Search results for "nypl"

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Urban Wanderlust

New app transports you through NYC’s historic cityscape with archival photos
Finally, a digital archive of historic New York City photos that geolocates to your smartphone! This new app mines the digital collections of three NYC cultural institutions, placing the images onto an interactive map of the city. Working with Brooklyn Historical Society, the New York Public Library, and the Museum of the City of New York, Urban Archive has made accessible over 2,500 images from all five boroughs (sorry New Jersey). The newly formed nonprofit's ambition is to create apertures into the city’s urban history in a multi-dimensional digital platform that both informs and entertains the public.  This democratization of images has the potential to allow communities to articulate untold urban histories in a new forum of public engagement. The app has a sophisticated interface that, among other features, sends push notifications when you walk pass a historic building, giving new agency to urban explorers and history enthusiasts. The app also has curated walking tours of certain neighborhoods and a popular side-by-side photo generator that produces images you can share on social media. To "check-in," you need to be within 150 feet of the chosen location. "Certain check-ins may unlock achievements within the app, so no short cuts are allowed!" Urban Archive says on their website. While the available database is still in beta testing, Urban Archive continues to sort and geotag some 50,000 additional images, encouraging other institutions to share their collections. The Urban Archive iOS app requires an iPhone running iOS 10 or later. No iPad or Android versions are available yet.
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Housing Works History

A new online archive reveals how HIV/AIDS activism shapes New York
Most New Yorkers know Housing Works though cheerfully crammed thrift stores where vintage blazers, crystal candy dishes, and nice books can be had for good prices. Yet the storefronts are infrastructure for a larger mission: As its name suggests, Housing Works provides housing and social services to homeless New Yorkers living with HIV and AIDS. A new project by a Columbia curator teases many stories out of the documents stretching back to its founding in 1990, when the city had few of supportive housing for an estimated 13,000 homeless citizens with HIV/AIDS. Housing Works History is a meticulous digital archive that covers the organization from its founding 27 years ago to its work today in a multimedia timeline that's as elegant as it is thorough. Timed to the 30th anniversary of ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), the grassroots group and Housing Works precursor that formed in response to government inaction around HIV/AIDS, Housing Works History speaks to the past and future of supportive housing in New York for the most marginalized groups. That housing, and the activism that made it happen, shaped the city subtly but profoundly. "Focusing on physical spaces gave me a way in, a way to talk about the history, the stories, and the different voices from those spaces," said Gavin Browning, the curator behind Housing Works History. Drawing on his academic background in urban planning and his work at Columbia University (he's the director of public programs and engagement at Columbia University School of the Arts, and the inaugural director of Studio-X), Browning's project provides a forum for a distinctly New York story. Inspired by oral history and the Howard Zinn–esque bottom-up approach to historiography, Housing Works History sorts each significant event, program, or housing milestone chronologically along with links to important court rulings, scanned newspaper clippings, photographs, video, and other ephemera, grounded by parallel timelines of diagnosis and infection rates. The juxtaposed timelines, Browning said, help connect data to lived experience to "expose an archive that wasn't being seen or used, or really acknowledged. Most people don't know this history, and how it's connected to the development of the city. It's really essential New York City history." A click on the year 2000 brings viewers, via archival footage, to the Housing Works Gay Pride parade float, and to the organization's stewardship of two brownstones on West 130th Street, a project started by community group Stand Up Harlem. The project is a platform for collective voices that have shaped the organization and the movement it foregrounds, as well as a window into how a social movement shaped architecture and design in New York. Long abandoned, those brownstones were transformed into supportive housing for substance users. Designed by architect Benjamin Kracauer, the Stand Up Harlem House opened in 2008 and provides 16 units for single adults and families affected by HIV/AIDS. The design connects two adjacent brownstones but moves entryways to the garden level, providing streetscape continuity while allowing for greater accessibility. In addition to the timeline, Browning collaborated with Laura Hanna to shoot five original films featuring the architects, activists, and Housing Works employees behind five of the organization's housing projects. In one, Browning interviews, roundtable-style, a Stand Up Harlem resident, Desi Glazier, program director Ivan Gonzales, a Housing Works attorney, and Kracauer. For the spatially-inclined, there's a map, too, that organizes the group's projects and significant sites. Housing Works History, Browning said, was influenced by Group Material's 1989 installation, AIDS Timeline, which used media, artifacts, and ephemera to document AIDS's evolution from its roots as a health issue to one that shaped LGBT and dominant culture. Close to home, the project grew from a 2012 project Browning curated with Karen Kubey in New York. Living Room: Housing Works Builds Housing explored the group's activism and advocacy that led to the construction of 170 units in three neighborhoods for its target population. Despite his work, Browning isn't employed by for Housing Works; he obtained project funding from the Graham Foundation. Though the website officially debuts today, Housing Works History's official launch party is next week at the New York Pubic Library's main branch (details here). Browning sees the project as a "stepping stone" for other's work—he hopes, for example, the work could inspire others' academic research or ground perspectives on today's struggles for equity and visibility.
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Checking In

