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Roundup

Weekend Edition: D.C.’s newest museum, election analysis, and more
Missed some of our articles, tweets, or Facebook posts from the last few days? Don’t sweat it—we’ve gathered the week’s must-read stories right here. Enjoy! D.C.’s newest museum goes underground to explore the American police system The new National Law Enforcement Museum in Washington, D.C., opened to the public in mid-October and teaches civilians what it's like to be police officer. Florida residents demand border wall around Habitat for Humanity housing Habitat for Humanity announced that an upcoming affordable housing development in East Naples, Florida, will have to be built with a concrete border wall. Amazon to split HQ2 between New York and Virginia, but can they handle it? News of a Crystal City Amazon headquarters may have been premature; it now seems the tech giant is looking at Long Island City as well. What did the 2018 midterms mean for East Coast architects? Let out a sigh of relief; the 2018 midterm elections are over, and voters passed judgment up and down the Eastern Seaboard on a wave of measures. West Coast sees big wins (and losses) in architecture and urbanism ballot initiatives As Democratic voters retook the House of Representatives and key gubernatorial seats, a series of initiatives saw mixed results in western states. That's all. See you Monday.  
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Tune In

New York architect launches guerrilla radio station about community uplift and food
Earlier this year, when architect Dong-Ping Wong branched out to start his own firm, he found himself going through name after name but none seemed to have the right ring. Finally, the word “food” occurred to him. Ridiculous at first, it wouldn’t leave his head, and so it stuck. Food, the firm, was born. Food, said Wong, is “something that everyone has an association with and a relationship to.” It is something people “can come together around.” Food as an architecture firm name, he points out, is unfortunately also very hard to Google. But that hasn't stopped them from working on projects for clients ranging from the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) to Kanye and Kim Kardashian West. But it's their most recent project, Office Hours, where the name's magnanimous universalism really shines through. For Office Hours, Food has taken over a storefront on East Broadway in New York’s Chinatown for three weeks of programming centered around an online radio station (to be distributed in more permanent format later) as well as various community projects and events. All manner of creative people, like chef Angela Dimayuga, artist Jon Wang, designers Chen Chen and Kai Williams, SO-IL partner Jing Liu, DJ Venus X, and creative director Heron Preston have come through and spoken on the air. As the website for Office Hours notes, the events, like actual office hours, also serve as an “open invitation.” People can come in and listen, and youth are particularly encouraged. In fact, Food members have stopped by the public library on more than one occasion to invite kids and teens in and people have come in off the street to do work or check out the "reading room." Office Hours is committed to promoting people of color and those who live in the largely-immigrant neighborhood. As the project description notes, “In New York City, one in four Asian Americans live below the poverty line…Unsurprisingly, many young people that grow up in this environment self-limit what they see themselves being able to do.” The purpose of Office Hours, in part, is to expand this range of vision and imagination by introducing youth to the whole array of future possibilities for themselves. The space, which is laid out with some wiggly custom-made gray plywood tables held up by Ikea desk legs, has hosted happenings for all ages—from drawing lessons to impromptu happy hours. Office Hours continues through November 16 and all are invited to intend. The schedule and the live stream are available on Food's website.
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Irreversible Destiny

Arakawa and Gins’ legendary Bioscleave House faces the wrecking ball
The Bioscleave House, designed by the late Japanese architect Arakawa and his late wife Madeline Gins, is currently listed for sale for $2,495,000 in East Hampton, New York. The experimental home is known for its peculiar design that aims to reverse the effects of aging and transform the personal well-being and longevity of its inhabitants. If purchased by a developer, the Bioscleave House, also known as Reversible Destiny, could be destroyed and replaced with a standard spec house, which could sell for up to $4,000,000 in the current market. Recently, Professors Group LLC, the anonymously-owned proprietor of the home, along with the Reversible Destiny Foundation, a nonprofit that preserves the work of Arakawa and Gins, started a campaign to save the home from demolition by devising a series of rescue plans moving forward. The current owners lack the funds to maintain the home and are being forced to sell the property. One plan involves finding a creative investor to invest in 25 to 33 percent of Professors Group to help fund the home. The firm is also looking for collectors or investors to work with them in taking apart the home and then moving it to a nearby public venue, like the LongHouse Reserve or the Parrish Art Museum. Professors Group would also sell the house to a buyer who understands and cares about its legacy and value so that they could either work with them in caring for the property or renovate and maintain the house close to its original condition. The Bioscleave House is only 50 percent built out in F.A.R., so more additions can be made on the one-acre site. If none of the rescue attempts prevail by January 2019, the house will be sold to a local developer who would likely demolish it and rebuild an entirely new structure.
