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BOD #24

Archtober Building of the Day #24: Morris-Jumel Mansion
This story is part of a monthlong series of guests posts by AIA New York that feature Archtober Building of the Day tours. See the full 2017 schedule here. On Saturday, Archtober took a tour of the oldest house in Manhattan, the Morris-Jumel Mansion located in Washington Heights. Frederick Cookinham, a Revolutionary Manhattan expert and volunteer at the mansion, led us on the tour of the estate. The Morris-Jumel Mansion, located on a beautiful hill perched above what is now known as Robert Morris Park, is rich with American history. The house is named for the two families that lived there. In 1765, Robert Morris, a British military officer, bought a vast plot of farmland to build a summer home. Morris began construction a year later and, just as construction finished in 1767, he added an octagonal addition to the north of the house, ultimately creating a three-story, 8,000 square-foot mansion. Morris and his wife lived there until 1775 when they fled the American Revolution. The house was then occupied by General George Washington during the war. Located at the highest point in upper Manhattan, the house gave Washington a strategic advantage with its views to the east and west. In 1810, the mansion was purchased by Stephen Jumel, a wealthy French wine importer, and his wife Eliza. The Jumels were eager to be accepted into New York’s high society, and felt that their home would be their key to that world. They renovated the house, adding an oversized portico and installing detailed wallpapers to the interior. When Stephen Jumel died, Eliza was quickly pursued by Aaron Burr. They married and quickly divorced a year later. Eliza lived the rest of her life in the mansion. As the house stands today, it is decorated in the 1820s style that the Jumels designed. Eliza Jumel is clearly an important figure in the history of this estate and the house’s interior reflects that. The remaining grounds of the estate, which make up Robert Morris Park, were significantly altered by the WPA in the 1930s. Pathways were added, along with a French-style garden on the north side of the property, similar to the one Eliza Jumel planted on the south. In the past few years, the museum has been working towards updating the house and has been sending pieces of furniture out for restoration, including two original couches (from the Jumel era) and Eliza Jumel’s bed. The interior of the house is maintained by the museum, but the surrounding grounds and exterior of the house are actually maintained by the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation. Money has been earmarked for restoration work on the exterior. We look forward to seeing the grandeur of this Old New York house return. Join us on Tuesday, October 31 for the last Archtober Building of the Day at the William Vale Hotel!
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BOD #21

Archtober Building of the Day #21: Bronx River House
This story is part of a monthlong series of guests posts by AIA New York that feature Archtober Building of the Day tours. See the full 2017 schedule here. Today, Archtober went on a hard hat tour of Bronx River House designed by Kiss + Cathcart with landscape design by Starr Whitehouse Landscape Architects and Planners. Situated on the Bronx River, access to the site is currently from a service road; when the project is completed, it will open into Starlight Park on the Bronx River Greenway. Though the project has been in the works for over ten years, it is expected to officially open in January 2018, with a full program activating the site sometime after that. The Bronx River House is the result of a public-private partnership between the Bronx River Alliance and numerous government agencies, primarily the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation. Since 2001, the Bronx River Alliance has been bringing attention to the recreational possibilities of the Bronx River and working to make the Bronx River Greenway a reality through educational and recreational programs. When Bronx River House opens, it will serve as the headquarters for the offices of the Bronx River Alliance, as well as a community space for locals and park visitors. The Bronx River House is a single-story structure, approximately 7,000 square feet in area, that will contain multiple programs. Surrounding the main structure, a metal mesh screen wall will serve as a security measure and support greenery. Within the building, the Alliance will have space for around 25 desks in addition to a boathouse, which has room for 20 or more canoes. These are used for river restoration, clean-up, and recreational tours. Public spaces will include a multipurpose room and a classroom that will face onto a public plaza that directly connects to Starlight Park. Our tour was led by Gregory Kiss of Kiss + Cathcart, who highlighted the design decisions they made to integrate the building into its setting. Less visible decisions include rainwater collection through the structure’s roof and plazas, geothermal heating and cooling systems, and solar energy panels that will allow the building to run on nearly 100% solar energy on a net basis. Perhaps most exciting are the plans to integrate plants and other greenery into the design of the building. The metal screen surrounding the building will be planted with an array of vines that will provide shade in the summer and allow light through in the winter. Kiss explained that the hope is that the main building will eventually be covered in moss. Because the cultivation of moss on vertical surfaces is still experimental, they will start with a 300-square-foot area. A drip irrigation system using collected rainwater will be added to the shingles on the façade to support the moss. Kiss stated that his intention with the vines and moss is to create a forest-like micro-climate that further integrates the building into the surrounding park. We definitely look forward to visiting again when the building opens to the public. Claudia Ibaven of the Bronx River Alliance, who joined us on our tour, reminded us to keep an eye on the Alliance’s website for announcements on when that will be. Join us tomorrow at ISSUE Project Room. By Berit Hoff
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BOD #19

