Coney Island will gain a major attraction this weekend when the New York Aquarium opens a $158 million addition called Ocean Wonders: Sharks! Civic leaders joined aquarium officials and donors on Thursday to cut the ribbon for the facility, which opens to the public on Saturday. With more than 57,000 square feet of space, from an underwater tunnel that takes visitors beneath a coral reef exhibit to a rooftop observation deck, the three-level addition brings visitors “nose to nose” with 18 different species of sharks and rays, plus 115 other kinds of marine life. Having been in the works for the past 14 years, the facility represents a major addition to the New York Aquarium, which is run by the Wildlife Conservation Society and is considered the oldest continuously-operating aquatic museum in the United States. The design is the work of a consortium led by Susan Chin, Vice President of Planning and Design and Chief Architect for the Wildlife Conservation Society. Key design team members included Edelman Sultan Knox Wood Architects of New York, Doyle Partners of New York, and the Portico Group of Seattle. In 2013, the design received an Award for Design Excellence from the New York City Public Design Commission. The goal, planners say, was to create a facility that educates visitors about the importance of sharks to the health of the world’s oceans, points out the threats they face, and inspires visitors to protect marine life in New York and beyond. “Our new Ocean Wonders: Sharks! exhibit will awaken New Yorkers to the magnificence and importance of the ocean here in New York,” said Aquarium Director Jon Forrest Dohlin in a statement. “We hope that the pride and sense of wonder instilled by Ocean Wonders: Sharks! translate into stewardship for our oceans.” Completed as a joint venture of the Wildlife Conservation Society and New York City, which owns the land and provided most of the construction funds, the addition also represents a major achievement by the Aquarium and the Coney Island community in rebuilding from the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. “We’re celebrating a remarkable new facility where New Yorkers can learn more about—and be delighted by—our ocean-dwelling neighbors,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio at the ribbon cutting. “But we’re also celebrating another big step toward recovery from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. The New York Aquarium brings the wonders of the sea to our doorstep, and we’re proud to have made a major investment in its restoration.” The curving structure cantilevers over the Coney Island boardwalk, which was recently designated a New York City landmark. Its exterior includes an 1,100-foot-long “Shimmer Wall” that was designed in collaboration with visual artist Ned Kahn to convey the force and fluidity of the ocean. This kinetic facade consists of more than 33,000 aluminum “flappers” that undulate with the wind. Inside are nine galleries that Chin says were inspired by nature. They include the “Coral Reef Tunnel,” an immersive underwater tunnel that enables visitors to view sharks swimming overhead; “Sharks Up Close,” an interactive gallery showcasing the physiology and behavior of sharks and rays; “Sharks in Peril,” a gallery that shows why sharks are vulnerable to overfishing and other threats, and “Discover New York Waters,” a gallery that highlights the marine ecosystems off New York’s coast. Other areas include “New York Seascape,“ which shows how scientists are working to save sharks; “Shipwreck,” which explores the more than 60 wrecks found along the New York coastline and how they serve as gathering spots for sharks; “Canyon’s Edge,” a look at the ecosystem of the Hudson Canyon, which begins at the mouth of the Hudson River and is comparable in size to the Grand Canyon; “Conservation Choices,” showing how visitors can become conservationists; and “Ecology Walk,” a look at the ecology of Coney Island and nearby areas such as Jamaica Bay and Sandy Hook. On the top level are the Ocean Overlook and the Oceanview Learning Laboratory, a 1,500 square-foot educational space featuring an outdoor terrace with a rooftop touch tank and other teaching facilities. The New York Aquarium opened in 1896 in Castle Garden, part of the Battery Park section of Manhattan. Since 1957, it has been located on the Coney Island boardwalk in Brooklyn. Of the total $158 million cost of the Ocean Wonders exhibit and its companion Animal Care Facility, $111 million came from New York City and $47 million came from private groups, individuals, and tax-exempt financing. The addition is expected to generate $20 million a year in economic activity. New York officials noted yesterday that the aquarium addition is one of many ways that New York had been working to revitalize Coney Island, even before Hurricane Sandy. “We’ve been making big investments across Coney Island in everything from affordable housing to new amusements to infrastructure upgrades,” said James Patchett, President and CEO of the New York City Economic Development Corp. “Today we’re proud to add ‘sharks’ to that list. Investing in our cultural institutions is critical to our ongoing neighborhood investments, and we’re thrilled to see this iconic exhibit build on the momentum in Coney Island.”