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Two Bridges to Nowhere

The Dubaification of New York
The residents of the Two Bridges neighborhood in the Lower East Side find themselves in a predicament. Throughout the city, developers have targeted expired urban renewal areas originally governed by land-use controls that have ensured housing affordability for decades. The Two Bridges Large Scale Residential Development is one such target. Exploiting the site’s underlying high-bulk zoning allowances, a group of developers is proposing to build four new predominantly market-rate skyscrapers, ranging in height from 62 to 80 stories—four gleaming luxury megatowers that portend a storm of gentrification and displacement. The proposal needs approval by the city administration. Many argue that the development requires a “Special Permit,” which would call for a Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). In 2016, Carl Weisbrod, then Chair of the City Planning Commission, declared the project a “Minor Modification” requiring no ULURP. After public outcry, the Department of City Planning requested the developers to undertake an unprecedented joint Environmental Review. On October 17, 2018, the City Planning Commission held a public hearing regarding the proposal’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). The room was packed. About 100 people testified. The vast majority (myself included) raised serious objections to the project and the approval process. Only five were in favor: two members of a union advocating for 50 permanent building service jobs promised for the site; an advocate for the disabled, who supports all projects that add elevators to subway stops; the current Two Bridges commercial tenant, who is promised a long-term lease in the new complex; and the executive director of Settlement Housing Fund, who is selling air rights to the 80-story tower. At the public hearing, questions about the appropriateness of the project’s scale were addressed by Gregg Pasquarelli of SHoP, the firm responsible for the 80-story tower, who showed examples of recent large-scale waterfront projects and said that the city has consistently approved this kind of development. In his presentation, Pasquarelli glossed over substantive issues of urban context. The audience was baffled if not offended. When Pasquarelli claimed that the project “will create a vibrant, beautiful, equitable, and appropriate skyline for the city and its residents,” the room actually burst into laughter. Commissioner Anna Hayes Levin pointed out that the projects of “tremendous scale” that Pasquarelli used to make his case were in manufacturing areas transitioning to a new use, while this expired urban renewal area was planned for, and still is, a low- and moderate-income residential development. Pasquarelli, showing what was at best was ignorance and at worst callousness, did not really respond and brought up the example of the American Copper Buildings, a SHoP-designed 800-unit residential development in an already affluent neighborhood, with nowhere close to the same risks of gentrification and displacement impending at Two Bridges. Laughter also greeted Pasquarelli’s closing sentence: “the city is in a housing crisis, and this provides a huge amount of affordable housing for the neighborhood.” Indeed, a quarter of the new apartments (694 out of 2,775 units) will have a degree of affordability. But for whom? Surely not the current residents of Two Bridges, whose households’ median income ($30K) is below the threshold for renting in the new ‘affordable’ units ($37K). City-wide trends and the advent of Essex Crossing have already resulted in the loss of rent-regulated units as well as higher eviction rates in the area. The influx of 2,081 market-rate apartments cannot but exacerbate the situation and lead to residential and business displacement. Whose neighborhood will this be once bodegas are replaced by cafés selling five-dollar lattes? The Environmental Review was meant to identify any adverse impact from the proposed development in 19 areas of analysis as defined by the City Environmental Quality Review (CEQR) Technical Manual guidelines. The review found negative impact in five areas—Transportation, Shadows, Open Space, Construction, and Community Facilities & Services—for which the developers are proposing some mitigation. No adverse impact was found in 14 areas, among them Socioeconomic Conditions and Neighborhood Character. How is this possible? The CEQR guidelines are notoriously flawed. For instance, per the guidelines, no resident of a building with even one rent-regulated unit is vulnerable to indirect displacement. Even more troubling: the guidelines call for a “No Action” scenario to be used as a comparison when evaluating indirect displacement. The DEIS defines “No Action” as a condition “in which projects are expected to continue the trend towards market-rate development and rising residential rents in the study area. In accordance with the CEQR Technical Manual guidelines, since the vast majority of the study area has already experienced a readily observable trend toward increasing rents and new market rate development, further analysis is not necessary.” The “No Action” scenario is