Archtober Building of the Day: Freshkills Park
This story is part of a monthlong series of guests posts by AIA New York that feature Archtober Building of the Day tours. See the full 2017 schedule here. On Sunday, Archtober toured Freshkills Park, a former New York City landfill on Staten Island redeveloped into a 2,200-acre green space. Our tour guide was Mariel Villeré, the Manager for Programs, Arts and Grants at Freshkills Park. She gave us insights into the park’s history, design, and construction. An NYC Parks minibus picked us up from the Staten Island Ferry Terminal for the 30-minute ride to the site. After signing our waivers and traveling some distance over sanitation department roads, we arrived at the Visitor Center. Here, Villeré delved into the history of the site and the project. Until the mid-20th century, Freshkills Park was a wetland. In 1948, Robert Moses chose this supposedly “useless” site to create a landfill, which by 1955 was the largest in the world. The waste was dumped into four huge mounds, North, South, East and West, which today form the basis of the park’s landscape. The waste dump, which all five boroughs used, was officially ordered to close in 1996, and the last barge of refuse was sent to Freshkills after the World Trade Center attack in 2001. (The boroughs now have separate contracts with outside landfills; Staten Island’s garbage, for example, is shipped to South Carolina). In 2001, the Freshkills Park Alliance and NYC Parks launched a competition for a site masterplan, which James Corner Field Operations won. Their plan proposed the four distinct areas of the park based on the garbage mounds, along with a central area, known as the Confluence. Our tour focused on North Park, which recreates and strengthens the site’s wetlands and creeks. The entire site is two-and-a-half times the size of Central Park. In North Park, we took in the stunning views over Staten Island to Manhattan on the north and the rest of Freshkills Park to the south. Villeré discussed the vision behind the park’s design, noting how they needed to balance the recreation of the former habitat with the understanding that the site’s ecology and meaning have been irrevocably changed by 50 years of trash. While the garbage is under several layers of topsoil, no attempt is made to downplay the typical mound shape of the landfill. This creates an ecological opportunity in the northeast, where the drive for reforestation sometimes sidelines open spaces and wetlands. The diversity of the park has increased dramatically over the last few years, with over 100 species of birds now counted at the site. Villeré outlined the manifold challenges of creating a park on top of a landfill. Landfills generate two byproducts: landfill gas and leachate. At Freshkills, landfill gas is funneled into treatment facilities where its components, methane and CO2, are separated. The methane is piped into the New York City gas grid. The other product, leachate, is the liquid that forms, on a small scale, at the bottom of a trash bag. At Freshkills, permeable pipes laid in concrete ditches at the bottom of each mound collect the leachate. It is then treated and separated into leachate cakes, a highly concentrated substance, and clean water. We also drove by a flare station, which is a backup in case there is an issue with the system piping methane into the grid. Since the site is so huge, the project is necessarily phased. These phases are arranged from the outside in order to give back to the surrounding community, which was negatively impacted by the dump. The timeline has therefore prioritized small, demonstrable projects along the park’s edges. So far, some wetland restoration, Owl Hollow soccer fields, the New Springville Greenway, and the renovation of Schmul Park have been completed. We got a view of Schmul Park in the Travis neighborhood just to the west of the park. The redesign of a Moses-era blacktop playground–also by James Corner Field Operations–is now vibrantly colorful, packed with children and families on the warm October day. It is a blueprint for the success of an extraordinary project that will transform not only an extraordinary site, but how we think about the relationship between waste and nature in New York and beyond.
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200 Water Street

Water Street public space is one city vote away from a private retail takeover

In lower Manhattan, a prominent developer wants to convert a public space into private retail, and the city is at least a week away from a vote that could allow the project to move forward. Rockrose Development's bid to completely enclose and privatize the arcade at 200 Water Street comes just months after the city permitted the destruction of the landmarked Sasaki fountain at the Citicorp Center, and is yet another example of a public outdoor space the city could cede to a commercial interest.

Rockrose wants to take advantage of new zoning rules that would allow the company to fill in the public arcade on Fulton Street with retail and restaurants, reducing the public space by half.

When they were built in the 1970s, the Water Street Arcades were a covered network of walkways linking office buildings in the area, which extends three blocks in from the East River, north to Fulton Street and south to Whitehall Street. The arcades and accompanying plazas were built as tradeoffs that let owners build taller than existing zoning allowed. The target area contains 20 buildings, with 225,000 square feet of open plazas and 110,000 square feet of arcades. In exchange for building and managing these privately-owned public spaces, or POPS, developers near Water Street got to add more than 2.5 million square feet of extra floor area to their buildings.

In June 2016, the City Council approved a zoning change that opened up these spaces to commercial development. The Water Street Upgrades Text Amendment allows existing arcades to be infilled for retail and encourages "improvement" of existing plazas. In total, the new rules place more than 167,000 square feet of the POPS up for redevelopment.

The city maintains that the arcades are dull and underutilized because they push ground-floor retail away from the sidewalk, are obstructed by thick structural columns and poorly lit, and often terminate in dead ends. It also asserts that the plazas mostly open onto lobbies and feature little greenery, a combination that is uninviting to passersby. 

While some public spaces in the Water Street area do affirm these concerns, the ones at 200 Water Street are an exception. They originally featured exuberant public art, and are open to traffic on all four sides, a necessity for pedestrian circulation in an increasingly lively neighborhood.

From a design perspective, it would be hard to top the space's first incarnation, which was cool enough to land on the cover of Progressive Architecture (PDF) one year after opening.

The original owner was the Kaufman Organization, a New York developer known for above-and-beyond stewardship of its POPS. Emery Roth & Sons designed 200 Water Street (also known as 127 John Street) in 1971 as an office building in the International Style, but CEO Melvyn Kaufman playfully messed with its gravitas, ornamenting the glass curtain wall from street to roof.

"One twenty seven John Street is neither imposing nor distinguished in the usual sense of those words," said PA Associate Editor Sharon Lee Ryder. "It is imposing because you can’t forget it once you’ve been there and distinguished simply because there is nothing like it."

Designer Pamela Waters used roofing gravel to craft a cheerful cat chasing a bird on opposite sides of the seventh floor setback, an almost wraparound terrace. Viewed from above, it's clear that the terrace's gap permanently prevents the cat from catching its prey (though there's another wire mesh bird that covered the window-washing rig). On the roof, mechanical equipment was painted kindergarten colors and decked out in lights to illustrate water and air flowing through the HVAC system.

On the plaza level, metal benches in the same colors sat beneath Op Art murals that zigzagged through custom scaffolds all the way up to the edge of the sidewalk. Visitors could ascend the scaffolding to access seating on above the street. Around the corner at John and Water streets, Kaufman pasted mirrored walls onto two buildings that couldn't move for the 32-story tower's construction, while an inset digital clock on the Water Street side of the old building mimics the grid of the new tower. Melvyn Kaufman even installed a wax likeness of himself on one of the benches (it was removed after some unspecified "hostile reactions"). The arcade's whimsy, capped off by a water feature and a neon-banded purple-and-blue light tunnel to the inside, was meant to enliven a long walk from the main entrance on Fulton Street to the building's elevator bank.

Since the Kaufman Organization sold the building in the mid-1990s, the space's cheerily excessive amenities have given way to a boring plaza that some believe is willfully neglected. Today, most of the remaining art from the Kaufman days is in serious disrepair: the white scaffolding is a blank skeleton, stripped of its canvas, while the original pool and fountain are empty. (The impossible-to-miss Water Street clock now graces a Starbucks, in front of a well-maintained but unoriginal public space occupied by wood benches and concrete planters.)

