices of exclusion? What is the relationship between the size of an apartment and the rate of gentrification?

The Gentrification Lab is a multi-year design and research studio that examines architecture’s role within economic, social, and political forces in the contemporary city. Presentations from previous years' labs looked at real estate development along the L-train and the subway's 4/Lexington Avenue express line.

The studio is led by Syracuse Architecture Visiting Professors Elma van Boxel and Kristian Koreman of Rotterdam and New York–based architectural firm ZUS. Hilary Sample from MOS Architects will give the keynote speech at the opening reception on August 3rd.

(Un)Affordable Housing Fair will run from August 3 to 4 at Syracuse University's Fisher Center. To attend, RSVP through Eventbrite.

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Justice In Design

This design team has ideas for a better, more humane jail system
Rikers Island, New York City's notorious jail complex, is set to close within the next decade. For some activists, the pace of change is too slow, but, if the city is taken at its word, ten years is a solid chunk of time to rethink justice in 21st century New York. A design team, convened by Van Alen in collaboration with NADAAA, has set out to do exactly that. Justice in Design, a new report from the Van Alen Institute, a design advocacy organization, gives broad guidelines on how New York's criminal justice system should look, feel, and function. Notably, it centers the urban condition but aims to enhance life for those behind bars, as well as those outside the justice system, by elevating both the city and the jail's livability with public programming, dense service networks, and lots of light and greenery. The project was deeply collaborative. To produce Justice in Design, Van Alen partnered with City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and the legal experts, politicians, developers, and prison reform advocates she convened last year to address the Rikers closure. That group, sometimes called the Lippman Commission but known formally as the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform, issued its recommendations this past March: Closing Rikers Island, it said, is a "moral imperative," and it advocated for reducing the city's overall jail population and creating a network of neighborhood-based jails. To that end, Van Alen convened architects, environmental psychologists, prison reformers, and nonprofit leaders for the project team. Dan Gallagher and Nader Tehrani, principals at New York– and Boston-based NADAAA, partnered with urbanist Karen Kubey; Susan Opotow and Jayne Mooney, a psychologist and associate professor of sociology, respectively, who work at both John Jay College of Criminal Justice and The Graduate Center, CUNY; as well as Susan Gottesfeld of the Osborne Association, a nonprofit that works with justice-involved individuals and their families. (The team is credited in the commission's report with providing "additional support" to the study.) The group hosted workshops in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens with law enforcement, reformers, academics, and formerly incarcerated individuals to get an idea of what jail is like inside, and after. The workshops, Gallagher said, helped the designers better understand both day-to-day life in Rikers and incarceration's impact on housing choice, employment, and mental health long after release. From there, the team developed its design guidelines. Instead of producing a strictly carceral space, the designers envisioned a networked jail system spread throughout the city and meant to serve the wider community, not just prisoners. Called Justice Hubs, the mini-neighborhoods are intended to confront re-entry dilemmas—despite new rules, for example, many industries still discriminate against people with backgrounds—while addressing day-to-day challenges faced by those who work in the criminal justice system. In the Brooklyn forum, residents said they weren't concerned about safety if a jail were to open in their neighborhood. Instead, Gahllager said, people were worried the building would be ugly: a grey concrete Hulk surrounded by razor wire. That prompted the team to think not only about the design of the jail itself, but its relationship to the city and its people. "The building has to become more than a big wall with something else going on inside," said Gallagher, a partner at NADAAA. "It has to be an active tool of civic engagement." NADAAA's conceptual designs try to make life on the inside as normal ("more conventional," per Gallagher) as possible. The report emphasizes access to natural light and ventilation not only in outdoor areas, but in visitor rooms, activity spaces, and (especially) cells. Instead of monolithic cinder blocks and concrete finished, the architects advocated for softer, natural finishes to add visual variety and reduce background noise, a significant stressor in close quarters. The layout is supposed to make it easier to move within the jail, and the facilities would be placed near courts and social services. There would be ample but unobtrusive parking for corrections officers, too. The team didn't want to reproduce the spatial segregation that Rikers—a literal island in the East River, near Laguardia Airport—embodied. As a result, community facilities like public outdoor space, gardens, art studios, and libraries are part of the program and are open to detainee's friends and family, as well as residents who have no personal involvement with the jail. This is the first time NADAAA has done a project like this. Van Alen approached the firm both for their design sense and for their ability to analyze and rethink troubled systems. "It was one of those situations where we said, 'okay let's jump in with both feet,'" Gallagher explained. He gave full credit to the team's non-architects, whose research and work experience brought a local and highly international perspective to the project. They read up on Denmark, for example, which lets inmates wear street clothing and cook with sharp knives (but even their relatively progressive prison system is far from perfect). The design team's role going forward is unclear, Gallagher and Van Alen confirmed, but both parties want to stay involved. The general recommendations, summarized on the last few pages of the report, are just that. The concepts don't specify designs, as Justice Hubs will adjust to local zoning: A 200-bed facility in densely developed Downtown Brooklyn might look very different from a similar-sized jail in St. George, Staten Island. With a mandate to envision a system that at its core features many jails, there wasn't much room for questioning the fundamentals of the carceral state or challenging the culture of surveillance. But the guidelines are a cautious step in the right direction to end a traumatic system where detainees suffer degrading and abusive treatment, visitors lose hours on the bus to see family, and guards are hurt by inmates who themselves may struggle with poor mental health. Although Mayor Bill de Blasio supports the closing of Rikers, he hasn't been totally clear on whether he supports community-based jails. Given how quickly NIMBYs mobilized against the mayor's new homeless shelters, it's unclear how residents may react to neighborhood jails. Still, the design team is optimistic about the recommendations. "As a society we have a responsibility to facilitate best outcomes," said David van der Leer, Van Alen's executive director. And architects, he hopes, will keep a seat at the table.
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Opening Late 2018

