Search results for "NYC Parks"

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R.I.P

Christopher Gray, Streetscapes column writer, passes away
[Update, 5/1/2017] A memorial service for architecture writer and historian Christopher Gray, longtime author of the Streetscapes column in The New York Times, will be held on Thursday, May 4, at 6:30 p.m. at the New York University Department of Art History, Urban Design and Architecture Studies, 300 Silver Center, 100 Washington Square East (entrance on Waverly Place.) Gray died on March 10 at the age of 66. The memorial is free and open to the public. Christopher Stewart Gray, an architectural historian and author who wrote the popular Streetscapes column in The New York Times, died on Friday at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan. He was 66. According to the Times, the cause of death was "pneumonia, complicated by an unspecified underlying illness." Between 1987 and 2014, Gray composed more than 1,450 columns, focusing on the architecture, history and preservation policies of New York City. He said his goal was to "write about the everyday buildings, to investigate even the most trivial, incidental, oddball structures." A review of his articles reveals the sorts of questions he would ask and the subjects he would examine, typically with a wry sense of humor: Born in Kansas City, Missouri, Gray received a bachelor’s degree in art history from Columbia University in 1975. He also studied at the New School for Social Research and Trinity College in Connecticut. He worked as a seaman, a cab driver, and a mailman. Before joining the Times, Gray wrote a column for Avenue magazine, followed by a column about American streets called “All the Best Places,” for House & Garden magazine. He also established the Office for Metropolitan History in 1975, an organization that provides research on the history of New York buildings. His work has received awards from the American Institute of Architects, Classical America, and the New York Landmarks Conservancy, among others. Though decidedly not a preservationist, his wit and cynicism led him to be revered by preservationists and those interested in New York City alike as something akin to the David Letterman of architectural history. After learning that he had been awarded the 2015 Lucy G. Moses Preservation Leadership Award by the New York Landmarks Conservancy and that the award ceremony would be held in the newly restored Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph, Brooklyn, he purchased a Henry VIII outfit in which to march down the aisle and seize his award. Gray was the author or co-author of half a dozen books, including a collection of his columns entitled New York Streetscapes: Tales of Manhattan’s Significant Buildings and Landmarks, and many other forwards, including one for Andrew Alpern's The Dakota: A History of the World's Best-Known Apartment Building. He generously vetted countless other books for historical accuracy, including John Freeman Gill's The Gargoyle Hunters. He contributed to a Streetscapes page on Facebook, for which he chose a Mystery Photo of a building every Tuesday and invited readers to identify it. Readers may have known something was amiss when no Mystery Photo ran last Tuesday. On his Facebook page in recent years, Gray continued to find stories others would completely miss. For instance, 102 West 81st Street, a 1981 luxury condo by architect Marvin Meltzer, notable for being opposite the American Museum of Natural History with a Pizzeria Uno on the ground floor, piqued his interest as a tortured amalgam of several buildings combined and altered “in a hard-to-call style—shall we call it Romantic-Brutalism,” where in the 1890s, the central building had been the center of the Upper West Side’s real estate development. “Platt & Marie, Samuel Colcord, Clarence True, Alonzo Kight, Charles Judson and others had offices there,” he noted. Gray evaluated every structure in its context, sometimes loftily: “For its time, [the 1981 building on West 81stStreet] was a rather classy, thoughtful operation. There is a certain Mallet-Stevens // Paris // 1930s about it, no? Or am I still just coming down from business class?" Upon speaking with the architect, Gray learned that practicality and not Mallet-Stevens/Parisian modernism was the inspiration. “In the course of some 1,450 weekly columns, Christopher authoritatively and wryly unearthed the forgotten history of New York’s cityscape for his legions of readers,” said Times staff writer and novelist John Freeman Gill. “He was also a great friend and teacher... He is irreplaceable.” “He will be remembered fondly for his ability to open up the world of history and preservation of NYC’s architectural heritage to a broad readership,” architectural historian John Kriskiewicz wrote on Facebook. According to the Times, Gray is survived by his wife Erin, whom he married in 1980; his son Peter Gray; his daughter Olivia Gray Konrath, and sisters Andrea Stillman and Adrienne Hines. In his biography for the newspaper, Gray noted that he felt it was important to write about more than the major landmarks. “To me, these did not capture the essence of the city,” he explained. “It was the little dead ends, the deserted loft districts, the old ethnic clubs—these were what were interesting.”
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Vital Brooklyn