Rockrose maintains that the Fulton Street arcade is beyond rehabilitation, and proposes restaurants and retail as a way to enliven the front of the structure, which it converted to rental apartments in 1996. As soon as the end of this month, the City Planning Commission could hear Rockrose's application to infill three of the building's POPS, totaling more than 4,700 square feet, per rules outlined in last year's zoning text amendment. The developer would like to add almost 1,800 square feet of new residential space in the double-height arcade facing Fulton, and on the ground floor, the plaza would lose about 3,000 square feet of public space. New York–based MdeAS is working with the developer to design the new spaces.

In return, Rockrose estimates it would receive $600,000 in annual rent from the new spaces. Members of Manhattan Community Board 1 (CB1), whose district includes the property, held meetings with Rockrose this summer to ask if the developer would consider compensating amenities. Rockrose refused, saying that, by law, it was not obligated to provide additional amenities.  

CB 1 maintains that building into the arcade could interrupt the flow of connected spaces that distinguish the Water Street POPS and its buildings from the rest of the neighborhood. Though the city contends that the plazas are underused relics from bad midcentury planning, lower Manhattan is in the midst of a development boom that's slated to bring more foot traffic at all hours to the traditionally 9-to-5 neighborhood. The intersection of Fulton and Water streets is a heavily-trafficked corner, the gateway to the South Street Seaport. Likewise, the South Street Seaport's restaurant and tourist revival, including a new mall at Pier 17 and ferry service from nearby Pier 11, herald an increase in pedestrian traffic at Fulton and Water streets at what is already a busy intersection. According to CB1, Rockrose hasn't submitted a pedestrian traffic study on the impact of enclosing almost 4,000 square feet of space at this corner.

At press time, multiple attempts to reach Rockrose for comment on its plans for 200 Water Street were unsuccessful.

Mindful of the precedent-setting nature of Rockrose's request, and its dissatisfaction with the developer's concessions, the community board voted the whole proposal down last month.  The board released a statement, "CB 1 should urge the owners of the site and all stakeholders to maintain and keep the critically needed open space at 200 Water Street open for the public's use consistent with the original agreement made between the developers and the citizens of New York."

In a March 2016 resolution, just before the City Planning Commission passed the Water Street zoning rules, CB1 recognized the property as distinct from its neighbors, and asked the owners to not enlarge chain stores, but instead offer the community additional benefits:

"Owners of properties similar to 200 Water Street, where the benefit to the property owner clearly outweighs the community benefit from plaza upgrades, should be required to provide benefits in addition to the plaza upgrade, such as enhancements to surrounding sidewalks and the nearby Pearl Street Playground. CB1 requests that the arcade infill at 200 Water Street not be used just to expand the existing large box retail, and prefers retail that positively activates Fulton Street." 

(Despite this shout-out, CB1 nevertheless supported the Water Street Upgrades Text Amendment last year.)

Multiple nonprofit urban advocacy groups have weighed in on Rockrose's proposal. In an open letter, the City Club of New York suggested Rockrose's "lack of enthusiasm" for maintaining the POPS was an aegis for redevelopment-by-neglect. "In this case, converting half the space of the POPS to rental floor area and reducing the area maintained for the public by half is clearly a win-win for the owner," it said. 

Echoing the City Club's statement, the Municipal Art Society praised the original character of the spaces, adding that “[the] plazas and arcade have been allowed to deteriorate to the point that, instead of preserving these valuable community assets, Rockrose stands to benefit from the loss of public space.” This is not the first time Rockrose's stewardship of public space has been in called into question. The original designers sued Rockrose back in 1996 over its alleged failure to maintain the plaza and its art, which Rockrose owns. The parties reached a court-approved settlement that required the firm to maintain the artwork in the POPS through 2011. In a brief, the plaintiffs' attorney, Robert Ward, described the significance of the agreement: “When the building was built back in 1971, the owners got a plaza bonus. They were able to build a bigger building because of the plaza. The new owners of the building want to build in that plaza, but they do not want to take some of the building down. That is an important issue in terms of balancing the equities.” There may be other options for reuse, though, that preserve the public space. In a letter to Marisa Lago, chair of the City Planning Commission, the group Friends of Privately Owned Public Spaces suggested three ways that Water Street Arcades could be creatively repurposed without reducing the total amount of public space. The owner could glass in an arcade to make a public interior and collaborate with a public entity like the New York Public Library for programming, or create a POPS with a food service component a la Lincoln Center’s David Rubinstein Atrium. As a last option, the owner could cede space to a city-run concession (like the ones operated by NYC Parks) whose proceeds would fund improvements to other POPS in the area.

At the earliest, the City Planning Commission could review the application on October 30, although no public testimony will be heard at that meeting. To comment on Rockrose's proposal, members of the public may email the commission at centralintake@planning.nyc.gov with the subject line "Application N 170284 ZAM 200 Water Street Arcade Enclosure." The commission's website is updated regularly, so readers should check back there for the latest hearing schedule.

Editor's Note: Last year, The Architect’s Newspaper sponsored a design charrette for the Water Street POPS to envision how they could become the vibrant gathering spots and successful corridors they once were. In May 2016, AN Managing Editor Olivia Martin also provided testimony opposing the Water Street Upgrades Text Amendment at a meeting of the Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises. Martin had no role in reporting, fact-checking, or editing this story. 
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BOD #7

