Williamsburg's first office building in more than 50 years is set to rise at 25 Kent Avenue. Designed by San Francisco's Gensler and New York–based Hollwich Kushner (HWKN), the office complex will span 480,000 square feet, rising to eight stories with space available for commercial and manufacturing purposes, as well as an extensive public courtyard area. Brooklyn-based Heritage Equity Partners is the developer.
Crucially, to make the development happen, the city approved a special zoning district that permits developers to trade light manufacturing space for extra office construction.
Approved by the City Council and City Planning Commission, YIMBY reports that the new zoning rules allow for greater design flexibility and mandate less parking to encourage office development. The “Enhanced Business Area” is set to incorporate much of the North Williamsburg Industrial Business Zone, a zoning area which, according to the New York City Economic Development Corporation, seeks to "protect existing manufacturing districts and encourage industrial growth citywide."
As for the building itself, a stepped-back brick facade respects the surrounding context while certain structural elements are revealed behind glass to establish a modern yet industrial feel. “At the east and west ends of the building, it’s as if an old building was sliced and we put a curtain wall on,” said Joseph Brancato of Gensler. The scheme will also have 16-foot slab-to-slab heights to facilitate adequate daylighting made possible through large windows deployed throughout the building. Per the new zoning regulations, the number of parking spaces have been set to 275—all situated underground. Before the zoning rules kicked in, the scheme would have had to made room for 1,200 parking spaces.
According to Toby Moskovits of Heritage Equity Partners in Brownstoner, the staggered facade enables office and manufacturing spaces to be modular and have greater flexibility. Startups, whatever stage of development they may be in, would be able to step into 25 Kent Avenue at any time, while amenities such as cafes can be positioned centrally on every level.
Moskovits argued that the development will support Williamsburg by “giving economic opportunity to small businesses and people in the community who need jobs.” Moskovits added: “We’re of the community and we are entrepreneurs. Our goal is to tenant the building in a way that makes sense for the neighborhood...We believe passionately in what we are doing."
On June 24, George Lucas decided to move his proposed Lucas Museum of Narrative Arts from Chicago. (You can read our full coverage of the Museum's saga, which began in San Francisco, here.) New York-based architect Michael Sorkin has penned a letter to George Lucas and his wife Mellody Hobson urging the museum to stay in Chicago but in inhabit a site south of the city and formerly used by U.S. Steel.
A full copy of that letter, and its accompanying images, appears below:
Dear George Lucas and Mellody Hobson,
Come back to Chicago! In no other city will your museum provide remotely comparable stimulus and balm. While I was a supporter of your original site and an enthusiast for the design, I’m writing urgently with a suggestion for another location that could solve many problems for both you and for the City of Chicago, yielding a far superior result. It’s the 600 acres formerly occupied by U.S. Steel, jutting magnificently into the lake, engaging panoramic views to the Loop, bounded by Lake Shore Drive, and served by METRA. More, it is completely clear and ready to build. No need to tear down a huge building, no need to back away from the lake, no need to take park land, no need to cram into an over-
crowded architectural zoo!
As you surely know, a highly ambitious—and highly expensive—plan to build an enormous residential and commercial project (which briefly offered a site for the Obama Library) was, after years of effort, abandoned in March and the site is again orphaned: we see this as divine serendipity! Following this failed effort to develop the site in collaboration with McCaffery Interests, U.S. Steel (their stock is tanking and they have no interest in acting directly as developers) is doubtless eager to be rid of the place and some quick and creative collaboration could yield remarkable results—results that can be realized far faster than starting out afresh on the west coast, risking further delays.
Here are some reasons a return to Chicago makes such compelling sense:
1. Your museum can inspire a new institutional and public cluster on the far south side of Chicago to rival the crowded complex in which you’d hoped to build and add a gleaming new pearl in the city’s civic necklace.
2. Your museum can be the fulcrum for a dramatic increase in the space of the city’s parks, leveraging as many as 300 additional acres of waterfront green space.
3. Your museum could go miles in addressing the abiding north-south split that so diminishes Chicago’s aspirations to equity and social justice and in affirming your well-known commitment to bettering the lives of the city’s poor and people of color.
4. Your museum could catalyze an enormous transformation in the quality of life for nearby neighborhoods starved for educational, cultural, environmental, and economic development.
5. Your museum could be a beacon and a symbol, a phoenix rising above a wasteland. Indeed, this would be far better than trying to squeeze in among an already dense and disparate group of buildings that will only compromise the power of its vision and originality.
Here’s a scenario:
1. The City of Chicago acquires the northern portion of the site from U.S. Steel. This might happen through purchase, condemnation, or—best of all—through donation by a corporation for which the land now represents more of a burden than an asset.
2. The City of Chicago commits to the development of an extensive enlargement of its park system with a design that combines local needs with a great South Side Chicago Community Art Park.