one of several critical factors that make possible and seemingly inevitable what we might call the ‘dubaification’ of New York City. It is not a loophole: the developers and their compliant architects are going by the book, following the law to the letter. The problem is written in the law itself: once you accept the premise that the market is already conquering the city—that increasing rents and luxury developments are already the norm—no new project, no matter how big or in which urban context, can ever be held responsible for negatively affecting the socio-economic fabric of any area. The question, in assessing this proposal as well as the spate of massive developments popping up all over the city, is not solely about scale. To be sure, height is a major concern. (I find it ironic that the tallest of the existing six housing complexes at Two Bridges is a 21-story building that everyone calls “The Tower.”) But what these megatowers portend is something more ominous: an ever more homogeneous and generic skyline; the disappearance of neighborhoods and their communities; apartments becoming phantom residencies for absentee investors; dwelling valued only as an investment, a commodity; a city of resplendent buildings towering over dead streets. There is still time to do the right thing for Two Bridges. The City Planning Commission will be voting as early as November 14 on the “Minor Modification.” They must deny it. A ULURP must be granted, to allow the public and elected officials to negotiate for more significant community benefits, including greater and deeper affordability as well as height caps to truly tackle the adverse impact of the megatowers. More important, the Two Bridges debate is an opportunity to start imagining alternative visions for our city. The City administration must close zoning loopholes and fix the CEQR guidelines. Let’s build a city in which housing is not treated as a commodity but as a fundamental right.
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Pokemon Go to the Polls

What did the 2018 midterms mean for East Coast architects?
Let out a sigh of relief (or keep holding your breath); the 2018 midterm elections are over, and voters passed judgment up and down the Eastern Seaboard on a wave of politicians and ballot measures that will impact architects, construction workers, and transportation enthusiasts. Climate change policy was also, though not as explicitly, up for a vote alongside more concrete measures. Although the dust is still settling, AN has put together a primer on what the election results mean from Miami to Maine. New York Democrats now control all three branches of government in New York State and are poised to rewrite the state’s rent stabilization laws…assuming Governor Andrew Cuomo lets them. As Gothamist noted, the 1971 Urstadt Law prevents New York City from usurping Albany’s authority and passing more stringent rent control laws than those at the state level, even as the city spirals deeper into its affordable housing crisis. The new year will bring a vote on all of the laws that oversee the city’s affordable housing stock, meaning that the newly inaugurated state legislators will be in prime position to demand stronger tenant protections. The real estate industry in New York City has historically donated to campaigning Republicans and the reelection of the industry-friendly Cuomo, however, so it’s unclear how far the governor will acquiesce. As the NYPost broke down, tenant activists are amped up at the possibility of tamping down annual rent increases and ending the ability of landlords to raise rents after investing in capital improvements. Cuomo’s reelection also likely locks in the decision to place Amazon’s HQ2 (or 2.5) in Long Island City. The governor had been a huge booster for NYC’s bid for the tech hub, promising hundreds of millions in state subsidies. On the national front, the election of a number of “climate hawks,” including New York 14th District representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the 19th District’s Antonio Delgado, will bring a group of climate-action hardliners to Washington. It’s expected the new crop of progressive voices will press the House on plans to transition toward sustainable energy and curb America’s dependence on fossil fuels. More importantly, 16 Republican House members—more than half—on the 90-person bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus were voted out. On its surface, the collapse of the caucus sounds like a bad thing for environmentalists, but as Earther notes, the group was known for advancing milquetoast, business-friendly proposals that ultimately went nowhere. Although any climate action coming from the House needs to pass the Senate and would land on the President’s desk, where it would presumably wilt, the momentum for change is slowly building. Any climate change–confronting action will likely have an outsized impact on zoning codes in New York and beyond and would require construction teams and architects to implement steeper resiliency measures into their projects. Maine In Maine, voters overwhelmingly passed Question 3 by a measure of 2-to-1, ensuring that the state would issue $106 million in general bonds for transportation projects. Of