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AN Exclusive

NYC Public Design Commission announces Excellence in Design award winners
Today Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Public Design Commission (PDC) announced this year's winners of the commission's annual Awards for Excellence in Design. “These thoughtful and innovative designs support the de Blasio administration’s commitment to providing quality, equitable, and resilient public spaces to all New Yorkers. By utilizing good design principles, these projects will provide the public with increased access to the waterfront, open spaces and parks; improved places for play and community gatherings; and inspiring artworks,” said PDC president Signe Nielsen, co-founding principal of Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects, in a statement. Justin Garrett Moore, adjunct associate professor of architecture at Columbia University and the commission's executive director, added: "Part of what makes our city great is the quality of our public realm and the creativity and ingenuity found in our design community and city agencies. These award-winning projects range from new technologies to improved neighborhood parks and public artwork. They show that design excellence is an important part of New York's leadership in promoting innovation, sustainability, and equity in cities." For the past 34 years, the PDC, New York's review board for public architecture and design, honors well-designed projects at all scales across the city. This year, honorees include James Corner Field Operations' and Diller Scofidio + Renfro's (DS+R) High Line spur, which will connect the celebrated park to Hudson Yards, as well as Bjarke Ingels Group's (BIG) police station in the Bronx, which The Architect's Newspaper (AN), revealed earlier this year. On the smaller side, the commission honored LinkNYC, the public information kiosks that until recently helped New Yorkers watch porn, and the FDNY's anti-idling ambulance pedals, devices that help reduce emissions from emergency vehicles out on call. See the ten winning projects (and two specially recognized) below. All quotes courtesy the NYC Mayor's Office: 2016 WINNERS: 40th Police Precinct BIG and Starr Whitehouse East 149th Street and St. Ann’s Avenue, Bronx Agencies: the Department of Design and Construction (DDC), and the New York City Police Department See AN's exclusive coverage of the 40th Precinct here. Waterfront Nature Walk by George Trakas George Trakas and Quennell Rothschild & Partners Newtown Creek Water Pollution Control Plant, 329 Greenpoint Avenue, Brooklyn Agencies: Department of Cultural Affairs’ (DCA) Percent for Art Program, DDC, and the Department of Environmental Protection "The Waterfront Nature Walk revives a long-inaccessible industrial shoreline for public use as a waterfront promenade and kayak launch. This project expands the artist’s conceptual focus from the local histories to ruminations on a broader history of ecology and human existence." Van Name Van Pelt Plaza/Richmond Terrace Wetlands Department of Parks & Recreation (NYC Parks) (in-house design) Richmond Terrace between Van Pelt Street and Van Name Street, Staten Island Agencies: NYC Parks and the Department of Transportation (DOT) "The Van Name Van Pelt Plaza/Richmond Terrace Wetlands a gathering space that can be programmed for educational use and features engraved maps that describe the evolution of the island in relation to the waterway. Woody understory and herbaceous planting in the wetland park increase shoreline resilience. The design prioritizes public access to the waterfront while preserving the wetlands and enhancing avian habitat." Luminescence by Nobuho Nagasawa Nobuho Nagasawa, Thomas Balsley Associates, Weiss/Manfredi Architects The Peninsula, Hunter’s Point South Waterfront Park, 54th Avenue, Center Boulevard, 55th Avenue, and the East River, Queens Agencies: New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and NYC Parks "Luminescence consists of seven sculptures, all of which are both beautiful and educational. A phosphorescent material integrated into the surface of each domed shape absorbs sunlight during the day and illuminates the phases of the moon at night with a soft blue glow. Additionally, the concrete and aggregate sculptures are etched with the moon’s pattern of craters, mountains, and valleys." Dock 72 S9 Architecture and MPFP Brooklyn Navy Yard, Brooklyn Agencies and firms: Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation, the Boston Properties, Rudin Development, and WeWork See AN's coverage of Dock 72 here. The High Line Park Passage and Spur JCFO, DS+R, and Piet Oudolf West 30th Street between 10th Avenue and 11th Avenue, Manhattan Agencies and nonprofits: NYC Parks, NYCEDC, and Friends of the High Line "The Spur is envisioned as a piazza with amphitheater-like seating steps that surround a central plinth for a rotating art program. The Passage and Spur will offer expansive views, dense woodland plantings, ample public seating, and a large open space for public programming, as well as public bathrooms for High Line visitors." Snug Harbor Cultural Center Music Hall Addition Studio Joseph and SCAPE/Landscape Architecture 1000 Richmond Terrace, Staten Island Agencies and nonprofits: DDC, NYC Parks, DCA, and the Snug Harbor Cultural Center "Outside the public entrance of the Snug Harbor Cultural Center Music Hall Addition, a landscaped courtyard and lawn provides flexible space for the Music Hall and Snug Harbor campus. This project will reinvigorate the historic theater, enhancing programmatic opportunities and operational efficiency that enable this cultural gem to put on its distinctive performances." SoHo Square Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects Sixth Avenue between Spring Street and Broome Street, Manhattan Agencies and BID: DOT, NYC Parks, and the Hudson Square Connection Business Improvement District "The renovation of SoHo Square, an under-utilized open space, will establish a distinct gateway to the thriving hub of Hudson Square. A central focal point at the mid-block crossing will be anchored by the relocated statue of General José Artigas (1987) by José Luis Zorrilla de San Martín, which will be conserved as part of the project." Anti-idling Ambulance Pedestals Ignacio Ciocchini and MOVE Systems Citywide Agency: Fire Department of the City of New York "The anti-idling ambulance pedestals will reduce ambulance vehicle emissions without disrupting the Fire Department’s critical emergency operations. By plugging into these curbside pedestals, EMTs can safely shut off their engines while keeping their communication systems live and temperature-sensitive medicines refrigerated. This smart industrial design improves neighborhood air quality and ensures that the City’s ambulances are ready to respond to emergencies at a moment’s notice." LinkNYC CityBridge (Antenna Design, Intersection, Qualcomm, and CIVIQ Smartscapes) Citywide Agency: Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications See AN's coverage of LinkNYC here. SPECIAL RECOGNITION FOR COMPLETED PROJECTS: Parks Without Borders NYC Parks (in-house) Citywide Agency: NYC Parks See AN's coverage of Parks Without Borders here and here. Community Parks Initiative NYC Parks (in-house); dlandstudio; Hargreaves Associates; Mathews Nielsen; MKW Landscape Architecture; Nancy Owens Studio; Prospect Park Alliance; Quennell Rothschild & Partners; Sage and Coombe Architects Citywide Agency: NYC Parks See AN's coverage of the Community Parks Initiative here.
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Where Oh Where Will My BQX Go?

NYC unveils possible routes for Brooklyn-Queens streetcar
This week the City of New York unveiled potential routes for the Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX), the $2.5 billion streetcar line that could connect East River–adjacent neighborhoods in Queens and Brooklyn. A key goal of the BQX is to deliver reliable public transportation to the waterfront, where many residents a half-mile or more walk separates many residents from the subway. In May, a representative for engineering firm Sam Schwartz, the streetcar's transportation consultant, said that available maps are “very and deliberately vague description of the route” because city agencies, in collaboration with Friends of the Brooklyn Queens Connector [sic], the project's nonprofit spearhead, were still hammering out exact routes. After months of anticipation, these routes are out for public review. Maps released by the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and the city's Department of Transportation (DOT) show potential routes for the 16-mile line, which is set to open in 2024. The BQX maps are both descriptive and ideative. Williamsburg's Berry Street could be turned into a streetcar- and pedestrian-only thoroughfare—like Downtown Brooklyn's bus-only Fulton Mall, only sexier, because buses. On the other hand, new crossings over the Gowanus Canal and Newtown Creek could raise project costs, though this wouldn't impact (state-led) MTA projects like the Second Avenue subway because the BQX is financed by local government and speculatively by a projected rise in real estate value along the route. By New York City walking calculations, there is less-than-desirable pedestrian access for some proposed routes: Of the four streetcar scenarios in Astoria, Queens, two are more than ten blocks from the waterfront, a "transit-starved" area. Residents will have the opportunity to make their voices heard. Over the next few months, the city is soliciting feedback on the BQX routes at community boards in Brooklyn and Queens. Pending a successful environmental review, the project could break ground as early as 2019.
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Hunts Point

