Search results for "Manhattan"

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Inside, Outside, Wholly Spirited

Landmarks approves changes to Manhattan’s Trinity Church

Today the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) approved a major revamp of Trinity Church, the storied Manhattan house of worship where Alexander Hamilton is buried.

The parish tapped Murphy Burnham & Buttrick (MBB) to lead the renovations. In addition to interior repairs, the New York firm plans to add wheelchair-accessible ramps around the perimeter of the building and install a low canopy on the church's south side to shelter its weekly processions from the elements. Unlike many New York–area churches that struggle with declining attendance, Trinity is thriving. The Episcopal congregation attracts around 400 people on a typical Sunday, said Trinity Church Vicar Philip Jackson. The goal of the renovation is to enhance the experience of worship, address deferred maintenance, and make the church and property accessible via an ADA-compliant path around the perimeter. Parishioners, many who live in Battery Park City, Tribeca, and the Financial District, the church's home neighborhood, participate in a formal Episcopal service. Jackson explained that a hallmark of Sundays at Trinity Sunday is the long procession that winds from the outside into the main hall. To protect the priests and worshipers walking outside from inclement weather, the church asked MBB to construct a glass-and-painted-steel canopy along the lower portion of the windows on the original building's south terrace and along the Manning Wing, a 1966 addition. The area will also be re-paved in bluestone (PDF). “We designed an awning as minimal and deferential to existing architecture as possible,” said MBB Founding Partner Jeffrey Murphy.

The parish is almost as old as New York itself. Trinity was founded over 300 years ago, and the church moved into its current quarters in 1846. The original structure, at 75 Broadway, was designed by Richard Upjohn in the Gothic Revival style and landmarked in 1966. Three subsequent additions, the latest from the same year as the landmarking, honored the original design, but the interior hasn't undergone a major renovation since the mid-1940s.

Inside, MBB will replace deteriorating stained glass, and restore doors and masonry that are aging poorly. The firm, which is known for its sensitive renovations of historic structures, completed a top-to-bottom restoration of James Renwick's St. Patrick's Cathedral in 2015. Although Trinity Church is first and foremost a house of worship, it is also a major tourist destination. Visitors have always stopped by to pay respects to permanent resident Alexander Hamilton, but the founding father's gravesite has become even more popular since Lin Manuel Miranda's Broadway musical Hamilton debuted. To legitimize the cemetery's well-worn desire paths and accommodate an influx of visitors, the team is improving the graveyard's walkways in accordance with an LPC-approved landscape master plan. The architects are also working with an archeologist before breaking ground to scope the graves in the yard and the markers around the church, and any stones that need to be moved will be re-instated before the site project re-opens to the public. On the west side, MBB will expand the terrace's loggia by one bay so people can be shielded from the elements, and it will add a paved plaza, pictured above at right. The team will also remove fencing around the site, and retool the lighting scheme to highlight the church's signature brownstone buttresses. "In general it’s a really thoughtful, well-done proposal. All the details are really well-thought through and totally appropriate," said LPC Commissioner Michael Goldblum. Preservation advocacy group Historic Districts Council (HDC) mostly agreed, but thought MBB and Trinity could refine the design of the canopy and western terrace. "It is not clear from the submitted drawings why there is a programmatic need for an awning that will run the length of the entire facade of the sanctuary," said HDC's Patrick Waldo. "The canopy competes with and obscures [the buttresses] and the design appears as a modernist expression which HDC feels does not fit beside an ecclesiastical structure." The second speaker, Christabel Gough, of the preservation group Society for the Architecture of the City, agreed, and added that the paved western plaza was "fitted out exactly like a corporate plaza made to obtain a zoning bonus." After a short discussion, the LPC approved MBB and Trinity's proposal with modifications. The team will have to work with staff to rethink the design of the canopy, paving, and landscape.
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Battery Park Recharge