that, $80 million will be used for roadway and bridge infrastructure construction and repair, $20 million for upgrading airports, ports, harbors, and railroads, and $5 million for upgrading stream-facing drainpipes to lessen the impact on local wildlife. One million will also be spent to improve the pier at the Maine Maritime Academy in Castine. Florida Ron DeSantis is the new governor and Rick Scott is likely to move up to become a senator. During his tenure as governor, Scott, although presiding over a state uniquely vulnerable to flooding and coastal storms, was a staunch climate change denier and banned the phrase from all state documents and discussions. DeSantis appears to be cut from the same cloth, telling crowds during a campaign stop over the summer that climate change, if it exists, can’t be mitigated at the state level. What this likely means will be a continued lack of action to mitigate climate change and its effects on a state level. Soccer lovers can rejoice, though, as 60 percent of voters endorsed allowing David Beckham’s Freedom Park to build on the Melreese Country Culb. The $1 billion Arquitectonica-designed soccer stadium, hotel, “soccer village,” and office, retail, and commercial space will span 73 acres. Michigan Gerrymandering looks like it’s on its way out in Michigan after a 60-40 vote to redraw the state’s districts. Over several decades, the state legislature had used its redistricting power to cram Democrat or Republican constituents (depending on who was in power at the time) into congressional districts where their impact would be marginalized. Now, after the passage of Proposal 2 and the subsequent amending of Michigan’s constitution, a 13-person, bipartisan panel will be established to redraw the state’s internal boundaries. Four Republicans, four Democrats, and five non-party identifying individuals will make up the commission. Barring a court challenge, money for the initiative, including pay for its members, will be allocated from the state budget come December 1, 2019. After that, the commission will draw up the new districts for the 2022 election using data from the 2020 census. The panel will convene every 10 years, in time with the census, and can only be disbanded after the legal challenges to its decisions are completed. Any Michigan citizen who hasn’t held political office in the last six years can apply to become a commissioner.
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Look on the Sunnyside

Amazon to split HQ2 between New York and Virginia, but can they handle it?
Only hours after the news leaked that Amazon was considering Crystal City, a suburb in Arlington, Virginia, that bounds D.C. for the site of its second headquarters, sources are reporting that two cities will actually be taking home a shiny new HQ2. Long Island City in Queens and Crystal City in Northern Virginia will both be getting a mini-HQ2 of sorts and the accompanying 25,000 employees, raising concerns that both neighborhoods will soon face an influx of wealthier residents that will further strain already stressed housing and transportation systems. Although the Chicago Tribune noted that Amazon’s decision to split up its headquarters may have been to head off criticism that it would overburden any city that HQ2 landed in (echoing complaints of Seattle residents), it may not be enough. Over the last year, 1,436 new residential units were built in Long Island City during a time when New York is already struggling—and using increasingly novel means—to hit affordable housing goals. The decision appears to have been weeks, if not months, in the making. Both Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio have met with representatives of Amazon in the past few weeks, with the mayor’s office leading tours of the Queens neighborhood. Just last week, the city announced that it would be infusing the waterfront neighborhood with $180 million in investments toward improving schools, infrastructure, transportation, and open space; it now appears that the announcement’s timing was more than coincidental. The city may also be banking on the future development of Sunnyside Yard, the 180-acre active rail yard situated between Long Island City and Sunnyside, to soak up some of the expected influx of new residents. Although Long Island City, directly across the East River from Midtown Manhattan, is served by eight subway lines, the Long Island Railroad, and easy connections to both John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports, New York’s subway and bus systems are already in the middle of a crisis. Sky-high ridership in recent years, overcrowding, cascading mechanical failures, and struggles to find the funding necessary to fix the subways’ most pressing issues have all contributed to a decrease in the quality of New York’s transportation network. Governor Cuomo, for his part, has been quiet on whether the incentives offered to Amazon include money to improve, or at least fortify, the subway system, though to this point, the administration has already pledged hundreds of millions of dollars in tax incentives. Yesterday, the governor joked that he’d go as far as to “change my name to Amazon Cuomo if that's what it takes." We’ll see if he follows through.