Former Bronx juvenile prison to become 740-unit affordable housing development
The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) have unveiled renderings for plans to redevelop a former Bronx juvenile prison into a mixed-use development centered on affordable housing. WXY architecture + urban design (WXY) are collaborating with Body Lawson Associates (BLA) to transform the notorious Spofford Juvenile Detention Center into The Peninsula, a $300 million project that will create 740 units of "100 percent" affordable housing. Along with typical deliverables—retail, community, and green space—for a project this size, the Peninsula will bring 49,000 square feet of light industrial space to the Hunts Point neighborhood. The project is one of many mixed-use complexes cropping up in the borough: In May, Mastermind Development broke ground on a $117.7 million project in East Tremont and FXFOWLE's La Central in Melrose is moving forward. The development team—Gilbane Development Company, Hudson Companies, and Mutual Housing Association of New York (MHANY)—was chosen through a 2015 request for expressions of interest (RFEI). The team is working with longtime neighborhood stakeholders like the Point CDC, BronxWorks, Casita Maria Center for Arts and Education, Urban Health Plan, Sustainable South Bronx, and others. In 2014 Majora Carter, the urban revitalization activist and founder/former executive director of Sustainable South Bronx, partnered with AutoDesk to imagine alternatives to the Spofford site, which operated as the Bridges Juvenile Center when it was shuttered by the city in 2011 over appalling conditions and inmate abuse. DNAinfo reports that a development team spearheaded by Carter was rejected in favor of the winning proposal. "The lack of diversity on the team chosen by NYCEDC to develop Spofford is not indicative of Mayor de Blasio’s much-publicized commitment to including minority businesses in the city’s contracting," Carter told DNAinfo. "Instead EDC selected a typical team composed exclusively of white men 'partnered' with uncompensated minority nonprofits to whom no transformative capital benefits will accrue." The five-building development is nevertheless coming online in three planned phases: Phase one is expected to be complete in 2021, with phase two coming online the year after, and the third and final phase set to open in 2024. In addition to providing housing, those facilities will host a business incubator, job training facilities, school space for pre-K (an on-site Head Start will be incorporated into the project) and higher ed, 52,000 square feet of open space, and an 18,000-square-foot health and wellness center operated by Urban Health Plan. Food is key to the Peninsula: According to the NYCEDC, in addition to a 15,000-square-foot supermarket, local favorites like Il Forno Bakery, Soul Snacks, Bascom Catering, and Hunts Point Brewing Company will be setting up shop in the development.
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Manhattan Transfer