3. The City of Chicago—or you yourself—facilitates the operation of a new transit system: a fantastic fleet of Millennium Ferries linking Navy Pier, Millennium Park, the Museum Campus, the South Shore Cultural Center, and the great new South Side Chicago Community Art Park. What an attraction! What a unifier!
4. A task force comprised of municipal, institutional, civic, and community organizations plans for and array of synergistic institutions to cluster with the Lucas Museum, including (for starters) a South Chicago Community Center of Narrative Arts, an amazing lakeside amphitheater (Yo Kanye!), an enlarged South Shore Cultural Center, a Railway Museum, The Mellody Hobson Institute of Environmental Research and Technology as part of a reinvigorated Chicago State University, an all-weather amusement park, and a renewable energy complex drawn from the valuable work done as part of the McCaffrey proposal.
5. You build your project according to its original design. It will look so much better here, offer excellent access to an enlarged constituency of visitors—coming from north, south, and west—and do so much more good.
6. With this recreational, athletic, educational, environmental, and cultural complex assured, the attractiveness of the southern portion of the larger site for development will surely re-emerge, providing further resources for the community and an enlarged tax base for the city to support its parks, schools, and infrastructure.
I’m writing you because of my deep admiration for the desire you both have expressed to make your museum extremely accessible, especially to those communities who have been so ignored by traditional cultural institutions. By building your project on this waiting site in South Chicago you will dramatically assert this principle of inclusion in the strongest terms and offer this neglected part of the city tremendous dignity and the opportunity to create its own narratives. And, such a move can catalyze a true people’s campus and park, a complex of sympathetic and galvanizing landscapes and institutions that will create authentic pride of place for so many who feel they’ve simply been left out.
We are more than ready to help make such a plan. In fact, we’ve taken the liberty of sketching something of what this might look like. Please be generous and bold! Take this opportunity to return to Chicago with a determination both to build a superb museum and to make a transformative contribution to a city I know you both deeply love.
We stand ready to offer any further assistance—and encouragement—you may require!
Michael Sorkin President, Terreform (501(c)3)
First built in 1902 for ship construction, the 250,000-square-foot "Building 128" may be back at the cutting edge of industry. The enormous structure will host New Lab, a platform and community for technology-focused entrepreneurs.
Yesterday, New York City officials, Brooklyn Navy Yard President & CEO David Ehrenberg, and New Lab founders David Belt and Scott Cohen gathered to inaugurate the new space. The scale of the New Lab is large, both in terms of raw numbers and the work being done: 50 companies and 350 workers will share 84,000 square feet of offices, laboratories, and other industrial facilities. The project is part of a major push to revitalize the Brooklyn Navy Yard: the City aims to create 15,000 jobs there by 2020. For example, WeWork recently announced it would anchor a major new 675,000-square-foot coworking office building dubbed Dock 72.
What can tech entrepreneurs find in New Lab? Studios range from 300 to 8,000 square feet and amenities include a cafe, kitchen, lounge, 4,500-square-foot event space, and workshops of every variety—CNC milling machines, metal and wood shops, an electronics lab for making circuits, a spray booth, laser cutters, and a 3D printing lab. “Our vision is that New Lab will be a supportive and collaborative working environment for designers, engineers, and entrepreneurs—people trying to accomplish really hard things—not in Silicon Valley or at MIT but right here in Brooklyn,” said Cohen in a press release.
Companies in New Lab's member directory work in multiple fields of design, including robotics, nano tech, artificial intelligence, wearables, interactive architecture, and urban tech. In terms of the latter category, New Lab is teaming up with the NYC Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC)’s Urban Tech NYC program to create a special residency program for urban technology entrepreneurs. "Reserved for growth-stage companies tackling today’s most pressing urban challenges, this program...offers high-touch engagement with domain experts and peer communities," the New Lab website says.
As for the space itself, its design was a group effort: "Working alongside its sister management company, DBI, with Marvel Architects as the architect of record, Macro Sea—led by Belt, Design Director Nicko Elliott, and their small team—fostered the project from the idea’s inception down to prototyping and building custom furniture for the space," New Lab said in a press release. While the ribbon was cut yesterday, the facility—which has been in the works since 2011—will open in earnest this September. Prospective entrepreneurs can apply for New Lab residency here.
Staten Islanders have a name for the impatient dance that visitors do when they get off the ferry at St. George to wait for the next boat back to Manhattan: The “Staten Island Shuffle.” The name reflects the perennial difficulty of getting newcomers to venture beyond the island’s welcome gate.
Local stakeholders hope that a spate of new development on the shoreline—and inland—will smooth the shuffle into a full sidewalk ballet that draws residents and visitors alike through the pizza-slice-shaped island, population 472,000. Here are some new projects that are changing the landscape of the forgotten borough:
“I think the opportunity is all in the outer boroughs right now,” enthused Jay Valgora, founding principal of New York–based Studio V. “Don’t get me wrong, Manhattan’s great, but for creative architecture, Staten Island is the next frontier. I think it’s possible to do incredibly creative things on Staten Island that would be difficult to do in Manhattan.”
