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NYU’s Expansive Approach
Diagonal view of NYU's Washington Square Village.
Courtesy NYU

How to grow good cities? The answer keeps changing. Few large-scale entities in the city understand that better than the 180-year-old New York University with its ill-starred developments. When the private school first felt growing pains in the 1890s, it leapt to the far north and commissioned Stanford White to create a new campus in the Bronx. According to Mosette Broderick in Triumvirate: McKim, Mead & White, Columbia also considered the site but decided it was a bridge too far. And so it ultimately was for NYU, which started moving back to its Washington Square home by 1933 but did not sell the University Heights campus until 1974 (in a dire moment of need to meet payroll).

In the 1950s, Robert Moses equipped himself with the latest tool of urban growth—slum clearance—and aimed straight at Greenwich Village and NYU, proposing to wipe out 27 blocks south of Washington Square to make way for ten superblocks with Corbu-approved “towers in the park.” We shudder now, but at the time that approach was enthusiastically embraced by the most sophisticated urban planners. One community rebellion later, with an emerging Jane Jacobs and Lewis Mumford crying “civic vandalism,” it was scaled back to three superblocks. NYU owned one of them and immediately hired I.M. Pei, a tower-in-park believer but with the refined abilities to finesse the inescapable chunk of a plan into something exceptional. By 1964, NYU owned the second and third superblocks, too, leasing one to the Mitchell-Lama affordable housing program.

[+ Click to enlarge.]

A pattern emerges of a university fraught with financial instability trying to move forward responsibly, with course corrections along the way. (Does that jive with the institution’s buying up the Village indiscriminately as opportunity has allowed? Of course, if you factor in the most basic real estate instincts, honed over more decades than most any other resident of the area.) And now Pei’s Silver Towers, those finely executed renditions of an entirely discredited notion, are being fiercely defended. And that’s as it should be—the democratic process playing itself out in twitter-feed outrage and poster-loaded community meetings.

On reading the NYU proposal, however, it does seem that the institution is attempting to follow the most current enlightened approach to development. They hired their own triumverate of real talent—Toshiko Mori, Michael van Valkenburgh, and Grimshaw. They talk the talk of increased public accessibility, underutilized ground floors given over to non-profit or commercial uses, and a public dog run. The brochure is sprinkled with knowingly au courant quotes from Michael Sorkin’s latest and Rem Koolhaas’ indelible tomes. Political maneuvering? Naturally—the plan name NYU 2031 doesn’t echo the mayor’s PLANYC 2030 for nothing. Six million square feet, half of it within an already crowded Village neighborhood, is still a scary prospect for anyone who doesn’t want their corner of the city to be altered beyond recognition, or maybe changed at all.

But today is just a snapshot. As all designers know, change is already written in the glossy brochures. And the urban planning practices of today might well be displaced by an entirely different approach in no time. Architects, landscape urbanists, and engineers involved, therefore, all have a duty to speak up, loud and clear and not just in nerve-wracking community confrontations, to let people know now that as long as NYU commits to quality—and so far its hiring practices suggest it is—that inevitable expansion can be OK. It can, in fact, be tomorrow’s fiercely defended quality of life improvement. Call it the Silver Lining.

