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Shedding the Shed

the_shed_is_a_shack pokes fun at Hudson Yards and corporate malfeasance
On June 21, a couple of months after the opening of the Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Rockwell Group-designed Shed, the anonymous group behind the_shed_is_a_shack Instagram account began trolling the billionaire-real-estate-developer-funded arts center. Its organizers, who include an artist and an executive director of an arts institution, followed their friends' Instagram accounts to attract followers and began lampooning the Shed. They published a photo of a cracked electrical outlet cover and an electrical box with wires sticking out, poked fun at design and programming decisions, and savaged the financing behind the project. Increasingly they focused on its embodiment of extreme economic stratification, poor labor practices, and the "artwashing" of real estate the project embodies. We asked The Shack—as they call themselves—about the account, their trolling of the Shed and Hudson Yards, and their view of what should have happened there instead. They responded with a remarkably cogent argument for an alternative decision-making process for development on public property. AN: Can you tell us about your backgrounds or professional affiliations? Are you connected to any activist groups or have you been in the past? the_shed_is_a_shack: We are arts professionals with many years of experience with cultural institutions and in different aspects of the art world. The Shack includes an executive-level arts leader and an artist who is also active in a number of other social justice/advocacy issues. We are also people who care about our communities, our fellow citizens, and the importance of civic engagement.
 
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Are you creating some of the memes or are you mostly sharing other things you see? We create all of the content ourselves, except in a very few select cases where we have reposted and clearly credited the original poster. Our audience also sometimes sends ideas or news articles to us, and occasionally that’s a prompt for us to create a particular meme or post around that idea.
 
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How do you see this action: As advocacy or activism, or are you mostly just having fun trolling the developers? The account is light-hearted about a dark-hearted thing, and so we’re poking fun while also highlighting some very serious issues. There are a lot of problems with how money and power are distributed and abused in the art world, and also in the world at large, and what has happened (and is happening) at Hudson Yards and with the Shed is representative of some of the most egregious examples. There’s also such a huge gap between how Hudson Yards and the Shed were sold and marketed to the public, and what they have actually become. So much marketing hype was built into the selling of it, and so it feels right that the response should be similarly structured in terms of tone, as memes, faux ads, and hype-speak. Also, we’re in the art world, so we like our visuals. There’s a long history of art world projects that critique the structure and internal systems that underpin cultural institutions. We’d like to see that critique contribute to change, so there’s an advocacy element to our trolling.
 
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Is it connected to a particular set of positions? No matter how much we might have a laugh at some of the more outrageous details of Hudson Yards and the Shed, the development is actually a slap in the face to the people of New York and thus in need of more serious examination. A select group of wealthy individuals and corporations are benefitting from Hudson Yards, along with government officials who actively championed and pushed through the development to advance their own political or business interests (including Bloomberg, De Blasio, Dan Doctoroff, and others). But what did everyone else get? Our tax dollars went to build a private luxury neighborhood billed as “Little Dubai,” while many New Yorkers don’t have access to affordable housing, reliable subway lines, or adequate healthcare. The developers tried to cut out unions and limit worker safety standards, and people lost wages and got hurt. And with the Shed, our tax dollars helped pay for a building and organization that is not serving the cultural community or the public as promised, and instead has created a tax-deductible structure and plaything for the developer and his pals to utilize and benefit from. So, our position is about advocating for the public interest and for the cultural community.
 
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What motivated you in particular to start it, and is Instagram an effective tool so far to forward a message? The account started really just as a cathartic response and half-joke. We visited The Shed soon after it opened and were stunned by the experience. The building itself was in disarray. Hardware was falling off the walls or not properly installed, there were cracks in the glass and electrical socket plates, puddles of leaking lubricant from the escalator, peeling and chipped paint on multiple walls, exit signs with wires sticking out, obvious building code violations, and more.  
 
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For a brand-new, wildly expensive building supported by taxpayer money and on city-owned land—and touted by the developers and the city as representing the future of cultural institutions and civic public-private engagement—it was a massive failure. So many cultural institutions around the city are struggling to pay the bills, and money got poured into this development. It’s unconscionable that it turned out this way and that there has not yet been a reckoning for abusing the public trust. So what started as a joke among friends expanded as we realized how serious and ongoing the problems there were. Instagram is the art world’s preferred social media for the most part, at least for the moment, and so it seemed like a natural choice.
 
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What would be an ideal outcome? The desired outcome is to expand the conversation around the Shed and Hudson Yards. It’s also important to us to emphasize how the final shape of the development is not an accident; it’s what happens when a development that is privately owned and controlled does not include the appropriate level of input, regulation, and safeguarding by community groups and the public. The Shed is an extension of that core problem, with a board controlled by the developers and their buddies, and even the building itself is literally infected by and physically trapped inside the development Alien-style (The Shed ended up being constructed with much of its operational guts shared with and located inside of the skyscraper next door). So now we have a major NYC neighborhood and cultural institution that is being controlled by a small group of private investors, continuing to benefit from tax incentives and public money, in order to advance personal interests that are largely counter to the public’s.
 