In the shadow of the Outerbridge Crossing on the island’s West Shore, Studio V is building a verdant mall on the banks of the Arthur Kill. The Riverside Galleriaconnects 490,000 square feet of retail, including a cinema and grocery store, to High Line–like catwalks and bridges that channel visitors in front of stores and toward a waterfront public park and beach.
Staten Island’s industrial and natural heritage converges at the waterfront, and Riverside’s program unifies these two landscapes with green roofs and soft edges that work vigilantly to protect the development from rising seas. The mall’s sloped roofs “fold into the landscape” to capture and treat stormwater, while a rain garden extends into the parking garage to soften the edge between the natural and built environments. New York–based landscape architect Ken Smith is collaborating with the studio on the project, which is gearing up for the final phase of its ULURP.
For some, building on storm-vulnerable Staten Island would prove daunting, but Studio V literally wrote the book on coastal construction: The firm collaborated with nonprofit advocacy group the Waterfront Alliance to create Waterfront Edge Design Guidelines (WEDG)—“LEED for the waterfront,” Valgora quipped—in 2015. At Riverside, a 10-acre restored wetland provides the first line of defense, although the entire site is lifted above the floodplain. Commercial spaces are elevated above parking for additional protection.
With “automobile access that works beautifully,” the project’s green inclinations defer to Staten Island’s entrenched car culture, although demand for mass transit in this neighborhood is growing. Riverside Galleria is a 10-minute walk from a train station that the MTA is currently rebuilding. More exciting still, Studio V, in a separate project, is in talks to build a stop for high-speed ferry service at an adjacent site. Borough president James Oddo is very supportive of the project, as are locals who have been pushing for broader access to mass transit on the West Shore.
On the North Shore
On the trip from Manhattan, commuters can almost feel the island’s famous ferry keel starboard as tourists cozy up for Lady Liberty selfies. Despite connections to the Staten Island Railroad, bus links, and the attractive hillside neighborhood of St. George just beyond the ferry landing on the Staten Island side, it has been a perennial hurdle to lure visitors out of the terminal.
“What so many of those passengers do is the ‘Staten Island Shuffle’: They get off the ferry and mill around in the ferry terminal until the next ferry arrives, and they never actually set foot on Staten Island. Right now, there’s not a lot that’s immediately visible there, so you can understand why people do that,” explained Munro Johnson, vice president of development at the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC).
In response, Staten Island is changing its salutation. An array of flashy new developments set to open in the next few years will radically expand entertainment, dining, and shopping opportunities immediately adjacent to the St. George Terminal. The New York Wheel, a 630-foot-tall observation wheel, will give 1,440 riders at a time a dramatic view of the New York Harbor. Designed by New York–based S9 Architecture and Perkins Eastman, (and manufactured by Starneth, creators of the London Eye) the New York Wheel will be the largest of its kind when it opens next year.
Soon, New Yorkers won’t need to travel to the Catskills or Jersey for classic suburban-style outlet mall shopping. Empire Outlets, a 1.1-million-square-foot mall, is under construction next to the ferry terminal. The SHoP–designed storefronts reference an Italian hill town, playing on St. George’s elevation to allow visitors progressively better views of the harbor as they ascend upland on wide stairways and glass elevators. Parking is hidden below ground, while a waterside public plaza draws visitors toward the waterfront.
Mixed-used Lighthouse Point combines 65,000 square feet of retail with a 175-room hotel, including a restaurant and entertainment area, plus a 12-story, 94,000-square-foot residential space, a workspace for local start-ups, and outdoor offerings, such as a beach that offers views of the New York Wheel.
From the 1860s to the 1960s, Lighthouse Point was the site of the U.S. Lighthouse Service Depot, the epicenter of lighthouse service operations in the United States. The development strives to preserve the site’s 19th-century character by integrating historic buildings, which are listed on both the State and National Register of Historic Places, into new retail, hotel, and residential development.
Ten years ago, NYCEDC selected Triangle Equities to develop the site, and construction on the $200 million project is expected to be complete in 2017. Brooklyn-based Garrison Architects is executing the design.
Collectively, these North Shore projects total over $1 billion in investment, Johnson explained, making them the largest group of projects on Staten Island. Key to their success is a network of waterfront esplanades, parkland, and planning initiatives that connect the neighborhoods of Tompkinsville, Stapleton, and St. George to each other and to their waterfronts.
After decades of decline, the industrial waterfront in nearby Stapleton is being developed as public space and opened up to new investment. The New Stapleton Waterfront Park is a six-acre green space with a central esplanade that draws pedestrians south from St. George and toward the water from Bay Street, the neighborhood’s main drag. The park is finished, while a tidal wetlands cove will be complete this summer. Phase two is set to begin later this year or early 2017.