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Quick Clicks> River Metro, Byrne, Reskinned, Jane
Mississippi Metro. Strange Maps pointed out a clever reinterpretation of the Mississippi River basin as a subway system. Check out a bigger version at Something About Maps. (You may also be interested in the Sustainable City Collective's list of top five urban infographics.) Byrne-ing Down the House. David Byrne waxes poetic on the arts-and-crafts bungalows of Berkeley after taking a recent bike ride through the city's early 20th century neighborhoods. Reskinning. Solve Climate News spotlights Toronto entrepreneur Ron Dembo who is tackling insufficiently skinned buildings to increase energy efficiency. (Via Planetizen.) Janie's got a Walk. With warm weather closer on the horizon (despite a fresh blanket of snow across parts of the country), Shareable recommends planning a Jane's Walk in your city, after the famous urbanist Jane Jacobs, to explore the history, ecology, and social issues in your neighborhood.
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Quick Clicks> Mega Watts, Luck, Mattise, Like Jane
Mega Watts. The Los Angeles Times reports that the James Irvine Foundation has granted $500,000 toward the preservation of LA's Watt's Towers, declaring the folk-art stalagmites "an important cultural icon." (Photo courtesy Robert Garcia/Flickr) Luck in School. The NY Times relays the story of Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck who has chosen to pursue a degree in architectural design at Stanford's School of Engineering rather than head off to the NFL draft. We wish Mr. Luck, well, all the best in his endeavors, but life as an architect can make the NFL seem like a walk in the park. Al Matisse? Variety brings us news that Al Pacino has been selected to play Henri Matisse in an upcoming film called Masterpiece detailing the French painter's relationship with his nurse, model, and muse Monique Bourgeois. Producers will soon be looking for female leads. Like Jane. The Rockefeller Foundation is accepting nominations for this year's Jane Jacobs Medal honoring two living individuals who have improved the vitality of NYC and, among other things, "open our eyes to new ways of seeing and understanding our city."
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Robert Moses Goes to the Opera
This Saturday, January 15, the Knickerbocker Chamber Orchestra will lift their bows and the ghost of Robert Moses will flood the World Financial Center Winter Garden. Gary S. Fagin composed Robert Moses Astride New York from which the music will be drawn. A vocal performance by Rinde Eckert will accompany the score, but best of all, it's free. The New York Times recently sat in on a rehearsal for the Moses musical with author Robert A. Caro who penned the authoritative tome on New York's Power Broker. The performance includes events from Moses' life and career including a fight over a parking lot at Central Park's Tavern on the Green and Moses' resignation. From the Times:
Mr. Caro said he was particularly pleased by the musical’s last section, which recalls Moses’ dedication of a bench in Flushing Meadows, one of the parks he’d built. It is the poignant scene that concludes “The Power Broker,” in which Moses wonders why he wasn’t sufficiently appreciated.
While Robert Moses Astride New York is a work in progress, when complete, Fagin plans to include other pivotal characters from twentieth century New York including activist Jane Jacobs and Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia. The free performance by the Knickerbocker Chamber Orchestra with Rinde Eckert takes place Saturday, January 15 at 7:00PM at the World Financial Center Winter Garden.
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The Best Urban Planning Books Of 2010
Move over NY Times Holiday Guide... Our friends at Planetizen have come out with something wonkier: their annual top 10 list of books in urban planning, design and development. The winners were based on a combination of editorial reviews, popularity, reader nominations, sales figures, recommendations from experts and books' potential impact. Some of our favorites include Los Angeles In Maps, a visual history of maps in LA that makes sense of the city's crazy grids and charts development over the years; What We See: Advancing The Observations of Jane Jacobs, a collection of essays putting a fresh perspective on Jacobs' views on topics like preservation and urban planning; and Reinventing the Automobile: Personal Urban Mobility for the 21st Century, which suggests shifting automobiles to "Ultra Small Vehicles," which could mean far less gas use and even automated driving. Any of these would be a perfect gift for anyone who knows what FOR, CEQA, or TOD stand for..
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Urban Planning as a Psychoactive Drug
CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta points out a University of Michigan, Ann Arbor study suggesting that city dwellers harbor more stress than their suburban counterparts, but says access to parks could be the cure. Researchers have found that spending time in parks or park-like settings can help reduce cognitive effort and promote relaxation. Data seems to suggest that urban planning and the design of park space into our built environment can have a much more profound effect on our individual behavior and psychology than we might think. Parks, researchers suggest, are the best medicine for a chaotic world. Here's the problem from Dr. Gupta:
The problem seems to be "attention," or more specifically, the lack of it. With so many different distractions -- from a flashing neon sign, to the cell phone conversation of a nearby passenger on a bus, a city dweller starts to practice something known as "controlled perception." That toggling back and forth between competing stimuli can be mentally exhausting.
Researchers asked different groups of students to spend a day in the city and in the suburbs and then evaluated their mood and attention.  While the suburbs have their own unique stress points compared to the city (who enjoys the road-rage inducing commute on the choked interstate or the banal asphalt lots fronting endless shopping centers?), there's much more green within sight that soothes our brains. To be fair, there are many different types of urban experiences - many replete with green space. While a walk through the crowded, neon-flashing streets of Times Square with its hustle and bustle could undoubtedly strain the most focused individual, a stroll through the shady, tree-lined streets of the West Village, steps from where Jane Jacobs once lived, can offer a thoroughly relaxing experience. But increasing the amount of nature in cities can't be a bad thing. Even a little green can go a long way. From the Boston Globe:
Studies have demonstrated, for instance, that hospital patients recover more quickly when they can see trees from their windows, and that women living in public housing are better able to focus when their apartment overlooks a grassy courtyard. Even these fleeting glimpses of nature improve brain performance, it seems, because they provide a mental break from the urban roil.
It looks like urban planners are a little like the doctors of the city. But what's your experience in cities, suburbs, or even in the park? Does the city stress you out? Can more parks save us from a world of stress? Share your insights in the comments below.
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Rudolph’s LOMEX in Retrospect
Rudolph's perspective rendering of vertical housing along the approach to the Williamsburg Bridge.
Courtesy Paul Rudolph Archive, Library of Congress