Archtober Building of the Day #7: Cary Leeds Center for Tennis and Learning
This story is part of a monthlong series of guests posts by AIA New York that feature Archtober Building of the Day tours. See the full 2017 schedule here. Today, Archtober got a tour of the Cary Leeds Tennis Center in the Bronx led by GLUCK+ principal Marc Gee. Gee elaborated the complex process of getting such a major public project built, and explained how the design/build capabilities of GLUCK+ allowed the project to be completed on time and under budget. The Tennis Center is a joint venture between New York Junior Tennis & Learning (NYJTL) and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. NYJTL, which runs tennis clinics and tutoring and academic programs, approached GLUCK+ with the idea for the Center, which would serve as a home base for all of NYJTL’s programs. The Center was to be named after Cary Leeds, a professional tennis player who tragically passed away, and whose parents wanted to commemorate him in a way that would help bring the sport he loved to more people. Over a number of years, GLUCK+ worked on five schemes for five different parks in three boroughs before finally being able to realize the design in Crotona Park. There are 12 new hard courts at the Center, ten of them bubbled for winter play. This number adds to the ten public courts that the Department of Parks and Recreation renovated. NYJTL uses revenue from renting court time during the winter to pay for its on- and off-court programming. In addition to the courts, GLUCK+ was responsible for the design of the airy clubhouse. The clubhouse had two design objectives: minimizing sightlines from the park and opening the interior space to the courts as much as possible. When the original design was rejected because at two stories it would have been visible from multiple points in the park, GLUCK+ decided to sink the lower floor below grade. From the park side of the tennis courts, all one sees is the fence of the tennis court – the Center itself is invisible. But once you enter the space from the front door on Crotona Avenue, it is clear that GLUCK+ have designed an extraordinary space. The top entrance-level floor houses a check-in desk, offices for NYJTL and, to the right, a restrained, adult-focused lounge. Locker rooms and a pro shop are located against the entrance wall, away from the courts. The far wall is all glass, opening to a terrace and giving a picture-perfect view of the two stadium courts below. In the middle of the room is the precast-concrete staircase, which, due to a manufacturing error, had to be recast and then moved in after windows had already been fitted, creating a logistical nightmare. At the bottom of the stairs is the kids’ lounge, accented by multicolored chairs and a tennis ball pit. Further on are a classroom and a broadcasting room – the Tennis Channel donated equipment so that children can interview the major players who stop by the Center. Other back-of-house functions like the kitchen are also downstairs. Glass doors lead outside, where a patio separates the building from the courts, providing, on the day we toured, space for a barbeque and other festivities. GLUCK+’s dual role as architect and contractor made the project possible, allowing decisions that would usually have taken weeks going back and forth from construction site to office to be answered immediately. When a construction issue forced the design to be adjusted, it could be done almost immediately. The project came in $1800 under the $26 million budget and exactly on time. And since, as Gee pointed out, “the only person with a deep stake in the design is the architect,” supervising construction allowed GLUCK+ to make sure that the design was executed just as they wanted.
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BOD #5

Archtober Building of the Day: SeaGlass Carousel
This story is part of a monthlong series of guests posts by AIA New York that feature Archtober Building of the Day tours. See the full 2017 schedule here. Today’s Archtober tour took in the SeaGlass Carousel and its surroundings at the Battery. Layng Pew, AIA, Managing Principal of WXY architecture + urban design, and Hope Cohen, Chief Operating Officer of The Battery Conservancy, placed this newest addition to the Battery in the context of the Battery’s history. The Battery got its name from the “battery” of cannons placed there in the 17th Century to protect the fledgling port city of New Amsterdam. In the mid-18th Century, the Battery was the site of the country’s first immigrant processing center, which later moved to Ellis Island. It then became an open-air concert venue, and then the New York Aquarium, which was partially destroyed in 1941 by Robert Moses to make way for his proposed Brooklyn-Battery Bridge. Although Fort Clinton, part of the Battery, was landmarked in 1946, the rest of the site was allowed to deteriorate; by the 1980s, this prime waterfront real estate housed a parking lot for municipal agency vehicles. The rest of the Battery was more or less abandoned. By this time, however, Battery Park City had been built next to the Battery. In the mid-1980s, concerned by the decay of their neighbor and namesake, Battery Park City’s management commissioned a masterplan for the area. It was this masterplan that sowed the seeds for what the Battery, including the SeaGlass Carousel, is today, and that led to the founding of the Battery Conservancy, which partners with the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation to administer the area. The next phase of development came in the early 2000s, when the Battery Conservancy commissioned a horticultural master plan to supplement the general master plan. The team included WXY architecture + urban design, Starr Whitehouse Landscape Architects and Planners, and Dutch designer Piet Oudolf. During that process, as Pew described it, the designers realized that the eastern edge of the park was dark at night and lacked a focal point. The Carousel was proposed to provide a light-filled center. The idea of having fish rather than horses as the animals came out of a desire to honor the Battery’s maritime location and importance. Despite the building’s small size, its design and construction were far from straightforward. Clients and architects were determined that the building should be a part of the carousel experience rather than simply a roof covering the main attraction. The structure repeats the nautilus shell motif that runs through the Battery, including in the fountain to the west. The design of the ride itself is a collaboration between WXY and artist George Tsypin, whose other credits include the Broadway set of The Little Mermaid and artistic direction of the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games opening ceremony. Rather than have all the fish move in a regular circle, as in a traditional carousel, Tsypin wanted to approximate as closely as possible the experience of a shoal of fish. To that end, Tsypin and WXY placed three small rotating platforms on top of the main rotating platform. Most of the fish are on these small platforms, and thus move in small circles while circumnavigating the room on the large platform. The fish are also on retractable poles that allow them to move up and down. These poles contain electric and electronic wiring that controls each fish’s motion down to a fraction of an inch. (For those, like this author, who are skeptical of moving in many directions at once, there are also fixed fish that only move in the traditional large circle.) To prevent collisions, WXY made an animation of the ride and then analyzed stop-motion frames. The entire design and construction process of the Carousel took nearly a decade. Layng described how, at every step of the way, the Battery Conservancy pushed the designers to maintain the ride’s intricacy and elegance while making it safe and functional. Hurricane Sandy flooded almost all of the Battery, but the Carousel is on a slight elevation, and water stopped about 20 feet short of its foundation. At that time, no wall or roof had been constructed, and any flooding to the Carousel would probably have destroyed the exposed mechanism. Sandy, along with a bankrupt subcontractor, nevertheless added about a year to the construction process – the last details of lighting and sound were completed a day before the Carousel’s opening in 2015. But now that the fish swim merrily in their elegant tank, the SeaGlass Carousel fulfills both of its goals: providing joy to carousel riders and lighting up a previously dark corner of one of New York’s oldest public spaces. Join Archtober tomorrow at the Modulightor Building!
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Reflection zone