The low-slung buildings along the waterfront belie Stapleton’s vibrant commercial past, although the opening of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in 1964 channeled development into the island’s interior, hastening the area’s decline. The U.S. Navy maintained a small base in the neighborhood; when it was decommissioned in 1995, no large-scale plans were enacted to stitch the neighborhood back to its shore.
Johnson calls Stapleton’s new open space one of “the most exciting” examples of projects that reconnect neighborhoods to their waterfronts. The park, in concert with NYC Planning’s Bay Street corridor revitalization, is central to spurring the neighborhood’s regeneration: The city is investing $130 million in public infrastructure connections, parks, road reconstruction, and other improvements. Connector streets that bring traffic from Bay Street are being refurbished to improve the flow of people from downtown to the water, two blocks away. The hope is that improvements to Stapleton and Tompkinsville’s main thoroughfare will promote mixed-use development.
One of those developments is URBY, a 900-unit apartment complex by Ironstate Development marketed to young people. The rental-only waterfront complex, designed by Amsterdam-based Concrete, boasts over 35,000 square feet of commercial space, including a cafe and a fancy bodega. The first phase—571 units—debuted February 2016.
To plan ongoing development, NYCEDC meets regularly with the Bay Street Local Advisory Committee, “the eyes and ears on the street,” said Emma Pfohman, senior project manager at NYCEDC. “People are still nervous about the influx of tourists, but most see investment on Staten Island as a good thing.” There are lingering concerns about how the projected increase in visitors will affect transit, although NYCEDC is working out logistics with agency partners like the NYC DOT.
To Johnson, it’s not clear if escalating development on the North Shore will set a precedent for urbanization elsewhere on the island, although he reflected on the intrinsic marketability of the location itself. “You’ve got this amazing free ferry that carries 22 million passengers per year, including two million tourists annually. That’s a lot of market exposure already.”
To the south though, one under-the-radar project is emphatically geared towards vigorous locals. Ocean Breeze Indoor Athletic Facility is located within a 110-acre South Beach park developed under former Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC, an open-space initiative whose objective was to bring massive parks to every borough. Designed by New York–based Sage and Coombe for the NYC Parks Department, the 135,000-square-foot complex is in its final phase of construction, although the track has been open for events since last November. Like most major public works, the project was managed by the New York City Department of Design and Construction (DDC) from design to build.
The facility is one of the most high-tech in the region: The six-lane, 200-meter, hydraulically banked track can convert to an eight-lane flat track for practices. The 2,500-seat arena boasts photo-sensor lighting control and a “cool” roof, which can be upgraded to accommodate photovoltaic technology, while fritted glass windows, superimposed with images of runners, flora, and fauna, double as sunscreens. The structure sits above one of the last patches of native coastal grassland on Staten Island to provide a natural buffer against storm surges.
At one historic site, stakeholders are working quickly to draw ferrygoing tourists inland.
In addition to their collaboration on Riverside Galleria, Studio V and Smith are creating a master plan for New York City’s only restored historic town, in the core of Staten Island. The plan will preserve and reuse Richmond Town’s existing structures, as well as add density to the site with new buildings. The hope is to create a destination within the city: “We describe the project as a little bit Williamsburg, Virginia, and a little bit Williamsburg, Brooklyn,” said Valgora. The nonprofit that administers the site would like to see food vendors, shops, and possibly a brewery, to draw out-of-towners and New Yorkers to a verdant living-history museum.
Two miles away, developers are giving seniors,or “active adults,” in developer parlance, an opportunity to age in place.
By 2020, Staten Island’s senior population will reach 78,000, a 31-percent increase over today’s numbers, and by far the largest percentage increase of any borough, according to NYC Planning’s Staten Island division. In response to growing demand for senior living facilities, the Landmark Colony is a full-scale residential redevelopment of the 45-acre New York City Farm Colony, once a publicly owned home for the city’s indigent population where residents had to harvest vegetables to earn their keep. Today, the site is landmarked but in ruins, a magnet for graffiti artists and wildlife that roam over from the adjacent Staten Island Greenbelt. Local firm vengoechea + boyland architects (v + b) is transforming six of the site’s 11 buildings into residences with 350 units. A clubhouse with an outdoor swimming pool, retail, and a restaurant at the development’s periphery will round out the program. One structure will be preserved as a ruin.
On a recent site visit, the air was chlorophyll-saturated, deer roamed the property, and vines crept up inside Dutch farmhouse–style structures with gambrel roofs that were last occupied in the 1970s. v+b principal Pablo Vengoechea served as vice chair of the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission, so v + b’s plans incorporate the contextual, adaptive reuse that the commission views favorably for landmarked, but deteriorated, structures: v + b intends to reuse fieldstone from some structures for new buildings, including residences styled after carriage houses, lofts, and cottages thatwill be integrated into existing historic structures.