Paul Rudolph: Lower Manhattan Expressway
Arthur A. Houghton Jr. Gallery
The Cooper Union
7 East 7th Street, 2nd Floor
Through November 20

Paul Rudolph: Lower Manhattan Expressway is a show of about 30 full-sized reproductions of drawings for a megastructure proposed in the 1960s to be built atop the controversial highway near Canal Street. The show was jointly organized by the Drawing Center and the Cooper Union’s Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture, and curated by Jim Walrod, an interior designer, and Ed Rawlings, principal of Rawlings Architects, who directed students in rebuilding a stunning 30-foot-long model of the project.

The show is, among other things, a testament to the continuing power of virtuoso architectural drawing—and virtuoso modeling—to evoke inspiring visions in the digital age. But at the same time, it suggests that image and model go only so far. The project cries out for context and history. “Had it been constructed, this major urban design project would have transformed New York City’s topography and infrastructure,” the curators write noncommittally of a project so emotionally charged that Jane Jacobs was arrested fighting it.

A rendering of Paul Rudolph's vertical towers.
Perspective view of Rudolph's jagged towers surrounding the Lower Manhattan Expressway and parking decks.

LOMEX, as it was known, was a famous battleground in the struggle between Jacobs and Robert Moses and all they respectively symbolized. The highway, linking the Holland Tunnel and the Williamsburg and Manhattan bridges, had been proposed in various forms since the 1920s. It was supported by the Regional Plan Association and by mainstream business and political forces. It was opposed in the 1960s by local groups critical of the loss of housing and small businesses that the road would cause.

 In 1967 the Ford Foundation, whose new head was McGeorge Bundy (formerly National Security Advisor during escalation in Vietnam), asked Rudolph—known for large-scale projects—to imagine a development that ameliorated the impact of the highway. He proposed topping the sunken freeway with a series of residential structures, parking, and plazas, with people-mover pods and elevators to subways. The shapes of the buildings echoed the Williamsburg and Manhattan bridges, and also recalled Hugh Ferriss’ ideas of bridge/buildings from 1929. Rudolph’s idea was organizing a new city core around modes of movement.

The power of the imagination and drawings begs the practical question: Is this megastructure magic or madness? Lay people will likely see a high degree of architectural hubris to the show. The images are “helicopter shots,” with no perspectives from the terraces of the terrace houses—and no people in evidence. Who would enjoy living above a road whose carbon monoxide production was an issue in the public debate? What would decades of soot have made of the place, had it been built?

A Rudolph sketch.
A Rudolph sketch demonstrates his ideas about prefabrication.

Also lacking is any proposal of who would build and own such a development. The Triborough Bridge Authority? The city? The Port Authority? Opponents to the highway would have found the same fault with the Rudoph plan as with other “urban renewal” plans that produced empty plazas and litter-strewn corridors.

It’s not clear how widely known the project became to the public or its role in any debate about the highway. The original model was built for a film, it appears. The curators were unable to locate any portions of the film or even determine how far it proceeded. They display a script or voiceover text in the show. The original plan for an elevated highway was replaced in 1968 by a Lindsay administration proposal for a sunken highway with parks and housing adjacent; the same year, Jane Jacobs was arrested for disrupting a public hearing on the proposed highway. By 1971, the highway plan was killed entirely by Governor Nelson Rockefeller.

Not until 1974 were images and information about Rudolph’s proposal published in The Evolving City, a book by Peter Wolf, issued by the American Federation of the Arts with a grant from the Ford Foundation. But 1974 also saw New York’s fiscal crisis—hardly a time when anyone was thinking of big new developments.