Coastal resilience project could threaten one of Manhattan’s finest postmodern parks
Citing the threat of rising seas, the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA) is set to replace Battery Park City’s Robert F. Wagner Jr. ParkMachado Silvetti and OLIN’s 3.5-acre wedge near the south tip of Manhattan, offering panoramic views of the Statue of Liberty—with a new topography filled with deployable barriers and flood-proof landscapes. After Wagner’s 1994 opening, critic Paul Goldberger called the park “one of the finest public spaces New York has seen in at least a generation.” Its main elements include two pavilions joined by a wooden bridge; ornamental gardens; a central lawn; and grass, stone, and brick allées that lead people from Battery Park to Battery Place. Following the Lower Manhattan Coastal Resiliency Project (LMCR), the BPCA has stated that OLIN’s park and Machado Silvetti’s buildings would not be able to protect inland areas from floods. Initial conceptual designs by Perkins Eastman and W Architecture and Landscape Architecture called for deployable barriers contouring the existing buildings; increased maintenance and food services; and a new complex of flood-resistant lawns, gardens, cultural facilities, wetlands, and esplanades. On July 14, the BPCA issued an RFP for the final design, due September 29. The winner’s task, according to the RFP, is to advance the conceptual plans through to construction documents. “This project seems totally non-site-specific; the symbolic content of the park is completely lost. It’s very banal,” said Rodolfo Machado, principal of Machado Silvetti and one of a chorus of designers railing against the conceptual plans. Several city officials and residents have spoken out in support of a plan they see as vital to the area’s future. “I know that the most pressing issue of our time is protecting the place we live, work, and play from extreme weather events and sea-level rise,” said Catherine McVay Hughes, a member of the LMCR task force. “The [BPCA]’s forward-looking and realistic stance is an example that all levels of government should follow.” According to a BPCA spokesperson, the agency is exploring design and engineering plans for the revamp, now officially called the South Battery Park Resiliency Project, through 2018. It plans to select a firm to lead the project early that year, and site work will begin in the latter half of 2019.
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130 William

Renderings revealed for Adjaye Associates’ first Manhattan tower
  Adjaye Associates and developer Lightstone have released renderings of 130 William, a condominium tower a few blocks from the Brooklyn Bridge in lower Manhattan. The 66-story structure will be the firm's first big New York City project. All in all, the project's cast-concrete facade will shroud 244 luxury residences. The round arch windows, a nod to 19th-century industrial buildings below 14th Street, get wider and longer as they progress to upper stories. Up at the very top, the penthouse sports double-height ceilings that frame some of the building's loggias, which are detailed in bronze. A Baths of Caracalla-y pool and spa, as well as a fitness studio with a basketball court, are included in the amenities package. The 800-foot-tall building will also have an IMAX theater to entertain residents, a pet spa to keep their animals clean, a private rooftop observatory deck, and a golf simulator, among other goodies. With all these fun things at home, tenants hardly have to leave the premises, but if they do, they will encounter a street-level plaza where they may mingle with the public. Adjaye Associates, the eponymous London firm founded by Sir David Adjaye in 2000, is perhaps best known in the U.S. for its National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., which was completed last year. New York's Hill West is the architect. Construction has already begun, and sales for the studio to five-bedroom homes will commence in spring 2018.
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Chiseled Corners

Snøhetta reveals tapered residential tower for Manhattan’s Upper West Side
Snøhetta has released the first renderings for a split, tapering tower set to rise between Lincoln Center and Central Park in New York City. Snøhetta hopes that this reimagined tower-on-a-base scheme for 50 West 66th will simultaneously engage pedestrians at street level, while also paying homage to the surrounding neighborhood through the use of a familiar material palette. At 775-feet tall, the 127-unit residential building will stick out from the traditionally lower-slung neighborhood surrounding it, but Snøhetta has carved away bulk from the tower’s upper floors to minimize 50 West 66th’s effect on the skyline. Referencing Manhattan’s long history of natural stone construction, the studio has described the tower as being sculpturally excavated, and the 16th-floor amenity terrace prominently cleaves the building into two volumes. Even at that height, residents will be able to see across Central Park to the east, as well as across Hudson River to the west. A two-story textured limestone, bronze and glass retail podium will also contain an entrance for an adjacent synagogue on 65th street and create an approachable neighborhood access point. More windows are introduced to the limestone facade as the bulk of the building rises above the podium’s setback, and the slender tower portion is clad in a bronze and glass curtain wall.  Other than the planted, multi-story terrace that anchors 50 West 66th, the tower portion has had its corners sliced away to expose balconies at its opposing corners and create a series of cascading loggias. Triangular, bronze-panel-clad cutaways taper the tower’s corners and join at the tip to form an angular crown. The warm materials, cutaways and slim top all serve to soften the building’s presence in what has been a historically low-to-mid-rise area. The project’s reveal has come amidst a particularly busy month for Snøhetta. Besides being tapped for the Oakland A’s new stadium and an underwater restaurant, the Norwegian studio has also faced criticism for its proposed glassing over of Philip Johnson’s postmodern AT&T Building. Construction is expected to begin in the first half of 2018.
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All Glassed Up