Bronx Children’s Museum breaks ground
The Bronx Children’s Museum is inching closer to reality: the project broke ground yesterday in Mill Pond Park, which is steps away from the Yankee Stadium. The $10.3 million, 13,800-square-foot museum also doubles as a restoration project. A historic powerhouse facility will act as the museum’s permanent home, which is slated to be LEED-certified. The museum will sit on the second floor, with the first floor providing access to the river, park, and tennis courts. The Bronx is the only borough in New York City that doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar children’s museum. Previously, the museum used a roving bus that hosted exhibits. Designed by New York–based O’Neill McVoy Architects, the Bronx Children’s Museum's design aims to catalyze its site—located between the city grid and the bank of the Harlem River—by creating an organic flow within the rectangular frame. The museum hopes to connect children to the natural world and the project's design was inspired by Jean Piaget’s concept of a child’s development from topological to projective, according to the architects’ description. Curved wooden and translucent partitions diverge, reconnect, and spiral throughout the space to create both continuity and separation between exhibition spaces. The theme of “Power” will unify all of the exhibits, which will also explore Bronx culture, arts, and community resources. In accordance with its vision to engage children with their natural environment, there will be a river habitat where visitors can build beaver dams and learn about water ecosystems. There will also be a community gallery, garden, and a greenmarket. The museum is projected to open in late 2018.
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BQDA