Many first saw the Rudolph project on the cover of Reyner Banham’s 1976 book Megastructure. Banham noted the origins of the project’s A-frame and “terrassenhaüser” residential structures in the work of Antonio Sant’Elia circa 1916, and Rudolph’s citing of the precedent of the Ponte Vecchio in 14th-century Florence. Banham’s book was subtitled “urban futures of the recent past,” suggesting that megastructural thinking was already passé.

The original drawings, whose powerful perspectives are rendered in graphite or reddish brown ink, are in the Rudolph archive in the Library of Congress. (MoMA also owns an example, not in the show.) Red pencil drawings show ideas of how housing modules could be delivered to the site. Some of the drawings are displayed in a free-standing structure whose ball-and-stick design, the curators say, was inspired by Rudoph’s Lucite chair—a bit of an inside joke.

Rudolph's plan alongside the LOMEX.
Aerial rendering showing Moses' expressway surrounded by Rudolph's futuristic towers slicing through Manhattan.

The show asks, What would Soho, Chinatown, and the Lower East Side look like today if LOMEX had been built? Or suggests other “counterfactuals”: What would the city look like had the World Trade complex not been built? Might the razed Radio Row have evolved into a real Silicon Alley?

A new generation is less aware of the battles over, and issues raised by, such projects. In this, the 50th anniversary of Brasília, there may be a willingness to think big again. This is a welcome recovery from the cynicism engendered in the 1960s and 1970s, if tempered with wisdom. We now have the word “scale-able,” which in Rudolph’s day referred only to mountains. But the LOMEX exhibition also comes at a time when big projects, if not megastructures, are being reconsidered in New York—Brooklyn’s downsized arena complex, Stuyvesant Town, even Ground Zero rebuilding. What is the role of architecture in all this?

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Massive Projects Zoned Out of the Village
New zoning will affect a 100-room hotel proposed for Washington Street.
Tom Stoelker

Although larger battles loom, preservationists claimed victory last month with the passage of the Far West Village and East Village rezonings by the city council. The new regulations affect two projects in the West Village, and set the stage for a confrontation with New York University over its NYU 2031 expansion plan.

St. Anne's Church on 12th Street.
Zoning changes in the East Village are in part a reaction to the tower behind St. Anne's Church on 12th Street (Above). Changes also affect a mixed-use proposal in the Far West Village at Washington and Charles Streets (below).
Washington Street in the Far West Village.

The Far West Village rezoning—bound by Greenwich, Washington, and West 10th and 12th streets—imposes an 80-foot height limit and ends commercial bonuses for hotels. The rezoning will impact a 100-room hotel proposed by developer Charles Blaichman for the corner of Washington and Perry streets, and a mixed-use building proposed by brothers John and Ron Pasquale for the corner of Washington and Charles streets. John Pasquale said his company will comply. The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP) began a concerted letter-writing campaign in 2008 after Blaichman’s proposal came to light. Both sites sit no more than two blocks from where Jane Jacobs wrote her famed treatise.

More reactive than proactive, proponents of the East Village rezoning began writing city officials in 2005 after developers demolished much of St. Anne’s Church on East 12th Street. Its 1847 stone facade now fronts a 26-story dorm purchased by NYU earlier this year for $134 million.

“It was a long, hard fight in the case of the East Village. We faced a lot of resistance [from the city], but they eventually came around,” said GVSHP Executive Director Andrew Berman, crediting Councilmember Rosie Mendez in particular.

Known as the 3rd Avenue Corridor, the rezoning includes the area between 3rd and 4th avenues and East 9th and 13th streets. New restrictions cap building heights at 120 feet and eliminate zoning bonuses for community facilities such as dorms. Most buildings in the East Village district already meet the new criteria, making the rezoning akin to a warning shot in the battle between preservationists and the university.

“We hope the city will apply the same logic to the NYU 2031 plan,” said Berman, adding that the 400-foot tower proposal beside I.M. Pei’s Silver Towers is likely the next flashpoint. “NYU has been portraying it as community-friendly, consistent with Jane Jacobs’ urban planning, but nothing could be farther from the truth.”

In an email, NYU’s chief spokesperson John Beckman suggested that neighborhoods undergo rezoning to update existing codes “considered out-of-date for the current development needs and desires.” Noting that NYU 2031 plans have not been affected by the rezoning, he added, “It is this philosophy of needing to put in place new mechanisms to allow appropriate development that drives us to undertake our own rezoning efforts on our own property.”