Hudson River Park/Pier 40 deal reveals the tangled web of calculated collusion that shapes NYC
“Follow the money” is the immortal, if apocryphal, phrase uttered by Deep Throat, offering the key to unlocking the mysteries of Watergate. Understanding cities requires similar forensics. Urban morphology maps the flow of cash with concrete precision and the New York skyline is a literal bar graph of investment and return. The manufacture of real estate (what some quaintly refer to as “architecture”) is our leading industry and the art of the deal the epicenter of our creativity. Money not only talks, it designs and “planning” in most American cities is almost entirely devoted to refining the process of spatial arbitrage. There’s a project underway on the Manhattan waterfront that spins this tangled web with a remarkable combination of clarity and opacity, exposing the freakish calculated collusion of intentions and outcomes that shapes the city. The story begins in September 1985, when the death knell was sounded for Westway, a lunatic land manufacturing scheme to shove the Manhattan shoreline four hundred feet into the Hudson all the way from 40th Street to the Battery. Beneath this massive fill was to have been embedded an Interstate—the most expensive per mile ever constructed—replacing the terminally rusted West Side Highway. Planners were looking for the most extravagant scheme possible and were strongly supported by public officials (including Rockefeller, Koch, Cuomo the Elder, and Moynihan), the development community, and the construction unions. Visionary rhetoric and seductive greensward images notwithstanding, it was all about the money: The Feds would have picked up 90% of the $2.1 billion ($10 billion in today’s dollars) price-tag and the resulting 220 acres of new real estate—100 for a park and the rest a free-fire development zone—and would have been the most spectacular piece of physical fiscalization in the city’s history. But if the magnitude was singularly impressive, the impetus was widely shared. Cities all over the country had been committing urban suicide—ramming highways through their yielding tissues (often of color)—to get their hands on that government cash and New York—cresting in the Robert Moses era—had been an absolute champ. Westway was opposed by a coalition of environmentalists, mass transit advocates, community activists, and progressive pols but was finally killed by a Federal court ruling that its sponsors had failed to consider the landfill’s potentially adverse impact on the Hudson’s striped bass population. This narrowly-decided opinion nevertheless proved a turning point in the urban highway wars: In its aftermath, Bella Abzug–sponsored legislation allowed a trade-in of highway money for mass transit (to the great benefit of our subways, busses, and pedestrians) and other cities—from San Francisco to Seattle—began tearing down the waterfront highways, a continuing trend. Today, instead of Westway, we have a surface “boulevard” that—if billions cheaper, tree-lined, and lit by ornamental luminaires—is still too much of a surrender of this precious edge to traffic. Along the road’s waterside, though, runs the lovely, if incomplete, Hudson River Park which—while far from big enough to meet demand— offers great pleasures as it struggles towards durability and completion. Instrumentally, the park both reproduces and inverts the Westway principle. Westway proposed to use public funds simultaneously for public benefit (a highway and a park) and to create opportunities for the accumulation of private wealth, which would, in theory, yield further public return in the form of income from land sales and real estate taxes. The current park, on the other hand, although built substantially with public funds for public use, is not exactly a public work, inasmuch as it is obliged to finance its own future by directly attracting private capital. This parlous paradigm of the “public-private partnership” has, in our Republican age, become the default strategy for “public” development and has deeply embedded the culture of the trade-off (literal pay to play in the case of the park) in our civic life. The genius of progressive taxation for “general revenue” is that, in theory, it embodies that equitable proposition, “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” If the U.S. system is wildly distorted on both collection and distribution sides, ability and need are nominally meant to be determined democratically. Unfortunately, when democracy lurches towards plutocracy, the distortions on both ends grow to the inevitable detriment of public needs. As the system becomes more and more regressive, the question of public benefit is increasingly situated in the elective territory of philanthropy—optional altruism—rather than collective responsibility. A tax code designed to favor private fortunes (with the corollary commonweal reliant on trickle-down) begs the question of their public disposition: ceding this to individual interest, itself answerable to charity, guilt, avarice, deductibilty, and political power in varying degrees, depending on whether the fortune belongs to the Koch Brothers, Bill Gates, Andrew Carnegie, sundry Rockefellers and Fords, or the Clinton Foundation. The demonization of shared—“redistributed”—wealth is a trope as abiding as it is rank: one reason that Bernie was ultimately unsuccessful is our generalized hostility to high-tax. Scandinavian-style “welfare states” (every citizen a welfare king or queen!) and the sapping canard of the individual initiative-killing effects of “hand-outs” from big nanny. Even in “liberal” New York, we’ve long since internalized Trumpism as policy: Everything’s a deal. “Return” on public investment must not simply be quantifiable (gross municipal happiness anyone?) but literally monetized. This calculus undergirds the arcane systems of swaps and bonuses that radically territorialize and delimit our practices of urban planning and improvement, with the result that we now insist that virtually every public enterprise (save, of course, warfare—although Trump’s neo-imperialist, spoils-to-the-victor, proposals might bring this too under the umbrella of self-finance) demonstrably pay for itself. Thus, instead of public construction of housing we have inclusionary zoning, instead of public education we have charter schools and rising college tuition, and instead of public healthcare we have the confusions and insufficiencies of a rapacious marketplace. And, littering New York, we have those oxymoronic POPS—“privately owned public spaces”—a sad archipelago of plazas and lobbies (Trump Tower’s among them!), purchased in a currency of lost light, air, revenue, equity, and pride. Any trade begs the question of who gets the better of it. Are the view-blocking luxury apartments now built in its midst too high a price for the excellent Brooklyn Bridge Park? The conundrum lies less in the answer than the question, with its predicate in a fragmented, discontinuous, idea of public space. Its further, and all too legible, implication is that the location and quality of such spaces depend on their realization in places where they can graft values from already successful environments. Precisely because the investment is both self-serving and easily recouped in a rising gyre of adjoining real estate prices, private money pours into Central Park, those condos rise in Brooklyn, the High-Line flourishes, and Barry Diller wants to build a Fantasy Island on piles in the Hudson—just beyond the window his office—in the “undeveloped” waters between the piers of the park. Like Brooklyn Bridge Park, Hudson River Park is administered by a trust, a legal arrangement in which someone’s property—in this case New York City’s and New York State’s—is managed by someone else. The Hudson River Park Trust was created by the State Legislature in 1998—during the Pataki administration—and is nominally controlled by a thirteen-member board of directors, five appointed by the Governor, five by the Mayor, and three by the Manhattan Borough President. The Trust’s board, however, is backed by another larger and perhaps more important one: the self-perpetuating “Friends of Hudson River Park,” charged with fund-raising for on-going construction and maintenance and largely comprised of investment bankers and real estate types (as well as—for cultural leavening—Martha Stewart and David Chang, of Momofuku fame). Both boards are dominated by Madelyn Wils, the Trust’s President and CEO since 2011, a shrewd and well-connected operative with long executive service on the city’s Economic Development Corporation, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, and—as Chairman—Community Board One, in lower Manhattan. It has fallen to Wils to deal with fact that the park, legally obliged by the terms of the trust to self-finance, is stone-broke. Her duties thus include not simply supervising the operation of the park but, most crucially, fulfilling the Trust’s mandate to “ensure the park’s future financial self-sufficiency by developing the remaining commercial nodes.” These “nodes” include both the actively commercial piers under its control (the Chelsea Piers sports complex, the New York Waterway ferry terminal, the Intrepid Air and Space Museum, etc.) as well as the unrealized potential of other undeveloped piers (or deals for new ones like Diller’s island). Its largest such asset is the fifteen-acre Pier 40, former terminus of the Holland America line, which occupies a charismatic spot between Greenwich Village and Tribeca, west of burgeoning “Hudson Square,” an area recently rebranded and rezoned to incite development and supersede its industrial past by attracting “creative” and tech uses, luxury housing, and a froth of Portland-sur-Hudson amenities to go with. Pier 40 currently accounts for approximately 30% of the Trust’s revenue—mainly from parking nearly 2,000 cars (a truly idiotic use for one the city’s most wonderful sites)—but is crumbling and urgently needs extensive rehabilitation. It’s best known by locals for holding several large—and much beloved—playing fields in an area that is one of the most underserved with recreational space in the city. Cash must somehow be milked from this alpha cow. Thus, on her arrival, Wils and Board Chair Diana Taylor took control of the then moribund “friends,” loading it with wealthy donors. This move was not without turbulence, including the 2012 purge of uber-developer Douglas Durst (who did not go quietly), nominally over a fight about the Trust’s intention to build housing on Pier 40, which Durst thought might be more profitably exploited by something more commercial. Indeed, over the years, a variety of contentious schemes for the pier have been mooted, including construction of offices, housing, shopping malls, theme parks, a permanent home for Cirque du Soleil, more parking, the expansion of NYU, and other not-exactly-park-like uses. However, this being New York, the pier also offers possible monetization through the sale of its very lack of development: by cashing in on its air rights. The main impediment to this has been that New York’s air rights regulations restrict their transfer to another site within a single block or zoning lot, technically obliging the pier’s rights to be fully exploited on the pier itself. Re-enter the State Legislature. In 2013, the Hudson River Park Act was amended to permit the transfer of the park’s air rights (in toto around 1.5 million square feet) to “receiving sites” within a zone a block deep on the other side of West Street, the park’s landside boundary, running from 59th Street to Canal Street. This amendment was crucial both in establishing the park’s most potentially lucrative revenue stream and in enabling a particular deal already in the works between the Trust, the city, the state, and a consortium of developers (one of whom—Michael Novogratz—who subsequently and profitably sold his share—just happened to be the chair of the park’s “friends”): the transfer of 200,000 square feet of development rights to a site directly across West Street, now occupied by the ginormous, three-block-long, St. John’s Terminal Building, erstwhile end-point of the High Line (and, interestingly enough, with Bloomberg LC its major tenant). Throughout this multi-party negotiation, the key intermediary was the PR firm of James Capalino. Capalino is a long-time donor, fundraiser, bundler, and pal to Bill de Blasio who, in 2015, somehow made more money ($12.9 million) than any other lobbyist representing clients to the city. Capalino’s much in the news these days, implicated as the fixer in the lifting, by the city, of a deed restriction on the (now former) Rivington House AIDS Nursing Home on the Lower East Side, allowing it to be converted to upmarket condos. Capalino represented the building’s owner—VillageCare, a non-profit—which sold the building to the Allure Group, a for-profit nursing home company, which, with the restriction lifted, flipped the building to the Slate Property Group, realizing (per The Wall Street Journal), a profit of a cool $72 million. Capalino now works for the Chinese developer Dalian Wanda, itself a partner of China Vanke, part of the consortium that bought Rivington. At the end of August, de Blasio—although claiming to know nothing about the deed deal approved by his administration—cut his erstwhile fundraiser loose: “I have not been in touch with Mr. Capalino….I do not have contact with him anymore.” According to a timeline put together by the excellent Danielle Tcholakian of DNAinfo, Capalino e-mailed First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris in late January 2014 (just after the mayor’s inauguration) with a copy to Carl Weisbrod, who was himself appointed Commissioner of City Planning a week later! The e-mail: “Tony, for the past twelve months, my firm has been working with Madelyn Wils on a proposal to secure a $100 million contribution by our client, Atlas Capital, to the Hudson River Park Trust to fund the cost of rehabilitation/stabilizing Pier 40 for continued recreational use. We are in discussions to have the residential project over St. John’s Terminal become an ESD (Empire State Development) project through a State sponsored general project plan.” In fact, the Trust, the ESD, and the developer had already inked a secret Memorandum of Understanding in December of 2013 that fixed the scale of the project and the $100 million price for the enabling air rights. According to Crain’s, this had been signed-off on during the waning days of the Bloomberg administration by Robert Steel, the Deputy Mayor for Economic Development. Bloomberg (as well as Wils and Weisbrod) apparently also supported the use of the “general project plan” to be overseen by the ESD, a process which the developer was eagerly seeking (via copious lobbying by Capolino’s firm) as a means of circumventing the city’s more rigorous Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP), an end-run the developer believed could save many years (and bucks) in obtaining approvals. Negotiations between the state, city, Trust, and developer—lubricated by the continuing ministrations of Capalino—were proceeding briskly in camera until May of 2015 when the secret MOU became public. Consternation from Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer (“Shocked is an understatement for how we all felt”), Assembly Member Deborah Glick (a leader in the fight against building housing on the pier itself but also an original sponsor of the Albany transfer legislation, believing it the only hope for saving the pier), the media, and the public, resulted in an about-face by the de Blasio administration—with the immediate agreement of the developer (who clearly knew who his friends were)—to renounce the MOU and the General Project Plan route and to go through ULURP. ULURP—now nearing its conclusion—runs a statutory 200 days from the submission of the developer’s plans and Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). During ULURP, these are reviewed, successively, by the affected Community Board (CB2), the Borough President, the City Planning Commission (which is obliged to hold a public hearing and did so on August 26), by the City Council (which may hold a public hearing), and finally by the Mayor. The Community Board and the Borough President are authorized to make recommendations (including rejection) but these are entirely non-binding. The Planning Commission, the Council, and the Mayor have actual power but, in the case of this project, the Planning Commissioner, the ambitious local Council Member, Corey Johnson (who now has great power over the endgame), and the Mayor have long since come out in strong support of the deal and it’s unclear whether push-back from CB2, Borough President Brewer, a few members of the Planning Commission, and many in the community (including the energetic Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation which has been trying hard to use the deal to leverage its own struggle to preserve a large swathe of Greenwich Village just north of the site) will materially affect the final outcome. Indeed, their concerns had little impact on the Planning Commission which, on October 17, voted to approve the project without substantial modification. Since the proposed development departs radically from the site’s existing zoning, the Department of City Planning (a government agency that reports to the politically appointed City Planning Commission) prepared a revised zoning map to define a “Hudson River Park Special District” that could receive—and advantageously use—the transfer by greatly increasing allowable bulk, changing designated uses, permitting additional parking, and building in exceptions to the “contextual” strictures that govern the scale and character of construction nearby, including those revised to create the Hudson Square Special District a block away. The parameters of the new receiving site, to the administration’s credit, would also bring the project under the Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning regime, which obliges the developer to provide a meaningful percentage of affordable housing in the mix but which also further ups the site’s permissible bulk. The end-point of ULURP is approval, rejection, or modification of these zoning changes, which—if passed—will provide the legal space for the deal to be consummated. And the project? Its design is a particularly ripe variation on the “form follows finance” mentality at the core of the way New York City plans and is larded with bluff (a big box store, vast amounts of parking, extremely tall towers, and a truly grotesque “as of right” alternative scheme (a standard-issue developer threat that could be built without special approvals should this deal come a cropper). The plans have been skillfully reverse-engineered from the Trust’s primary imperative to realize the $100 million from the deal and are driven by its better-get-it-done-now recognition that public resistance to any further transfers into CB2 will be strenuously opposed, ditto possible transfers to other communities elsewhere along the waterfront. Indeed, recent push-back to the plan from CB2 and the Borough President has specifically demanded that transfers from the park to the adjacent neighborhood be strictly capped at 200,000 feet. Architecturally, the plan (albeit the work of good architects) is a bad one, both in its general outlines and in its particulars. Most strikingly wrong is the almost complete disconnection of the special district—on which would rise by far the largest project ever constructed in CB2—from its surroundings (including Pier 40 itself) and its total failure to anticipate and conduce to future changes, including the much-wished restoration of the street grid obliterated by the St. John’s Building and by the equally long, single-story, UPS facility running parallel in the blocks behind it. The vigorous development taking place on all sides (as well as future advances in logistics technology) will eventually create pressures on UPS (and nearby FEDEX) and provision should surely be made to restore the streets now erased, and to think about—to plan for—what will happen on these newly created blocks, including parks and schools. The plan placed on the table was clearly an opening gambit, stuffed with calculatedly negative capability in the form of too much stuff but also with a series of artful deficits that might open avenues for more positive demonstrations of cooperation. For example, the public space component is, by the developer’s own arithmetic, so sparse that the project will produce a net decrease in local public space per capita. The DEIS is also deeply suspect and blithely concludes that this humongous erection will have virtually no seriously adverse impacts on traffic, solar access, public services, and other critical infrastructure. Equally irresponsible is the developer’s long-standing resistance to including a school to serve the kids among the thousands of new residents. Finally, the plan is non-committal about its internal distribution of the mandatory affordable dwellings (as well as the actual degree of their affordability), although it appears they’re going to be primarily small units for seniors and concentrated in a single building, facing the UPS garage (the presentation package—full of street level perspectives rendered to obscure the mammoth bulk of the buildings looming out of frame—disingenuously depicts a rare apartment at the back of the building with a water view through a wee gap in the surrounding condos). All of these issues might be addressed in a revised proposal and both CB2 and Borough President Brewer have demanded a number of adjustments. But there’s a sad, deckchairs on the Titanic, quality to even the strongest of these, which, in the end, fall for the plan’s artful misdirection. The salient, undeniable, fact is that the project is vastly over-scaled. The tallest of its towers—at 420 feet—is three times the height of the surrounding built texture and certain to have a deeply deleterious and distorting impact on the neighborhood that it and its companions will overwhelm. The complex will also irrevocably alter the profile and rhythm of the Hudson riverfront as a whole, a contemptuous interruption in a continuous—and historic—low to mid-rise skyline that now stretches uninterrupted from Chelsea to Tribeca. An authentically “contextual” solution would simply extend the scale of the existing street wall, which tops out at around fifteen stories. Urbanistically speaking, this is clearly the right way to go. In the report issued by her office, Brewer tellingly—if somewhat wistfully—observes that, given the city’s reliance on private development for the direct financing of public facilities, “the developer has a private interest that is paramount to any public interest.” Yes, and? Alas, no public body or official seems willing to walk away from the specific public return on this expression of private interests: the $100 million for Pier 40 repairs, the “up to” 476 units of affordable housing, the now rejected curb on further bulk transfers into CB2’s backyard, and support for land-marking the nearby South Village, a decision that rests with another, nominally independent, agency. As the negotiations enter their end-game, a variety of predictable gambits are being played. Westbrook Partners, the majority stakeholder (Atlas still holds a minority share), has just let it be known that it’s “rethinking” the project because of a weakening in the residential market and might be forced to revert to a purely commercial, as-of-right, scheme. More, Crain’s reports that Westbrook is actively looking for an equity partner for the site, which both suggestively reinforces the threat to abandon residential use entirely and almost certainly reveals the real plan beneath the plan: to get approvals for the maximum project and then flip the whole thing and walk away with the cash. The public-private daisy chain keeps yielding moments of delirious, if nauseating, irony. The City Planning Commission (Chairman, Carl Weisbrod) held a hearing on September 19, during which a few minutes were devoted to listening to the responses of the City Planning Department (Director, Carl Weisbrod) to questions raised about the project at their August meeting. A visibly nervous planner from the Department was obliged to present her answers to a body presided over by her boss, the man who had been most instrumental in structuring the deal now under review! And, while we’re still in ironic mode, there’s another I find especially hard to overlook: The projected cost of Barry Diller’s little entertainment island has now reached $200 million. The design (by Thomas Heatherwick) is tasty enough but the money would surely be better spent (and the island’s entertainment program easily accommodated without displacing the ball fields) were it to be used on Pier 40—100 million for repairs, 100 for theaters and trees. And, Diller would have an irresistible counter to Doug Durst, who has been biliously bank-rolling lawsuits to thwart Barry’s plans, out of some truly pathetic billionaire pique. I make this suggestion seriously as one of a number of ways to manage and coordinate both direct investment in the park and the sale and use its air rights. Another would be to expand the Hudson River Park Special District to encompass Hudson Square (and the UPS site which will surely be transformed at some point) and to radically disaggregate the 200,000 square feet into much smaller increments that could be added as a series of bonuses to the on-going wave on construction in the area. Yet another would simply be to gerrymander a 1.5 million square foot skyscraper (or add just a few additional stories to several already proposed) into the thicket of towers under construction in Hudson Yards further uptown, an area already given over to large-scale building and one that has a huge underbuilt perimeter (including the Javits Center) into which even these enormous numbers could easily be made to disappear. Our representatives should steel themselves and fight for the big picture, for something much better than this too-many-eggs in one basket contrivance. The project is far, far, too big for the bearing capacity and character of its site and nibbling at the edges of the design—reducing parking, slightly shrinking a tower, 86-ing the big box that everyone knows is only there to disappear, redistributing bulk a bit, getting a few more affordable units, adding a wee plaza at grade—will make little real difference. If public money cannot be made available for maintaining the public park (or housing the poor), the question of the fungibility of air rights—if that is to be the Trust’s primary asset—must be regulated with much greater invention and subtlety: Having crossed the West Street Rubicon, there’s no reason this conjured property “right” cannot be more broadly and appropriately distributed. Indeed, the question of the creation and deployment of these rights lies at the very core of the way in which we define public space. It’s our air, after all! The complete failure of the DCP, the Trust, or any other public (or quasi-public) body to formulate a rigorous, sustainable, and beautiful plan for this part of town is simply dereliction. Not simply have they acquiesced in a completely barse-ackwards mode of defining and financing genuine and general public interests and slighted a truly collective—and expansive—vision of community needs, benefits, rights and desires, their “spot” planning mentality totally ignores a truly mammoth elephant the stalks the room: the inevitability of sea level rise that will almost certainly inundate this low-lying place, piers, special districts, underground parking, twee little shops, and all. While our public servants blithely order another cup of bouillon, an iceberg looms on the horizon. Time to change course! It’s not too late! While the City Planning Commission has voted to approve the plan almost entirely as originally presented, the Council (which tends to defer to the local member) and the Mayor can still intervene, although de Blasio in unlikely to oppose a creature he was so instrumental in stitching together. The Commission altered the scheme only in cosmetic or predictable ways: the Big Box is now gone as are the “public” bridges over Houston Street. The developer has also agreed to provide 10,000 square feet of subterranean recreational space that would be publicly “available” on unspecified terms. A little more open space is to be squeezed in at grade. However, no modification of the project footprint was demanded to reconnect the street grid, no guarantees were offered about a cap on transfers into CB2, no reduction was made in height, and nothing was said about the larger context of the project, including the form and use of Pier 40 or the character of the extended neighborhood. As part of the deal, however, the South Village Historic District has been placed on the Landmarks Commission’s agenda at its regular November 1 meeting for a vote to “calendar” it, launching a process of hearings, deliberations, and possible designation that can last as long as two years. It’s likely to be fewer as the professional staff at Landmarks is expected to offer a strongly favorable recommendation to the Commissioners. Although the precise manner by which the exquisite timing came about remains murky, the agreement to hear the case was surely the result of strong—and long—advocacy by the Greenwich Village Historic Society (GVSHP), CB2, Councilperson Johnson (who now holds a great many cards), and others, and Andrew Berman, the energetic Director of GVSHP (with Johnson’s apparent support) has threatened to fight to derail the project should the South Village landmarking fail to go forward. Courage to them both! And to those who are opposed to dumping any further FAR into CB2 and to all who advocate for more public space, affordable housing, and rational planning. Yet, whatever the outcome of the landmarking gambit, the fundamental contradiction at the heart of both project and process looms huge, both literally and conceptually. I’ve met virtually nobody with a non-financial stake in the new building who supports it as a piece of architecture or planning, simply as the formal resultant of a negotiation for something else. This is the heart of the deal, the inevitability that there will be winners and losers. The developer wants to build a gigantic project and has surely calculated its return with precision, using a knowable metric of profit. The city—in all its roots and branches—is obliged to a far more notional heuristic for determining the cost of our benefit. Would it be a good deal if it only produced the hundred million for the pier? The hundred million plus the affordable housing? Pile repair and housing plus the South Village Historic District? Should the developer be offered another 100,000 square feet to build a school? To decrease the building footprint by going higher still? That we have tipped so far to inducement rather than obligation as a planning strategy is a tragic, indeed Trumpian, marker of the decay of the commons. This collusive failure of imagination, responsibility, and democracy is staggering, if all too typical. Time to demand a vision that grows from our shared “right to the city”, planning that looks beyond a contracting, bottom-line, approach to the possible and sees our architecture not simply as an outcome but an aspiration. No deal!
Michael Sorkin is the President of Terreform, the Principal of the Michael Sorkin Studio, Distinguished Professor of Architecture and Director of the Graduate Program in Urban Design at CCNY. A planning and architectural study of this site has been prepared by Terreform and may be downloaded from its website. Comments are greatly welcome.
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AAFE