Inwood has questions as city quickly prepares to develop new library with affordable housing
"This entire process feels like window dressing for decisions already taken." So read a guerilla message plastered on design boards at a recent library visioning session in Inwood, a neighborhood at Manhattan's northern tip. The city announced last month that it will sell the Inwood branch library, on busy Broadway, to a developer who will build all-affordable housing and a new library on-site. The New York Public Library (NYPL) said that after the demolition, the rebuilt Inwood branch would be the same size and provide the same services. The Robin Hood Foundation, an antipoverty nonprofit, is putting $5 million towards the project to match the city's contribution. Although the housing would be privately developed, the city would maintain ownership over the library. The Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) expects construction on the new building to begin in 2019. To prepare for changes, HPD has organized three visioning sessions about the library's future. The first was held last Wednesday night, and attracted about 60 people: HPD planner Felipe Cortes noted that the crowd was mostly older and whiter, an observation reflected in the number of stickers on the respective English and Spanish-language design and programming visioning boards. Residents were asked to express their preference for a new building at 115, 145, and 175 feet in height with 90, 110, and 135 units, respectively. Not included: an option to preserve the building, which dates to 1952. At the session, some residents felt the project was moving ahead too fast, and that public input would not substantially impact the city's plans; similar concerns were voiced earlier this month at a Manhattan Community Board 12 meeting, DNAinfo reported. "Bill de Blasio is too eager to cave to developers," said resident Sally Fisher. "It's like the city put a 'For Sale' on Inwood." She wondered where teenagers and children will congregate once demolition is underway. The impending sale follows two others that the city has authorized in Brooklyn Heights and Sunset Park, Brooklyn, both of which have sparked community outcry. (Brooklyn Public Library is a separate system from the NYPL, which covers Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island.)  For the Inwood deal, it's not yet clear who will own the deed—HPD says those details have yet to be determined. The library, one of the most-used in the system, is in dire need of repairs and upgrades. Pointing to a water-damaged drop ceiling, library manager Denita Nichols said that the building is showing signs of wear and tear, and the full renovation 16 years ago has not kept pace with changing technology or current community needs. Nichols said library, which is one of the few open seven days a week, has to accommodate quiet study spaces and more social spaces. "I would love to see a flex space with a culture center—that would really be great to me if it happened," she said. NYPL will continue to do community outreach around the project before any design decisions are made.
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No Relief?