First look: REX’s sleek retrofit of Brutalist 5 Manhattan West
REX has bestowed a shiny new skin on a late Brutalist office building that was, until recently, one of the ugliest buildings in Manhattan. Up until the renovation, the building was known as the elephant's foot, in dubious honor of a horrific 1980s renovation that left the elegant concrete structure clad in brown metal panels and beige paint. Now called 5 Manhattan West, the building has undergone yet another makeover, spearheaded by REX, to update its facade with the latest in form-fitting fenestration. The Brooklyn-based firm ultimately devised a pleated glass facade that ripples down the building like a stretched ziggurat to flood the large, open interiors with light. These pleats are composed of panels angling out toward each other from the floor and ceiling, a design driven by the need to mitigate the structure’s slope, which limited the leasable space along the interior perimeter. But the unique form is more than just window dressing. According to Joshua Prince-Ramus, REX's founding principal, “What’s interesting about the geometry is that the sun doesn’t hit the lower piece of glass, so we can have a building that is transparent and simultaneously energy efficient." Prince-Ramus praised REX's client, Brookfield, for its holistic approach to sustainability that centered reuse—not just LEED-level performance. "In our lifetimes, adaptive reuse is going to be the stuff from which we make 'capital A Architecture,'" he said. The pleating also complied with ADA standards for head strike, allowing for uninterrupted exterior views while maximizing tenants' floorspace, and allowed the designers to rigorously test the concrete from the 1960s, which was cast using different standards from today. The structural maneuvering honestly exposed concrete from Davis Brody's (now Davis Brody Bond) original design, a move that was especially evident on the east-west breezeway. The renovation was done with tenants in place, on a feverish nights-and-weekends schedule. Although some floors have yet to welcome new tenants like J.P. Morgan Chase and Amazon, 5 Manhattan West's common spaces and outdoor areas by James Corner Field Operations are largely complete. The squat, 1.7-million-square-foot structure features ground level retail, a two-story elevated breezeway on the southern side, and a full interior renovation, with open floor plates ranging from 86,000 to 124,000 square feet (no, that's not a typo). With ceiling heights from 15 to 17.5 feet, the super-sized office spaces allow the old-new building to compete with Hudson Yards' office spaces, which feature large, and largely column-free, interiors. Adamson served as executive architect for the $350 million project. The 5 Manhattan West re-clad slots the office building squarely into Brookfield Office Properties’ Manhattan West development. Bounded by Ninth Avenue to Tenth Avenue and 31st Street to 33rd Street, Manhattan West encompasses nearly six million square feet across six buildings.
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Water's Edge