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People in Crystal Cities Shouldn't Throw Stones

Amazon in “advanced talks” with three cities for HQ2 as info leaks
Sources close to the selection of Amazon’s future second headquarters (HQ2) have reportedly released details that the company’s refined shortlist comprises New York, Dallas, and Crystal City in Arlington, Virginia. While nothing is set in stone, Amazon seems to be furthest along in the selection process with Crystal City—up to the point of scouting out potential real estate locations in the city and discussing how long it would take to move in a first wave of employees. At the time of writing, the Wall Street Journal and New York Times have reported that Amazon may be splitting its future HQ2 across two cities, New York and a location in Arlington, with 25,000 employees in each. Amazon first announced the search for a second home in September of 2017, and 238 cities from across the U.S. and Canada all put in their bid to attract the online retail giant and its shiny new $5 billion headquarters and associated 50,000 jobs. The process certainly hasn’t been rushed, as it took Amazon until January of 2018 to release their 20 city shortlist. No major announcement will come until after the midterm elections on November 6, but the selection of the final site is slated to be revealed before the end of the year. Northern Virginia was always a favored contender to receive HQ2 owing to its proximity to Washington D.C. (and as sardonic Twitter posters noted, the location of Jeff Bezos’s newly renovated mansion) and other major eastern cities, and the available stock of occupiable office buildings. Although talks are still advancing with representatives in New York and Dallas, this could be to prime a backup location in case Crystal City falls through. HQ2 is slated to start operating in 2019, which means that Amazon will have to be ready to hit the ground running with their new headquarters. Lending credence to the Crystal City speculation was a tweet from Mike Grella, Amazon’s director of economic development, who lashed out at the leakers, saying they weren’t “doing Crystal City, VA any favors.” If Crystal City or the Northern Virginia area really have been favored all along, it could raise questions of whether the other cities wasted their time and money in putting together bids. Worse yet, critics have alleged that Amazon had been sussing out what incentives they could wring from each city, and has even gone against their own selection criteria in drawing up the shortlist. AN will follow up on this story later this year when the final location of HQ2 is made public.
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Who Runs the World

How city terrain affects runners at the world’s major marathon sites
Looking ahead to this Sunday’s New York City Marathon where over 50,000 runners will traverse the city’s five boroughs, we’re thinking about the roles that topography and urbanism play in the world’s longest running courses. The Abbott World Marathon Majors is composed of six races in four countries, including three in the United States. Though all the host cities are highly-populated metropolitan areas, they vary in size and density and all feature distinct geographies that change the way runners battle through the race. TCS New York City Marathon In New York, runners cross three major bridges and power through the city’s undulating terrain, some of it flat and some of it extremely hilly due to the Manhattan schist that elevates the northernmost parts of the Big Apple. One of the features of this race, and every race within the World Marathon Majors, is that it gives people—not cars—the chance to take over streets and other major pieces of infrastructure. Now in its 48th year, the marathon starts at the edge of Staten Island. Runners get an initial high over the 13,700-foot-long Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, a Robert Moses-backed project, and run north up 4th Avenue from southern Brooklyn to Greenpoint. After a brief stint in Long Island City, Queens dotted with shiny, new towering residential properties, runners cross the Queensboro Bridge and begin a six-mile jaunt through Manhattan, the Bronx, and back into Manhattan to the end in Central Park. As one of the world’s most walkable cities, runners will have plenty architectural distractions along the 26-mile route. But with a total ascent of nearly 853 feet and a maximum elevation of 195 above sea level, the long and swelling course in New York is not for the faint of heart.  Tokyo Marathon The youngest race in the World Marathon Majors, the Tokyo Marathon has existed since 2007 and features little change in elevation due to the city’s location on the coast of Japan. Rising to just 134 feet above sea level, but largely maintaining an average of 5 feet above grade, the extensive course zigzags through the heart of the city and across the Sumida River.   