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Although Hudson Yards is mostly owned by private developers, the Shed sits on public land owned by the city and is a nonprofit entity that is required to benefit the public good. So we—the public—need to hold the Shed accountable and see that necessary changes are made to the way it operates. There are many different options that might be proposed as an alternative; for example, a consortium of existing cultural institutions and community organizations could come together to re-envision how the space should operate and who should run it. The building could serve as an outpost/off-site programming space for other arts and culture organizations on a rotating basis, among other possibilities. It could also be converted into free or subsidized office/studio space for cultural nonprofits, artists, and community organizations that can’t afford rent because of developments like Hudson Yards, or for events like pop-up free healthcare clinics or other services for those in need. Further, there should be a public conversation to include government officials that rethinks how the next phase of Hudson Yards is allowed to proceed, with an eye toward much more community oversight, regulation, and built-in systems for clawing back public money/tax incentives if and when promises aren’t kept.
 
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What should Hudson Yards have been? Hudson Yards should have been a true public-private partnership, which means careful input, oversight, and regulation by the community at every stage and ongoing for the life of the development. That’s a hard and challenging process, but it’s necessary and fair if developers want to get decades of tax incentives, city- and state-paid infrastructure, and other public money. Hudson Yards could have and should have been an actual mixed-use community, with truly integrated housing for low-income, middle, and yes even some luxury, as well as a range of nonprofit, business, and retail spaces that genuinely serve the neighborhood needs more broadly. It should have true public space (not privately owned space that the developer controls on whim) and cultural venues that more fully reflect the needs and interests of the community. Cultural and creative programming and public artwork should be informed by and ultimately decided by those with expertise in the field alongside community members, not by one rich guy who wants a big Heatherwick bauble because he thinks it’s what other rich guys like. If he wants a Heatherwick (or anything else), he’s welcome to buy it and build it—but not with the support and help of public money and infrastructure.
 
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Because the developers of Hudson Yards are claiming private control of the entire space (even though this isn’t actually correct, with the Shed on city-owned land and the Hudson Yards subway part of the MTA), they are asserting that visitors don’t have the same rights they would normally have in a public space. That’s deeply problematic on many levels (impacting everything from the right to protest, to who gets to sit on benches or be otherwise harassed under what conditions, as well as in their use of facial recognition technology in the kiosks and other surveillance measures by the developers). So there should be requirements that dictate how any development that benefits from public support can control that space.
 
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Also if you have anything to add about the processes by which public property is developed . . . Similar to what we noted should have happened with Hudson Yards, the process for [the] development of public space and property (and public-private developments) needs to be more carefully safeguarded and regulated, and there needs to be oversight by independent community experts and individuals who are not in any way affiliated with the developers. And this oversight should continue for the lifetime of the property and with teeth to match (heavy fines and claw-backs for developers who renege on promises, for example). We all know how arduous these kinds of processes can be, but it’s necessary if we want to ensure projects truly benefit the public. That doesn’t mean there needs to be total consensus on every aspect of a project (which is impossible to obtain in any case and often leads to art-horse-by-committee outcomes), but it means the decision-making needs to be led by a sense of true commitment to the public good and strict, proactive measures to ensure there are not conflicts of interest. There also needs to be a more nuanced understanding and recognition of how we assign expertise and decision-making power within this oversight and community process; for example, there’s a tendency to assume “expert” in the arts only applies to a well-known museum president, a wealthy collector, or a big name artist, when in fact it should include arts workers and others who have active, on-the-job experience within cultural organizations, or an avid arts goer who is not financially able to be a donor/collector but loves art with the same zeal as an Aggie [Agnes] Gund, among other examples. There are many of these people throughout the city, and their voices should be given a place. Not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because our public spaces will be made better by their input.
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Just Don’t