Towering development to reshape Manhattan-adjacent Edgewater, NJ
Four new towers proposed for the eastern shore of Edgewater, New Jersey, are set to bring the tiny borough out of the shadows cast by neighboring Manhattan and Jersey City. Providing approved plans for a site at 115 River Road, New York YIMBY has revealed glimpses into a 1,919-unit project that may jumpstart development in a city that has remained mostly low-slung. Built on top of a 50-foot-tall landscaped podium that covers most of the site, the towers would range from almost 600 to more than 700 feet in height and would be split 50-50 between rental and condo buildings. The site’s developer, Fred Dabies, has also integrated a parking structure within the podium, walkable waterfront access, and proposed a suite of amenities for condo owners. The massive, blockish towers would not only dwarf all other buildings in the surrounding city, but also stand taller than any existing residential developments in Brooklyn or Queens. Waterfront property across New Jersey is becoming increasingly valuable along the Hudson River, as development tries to keep pace with rising costs in Manhattan. With more businesses moving into Manhattan’s Hudson Yards, it’s expected that office workers will continue to seek out housing across the river. Edgewater is no stranger to ambitious proposals. Thanks to expanded ferry service into the city, combined with building booms in neighboring Jersey City and Hoboken, Edgewater has been struggling to retain its share of lower income housing. The city government is currently fighting with a separate developer at 615 River Road over a similar 1,800-unit project, where Mayor Michael McPartland chose to seize the parcel through eminent domain to head off future construction. Divided between a population of longtime locals and former New Yorkers who chose to leave for a more affordable alternative, it remains to be seen if the 115 River Road project will continue in its current form or be scaled back. No completion date or names of attached architects have been announced yet.
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Four architects were killed in Manhattan truck attack
So far, eight people were killed and 11 injured in the Manhattan truck attack Tuesday. Four of the victims were architects from Argentina. Hernán Ferruchi, 47; Hernán Mendoza, 47; Diego Angelini, 47; and Alejandro Damián Pagnucco, 49, were friends from the General San Martín Polytechnic Institute in Rosario who were visiting New York to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their graduation from the school. The men were in a group of eight friends who had attended the school for either architecture or business. A photo taken of the group at the Rosario airport shows them wearing t-shirts with the word “libre” (Spanish for free) written on them. They were cycling on the bike path alongside the West Side Highway when a truck ran them down. Five of the eight were killed including the four architects. Rosario is home to the National University of Rosario, a strong architecture school, and the city has produced several important architects. The school issued a statement on Instagram:
In the face of recent events, where a group of alumni of the Poli celebrating their 30th anniversary of graduates in New York was immersed in an episode that still has not finished knowing the details, resulting in several deaths and other injuries, we want to express our deep pain for what happened and embrace all your loved ones in this difficult moment for which no one, never, should pass. – Polytechnic Student Center
Other victims in the attack were a Belgian woman, Anne Laure Decadt, 31, and two Americans, Darren Drake, 32, of New Jersey and Nicholas Cleves, 23, of New York. [UPDATE] One of the survivors of the attack was a professor at Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute, and the school has released a statement.
On Tuesday, October 31st Undergraduate Architecture Professor Guillermo Banchini and his friends were attacked by a terrorist along the bicycle path on Manhattan’s west side waterfront. Professor Banchini was unharmed, but I am deeply saddened to inform you that five of Professor Banchini’s closest friends were killed in the attack. I have spoken to Professor Banchini, and he has been shaken by this horrible event but remains committed to Pratt and New York City. I know I speak for all of our students and professors - and particularly those who know him well - in offering our deepest sympathies for his loss as well as our strongest possible support in this difficult time. Professor Banchini has been an extraordinary teacher and colleague in the school for ten years and the entire Pratt community wishes him the best in the face of this terrible tragedy.
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Secret Doors

Adjaye to design interactive spy museum in midtown Manhattan
Adjaye Associates today revealed designs for SPYSCAPE, a spy museum and interactive experience in Midtown Manhattan that will open this December. The 60,000-square-foot space, located at 928 8th Ave., will essentially create a small town inside two floors of a midtown office building; exhibitions are housed in bespoke pavilions, each focused on one of seven themes of spying. Varied environments continually shift visitors’ perspectives, using lighting, screens, bridges and transparency between floors to create a sense of intrigue, curiosity and maybe a little dread. Materials like smoked glass, fiber cement, dark grey acoustic paneling and weathered and mirror-polished steel add to the shadowy, enigmatic environment. Visitors enter the exhibition through a vaulted light canopy, after which partially-obscured circulation spaces open up into the varied pavilions and immersive multimedia environments featuring digital displays on screens, tables, even floors and walls. "We've been able to challenge the traditional museum typology with a design that straddles the physical and digital worlds," said Lucy Tilley, Associate Director for Adjaye Associates. One of the largest structures (focusing on surveillance) will consist of a giant drum clad with curved, weathered steel panels. Other zones will focus on hacking, interrogation, code breaking and historic spy artifacts. The project was developed in collaboration with former station chiefs and directors of various intelligence agencies who, of course, can't reveal who they are. The museum will also contain a café, private event space, and a book shop containing several rare spy tomes. Tickets are on sale as of today here.
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125 Greenwich