When the Brooklyn Heights Library is demolished, what will happen to the art on its facade?
Community members and preservationists are worried that a local developer will pull a Trump on a Brooklyn library and send its art to the trash. In an unusual move, New York–based Hudson Companies this week filed plans to demolish the Brooklyn Heights Library at 280 Cadman Plaza West before they close on a deal for the site with its owner, the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL). Despite assurances that the art on the facade will be saved, city officials haven't issued a commitment in writing to preserve the work. If all permits are approved by the Department of Buildings (DOB), exterior demolition could begin in January to make way for a 36-story, mixed-use tower designed by Brooklyn-based Marvel Architects. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported this week that the branch, which closed in July and now operates out of temporary quarters, wants to get up and running inside the new building as soon as possible to minimize disruption to patrons. (Marvel Architects is also designing the new library.) As part of the BPL's $300 million capital repair campaign, the deal with Hudson and this new—smaller—library will generate a surplus $40 million in funds that will go towards renovations at other branches. The Business & Career Library, long headquartered at the Brooklyn Heights branch, moved to the main library this summer, though the neighborhood branch will retain specialized services for freelancers and entrepreneurs when it reopens. The reduced size of the new library caught the community's attention and the deal behind the site attracted the feds. In May, the New York Post reported that federal and city prosecutors are investigating whether the $52 million redevelopment deal was a quid pro quo for contributions to Mayor Bill de Blasio's nonprofit, the Campaign for One New York. Hudson's winning bid for the library site was a full $6 million less than another developer's. Although ongoing investigations will not affect the demolition timeline, the fate of the library's facade is still undecided. The six bas-reliefs by artist Clemente Spampinato surround the main entrance and depict industry and businesses; crafts; sciences; knowledge; literature; and arts. In New York, his architectural work graces the auditoria, gyms, and facades of public schools in the five boroughs. Back in 2011, Brownstoner contributor Suzanne Spellen (a.k.a. Montrose Morris) praised the library's art when she dismissed its "not great architecture." Designed by architect Francis Keally, one of the architects behind the main branch at Grand Army Plaza, the building opened in 1962 but looks like a throwback to the WPA era. Separated from the neoclassical post office and courthouses across the street by a grand allée on Cadman Plaza Park, it defines the character of the corridor despite its design shortcomings. Advocacy groups Citizens Defending Libraries (CDL) and Love Brooklyn Libraries, Inc. fought hard to keep the library open in its original building, but are now hoping that at least Spampinato's work will be preserved in some capacity. "There's a longstanding tradition of incorporating art into the grand civic architecture of public libraries. From the [NYPL's] Main Branch on 5th Avenue to the library on Grand Army Plaza, art is an integral part of the identity of New York library systems," said Michele Bogart, professor of art history at Stony Brook University and former vice president of the Art Commission (now the Public Design Commission). A Carroll Gardens resident, Bogart suggested the BPL should incorporate the reliefs, which are 20 feet tall and 11 feet wide, into the new tower's branch as an important continuation of tradition and a gesture to the neighborhood losing its public facility. In addition to architectural sculpture adorning libraries, there is a venerable history of spolia in New York's public works. Simeon Bankoff, the executive director of the Historic Districts Council, a preservation advocacy group, said the reliefs could be repurposed in another municipal capacity, like the Marine Grill's opulent mosaic murals greet straphangers at Fulton Street. Alternatively, preservation activist Theodore Grunewald said the library reliefs could go to a museum, citing the Pegasus sculptures from the Coney Island High Pressure Pumping Station that now live in the Brooklyn Museum's extensive collection of architectural objects. The Public Design Commission (PDC) reviewed Spampinato's pieces when they were installed in 1963, Bogart said, and the PDC still has a chance to weigh in on the significance of the library sculpture. A spokesperson for the developer confirmed in an email that the reliefs will be saved in some capacity: “Hudson Companies will carefully remove the reliefs and store them for the duration of the construction period. The ultimate decision for the reuse will be made by the Brooklyn Public Library, which is committed to making sure they are preserved either at the new branch or another location." Echoing Hudson, a spokesperson for the BPL confirmed that the library will make the final decision about the reliefs, although there is no confirmation yet about whether "another location" means a different branch or another entity like a museum or private collection. At press time, Marvel Architects could not be reached to discuss plans for incorporating the reliefs into the new library, and PDC executive director Justin Garrett-Moore could not be reached for comment on the commission's plans, if any.
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Preserving a Masterpiece

A new exhibit explores the construction and preservation of the New York Public Library main branch building

The New York Public Library (NYPL) has opened a new exhibition, Preserving A Masterpiece: From Soaring Ceilings to Subterranean Storage, that documents the history of the 105-year-old Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. Carrying significant historical pedigree, the building currently has three rooms that have been granted NYCLandmark protection: Astor Hall, the main stairway and the McGraw Rotunda. Running through September 18, the exhibition will focus on the ongoing restoration of the Rose Main Reading Room.

Preserving A Masterpiece will be located on the third floor of the Schwarzman Building and boast more than 75 photos, most of which have never been revealed in public. The images—which go all the way back to 1902—will shed light on the building's past as well as current preservation efforts. The structure makes use 530,00 cubic feet of marble and the massive scale of its structure is on full display in early images.