Los Angeles is at a crossroads—don’t let it become New York
Makin’ my way downtown, I zip along on my Lime® scooter through the ersatz Japanese village of Little Tokyo, past taxis, buses, and Prii, to a bustling, small-scale warehouse district on the fringe of Los Angeles’s central core. The whirlwind of scales, land uses, languages, and people is dizzying, but I finally land at my destination: Sonoratown, a lively taco spot famous for its soft tortillas, which are made with flour driven up from Sonora, Mexico, in small batches by the owner’s mom. This delirious, quasi-urban experience is one that could only happen in the messy, diverse urban fabric of Los Angeles. You are free to grab whatever pieces of the kaleidoscopic surroundings you can, and the faster you are moving, the more there is to take. Somehow, this frantic energy and free movement seem unaffected or held back by the past. The cultural critic Sean Monahan called LA the capital of the 2010s, describing it as:
...a city whose attributes anticipate collapse: flat and amorphous, rather than vertical and defined; kitsch and pop, rather than avant-garde and tech; individualistic and mass, rather than institutional and elite. You can suggest San Francisco, HQ of disruption, or New York, backdrop for protest movements (#OWS, #BLM). But both places fail to capture the spirit of the age, because they are fighting so hard to change it. They are relics of empire, unsure of themselves after a decade in which success was indistinguishable from failure… Built on celebrity, media, and lifestyle, L.A. doesn’t presume to be building the future, merely inhabiting it. It’s a pick your poison kind of place. [Go wild] at Chateau Marmont. Spend half your paycheck on inscrutable health food at Erewhon. Commute four hours so you can live in a Riverside McMansion. Drive Uber every day, write screenplays every night. Sell out, drop out, suck up, fuck up. There is no right or wrong way to do L.A.
Monahan accurately describes why Los Angeles encapsulates the present, and why it’s the most exciting place in the US right now. However, it is also important to note where the city is moving in the 2020s. With the 2028 Olympics as a finish line, Los Angeles is at a crossroads, on a path to become a different place in the next decade. But with the city already at the forefront of global media culture (The Kardashians, Moon Juice, Goop, etc.), it doesn’t need global architecture to maintain its position as a worldwide force. How it defines itself as a physical place is still up for grabs, and it should learn lessons from other hyper-globalized cities, namely New York. Tomorrow’s Los Angeles is one of layers. Moving on from its days as a bastion of mythological American modernism centered around mobility (cars), individuality (single-family homes), and triumph over nature (lawns), it will add new collectivities on to itself. These layers will arise from the constant flux of the new: Technologies and emerging social patterns meld nicely into the loose, still-codifying culture and its corresponding urban forms. It is the flickering of new, communal, car-free, publicly subsidized lifestyles against the old, car-centric, low-density, low-regulation, “libertarian” bones of the urban landscape that make it such an interesting place for urbanism today. The oft-bandied-about claim that the city is libertarian is also not entirely accurate, as California is a sea of regulation and red tape, continually votes to raise its already high taxes, and both California and Los Angeles are leading on climate action. The city is quietly building public infrastructure at a pace that vastly outpaces New York. New York’s Second Avenue Subway took somewhere between 10 and 100 years to complete three stations, and the next phase will be three stops and will be completed by 2029 at the earliest. Meanwhile Los Angeles is (optimistically) on course to build 28 new lines by 2028. This includes an airport-connection line that will allow a direct link from LAX to the city. Meanwhile, New York’s MTA is in a worsening crisis with crumbling stations and delays only getting worse, and New Jersey’s NJ Transit recently gave up on accounting for the traffic expected to reach the American Dream Mall, instead calling on private industry to complete the line, citing none other than Los Angeles’s electric rail airport connector as an example. That’s right—L.A. is leading the way in public transit. Meanwhile, Uber, a municipal car share and micro-mobility options such as scooters have already altered how people get around (many young people don’t have cars at all) and where they live, partly due to an explosion in transit-oriented development around the new metro lines. It is unclear exactly how successful, affordable, and sustainable this will be, but change is certainly underway. New transit networks both public and private, along with lower parking requirements for new construction will profoundly impact development and housing typologies in the future. But it is no secret that Los Angeles is careening toward a New York–like affordability crisis (if it isn’t there already) that goes hand-in-hand with the urban whitewash of global capital. Homelessness is at record levels and only getting worse. In response, architects are working to develop new housing typologies, from affordable prototypes and accessory dwelling units, to larger, multi-family schemes that continue to evolve with new regulations and design challenges. The L.A. River and the L.A River Greenway in the San Fernando Valley are also emerging sites of urban experimentation and reclamation/rehabilitation of greenspace. Los Angeles has a unique architectural culture and urban fabric, but red flags are emerging. First, Bjarke Ingels Group and Herzog & de Meuron, international firms that are both very popular with the New York development community, have projects downtown. Related Group (of Hudson Yards fame) has moved in and is developing a large Frank Gehry project across from Gehry’s own Disney Concert Hall. It perfectly illustrates the lower design quality of developer-led construction and echoes Related Companies’ other project, Hudson Yards: “The project is anchored by a central plaza wrapped with shopping areas and public art.” The biggest red flag might be the shortlist for the La Brea Tar Pits project. In Miracle Mile’s Museum Row, a neighborhood that already has been marred by architectural globalists—once by KPF and twice by Renzo Piano—the shortlist for the La Brea master plan is New York establishment firms WEISS/MANFREDI and Diller Scofidio + Renfro, along with Danish firm Dorte Mandrup. It is a truly odd and troubling list. All three are talented firms, but their selection signals the wind turning toward a placeless architecture where, in California terms, “there is no there there,” reflecting classic donor-class aesthetics. Don’t even get me started on what director Michael Govan and the LACMA board are doing to push through their new building. Joseph Giovannini said it best:
In a sleight of hand that still has serious consequences for LACMA and Los Angeles, Govan introduced [Peter] Zumthor, the architect who presumably could achieve this world-class building, to his Board of Trustees. There was no competition, no public review or discussion, no transparency, just a shoo-in of the architect who had arrived in Los Angeles in Govan’s back pocket. “It won’t be the seventh Renzo Piano building in the country,” Govan explained to me in an interview. “We’ll have the only Zumthor.” …Had he even made it into a normal architect selection process, the jury might have concluded that he was mismatched and dangerously underequipped for the commission.
Some Angelenos say that local architects should get their due. L.A. has been defined in many ways by outsiders such as Neutra and Schindler, but also by local legends like Thom Mayne and Frank Gehry, as well as a younger generation like Barbara Bestor, Michael Maltzan, and a host of others who can deliver top-notch design. Los Angeles doesn't need the continental, polite, same-as-everywhere architecture that plagues institutions around the world. The architecture scene has always valued experimentation and allowed younger, more avant-garde approaches and diverse practices to gain ground, outside of the institutional weight that plagues places like the East Coast. It is not “provincial”—as some claim—to want to preserve this well-established local flavor while moving forward. In fact, what would be provincial is thinking that it is necessary to look outward for world-class architecture, or that a mythical global culture needs to be imported for the city to become a world-class place. Nothing defines the periphery like the center, and nothing makes one more provincial than defining oneself against New York. Of course, outside architects can come in and add to the culture; it just takes a bit of judgment. For instance, Spanish firm SelgasCano’s bright, breezy, kit-of-parts style seems to fit with L.A.’s pop modernist aesthetic, and Arata Isozaki’s MOCA has also become an iconic part of L.A. architecture. So let L.A. be regional and different. Don’t let it succumb to the pressures of global capital and “global architecture.” Don’t let Boyle Heights—a strong Latino neighborhood under development pressure, with several buildings already being renovated—become Hudson Yards. New York City has been ruined by capital, which was weaponized to take away the grittiness of places like Times Square, a project of Ed Koch and eventually of Rudy Guiliani. Later, technocrat billionaire Michael Bloomberg finished the sanitization of the city with sloppy rezonings of Williamsburg, West Chelsea, and Long Island City most notably, which ushered in the era of bland office towers and mega mall-like sterility. Developers like President Donald Trump and Related Companies, along with their elected enablers like Bloomberg and Guiliani have shared class interests that threaten the small-scale, local and regional urban landscapes where artists, immigrants, and the working class foment culture. How can Los Angeles be a laboratory for resisting the entropic, hegemonic cancer that is global capital, the global donor class, and the donor-class aesthetic? One tactic, and to be fair, something that the Bloomberg administration got right in places like Brooklyn and Staten Island, is downzoning to preserve the character of neighborhoods. This is also tricky and can lead to NIMBYism, which L.A. has certainly had its share of recently. In a similar vein, Thom Mayne provocatively suggested clustering development on the Wilshire corridor in order to protect other areas. The Wilshire area has seen some development, but not at the scale Mayne has suggested. Additionally, serious and innovative criticism is needed. Critics must not fall into 20th-century modes of operating; they have to get out in front of these debacles rather than react to them. There are a host of critics operating in Los Angeles, and no one is better positioned to have an impact than former L.A. Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne, who is now in a unique role as the Chief Design Officer for the City of Los Angeles, a position where he is literally helping craft RFPs (request for proposals). As long as Hawthorne is able to be heard in the government and in the public and can surround himself with good people who will help guide L.A. through this crucial time, there is a real opportunity to have more and more expert opinions in the process that will avoid the disasters that haunt New York. This, along with more equitable and compensated juried design competitions, can help the people who make financial decisions make "better" aesthetic and cultural decisions. Regionalism, when connected to local ecology, provokes more interesting and nuanced design than a totalizing, global aesthetic. In terms of what resistance might look like outside of design review, Los Angeles is already taking on challenges in a unique way. In Boyle Heights, gentrifying art galleries have been pushed out by strong neighborhood coalitions demanding affordable housing and neighborhood services. Los Angeles could also adopt anti-gentrification policies such as rent control or downzoning to prevent the displacement of both residential and retail spaces. Many cities have adopted such plans, while Berlin and other cities have enacted rent freezes and other regulations on the housing market to ensure affordability. Los Angeles in many ways is the logical conclusion of the myth of the American West. Several time zones and thousands of miles in distance from New York and other global cities, it has historically been connected to global culture through mass media, not physical space. This isolation has left it to its own devices as an urban place. This doesn’t need to change as it grows into more of a global force. New forms and ways of living can be cultivated without abandoning what makes it a special place: its resistance to the forces of the outside. In the 2020s, defining a new localism would be quite an amazing achievement.
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On the Market