New renderings revealed for Rafael Viñoly’s latest Manhattan cloudbuster
It didn't take long, but Rafael Viñoly has a new Manhattan tower. 125 Greenwich Street isn't as tall as 432 Park Avenue, a sleek supertall that looms over its neighborhood like the first kid in the class to hit puberty. But Viñoly's FiDi skyscraper is still plenty stringy: Rising 88 stories, the 912-foot-tall glass-shrouded tower just south of the World Trade Center will house luxury condos with interiors by March & White, a British firm that built its reputation designing superyachts. Perhaps because Greenwich Street is so close to the Hudson River, or maybe because rich people like fancy boats, the interiors of the 273 units are inspired by the same leisure vessels that gave March & White its start. The building's top three floors are devoted to nice things like a spa, a 50-foot lap pool, and a fitness center, complete with a yoga studio and training room.  And what's a tall land-yacht without a place to entertain? Residents will have access to a private dining room, events space, and screening room.

Dual exposed concrete columns with a zipper of windows run the length of the wasp-waisted tower, creating almost column-less floorplates, while the curved glass curtain walls should offer sweet views on the diagonal. While the renderings show off plenty of height, there are no images of the ground condition, leaving questions unanswered about the building's relationship with the street.

Here's what Viñoly had to say about the design: "125 Greenwich Street takes an unconventional approach to current residential tower design in New York City. The landmark tower's structure is essentially two giant upended I-beams that facilitate a nearly column-free interior for highly flexible residential configurations. A curtain wall system with rounded corners that efficiently mitigate wind pressure—and take full advantage of the panoramic views—completes an elegant structural solution. Two I-beams have never been more productive." Although the tower was announced back in 2014, the new renderings accompanied the building's sales launch today. Prices start at $1.2 million for a studio, with prices for three bedrooms (the largest apartments) starting at a little over $4.6 million.
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Towering History

This interactive map lets you explore Manhattan’s skyscraper history in 3D
Publicly accessible data maps on New York's buildings is nothing new, however, an easy-to-navigate three dimensional one is. While Google Maps and others provide accurate visuals, the "Manhattan Skyscraper Explorer," developed by Raluca Nicola, allows users to navigate with ease by sorting buildings into 25-year segments. As a result, it is easy to see the buildings constructed between 1950 and 1975 with the click of a button. Using ArcGIS API for JavaScript (software that allows three-dimensional applications to be powered by web-generated scenes with toggle-able layers), Nicola was able to make a light-weight tool for navigating Manhattan's architecture. "I started by coloring the buildings based on the time period they were built in. This way I could identify the areas with newer or older buildings, discover which buildings were built in the same period or see that in some neighbourhoods like Soho most of the buildings were built before 1925," Nicola explained in a blog post. "Then I was curious to correlate construction year and height, so I built a timeline with Y axis representing the height. In this timeline each building is a circle with the color given by the construction period. It was interesting to confirm that fewer skyscrapers were built during the Great Depression and almost none during World War II." Inside the map, users can scroll to zoom in and out as well as pan by clicking and dragging. When selected, buildings come with images and a short synopsis. Wikipedia API (called MediaWiki) and the Flickr API were used to load images—famous buildings having their own wiki page helped with this. Furthermore, being color coded, spotting the era of a building is easy. Likewise, buildings over or under a certain height can be selected to further narrow scope. Searching directly for a building can also be done too. To find out more about how Nicola built the platform, read the blog post here. The map itself can be found here.
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Stayin' Alive

What’s being done—or not—to save Manhattan’s small businesses from Amazon and big box competition

Broadway, Manhattan’s longest street and a main commercial drag, spans the length of the island from hilly Inwood to Lower Manhattan’s breezy Bowling Green. There are shops from nose to tail, but a recent survey found that Broadway is also home to almost 200 vacant storefronts, dead zones on one of Gotham’s liveliest thoroughfares.