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L Train Apocalypse
NYC announces expanded Citi Bike service and new busway for L train shutdown
New York City's dreaded L train shutdown looms ever closer, set to begin in April 2019. In the past week, however, new details have emerged about the city’s plan for Citi Bike and buses, transportation alternatives that riders will flock to once the train no longer runs from Bedford Avenue to 14th Street/8th Avenue in Manhattan. In an effort to accommodate the estimated 225,000 riders that will be displaced from the train, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced earlier this week that Citi Bike will expand its service around Williamsburg and Manhattan between Canal and 59th Streets. There will be an additional 1,250 bikes and 2,500 docks. Citi Bike’s operator, Motivate, is also planning to introduce a temporary “Shuttle Service,” which will come in the form of pedal-assist electric bikes. They will only be available in four locations—two in Manhattan and two around the Williamsburg Bridge—where cyclists may require a small boost to help navigate the steep slope. Citi Bikes can only handle a limited amount of the offload of L train riders, however. Most of the brunt is expected to divert to alternative subway lines like the J/M/Z, and surface travel: buses. In a separate announcement on Monday, the city Department of Transportation (DOT) revealed plans to turn 14th Street into a “busway” for 17 hours a day as an alternative commuting plan, as first reported by NY Daily News. Car traffic will be limited from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. DOT also revised its bike path plan—there will also now be two one-way bike paths on 12th and 13th Streets to handle the anticipated increase in cyclist traffic. “We’re solving, hopefully, the local mobility and access challenge while discouraging through traffic on 14th St.,” Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said in the Daily News. Following the dedicated busway announcement, DOT presented their proposed plans to the City Council Committee on Transportation, revealing four “short, intense routes” that are expected to carry 17 percent of L train riders, as reported in am New York. The routes include: Grand Street (Brooklyn) – First Avenue/15th Street (Manhattan); Grand Street (Brooklyn) – SoHo; Bedford Avenue (Brooklyn) – Soho; Bedford Avenue (Brooklyn) – First Avenue/15th street (Manhattan). The MTA is also adding five trains to the M line, making G and C trains longer, and offering increased E line service. The L train shutdown will be taking place for 15 months, where the Canarsie Tunnel under the East River will undergo infrastructure repairs necessitated after flooding by Hurricane Sandy.
Beginning this Thursday, LinkNYC kiosks around the city will feature images from the Museum of the City of New York’s (MCNY) extensive photography archive. The aptly named campaign, Summer in the City, is a partnership between the Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications (DoITT), LinkNYC, the city’s free Wi-Fi kiosk system, and MCNY. Images will be displayed from the Museum’s current exhibition, Through a Different Lens: Stanley Kubrick Photographs. Passerby on the street will be able to catch a glimpse of the old New York through the lens of the iconic film director. Kubrick’s photographs highlight his formative years as a photographer (before he became a film director) for Look magazine in New York City between 1945-1950. The photographs focus on and capture the pathos of everyday life of the city, from street scenes to sporting events. The LinkNYC kiosks can be found dotted all over the city. Since Mayor Bill de Blasio launched the program in 2016, more than 1,650 Links are active across all five boroughs and have replaced the old pay phones with sleek kiosks that feature free Wi-Fi, phone chargers, and digital displays for advertisements and in this case, art. It’s not the first time that LinkNYC has featured art on its kiosks from MCNY. Previous "exhibitions" on the kiosks include historic photos of women who influenced New York’s political history for Women’s History Month and "On This Day in NYC History" information. The MCNY and LinkNYC partnership is one of many programs that disseminate New York City’s history; others include the NYC Space/Time Directory from the New York Public Library, an app from Urban Archive that made more than 2,500 images of old New York available on-the-go, and a Civil Rights & Social Justice Map from the Greenwich Village Society.