Renderings revealed for Queens entrepreneurship center designed by Leong Leong and JCJ

Leong Leong is bringing its design talents to Queens at the behest of a local nonprofit.

Nonprofit Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE) selected the New York and Los Angeles–based firm to design the Center for Community and Entrepreneurship, a 90,000-square-foot business incubator, retail, and community space complex on a busy Flushing corner.

The building seeks a fluid interface between public and private space. "How do you take a conventional office typology, with staked uses and different tenants, but find a way to pull a public space through those different layers and create an interface between the different users?" said Chis Leong, founding principal of Leong Leong. "We wanted to create synergy and collaboration between the users of the building."

In collaboration with JCJ Architecture, the firm's seven-story building is a "vertically-integrated campus" expressed as four connected volumes, each with an outdoor terrace programmed for different uses. A three-story open staircase, wide enough for terraced seating at the ground floor, opens up the space—and encourages walking.

On the ground floor, a plaza hosting a 5,000-square-foot marketplace connects the building to the neighborhood's vibrant street life, while upstairs, a flexible event space beckons people inside or onto an adjacent terrace. Floors three through seven are offices: A third-floor business incubator provides co-working space, where firms may seek assistance from Renaissance Economic Development Corporation, an AAFE affiliate. AAFE's offices occupy the fourth floor, with the remaining above-ground floors are available to rent. Two levels of below-ground parking round out the program.

The facade's transparency is greatest at the two lowest and most public floors, but the glass increases in opacity as the eye ascends to the upper, more private floors. The lot line wall is clad in metal panels and roughly mirrors same spacing as the glass walls.

The firms were awarded the project last fall, and the center is expected to be complete in 2018.

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Waterworld

NYC to expand ferry service and bring new landing to Long Island City in 2017
With the Citywide Ferry Service on track to launch next summer, city officials announced last week that a new ferry landing will arrive in Long Island City as part of the first phase of expansion seeking to better connect outer borough residents to Manhattan. Metal Shark and Horizon shipyards have been contracted to build the ferries in Louisiana and Alabama, and they will be operated by Hornblower Inc., a California-based water transit company that’s been operating in New York harbor for nearly 10 years. The initiative was announced early in 2015, spearheaded by New York Economic Development Corporation (NYEDC) and the city government.  Next summer’s expansion will include three new routes, known as the Astoria route, the Rockaway route, and the South Brooklyn route. The Astoria route will connect to Astoria, Roosevelt Island, Long Island City, East 34th Street and Wall Street; the Rockaway route will connect to the Brooklyn Army Terminal and Wall Street; the South Brooklyn route will connect Bay Ridge, Brooklyn Army Terminal, Red Hook, Brooklyn Bridge’s Pier 1 and Pier 6, and Wall Street, with an optional connection to Governor’s Island. In the following year, ferry service will be expanded into the Bronx, with additional landings to be offered on the Lower East Side. The Citywide Ferry Service will carry an estimated 4.6 million passenger trips per year when it is fully operational in 2018. Additional upgrades for Staten Island are currently part of a third, yet-to-be-funded phase of expansion, connecting Coney Island, Stapleton, and lower Manhattan. Each of the new boats will be 85-feet-long, offer free wi-fi, heated decks, and the capacity to carry 150 passengers, with additional room for bicycles, strollers, and wheelchairs. Although Hornblower will charge $2.75 for a one-way ride—the same cost of a subway ride—integration with subway payment systems will be delayed several years, given that the MTA is in the early stages of replacing the MetroCard with new payment technologies, as reported in AM New York. Hornblower has been in New York City since 2007 as the only mode of transportation to Ellis Island and Liberty Island, but the Citywide Ferry Service will be its first commuter operation. It will compete directly with New York Water Taxi, which boasts a fleet of 12 vessels, and has operated for 15 years. “The City is creating a government-subsidized monopoly that will force us out of business, stifle competition, and have tremendous leverage against the City in any future negotiations,” New York Water Taxi executive vice president Peter Ebright told Gothamist back in March. New York Economic Development Corporation (NYEDC) president Maria Torres-Springer responded to the threats by proposing that the city would work to help displaced workers find new jobs in the expanded Citywide Ferry Service network in the event that NYWT goes out of business.
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The Hub @ GCT

Grand Central Tech inaugurates new space for urban-focused startups
With the Cornell Tech campus (which features buildings by Weiss-Manfredi and Morphosis) and the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute rising on Roosevelt Island, and the New Lab humming away in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, New York suddenly doesn't seem to have a shortage of venues catering to tech start-ups. Today marked the inauguration of one more addition to "Silicon Alley." City officials and corporate executives gathered to kick-off The Hub @ GCT, a 50,000-square-foot business incubator located at 335 Madison Ave. Tech entrepreneurs and startups apply to use the space, which is run by the business accelerator Grand Central Tech (GCT). Unlike many accelerators, GCT offers its resources—office space, in-house recruiting team, access and mentoring from corporate sponsors—free of charge for one year. (Corporate sponsors include the likes of Google, Microsoft, G.E., Goldman Sachs, and IBM.) In exchange, GCT hopes to induce startups that "graduate" to rent offices in their other 40,000 square feet of coworking-style space at 335 Madison Ave. The New York Business Journal reports that last year 18 applicants were accepted from a pool of over 1,000 hopefuls. The Hub aims to host companies that are tackling urban challenges ranging from energy efficiency and public transportation. At the opening ceremony, Alicia Glen, NYC deputy mayor for housing and economic development, extolled New York City's virtues as a test bed for new urban-focused technology enterprises, saying, "If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere." Maria Torres-Springer, president and CEO of the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), similarly lauded The Hub's potential to work with the city, calling it another part of the "tech ecosystem we're building in New York City." The NYCEDC, who helped fund New Lab, contributed a $2.5 million grant to the Hub, which was supplemented by $5 million from Millstein Properties, who owns the building. For more details, visit Grand Central Tech's website.
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Much ADU About Affordability

As housing costs and economic segregation increase, Austin's granny flats proliferate

Consider the accessory dwelling unit (ADU). It is a structure of many names, including secondary dwelling unit, garage apartment, granny flat, backyard cottage, casita, carriage house—the list goes on. The unit has equally as many uses: rentable occupancy, (secret) Airbnb gem, guesthouse, or extended family annex. Over the past decade, as housing costs have soared in cities like Austin, the casita has become a much-studied and proliferated phenomenon.

The ADU frenzy is not unique to Austin. The format is popular in other cities like Houston, Texas, or Sydney, Australia, which was, as of the end of 2015, churning out a hundred “Fonzie” flats a week. Portland (1,300 as of 2013) and Seattle (1,396 as of 2015) both established city pathways for creating secondary units. Across the border in Vancouver, 35 percent of all single-family residences have one. The back house represents an important option for low-impact densification, as it increases lot inhabitation and generates rental income but, due to its street invisibility, leaves the character of a neighborhood intact.

Austin’s ADU construction is widespread: 750 permits for “secondary apartments” have been issued since 2006, with the annual number of permits for these auxiliary units surpassing those for duplexes since 2014. Still, the structures are limited to multifamily and some single-family zonings, including SF-3, which carries a minimum lot size of 5,750 square feet, a maximum building coverage of 40 percent, and usually requires expensive infrastructural items like a separate water meter.

Austin’s ADU regulations were updated in November 2015, making it easier to build closer to primary structures, on smaller lots, and without parking in central, transit-adjacent areas. The ordinance also prohibited the use of the dwelling as a non-owner occupied short-term rental (STR), and restricted STR usage generally to 30 days per calendar year. Ahead of the new ordinance, local organization Austinites for Urban Rail Action (AURA) “dedicated to a vision of an Austin where everybody is welcome and everybody’s interests matter,” advocated for allowing ADUs everywhere in the city, and circulated an online petition that gathered over 1,000 signatures in support. Its “ADU City” report, released in June 2015, offers policy provisions and case studies in support of ADU growth. Via email, AURA board member Eric Goff stressed the importance of growing the housing supply and simplifying the permitting process. “Rules like unit caps, lot size, Sub Chapter F, FAR, building height, set backs, and others,” he wrote, “consistently make it difficult to add more housing.”

Here, house prices and rental rates continue to climb while income remains stagnant. The ADU, even in limited deployment, becomes useful in gentrifying neighborhoods, as its rental income balances out rising property taxes for families on low or fixed incomes. In a June editorial, city council member for East Austin’s District 3, Sabino “Pio” Renteria, said that he and his wife were only able to remain in their home because they built a secondary unit to supplement their income. These units, when rented at market rates, are largely occupied by younger individuals or couples who can afford to trade space and dollars for location. This doesn’t explicitly offer housing for lower-income renters, but it reduces market competition for cheaper units, allowing those units to be occupied by those who need them most. And it creates a revenue stream for those who are struggling to keep their homes, critical in areas like East Austin, where neighborhoods have lost 34 percent of their homeowners since 2002.

Substantial evidence demonstrates the myriad positive impacts of the ADUs. Their adoption is the goal of the Alley Flat Initiative, a collective effort started in 2005 by the University of Texas Center for Sustainable Development, the Guadalupe Neighborhood Development Corporation, and the Austin Community Design and Development Center (ACDDC). The outfit provides resources, including design services, to citizens, neighborhood groups, and nonprofits interested in building ADUs. To date, it has realized five units, with two under construction and about nine in development. In mid-June, it hosted the first-ever Alley Flat Tour, showcasing the five completed units with over one hundred attendees. Nicole Joslin, who recently took over as executive director of ACDDC, said, “the biggest hurdles are access to financing and making the property taxes calibrated to the rent that’s being collected.” For example, an ADU built and rented through the City of Austin’s S.M.A.R.T. (safe, mixed-income, accessible, reasonably priced, transit oriented) Housing Policy that caps incomes for its renters is not recognized as affordable housing by Travis County and is appraised for market value, instead of the income generated, which is the typical indicator for multi-family property taxes. “Banks don’t know what to do with ADUs,” Joslin continued, noting conflict if the structure increases or decreases property value. Further, local house appraisers struggle with ADUs, sometimes grouping the square footage together with the main house or ignoring the unit altogether. “We’ve overcome a lot of the LDC barriers,” she said. According to Joslin, what is needed now are additional subsidies to lower the cost of construction and, as ADU requirements are relaxed, incentives to retain the primary house. Moving forward, she hopes to continue to build ACDDC’s “capacity to be a resource for their community partners and single-family homeowners who are trying to prevent displacement.”