AIA Brooklyn + Queens Design Awards winners announced
The American Institute of Architects Brooklyn + Queens Design Awards (BQDA), which now works with AIA Staten Island and AIA Bronx, has announced the winners for its 2017 gala, the second edition of the awards. This year, the AIA chapters of Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Staten Island, all collaborated for the awards. They're aiming to promote chapter members and affiliates by recognizing, as they said in a press release, "the best architecture and professionals that Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and The Bronx can offer." A jury from AIA Long Island sifted through more than 100 entries, and after a month's worth of deliberation, allocated awards in 13 categories; each AIA Chapter also has its own award. 2017 Brooklyn Chapter Award Casa de Sombra Bade Stageberg Cox 2017 Queens Chapter Award Spire Lofts Zambrano Architectural Design
2017 Staten Island Chapter Award Midtown Redevelopment Project: The City of Monessen v+b Architects
2017 BQDA Design of the Year Elmhurst Community Library Marpillero Pollak Architects Below, are the winners of the 13 categories: Residential (1-2 Family) BQDA Award of Excellence and People's Choice Winner Artist Residence, Brooklyn Lynch Eisinger Design Architects, LLP BQDA Award of Merit Prismatic Bay Townhouse, Brooklyn Peterson Rich Office, LLC

Residential (Multiple Family/Multiple Dwelling)

BQDA Award of Excellence Creston Avenue Residences, Bronx Magnusson Architecture and Planning, PC BQDA Award of Merit and  People's Choice Winner 365 Bond Street, Brooklyn Hill West Architects

Residential (Mix Use Residential)

BQDA Award of Excellence and  People's Choice Winner Navy Green, Brooklyn FXFOWLE BQDA Award of Merit Fulton Street Development, Brooklyn GreenbergFarrow

Institutional

BQDA Award of Excellence and  People's Choice Winner Elmhurst Community Library, Queens Marpillero Pollak Architects BQDA Award of Merit The Novogratz Center for Athletics, Brooklyn Jack L. Gordon Architects

Commercial - Small Projects

People's Choice Winner CREATE, Queens New York Design Architects

Commercial - Large Projects

People's Choice Winner Apple Store Williamsburg, Brooklyn Bohlin Cywinski Jackson

Additions/Renovations

BQDA Award of Excellence and  People's Choice Winner Olmsted Center Annex, Queens BKSK Architects BQDA Award of Merit Park Slope Townhouse, Brooklyn GRADE 

Adaptive Reuse/Historic Preservation

BQDA Award of Excellence and Queens Chapter Award Spire Lofts, Brooklyn Zambrano Architectural Design People's Choice Winner Brooklyn College Barry R. Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema & 25 Washington Restoration at Steiner Studios, Brooklyn Dattner Architects

Interiors

BQDA Award of Merit Maple Street School, Brooklyn Barker Freeman Design Office Architects, PLLC and Marvel Architect and 4Mative Design Studio People's Choice Winner Beyond at Liberty View, Brooklyn Zambrano Architectural Design

Small Firm/Sole Practitioner

BQDA Award of Merit Warehouse Loft, Brooklyn studio modh architecture People's Choice Winner House Front Addition, Queens Architecture Studio

Local Firm/Beyond BQDA/International

BQDA Award of Excellence Resort in the Maharashtra Hills, Shillim, India Khanna Schultz BQDA Award of Merit Josai i-House Dormitory, Tokyo, Japan Studio SUMO and Obayashi Corp People's Choice Winner University of Pennsylvania School of Engineering and Applied Sciences Forman Active Learning Classroom, Philadelphia. Studio Modh Architecture

Local Firm/Local Project

BQDA Award of Excellence and  People's Choice Winner Courtyard House, Brooklyn vonDalwig Architecture

Unbuilt

BQDA Award of Excellence North Brother Island School + Habitat, Bronx Ian M. Ellis and Frances Peterson BQDA Award of Merit 1490 Southern Boulevard, Bronx Bernheimer Architecture People's Choice Winner The Table Top Apartments: Affordable Housing in New York City, Brooklyn and Queens Kwong Von Glinow Design Office

Student - Urban Design 

BQDA Student Award of Merit and  People's Choice Winner Brooklyn Cinematic Hotel, Brooklyn Yasmine Zeghar 
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RPA