Glaring vacancies aren’t limited to Broadway though. From Madison and Fifth Avenue to Broadway in Soho and Bleeker Street in the West Village, high-end commercial strips in Manhattan are having trouble attracting commercial tenants. A healthy vacancy rate is 5 percent, but some fancy areas are in the midst of high-rent blight, with one in five (20 percent) storefronts vacant.

Further north, in Washington Heights, a whole block of immigrant-owned businesses were essentially evicted after new landlords proposed a 100 percent rent increase and declined to renew their leases.

Why is this happening?

The causes are predictable, but the solutions are not.

High rent, high taxes, regulations that favor owners over tenants, and plain old capitalism—the incentive for owners to seek their property’s maximum value, and the consumer’s desire to acquire goods at the lowest price—all contribute to the twin plagues of vacancy and the mall-ification (national chains displacing small, local businesses) of Manhattan. Stakeholders, though, disagree on what should be done to solve a growing crisis at street level.

This spring, the Manhattan Borough President’s Office (MBPO) recruited volunteers to count all the vacant storefronts along Broadway, citing a dearth of information on how many vacancies exist, and where. The survey follows an effort from two years ago where the office reached out to small businesses and offered potential policy solutions to businesses’ problems.

But first the report had to determine what a small business is, a question that is not as obvious as it seems.

The federal government’s Small Business Administration (SBA) measures business size by number of employees or the company’s value, depending on the sector. The Small Business Act, though, uses a measure that doesn’t exactly conjure visions of mom-and-pops: It says small businesses have fewer than 500 employees. Under the same rules, a microbusiness has fewer than five employees and requires $35,000 in capital or less to get going.

In New York State, small businesses are companies that employ fewer than one hundred people, while New York City’s Department of Small Business Services doesn’t set a number. Instead, it encourages any self-identifying businesses to seek out its resources.

Consequently, the MBPO’s March 2015 report called for a standardized measure of “small,” and the recommendations in its report are geared toward firms with 15 or fewer employees.

No matter how you define them, it’s clear that the not-so-invisible hand of the market is driving these firms out of business on Manhattan’s main streets. One problem? Stratospheric commercial rent increases. In 2014, the average asking rent in Manhattan was $65.14 per square foot. With ever-more high-income individuals flooding Manhattan, landlords are reluctant to offer 10- or 15-year commercial leases lest they get stuck with a lower-paying tenant as commercial land values in the neighborhood skyrocket.

Other problems, the report found, include businesses not having enough insurance, delaying tax payment, and under-budgeting for utilities. On the city side, some business owners in the report cited punitive agency inspectors who, instead of working with the owner to correct an issue, slapped the business with a fine.

Additional solutions don’t seem politically viable or aren’t effected at a scale that works.

A special tax for businesses in most of Manhattan eats into viability, too. In June, Mayor Bill de Blasio rejected the city council's proposal to alter commercial rent tax, an almost four percent surcharge on annual rent of $250,000 or more on businesses below 96th Street. As rents have risen, the tax threshold has stayed the same, and more businesses have become impacted. A bill (sponsored by Councilmember Dan Garodnick) that would raise the ceiling to $500,000 in annual rent didn’t make it into the final 2018 budget, though the item could be considered at a later date. If that limit were approved, the city would lose $52 million in revenue annually.

Zoning regulations encourage new development with huge storefronts that work for Chase and CVS but not for their independent counterparts. On the Upper West Side, though, neighbors are seeing mixed success from initiatives like a 2012 zoning change that limited storefronts to 25 feet, but don’t limit store size, as businesses are free to expand up or down as space permits.

But some advocates say these reforms don’t go far enough to stop business closures and the encroachment of chain stores.