With seniors in mind, most entrances are at-grade, and few residences have true second stories, although many feature lofts that could double as guest bedrooms or as storage. (Residents with two-story homes will have the option to customize their homes with interior elevators.)
The landscape plan, executed in collaboration with New York–based Nancy Owens Studio, will keep the grounds lush and parklike, centered around an Olmstedian center green that references classic New York City park design. The landscape, a green core with a green periphery, complements a low-density development, principal Tim Boyland said. “We used half the allowable FAR for the site.”
Landmark Colony is now preparing for design development.
Although major projects nearing completion on the North Shore, and new developments taking shape inland and elsewhere, Staten Island is poised to maintain its status as New York City’s most bucolic borough for a long time to come. This, however, is no excuse for hardcore urbanites to do the Shuffle: Get on a bus, walk to the water, and take a look around.
David Barry has made a name for himself developing mixed-use projects in retail and hospitality, including The Standard, East Village and the W Hoboken. His new residential project, Urby Staten Island, is on the market on the borough’s North Shore, with 900 units and a mix of retail, including a coffee shop, a bodega, and a communal kitchen—all supplied by an on-site farm.
AN’s senior editor Matt Shaw sat down with Barry to discuss his experience in developing hospitality and retail, and how that is informing his approach to Urby and the neighborhoods around it.
The Architect’s Newspaper: At Urby, you focus on public space. Is this something you have been thinking about throughout your hospitality work, or is it new to this project?
David Barry: It’s been a little bit of an evolution that we’ve crystalized in this project. I’ve done a lot of apartments over the years in these outer-borough locations. More recently, I have been doing hotels—what is called, roughly, “lifestyle” hotels or what used to be called “boutique” hotels. There has been an evolution in real estate as people move to urban areas but are on the move and cyber-connected all the time. I think this has given rise to a desire for urban residents to connect more to their spaces, to connect to each other more, and to move in the direction of a community.
When you’re programming those spaces, the end goal is really just to create a product that people connect with better and to provide a better experience.
We can put in a screening room and just let it exist, but in my experience, I’ve learned that there was an opportunity to take another step further and get people to connect to your product in a way that creates an emotional connection in a way that the big brands weren’t doing until recently. That’s what we’re striving to do with Urby.
Does this connection come through the retail and the shared spaces in Urby?
Yeah, I think the retail is really more about place-making and that has been around for a while: I look at Andrés Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk at Seaside, Florida, or any of that kind of stuff. We need to get life on the streets; we need to get retail mixed in and incorporate mixed-use development.
What’s a little more unique about Urby is that we are not just leasing curated retail out to third parties and creating a place, but we are taking those public spaces and being more thoughtful about how to make them an everyday piece of people’s lives. So instead of having amenities that you might use once in a blue moon, we tried to be really, really thoughtful about what is going to enhance somebody’s experience on a daily basis. We want to ensure that our commitment to programming is going a little bit beyond with things like the urban garden or the communal kitchen or the coffee shop that is embedded into the lobby. It is about connecting people around food and wellness in a sense.
I think that because Staten Island is a little bit more of a green, spacious borough, and we had a pretty substantial roof area, we thought that a roof garden could engage residents. We have a farmer-in-residence who helps residents participate—the fruits of that labor are eaten by anybody in the cafe or in the kitchen.
How are you thinking about retail at Urby?
In this instance, we’re spending a lot of time being very particular and choosy about who we want to go into that space. Because the retail is about place-making, there’s an equation where you can’t necessarily squeeze every single dollar of rent out of it if you want this place to be made in a unique and a different way. That’s what we’re striving for—to create a place that’s authentic and that hosts regional retailers and restaurateurs, whether they’re from Staten Island, Brooklyn, New York, or New Jersey. It’s not a mall concept where we’re preleasing to national credit. We’ve learned to recognize that upfront and to pay a lot of attention to how you choose the retailers and how you support them.
The architecture of the buildings and the pedestrian experience are very important. There are thousands of decisions and some of them have bearing on the neighborhood in general, while others just have bearing on residents or particular constituencies within the building. We tried to pay attention to the architecture and how the building fits into the community, particularly with respect to pedestrians. I think we’ve been really thoughtful about both of those considerations in this project: How pedestrians experience the building and the development in terms of the sidewalks and the landscaping and the street width, etc.
What role does design play in all of this?
Design has played a huge role in this project. We specifically went to Europe to find a non-American architect for this property. Not because I discriminate against Americans, but because we’re trying to think about using space differently and have a different viewpoint on creating smaller urban social spaces and public spaces. The way the Europeans think about space with their city centers that have been so tight and so constrained with a lot of people next to each other for so long, you know. I think it was really interesting to bring in creative firm Concrete from Amsterdam. It feels very different than anything else you’ve experienced, at least in the residential sphere, and a big part of that is the European sensibility and this European eye and creating spaces that encourage people to mingle or connect.