WORKac, PORT Urbanism, DLANDstudio, and others unveil visions for a resilient tristate area
Last night the Regional Plan Association (RPA) unveiled designs from four teams that address the future of infrastructure and resilience in the tristate area. The nonprofit, boosted by a Rockefeller Foundation grant, asked seven firms across four teams—WORKacRafi Segal and DLANDstudioPORT Urbanism + RANGE; as well as Only If and One Architecture—to show how policymakers, designers, and citizens, could best prepare four geographies within the region for the next quarter-century. (The Architect's Newspaper covered the competition in March when the firms were selected.) The competition asked the groups to zero in on revamping New York City's inner ring suburbs; creating coastal buffers; improving local waterways; and linking the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn by passenger rail, respectively. The competition coincides with RPA's fourth regional plan, A Region Transformed, due out later this year. Until then, take a look at their ideas in the gallery above, or if you're at the beach anytime in August or September, go see the designs—and give feedback—at Fort Tilden in the Rockaways. See rpa.org for more details.
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Go Down Moses

More details emerge for plan to raze Robert Moses–era expressway

In March of this year, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the state would set aside $1.8 billion for a Bronx infrastructure project to transform the Robert Moses–era Sheridan Expressway into a pedestrian-friendly boulevard, among other improvements. For decades, nearby residents have worried about the deleterious effects of pollution from the traffic and feared for the safety of pedestrians due to the many large trucks that travel through the residential streets en route to the Hunts Point Cooperative Market.

The 1.3-mile expressway was built in 1962, severing residents from the Bronx River and immediately causing traffic and air-quality issues, a pernicious by-product of Moses’s legacy. Community activists have long fought for the alteration or razing of the expressway; most notably, the Southern Bronx River Watershed Alliance took up the cause in the late 1990s. News of the plan, then, comes as a long-awaited win for the community, which will have unimpeded access to waterfront.

Its implementation, however, must strike a delicate balance between residents’ health and safety and the economic vitality of the Hunts Point Market, which employs around 3,500 workers, many of whom live nearby. Cuomo promises that this will be achievable, stating in a press release that “The project will create an interconnected South Bronx with access to the waterfront, recreation, and less traffic on local streets while simultaneously better supporting those who use the Hunts Point Market—a vital economic engine for the borough.”

The expressway project was announced almost a year after the state dedicated $15 million to the development of the Greenmarket Regional Food Hub, in Hunts Point, and will purportedly create 4,250 new jobs over its duration. The Sheridan is set to be decommissioned next year as part of phase one, and the completion of the $700 million tree-lined boulevard is anticipated for 2019.

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Swale

New York’s floating food forest allows people to pick their own food
The term ‘farm-to-table’ is one that is touted across New York City, but it’s a concept that’s hard to realize for normal city residents without access to farmland (farmers markets and Whole Foods don’t count). Cue Swale: a floating food forest that's built atop a 5,000-square-foot barge that is currently docked at Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 6 and is looking to revolutionize the food industry in the city. Founded in 2016 by artist Mary Mattingly, Swale allows visitors to forage for their own fruits and vegetables. Acting as both a piece of interactive public art and as a means to provide fresh food, Swale encourages New Yorkers to reconsider their perceptions on edible landscapes—“foodways”—and their relationship to nature. With Swale as a test case, Mattingly aims to shift policies regarding edible landscapes on public land. While there are 100 acres of community garden space in the city, there are actually 30,000 acres of park space. Picking one’s own food is illegal on New York City public land, but it is technically legal on a barge due to waterway common law. “At its heart, Swale is a call to action. It asks us to reconsider our food systems, to confirm our belief in food as a human right and to pave pathways to create public food in public space,” said Mattingly in a press release. Last year, Mattingly transformed the old construction barge by filling it with soil, edible plants, and flowers. This year, thanks to a partnership with the apple cider company Strongbow, alongside other governmental organizations, the barge added apple trees and winding paths. Using edible forestry techniques that mimic natural ecosystems and require less human maintenance, the barge allows for unlimited foraging of anything from asparagus to artichokes to blueberries. After it’s stint at Brooklyn Bridge Park is over on June 30, Swale’s next stop is Concrete Plant Park in the Bronx from July to August. For more on Swale, visit its website here.
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New York Values