Two miles of San Francisco’s iconic Market Street will soon be car-free
On October 15, the San Francisco Transportation Agency approved the Better Market Street Project, a bold plan to transform two miles of the city’s legendary Market Street into a pedestrian-only zone. The $604 million proposal will add fully-protected bike and transit-only lanes as well as a streetcar loop. To improve pedestrian safety and user experience, the street’s sidewalks will be widened, its uneven brickwork will be replaced with concrete pavers, and several benches and tables will be installed throughout. “A half-million people walk on Market Street each day,” commented Jodie Medeiros, the executive director of the nonprofit group Walk San Francisco, “yet it’s one of our city’s most dangerous streets for traffic crashes.” In response, the most significant aspect of the Better Market Street Project is its ban on personal cars altogether, an idea that sounded radical when it was first proposed ten years ago. The plan does, however, include over 200 yellow commercial loading zones on nearby side streets to accommodate local businesses, and personal cars will be allowed to pass through select intersections. As the city’s busiest thoroughfare, the proposal to transform Market Street was not taken lightly. “After a lengthy public planning process that included hundreds of outreach meetings and conversations with stakeholders,” San Francisco mayor London Breed wrote in a letter to the city’s Municipal Transportation Agency board, “the city has developed a design that will support safety goals, improve transit and transform Market Street for our next generation.” Now that the Better Market Street Project is approved, a design will be chosen by the city and construction for its first phase can begin as early as next year.
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Fat Pockets