Though it’s one of the smaller departments in New York City’s large municipal government, the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s impact is as vast as the five boroughs. The regulatory body that identifies and protects the integrity of the city’s most significant structures is an important shaper of its present, future, and the understanding of the past. Yet the LPC finds itself rudderless. On June 1, Commission chairwoman Meenakshi Srinivasan served her last day, having given public notice six weeks before. Mayor Bill de Blasio has not put forward a replacement–and he only filled the vacant vice-chair position last week. (The job went to Commissioner Fred Bland, a prominent architect accused of having conflicts of interest.) The four years of Srinivasan’s tenure marked a significant break, in both substance and style, from her predecessors. To preservationists, Srinivasan has been the most overt supporter yet of the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), one of New York City and State’s most powerful interest groups, and preservationists’ most reliable opponent. Because the next appointee will be chosen by De Blasio, as was Srinivasan, preservationists see little cause for hope that her departure will be any more helpful to the Landmarks cause. Just past the halfway mark between De Blasio’s two terms as mayor, it’s an inflection point for his land use program overall. De Blasio has made his affordable housing plan central to the mayoralty, and observers say that it can seem like other elements of land use fall into place around that, rather than being guided by a holistic urban planning agenda. Another recent political move illustrates the dynamic of influence: a move at the state level to eradicate NYC’s longstanding floor area ratio (FAR) zoning requirements has no support from city representatives, but plenty from upstate legislators who are courted by REBNY for votes. “This mayor seems not to have a personal opinion about preservation,” said Anthony C. Wood, a preservation activist and historian. “It appears he needs REBNY to advance his priorities in affordable housing, so he’s willing to facilitate their priorities when it comes to landmarking.” REBNY tends to oppose landmarking protections as obstacles to new development. Under Srinivasan, Wood said, “The philosophy appears to have been a constrained view of what the Commission can and should do. The strategy seems to have been operationally rewriting the law rather than legislatively.” The ways that Srinivasan’s tenure broke with precedent are many. Based on interviews with LPC staff, commissioners, and preservation advocates, top complaints include: pressure from the chair on staffers to provide certain action recommendations, and on commissioners to vote certain ways; sudden campaigns by the chair to make major overhauls (a rush to clear a decades-long backlog between 2014 and 2015, and a push for rules changes this year are just two examples); moving some business from the portfolio of the Commission to that of the staff, thus removing these items from public deliberation; a lack of interest in maintaining high standards for historically congruous building envelopes and materials; a demoralized and overworked staff with higher-than-normal turnover and open positions that go unfilled, and a commitment to outer-borough landmark designations, even when they come before at the cost of more-deserving Manhattan locations. One such example is the designation of the Coney Island Boardwalk–which is no longer all-wood, nor in its original location–as a feel-good photo-op, while the history-drenched Bowery between Cooper Square and Chatham Square, recognized by the National Register of Historic Places, has been rebuffed by LPC and is being redeveloped day by day. Other sources of preservationist angst include the potential razing of iconic Lower East Side tenements that served as a crucible of American immigration, as well as Sunset Park, Brooklyn, where a historic district desired by residents has not been embraced by the LPC, among many examples. But the Mayor’s office points to a variety of Srinivasan’s actions as meaningful achievements, and anticipates nominating her replacement this summer. Not only did the LPC designate over 3,800 buildings and sites across the five boroughs during her tenure (including 67 individual landmarks, 3 interior landmarks, 1 scenic landmark, and 9 historic districts); it ruled up or down on the many “calendared” properties that had never had hearings; enhanced the consideration of cultural, not just architectural, significance for designations, and created new online databases, such as this website about NYC archaeology, among other initiatives. Asked for specific comment on several questions, REBNY, for its part, supplied a positive review of Srinivasan, who previously chaired the city board that reviews requests from property owners for zoning variances. REBNY President John H. Banks said: "As she did at the Board of Standards and Appeals, Meenakshi effectively balanced competing interests for the public good. She did a terrific job of fairly administering the Landmarks Law, protecting our city's architectural and historic resources, and professionalizing the operations of the agency to benefit all New Yorkers.” Michael Devonshire, a LPC commissioner and the body’s most outspoken preservationist, isn’t so sure. Devonshire has held the unpaid volunteer post since 2010, while working as director of conservation at the architecture and preservation firm Jan Hird Pokorny Associates, and as a teacher at Columbia University. He worries about the Commission’s recent turn toward approving more ahistorical modifications to landmarks. “We have been given a legacy in this city of buildings that are culturally and architecturally significant, and we have the ability to recognize that and designate buildings and districts,” said Devonshire. “My fear is that the incremental loss of the significant sites and buildings results in an aggregate loss for the generations to come. You can’t recreate them.” On its best day, the LPC faces an uphill battle because adding new landmarks and historic districts means continually increasing its own regulatory workload. It remains to be seen whether the Commission can regain its footing under a new chairperson. Advocates say they are not optimistic about a “true preservationist” being appointed under Mayor De Blasio, and they’re wary of naming favorite candidates for fear of jinxing their chances. (REBNY also declined to name a shortlist.) Instead, Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic Districts Council, said it’s not about who, but what. Bankoff says the mayor should instruct the new chair to do three things: “Respect their promises to neighborhoods who want to be landmarked (e.g. Sunset Park). Make preservation an actual part of the municipal planning process (e.g. in Gowanus, East Harlem, the Bronx, etc.). Stop signing away the farm to every plush bottom with a fat wallet.” Soon he’ll find out whether, in De Blasio’s New York, that’s too much to ask. Karen Loew is a writer in New York. She worked at the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation from 2013-2015.