African Burial Ground memorial and mixed-use development approved for Harlem
While completing work on the Willis Avenue Bridge in East Harlem in the early 2000s, an unexpected discovery was made. A building adjacent to the bridge – a bus depot operated by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) – seemed to have been built on top of a colonial-era African burial ground. In 2011, the MTA hired a consultant to complete a formal archaeological study (Phase 1A), which found that the depot grounds had indeed been an active burial site from the late 1660s to at least 1856. In 2015, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) completed a Phase 1B archaeological assessment and the depot was shut down, its operations relocated offsite. The nearby Elmendorf Reformed Church – a descendant church of the burial ground – were involved in the extraction of more than 140 bone fragments from the site, which will be preserved and reinterred within a memorial. As the MTA and NYCEDC discovered, the site had been the cemetery for descendants of Africans in the colonial era when the neighborhood was a Dutch settlement called Nieuw Haarlem. An adjacent cemetery for white parishioners was relocated to the Bronx when its attendant church moved, but the ground holding the Africans' remains was repeatedly resold and developed over, its history obscured and desecrated. Yesterday New York City Council approved a zoning application giving developers the go-ahead to construct a memorial at the historic burial ground, as well as a mixed-use housing and commercial complex including about 730 residential units, 80 percent of which will be made affordable. Before development begins, additional archaeological work will be conducted by the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPS), supervised by the Harlem African Burial Ground Task Force (HABGTF), which has advocated for the site's formal recognition since 2009. The development, intended to be about two-thirds residential and one-third commercial, will center itself around the outdoor burial ground memorial and include up to 15,000 square feet of indoor memorial or cultural center space. The memorial itself will be allocated about 18,000 square feet, a wedge-shaped area near First Avenue. The overall site will span the entire city block. In the HABGTF's original design proposals for the memorial, the names of the deceased are carved into walls of black granite surrounding a reflecting pool with its ripples illuminated onto the ceiling by internal light fixtures. Reverend Doctor Patricia A. Singletary of the Elmendorf Reformed Church managed to find the names in the church's records. The promenade, also etched with quotes from black luminaries like Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King, Jr., can double as a presentation space for guest lectures "pertinent to the site's history and larger issues concerning the legacy of slavery and colonization." The memorial corridor, lined with bronze sculptural reliefs depicting scenes of slavery and Native Americans, extends out onto an open, public lawn dotted with fiber optic lights that illuminate the grasses at night. The NYCEDC plans to issue an RFP for development proposals for the site in 2018, with the final team selected in late 2018 or early 2019. The site is scheduled for construction on a tentative timeline from 2020 to 2023.
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Hot BODs

AN will bring you a building every day for Archtober 2017
Get ready New York City, the month of Archtober is almost upon us. While October heralds the return of chunky knits and PSLs, New York City's architecture and design community knows that the tenth month of the year is really Archtober, AIA New York's celebration of the built environment. In collaboration with the city's cultural institutions, Archtober (also known as Architecture and Design Month) fosters awareness of architecture's role in everyday life through exhibitions, conferences, films, lectures, and the Building of the Day tours – architect-led visits to the city's best-loved structures and landscapes. The first site this year is the Woolworth Tower Residences, apartments by SLCE Architects in Cass Gilbert's classic neo-Gothic skyscraper. In partnership with AIA New York, The Architect's Newspaper (AN) is pleased to be the one-and-only source for Building of the Day blogs. For all of October, we'll bring you on-the-ground stories and tour highlights, so you can ride on WXY's SeaGlass Carousel, step inside LOT-EK's shipping container Carroll House, or explore Paul Rudolph's Modulightor Building, all without leaving your office. But if you do decide to leave (and you should), tickets for all tours are now available at the Archtober website. Here is the complete schedule:
Oct. 1 The Woolworth Tower Residences Architect: Cass Gilbert (the Woolworth Building's original architect); SLCE Architects (Woolworth Tower Residences architect of record): SLCE Architects; The Office of Thierry W. Despont (interior design) Oct. 2 Empire Stores Architect: S9Architecture Oct. 3 Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farm Architect: Bromley Caldari Architects Oct. 4 The Noguchi Museum Architect: Isamu Noguchi and Shoji Sadao (original architects); Sage and Coombe Architects (rneovation architect) Oct. 5 SeaGlass Carousel Architect: WXY architecture + urban design Oct. 6 Modulightor Building Architect: Paul Rudolph Oct. 7 Cary Leeds Center for Tennis & Learning Architect: GLUCK+ Oct. 8 Project Farmhouse Architect: ORE Design Oct. 9 The Residences at PS186 & Boys and Girls Club of Harlem Architect: Dattner Architects Oct. 10 Naval Cemetery Landscape Architect: Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects Oct. 11 Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine Architect: Heins & LaFarge/Cram & Ferguson (1899) Oct. 12 Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House Architect: Cass Gilbert Oct. 13 New Lab, Brooklyn Navy Yard Architect: Marvel Architects Oct. 14 Open House New York Weekend Oct. 15 Open House New York Weekend Oct. 16 iHeartMedia Architect: A+I with Beneville Studios Oct. 17 56 Leonard Street Architect: Herzog & De Meuron Oct. 18 Staten Island Courthouse, St. George Architect: Ennead Architects Oct. 19 Carroll House Architect: LOT-EK Oct. 20 Columbia University – Lenfest Center for the Arts Architect: Renzo Piano Building Workshop (design architect); Davis Brody Bond (executive architect); Body-Lawson Associates (associate architect) Oct. 21 Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) Architect: Maya Lin Studio (Designer); Bialosky + Partners Architects Oct. 22 Freshkills Park Architect: NYC Parks/James Corner Field Operations Oct. 23 The George Washington Bridge Bus Station Architect: STV – Program Architect/Architect of Record/Design Architect for Retail Development; PANYNJ Architectural Unit – Design Architect for Bus Station Oct. 24 Governors Island – The Hills Architect: West 8 Urban Design & Landscape Architecture Oct. 25 Bronx River House Architect: Kiss + Cathcart, Architects Oct. 26 ISSUE Project Room Architect: McKim, Mead & White (original architect); Conversion to ISSUE Project Room: WORKac in collaboration with ARUP (ongoing) Oct. 27 Downtown Brooklyn Cultural District Architect: TEN Arquitectos Oct. 28 Morris Jumel Mansion Architect: Original Architect Unknown Oct. 29 Roy and Diana Vagelos Education Center Architect: Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Gensler Oct. 30 Cornell Tech Architect: Handel Architects; Morphosis; WEISS/MANFREDI Architecture/Landscape/Urbanism Oct. 31 The William Vale Hotel Architect: Albo Liberis
If your number-one-can't-miss tour is sold out, don't despair: There are more than enough events for everyone. Archtober has a new series called Workplace Wednesdays where firms like SHoP, Snøhetta, and others will open up their offices to ticketed members of the public for workshops, presentations, and talks. On October 29, AN Contributing Editor Sam Lubell will give a talk on Never Built New York, the exhibition he co-curated at the Queens Museum.
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Bye Bye?