Behind the scenes photography will explore the two-year restoration of the ceilings in the Bill Blass Public Catalog Room and Rose Main Reading Room, as well as the 50 foot scaffolding that was used to carry out the work. Further images will show the construction of a second level of collection storage underneath Bryant Park and the new 55,700-square-foot level of the Milstein Research Stacks, which is due to bring the library's capacity to approximately 4.3 million volumes.

In addition to this, two ornate plaster rosettes from the Rose Main Reading Room ceiling will be on display. Interestingly, when one was pulled down during an inspection to test the ceiling's strength, more than 430 pounds of weight was required, proving that the ceiling has maintained its structural strength during its 100-year lifetime. 

“The Library is proud to be a dedicated, great steward of all of its buildings, including and especially the iconic and historic 42nd Street Library and its beloved reading rooms,” said NYPL President Tony Marx. “Looking at photographs of this building from its beginnings to its current state is a powerful reminder of what makes it so special, so extraordinary, and so important.”  

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In bold preservation move, the New York Public Library commissions replica of mural in its Catalogue Room
As part of the ongoing renovation of its main branch building on Fifth Avenue, the New York Public Library (NYPL) has commissioned a replica of the mural on the ceiling of the Catalogue Room. The 27-by-33-foot mural, by artist James Wall Finn (muralist to the Gilded Age Elites), depicts a sky of billowing cumulous clouds warmed by rosy light. During the 2014 structural integrity inspection prompted by a fallen rosette, engineers hoisted platforms close to the 52-foot-tall ceilings of the Bill Blass Catalog Room and the Rose Main Reading Room. While the engineers determined that the ceilings needed minor reinforcements, a fine arts conservator determined last year that the original 105-year-old mural in the Catalogue Room needed intensive repair: sloppy patch jobs, discoloration, and loss of original paint had severely damaged the piece. (The mural in the Rose Main Reading Room was restored fully in 1998.) The NYPL commissioned New York–based EverGreene Architectural Arts to recreate the mural on two massive pieces of canvas. “The Catalog Room sky mural holds its own as a singular mural but also connects with the three murals in the Rose Reading Room, opening up the ceilings with space and light,” Bill Mensching, Director of Murals at EverGreene Architectural Arts, explained. “Our goal as artists was to honor Finn’s concept, and complete the series of murals that are timeless in their clarity, movement and gradations of color." EverGreene has restored, conserved, or recreated artwork and decorative ornament on The Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, United Nations Building, Manhattan Supreme Court, and other historic New York City structures. In all, these replicas will cost around $45,000. Both the Reading Room and the Catalogue Room are expected to reopen this fall, and the canvases will be placed over the Finn's mural in the next few months. Check out the time-lapse video below that shows the mural recreation from start to finish: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bOX2iqhZBKY&feature=youtu.be
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Mecanoo Announced As Winner of New York Public Library Redesign [Updated]
The New York Public Library's Board of Trustees unanimously selected the Dutch firm Mecanoo to lead the renovation of the NYPL's Stephen A. Schwarzman Building (the main branch at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street), as well as the Mid-Manhattan Library at 455 5th Avenue. Mecanoo's creative director and founding parter Francine Houben will lead the design team. New York's Beyer Blinder Belle will be the architect of record. Construction begins in late 2017 and is expected to run through 2019. After the Board of Trustees nixed Norman Foster's renovation scheme, the board invited 24 firms to submit proposals for the redesign in February 2013. 21 proposals were received, and the pool of contenders was winnowed down to eight, four and then two over four months, from June to September, 2015. Mecanoo was announced at the September 16th meeting of the NYPL's Board of Trustees. Mecanoo's plan for the main branch will include 42 percent more space for scholarly research and exhibitions. The Mid-Manhattan Library will receive a complete interior renovation to accommodate classrooms, a circulating library, and a business library.
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Notes from the Society for College and University Planning’s 2015 Chicago Conference
There’s much to be said about SCUP’s 50th Annual International Conference, held this year at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, in Chicago, Illinois, July 11 – 15. Aside from what one must imagine are the typical characteristics of this globe-trotting annual event—mission-oriented indoctrination, relentless networking against seemingly never-ending waves of competition and sweets, a diverse range of diurnal activities and workshops concerning a stunning miscellany of unpredictable subjects (including drones)—this year’s event presented interesting spins on an emergent, “integrated” planning strategy involving the use of Data in University programming. One of the conferences most interesting topics was the common theme of SIMULATION across the conference, specifically, in the context of using data born from a projected reality or fantasy, which