House in a Box
New York City issues first call for affordable housing requiring modular construction
New York City’s affordable buildings are now going up in blocks as part of Mayor de Blasio’s Housing New York 2.0 plan released late last year. The more ambitious sequel to 2014’s original Housing New York, the new plan calls for a shift towards modular construction on affordable housing projects as a time- and cost-saving measure. Now, the first request for proposals (RFP) has been issued for a city-owned modular development. As reported by The Real Deal, NYC's Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) first issued the RFP for a modular, 100 percent affordable building in East New York on May 24. The L-shaped plot is owned by the city and covers approximately 49,397 square feet at 581 Grant Street, between Pitkin and Glenmore Avenues along Elder Lane, adjacent to the Grant Avenue A station. For the city’s first mandated modular project, HPD is looking to develop a mixed-use building with 100 percent of the units allocated for affordable housing across all income levels. Ten percent of the units will be set aside for the formerly homeless. Interested parties have until September 10, 2018, to submit their proposals. Modular construction has taken off in a big way as of late and is one of the many tools that the de Blasio administration wants to use to hit 300,000 units of new or preserved units of housing by 2026 (up from 200,000 units in the 2014 plan). Boston is gearing up to open a new modular unit factory, and modular design/build start-up Katerra is continuing its impressive expansion across the West Coast. AN will follow this article up after a team for 581 Grant Street has been selected.
After Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration announced that it would be replacing the notorious Rikers Island jail with four smaller sites spread across the city, the city pledged that it would move swiftly to begin the public review process before the end of the year. Now, the rush to actually secure the listed sites has hit a snag as residents and politicians in the Bronx are pushing back against the construction of a jail there. The move to close Rikers and spread inmates out across the city’s boroughs can only be accomplished by cutting the 9,000-inmate population in half, a target the administration is aiming for through bail and sentencing reform. Perkins Eastman, working with 17 subcontractors, has been tapped to master plan and maximize density at each of the new jails. By spreading the remaining 5,000 inmates out to local jails, the city wants to cut down on administrative costs and centralize their facilities. But as Crain’s reports, the proposal to build (or reactivating) new jails in dense neighborhoods isn’t going over well. In the Bronx, the city is angling to build a 25-story facility directly next to the Bronx Hall of Justice, which would put the prospective jail within walking distance of the B, D and 4 subway lines, and the Melrose Metro-North train station. As Crain’s notes, while the location makes sense for lawyers and those awaiting trial along with their visiting families, the political interests at play could derail building on that plot. One part of the 100,000-square-foot site is owned by the city, while the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York owns the other two plots. As the feud between Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo continues, it has become increasingly likely that the state government would initiate the required land transfer. City Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson has also objected to building the jail in her district since the Hall of Justice is directly across the street from two public schools. In a bid to speed up the process, all four sites will move through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) together as one project. As the environmental review could take up to four months alone, the city would need to move fast to secure all of their desired sites before the end of the year. If the Hall of Justice doesn’t pan out, the city may fall back on the more politically expedient site it had originally selected; an NYPD-owned tow pound at 320 Concord Avenue.