It’s interesting to bring that into the New York area because it is becoming a world city. We’re all more cosmopolitan, we travel a lot, and it’s neat to take things from different societies. I think one thing Europe has that’s great is the piazza, right? That whole street culture and plaza culture is some of the best in the world, you know, in terms of how Europeans use their indoor-outdoor space and connect with each other. It’s been really interesting to work with Concrete and bring that over here to experiment with it.
How do you think this retail environment and improvements will radiate out from Urby?
Where we’re located in Stapleton is really the historic part of Staten Island, and so it got disinvestment and kind of went off people’s radar. I hear a lot of stories from people saying things like, “Oh my God! Bay Street! When I was a kid, we used to go there, and my father used to take me to a restaurant and we would go out after.” That is what I think Urby is. I think it’s like a reason to check out the North Shore of Staten Island.
It’s going to have a really great impact on Bay Street. I think there are some really neat things about the scale and the architecture of that street and the little park there, Tappen Park. I think what it really needs is some attention and some notoriety, and I think that once people have a reason to come to that neighborhood, it will get some. Typically,it’s done often with artists who go to places like Williamsburg and Bushwick and then, before you know it, they’re having some little pop-up things or some art shows or their friends are opening a cafe or whatever it is, and that is getting people talking about it. Staten Island had been a story of kind of suburbanization. Why? Because the Verrazano Bridge opened in ’62 and, boom, the floodgates turned on in Staten Island, and that was a period of time when the world was kind of deurbanizing. So it developed in a bit of a peculiar way, because the people that inhabited the South Shore and those new developments on the mid-island and South Shore had kind of written Bay Street off.
Why did you feel this site was appropriate for this kind of strategy?
Well, part of the strategy with this is that it’s just getting so prohibitively expensive to live in Manhattan or in the well-trafficked Class A locations. Part of the attraction of this location was that it’s formerly industrial and the neighborhood needs some revitalization. It has great mass-transit links, particularly for Staten Island, in that it’s got a subway stop that goes directly to the ferry and it’s on the waterfront.
It connects into Bay Street, which is historically a street with a lot of retail, a lot of restaurants. During most of my career, a lot of the story for the outer boroughs has been the redevelopment of these formerly industrial places in Williamsburg, Bushwick, Long Island City, Staten Island, South Bronx, Jersey City, right?
So I really saw this North Shore waterfront as a continuation of that movement of expansion to the outer boroughs where housing is more reasonably priced. This was a great opportunity to start with mass transportation and riverfront access in a borough that has not had a lot of creative investment or development in the last 20 or 30 years. The elected officials, the community leaders, and the regular old residents seem to be very excited. The EDC [Economic Development Corporation] just opened the park that’s in front of Urby, and the city is really working hard through various departments like EDC to also attract attention to this neighborhood, and I think it’s one that needs investment and has a lot of potential, and the same thing with the elected officials in terms of, you know, of Staten Island because I think that most people recognize that for a society, for a city, for a community to thrive and to move into the future, there needs to be investment of some sort into that community. They’re incentivized and they’re excited and they’re being helpful about getting more private investment attracted to that area.
Subpoenas have been sent to multiple developers that bid on a project to redevelop the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL)'s Brooklyn Heights branch after real estate developer Hudson Companies Inc. won the project with a $52 million offer. Their bid, selected by the library with the help of the city's Economic Development Corporation, was not the highest nor did it offer to build the largest amount of affordable housing.
Hudson Companies' plans to redevelop the BPL's Brooklyn Heights branch on Clinton Street would include a 30-story skyscraper with 114 units of off-site affordable housing, according to an online article by the New York Post. A new, 21,500-square-foot library would be located at the base of the triangular-shaped building.The Hudson Companies’ bid, in addition to not being the highest, also did not offer the largest amount of affordable housing. For example, one bid from Second Development Services offered $6 million more than Hudson and also included three more affordable housing (117 to Hudson Companies' 114). Allegations have been made that the bidding process was rigged to benefit the winners: both Hudson and Marvel Architects, the design firm for the project, contributed money to the Campaign for One New York shortly after de Blasio was sworn in as mayor. The charity, which promoted the mayor's agenda, also received two $25,000 donations from Toll Brothers. The Post also reports that Hudson Companies President David Kramer was also known to say that Hudson was going to win the Brooklyn Heights project, no matter what.A spokesman for de Blasio has denied that the bidding process was unfair. US Attorney Preet Bharara and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance are conducting the investigation. The Post article states that Kramer has not yet received a subpoena.
State officials announced this week that, due to investigations into Mayor Bill de Blasio's alleged pay-to-play deals with developers, the two residential towers (which included a preschool and affordable housing) planned for the waterside park will not likely be moving forward. If the city has its way, though, the towers will move ahead.
Empire State Development, New York State's primary economic development agency, withdrew support for the agreement, citing potential issues with the developers of the apartment building. State officials noted that the lead developer, RAL Development Services, made a $10,000 contribution in May 2015 to the Campaign for One New York, a nonprofit that supports the mayor's initiatives, like universal pre-K. RAL and co-developer Oliver’s Realty Group were selected from 14 proposals submitted to the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation, the nonprofit responsible for operating the park, at the end of last June.