“There is a crisis,” said Kirsten Theodos, cofounder of TakeBackNYC, an advocacy group for New York City small businesses. New York is losing 1,000 small businesses and 8,000 jobs per month. Theodos, who lives near the East Village, said all of this “fuels the hyper-gentrification and whitewashing of the city, a process that’s really accelerated over the past six years.”

Her group supports the Small Business Jobs Survival Act (SBJSA), a piece of local legislation that would set new rules around renewing commercial leases. Among other provisions, SBJSA would give commercial tenants, at minimum, a ten-year lease plus right to renewal and the option of arbitration to come to a new rent. The legislation is designed to slow, not stop, the rate of change in neighborhoods, and level the playing field for florists and bakeries competing for storefronts with Starbucks and Pottery Barn.

When the bill was first introduced in 2014, it had the support of 17 councilmembers—now it has the support of 26, or half the council. But in a city dominated by real estate interests, the bill is a nonstarter, Theodos explained. REBNY, the city’s largest real estate trade association, opposes the proposed rules, rallying around the idea that land values are subject to the “free market” and (incorrectly) deeming the rules “rent control.”

Even real estate boosters, though, acknowledge the downtrends in the market. According to REBNY, average asking rents in Manhattan this past spring fell in 14 of 17 of the borough’s top shopping strips compared with 2016 and record highs in 2014 and 2015. But the group maintains that a variety of factors set Manhattan apart from the suburbs, and grant the city a degree of immunity from experts’ dire predictions about the death of retail. In New York, REBNY says there are “strong market fundamentals,” including diverse food tenants, online retailers opening storefronts, and the eternal cache of a New York, NY address.

But to REBNY, doing well means collecting more rent. Fifth Avenue between 14th and 23rd streets (the Flatiron Fifth Avenue corridor) and Broadway between Battery Park and Chambers Street (the Lower Manhattan corridor) did the best, with ground floor rents rising by 18 percent to $456 per square foot in the Flatiron and 11 percent to $362 per square foot along the Lower Manhattan corridor. The report only looks at rents along main strips. Rents on side streets, according to the report, could diverge from the main drag; conversely, a gorgeous space on a prime corner may command greater asking rent and affect averages all along the strip.

It’s not only high rents and taxes that are driving businesses to close. Online shopping is slaying retailers big and small, in Manhattan and the suburbs and beyond. Right now, unchecked real estate speculation and limited protections for small-business owners mean that there is little protection against ultimately having a national bank and pharmacy on every corner.

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Achim Menges

This robotically-woven canopy will rise atop Pier 17 in Manhattan
German architect Achim Menges has designed a canopy for the SHoP Architects–designed Pier 17 at the Seaport District in Manhattan. With a form derived from beetle wings, the canopy will reside on the building's rooftop, replacing a glass pergola that had been nixed by the Landmarks Preservation Committee (LPC). SHoP's initial renderings depicted a lawned roof that people would leisurely enjoy. However, these newer renderings suggest a more intense usage of the space is possible, with large crowds of people gathered under the canopy for casual relaxation and large concerts alike. Indeed, the space has been designed to host up to 4,000 for outdoor movie screenings, tennis matches, art installations, and more. (As we also reported in 2015, when the LPC made the decision to veto the pergola, locals were wary of big crowds flocking to the area for such events.) Menges, who is a professor at Stuttgart University, has drawn inspiration from beetles in the past. The Elytra Filament Pavilion for London's Victoria & Albert Museum derived its shape from "the fibrous structures of the forewing shells of flying beetles known as elytra," and at Pier 17, his work is based around the wing casing of the potato beetle. “It had to be lightweight because it sits on top of a building,” Menges told the New York Times. “But it also had to be strong to stand up to gale force winds.” Like in London, the canopy will be robotically woven. The complex lightweight structure will be composed of glass and carbon fibers. Embedded within will be lights that illuminate the structure, making it clearly visible from the water's edge, and particularly the Brooklyn Bridge—a landmark that Menges also used to inform his design. In 2015, neighbors also voiced concerns that the pergola would block views of the Brooklyn Bridge. According to SHoP, the 250,000-square-foot, $200 million Pier 17 is to be finished in 2018. (However, SHoP is not directly involved with the design of Menges's canopy.)