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Parks Advocates Picked for Jacobs Medals
Central Park Conservancy founder Elizabeth Barlow Rogers and Friends of the High Line founders Joshua David and Robert Hammond will receive this year's Jane Jacobs Medals, presented by the Municipal Art Society and the Rockefeller Foundation. Rogers founded the Central Park Conservancy in 1980 and served in the dual position of president and park administrator till 1995. The conservancy became a model for public/private park restorations that has been emulated nationwide. Since its inception, the conservancy has raised $500 million for restoration and maintenance of the park. A writer and scholar on landscape history, Rogers is currently the head of the Foundation for Landscape Studies, another organization she founded. She will donate her entire $80,000 prize to the Foundation. David and Hammond fought successfully to preserve the High Line, which was slated for demolition during the Giuliani administration. Enlisting the support of politicians, gallerists, celebrities, and the public, they raised raised awareness, and millions, to transform the dilapidated structure into one of the country's most innovative urban parks. Friends of the High Low now operates as a conservancy and will to cover 70% of the High Line's operating costs. The High Line's second phase is now under construction. Hammond and David will each receive $60,000 and will each donate $20,000 to the Friends.
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Sidewalk Critic
Courtesy Reaktion Books

Twenty Minutes in Manhattan
Michael Sorkin
Reaktion Books, $27.00

In his recent book, architect, urbanist, and New Yorker Michael Sorkin invites the reader to take a walk with him from his fifth-floor Greenwich Village apartment to his studio in Tribeca. Written over a period of more than a dozen years, the book is much more than a description of this 20-minute experience; it is a summation of Sorkin’s thinking on cities; it is a chart of the 21st-century transformations of New York; it is an appreciation of the street and the fine-grain qualities of cities everywhere; and it is a highly personal account of the city that he and millions of others call home.

Each chapter marks a different location in Sorkin’s southerly walk, from the stoop of the building he dubs the “Annabel Lee” near Washington Square to the elevator of his Hudson Street studio and his subsequent studio space on Varick Street further north. Each realm of social interaction is a looping mix of descriptions, recollections, histories, critiques, and explications, with the tangential offshoots always returning to the walk, as if to acknowledge and elevate the importance of the individual’s experience in the city, both physically and mentally. Crossing the street illuminates theories of psychogeography and the philosophy of Michel de Certeau. Pigeon control in one paragraph gives way to the “phallocracy of skyscraping” in the next.

A circuitous path in the first chapter (The Stairs) leads from the 5th-century Greek architect Hippodamus of Miletus to the Manhattan gridiron plan’s shaping of apartment buildings and tenements like the Annabel Lee. Sorkin links the unrelenting grid of the city to parceling of land, zoning codes, and ultimately the location and construction of stairways. The reader senses the impact of bureaucratic policies that take their own circuitous route from the law books to the hallways of an apartment building—one of many illustrations of the myriad contested interests and interactions that unfold every day.

Peppered with subjects that would be at home in an introductory survey course (Le Corbusier’s Radiant City, Jacob Riis’ muckraking, Oscar Newman’s “defensible space”), the book appeals to the general reader. And indeed, the author’s constant rebounding between direct experience and urban musings, along with his conversational tone, seem aimed to reach a broader audience.

For professionals and educators involved in architecture and urban design, Sorkin treads familiar ground. Still, the book’s value lies in Sorkin’s point of view: his familiar but marginal “on the ground” thinking rooted in the civic-mindedness of Jane Jacobs, and the 1960s counterculture’s embrace of diversity and choice, anathema to many of the subjects he ruminates upon. The book becomes, in its combination of experience and history, a repository for what Sorkin holds dear about the city and its production.

A few ideas stand out from this lovely mess: the city or body as a metaphor for the urban environment; and the importance of participation over possession. The latter topic arises near the end of the book in a critique of the Trump Soho, where the celebrity developer and design team took advantage of zoning loopholes to create a residential tower in a lowscale manufacturing district. Defended by the Bloomberg administration, the tower makes Manhattan just another consumable, in this case by people able to afford $3,000 per square foot apartments they occupy only a portion of the year.

Democratic participation—à la Jacobs’ battles with Robert Moses—was usurped in favor of trickledown economics, where catering to the rich purportedly leads to benefits for those below. Sorkin’s city/body metaphor, on the other hand, sees the urban environment and the body’s wants and needs working symbiotically, not set aside in favor of profit. These two ideas relate to Sorkin’s vision of the city as an ongoing project, an ever-changing aggregate of elements that create the world we inhabit.