The race begins at the Kenzo Tange-designed Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, a 48-story tower that, though surrounded by other gray-toned architecture, still maintains its identity as a landmark in Tokyo. The building resembles a giant, cathedral-shaped computer chip. The course heads directly east toward downtown Tokyo past the 19th-century Imperial Palace, then loops through Asakusa, home of the famous Buddhist temple, Sensō-ji, down to Koto, through Ginza, and the Shinagawa business district in Tokyo Bay. Runners will end the race by cutting through Hibiya Park and hitting Tokyo Station. It’s the only course in the competition where participants double loop the parts of the route. The Boston Marathon As the world’s oldest annual marathon dating back to 1897, the Boston Marathon is also New England’s largest sporting event, attracting over 50,000 spectators and 30,000 participants. The historic course runs straight through eight cities and towns in the Boston metropolitan area, starting on East Main Street in Hopkinton and following Routes 35, 16, and 30. Finishers cross into downtown Boston and end near the John Hancock Tower in Copley Square after largely descending in elevation from the top of the course. The long route allows runners to explore Boston’s Middlesex County and race by the scenery between each colonial town. Overall, the race is very hilly. The course begins at 450 feet above sea level and drops drastically, eventually resting around the 150- to 200-foot mark from miles 3.5 to 15. From Newtown to Brookline at mile 19, runners will climb the infamous Heartbreak Hill before descending to sea level in the last two miles. Bank of America Chicago Marathon Beginning and ending in Chicago’s own front yard, Grant Park, runners go through 29 neighborhoods in one large loop, with each of the city’s main stadiums set as turning points. As one of the most architecturally revered cities in the U.S., runners have the opportunity to pass by some of Chicago's stand-out structures and get a feel for its physical and cultural diversity. The 45,000 participants start the flat race in downtown Chicago, catching glimpses of Millennium Park, the mid-century Prudential Building, and the Loop. After crossing north up LaSalle Street to Lincoln Park, they’ll hit Wrigley Field at mile 8 before heading south to Old Town, which sports Chicago’s Victorian-era homes, as well as St. Michael’s Church, one of the only buildings still standing from before the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. In the industrial River North neighborhood, runners will fly by Merchandise Mart, home to galleries, as well as residential and design showrooms. On the West Side of Chicago, participants pass by the famous Union Station and St. Patrick’s Church, the city’s oldest public building, before hitting Little Italy, Pilsen, and all its wall murals, as well as Chinatown. Before heading back up Michigan Avenue to Grant Park, runners go by the campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology, which is next to Bronzeville, a place called the “Birthplace of the Blues.” In the historic Gap section of the neighborhood, Frank Lloyd Wright built a set of rowhouses. BMW Berlin Marathon Established in 1974, today’s course for the Berlin Marathon hasn’t always been in place. Before 1990, the race was held solely on the city’s west side. Just months after the fall of the Berlin Wall that June, participants were able to run through East Berlin with tears in their eyes. The course today is configured in a large loop. It starts at 38 meters above sea level and never rises above 53 meters. It’s largely flat and features very few sharp corners, making it one of the fastest long-distance routes in the world.   Runners begin at the neoclassical Brandenburg Gate in the historic Pariser Platz. They then head west through Grober Tiergarten Park before crossing the river Spree. Heading into East Berlin, participants loop through Friedrichshain, Neukölln, Kreuzberg, Schoneberg, and Steglitz, eventually going into Charlottenburg, and downtown Berlin. Because of the city’s stark past, Berlin is relatively young and many major developments are less than 30 years old. Runners will start in an iconic and old part of the city, but eventually stumble upon newer structures such as Norman Foster’s Reichstag building and Potsdamer Platz, the city’s main square with a masterplan by Hilmer & Sattler, and designs by Renzo Piano and Helmut Jahn. Virgin Money London Marathon Following the flow of the River Thames, the relatively flat London Marathon attracts amateurs, charity fundraisers, and serious runners from around the world. It started in 1981 and the slithery course—which begins in Blackheath, passes through Greenwich, and ends in St. James near Buckingham Palace—has barely been altered since the original race 37 years ago. Participants travel through two of London’s major parks, visit dockyards, the Royal Artillery Barracks, and file through the neighborhoods of Deptford, Surrey Quay, and Wapping after crossing Tower Bridge. While the Tube is arguably the fastest way to get around London’s sprawling metropolis, running this annual race gives visitors a chance to see the city at their own pace. Some of the city’s most notable developments are directly on or near the River Thames, such as the near-complete London Bridge Station that’s been in the works for eight years.
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The Future of Retail?