Governor Cuomo unveils Central Brooklyn revitalization plan that's big on ideas
New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has unveiled a sweeping plan to revitalize Central Brooklyn, the latest in a spate of ambitious, big-budget projects he has proposed for the state's airports, trains, bridges—and election year 2020, possibly. The $1.4 billion initiative positions itself as a "national paradigm" for addressing health, violence, and poverty in low-income communities. Called Vital Brooklyn, the proposal will target Brownsville, East New York, Flatbush, Crown Heights, and Bedford-Stuyvesant, communities where residents face persistent barriers to health, education, and employment equity as well as the rising threat of gentrification. Targeting eight investment areas, Vital Brooklyn aims to augment the supply of affordable housing; build resilience infrastructure; invest in community-based violence prevention, job creation, and youth employment; tackle open space and healthy food availability; and improve healthcare access with an emphasis on preventative care.
“For too long investment in underserved communities has lacked the strategy necessary to end systemic social and economic disparity, but in Central Brooklyn those failed approaches stop today,” said Governor Cuomo, in a prepared statement. “We are going to employ a new holistic plan that will bring health and wellness to one of the most disadvantaged parts of the state. Every New Yorker deserves to live in a safe neighborhood with access to jobs, healthcare, affordable housing, green spaces, and healthy food but you can't address one of these without addressing them all. Today, we begin to create a brighter future for Brooklyn, and make New York a model for development of high need communities across the country.” The lion's share of the plan—$700 million in capital investments—will go towards healthcare, followed by $563 million for affordable housing. The remaining money is split between Vital Brooklyn's six other initiatives, with food access getting the smallest portion of the funding. So far, Cuomo's plan is heavy on ideas but short on specifics. The healthcare component calls for more community health care facilities to fulfill current demand and provide additional preventative and mental health care services. To achieve this, a 36-location ambulatory care network will partner with existing providers, and to complement the health focus, the state will spend $140 million to ensure that all residents live within a ten-minute walk of parks and athletic facilities, and revamp existing facilities through grants. Vital Brooklyn also calls for building five-plus acres of recreation space at state-funded housing developments. Mindful that health outcomes and housing are linked, the governor confronts Brooklyn's affordable housing shortage with plans to build, build, build. With more than half of Central Brooklyn residents spending more than half of their income on rent, Cuomo's plan calls for the construction of more than 3,000 new multifamily units at six state-owned sites, with options for supportive housing, public green space, and a home-ownership plan. On the resiliency front, the state's projects aim to meet growing demand for electricity while shoring up the low-lying area's resistance to extreme weather. Under the plan, there could be 62 multi-family and 87 single-family energy efficiency initiative, plus almost 400 solar other projects in the pipeline. The initiative also calls for equipping Kings County Hospital, SUNY Downstate Medical Center and Kingsboro Psychiatric Center with backup power through the Clarkson Avenue microgrid project. Linked to the resiliency, Vital Brooklyn features a partnership between the Billion Oyster Project and the State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Environmental Justice program to expose area youth to habitat restoration practices on Jamaica Bay by adding 30 environmental education sites to the area. Through these sites, the Billion Oyster Project aims to reach 9,500 students who will learn about the benefits of oysters through the bay and SCAPE's Living Breakwaters Project on Staten Island. Not everyone is bullish on the plan, though. New York City Mayor (and Cuomo rival) Bill de Blasio, for one, is skeptical about the governor's follow-thorough. "Show us the money, show us the beef, whatever phrase you want," de Blasio said on WNYC las week. "I don't care what a politician does to get attention. What I care about is actual product." The state legislature has until April 1 to decide on the governor's budget, and negotiations may change the plan's final funding and form.
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725 5th Ave

Protestors take to Trump Tower's fourth floor for a teach-in

City Councilman Mark Levine and a host of other New Yorkers have taken to the fourth floor of Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue to give a range of public talks on climate change, jobs, energy efficiency, and public parks. Organized by Climate Works For All, the teach-in aims to heighten awareness about Donald Trump's backward energy and climate policies as well as his real estate practices.

People were able to group at the garden of Trump Tower by invoking a long-standing (but infrequently used) legal requirement that this part of Trump Tower has public access. The event is being live-streamed on Facebook and protestors are using #TeachTrump on social media. “It’s clear that Donald Trump has a lot to learn, so we came to Trump Tower to teach him about issues that matters to us and working families,” said Maritza Silva-Farrell, executive director of ALIGN, in a press release. “Making buildings more energy efficient is a win-win: cutting down on wasted energy protects the environment and creates good jobs in a city of vast inequalities. We also wanted to let the president know that New Yorkers value our public spaces, so he can’t cut corners like this anymore.”

If you fancy a trip yourself, the address is: 725 5th Ave, New York, NY 10022.

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Artsy Parksy

Meet the 10 artists who will install artworks in NYC parks this June
NYC Parks and UNIQLO USA announced the ten artists selected for the Art in the Parks: UNIQLO Park Expressions Grant for 2017. The UNIQLO grant, which accepted proposals last fall, is part of NYC Parks’ initiative to increase cultural and arts programming in previously underserved parks. Each artist will receive $10,000 to execute his or her piece and installation will begin this June. The chosen locations are Joyce Kilmer Park and Virginia Park in the Bronx; Fort Greene Park and Herbert Von King Park in Brooklyn; Thomas Jefferson Park and Seward Park in Manhattan; Flushing Meadows Corona Park and Rufus King Park in Queens; and Tappen Park and Faber Park in Staten Island. The judges, a committee of art professionals and community members, selected proposals that not only had creative and artistic merit, but also responded to the park and its surroundings. The winning artists and their submissions for each borough are: Manhattan     Brooklyn Bronx Queens Staten Island
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A New Leaf