High-design versions of the granny flat showcase its possibilities for architectural achievement. This year, AIA Austin presented a Design Award to For A Better Architecture (FAB) for its Hillmont Studio, an 850-square-foot back house in the Zilker neighborhood. The unit was also featured on the 2015 AIA Austin Homes Tour, along with another alley flat. FAB cofounder Patrick Ousey, AIA, said the challenge was to create a sense of privacy while still maintaining a connection to the street. The massing is pushed into the lot’s back right corner, and because the spaces “don’t stack exactly one over the other,” the overhanging bedroom hovers over the glassed-in living area and patio. Clad in thin black Hardie siding, the project also includes walnut cabinets, clean detailing, and an interior-exterior concrete wall that was “brought into the budget without increasing overall cost.” This materiality connected the interior to the site walls, tying together the entry movement from the curb all the way back to the ADU. The project cost about $200 per square foot, including landscaping. Ousey reported a normal permitting experience, though the water meter became a problem. Adding an additional meter can cost up to $20,000, a fee that “makes a small project like that not doable.” FAB is at work on another residence with a back house that is similarly sited for privacy. Big or small, the design work “boils down to quality,” Ousey said, and “quality comes at every budget.”

Granny flats occupy the lighter end of the “missing middle” housing density spectrum that is painfully absent in Austin. The ADU joins a larger set of housing solutions in development to keep Austin affordable. In early June, the city unveiled a draft of its first-ever housing plan. The Austin Strategic Housing Plan, available online, offers progressive solutions to make up the current deficit of affordable units by producing 35,000 units for those at 80 percent median family income—$62,250 for a family of four in Travis County this year—and 40,000 market-rate units for a total of 75,000 units in the next decade. The plan provides an arsenal of tactics: Tax Increment Financing (TIF), the expansion of homestead preservation districts, expanded density bonus programs, a strike fund that would be used to purchase and maintain existing multifamily complexes, expanded use of community land trusts (CLTs), renovation of the S.M.A.R.T. Housing program, and many other bold ideas. Even without policies available to other cities—Texas is the now only state where inclusionary zoning is illegal—these tools forecast admirable gains.

City of Austin senior planner Jonathan Tomko said that there is “two-pronged” reform at work, on both the policy and code fronts, and that maximum progress happens when the two work together in tight coordination. The policy battle is well underway, as is CodeNEXT, the effort to fully rewrite Austin’s Land Development Code. CodeNEXT is led by its main consultant, Opticos Design, a Berkeley-based outfit focused on walkable urban living and the “missing middle” housing movement. The city now estimates draft code to be delivered for public review in January 2017, and has released two of four prescription papers that preview strategies. The Household Affordability document, delivered in April, lays out the changes that are coming soon.

Some believe that the promised results of the CodeNEXT rewrite may not be enough to reverse Austin’s economic segregation, now rated at the worst in the nation. John Henneberger, winner of a 2014 MacArthur Genius grant and co-director of the Texas Housers nonprofit, wrote in a May 2016 blog post that “Austin must promote, as a public policy, economic and racial diversity across all neighborhoods and should reject the ghettoization of affordable housing into city-designated districts,” referencing the strategy to concentrate investment at transit-rich nodes. Speaking to the AIA Austin audience in June, Henneberger emphasized the rights of low-income citizens and argued for reform at the neighborhood level, including leveraging solutions like community development corporations (CDCs) to create affordable housing. Such activism remains important work as inequitable policies persist—evidenced by a 2015 Texas bill that allows landlords to discriminate against renters who use housing vouchers. Contemporary studies show that “laws aimed at things like ‘maintaining neighborhood character’ or limiting how many unrelated people can live together in the same house contribute to racial segregation and deeper class disparities,” according to The New York Times. Affordability is increasingly the central topic at city council: An additional fair housing initiative was approved in June, providing yet another referendum in support of consequential action.

This action is needed if Austin is to realize the big changes envisioned in the Housing Plan and CodeNEXT rewrite. Thankfully, many individuals and groups are up to the challenge. At the Alley Flat Initiative, Joslin is focusing future work on the financing of ADUs, and on neighborhood-scale sustainability efforts “more and more—this isn’t about architecture only.”

For Tomko, the goal is to have the housing plan approved by the end of 2016 as an appendix to Imagine Austin, the city’s comprehensive plan: “all types of housing for all types of people in all parts of town.”

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City Eats

Brooklyn Army Terminal Annex to host food manufacturing hub modeled on Silicon Valley
New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) announced that the Brooklyn Army Terminal (BAT) Annex will be the new home of a Silicon Vally–type incubator for small food manufacturers. The 55,000-square-foot space could host up to ten companies, and NYCEDC expects the Sunset Park, Brooklyn facility to create over 100 jobs. By the end of the year, the space will be home to four companies. MOMO Dressing, a Japanese salad dressing enterprise, is the Annex's first tenant. The business has leased a 2,400-square-foot space, and plans to source ingredients for their dressings from local suppliers like Gotham Greens, a company that grows its lettuce at rooftop farms in Brooklyn and Queens. “The Brooklyn Army Terminal has grown into a hotbed for modern manufacturing, diversified talent and entrepreneurial zeal,” said NYCEDC president Maria Torres-Springer in a statement. “By creating a hub for growing food companies at the Annex, we can build on the strengths of Sunset Park to foster one of the city’s fastest growing industries and create good jobs.” The BAT Annex joins manufacturing hubs Industry City and the (NYCEDC-invested) South Brooklyn Marine Terminal along the Sunset Park waterfront. According to a study by the Center for an Urban Future, food manufacturing is vital sector in New York City: Between 2011 and 2014, it was one of only five manufacturing sectors that saw a net gain in jobs. In 2014, food accounted for more manufacturing jobs than apparel, one of the industries most closely associated with New York. NYCEDC has invested $15 million in the "21st century manufacturing center." There's food preparation–grade ventilation, air conditioning, and plumbing fitted for industrial kitchens, as well as double-door entrances for raw materials and outgoing product, to avoid cross-contamination. NYCEDC has invested $15 million in the Annex's renovation. The NYCEDC hopes that, despite the pull of capitalist competition, the co-tenants in the incubator will help each other grow. Tenants may open retail operations at the complex's Pier 4, the atriums, and building lobbies, or expand their manufacturing footprint at BAT Buildings A and B.
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Sherman Plaza Defeated

In a sharp blow to Mayor de Blasio's affordable housing plan, city council votes "no" on Inwood rezoning

In a sharp rebuke of Mayor de Blasio’s affordable housing plan, the city council voted down a zoning change that would have allowed a 15-story development on a prime corner in the northern Manhattan neighborhood of Inwood.

The council’s August 16 vote followed a decision earlier in the day from the Committee on Land Use, which voted against a proposed rezoning brought forth by Washington Square Partners, the developer of Sherman Plaza, a mixed-use structure designed by New York–based Kenneth Park Architects at 4650 Broadway.

Sherman Plaza was slated to be the first individual development zoned for Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH), a key provision of the mayor’s plan to build or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing over the next decade. The development would have offered 20 percent of the units at 40 percent of the area median income (AMI) or 30 percent of units at 80 percent of the AMI, which in 2015 was $86,300 for a family of four. Residents believed that the development’s affordability was not deep enough for the neighborhood.

The community is now mostly zoned R7-2, a moderate density designation that encourages five- to eight-story structures with generous street setbacks. The proposed change would have established a higher density R8X and R9A district plus a C2-4 district within that R8X-R9A district at the corner of Broadway and Sherman Avenue.The City Planning Commission (CPC) approved a proposed rezoning of that site that would set a height limit of 175 feet.

Residents praise the architectural character of Inwood’s art deco apartment buildings. The neighborhood’s features, though, are conditioned by height factor zoning: The FAR is tied to the height of the building, so tower-in-the-park–style buildings have larger setbacks and a higher FAR, while shorter buildings earn a lower FAR and sit closer to the curb.

The project caught heat in the lead-up to the August meeting from residents and civic groups concerned about its impact on the neighborhood. Sherman Plaza was originally conceived as a 23-story, 375,000-square-foot development with 350 units and ground floor retail. In May, Community Board 12 quietly okayed the plans without alerting residents. The Municipal Art Society testified against the development at a City Planning Commission meeting that same month, citing its high affordability thresholds and out-of-context aesthetics. Neighbors were worried that, because of the sloping topography, Sherman Plaza would plunge adjacent Fort Tryon Park into shadow.

Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez represents the neighborhood, and didn’t take a public position on Sherman Plaza until a groundswell of community opposition forced him to come out forcefully against the development the day before the city council meeting. His office released a statement that acknowledged a lack of affordable housing in the district and outlined his position on new development: “[Developments] must be 50 percent affordable, have ample space for community cultural and nonprofit organizations and be supportive of our small businesses, and with key assurances in place that it will go forward as posed [sic].”