NYCHA’s new guidelines for rehabilitation of public housing push for sustainability and preservation

Who knew the launch of a document about putting new rooftops on old buildings, raising boilers above flood levels, and updating kitchens and bathrooms in municipal housing would be the East Coast elite’s hottest ticket in town? The release of New York City Public Housing Authority’s Design Guidelines for Rehabilitation of Residential Buildings had to turn away dozens of attendees to its January 12th panel packing three stories at the AIA’s Center for Architecture.

Part of the reason for the overflow crowd may be the sheer number of partners, collaborators, and offices involved. Led by the agency’s Office of Design, the Design Guidelines implicated its Capital Projects and Energy & Sustainability divisions, affordable housing developer Enterprise Community Partners (ECP), the AIA’s Design for Aging and Housing Committees, participants in NYCHA’s Design Excellence program, including Andrew Bernheimer, Domingo Gonzalez, and Claire Weisz, and dozens of maintenance staff members and residents.

Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellow Jae Shin served as embedded coordinator of many of these conversations within the agency and co-edited the guidelines. “She really helped facilitate a lot of the internal discussions that we had with our various groups at NYCHA as well as external partners,” said Bruce Eisenberg, deputy director of NYCHA’s Office of Design, who spearheaded the project. “We really wanted to make it a very interactive process.”

Produced in collaboration with ECP and supported by a $100,000 grant from Deutsche Bank, the Design Guidelines belong to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s NextGeneration NYCHA, a 10-year agenda to ensure the long-term viability and sustainability of America’s largest and most successful public housing agency.

“This will impact all of our capital projects,” Eisenberg said. “We have a five-year plan of scheduled projects, and so we really wanted to raise the bar of design in how we execute them. This is a roadmap to enable us to do that.” It has implications for a vast and practically unending scope of work. If fully funded, renovation of NYCHA projects, which comprise 2,500 acres in 328 complexes containing 125,000 units and serving more than 400,000 residents, would require $17 billion in current capital costs. Allocations over the next three years amount to $784.4 million from the city’s budget.

In some parts, the Design Guidelines formalize the standards employed in recent capital projects, such as the exterior lighting installed at Castle Hill and Butler Houses in the Bronx, which replaces the dim yellow light of old with nearly 1,000 bright and energy-efficient LED fixtures to improve public safety. In other outdoor areas, the guidelines aim to reduce metal fencing around grass and add amenities to create more active and healthy spaces. They take cues from the guidelines set forth by the Center For Active Design, while encouraging visual sight lines. In-progress projects like KPF and Olin’s landscapes for Red Hook Houses—funded as part of the post-Sandy $3 billion FEMA recovery grant—indicate a High Line–like attention to detail.

“We’re starting to be more aspirational in that area,” Eisenberg said. “We’re looking to make our open spaces more attractive and useful to our residents and the community at large.”

NYCHA’s push toward environmental sustainability nudges projects to install subsurface infiltration systems, sidewalk bioswales, and porous pavers rather than asphalt to limit stormwater overflow and heat sinks. Pilot projects in Bronx River Houses, Hope Gardens, and Seth Low Houses will slow stormwater, while the Edenwald Houses in the Bronx will contain the city’s largest green infrastructure installation. For other areas vulnerable to stormwater rise, the guidelines recommend concrete retaining walls to double as seating, like the floodwalls as wood-clad benches by Nelligan White Architects in Baruch Houses below the Williamsburg Bridge.

At Sotomayor Houses, NYCHA will begin installing the new standards for kitchens and bathrooms later this year, expanding cabinet space and adding accessible grab bars and sinks. That is, after the roofing is done: Mayor de Blasio has dedicated $100 million annually to roofs alone for the next two years, recently supplemented by another $1 billion over 10 years. Upgrading the troublesome low- or no-slope roofs of its modern-era buildings is NYCHA’s biggest capital projects burden.