MTA releases 10-year plan to improve subway and bus services
Within ten years, a modernized signal system on 6 subway lines and more than 180 new subway stations are among many new improvements to New York City’s public transportation promised by the MTA. In a package released by New York City Transit Chief Andy Byford and the MTA, called “Fast Forward: The Plan to Modernize New York City Transit,” (PDF) the transit provider also guarantees repair work at more than 300 stations, new subway cars and CBTC-modified car, a redesign of bus routes and a new tap-and-go fair payment system to be in place in the next decade. The improvements come with a cost. According to The New York Times, the groundbreaking proposal will cost more than $19 billion for the first five years. The plan will also entail closures, including continuous night and weekend closures for up to 2.5 years per line. Byford’s plan is thought to be ambitious, as work previously estimated to take 40 years would be completed within the next ten years. The two-stage proposal will benefit a cumulative eight million daily riders. The outdated transportation infrastructure has caused delays and frustration. The “state-of-the-art” communications-based train control (CBTC) is believed to deliver greater reliability and better prospects for future capacity growth. In the first five years, lines 4, 5, 6, 7, A, C, E, F, M, R, G will be upgraded with the advanced train control signal system; in the next five years, lines 1, 2, 3, B, D, S, N, Q, R, W too will be upgraded. The bus network will be reimagined across the five boroughs, promising customer focused routes, faster and more reliable travel times, and more comfortable and environmentally sustainable buses. However, the plan has an issue with funding. Amidst the quarrel between Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio on who should pay to rehabilitate the subway, a spokesperson for de Blasio told The New York Times that the city is not willing to help pay for Byford's plan. He advised that the MTA should instead resort to existing resources and the state should endorse new revenue sources such as the millionaire's tax that de Blasio has proposed.
For the estimated 24,100 New Yorkers who cross between Manhattan and Brooklyn on the L train every hour, 2019 is not looking so good. After being pushed back year after year, the 15-month L train shutdown to allow for repairs to the Canarsie Tunnel for Hurricane Sandy-related damage is finally happening next April. The city is hoping that riders will use alternative subway connections, or even alternatives to the subway, and is implementing changes across the subway system as well as establishing new shuttle bus routes and usage restrictions on the Williamsburg Bridge and 14th Street. At a May 16th town hall meeting in Williamsburg, according to The Village Voice, city and MTA officials were reluctant to reveal how many more trains can cross the Williamsburg Bridge on the J/M/Z lines, one of the proposed solutions for displaced L train commuters. But the answer eventually came: 24 trains an hour—in a best-case scenario. This number is just three trains over current capacity. A large part of the issue is due to the fact that the tracks feature S-curves on both sides of the bridge, which requires trains to slow down significantly to safely make the turns without derailing. The MTA is adding and reducing trains at other points in the system in an attempt to alleviate some of the problems for L-train commuters. Even still, this leads to a net reduction of capacity by 12.5 train cars, or 25,000 riders per hour, according to The Village Voice. This also means that beyond longer treks and numerous transfers, waits on platforms to get on packed trains may become even worse. There are currently plans to restrict travel on the Williamsburg Bridge to buses, trucks, and carpools and to restrict 14th Street to buses and local deliveries during peak hours, but borough politicians say this isn’t enough, and that restrictions to bus service and high occupancy vehicles needs to go beyond peak hours during the L train shutdown and call on the city to develop a 24-hour plan. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer sent a letter on Monday to Mayor Bill de Blasio calling on the city to provide 24-hour busway alternatives. As Adams and Brewer point out, they represent 24/7 communities and stated, “If we hope to persuade New Yorkers to continue to rely on public transit while the L train tunnel is closed, we must provide shuttle bus service that is seamless, efficient and reliable whenever our constituents need to ride.” The mayor has thus far opposed a 24-hour busway in favor of restrictions and shuttles for yet-to-be-defined peak hours. Many residents are divided on the issue. Regardless, as the shutdown rapidly approaches, the city must finalize a 24-hour plan to deal with the significant blow the loss of the L train will deal to commuters.