Tree removal at Brooklyn Heights library begins, paving way for 36-story tower
A controversial project in Brooklyn Heights sparked protest yesterday morning as developers cut down trees to make way for a condo tower on the site of a former public library. The project in question is the Brooklyn Public Library's (BPL) former Business and Career Library. Last year, developer Hudson Companies won a $52 million contract to replace the library's building at 280 Cadman Plaza. Hudson Companies' plans to redevelop the site includes a 36-story tower with 114 units of off-site affordable housing. As part of their deal with the city, the developer would build a new, 27,000-square-foot library located at the base of the new building. Fast forward to yesterday morning when contractors arrived to cut down several trees on the property in anticipation of demolition. Michael D. D. White of Citizens Defending Libraries was there, along with three fellow members, to protest the tree removal in the context of the library's sale and conversion to luxury condos. "First, [the city and the developers] take something valuable, then they trash it, then"—White gestured to the tree crews hacking away—"they drive away the constituency in all ways they can." As The Architect's Newspaper reported last November, Hudson Companies filed plans to demolish the library in early November, even before they closed the deal for the site. Department of Building (DOB) demolition permits have been filed, though their final approval is pending. A spokesperson for the developer confirmed that the tree removal was permitted and lawful. Hudson is removing five trees total: four within the perimeter of the property and one street tree on the Cadman Plaza West sidewalk for which it paid restitution to NYC Parks. "The construction team will be taking measures to prune and protect the remaining trees on the sidewalk during construction," the spokesperson said. "At the project’s completion, Hudson will plant new trees on the sidewalks per NYC requirements." As the building inches towards demolition, site conditions have deteriorated in some areas. A recent visit revealed a pile of leaves and trash that has accumulated around the library's former entrance, which is visible from the sidewalk but encircled by a metal security gate. Debris from the construction site has been the subject of ongoing community concern, especially since asbestos removal began in October of last year. When reached for comment on plans to clean up the mess, the Hudson spokesperson released the following statement: "Our crews make sure that all public areas around the site are cleared and free of debris at the end of each work day. We also expect them to keep the site itself as clean as possible, and will ensure that they adhere to that standard." The ongoing development begs a final question—what's happening to the art on the library facade? Working with an as-yet unnamed building conservation and repair company, Hudson has plans to remove and store the panels, while BPL is developing plans for the panels' eventual placement. Correction: This article initially stated that demolition permit approvals were pending the site's transfer of ownership from the city to Hudson. The permits' status is independent of the deal closing.
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Exploring Green Spaces

Parks Without Borders discussion series in NYC will explore innovative ideas for parks and public space
Today, NYC Parks announced the launch of a new Parks Without Borders Discussion Series that aims to explore new ideas for parks and public space. Continuing through 2017, the conversation will expand on topics from NYC Parks’ Parks Without Borders Summit of last spring. Hosted by commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP, the discussion series features park and public space leaders throughout the United States, with topics such as new park design, peacemaking and engagement, building greener parks, healthier communities, and more resilient neighborhoods. The series will be held on the third floor of the Arsenal Gallery in Central Park. “The Parks Without Borders Discussion Series is the first of its kind, and we are excited to welcome so many esteemed guests. Conversations about improving our cities and public spaces are crucial to progress and change,” said Silver in a statement. The debut events will take place January 18, February 9, and March 9. January 18, “The Seamless Public Realm,” will host Kathryn Ott Lovell, commissioner of Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, Jayne Miller, superintendent of Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board, Jane Rudolph, director of the Department of Parks and Recreation for Arlington, Virginia, Silver, and Lynn B. Kelly, executive director of New Yorkers for Parks as the moderator. Thursday, February 9, “Rethinking Public Space,” will bring Justin Moore, AICP, executive director of NYC Public Design Commission, Signe Nielsen, commissioner of NYC Public Design Commission and principal at Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects, and Rudolph as the moderator. Thursday, March 9, “For the Love of Cities,” introduces Peter Kageyama, author “For the Love of Cities: The Love Affair Between People and Their Places,” and Silver as the moderator. NYC Parks is working to find innovative ways to develop public spaces, using the discussion series to inspire creative conversations about how to strengthen and improve the parks system. “Great parks make a great city, and at this series we will have the chance to hear from some of the greatest parks leaders in the country,” said Kelly in a statement.
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BIG U-pdate

What's new with the BIG U?
Four years after Hurricane Sandy, New York City is one major step closer to flood-proofing its shores. The Mayor's Office of Recovery and Resiliency (ORR) and the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) have officially selected three firms to collaborate on the second phase of resiliency measures planned for lower Manhattan. AECOMBjarke Ingels Group (BIG), and ONE Architecture will work on the Lower Manhattan Coastal Resiliency (LMCR) Project, a flood-proofing and park-building measure that extends from the Lower East Side up to the north of Battery Park City. "The project is landscape architecture as public realm, design as policy, and urban planning on an architectural level," said Kai-Uwe Bergmann, partner at BIG. In concert with heavy-duty resilience measures, the LMCR project, he said, aims to improve access to the waterfront and augment green space in the neighborhoods it will traverse. The 3.5-mile-long project will extend from the northern portion of Battery Park City to the Lower East Side's Montgomery Street to pick up where its sister initiative, the East Side Coastal Resiliency (ESCR) Project, leaves off.