Future uncertain for rare public landscape by A.E. Bye in Brooklyn

Brooklyn's first park may be getting a new entrance that some say would open up the green space to the neighborhood. But opponents contend that the renovation would erase significant historic fabric, including a rare public commission by the late modern landscape architect Arthur Edwin (A.E.) Bye, Jr.

In light of divided public testimony, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) postponed a vote last week on a Parks Department plan to redesign a main entrance at Brooklyn’s Fort Greene Park. The renovation would eliminate one of the few public works by the eminent 20th-century landscape architect, following a trend in New York City park design that opens park edges to the streets. The agency's proposal has been gaining momentum since earlier this year, but those who came to speak at the September 19 hearing cleaved on whether Bye's landscape should be demolished to make way for the new entrance. According to the Parks Department, the proposed changes would align with an unrealized design by McKim, Mead & White.

For those who don't know, Fort Greene Park is a beloved 30-acre expanse in the northern corner of Fort Greene, a gentrified neighborhood near downtown Brooklyn. On a recent late summer day, children jumped around on play fortresses in the Revolutionary War–inspired playground, installed in the 1990s, while joggers cut paths around the hill to the Prison Ship Martyrs' Monument, McKim, Mead & White's towering memorial to the thousands of people who died aboard British ships in New York during the Revolutionary War (the remains are interred in a crypt below the structure). But the firm wasn't the first notable architect to work on the park.

The area, once the site of a military fort from which the neighborhood takes its name, has been in use as a recreation space since 1848. But the state waited around 20 years after its founding to bring on Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux to convert the decommissioned fort into a proper city park. As in Central Park and nearby Prospect Park (which both opened more than two decades after Fort Greene Park), the duo cut closely-planted, wending walkways through a rural landscape, with paths offering views of great grassy lawns. The designers planned a main entrance at the northwest corner that opened onto an open space for public gatherings.

Since then, amid minor tweaks and changes, the park has undergone three partial redesigns by leading landscape architects. Though unmistakably of their eras, all of these redesigns pay homage to Olmsted and Vaux's original design and reveal the layered histories that characterize New York City parks of this vintage.

McKim, Mead & White led the first major revamp in the early 1900s, adding formal and classical elements to the park. The firm re-imagined the lead-up to the crypt with a palatial set of granite stairs cut into the hillside that allowed access to the crypt and the monument, cutting an axis through Olmsted and Vaux's gathering meadow.

More than a century later, Robert Moses's landscape architect, Gilmore D. Clarke, together with his partner Michael Rapuano, applied their experience designing parkways in Westchester County, New York, to the landscape. The pair regraded the terrain, replaced winding paths with straight promenades, and erected a stone wall around the park perimeter while programming more space for recreation. Their 1930s interventions strengthened the McKim, Mead & White axis.

Around 40 years after that, in the early 1970s, A.E. Bye built upon the work of his predecessors with a characteristically spare series of mounds that lead up to the steps of the monument at the top of the park's highest hill. Though it's not as obviously modern as a Dan Kiley or a Lawrence Halprin landscape, Bye's work near Fort Greene Park's northwest edge is undoubtedly modernist in its approach and execution—his design vocabulary of cobblestones, grass, and urban street trees drew on existing plant life and the city's natural systems. It's also the latest work of modern landscape architecture in New York City to be threatened with removal.

Bye's stone and earth mounds may look like leftovers from another project, but they typify the landscape architect’s work, which is often so subtle that it goes unnoticed at first. Obsessed with light and shadow, Bye would watch precipitation slide off the land, move earth around, observe the ground, and move more soil until he could get snowfall to settle in the lees of his hills in accordance with the patterns he wanted. His 1971 Brooklyn work, in the lead-up to McKim, Mead & White's stairs, references the graves of the war prisoners buried in the Prison Ship Martyrs' Monument. Its Brutalist forms are close cousins to children's playscapes of the era, most notably Richard Dattner's adventure playgrounds (Dattner and Bye were Cooper Union colleagues.)

Now, the Parks Department is planning to replace Bye's and part of his predecessors' work with a new, more open entrance as part of Parks Without Borders, the agency's initiative to rethink the edge conditions of New York City greenswards.

The plan started in May 2016 with a $10.5 million grant from Parks Without Borders, with around $7 million of those funds going to the contested entrance redesign. That initiative, spearheaded by Parks Department Commissioner Mitchell Silver, gives grants for improvements to parks selected by area residents. The money goes towards revamping entrances and park-adjacent spaces by taking down fencing that some see as imposing, or adding plantings to visually (and some say, symbolically) open up parks to the public they serve. The Fort Greene Park Conservancy, the nonprofit that stewards the park, successfully applied for a grant to re-do the northwest entrance. The current proposal would eliminate part of Clarke's wall and all of Bye's landscape.

The Parks Without Borders project area is almost four acres, and plans call for replacing the mounds with flat paving flanked by an allée to soften the space. In the schematic drawing, the entrance facing the monument is 45 feet wide, as opposed to the original concept drawings, which depicted a 75-foot-wide entrance. A circular paved space in the park would be updated with a water feature surrounded by plantings and benches. The redesign would add two ten-foot-wide ADA-compliant ramps on St. Edwards Street and Myrtle Avenue—illustrated by a Drake meme in the renderings.

Bye is best known for his minimal, sculptural landscapes, found mostly on the gated estates of the East Coast elite and suburban corporate campuses. He designed gardens for George Soros' homes in New York and Connecticut, as well as for Leonard and Evelyn Lauder. Bye didn’t do as much urban work, but in New York, his early work could be seen at the Water Street POPS, a privately-owned but publicly accessible plaza at 77 Water Street with stylized geometric stream wending towards the East River. 

Archival plans for Bye’s designs are co-credited to Berman, Roberts & Scofidio, Ricardo Scofidio's firm before he and Elizabeth Diller founded what is now DS+R.

“Ed wasn’t much of a drawer,” Scofidio said, referring to Bye by his nickname. He didn't design in plan. Instead, Bye used self-designed stamps of trees to create planting schemes, or he worked on-site, moving earth to realize his designs. This hands-on approach didn’t mesh with the city bureaucracy, Scofidio said, so his firm at the time did drawings for city approval that showed how Bye would remove concrete paving, add 16 trees to the plaza, and install a lawn surrounded by earthen mounds. Pictures from the 1970s show the mounds edged by concrete and wood benches that faced outward from their anchors. 