ultimately ends up informing reality to such a magnitude as to change something. This is tied to video games, role-playing and the sensibility of the gamer. In “How to make the Future – With Games,” Jane McGonigal, Game Designer and Future Forecaster, leveled the crowd with an exegesis on the collective intelligence and “collaboration superpowers” of gamers and their seemingly shared, innate ability to, not sit in a dark room for hours ingesting potato chips on a pleather couch peppered by blades of setting sunlight that make it through the blinds but not the headphones (the blinds reference could be 80’s: American Gigolo, Less Than Zero), but “strengthen and transform” Society. McGonigal’s milieu, becoming ours, involves “massively multi-player future forecasting games” that enable us to imagine and plan for “strange and wonderful futures”. She is, according to SCUP’s description of the Plenary Session, today’s “leading speaker on the engagement economy and the application of game-design to the real world.” https://youtu.be/8HjjMv4LvbM McGonigal’s initial visualization and consequent circumlocutory word-play involved the construction of a predictive model in the form of an asteroid threat, which utilized player response to inform a “collective intelligence around real-world pandemic response.” She described her use of social media as a ready-made network to host this particular simulation or game. She defined a geographic region or corridor. Players fantasized about impacts to everything from available medicine to the stock market and their responses were ultimately used to inform responsive, BIG BROTHER agency thinking. McGonigal further described concepts of “Interactive Documentary” and concluded with a very compelling description of “Find the Future: The Game”, a game in which over 500 players explored the New York Public Library’s 70 miles of stacks using laptops and smartphones, following clues that amalgamated in short personal essays inspired by the event which are to be compiled in a volume to be stored within the Library’s collection. “The game is designed to empower young people to find their own futures by bringing them face-to-face with the writings and objects of people who made an extraordinary difference,” said McGonigal McGonigal made mention of one other related item of interest relative to reality and gaming, the text Ready Player One, by Ernest Celine. I just read this book, which takes the notion of Simulation to a level that displaces reality while at the same time, supplies the, let’s just say participant, with many forms of currency which have palpability in the real world, be it knowledge, a sense of physical security, or income. Celine constructs a post-apocalyptic world in typical sci-fi fashion. He integrates '80s lore (Music, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Video Games, TV, etc.) into the construct. His seamless interweaving of the content informing the game with the game itself and reality is fascinating, and it takes McGonigal's expertise to its logical conclusion: Data generated from Fantasy has value in the real world and has the capacity to inspire change on many levels, even policy. McGonigal’s influence put a strange, intellectual spin on the lens through which Data might be perceived on the level of Programming. It seems that Fantasy has as much to teach us about reality as human tracking. Going back to the idea of a predictive model, devoting more time to fully flushing out worlds that don’t exist, could significantly inform our approach to data-driven design methodologies in a way that is less invasive than human telematics.
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Los Angeles and San Francisco make bids to host the 2024 Olympic Games
After hosting the Olympic Games in 1932 and 1984, Los Angeles is in the hunt to be the Unites States' candidate to host them again in 2024. Earlier this week the city made a presentation to the U.S. Olympic Committee, followed by pitches from Boston, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. According to Inside The Games, a website dedicated to Olympic news, LA's proposal would be heavy on existing facilities, cutting down on costs so much that Mayor Eric Garcetti called it the "most affordable" of any U.S. proposal. The games would once again focus on the LA Memorial Coliseum (which would be substantially renovated), and surrounding Exposition Park, both just south of USC. Other significant venues would include Staples Center, the Nokia Theater, Griffith Observatory, the Queen Mary, and even Walt Disney Concert Hall. According to Inside The Games, the bid shows off LA's ongoing transit expansion, with officials claiming that 80 per cent of spectators will be connected to venues by public transport. San Francisco proposed a $4.5 billion, privately financed plan that would also focus on existing, or already-planned facilities. According to the SF Chronicle they would include newly-completed Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, several waterfront piers, and the Golden State Warriors' upcoming arena in Mission Bay. A temporary stadium for the opening and closing ceremonies in Brisbane, south of San Francisco, would be removed after the games, and the Olympic Village would be contained in 2,000 units of housing already approved as the fourth phase of development at the Hunters Point shipyard. “We’re not going to be building white elephants in our city or anyplace in our region,” San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee told the Chronicle. The USOC is expected to decide on an entry city by early next year, and the International Olympic Committee is expected to choose the 2024 host city in 2017. The U.S. has not hosted a Summer Olympics since the 1996 Games in Atlanta. The last U.S. city to host the Winter Olympics was Salt Lake City, in 2002.