Jonah Bruno, a spokesman for Empire State Development, said: “We will not move forward with any changes until we are fully confident that all newly raised concerns have been addressed,” The Wall Street Journalreported.
The city was surprised—stunned, even—by the state's about-face, calling the reasons for the reversal "completely specious."
As early as late last week, state and city officials had reached an agreement for the space adjacent to the East River, despite an undercurrent of community opposition. It is possible that the deal can be salvaged if the community's concerns around additional development in the park, and the main developer issue, can be resolved to the satisfaction of all stakeholders.
Judi Francis, president of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Defense Fund, told WSJ that she hoped New York State would “'do the right thing' and reject the proposed changes 'and all housing on Pier 6.'”
Just hours later, however, The New York Times reported that the city intends to move ahead with the towers. “We’re going forward anyway,” said Alicia Glen, the deputy mayor for housing and economic development, to the Times on Tuesday. “We stand by the rationale for the project. It puts the park in a better position to address its maritime and capital needs. And we have an obligation to build affordable housing, particularly in these expensive and rapidly changing neighborhoods.” Glen is also chairwoman of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation.
The park is supposed to self-finance with development like the proposed towers: A 12-story building with 188 apartments (131 affordable) and a 26-story market-rate structure with of 116 condos, designed by ODA. The developer will pay the city $98 million, plus a small annual rent, for the privilege of building on the property.
Councilman Stephen Levin and State Senator Daniel L. Squadron, two of the district's representatives, note that to build on Pier 6, the city still needs state approval for the amendment to the project plan.
NYCxDESIGN is back this week for its third year. On Saturday, May 7th, an immersive interactive installation designed by Brooklyn–based Snarkitecture activated the East Village's Astor Place Plaza. The developers of luxury 125 Greenwich Street commissioned the firm to create an installation in the plaza that dialogues with the emerging World Trade Center neighborhood, featuring, of course, the Viñoly–designed 88-story, 898-foot-tall 125 Greenwich Street. Remember pin screens? Snarkitecture extrudes the cityscape into white fiberglass rods that reference the metal toys, with the World Trade Center buildings and Viñoly's structure rendered in white satin lacquer.
Snarkitecture's installation will be complemented by design-focused talks led by the field's top practitioners. The Design Pavilion opened Saturday, May 7, and remains on view 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. daily through tomorrow, May 11. NYC Design Talks will feature speakers Paul Goldberger, Rafael Viñoly, Michael Shvo, and representatives from IBM, the Design Trust for Public Space, NYC DDC, AIGA, among others, with talks held at The Cooper Union, Parsons The New School For Design, and Fashion Institute of Technology. All talks are free and open to the public; see the full schedule here.
NYCxDESIGN is organized by the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and New York City's marketing, partnership, and tourism organization, NYC & Company.
Today, 40 stakeholders released the Brooklyn Strand Community Vision Plan, a set of recommendations for developing almost 50 acres of public space that links the Brooklyn Bridge to Downtown Brooklyn. The plan focuses on broadening connectivity along the corridor by making the space more attractive and pedestrian-friendly, and improving access to the waterfront between the Navy Yard, DUMBO, and Downtown Brooklyn.
In 2014, Mayor de Blasio announced a set of plans to further catalyze the growth of downtown Brooklyn. One of these plans was the Brooklyn Strand, now a disjointed set of parks, greenways, and plazas bisected by highway feeder ramps that present wayfinding challenges even to seasoned New Yorkers. Since then, New York–based WXY Architecture + Urban Design has led not-for-profit local development corporation Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, Brooklyn Bridge Park, the Department of Parks and Recreation, the Department of Transportation, and over 250 community stakeholders through an intensive planning process to re-vision the Strand.
Recommendations from the just-released community vision include enhancing non-car links between Borough Hall Park, Columbus Park, Korean War Veterans Memorial Plaza, Cadman Plaza, Commodore Barry Park, the Bridge Parks, and Trinity Park; a "Gateway to Brooklyn" adjacent to Brooklyn Bridge Park with a viewing platform; creating a permanent market at Anchorage Plaza; reopening the long-shuttered Brooklyn War Memorial to the public; broadening access to Commodore Barry Park; widening sidewalks; installing public art to animate under-utilized public space; realign Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE) ramps to make the pedestrian experience less alienating.
“The Brooklyn Strand Community Vision Plan is an exciting and ambitious effort to reconnect Downtown Brooklyn’s historic neighborhoods to each other, reinvigorate open space and improve access to the waterfront,” proclaimed New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) president Maria Torres-Springer. “The Plan is the result of an extensive and collaborative community engagement process, and it provides a promising roadmap to the future for this historic business district. At NYCEDC, we look forward to continuing our work with the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, community stakeholders and elected leaders, and to making the reinvigoration of the Brooklyn Strand a reality.”