The Design Guidelines’ release landed on the same day as nomination hearings for Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, adding a collective spirit of defiance to talk of preserving the country’s largest public housing agency. The De Blasio administration vows to press on, regardless of the new administration’s priorities, which appear to involve gutting all federal agencies the President’s cronies cannot use for profiteering.

“We have a 10-year strategic plan NextGeneration NYCHA that’s not a kitchen sink plan; it’s very specific, and we’re moving forward,” said Rasmia Kirmani-Frye, director of NYCHA’s Office for Public/Private Partnerships and president of newly formed Fund for Public Housing nonprofit, which coordinated privatesector grants for the guidelines. “We don’t know what the policy priorities will be, but we know what New Yorkers’ priorities are, so we are moving forward with that plan, because it’s the best investment in public housing in New York City.”

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Pei Cobb Freed & Partners

Landmarks approves new building around historic movie palace
This week the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) cleared the way for the owner of a historic but dilapidated theater to build a new structure around the interior and replicate its historic features, leaving the aura—but little of the original—in place. The movie theater, RKO Keith’s, is one of the city's only surviving "atmospheric" theaters built in the early 20th century. Abandoned since the mid-1980s, the opulent Churrigueresque structure's interior was landmarked in 1984, though a series of owners did little over time to curtail extensive deterioration inside. Now, a new owner, Xinyuan Real Estate, has hired Pei Cobb Freed & Partners to transform the Flushing, Queens building into 16 stories of offices and apartments. (Last week AN contributor Edward Gunts covered the theater's history and the current development.)
At a Tuesday meeting, the LPC voted unanimously to re-authorize a previously issued Certificate of Appropriateness to build out Pei Cobb Freed's vision and undertake preservation work on the interior. Plans call for retail and an apartment lobby to be built around the 1928 theater's landmarked ticket lobby and grand foyer (the rest of the interior was initially landmarked, but its protections were removed by the Board of Estimate after an appeal by an owner). Significant architectural elements will be conserved, while those too damaged for conservation or missing will be replicated offsite and reinstalled in the theater. Those changes, the LPC said, will be reviewed and permitted at staff level. Pei Cobb Freed is collaborating with New York–based historic preservation firm AYON STUDIO on the project. During the meeting, AYON founding principal Angel Ayón explained how steel trusses will span the landmarked interiors on the east-west and north-south axes to preserve the cavity as construction on the new building gets underway. When the architects have a new envelope, the team will be able to reinstall the plaster, woodwork, and new curtains. Ayón likened the work on the decorative features to the preservation of Times Square's Lyric Theater, which underwent a similar process to remove and conserve ornamental plaster.

The LPC is working with the owner to make sure plaster gets put back in place. The two parties agreed to $10 million bond for storage and periodic inspection of the plaster, though the commission said those details still being hammered out. One major requirement of interior landmarks is that they remain open to the public. Patrick Waldo of preservation advocacy group Historic Districts Council (HDC), as well as Christabel Gough of the Society for the Architecture of the City, raised concerns about the accessibility of a space that fronts a future (private) apartment lobby. HDC "strongly" suggested the street entrance be re-examined to expose the interior more fully; at the very least, the group recommended strong wayfinding signage to alert the public to the presence of the landmark.

To the knowledge of those in the room, there hasn't been another instance where an interior was preserved but the building around it demolished. Echoing others, Commissioner Frederick Bland summed up the situation as "very strange." With much of the theater's ornamentation slated for replication, “This is one of the strangest, if not the strangest, situation I’ve seen as a commissioner,” he said. “At what point is a landmark lost?"