Ideas and ideals aside, what’s most engaging about Sorkin’s text are the personal anecdotes. New Yorkers will surely sympathize with a long rant against his landlord, the frustrations of navigating sidewalks littered with people blindly texting, or the memorable grumble, “I look forward to spitting on the first [Subaru Tribeca SUV] I see and yelling ‘asshole’ at the driver.” Lacking illustrations, the book is nevertheless highly visual, thanks to Sorkin’s colorful stories and precise descriptions of the journey.

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He Fought the Good Fight
It appears this is the end of one of the greatest real estate battles since Jane Jacobs took on Robert Moses. But just as Penn Station was demolished and replaced by Madison Square Garden, Daniel Goldstein's apartment building will soon go, replaced by the Barclays Center. We just received an unusual release from Forest City Ratner saying simply that the company "today reached an agreement with the remaining resident residing in the project’s footprint" and would not comment further. Goldstein's name was not even mentioned, and while we're waiting to hear back ourselves, the Times confirms it, along with the rather astounding fact that he was paid $3 million for his condo. The unit was originally bought in 2003 for $590,000, though the state notoriously offered only $510,000 last year, citing neighborhood blight. This comes on the heels of news yesterday that deals had been struck with the remaining 7 holdouts, including Freddy's Bar, which now hopes to move to somewhere near 4th and Union avenues, not too far from its current home.
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Green Acres
Sage and Coombe redesigned a mural intended for the World Trade Center construction fence for a similar one further downtown at Peter Minuit Plaza.
Courtesy Sage and Coombe

Last August, the New York City Department of Transportation and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey launched a competition for a mural to adorn the construction fence around Ground Zero. The brief called for “bold, colorful imagery reflecting the vibrancy of the downtown commercial and residential neighborhood.”

The winning design, by New York–based Sage and Coombe Architects, was a chlorophyll wonderland of flora and fauna to be printed on vinyl mesh and installed on the fence's western side, along Church Street between Liberty and Vesey streets. “The design is in the spirit of embracing the cityscape with an eye toward greening it,” said principal Jennifer Sage. “The idea was to make a garden hedge that you could peel back and look into.”

But the original completion date in December came and went with no mural installed. In January, the competition sponsors announced that none of the entries (including the winner) were “extraordinary enough” for Ground Zero. Sage and Coombe’s work, it was decided, would meanwhile be installed at another Lower Manhattan construction site, Peter Minuit Plaza near the Whitehall Ferry Terminal, which is being overhauled as an intermodal transportation hub.

The mural’s design (super-sized, searchable version here) has been given some tweaks to reflect its new location, pays homage to the city’s heritage as well as its icons. Topiary windmills and a wooden shoe nod to New Amsterdam, Coney Island’s Parachute Jump and Wonder Wheel make an appearance, and the Brooklyn Bridge and Guggenheim Museum get the topiary treatment as well.

A cast of historical characters also inhabits the hedge: Henry Hudson winks through a keyhole, while the ghosts of Jane Jacobs and Frederick Law Olmsted float in the clouds. Civic leaders like Peter Stuyvesant and Mayor John Lindsay also get their due. “It’s a puzzle of disparate New York components, but all of the entities are the icons you think of when you think about New York,” Sage said.

The greening concept goes beyond the literal idea of the hedge to encompass other modes of sustainability. Sage and partner Peter Coombe have long pursued strategies that incorporate new technologies and green features, and the mural includes alternate means of transportation such as cyclists and skateboarders that navigate the hedge. City officials also intend to reuse the mural if possible.

As for the project’s new home, near UNStudio’s New Amsterdam Pavilion at the entrance to the Staten Island Ferry, Sage remains enthusiastic. “It’s a point of arrival, historically and today,” she said. “So many people trudging by every day are going to see it.” The firm has fine-tuned the mural for the site at Manhattan’s tip, embellishing the Dutch imagery and adjusting details like labels on subway cars to reflect the new surroundings.

While the Ground Zero construction fence will now remain as is—a Port Authority spokesman said the agency will periodically update individual panels with images that reflect new construction on the site—Sage and Coombe’s mural is expected to plant a splash of color in Peter Minuit Plaza by the middle of this month.