Like the ESCR, the LMCR visioning process will begin with extensive community engagement to figure out what, exactly, neighbors want to see on the rivers' edge. The firms plan to take lessons from the ESCR, now in its final stages of design, to this one. Besides the resiliency measures that provided the impetus for the construction, Bergmann said the East Side ESCR constituents expressed a strong desire for more green space, open space, and recreation areas.

Initial renderings for the ESCR depict sinuous parks, lighting to illuminate dark and foreboding highway underpasses, and novel play spaces that bring citizens close to the waterway. BIG and ONE Architecture are working in concert to design the 2.5-mile strip, which costs an estimated $505 million, in collaboration with local, state, and federal agencies. Construction is expected to begin in 2018.

For that project and for the LMCR, Bergmann says there's no one design solution that fits all of the waterfront, especially the working waterfront. What Bergman called the LMCR “pinch points”—the tighter areas beneath the raised FDR Drive, or the Staten Island Ferry Terminal—present distinctive design challenges, though he said it’s too early to speak to specific solutions. Public meetings began this summer, and with the next set of meetings planned for February, "we hope the community can see there is traction and movement forward from a devastating event like Hurricane Sandy." 

The city says that by 2018 the LMCR team is to deliver an actionable concept design for the project area, with design and implementation to follow.

The plan, as its realized in stages, differs from the original BIG U, the sexy proposal that wowed both architects and the bureaucrats at HUD. When it first debuted, the floodproofing infrastructure extended all the way up to West 57th Street. “My hope," Bergmann said, "is that the vision will reach its full intention because that completely protects the entire lower Manhattan area."

The only component that's fully funded is the ESCR, so in order to realize both components—and possibly the whole BIG U vision—government at every level would need to open their budgets. Although Trump's infrastructure plan seems like it will focus on prisons, pipelines, and border walls, maybe the president-elect will put aside his climate change denial for a moment to help out his hometown?

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Sink or Swim?

Climate change displacement is becoming the new gentrification—here's how to stop it

Partisan political discourse still pretends as if there’s a climate change “debate,” yet the government is already acting extensively to prevent crises from rising global temperatures. Across the country, local and federal agencies are working with architects and planners to protect communities and redevelop neighborhoods in the aftermath of climate-related natural disasters. But what happens to residents who are too poor to get out of the way of storms—and too poor to return—and why is anyone rushing to live in disaster zones?

Catastrophic natural disasters share a common feature with accelerated processes of economic development: at vastly different rates, both can result in large-scale displacement. An article by Brentin Mock on environmental news site Grist uses a pithy phrase for the disparate impact climate change can have on lower-income residents: it’s the “ultimate gentrifier,” he wrote, citing the exodus of more than 300,000 low-income residents from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

The description may be provocative, but studies by environmental scientists at the EPA’s Climate Change Division partly support the notion. Within the 6,000-square-mile area at high risk of flooding by 2100 due to a mid-range two-foot sea-level rise, almost 750,000 residents belong to the most socially vulnerable groups. These are most likely to be disproportionately impacted by storms and least likely to have the resources to move.

But are rich people really are moving into areas where low-income residents are being displaced by storms? Sadly, in some cases, yes. A New York Times story on high-rise condo construction in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, reports that, far from retreating from flooded areas, a building boom is driving up prices.

Currently, local and federal agencies only spottily provide the necessary infrastructure and policy frameworks to protect against climate-related catastrophes ranging from forest fires in Southern California, earthquakes along the Pacific Coast, tornados and flash flooding in the Midwest, and hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico. Adequate planning, federal aid, and environmental regulations can and should prevent disparate impacts of climate-change related severe weather events on low-income residents. In practice, prioritizing where to improve infrastructure falls to local governments that have worse financial constraints and often carry an implicit economic bias toward the most financially important areas.

In Alaska, higher temperatures are increasing erosion and thawing the permafrost, causing homes to sink in the mud. More than a dozen Inuit towns have already voted to move, including Newtok, which has acquired a relocation site through an act of Congress, and the 650-person Bering Sea village of Shishmaref, which commissioned AECOM’s Anchorage office to study the feasibility of relocation sites. Yet the cost of these moves, estimated at $214 million for Shishmaref alone, is far beyond the means of the inhabitants; a UN report on climate change and displacement notes the lack of state and federal governance structures to support these moves.

Some low-lying neighborhoods in New Orleans are undergoing a similar policy of unofficial abandonment, swallowed up by nature through neglect. These places are not gentrifying—they’re simply disappearing.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), reorganized in 2003 under the Department of Homeland Security and reformed since 2009 by Obama administration appointee Craig Fulgate, now talks about what it calls a “whole community” approach, emphasizing participation and engagement of a wide range of stakeholders. It needs to do more.

“FEMA has changed its rhetoric,” said Deborah Gans, who has conducted planning studies for low-lying neighborhoods in New Orleans and Red Hook, Brooklyn, most of which flooded in 2012 during Hurricane Sandy. “They don’t really know how to do it yet, but at least they’re talking the talk.”

In 2008, Homeland Security established the Regional Catastrophic Preparedness Grant program to encourage collaborative emergency planning in America’s ten largest urban regions. In New York’s combined statistical area, which includes New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut, the Regional Catastrophic Planning Team coordinated a series of Participatory Urban Planning workshops that included city and state agencies, nonprofits, community groups, private sector representatives, and even local Occupy affiliates to streamline emergency preparedness, housing recovery plans, and recovery processes in five types of communities.