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Archtober Building of the Day #1> The Public Theater at Astor Place
Archtober Building of the Day #1 The Public Theater at Astor Place 425 Lafayette Street, New York, NY Ennead Architects Many "Building of the Day" tours demonstrate the vibrancy of New York City, as it manifests itself in public spaces, public buildings, and, today, in the Public Theater. Theater shows us who we are, and the Public Theater has presented a balanced mix of Shakespeare, classics, musicals, contemporary works, and experimental. The lobby is filled with words, and immediately my head is filled with quotes from the Bard: “What do you read, my lord,” and Hamlet replies: ”Words, words, words.” So we kick off with some good words about the public, the theater, and the splendid blend of history and aspiration that brings them all together. Ennead Associate Partner Stephen Cho, led the tour today, developing the history of this sturdy antebellum structure. Originally built in 1853 as the Astor Library, it grew until the 1895 consolidation with the Lenox and Tilden Libraries formed the New York Public Library. The original architect was Alexander Saeltzer, with additions by Thomas Stent. Abandoned by the NYPL in 1911, the structures were repurposed for the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society in 1920. The Astor Library became a residence, a half-way house, a kosher cafeteria, and an advocacy organization for the displaced Jews of the early 20th century. By 1965, the building had deteriorated considerably and faced certain demolition. One of the first successful “saves” of the newly-created Landmarks Preservation Commission, the city purchased the building, gave it landmark status and leased it to Joe Papp, who had already established his vision of promoting Shakespeare to the masses. Ada Louise Huxtable called it “the miracle on Lafayette Street.” Ennead began its involvement with the renovation of the lobby and public outdoor space. Taking cues from the historic building, a new stoop was added by gobbling up a lane of Lafayette Street. A glass canopy was also added. Paula Sher of Pentagram had a hand in some of the words, and artist Ben Rubin created The Shakespeare Machine as a site-specific light fixture with 37 LED screens that displays fragments of Shakespeare’s plays. This was a great project to kick off the month of architecture. It has everything – an august beginning as an institution for learning, a historic transformation reflecting the changing nature of the neighborhood, and its chapter as a hub of theaters exploring all those themes and more. Stay tuned for 30 more…tomorrow we tour 250 Bowery by Morris Adjmi Architects at high noon.
Cynthia Phifer Kracauer, AIA, is the Managing Director of the Center for Architecture and the festival director for Archtober:  Architecture and Design Month NYC.  She was previously a partner at Butler Rogers Baskett, and from 1989-2005 at Swanke Hayden Connell.  After graduating from Princeton (AB 1975, M.Arch 1979) she worked for Philip Johnson,  held faculty appointments at the University of Virginia, NJIT, and her alma mater. ckracauer@aiany.org
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New York Public Library Closes the Book on Foster + Partners Renovation Plan
The New York Public Library has canceled its controversial renovation plan by Foster + Partners, according to a report in the New York Times. The plan, which would have removed the historic book stacks and turned the non-lending research library into a circulating library, was widely opposed by scholars, writers, and architectural historians. In addition, the library planned to sell their Mid-Manhattan branch and their Science, Industry and Business Library. Now they plan to renovate the Mid-Manhattan branch and maintain the 42nd Street Library as a research library. “When the facts change, the only right thing to do as a public-serving institution is to take a look with fresh eyes and see if there is a way to improve the plans and to stay on budget,” Tony Marx, the library’s president, told the Times. Foster-designed Central Library Plan would have turned the area housing the stacks into new reading room overlooking Bryant Park. While campaigning, Mayor Bill de Blasio opposed the library plan. According to the Times, the mayor recently met with NYPL's Marx to reiterate his opposition. The Huxtable Initiative (named for the late Ada Louise Huxtable), a group of architects, critics, and historians opposed the Central Library Plan, released the following statement:
It sounds too good to be true. But it goes to show that criticism can actually change things! Ada Louise Huxtable writing in the Wall Street Journal inspired us all—and particularly prompted the formation of the Huxtable Initiative (a group of architectural journalists, critics and historians) to protest the insertion of the Foster scheme in the grand Carrere and Hastings structure. Then architecture critic Michael Kimmelman put the problem on the front burner by  writing about the weaknesses of the library's  plans in the New York Times. Charles Warren, the architect, advanced the discussion by revealing the engineering distinctiveness of the stacks that were about to be destroyed. And then of course, there was The Committee to Save the New York Public Library,  which just never gave up. When you don't have big money, you do need a lot of perseverance and people.
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Library Review Overdue
Courtesy Foster + Partners