The MTA proposes its largest capital plan ever
Signal modernization, line extensions, and upgraded subway cars may not sound like riveting headline news, but the recently released blockbuster $51.5 billion Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) budget proposal is targeting the woeful state of New York City's public transportation network. If approved, the MTA’s 2020-2024 capital plan projects a 70 percent jump in funding from the previous budget cycle.  The capital plan was proposed on the heels of major criticisms of the city’s subway system. In 2017, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo declared a state of emergency for the subway system after an A train derailed in upper Manhattan. Other common complaints included delayed service, overcrowded cars, and sweltering platform temperatures. Accordingly, well over half of the funds have been allocated for the subway system alone.  The program made major promises to MTA riders, including faster service, 70 new ADA accessible stations, and the completion of the next phase of the Second Avenue Subway. More specifically, the capital plan committed to modernizing signaling for 50 percent of passengers by reaching 11 train lines, and a total of 80 miles in track replacement. The transit system could also see sweeping upgrades like 1,900 new subway cars, 2,400 new buses, and over $4 billion spent for station renewals.  The capital plan would require billions of dollars worth of concerted federal, state, and local funding. The plan asked for $3 billion in federal funds for the Second Avenue Subway alone, which President Trump has already tweeted his support for, seemingly unprompted (Governor Cuomo was puzzled and denied reaching an agreement with the federal government). Another $3 billion is expected each from state and city authorities. While Cuomo has already committed to sending the state funding, the Governor and Mayor Bill de Blasio have notoriously disagreed over who is responsible for paying for the subway’s state of disrepair. The capital plan faces a lengthy approval process, including an upcoming MTA Board review and a review by the Capital Program Review Board. A major portion of the funding, $15 billion, is expected to be generated from the newly approved, but yet to be implemented, congestion pricing in parts of Manhattan. 
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Shoot for the Stars

Hawaii to begin construction on Northern Hemisphere’s largest telescope

After a series of legal battles spanning several years, the Hawaiian state government will officially allow construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) to begin next week. Governor David Ige and other state officials announced that heavy machinery will be moved to the project site atop the Big Island’s famous Mauna Kea volcano starting on Monday.

Upon completion, the TMT will be the largest telescope in the Northern Hemisphere and the most powerful of Mauna Kea’s 13 observatories. The observatory will match the height of an 18-story building and its dome will have a span equivalent to two-thirds of a football field. Official estimates place its cost at around $1.4 billion, though some astronomers have predicted the project could reach $2 billion.

The state’s decision to move forward with the TMT project comes amid continuing objection from activists seeking to protect Mauna Kea from more large-scale construction. Some Native Hawaiians have been particularly vocal, arguing that the telescope will contribute to the volcano's environmental degradation and impede Indigenous people’s access to the sacred land. Opponents of the TMT have used a variety of tactics to prevent the construction of the telescope. In 2014, protesters blocked roads to the site and disrupted a groundbreaking ceremony. After a coalition of land-use activists and non-profit organizations filed a lawsuit against the state for approving the telescope without allowing locals to voice concerns, the Hawaiian Supreme Court rescinded the TMT International Observatory’s building permit in 2015.

While a poll issued by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser last year showed majority support for the project among Native Hawaiians, the telescope’s past legal troubles highlight the complexity of land stewardship on Mauna Kea. According to state law, the volcano is held in trust by the Hawaiian government and must be preserved for usage by future generations of Hawaiians. As part of the deal allowing for the TMT’s construction, the state will permanently close and dismantle five smaller observatories on the Big Island so that their sites can be fully rehabilitated.

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Soak up the sun

The solar-powered FutureHAUS is coming to Times Square
New housing is coming to Times Square, at least temporarily. The Virginia Tech team of students and faculty behind the FutureHAUS, which won the Solar Decathlon Middle East 2018, a competition supported by the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority and U.S. Department of Energy, will bring a new iteration of its solar-powered home to New York for New York Design Week in collaboration with New York City–based architects DXA Studio. The first Dubai iteration was a 900-square-foot prefab home, that, in addition to being entirely solar powered, featured 67 “futuristic devices,” centered around a few core areas including, according to the team’s website: “entertainment, energy management, aging-in-place, and accessibility.” This included everything from gait recognition for unique user identities and taps that put out precise amounts of water given by voice control to tables with integrated displays and AV-outfitted adjustable rooms. One of the home’s biggest innovations, however, is its cartridge system, developed over the past 20 years by Virginia Tech professor Joe Wheeler. The home comprises a number of prefabricated blocks or "cartridges"—a series of program cartridges includes the kitchen and the living room, and a series of service cartridges contained wet mechanical space and a solar power system. The spine cartridge integrates all these various parts and provides the “central nervous system” to the high-tech house. These all form walls or central mechanical elements that then serve as the central structure the home is built around, sort of like high-tech LEGO blocks. The inspiration behind the cartridges came from the high-efficiency industrial manufacturing and assembly line techniques of the automotive and aerospace industries and leveraged the latest in digital fabrication, CNC routing, robotics, and 3D printing all managed and operated through BIM software. Once the cartridges have been fabricated, assembly is fast. In New York it will take just three days to be packed, shipped, and constructed, “a testament to how successful this system of fabrication and construction is,” said Jordan Rogove, a partner DXA Studio, who is helping realize the New York version of the home. The FutureHAUS team claims that this fast construction leads to a higher-quality final product and ends up reducing cost overall. The cartridge system also came in handy when building in New York with its notoriously complicated permitting process and limited space. “In Dubai an eight-ton crane was used to assemble the cartridges,” explained Rogove. “But to use a crane in Times Square requires a lengthy permit process and approval from the MTA directly below. Thankfully the cartridge system is so versatile that the team has devised a way to assemble without the crane and production it would've entailed.” There have obviously been some alterations to the FutureHAUS in New York. For example, while in Dubai there were screen walls and a courtyard with olive trees and yucca, the Times Square house will be totally open and easy to see, decorated with plants native to the area. The FutureHAUS will be up in Times Square for a week and a half during New York’s design week, May 10 through May 22.
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Choke Points