Amazon is bringing its seamless automated grocery store to New York
Imagine a world where artificial intelligence tracks your every movement. A world where buildings have minds of their own, learning your behaviors, and collecting data from you as you come and go. While existing technology has not yet reached sci-fi levels, a visit to an Amazon Go grocery store can offer you a peek into this possible future of retail design. This week Amazon announced its plans to open a new store in New York, the first of its kind on the East Coast, before opening nearly 3,000 more nationwide by 2021. The company has already built out six Amazon Go stores in Seattle, Chicago, and San Francisco. The cutting-edge stores, as shown within its first locations, are characterized by visual simplicity, clarity, and hyper-functionality. Through the stores' structural elements, including minimalistic facades, geometric configurations, and exposed raw materials, such as wood veneer and polished concrete, the interiors assume an industrial feel. They feature muted colors and black merchandise racks that give the stores a clean appearance as well. Meanwhile, ceiling cameras monitor shoppers as they wander through the aisles. The stores are unique in that they are void of cashiers, cash registers, and self-service checkout stands. Customers only need to walk in, take what they need, and leave. As they swing through the turnstiles on their way out, Amazon automatically bills their credit cards. Within minutes, a receipt is sent to the Amazon app, giving customers a summary of what they bought, what they paid, and the exact amount of time they spent in the store. The stores, which depend on highly sophisticated image recognition software and artificial intelligence to function, are expected to drastically transform the retail experience in unexpected ways. Amazon began working on retail stores five years ago with the goal of eliminating consumer criticisms and complaints, such as struggling to find products and waiting in long lines. Since the first Amazon Go store opened last January in Seattle, it has received tremendous praise and success. According to CNN, highly automated retail stores like Amazon Go are expected to become the norm within as little as 10 to 15 years. Research has shown that up to 7.5 million retail jobs are at risk of automation in the next decade, which will save retailers money on labor, as well as boost profits, but obviously cost retail workers their livelihood. Automated stores can facilitate the ordering and restocking process as cameras and AI track inventory in real-time. The removal of cash registers provides more space for inventory. Customer data can also be uploaded to the servers of each building, where retailers can present them with personalized discounts, offers, and other incentives. While Amazon has confirmed plans to open an Amazon Go store in New York, its location has yet to be determined.
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Move the Vote

Los Angeles approves free public transit on election day
As the contentious U.S. midterm elections taking place on Tuesday, November 6, fast approach amid numerous accusations of voter suppression and disenfranchisement often along lines of race and class, at least one city is proactively making it easier to vote. The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority has just approved free public transit on election day to help encourage people to turn out to the polls. This is especially important in California, which has a number of ballot initiatives impacting housing and the environment. Ballot initiatives in California this November include Proposition 1, which would expand resources for veteran housing; Proposition 2, which would implement a 1 percent millionaire’s tax to help support mental health services, housing initiatives, and other resources for homeless people; Proposition 3 which would authorize nearly $9 billion in bonds for spending on water infrastructure and other environmental initiatives; and Proposition 10 which would allow local governments to implement rent control. The decision to expand voter accessibility in Los Angeles comes at a time where various forms of voter suppression and disenfranchisement are being brought to light across the country, including the intentional disenfranchisement of certain people who have served jail time, voter roll purges in states like Georgia, and gerrymandering districts to turn them red, such as in North Carolina’s 13th district. Some sources have also spread misinformation on the day the elections take place, such as in Suffolk County, New York, where a mailer from Republican incumbent Rep. Lee Zeldin featured the wrong deadline for absentee ballots (it’s November 5). Voter ID laws in many states have been accused of preventing lower income and minority voters from being able to enact their right to vote. In North Dakota new ID and residence rules, upheld by the Supreme Court, have been argued to be systematically targeting Native Americans. Relocating where people go to vote is another method that has been accused of attempting to prevent voter turnout. The ACLU has been brought a federal lawsuit over the choice to move a polling station for Dodge City, Kansas, whose population is majority Latinx, to a difficult-to-access location outside of the city limits. Similar moves to make voting hard to access, especially for people without flexible work schedules or easy transportation access, have been seen across the country, particularly in areas that have larger populations of people of color, as well as urban centers that tend to be more diverse and liberal-leaning. Los Angeles's announcement came as New York's Citibike announced that their bikes would be free to use for all on election day. Motivate, Citibike's parent company has announced that services in the Bay Area, Boston, Chicago, Columbus, Jersey City,  Portland, Minneapolis, and Washington D.C. would all be free on November 6 as well.