Scofidio noted that his other partners were more involved in Fort Greene Park than he was. Attempts to contact John Roberts, the firm's other surviving member, were unsuccessful. It's likely, though, that Bye's mounds in Fort Greene were developed under a Parks Department program championed by former mayor John Lindsay that hired noted landscape architects to inject new life into aging city parks. 

To learn more about Bye and his public work, The Architect's Newspaper (AN) reached out to Thaisa Way, an urban landscape historian at the University of Washington, Seattle and the author of a forthcoming book on Bye.

“Normally the work he does in natural materials like soil is done here in stone,” Way said.

She strongly disputed the Parks Department’s assertion that Bye’s mounds are incongruous with Fort Greene Park's overall appearance—his practice was tied too closely to architecture to ignore the work of designers who came before him.

Though Bye was offered teaching positions at prestigious landscape architecture schools, he preferred to teach architects. Way pointed out that for almost a decade, Bye taught at Cooper Union under then-Dean John Hejduk, whose design of Wall House 2 (also known as the A.E. Bye House) bears Bye's influence, since it was the only design by the paper architect that featured a site. From 1951 through the mid-1960s, pretty much every architect-in-training at Cooper—including Scofidio, a former student and later colleague—took a course with Bye, and for years afterward Bye co-taught site-planning courses for architects at the school. Moreover, before he started teaching, Bye worked briefly for Clarke and Rapuano, a relationship that suggests he was familiar with the firm's approach to public projects. 

To Way, Bye’s considered, subtle approach to topography and materials offered a spatial richness that knit together urban spaces in a way that few designers can or could. Bye's role at Cooper bridged a gap between architecture and landscape, a gap that still dogs the profession today. "In our design education, architects are educated on one side of the building and landscape architects are on the other," said Way. "We end up with cities where there might be a beautiful building, but it's set awkwardly in the site, or we have a beautiful landscape, like the High Line, with buildings that just want to grab a view. We don't do a very good job of integration: How do you make the urban landscape inclusive of the buildings, the parks, sidewalks, the streets in a way that adds delight and pleasure and efficiency? How do you see spatially, and not just scenographically?”

On any nice day at Fort Greene Park, there are people lounging on Bye's mounds, stretching after a run up the steps, or lying down, staring up at the trees. The mini-landscape is a raised stage for dance performances, a subtle modern lead-up to McKim, Mead & White's rigidly formal classical monument.

In spite of this, the Parks Department wants to remove all of Bye’s work, citing accessibility concerns. The mounds are lined with uneven cobblestones, and their grade is too steep for wheelchair users and others with mobility impairments to access. The agency’s preliminary renderings show a grand entry at the corner of Myrtle Avenue and St. Edwards Street that replaces the mounds with a flat plaza, pictured above. The project's website states that the design phase is 30 percent complete,  and construction is expected to begin between spring and fall of 2019. (The rebuild will be done in phases to keep the Myrtle Avenue entrance open throughout construction.) In July, at a meeting of Brooklyn Community Board 2 (CB2), residents came out in force against the proposed changes, but at a meeting two weeks ago, Brooklyn Paper reported that CB2 voted unanimously in favor of the Parks Department plan, with one abstention and one recusal.

In order to advance, the redo needs a green light from the community board and Landmarks (the park was designated as part of the Fort Greene Historic District in 1978). Curiously, the designation report doesn't mention any design updates past the early 20th century, so Clarke's substantial work goes unmentioned. Bye's work, completed seven years before designation, isn't mentioned at all.

Now that the landscape is over 40 years old, a decade past the lower cutoff for landmarks consideration, there is growing concern that modernist landscape design is disappearing from New York City parks and public spaces. What is the motivation, then, for dramatically altering a park that some say is working just fine?

The park is a thick dividing line between wealthy and poor Fort Greene. The entrance in question, on Myrtle Avenue, faces a superblock of public housing complexes; its mostly black and Latino residents frequent the park's north side. Although there new luxury apartments popping up around the Myrtle Avenue corridor, that side of the park closes at 9 p.m., while the southern border at DeKalb Avenue, which faces a stately row of brownstones, closes at 1 a.m.

In 2000, there were almost 35,000 black residents of Fort Greene, or 65 percent of the population. The 2010 census found that black people now make up only 47 percent of the population, while the white population spiked from 18 to 36 percent of the neighborhood. The 18 percent decrease in the black population is 4.5 times greater than the borough average, and nine times greater than the city as a whole. 

Despite real estate pressures and divergent opinions over the importance of Bye's design, stakeholders do agree that the park is in need of ADA-compliant upgrades, like handrails and curb cuts, new lighting, enhanced active recreation areas, including a new basketball court, as well as some T.L.C. for cracked walkways and lawns eroded by overuse.

To prepare for the revamp, the Parks Department held a design visioning session in February 2017 at the Ingersoll Houses, one of the public housing complexes across from the park. At that meeting, The Brooklyn Paper reports, the agency presented two plans (one had more trees) and some residents expressed concern that the plans were too similar, leading them to believe the design was "fait accompli." At that same meeting, the paper reported that Parks believed that keeping A.E. Bye's mounds for preservation's sake was ill-advised, as the work doesn't match Olmsted and Vaux's vision. The Parks Department said it didn't know why Bye added his mounds.

At last week's Landmarks meeting, though, the commissioners’ discussion focused on the historic issues that the LPC is supposed to weigh in on and deferred any discussion of more urbanistic concerns, such as whether the proposal included enough green space. In addition to representatives from three nonprofits and one landscape architect who specializes in modern landscape preservation, six community members came out to testify against the plan, and four, including one CB2 member and two individuals from the Fort Greene Park Conservancy came out in support of modifying Bye's work. Opinions on the mounds contrasted sharply.

Testimony from urbanists at the City Club of New York, preservation advocacy groups Historic Districts Council (HDC), and Society for the Architecture of the City implied that Parks had cherry-picked historical examples to support its design vision. Christabel Gough, secretary of the Society for the Architecture of the City, suggested the open, monumental Parks Department renders are “more reminiscent of Mussolini’s Rome than Olmsted," while Patrick Waldo of HDC critiqued the Parks Department plan for gesturing to a never-realized McKim, Mead & White scheme instead of actual history. Waldo argued that returning sites to some halcyon “original” was contrary to the intent of contemporary preservation practice. 