New York State approves first-in-the-nation congestion pricing plan
With the $175 billion New York State budget locked in for 2020, so too is congestion pricing on drivers entering Manhattan below 60th Street. While the specifics have yet to be hammered out, the plan is the first to be imposed in the United States. Charging drivers who enter Manhattan’s central business district (CBD) is expected to have a number of effects: reducing traffic, cutting pollution, and raising money for the beleaguered subway system, managed by the state-controlled Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA). That last point had previously caused tension between Governor Andrew Cuomo, who supported congestion pricing as a way to raise money for subway repairs, and Mayor Bill de Blasio, who wanted to impose a “millionaire’s tax” on high earning New York City residents. The price that each driver will be charged upon entering or exiting the CBD has yet to be determined, but a six-person Traffic Mobility Board will determine the fee before the plan goes into effect. It should be noted that the board will be composed of one member selected by the mayor, and the rest being residents of areas served by the Metro-North Railroad or Long Island Railroad (LIRR), New York's major suburban train lines, also managed by the MTA. Drivers will only be tolled once per day, through a series of EZ Pass cameras—or, if the driver lacks an EZ Pass, license plate-snapping cameras—mounted in yet-to-be-determined locations. Governor Cuomo’s Fix NYC Advisory Panel, which released its final report in January of last year, had suggested charging personal vehicles $11.52 to enter Manhattan, charging trucks $25.34, and $2-to-$5 for for-hire vehicles. The program hopes to raise $1 billion through congestion fees annually that the state will use to back $15 billion in bond sales to fund repairs to the ailing subway system. While the budget promises to carve out exemptions for lower-income drivers, 80 percent of the funds raised will go towards subway and bus-related capital projects in the city, and the remaining 20 percent will be set aside for the Metro-North and LIRR. Additionally, the program will be set up and administered by the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (TBTA) part of the MTA, in collaboration with New York City's Department of Transportation. Handing over the program to the state, and, in particular, Westchester and Long Island in the case of the Traffic Mobility Board, has riled up online transportation activists, who feel the congestion plan was a move by the state to take more control of NYC’s streets. Because the Traffic Mobility Board members are appointed by the MTA, they have the discretion to reject the mayor’s appointees. With so much of the plan still left to be filled in, the earliest that drivers can expect to begin paying is the end of 2020, if not sometime in 2021.
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Happening Here