Facing two new lawsuits and vociferous protests from numerous scholars and critics, the New York Public Library (NYPL) has decided to take a step back and re-evaluate its proposed renovation plans for the iconic 5th Avenue branch.

In December, Foster + Partners unveiled renderings of the new circulating library to be housed in the Stephen A. Schwarzman building with an ambiguous price tag of $300 million. This costly overhaul of the historic Beaux-Arts branch called for the removal of seven tiers of stacks beneath the Rose Main Reading Room to make way for a new circulating library. NYPL’s controversial “Central Library Plan” would consolidate the Mid-Manhattan and Innovative Science, Industry, and Business libraries within the main branch on 42nd Street and transfer roughly three million books from its research collection to storage space beneath Bryant Park and to off-site locations in New Jersey.

“We also believe the removal of the stacks and relocation of books will create a situation that is really negative for people trying to use the library in a research capacity,” said Simeon Bankoff, executive director of Historic Districts Council and member of the Committee to Save the New York Public Library. “It is really a crippling blow to the purpose of the building.”

The funding for this ambitious undertaking would come from a mix of public and private sources. So far the library has secured $150 million from the city, and hopes the sale of the Mid-Manhattan Library and Science Library will generate an additional $200 million.

“We don’t trust the numbers that the library is throwing around. Where is the oversight and where is the accountability?” said Bankoff.

 

At a hearing on June 27, State Assemblyman Micah Z. Kellner, chair of the Assembly Committee on Libraries and Education Technology, listened to roughly 50 people voice their concerns about the merger of the three branches. Acknowledging the public’s misgivings about the hefty and somewhat vague cost of the renovation, NYPL president Tony Marx said that the library would initiate and provide independent cost reviews. The NYPL has committed to exploring several options, including cost estimates for renovating the stacks and Mid-Manhattan Library, and a third review of the larger renovation project to be updated once again by Foster + Partners.

“All projects, especially projects this large and complex, go through an iterative process,” said NYPL official Ken Weine. “Come fall we’ll have a new design from Foster + Partners.”

When the library filed for building permits in early June prior to the completion of the public review process, it prompted several scholars and preservationists to take legal action with the help of the law firm Advocates for Justice. The aim of the lawsuit against the NYPL is to avert plans to permanently alter the historic building, which the plaintiffs contend will betray the mission of the institution and play to the interests of private developers.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs make the case that the NYPL has breached its promise to keep public books at the library, violated New Yorkers’ constitutional right to have access to information, and failed to take proper measures to assess environmental impact. They also argue that the library trustees have breached their fiduciary duties by not considering other options to ease financial concerns in addition to abandoning the charter to keep the books on site.

A second lawsuit was filed on July 10 by another group of critics and preservationists, including authors Edmund Morris and Annalyn Swan along with a library advocacy group, Citizens Defending Libraries. These plaintiffs have filed an injunction to halt construction and removal of the stacks. This lawsuit focuses on a 1978 Agreement between the Library, City, and New York State that, according to the plaintiffs, prohibits any “structural alteration of the Central Branch” without approval from the state first.