In the New York area, Hurricane Sandy has increased the sense of urgency. “In New York, about a third of our housing is within our six evacuation zones,” said Cynthia Barton, who participated in the workshops as manager of the Housing Recovery Program for the New York City Office of Emergency Management.

Barton leads the FEMA-supported initiative to prototype interim housing units, designed by James Garrison, which would substitute for the improvised mesh of hotels that sheltered displaced low-income residents in the aftermath of Sandy. The interim housing units, IKEA-like prefab condo boxes that stack up to three stories high in various configurations, facilitate an urban density allowing vulnerable residents to remain within their neighborhoods in the aftermath of severe storms.

“The basis for the project has always been that none of the federal temporary housing options would work in cities and that it’s very important to keep people close to home after a disaster,” Barton said. “In terms of economic stability for people and for neighborhoods, it’s important to keep people close to their jobs. It’s important for mental health reasons to keep people close to schools and close to their support networks.”

But on the federal level, long-term infrastructure improvements are not adequately funded. In New Orleans, landscape architect Susannah Drake of DLANDstudio is working on a gray and green streetscape program for 20 blocks of the St. Roch neighborhood. “The issue is that the base condition was low in terms of the infrastructure that existed,” Drake said. “We’re adding basic amenities for what would be a normal streetscape in New York, but we’re also dealing with the challenge of having very little infiltration and having a lot of water to manage…They’re not things the federal government is necessarily willing to pay for.”

Without federal insurance and public investment in infrastructure, wealthy homeowners don’t tend to move into flood zones. But storm protection, unevenly funded by federal grants, frequently has to be supported by local real-estate development tax revenues that provide lopsided advantages to upper-income residents.

“There’s a historical inequity environmentally in a lot of these neighborhoods in need, and it’s exacerbated by climate change,” said Gans, who led a Pratt Institute planning study on how to locate emergency housing in low-lying Red Hook, Brooklyn. “New York City Housing Authority projects were generally located on land that wasn’t that valuable, and guess what? It tended to be low-lying and out of the way.”

The problem centers on whether to save the threatened neighborhoods or rezone them to exclude residential use. Shoring up a city’s flood defenses can become an opportunity to improve a neighborhood’s environmental equity, but using the prevailing market-based model, focusing stormwater infrastructure in a waterfront community will only push more housing into vulnerable areas.

“As long as we keep allowing people to build market-rate waterfront property, there will be gentrification,” Gans said. “Any development that takes place on the water will be so expensive that it will necessarily gentrify the waterfront. There’s just no doubt about it.”

In Red Hook and Sunset Park, AECOM recently released a plan to place 30-50,000 units of new housing on the waterfront—25 percent of it affordable—as well as subsidize a new subway stop, and implement green and gray infrastructure for coastal protection and flood management. Arguing for the plan as a boost to Mayor de Blasio’s OneNYC ambition to build 200,000 affordable units by 2020, the proposal also runs counter to the idea of limiting exposure to areas of growing risk.

“Why would you build more housing in an area that’s underserved by transportation and that’s in a really dangerous zone, a flood area,” asked Drake, who designed the Sponge Park concept as a green infrastructure element for the Gowanus Canal. “I’m not an economist, but I’m very pragmatic and down on building in flood plains.”

Officially, there is no means testing of emergency planning or recovery aid. Eligibility for the National Flood Insurance Program and high insurance rates affect individual decision-makers. Not so for public housing, where residents’ lack of access to resources makes issues of planning that much more grave. Because of its 6,500 public housing residents, two-thirds of the Red Hook is below the poverty line. Economically, the light-manufacturing industries scattered among its low-rises generate relatively little revenue for the city to justify hundreds of millions in flood protection.

The conflict between access to revenues and local needs seems to underlie the rapidly advancing East Side and Lower Manhattan Coastal Resiliency projects, sections of Bjarke Ingels Group’s winning Rebuild by Design competition proposal for the protection of Lower Manhattan up to 59th Street. The projects essentially erect a wall adorned with parks as a bulwark against the sea. They implicitly prioritize the centrally important economic drivers of New York City.

“Ultimately there’s a cost-benefit analysis,” said Drake. “I’m not saying that lives are less valuable in other parts of the city, but when you do an economic cost-benefit analysis between Lower Manhattan and Red Hook, and you’re looking on purely financial terms, then Lower Manhattan wins because it’s an economic driver of the city.”

If it can really be done for that amount, the estimated cost for the Lower Manhattan projects is negligible in comparison to the economic benefit. The Office of Recovery and Resiliency and the Economic Development Corporation of New York have dedicated $100 million to an integrated flood protection system (IFPS) for Red Hook. City capital is supporting a $109 million Raise Shorelines Citywide project that would mitigate sea level rise in Old Howard Beach, Gowanus Canal, East River Esplanade, Mott Basin, Canarsie, Norton Basin, and the North Shore of Coney Island Creek.

“Emergency planning should really be about future planning,” Gans said. “The way you avert an emergency is by making sure you have integrative future plans that don’t put people in harm’s way and mitigate all of the bad decisions you made historically.”