Net art turns the internet into a space of performance
What happens on the ‘net stays on the ‘net. Or maybe not, according to the new exhibition The Art Happens Here: Net Art’s Archival Poetics, a history of net art from 1985 to today presented by Rhizome at the New Museum in New York. The show brings net art out of the tubes of the internet and into the gallery, part of an intensive archival project curated by Michael Connor, artistic director, Rhizome, with Aria Dean, assistant curator. The show focuses on sixteen artworks selected from Net Art Anthology—Rhizome’s major online exhibition of one hundred works from throughout net art history—born-digital art that both resulted from and influenced a rapidly changing network culture that pervades the real world, beyond the browser. The show’s title comes from MTAA’s 1997 Simple Net Art Diagram, which outlines the relationship of computers, the network, the artists, and the art. Two personal computers are linked with a label, “The art happens here,” pointing to the space between the computers. An important distinction is made here—and in the show—between net art and a broader conception of digital art that focuses on techniques in a new digital media: “net” implies that the art is a performance that investigates how people relate to each other and these machines. We can see how the artworks in this exhibition were at the front edge of using the technology and investigating what the critical and societal impacts might be in the future. These were social networks before social networks, tag clouds before tag clouds, and streaming services before streaming services. Goofier early works include Alexei Shulgin’s 1998 386 DX, a “band” (a computer) that performs punk music, and StarryNight, a 1999 conceptual visualization of Rhizome’s early email listserv content, displayed with tags that connected dots connected to event “pages.” The later work in the show is more overtly political. The earlier works are more concerned with tautological questions about the medium/space of the internet: experiments in relating to one another and defining ourselves across new digital platforms, such as StarryNight and Simple Net Art Diagram. More recent works, however, signal more toward how we use these platforms—and their more advanced, codified descendants like Facebook—as places to enact politics. For example, Miao Ying’s 2007 Blind Spot is a Chinese dictionary with all the words redacted that the Chinese government would censor online. Artist-activist Morehshin Allahyari’s Material Speculation: ISIS was an attempt in 2016 to reproduce 3D-printed replicas of a set of twelve artifacts from the ancient cities of Hatra and Nineveh, destroyed the year before by ISIS. Perhaps this evolution makes sense since those early experiments—the band in 386 DX or StarryNight for the Rhizome “website”—are also a form of political speculation about social relationships in the face of new technology. The show tracks these developments in the technology and art as well as changes in society that unfold alongside the art historical narrative of the show. Or perhaps it is less about the tracking of changes in broader culture, and more of a change in how the technology is used: As it becomes more user-friendly, it becomes available to people who are not only interested in it as an experimental medium. Or, as we become more comfortable with it, we begin to turn to how it can be employed critically, rather than simply as a technological experiment. All of the works in the show resonate as a history that still echoes through our experience of online art, but also the internet in general. Are Facebook and Twitter net art projects, extended to their logical conclusion and rocket-fueled by capitalism? Like all good histories, it recasts our understanding of the present by presenting prescient works such as a recreation of Chu Lea Cheang’s para-fictional Garlic=RichAir, a 2002/3 work that speculated on a future where capitalism had collapsed, and garlic was the only currency. Artist Melanie Hoff created a video game for the 2019 show, complete with a Wi-Fi network where players could claim and trade their garlic. The work reads today like an early version of so many blockchain speculations that artists today are doing. There is also a feedback loop between digital and physical in the net art posited here, which when viewed as a space for performance becomes a sort of new commons where different people come together, but also find people like themselves. Notably, Wolfgang Staelhe’s Untitled, turned a webcam into a lens for landscape photography as it broadcast the physicality of Manhattan’s skyline in 2001, and serendipitously interfaced with current events as it captured the events of 9/11. It would be a stretch to say these online places have replaced physical terrain as the main place of community as well as conflict, but it could be said that they inherited the DNA of conceptual art and spatial practice, leaving it a final, feral Wild West for experimentation. Today, we have more controlled spaces such as Facebook that are mediated by corporate interests, but new spaces are always opening up online and underneath it in places like crypto-raves and online black markets where artists can get their rocks off. Perhaps it is no coincidence that one of the most striking works—or spaces of performance—in the show is Olia Lialina’s Give Me Time / This Page Is No More, an archive of GeoCities websites, logged at first at a moment saying, “under construction” and then at a moment when they had been closed. GeoCities was shut down by Yahoo! in 2009.  
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Industry and Innovation

NYU launches center for construction innovation at Brooklyn campus
This past month, New York University's Tandon School of Engineering unveiled its new Institute of Design and Construction (IDC) Innovations Hub. The research center, located at NYU’s engineering school in Brooklyn’s MetroTech Center, will promote safety, sustainability, and productivity within the construction industry, as well as educate executives and organizations in the field on how to find solutions to challenges in construction project management. Construction companies have had a history of resisting change and new technologies, especially when it comes to financial and safety concerns. But within the past few years, advancements in construction technology have pushed companies toward modernizing their practices, integrating 3D printing, data analytics, artificial intelligence, laser scanning, modularization, and robotics into their latest projects and developments. Staff members and researchers at IDC Innovations Hub will push innovation in the industry by offering advanced seminars, providing training, hosting networking events, and helping members solve design and construction issues. Its goal is to prepare a new generation of engineers to tackle the challenges of tomorrow's industry. Heading the IDC Innovations Hub as chairman is engineer Michael Horodniceanu, once president of New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority Capital Construction. Horodniceanu has over 40 years of experience in transportation planning, design, and construction management, and hopes to use the IDC to foster a network of people—including students, graduates, and industry professionals—that will grow together and overcome challenges with one another. As the school semester continues, the IDC Innovations Hub will reveal additional details regarding the center’s structure and operations, including its staff members, board of directors, and advisory committee.
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Partially Postponed Projects

The government shutdown is hurting construction, trade, and manufacturers
Now in its third week, the partial government shutdown is proving extremely tough for not only direct federal employees but also outside contractors who work with and rely on funding from U.S. agencies. In New York alone, that means big-name organizations like the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and smaller businesses helping with capital construction efforts throughout the five boroughs. It’s estimated that over 50,000 federal contract employees in the New York metropolitan area are out of work and pay with no end in sight. While some organizations aren't running at all, others are still forcing people to work but without hope of immediate reimbursement. For example, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said on Sunday the MTA could lose up to $150 million each month in federal funds as long the shutdown remains. This would halt major track repair work still ongoing after Hurricane Sandy and further construction on the Second Avenue Subway, according to the New York Post. This would happen because the General Fund, managed by the U.S. Bureau of Fiscal Service, is currently compromised, meaning companies working on state and city projects sponsored through the Federal Transit Administration’s capital investment grants program will see a slow-down in reimbursement. New York will be forced to pay out-of-pocket for the above subway improvements and work on the Select Bus Service lines, among other things. Because most public building and infrastructure construction projects in New York City are managed and funded by local government agencies, work will carry on. But that doesn’t mean it will all run as smoothly as expected. As weeks pass on, it will likely become increasingly difficult to import the necessary building materials selected for these construction projects. This is not only because of President Trump’s trade war but because of international shipping delays and a slow-down in safety checks through other agencies. The Federal Maritime Commission is closed and cannot smoothly regulate cargo clearance or port activity. In addition, hazardous materials being imported into the United States might be held up as all port investigators within the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission have been furloughed. What’s more, the Commerce Department can’t process requests from manufacturing companies who want an exemption from Trump’s metal tariffs. These are all big issues for U.S.-based manufacturers that can’t plan for the year ahead if they don’t have an accurate estimate of how much important imported materials will cost them and how long those products will take to reach them. Trump plans to make a televised, prime-time address tonight to discuss what he calls a humanitarian crisis at the U.S. Southern border. It’s unclear whether he’ll give an actual timeline for getting the government up and running again, though he’s repeatedly said he won’t cancel the shutdown until Congress gives him the full $5.6 billion needed to build his border wall. Until then, contractors in every city and state will have to make do with potential delays and money coming from their own bank accounts.
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Hitting Benchwallmarks