To get more insight into the theater's place in New York history, Gunts reached out to Anthony Robins, a former senior preservation specialist at the agency who wrote the original designation report, for more on RKO Keith's. Here's what he had to say:

The recent history of the RKO Keith’s—once a mainstay of Flushing—has been dismal. Designed by Thomas Lamb—perhaps New York’s most prolific theater designer—it was planned originally as a vaudeville theater, with movies more or less an afterthought. Lamb designed it as a so-called “atmospheric” theater, attempting to create the illusion that the theater’s customers were seated outside, under the stars, in a picturesque Spanish village. The Spanish-inspired ornament ran throughout the theater into all its major spaces. Located at the major intersection of Main Street and Northern Boulevard, the Keith’s became a very visible institution in the neighborhood.
By 1984, the Keith’s, still in use as a movie theater, was one of only three major “atmospheric” theaters surviving in New York City (the others being the Loew’s Paradise in the Bronx and the Valencia in Queens, both now official landmarks). The Landmarks Preservation Commission’s designation of the Keith’s entire interior that year was cut back at the Board of Estimate to include just the grand foyer—apparently because a politically connected developer wanted to include the site in a proposed new shopping mall. That plan evaporated, as did the plans of a subsequent developer, but the Keith’s remained shuttered; for 30 years it has sat vacant, decaying and crumbling, its interiors long since vandalized, even as other grand movie palaces have been lovingly restored. Now comes the ultimate indignity of the proposed demolition of the theater shell, and the grand foyer’s disassembly and reconstruction, all by itself, as an odd relic of a vanished theater from another era. There can be no happy ending for this story.
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RKO Keith’s