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Intellectual Appetite

Art platform e-flux opens bar and restaurant in Brooklyn
e-flux, the New York–based orgnaization best known for its criticism and theory in art and architecture, has branched out in a rather unexpected direction: a bar and restaurant. Situated in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, not far from the Pratt Institute, Bar Laika extends e-flux’s ability to do programming beyond their small Lower East Side main location and in more hangout friendly digs. The new space also has some design pedigree: Alvar Aalto lighting adorns the space and seating was provided in part by Artek and Vitra. The name Laika means “barker” in Russian and is a common dog name, much like Spot or Rover in the U.S. It also happens to be the name of the first dog in space. Bar Laika’s local seafood-heavy menu was developed in collaboration with artist and chef Hsiao Chen and the cocktail list was put together by another artist, Danna Vajda. Wines were selected by Florence Barth. The bar will also be pairing screenings and other programming with special set menus, some put together by participating artists. Like their downtown space, Bar Laika will be used for screenings, talks, musical performances, and readings which are being organized by Lily Lewis and Anton Vidokle, along with curator and chef Ingrid Erstad. Bar Laika launched earlier this month with dinner and a screening of Anri Sala’s 1998 film Intervista.
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Islands in the Stream

Freeman Plaza West creates islands of green amid torrents of New York traffic
Hugging the looped entrance to the Holland Tunnel on Broome Street, Freeman Plaza West is a “found” public space in Manhattan that’s been reimagined as a peaceful parkland for area workers to remove themselves from the car-ridden bustle of the surrounding streetscape. The two-acre green space is the talk of the surrounding Hudson Square, and not just because its the newest non-desk place to eat lunch in the post-industrial Manhattan neighborhood. The project was conceived by the Hudson Square Business Improvement District (BID) and designed by Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects (MNLA). Freeman Plaza is spread out over three adjacent landscapes—a west, east, and north plaza (the former two are finished). The spaces feature simple interventions such as tables, chairs, decking, solar-powered charging stations, turf lawn, book lending kiosks, public art, and programming, all input gradually over a period of several years. Because of the plaza’s close connection to the Holland Tunnel, where 12 lanes of traffic merge into two, the architects aimed to make a quiet place where congestion and noise were nearly imperceptible. Signe Nielsen, MNLA’s founding principal, said the firm was led by the question: “How can we make a true public space in the middle of 45,000 cars?” “It has truly been an adventure in tactical urbanism,” Nielsen said. “Although this is a somewhat overwrought term, we’ve been implementing opportune interventions on a fairly unlikely site slowly and steadily, and at low-cost.”
 
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Over 40,000 people work in Hudson Square. The majority of them, due to the types of companies the area attracts, are young, mobile workers under 35 who are tech-savvy, transient, and seek time away from the office during the day. Freeman Plaza, Nielsen said, isn’t in a typical location for a park, but it offers the same respite a park might, while being somewhat of a shock to the local population—simply because it’s an actual green space with already mature trees in a non-green area. “Most people don’t think of Freeman Plaza as a destination; it’s a surprise,” Nielsen said. “We virtually created a complete buffer from the outside world so psychologically it feels like you’re not in the middle of traffic.” Freeman Plaza is the third “found” space in Hudson Square, identified as part of an initiative to amplify public space and rebrand the district. Hudson Square BID and MNLA released an award-winning masterplan in 2012 called “Hudson Square is Now” that gave way to a more sustainable streetscape with 250 newly-planted or retrofitted trees and a stormwater management system. Nielsen sees this type of casual, gradual landscape design as a way to help beautify and reclaim urban spaces in any city, especially areas that are walkable but also dependent on cars. She notes that observing the city with an eagle eye is key when siting underutilized areas located directly off of major pieces of transportation infrastructure. “You’ve got to look around in a very greedy kind of way,” she said. “Ask, where can I grab land for people? What would it take to allow the public into this space? Sometimes the most unlikely places appear.” Freeman Plaza West opened to the public earlier this spring, following the initial build-out of Freeman Plaza East in 2014. MNLA’s design for the new Spring Street Park, located one block from Freeman Plaza, unofficially opened to the public last month.