Governor Cuomo presents plan to prevent L train tunnel closure
At a 12:45 p.m. press conference Thursday afternoon, Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled plans to prevent the 15-month-long L train shutdown that was set to begin on April 27. Seated between a panel of engineering experts from Cornell and Columbia Universities and representatives from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), Cuomo repeatedly touted the innovative nature of the proposed solution—as well as his success in building the new Mario Cuomo Bridge. After Hurricane Sandy struck New York City in 2012, the Canarsie Tunnel that runs between Manhattan and Brooklyn was flooded with salt water. The L line, which ferries 250,000 riders a day between the two boroughs, still requires extensive repairs to fix the corrosion caused by the storm. The concrete bench walls lining the tunnel were damaged, as were the wires and other electrical components embedded behind them. The MTA was scrambling to implement alternatives for commuters, including turning an east-west stretch of Manhattan's 14th Street into a dedicated bus lane, but it now looks like the planning was for naught. The new scheme presented by Cuomo, a joint effort between the governor’s engineering team, WSP, Jacobs Engineering Group, and the MTA, restricts the slowdowns to nights and weekends. Instead of removing and rebuilding the tunnel’s bench wall, and the components behind it, only the most unstable sections will be removed. Then, a fiberglass wrapper will be bonded to the tunnel’s walls via adhesive polymers and mechanical fasteners. A new cable system will be run on the inside of the tunnel via a racking system and the old wiring will be abandoned. New walkways will be added to the areas where the bench walls have already been or will be removed. Finally, a “smart sensor” network of fiber-optic cables will be installed to monitor the bench wall’s movement and alert the MTA to potential maintenance issues. Governor Cuomo hailed the move as innovative, saying that this cable racking system was commonplace in European and Chinese rail projects but that this would be the first application in America. He also claimed that the fiberglass wrapping would be a “structural fix”, not just a Band-Aid, and that it was strong enough to hold the new Mario Cuomo bridge together. To increase the system’s sustainability, floodgates would be added to the First Avenue station in Manhattan and the Bedford Avenue station in Brooklyn. After the presentation was complete, Cuomo passed the microphone to MTA acting chairman Fernando Ferrer, who said that the agency would be implementing the changes immediately. Still, skepticism over whether the MTA would be able to implement the plan quickly bubbled up from the members of the press in attendance and on social media. Because this method of tunnel repair has thus far been untested in the U.S., the question of whether the MTA would be able to find skilled workers to implement the plan was raised. Cuomo, for the most part, brushed the concerns off, claiming that each piece of the repair scheme has been conducted individually before. If the L train repair plan proceeds as scheduled, one track at a time will be shut down on nights and weekends for up to 20 months. To offset the decrease in service, the MTA plans on increasing service on several other train lines, including the 7 and G.
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Modernizing the Metro

MTA to double subway speed limits in parts of Brooklyn
Last weekend, New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) doubled the speed limit on sections of two subway lines in Brooklyn, two decades after a high-speed train crash killed an operator and injured dozens of passengers. The recent changes, which boosted the speed limit of the N and R trains from 15 miles per hour to 30 miles per hour, are part of transit chief Andy Byford’s multi-billion-dollar proposal to revolutionize New York City’s subway system by eradicating delays. “We want to keep pushing trains through the pipe and moving them,” Byford told The New York Times. The modified sections of the N and R lines are the first of many to increase in speed, with 100 locations to follow this spring. Byford’s goal is to reverse issues that arose from system changes made after the 1995 crash, when two trains collided on the Williamsburg Bridge, killing a J-train operator and wounding multiple riders. The changes resulted in decreased speed limits and increased delays. While the MTA has previously blamed overcrowding and slow passenger loading times for delays, Byford claims that speed limits that were implemented decades ago are the main reason for the troubled system. Since the 1995 crash, speed limits as low as 15 miles per hour were put into place, while signal systems called “grade time signals” were adjusted to automatically trigger a train’s brakes when another train is close by. However, in a three-person investigation conducted by Byford last summer, it was discovered that there were not only 130 areas where trains could move faster while remaining safe, but also 267 faulty grade time signals, forcing operators to drive trains at slower speeds for no reason, even if there were no train up ahead. A 2010 report by transit planner Matt Johnson further revealed that New York City trains travel at roughly 17 miles per hour, which is slower than any other heavy rail system in the United States. Byford, with help from the MTA safety committee, strives to find the right balance between safety and speed, not wanting to allow trains to run any slower than they should. So far, 34 sections of track have been approved for speed increases by the MTA, while 30 grade time signals have been repaired throughout Brooklyn.