The Knightsbridge Armory in the Bronx, owned by the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) has been in limbo for some years now. Back in 2012, developers battled over the space becoming a Latin-infused marketplace or an ice skating rink backed by former Rangers captain Mark Messier and his firm, Kingsbridge National Ice Center. Now, Messier's proposal seems to have gained traction as the NYCEDC has given Messier and co. a month to show it has the $138 million required for the first phase of the project.
Originally constructed in 1917, the Armory was built to house a regiment of New York’s National Guard. If Messier's plan is realized, the Armory would be transformed into a 750,000-square-foot ice complex, complete with nine rinks, a 5,000-capacity arena, community center and retail area. Rinks would be used for all forms of ice skating, curling and cater for those with disabilities.
In total, the scheme is touted to cost $350 million, however, funding remains to be an issue after former State Senator Dean Skelos was convicted for corruption. Prior to this, Skelos had pledged all the money to come from a fund.
Despite the financial issues, the scheme has already been approved by the New York City council. Initially put forward in 2012, the arena would be used to host international ice hockey events, fitting considering it's listed on the New York State and National Registers of Historic Places and is an official New York City Landmark. Behind the project are Canadian firm BBB Architects. Coincidentally, Messier himself is also Canadian.
Speaking to Politico New York, William Brewer, a partner at Brewer, Attorneys & Counselors spoke of the projects progress. "Delivery of the lease is all that remains before Kingsbridge can move forward with construction," he said.
Seven years ago, Mayor Michael Bloomberg put forward the idea of the Armory being turned into a mall, however City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz both opposed it. According to Curbed New York, Diaz supports the ice center plan.
These days, the Brooklyn Navy Yard's looking ship-shape: Green Manufacturing Center, Dock 72, Steiner Studios, and Admiral’s Row are undergoing redevelopment. Now, the Navy Yard's largest building, Building 77, is in the midst of a top-to-bottom renovation, and there are new renderings of what the space will look like, inside and out.
The one-million-square-foot building, a former ammunition depot, will include 16,000 square feet of rooftop space and eight 1,200-square-foot terraces. The top two floors, branded as The Beacon, offer stellar views of Downtown Brooklyn and Manhattan, 11-foot ceilings, and 140,000 square feet of commercial space, Brownstoner reports.
Due to the Navy Yard's large size and distance from rail transit, there's an internal transit system in the works: a two-loop shuttle service will bring workers to nearby subways and the LIRR. The best part? Shuttles will have free wifi. For the bike-inclined, seven Citi Bike stations will be installed. A 1,600 space parking lot is the main concession to car culture.
If ease of access is not enough to entice potential visitors, then the promise of Nova lox and herring in cream sauce by legendary appetizing store Russ & Daughters should lure the Jewish soul food–loving masses. Russ & Daughters is the anchor tenant of Building 77's 60,000-square-foot food hall, according to leasing documents released by the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
To sweeten the deal for not-in-Brooklyn business owners shopping for new space, Building 77 is participating in the Relocation and Employment Assistance Program (REAP), a New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) program that gives business income tax credits to businesses that are currently based below 96th Street in Manhattan, or outside of New York entirely, that are bringing jobs to the outer boroughs (and some areas above 96th Street).
When all construction is complete, it's estimated that the Navy Yard will employ 16,000 and have a yearly economic output of $2.35 billion. Take a look at the gallery below to see more images of Building 77's impending transformation:
The Coney Island boardwalk, arguably the best place in New York for people-watching and watching people consume copious amounts of fried seafood, is about to get a new spiffy venue: the long-anticipated, 5,000-seat Coney Island Amphitheater on the Boardwalk is set to open this July.
Although plans have been in the works to open the venue for a few years, this is the first official announcement of a set opening date. The Amphitheater will host sports, concerts, and film screenings under its potato-chip-like awning.
Plans call to adaptively integrate the Childs Building, long vacant, into the building's program. With the Landmarks Preservation Commission's blessing in 2013, the 1923 building is set to be fitted with 50-foot-tall doors that will let breezes flow inside during the summer, but that can also be shuttered during the winter months for year-round use (the building used to host Lola Star's roller disco before that event moved to the Lefrak Center at Prospect Park).
Anticipating the popularity of summertime events, overflow crows from the amphitheater and the Childs Building can be accommodated in a 40,000-square-foot outdoor space, next to the boardwalk. The developer is New York–based iStar Financial.
"The opening of the new amphitheater further enriches Coney Island’s long history of offering the City of New York, and especially the borough of Brooklyn, unique entertainment in a seaside environment,” said Dick Zigun, founder of the sideshow and CEO of Coney Island USA. “We are looking forward to making the traditional Coney Island events, such as the Mermaid Parade, even bigger and better with the addition of Brooklyn's newest destination attraction.”