In contrast to the oblivious political climate change “debate,” local governments have already learned from recent extreme weather events that they need to act to improve their planning capacity and infrastructure. Federal agencies are also acting, putting limited resources into protecting against climate change-related disasters. Highly engineered solutions are possible, but they’re unwise as a long-term strategy in the absence of a leveling off of global temperatures and will be cost-prohibitive for low-income communities. Unless the next Congress is prepared to fund a national infrastructure program, the best way to equitably protect low-income residents will be to downzone vulnerable areas and build new public housing on higher ground. Otherwise, we’ll need to accept the fact that our celebrated revitalized waterfront is mainly for the rich.

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Maker Park

New park unveiled for controversial Williamsburg waterfront site
The development team behind Maker Park has released new renderings for an inventive green space that grows from industrial relics on the Brooklyn waterfront. With this design, and last week's announcement that the city will buy a critical strip of vacant land to complete a large riverside park, it seems the wheels are finally starting to turn on the waterfront's conversion to parkland, a process that began in response to a 2005 Williamsburg-Greenpoint rezoning that produced more luxury condos than public space. Maker Park—which its creators stress is in its ideas stage—adapts the infrastructure on an isolated slice of the East River into performance venues, gardens, and open space, an adventure playground writ large for longtime residents and visitors alike. The idea, its creators say, honors the neighborhood's creative types through a guiding ethos of exploration influenced by the city's maker scene, a technology-infused offshoot of DIY culture that stresses interdisciplinary collaboration. The park is one vision for a waterfront green space that is more than a decade in the making. Last week the city announced a deal that brings a park—Maker Park, a competing vision, or a blend of stakeholders' ideas—one step closer to completion. City officials say $160 million will be spent to acquire the last remaining parcel in a necklace of city-owned land that runs along Kent Avenue from North 14th to North 9th streets (a seven-acre state park occupies two blocks to the south on the same strip). The Maker Park vision for that 27-acre expanse—which is officially called Bushwick Inlet Park—has precedent in the citizen-led efforts that gave birth to the High Line and now spur parks like the QueensWay. A grassroots team led by three young New Yorkers—Zac Waldman, who works in advertising, Karen Zabarsky, the creative director at Kushner Companies, and Stacey Anderson, director of public programs at the Municipal Arts Society (MAS)—has partnered with a team of architects and designers to reimagine the city-owned site's otherworldly white fuel containers, the remnants of Bayside Fuel Oil Depot, as galleries, stages, reflecting pools, art galleries, and hanging gardens. In collaboration with New York–based firms STUDIO V Architecture and Ken Smith Workshop, the group officially unveiled its vision for the ruins in May. In the renderings, Maker Park would stretch from Bushwick Inlet (at North 14th Street and Kent Avenue) south to North 12th Street, right across the street from present-day Bushwick Inlet Park. "Most of the developments on the Williamsburg-Greenpoint waterfront have made it anonymous," said Jay Valgora, founding principal of STUDIO V. "Much of the waterfront is kind of generic, and that's a shame, because the neighborhood is not. We think the park has to be as special as the community it's going to support." Initial renderings deliver on that promise. In dialogue with the cylindrical oil storage tanks, a curved boardwalk sweeps visitors over the inlet and back to shore in a terraced open lawn. The inlet would be planted with native grasses to create a wetland—and natural flood barrier, and a former Bayside building that fronts North 12th Street could be converted to green-roofed galleries or an events space. Maker Park's do-it-yourself ethos isn't meant to override community input. "These renderings are meant to inspire, not to prescribe," said Zabarsky. "The reason they're so magical and have these different elements is to bring about new ideas." Anderson added that community stakeholders have worked with the city for more than ten years to realize the park and that "this is alternate design vision for one portion of the park" grounded architecturally in adaptive reuse. Though they have detailed renderings and site plans, the team says their ideas are a stake in the ground—it is up to the neighborhood, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, and other agencies to conceive and execute a final plan. To that end, Maker Park is hosting a design exhibition in Greenpoint next week to solicit ideas from neighbors on how to develop the designs moving forward (more information on the event can be found here). The group has drafted ten guiding principles—centered on transparency, public input, and the preservation of open space along the river—to follow in its work. The street-facing green space adheres to the Parks Department's Parks Without Borders, a new initiative that opens up the edge conditions of the city's many gated parks, while a soccer field on the southern edge mirrors an adjacent space in Bushwick Inlet Park. Despite their ambition, the plans should work "within a typical park budget," said Valgora, but it's ultimately up to the city to allocate funds. One component that could cost more is the reuse of the Bayside building, though he said Maker Park is doing a financial feasibility analysis right now to get a clearer idea of those costs. Outside the group, the conservation of the industrial heritage is anathema to the neighborhood's progress and public image. Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park (FBIP), an advocacy group instrumental in the creation of its namesake green space, have been vocal in their distaste for the "glorification of oil tanks." It sees Maker Park as a spiteful gesture to a community that has borne a disproportionate share of environmental hazards over the course of the city's industrial history. Not surprisingly, FBIP supports the city's open space master plan, which does not include plans to preserve the fuel tanks. The Maker Park team is keenly aware of the site's environmental challenges. One guiding principal is the safe remediation of the site's environmental hazards, and the group has recruited landscape experts to develop a mitigation strategy. The contamination on site is not unusual for waterfront development in New York, said Michael Bogin, environmental lawyer and principal at Sive, Paget & Riesel P.C. There are other ways to contain toxins—recovery wells, barrier walls, and clean-fill—besides destroying the infrastructure to ensure that mobile contaminants do not escape from the soil or water. "If you take the tanks down, then put in two feet of clean-fill material, then all you've really done is destroyed the architectural value of those tanks. You haven't created a different remedy." Landscape is crucial to the remediation strategy. Ken Smith, founding principal of Ken Smith Workshop, said that the sculpted topography of the site would be built on two to three feet of clean-fill material. Capping the site, which itself is a hundred-year-old landfill, also raises it out of "high frequency" floodzones, he said. Wetlands, planted with native grasses, would be accessible via the boardwalk and cross-hatched waterside beds, and the great lawn, a counterpoint to the contextual native flora, is encircled by trees and could host large events. Both men signed onto the pro bono project to secure the city's ever-threatened manufacturing legacy. "The East River is the heart of the city, the focal point of 21st-century New York City," Bogin said. He has worked for clients who, in his view, have degraded the historic quality of the waterfront or blocked access to the shore. "We're losing the history of the river. I don't want Brooklyn's waterfront to become Times Square. Let's save something."
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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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Painted Area