At the committee meeting, Rodriguez explained his position before voting down the proposed rezoning: “I was listening to the community for months. It’s important to preserve the landscape of the community.” He added that under Mayor Bloomberg, only 250 units of affordable housing were added to the neighborhood, and that many renters, his household included, receive preferential rents that could increase dramatically if Inwood’s housing market heats up.

Council members from the Committee on Land Use and the Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises followed Rodriguez’s lead to vote 15-0 in opposition to the rezoning. Council members traditionally have first pass on developments in their district, and other members defer to the decision of the official from the affected district.

Community activists from an array of local groups in the room cheered the committee’s decision.

Donovan Richards Jr., chair of the Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises, offered a thinly veiled rebuke of Rodriguez’s position. “It’s very easy to say no, it’s harder to build consensus on land-use issues,” he said.

“The committee has heard countless difficult and controversial applications,” Committee on Land Use chair David Greenfield added. “Our city’s challenge is not if, but how, we grow.Despite the enthusiasm from the chairs [assembled citizens], today is not a happy day.”

Mayor de Blasio, too, chided opponents of Sherman Plaza after the vote. At a Bronx press conference the next day, he lamented that the development could move forward with fewer units and no affordable housing. “Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face,” De Blasio told MIH supporters in the council— including Rodriguez—who oppose MIH developments in their neighborhood.

The developers were predictably unhappy. Washington Square Partners issued the following statement post-vote:

“We are disappointed with the decision not to vote in favor of our application to rezone Sherman Plaza but want to thank Community Board 12, Borough President Brewer, the City Planning Commission and the Mayor for working with us over the last two years in support of the project. The project was an opportunity to develop 175 affordable apartments and we are disappointed the local council member did not agree with us.”

A spokesperson for the developer said her client was “surprised by how much attention” Sherman Plaza received, but noted that next steps for the project are under wraps. WNYC reported that Washington Square Partners may move forward with a plan that includes no affordable housing.

Inwood resident and architect Suzanna Malitz applauded the committee’s decision. While Malitz and fellow members of Uptown for Bernie in attendance opposed Sherman Plaza, she supports contextual development east of 10th Avenue along an industrial strip that fronts the Harlem River. There’s “plenty of space” there for denser developments that include affordable housing, she explained.

Rezoning this area is a top priority of the Inwood NYC Neighborhood Plan, a coalition of city agencies, nonprofits, and community groups working through the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) to envision the neighborhood’s future growth, with an eye towards developing the largely industrial areas east of 10th Avenue. Although the plan’s study area extends north from Dyckman Street and doesn’t include Sherman Plaza, if realized, its key provisions will most likely affect surrounding areas, the Bronx included.

New York–based Studio V collaborated with NYCEDC to make the vision more tangible. “Inwood is extraordinary. It has unique conditions—the grid shifts between the east and west sides, it’s bounded by two rivers, and has old growth forests in Inwood Hill Park. There’s a huge opportunity to develop the waterfront along the Harlem River and Sherman Creek, so the area goes from being an edge to being a center,” said Jay Valgora, Studio V’s founding principal. The firm’s renderings show an array of towers that could be developed on both banks of the Harlem River if the east side is upzoned. The east side can support greater density without cutting into the neighborhood’s beloved deco fabric, Valgora explained. 

Cheramie Mondesire attended NYCEDC-led meeting but was dissatisfied with the proceedings. At the second meeting she attended “it was all scripted. They couldn’t answer questions that were not on the script.” The Metropolitan Council on Housing was there to organize residents, and Mondersire, who has lived in the neighborhood for 42 years, attended their meetings to learn how MIH could be applied in Inwood. She agreed that the area east of 10th Avenue would be better suited for dense development than the middle of the neighborhood’s fabric.

Pat Courtney of Inwood Preservation added that the transportation infrastructure is not equipped to serve an influx of new residents, especially with a lack of local bus routes. “Thecommunity is beautiful, well-coordinated, and well-planned. New development should be scaled to existing buildings.”

State assemblymember Guillermo Linares opposed Sherman Plaza, noting that developments like these accelerate the process of gentrification. “You see what happened in lower Manhattan and Williamsburg. In my district, there’s a high concentration of low and middle-income families who cannot afford the housing that’s being built.” Linares cited Sherman Creek as a potential area for “100 percent affordable housing” that includes ground floor retail to enliven the streetscape.