Context is King
New York City report urges good design in affordable housing
The New York City Public Design Commission (PDC) has released new guidelines for designing affordable housing, painting quality of life as an integral part of any such development. Quality Affordable Housing in NYC, a case study of affordable housing throughout the city, was released at a roundtable presentation at the Center for Architecture last night. Innovative housing is nothing new in New York, but with Mayor de Blasio’s pledge to build or preserve 300,000 units of affordable housing by 2026, a cohesive plan was needed to standardize the new buildings being designed. Quality Affordable Housing pulls together the best aspects from its seven case studies and presents eight guidelines for building more resilient, contextual low-income developments. According to the findings, infill developments that favor pedestrian circulation and an integration with the existing community fabric should be given preference over cloistered, standalone projects. The massing should visually connect the new building with its surroundings, and materials should complement the project’s neighbors. Circulation, both air and pedestrian-related, should be maximized, and the ground floor condition should be inviting to the rest of the neighborhood. All of these suggestions seem like common sense improvements, but tight budgets, strict deadlines, and site constraints often tamp down ambitious social housing projects. Thankfully, Quality Affordable Housing uses its case studies to put projects that have met these goals on display for reference. The PDC has collected projects large and small, from the 16-unit Prospect Gardens, a pilot infill prototype in Brooklyn designed by RKTB Architects in 2004, to 2015’s massive 911,000-square-foot Hunter’s Point South Commons and Crossing in Queens from Ismael Leyva and SHoP. What connects all seven projects is their integration with the surrounding community, attention to landscaping, and most importantly, that people want to live in them. As presenters at the Center kept coming back to, neighborhood residents were overjoyed to move in, and winning the housing lottery often felt like a dream come true. The full PDC guide and breakdowns of all seven case study projects can be found in full here.
After spending a year in Bowling Green Park, the Fearless Girl is moving to the New York Stock Exchange. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last week that the 50-inch-tall sculpture will be relocated to a “long-term” home outside the Stock Exchange by the end of the year. His announcement confirms a report in The Architects’ Newspaper last month. The popular bronze sculpture, which depicts a girl standing defiantly with chin out and hands on hips, became a magnet for visitors after it was installed at Broadway and Morris Street just before International Women’s Day in March of 2017. But it also raised safety concerns for city officials, who didn’t think the narrow public space on Broadway could accommodate the high number of pedestrians who were visiting, many seemingly oblivious to the vehicular traffic all around. “We are proud to be home to the Fearless Girl. She is a powerful symbol of the need for change at the highest levels of corporate America—and she will become a durable part of our city’s civic life,” de Blasio said in a statement. “This move to a new location will improve access for visitors and ensure that her message and impact continues to be heard.” The sculpture by Delaware-based artist Kristen Visbal was commissioned by State Street Global Advisors to raise awareness of the need for more women on corporate boards. In the year since it was installed, more than 150 companies have added a woman to their board, according to State Street president and CEO Cyrus Taraporevala. “Our hope is that by moving closer to the NYSE she will inspire many more companies to take action,” he said in a statement. The Stock Exchange at 11 Wall Street is an appropriate location for the sculpture, said president Thomas Farley, in a statement. “The historic corner of Wall & Broad saw the swearing in of our country’s first president and the birth of our capital markets, and is joined now by a striking symbol of our ongoing journey toward greater equality [and] broader inclusion,” he said. “We eagerly await the arrival of Fearless Girl to her fitting new home.” Much of the sculpture’s impact is due to its location facing another work of art, Arturo Di Modica’s Charging Bull, positioned as if standing up to the animal. There has been talk about moving the bull with the Fearless Girl sculpture, so they can stay together, but no decisions about that have been announced. “I’d love it if she could stare down the Charging Bull for the rest of time,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, as part of the mayor’s announcement. “But even if she can’t, I’m glad she will stay in the neighborhood and remind those who pass by the Stock Exchange that it’s past time for companies to put more women in boardrooms and in charge.” The Fearless Girl has become something of a cottage industry for the artist, who is now selling “limited edition” reproductions of the sculpture, ranging from desktop versions to full size. The smaller version is about 22 inches tall and costs $6,500, with 20 percent of the proceeds going to charities that support “one or any of the gender diversity goals Fearless Girl stands for,” according to a website set up by the artist. According to CNNMoney, the artist has sold three copies of the full-size version, including one that’s already on exhibit in Oslo, Norway. Twenty-five will be cast in all. The artist also has plans to sell smaller reproductions and children’s books based on the Fearless Girl character, the network reported. Those who want another sort of connection to the Fearless Girl can purchase a signed black-and-white photo of the sculpture, taken by Federica Valabrega, for up to $5,000. Or they can do what thousands have done and take their own.