Nike and KAWS remake these NYC basketball courts with colorful pop art
  Thanks to a partnership between government, a local artist, and a global athletic brand, basketball players on Manhattan's Lower East Side can now enjoy colorful courts and high-style hoops that highlight the energy of the sport. The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (NYC Parks) teamed up with Nike and KAWS, the Brooklyn-based artist and toy designer, to transform Sara D. Roosevelt Park's two basketball courts into vibrant permanent installations. The four vividly-hued backboards and their matching asphalt playing surfaces—painted with bright character silhouettes against kaleidoscopic backdrops—were unveiled in a ceremony last week. “The newly installed pop-art design, conceived by Nike and KAWS, is an exciting new add to these refurbished Sara D. Roosevelt Park basketball courts. The collaborative work here not only make these courts a destination for recreation, but also for viewing creative, culturally relevant, pop-art,” said NYC Parks commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, in a statement. “Thanks to Nike for funding the stunning facelift of such a great Lower East Side amenity that is at the intersection of multiple Lower East Side neighborhoods and districts.” Nike, which recently collaborated with Portland, Oregon on its bike share program, committed $300,000 to the basketball courts for the KAWS installation and general spruce-up. The park, which opened in 1934, last received a major overhaul twenty years ago. Although this collaboration was public-private, over the past several years the Parks Department has launched three major public initiatives to refurbish parks citywide. The Parks Without Borders project asks New Yorkers to nominate parks that could be better knit into the existing urban fabric through edge-condition design interventions, while this summer, Mayor Bill de Blasio committed $150 million to reinvigorating anchor parks, the largest and best-loved parks in the five boroughs. The older but ongoing $285 million Community Parks Initiative (CPI), started in 2014, added nine new sites to its improvement list in September. CPI targets parks in low-income, historically disinvested neighborhoods with growing populations.
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Remember the Alamo