 
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From BIG to FLW

Graham Foundation announces their 2016 grants to organizations
Today, the Chicago-based Graham Foundation, which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, released details on 31 international projects that will receive a total of $419,000 in grant funding. The grants are organized into four categories: Exhibition, Film/Video/New Media, Public Program, and Publication. According to the Graham Foundation, which also hosts events and exhibitions in addition to its grant program, highlights from this year's list of grantees include: LOS ANGELES FORUM FOR ARCHITECTURE AND URBAN DESIGN (Los Angeles, CA) Tu casa es mi casa Two modernist houses—the Neutra VDL Studio and Residence in Los Angeles and the Archivo house by Arturo Chávez Paz in Mexico City—are brought together via  the exchange of narrative texts, industrial objects, and installations by contemporary architects/artists, including Frida Escobedo, Aris Janigian, Pedro&Juana, and Katya Tylevich. MUSEUM OF MODERN ART (New York, NY) Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive The Museum of Modern Art’s major exhibition critically engages the recently acquired Wright archive, offering new interpretations of this rich trove to the public, 150 years after the birth of the seminal modern American architect. SERPENTINE GALLERY (London, United Kingdom) Serpentine Pavilion and Summer Houses 2016 The Serpentine Architecture Programme expands this year with the addition of four  newly commissioned Summer Houses by Kunlé Adeyemi, Barkow Leibinger, Yona Friedman, and Asif Khan, which join the 2016 Serpentine Pavilion by Bjarke Ingels  Group. ARAB IMAGE FOUNDATION (Beirut, Lebanon) Rifat Chadirji: Architecture Photo Index A comprehensive publication of Iraqi architect Rifat Chadirji’s photographic folio that records and analyzes the development of his building practice in and around Baghdad from 1952 through the early 1980s. CHICAGO ARCHITECTURE BIENNIAL (Chicago, IL) The State of the Art of Architecture The curatorial team of the 2015 Chicago Architecture Biennial invited practicing architects to converse with leading cultural figures, resulting in a collection of original texts that serve as both a legacy of the first Biennial and an invaluable survey of ideas and positions in architecture today. The full list includes: EXHIBITION (16 awards) ANYONE CORPORATION New York, NY The Architectural Imagination: US Pavilion, 15th International Architecture Exhibition  The United States Pavilion at the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale, curated by Cynthia Davidson and Mónica Ponce de León, presents twelve speculative architecture projects across four Detroit sites with far-reaching applications for cities around the world. THE BRONX MUSEUM OF THE ARTS New York, NY Gordon Matta-Clark: Anarchitect This project examines the artist’s groundbreaking impact on rethinking architecture after the fall of modernism’s urban utopia and demonstrates, through a distinctive exhibition and accompanying publication, the unique role of the Bronx in both his artistic development and sociopolitical engagement. CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY LONG BEACH-UNIVERSITY ART MUSEUM Long Beach, CA Robert Irwin: Site Determined Four decades of artist Robert Irwin’s work—site-determined outdoor environmental projects—are explored in this comprehensive exhibition of his drawings and architectural models. CONTEMPORARY ART MUSEUM ST. LOUIS St. Louis, MO Urban Planning: Contemporary Art and the City, 1966–2017 Critical socioeconomic developments have resulted in the irrevocable transformation of North American cities through various stages of growth, decline, and revival—this exhibition features more than twenty international artists including Mark Bradford, Abigail DeVille, Glenn Ligon, Josiah McElheny, Catherine Opie, Michael Rakowitz, Robert Smithson, and Sara VanDerBeek, among others whose work demonstrates how such conditions offer fertile ground for artistic inquiry today. ISTANBUL FOUNDATION FOR CULTURE AND ARTS Istanbul, Turkey Are We Human?, 3rd Istanbul Design Biennial Opening this October, curators Beatriz Colomina and MarkWigley put forward eight interlinked propositions around the topic “Are We Human? The Design of the Species: 2 seconds, 2 years, 200 years, 200,000 years.” THE JEWISH MUSEUM New York, NY Pierre Chareau: Modern Architecture and Design This first US retrospective of French modernist Pierre Chareau—known for ingeniously integrating traditional craftsmanship with Machine Age–advances—showcases his creative contributions as an architect, artist, and furniture designer, within the context of his extraordinary life and Jewish cultural background. LIGA-SPACE FOR ARCHITECTURE Mexico City, Mexico LIGA Exhibition Program, 2016–2017 LIGA’s annual program will consist of four exhibitions, in which emerging studios from across Latin America intervene in their Insurgents’ Avenue gallery space, along with conferences, workshops, debates, and performances, each of which explore tangential relationships with architecture. LIVERPOOL BIENNIAL OF CONTEMPORARY ART Liverpool, United Kingdom Céline Condorelli: Liverpool Biennial 2016 Portals Céline Condorelli’s artworks sit between architecture and contemporary art—here they will serve as gateways to access the fictional worlds of the 2016 Liverpool Biennial, which will unfold through the landscape of the city. LOS ANGELES FORUM FOR ARCHITECTURE AND URBAN DESIGN Los Angeles, CA Tu casa es mi casa Two modernist houses—the Neutra VDL Studio and Residence in Los Angeles and the Archivo house by Arturo Chávez Paz in Mexico City—are brought together via the exchange of narrative texts, industrial objects, and installations by contemporary architects/artists, including Frida Escobedo, Aris Janigian, Pedro&Juana, and Katya Tylevich. MADISON SQUARE PARK CONSERVANCY New York, NY Prismatic Park: Colored Glass to Destroy Hatred Artist Josiah McElheny will create an outdoor, multidisciplinary exhibition uniting architectural form, sculpture, and performing arts to explore the ongoing urgency of public space as a place for and catalyst of cultural expression and inclusion. MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART TUCSON Tucson, AZ The World Would Burn without Rain The architecture office Aranda\Lasch and artist Terrol Dew Johnson collaborate to showcase a collection of experimental new work that blends traditional Native American craft with contemporary design. MUSEUM OF MODERN ART New York, NY Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive The Museum of Modern Art’s major exhibition critically engages the recently acquired Wright archive, offering new interpretations of this rich trove to the public, 150 years after the birth of the seminal modern American architect. NATIONAL BUILDING MUSEUM Washington, DC Secret Cities: The Architecture and Planning of the Manhattan Project This exhibition examines the innovative architecture, construction, and planning of three cities built from scratch by the US government during World War II—Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Los Alamos, New Mexico; and Hanford/Richland, Washington—in order to produce the first atomic bomb. SERPENTINE GALLERY London, United Kingdom Serpentine Pavilion and Summer Houses 2016 The Serpentine Architecture Programme expands this year with the addition of four newly commissioned Summer Houses by Kunlé Adeyemi, Barkow Leibinger, Yona Friedman, and Asif Khan, which join the 2016 Serpentine Pavilion by Bjarke Ingels Group. SWISS INSTITUTE New York, NY Display Curated by Niels Olsen and Fredi Fischli, this conceptual project explores the tension in exhibiting architecture through layering modes of display in an atmospheric installation consisting of architectural drawings. UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO-NEUBAUER COLLEGIUM FOR CULTURE AND SOCIETY & SMART MUSEUM OF ART Chicago, IL Fantastic Architecture: Vostell, Fluxus, and the Built Environment and Vostell Concrete, 1969–1973 In conjunction with the reinstallation of Concrete Traffic (1970)—a major public sculpture by leading Fluxus artist Wolf Vostell—on the University of Chicago campus, two original exhibitions examine Vostell’s use of concrete against the contexts of postwar art, architecture, and urbanism, and explore the Fluxus movement’s engagement with public space and the built environment. FILM/VIDEO/NEW MEDIA (1 award) MONOAMBIENTE Buenos Aires, Argentina Amancio Williams 2.0 Working with documents from the archive of Argentine architect Amancio Williams, this project will introduce Williams’s work to an international audience, while formulating a new vision of how to develop a living archive. PUBLIC PROGRAM (3 awards) CAMPO Bogota, Colombia Colombian Architecture Banal Envisioned to become a space reflecting upon architectural practice, this public program aims to discuss the production of the public sphere and question the proliferation of the biennial as a model for the “exhibition,” rather than reflection, of architecture. LAMPO Chicago, IL Lampo 2016 Concert Series at the Graham Foundation A concert series presenting the work of music’s leading experimentalists, bringing musicians and composers from North America, South America, Europe, and Asia to Chicago. SOCIETY OF ARCHITECTURAL HISTORIANS Chicago, IL Making and Re-Making Glasgow: Heritage and Sustainability This seminar seeks to bring new perspectives and audiences to the dialogue addressing regeneration, preservation, and sustainability for Glasgow and other post-industrial cities as it relates to housing, open spaces, and waterways, particularly Glasgow’s River Clyde. PUBLICATION (11 awards) ARAB IMAGE FOUNDATION Beirut, Lebanon Rifat Chadirji: Architecture Photo Index A comprehensive publication of Iraqi architect Rifat Chadirji’s photographic folio that records and analyzes the development of his building practice in and around Baghdad from 1952 through the early 1980s. ARCHITECTURAL ASSOCIATION London, United Kingdom In Progress: The IID Summer Sessions Featuring a wealth of previously unpublished archival material, this book, edited by Irene Sunwoo, documents the history of Alvin Boyarsky’s International Institute of Design Summer Sessions (1970-72), an experimental school that convened architects, educators, planners, and students from across the world for the global exchange of emerging design strategies, teaching methods, and theoretical positions. ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO As Seen: Exhibitions that Made Architecture and Design History One of the first publications to explore the influence of architecture and design exhibitions long after their closing date. CHICAGO ARCHITECTURE BIENNIAL Chicago, IL The State of the Art of Architecture The curatorial team of the 2015 Chicago Architecture Biennial invited practicing architects to converse with leading cultural figures, resulting in a collection of original texts that serve as both a legacy of the first Biennial and an invaluable survey of ideas and positions in architecture today. GUAYABA PRESS Mexico City, Mexico Sur 3: Esther McCoy: The Mexican Years Taking as its starting point the connections between architectural critic Esther McCoy and Mexico, this publication includes moments from her personal life, her political and artistic acquaintances, her writings while in Mexico, and the relationships the writer started with some of the most emblematic figures of modern Mexican history. MAS CONTEXT Chicago, IL MAS Context, Issues 33–36 A quarterly design journal that addresses issues that affect the urban context, providing a comprehensive view of a single topic through the participation of people from different fields and different perspectives. PLACES JOURNAL San Francisco, CA Places Journal: Writers Fund This capacity-building initiative will allow Places Journal to proactively commission agenda-setting articles and to support the valuable intellectual labor of research, reportage, and critique. PROJECT: A JOURNAL FOR ARCHITECTURE Los Angeles, CA Project: A Journal for Architecture, Issue No. 6 Focused on publishing the work of emerging practices and critics, this print and online platform engages critical writing and architectural projects as a serious forum for work and thought on the discipline of architecture today. TERREFORM New York, NY UR (Urban Research), Volumes 07–11 This book series, edited by Michael Sorkin, devoted to speculation about the conditions and the future of the city continues to establish UR and Terreform as key venues for both individuals and organizations engaged in progressive urban research, design, and critical advocacy. UNIVERSITY OF JOHANNESBURG Johannesburg, South Africa Folio A dynamic internationally peer-reviewed publication that will focus on emerging discourses of architecture, education, and urbanism across the African continent. VERLAG DER BUCHHANDLUNG WALTHER KÖNIG Cologne, Germany Thomas Demand: Model Studies I & II Exploring the work of architects John Lautner and SANAA, German sculptor and photographer Thomas Demand focuses his lens on the pockets, edges, and corners of architectural models made from materials such as paper and cardboard.  
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The Lowline

New York City and NYCEDC announce conditional approval of world's first subterranean park
Last week New York City deputy mayor Alicia Glen and New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) president Maria Torres-Springer announced that the city has selected the Lowline to officially occupy vacant trolley tracks under the Lower East Side as the world's first underground park. Conceived by James Ramsey of raad studio and Dan Barasch, the Lowline will use a custom solar array to channel natural light into the windowless space, which sits adjacent to the J/M/Z lines at Essex Street. (The Architect's Newspaper toured the Lowline Lab, the park's freakily lush demo and educational space, last fall.) At the Lab, an above-ground solar array refracted onto a paneled canopy provides different light intensities to grow everything from pineapples to moss. Since its opening, the lab has hosted 2,000 schoolchildren and 70,000 visitors, an early indication of its potential popularity (it is slated to operate through March of next year). Last fall, NYCEDC, in conjunction with the MTA, put out a request for expressions of interest (RFEI) to develop the Williamsburg Bridge Trolley Terminal, a 60,000-square-foot space below Delancey Street between Clinton and Norfolk streets, under a long-term lease. The RFEI stipulated that the developers must implement a community engagement plan that includes quarterly Community Engagement Committee meetings as well as five to ten design charettes; complete a schematic design to submit for approval in the next 12 months; and raise $10 million over the next 12 months. "Every designer dreams of doing civic work that contributes to society and to the profession. Over the last 8 years, we just stuck to what we thought was a great idea that could make our city and our community better. We're thrilled to move ahead on designing and building a space that people will enjoy for generations to come," Ramsey said in a press release. Principal Signe Nielsen of Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects is landscape designer for the project, working with John Mini Distinctive Landscapes. The Lowline's creators and backers hope that the park will showcase adaptive reuse possibilities for vestigial spaces, as well as provide the densely-populated neighborhood with additional green space. “We couldn't be more thrilled for this opportunity to turn a magical dream into reality," said Barasch, the project's executive director. “The transformation of an old, forgotten trolley terminal into a dynamic cultural space designed for a 21st century city is truly a New York story. We know with input from the community and the city, we can make the Lowline a unique, inspiring space that everyone can enjoy." (Courtesy raad studio)