Landscape architect and preservation consultant Michael Gotkin framed Bye’s mounds as a homage to Olmsted that had to be considered in his era to be fully understood. “In the 1970s, this was their approach to preservation,” Gotkin said. Claiming that Olmsted would have wanted visitors to enter on an axis, as the Parks Department did, was a false assumption; on the contrary, Olmsted's entrances were oblique and visitors were encouraged to discover the access. It would be a mistake to return the park to some way it never was. (The Parks Department diagram that illustrates this argument is laid out on page 33 of its plan.)

Echoing Gotkin’s testimony, Commissioner Adi Shamir-Baron said entering the park from the corner was “antithetical” to previous design approaches, but Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan didn’t quite agree. The commission "doesn't have to reject something because it wasn’t historically here,” she said.

“This is one of the most interesting and difficult decisions I’ve ever had to make,” said Commissioner Frederick Bland. 

In light of the conflicting testimony, especially around Bye's work, the commission decided to hold off on a vote. An LPC spokesperson said that once the commission receives a revised design from the Parks Department, it will schedule the item for another public hearing.

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beats haven

Hip-hop museum and affordable housing complex to rise in the South Bronx
Last Friday, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), along with the Departments of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and Parks and Recreation (DPR), announced a massive new project in the South Bronx spearheaded by L+M Development Partners. Dubbed Bronx Point, the project is located on city-owned land on the waterfront of the Harlem River, and will include about 600 units of affordable housing in phase one (1,045 units total) as well as the nation's first brick-and-mortar hip-hop museum, officially called the Universal Hip Hop Museum. Among the founding members of the museum are recording legends Kurtis Blow and Rocky Bucano; its cultural ambassadors include Big Daddy Kane, Rakim, LL Cool J, and many other recognizable names. Law and Order: SVU's Ice T is on the board of directors. Executive Director Rocky Bucano said the museum's goal was to bring "hip-hop back to the Bronx where it originated from [...] it's gonna be a complete history of hip-hop." The site of Bronx Point is located adjacent to the 149th Street corridor, making it very transit-accessible. Additional plans for the property include a public multiplex theater, a waterfront esplanade extending to Mill Pond Park, an outdoor performance space, an incubator for small food vendors, and educational spaces in partnership with established organizations like Billion Oyster Project, City Science, and BronxWorks. The project is projected to produce over 100 new jobs (and 915 temporary jobs during its construction) during phase one alone. It also aims to incorporate sustainable building practices for LEED Gold certification. Once approved, phase one is slated for completion in 2022. The proposal for Bronx Point has entered the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) with the support of Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Community Board 4 District Manager Paul A. Philps, and the City Planning Commission ... not to mention Detective Tutuola.
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In the Zone

A tale of two flood zones: NYC nabes rezoned for new building and buy-outs
Two New York City neighborhoods heavily affected by Hurricane Sandy received City Council go-ahead for two new (and very different) rezoning plans last Thursday, September 7. The first was the approval of Mayor Bill de Blasio administration's proposed rezoning of Far Rockaway, a historically under-served coastal neighborhood. This is the neighborhood's first rezoning since 1961. The plan committed around $288 million to commercial development, public amenities, schools, and affordable housing in the downtown area. This includes more than 1,000 affordable housing units, 250,000 square feet of commercial space to attract new businesses and jobs, the neighborhood's first new library since 1976, and its first new park since 1960, according to local City Council member Donovan Richards. Additional funds will renovate and build new parks as well as improve open space at the public housing complex. This development plan is the result of two years of community engagement. For Staten Island's East Shore, the City Council approved the creation of a new Special Coastal Risk District. This plan, a response to flood vulnerability, will buy out two swaths of land – including parts of the Oakwood Beach, Graham Beach, and Ocean Breeze neighborhoods – and tightly restrict future development. Any land re-use will be restricted to the creation of open space. The goal of creating the Coastal Risk District is to form a storm surge barrier between the coast and developed areas. Of the 10 neighborhoods identified by the Bloomberg administration for rezoning after Sandy, the Staten Island's East Shore is one of only three neighborhoods that has advanced to City Council with an actual proposal addressing flood risk. In the plan, homeowners in the two areas of the Coastal Risk District will be offered a voluntary buyout of their homes at pre-storm values, and those who choose not to participate will be very limited in how they rebuild their homes. Those in affected areas now face the question: continue on living in a designated flood zones under the new, restrictive ordinances, or move to a more secure inland location but lose their home? For many, this is not an easy choice, and voluntary retreat is disproportionately skewed to affect low- and middle-income households. As New York approaches the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Sandy and watches Houston and Miami begin the process of recovering from Harvey and Irma, it's clear that the need to build resilient cities is more urgent than ever.
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Killing It

James Corner Field Operations' Freshkills Park moves closer to realization
James Corner Field Operations' plans for Freshkills Park in Staten Island inched closer to fruition this week after New York City authorities awarded a $23 million contract to Lomma Construction Corporation to carry out the first phase. Occupying what was once the Fresh Kills Landfill site on Staten Island, the North Park will cover 21 acres and be open by 2020. In an email to The Architect's Newspaper (AN), a spokesperson for NYC Parks said that North Park had been identified as an area for simple recreational facilities, vast natural settings, meadows, wetlands, and creeks. "It is envisioned as a lightly programmed natural area connecting with Schmul Park in the Travis neighborhood, extending the rich habitat provided in the adjacent William T. Davis Wildlife Refuge, and capitalizing on one of the quietest and most sheltered areas of Fresh Kills," they said. Inside visitors will be able to find an observation tower from which they can look over the Arthur Kill River and watch birdlife on the marshes. When complete, Freshkills Park will be 2,200 acres—almost three times bigger than Central Park, second only to Pelham Bay Park. It will be the largest park built in New York City since the 19th century. 450 of its acres will be wetland. The Phase One work will also mean that come 2020, the public will be able to use broad pathways, "secondary paths," a seven-acre seed farm, a forested plateau, a composting comfort station (i.e. a composting public bathroom), a picnic lawn, a waterfront overlook deck, a bird observation tower, and a bicycle repair station. A parking lot for 67 spaces will also be included. Some areas of the park are now open to the public, though only during certain times of the year. According to DNAInfo, two parks connected to Freshkills have already been completed: the Richmond Avenue greenway and one entrance to North Park, Schmul Park.

Authorities expect the whole of Freshkills Park to be fully open by 2036. More information can be found on the park's website, here.