The Astor Cube is back, along with plaza and streetscape improvements by WXY
After two years in storage, New York’s Astor Place Cube is back for a few more spins, along with a reconfigured plaza and streetscape that are designed to make high-density urban living more bearable. New York City officials held a ribbon-cutting and sculpture-spinning ceremony today to mark the completion of repairs to the rotating Cube sculpture by Bernard “Tony” Rosenthal and the larger $21 million Astor Place/Cooper Square reconstruction project that provides an improved setting for it. Officially known as The Alamo, Rosenthal’s Cube was removed for safe keeping and cleaning on November 25, 2014, so it would be out of the way during plaza reconstruction. It was returned this month, signaling completion of public improvements designed by Claire Weisz of New York-based WXY, in conjunction with the city’s departments of Design and Construction (DDC), Transportation (DOT), and Parks and Recreation. "The redesign of Astor Place brings us yet another beautiful public space that New York City has wrestled back from the automobile,” said DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg at the ribbon cutting ceremony. “We have now made the plaza space more welcoming for pedestrians and we have brought back distinctive elements—like the iconic Cube—that have long made this such a special gathering place and gateway to the East Village." Trottenberg wistfully recalled her own involvement at Astor Place. After graduating from Barnard in 1986, she said, she worked in publishing near the Wanamaker Annex back when that's what liberal arts graduates did. “This space means a lot to me,” she said. “I once sold used books under the Astor Place Cube, back when you could still make money selling books.” “The reconstruction of Astor Place—and the reinstallation of the East Village’s beloved Alamo—provides a terrific example of how well-designed public space can create a more unified,  better functioning public sphere,” said Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver. “Fluid, attractive and walkable spaces like Alamo Plaza are crucial as we work together to create a greener, healthier New York City.” “I am thrilled the Cube is back at Alamo Square and that we are celebrating upgrades to another pedestrian plaza in our city,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Marking the heart of the East Village, Astor Plaza, and this iconic artwork stand as a crossroads for thousands of New Yorkers.” The 15-foot Cube is one of the best-known sculptures in the city, popular for the way it spins on its axis. First installed in 1967, the Cube is made of jet-black Cor-Ten steel, weighs 1,800 pounds and spins easily when touched, making it a favorite late night toy for neighboring college students and others. Rosenthal (1914 to 2009) created the Cube as part of Doris C. Freedman's Sculpture in Environment installation, sponsored by the New York City Administration of Recreation and Cultural Affairs when the East Village neighborhood was a Bohemian haven. Symbolizing the constant swirl of urban life, it is as contextually emblematic as the Financial District’s 1987 Charging Bull by Arturo Di Modica. It was the first permanent contemporary outdoor sculpture installed in the city of New York. The reconstruction of Astor Place and Cooper Square were completed as part of an effort to upgrade infrastructure throughout New York City, to give residents and visitors public spaces that provide a relief as the city becomes more densely developed. The city has a goal of ensuring that all New Yorkers live within a 10-minute walk of quality open space. The Department of Design and Construction managed the project for Transportation and Parks. The community enhancement project created two new pedestrian plazas and expanded and renovated two others, bringing 42,000 square feet of new pedestrian space to the neighborhood. The redesign incorporated an existing subway station and created a safer configuration for vehicular and pedestrian traffic. It introduced larger sidewalks; 16,000 square feet of planting areas with new trees and automated, in-ground irrigation systems; 6,700 square feet of permeable pavement; 2,100 square feet of curbside rain gardens for improved drainage; and racks for more than 100 bikes. The Cube was renovated at a cost of $180,000. According to a statement from the Department of Design and Construction: “Astor Place is one of Manhattan’s busiest hubs. With nearby institutions like New York University, Cooper Union, and Parsons School of Design, thousands of cars and pedestrians flow through the area every day. Activity in this plaza space has only intensified in recent years with new buildings rising and businesses moving in to accommodate Manhattan’s population growth.” In addition, the DDC statement notes, “Astor Place is the site of a tricky intersection. Three avenues meet one another, where they form two adjacent triangles. Because of this, the area has been notoriously difficult for pedestrians to navigate. You could very easily find yourself standing in the middle of a traffic median with no access to a protected crosswalk. For years, the surrounding community and city planners saw an opportunity to transform Astor Place into a calmer, safer space.” To reimagine Astor Place, the city agencies turned to WXY, an architecture and urban design firm with a track record for working in complicated parts of the public realm. “We tend to get projects that have gone a long time without being solved, like undersides of bridges or areas surrounding viaducts,” said principal-in-charge Claire Weisz, in a statement issued by DDC. “It’s really about bringing design thinking to unusual problems, or problems that people put off solving.” The redesign was intended to reduce stress for everyone in the area. It creates sidewalks and roadways that are more clearly delineated to calm and guide drivers, and it provides more space for pedestrians, especially in Astor Place’s Alamo Plaza. Custom-designed tables, chairs, and umbrellas encourage pedestrians to stop and take in the view. There are also more trees and benches in Astor Place. At the southern tip of the Astor Place area is Cooper Triangle and Village Plaza. Cooper Triangle got new street fixtures, including steps that provide seating and meeting areas for pedestrians. More pedestrian space was added by narrowing the width of the adjacent road. Reconstruction of Astor Place began in 2013 after the local Community Board approved the plan. Besides moving public art, work included relocating underground utilities and installing new features such as lighting, bicycle racks, and plantings. Planners say in-depth traffic studies were a key step in redesigning and rebuilding roadways to calm the flow of cars. Weisz said she used the unusual geometry of the area to reimagine pockets of under-used public space.  “How do we reconnect people to their environment, not just by views, but by interacting with it?” she said. “The more options we have and the more developed our infrastructure is, the more possibilities we have for continuing our density in the city.” While Astor Place is a high profile project, planners say, areas throughout New York City are receiving similar treatment on a smaller scale. The DDC launched its Plaza Program in 2008, inviting New Yorkers to nominate their own neighborhoods for a plaza redesign. Earlier this year, the DDC and DOT also completed Fordham Plaza in the Bronx and La Plaza de las Americas in Manhattan. Others in the works include George B. Post Plaza, Lowery and Bliss Plazas, Putnam Plaza, Roosevelt Island Plaza, and Times Plaza. Although the Cube was immortalized as a mosaic landmark at the nearby 8th Street-NYU Subway Station by artist Timothy Snell in his Broadway Diary mosaics (2002, for the MTA Arts & Design program), residents have long had concerns that the frequently and roughly used sculpture may change with the area. An Alexander Calder sculpture was planned in 2011 to take the place of the Film Academy Café during 51 Astor’s development but never arrived. The lobby of that building itself now features Jeff Koons’s whimsical 16-foot-tall Balloon Rabbit (Red), 2005-2010, ironically greeting all visitors to Big Blue. During the same plaza redevelopment in 2014 that prompted the Cube’s temporary disappearance, the Department of Transportation removed around 6 light posts encased with episodes of Mosaic Trail, a classic, yet illegally installed hallmark of the East Village begun around 1984 by local street artist Jim Power.