Historic Queens movie palace threatened with demolition
A 1928 vaudeville and movie palace in Queens by architect Thomas Lamb would be substantially demolished and replaced with a 269-unit residential tower designed by Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, under a plan that New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) will consider Tuesday. RKO Keith’s Flushing Theater at 135-29 Northern Boulevard in Queens is the building that would be replaced by a residential tower. Along with the Valencia, in Jamaica, Queens, the RKO Keith’s appears to be one of two surviving "atmospheric" theaters of note still standing in New York in good condition, according to architectural historians. Originally seating 2,974 but closed since 1986, it featured marble staircases, an indoor fountain, gilded plasterwork and chandeliers in the auditorium, and a vaulted blue ceiling with lights that simulated stars. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The owner and developer of the Queens property is Xinyuan Real Estate, a Chinese firm that bought it last year for $66 million. Xinyuan is seeking to raze the bulk of the theater to make way for its project. The plan requires approval from the Landmarks Preservation Commission because the city has designated part of theater an interior landmark, and that means it can’t be altered without approval from the preservation panel. The theater as a whole was landmarked in 1984, as the best one of only two surviving movie palace atmospheric theaters in New York City, based in large part on the preserved condition of its auditorium and the reversible nature of its division into a three-screen cinema. That designation was later amended by the city's Board of Estimates to remove the auditorium and the majority of the theater, leaving landmark protection for the ticket lobby, original ticket booth, grand foyer, ceilings, and fixtures and interior components of these areas. The LPC issued a permit in 2005, extended to late 2017, to demolish all but the designated sections. After the transfer of ownership in 2016, with a new architect attached, the LPC has an opportunity to review an expiring Commission decision from 2005, when Queens was not as vibrant as it is today, and when the city approved substantial demolition of an exceedingly rare New York-specific community-centered building type in order to spur residential development in the area. Xinyuan, based in Beijing, is the latest in a series of owners who have attempted to redevelop the property. The developer has proposed to temporarily remove and restore plasterwork and other ornamental features from the protected section of the theater, while work on the residential tower is underway. It would then reinstall the plaster pieces as part of the replacement structure. The reinstalled sections would presumably provide a reminder of the larger theater that previously occupied the site and help attract residents. According to documents on file with the city, the developer’s application is to re-authorize a Certificate of Appropriateness for the construction of a new building to enclose the interior landmark, and to “disassemble, restore off site, and reinstall salvaged ornamental plasterwork and woodwork and replicas.” Ayon Studio is listed in the application as coordinating the preservation-related aspects of the lobby rehabilitation. Drawings on file with the city indicate that the Pei Cobb Freed tower would be 16 stories tall and glass-clad. It would be H-shaped in plan, with walls and balconies facing Northern Boulevard and other streets at a slight angle. The ground level would contain commercial space, and underground parking would be provided for about 300 cars. The exterior would show no trace of the Thomas Lamb theater currently on the site. Atmospheric theaters closely followed the designs of planetariums and were first designed by Austrian-born theater architect John Eberson in 1923. The first was the now-demolished Majestic Theater in Houston (1923), where the auditorium ceiling simulated the night skies, with hidden machinery that projected "clouds" moving across the plaster ceiling, painted deep blue with star-like electric lights, with walls often built up in stages for the effect of garden follies. Reproduced around the country in a variety of architectural styles, these theaters recognizably featured an open, lit evening sky with stars and clouds, and walls built up, symmetrically, as stage sets suggesting a foreign setting. Eberson wrote that, "We visualize and dream a magnificent amphitheater, an Italian garden, a Persian Court, a Spanish patio, or a mystic Egyptian templeyard, all canopied by a soft moonlit sky." Although Eberson was the originator of this type, Lamb, already the most prolific movie palace architect, became well associated with this type of movie palace, especially in New York. A survey of the country's movie palaces cites 27 major New York examples. Seven of these were designed as "atmospherics" out of 34 listed from across the country: the RKO Keith's, the now-demolished Triboro in Astoria, Queens, the Valencia in Jamaica, Queens, the now-demolished Loew's 72nd Street (in Manhattan), Pitkin in Brownsville, Brooklyn (now retail), the Paradise in the Bronx (now a church), and the Brooklyn Paramount (now a school gymnasium). In its heyday, the RKO Keith’s attracted performers such as Judy Garland, Mae West, Bob Hope, Jack Benny, and the Marx Brothers. Xinyuan's application notes that precedents for temporary removal and installation of ornamental plasterwork include the Lyric, Apollo, Selwyn (also known as the American Airlines and the Roundabout), and Eltinge (also known as the Empire and AMC 25) theaters in Times Square. Other Xinyuan projects include The Oosten in Williamsburg and a 100-unit development in Hell’s Kitchen. JK Equities was the seller of the RKO Keith’s. The hearing on the theater is scheduled to start around 9:30 a.m. at 1 Centre Street, ninth floor.  If the project is approved, according to the application, the developers would remove the ornamental plasterwork and other protected material this spring and start tearing down the surrounding structure in the fall. Their schedule calls for construction of the residential tower to begin in the spring of 2018 and be complete by the spring of 2020. For more details on the hearing, see the LPC's web page here.
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Squad Goals

See the award-winning design for the NYPD Bomb Squad Headquarters

New York–based firms Rice + Lipka Architects (R+L) and Liz Farrell Landscape Architecture have won a 2017 Award for Excellence in Design for their scheme for the NYPD Bomb Squad Headquarters Building in the Bronx's Pelham Bay Park. The New York City Department of Design & Construction (NYC DDC) commissioned the project after the existing facilities were damaged in Superstorm Sandy.

To make the new 10,700-square-foot building more resilient to storm surges, R+L elevated the main programs of training, office, and "robot shop" beyond the required Design Flood Elevation (DFE) floodplain. This new space underneath will become parking for a specialized truck fleet. The resulting apparatus floor is enclosed by cast concrete walls punctured by flood vents that allow for full inundation without damaging the building or its critical systems.

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Resilient cast-in-place concrete walls have vents that allow flood waters to permeate the building without damaging it. Above, an upper massing is wrapped in a corrugated aluminum rain screen covered in a series of photovoltaic panels and mechanical units. Where the original structure once was, native plants will be reintroduced to restore the shoreline ecology. The project embraces NYC’s "80 x 50 roadmap" to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with a photovoltaic farm and other energy efficient systems including triple-glazing and high R-value wall composition.