A Landmarked Tenure
Landmarks chair steps down; exclusive interview to come
Chair of New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) Meenakshi Srinivasan is stepping down effective June 1, and tomorrow AN will present an exclusive interview with Srinivasan on what her next steps will be. As first reported by the Times Ledger, Srinivasan will be leaving a position she’s held since her appointment by Mayor de Blasio in July of 2014. “I am honored to have served as chair of the Landmarks Preservation Commission for the past four years and to have had the opportunity to serve the city for the past 28 years,” said Srinivasan in a statement. “I am proud of what we have accomplished—promoting equity, diversity, efficiency and transparency in all aspects of LPC’s work, and working with the administration to make preservation a critical part of the city’s planning process. “It’s been an intense, challenging, and incredibly rewarding experience. I’ve been very fortunate to work in three agencies and chair two commissions involved with the city’s land use and built environment, and to have played a role in shaping this incredibly diverse and dynamic city. I would love to do more hands-on project-based work related to land use planning and zoning and will be transitioning to the private sector.” The move comes during a tumultuous time for the LPC, as the commission has been roiled by criticism of a proposed rule change meant to improve efficiency and streamline the approvals process. The changes, discussed further in-depth here, drew charges that they lower the agency’s standards from preservation groups like the Historic Districts Council. AN will follow this announcement with an interview on Friday.
State of the State
NY state budget declares Penn Station area an "unreasonable" public risk, and other shakeups
After a tumultuous series of negotiations over New York State’s 2018-19 budget that came down to the wire, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed off on a finalized $168 billion bill late last Friday. While a congestion pricing plan and the removal of density caps for NYC residential developments failed to pass, sweeping changes that could preclude a state seizure of the Penn Station area have made it through. The finalized budget provides a bevy of changes and funding initiatives that will affect New York-based architects and planners. In a move to stabilize city’s deteriorating subway system, $836 million was authorized for the MTA’s Subway Action Plan–with the requirement that the city government would have to foot half of the bill. As AN has previously reported, the money would go towards stabilizing the subway system by beefing up track work, replacing 1,300 troublesome signals, tracking leaks, and initiating a public awareness campaign to reduce littering. At the time of writing, the de Blasio administration which has repeatedly claimed that the city already pays more than its fair share, has agreed to contribute their $418 million portion. Congestion pricing, proposed by Governor Cuomo’s own transportation panel, failed to make it into the final legislation. The plan would both reduce traffic on Manhattan’s streets and could potentially raise up to $1.5 billion for subway repairs, but couldn’t muster enough support to pass. Instead, a surcharge on for-hire cars will be enacted below 96th Street in Manhattan; $2.75 for for-hire cars, $2.50 for yellow cabs, and $0.75 for every pooled trip. The terminally underfunded New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) will also be getting a boost, as Cuomo has pledged $250 million for repairs across the agency’s housing stock. However, the boost is somewhat undercut by the federal government’s recent decision to restrict NYCHA’s access to federal funds as a result of the lead paint scandal rattling the agency. To save time and money, the budget has implemented design-build practices–where the designer and contractor operate as one streamlined team–for future NYCHA projects, the forthcoming Rikers Island transformation, and the delayed Brooklyn-Queens Expressway restoration. While one controversial plan to remove Floor Area Ratio caps in future New York City residential developments didn’t make it into the final draft, another even more contentious proposal did. According to language in the final budget, the area around Penn Station has been deemed an “unreasonable risk to the public". This formal declaration could be used in future negotiations between the state and Madison Square Garden as leverage, or even as a pretext for eventually seizing the area via eminent domain. The budget, which the New York Times described as a broadside against Mayor de Blasio, ultimately exerts greater state intervention across a swath of local issues, from education to urban planning. More information on the final 2018-19 budget can be found here.