Posts tagged with "Long Island City":

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Hunter’s Point South Park completes a Queens coastline years in the making

What goes into a park? We dug into the parts and pieces of landscape design to explore and illustrate the forces, material histories, and narratives that hide beneath the surface. This article is the first of three such deep dives, which includes Tongva Park in Santa Monica, California, and The Gathering Place in Tulsa, Oklahoma. All illustrations were done by Adam Paul Susaneck.

The transformation of Hunter’s Point South in two phases from a contaminated strip of coast in Long Island City, Queens, to an ecologically sensitive 11-acre park was 11 years in the making. Stretching along the East River south of Gantry Plaza State Park and Steven Holl’s Hunter’s Point Community Library (see page 16), Hunter’s Point South Park sits on a conveniently sited piece of land that was neglected for decades before the park opened at the end of last year.

The park was designed by Thomas Balsley Associates (TBA; the firm became SWA/Balsley in 2016) and WEISS/MANFREDI to be a sustainable storm buffer and public green space for the new Hunter’s Point South development, a 5,000-unit housing complex on the southern shore of Long Island City.

The idea for Hunter’s Point South Park had been percolating long before plans for it officially started coming together in 2007. Thomas Balsley told AN that back in 1990, when Gantry Plaza State Park was being planned, he envisioned a whole-coast master plan that would stretch from Anable Basin in Long Island City (the site of Amazon’s failed HQ2 bid) all the way down to Newtown Creek in Greenpoint, Brooklyn (now home to a wastewater treatment plant known for its iconic “biodigester” eggs). To Balsley, Gantry Plaza State Park was supposed to be the start of a line of parks running down the Queens–Brooklyn shore. Design on Hunter’s Point South Park began in 2009, and Balsley and Weiss/Manfredi’s early sketches are remarkably close to what would be built nine years later.

The linear park provides views of the Manhattan skyline and has an amphitheater-like arrangement that also blocks noise from the busy Queens streets to the east. Because of tight siting requirements, budget constraints, and the harsh microclimate that the park has to endure, SWA/Balsley filled the site with resilient native salt-marsh plants. Besides acting as a natural flood buffer, the plants don’t require active irrigation, meaning none was built into the site. The plants also filter and clean the river, a job that Balsley likened to “acting as the park’s liver.”

Lighting

Arup was also responsible for specifying the park’s lighting fixtures. Most of the fixtures used were New York City Department of Transportation/Parks Department–standard pedestrian- and street-lighting poles and Holophane helm fixtures. Linear lighting by Wagner was used to illuminate the benches and overlook handrails and as uplighting. Step lights by Bega were integrated into the wooden furnishings and concrete walls. The nonstandard lighting features were all intended to be as minimal and unobtrusive as possible, so as not to detract from the landscape and views.

Structures

WEISS/MANFREDI was responsible for designing structures for both phases of the park, with Galvin Brothers serving as the general contractors. In Phase 1, that meant the 13,000-square-foot bent-steel pavilion that houses Parks Department offices, restrooms, and a COFFEED cafe at LIC Landing, the park’s ferry dock. Fabrication of the structure and canopies was done by Powell Steel Corporation of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which permanently closed in 2013. Stainless steel cladding came from Westfield Sheet Metal Works in Kenilworth, New Jersey.

For Phase 2, the towering steel overlook structure (below) was fabricated by Newport Industrial Fabrication in Newport, Maine, while the freestanding precast panel walls were fabricated by Bétons Préfabriqués du Lac (BPDL) in Alma, Quebec.

Furniture

The custom wood–slat lounge chairs and banquette seats and custom precast concrete benches were designed in-house by SWA/Balsley and WEISS/MANFREDI, with galvanized steel framing and Kebony USA–provided Kebonized southern yellow pine. Steel benches with aluminum seat dividers were provided by Landscape Forms and manufactured in Kalamazoo, Michigan, with raw materials mined from within 500 miles of the facility to reduce environmental impact.

Transportation

The park is easily accessible despite its coastal locale. It can be reached via the 7 train’s Vernon Boulevard–Jackson Avenue station; by the Q103 bus via the Vernon Boulevard/49 Avenue stop; by the Long Island Rail Road, which stops at 49-13 Vernon Boulevard; by numerous street-level bike paths; by car; and via the Hunter’s Point South ferry landing.

Vegetation

Plant species were selected for their hardiness and nativity and include juniper trees and a variety of shrubs and grasses for the park’s bioswales. Besides cutting down on maintenance costs, the flora used by SWA/Balsley can thrive on the edge of a briny river, and hosts native fauna.  Plants were sourced from nurseries in New York, New Jersey, and Maryland.

Infrastructure

Arup, which was responsible for the structural, civil, and bridge engineering of both phases, oversaw the installation of 7,500 feet of sanitary and storm sewers and 3,700 feet of water main.

Infill and hardscaping

Prior to the park’s construction, the site had been used in the 19th and 20th centuries as a dumping ground for soil excavated from rail-line construction sites around the city, and many portions of the site had since grown wild. To build out and sculpt the shoreline, existing infill was repurposed and moved to the water’s edge. Around the shore, board-formed and precast concrete walls were used to create the harder edges, while Jet Mist and Stony Creek granites mined from Stony Creek, Connecticut, were used for the riprap (below) and to fill in steel gabions.

Art

Because this was a city project, the NYCEDC was tasked with appointing an artistic consultant. After a search, Suzanne Randolph Fine Arts was chosen, which in turn picked Nobuho Nagasawa to create a site-specific installation. Seven photoluminescent sculptures resembling different phases of the moon were installed in 2017 in the winding, peninsula-like amphitheater forming a piece titled Luminescence. Each “moon” in the series was cast from Hydrocal, a mixture of plaster and portland cement.

Funding and Labor

In 2009, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) selected the project’s developer, TF Cornerstone, and TBA, which brought on WEISS/MANFREDI as collaborators. The project was split into two phases from the beginning. Phase 1 broke ground in January 2011 and opened in August 2013, after the NYCEDC spent $66 million for the 5.5-acre park and an accompanying 3,400 feet of linear roadway. Phase 2, which began construction in November 2015, opened at the end of June 2018, at a cost of $99 million. This 5.5-acre section, which came with another 3,500 linear feet of new roadways, was funded through the NYCEDC as part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Housing New York plan, as the park fulfilled the green space requirement of the adjoining housing development and is intended to mitigate flood damage there in the event of a storm surge.

The NYCEDC shepherded the project through two mayoral administrations and hired the LiRo Group to act as construction manager for the build-out, which then subcontracted the actual construction to the Great Neck, Long Island–based Galvin Brothers. The standard design-bid-build process was used for both sections. Park maintenance is handled by the NYC Parks Department.

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[Updated] Hunters Point Library facing maintenance issues after opening

Update 10/30/2019: A representative for Steven Holl Architects says that issues with water entering the building and the sprinkler have been resolved. They claim that "the issues that have come up are wrinkles normal to the opening of any new building, especially when the building is receiving such a huge audience," adding that "reading areas and study desks are continually full." Update 10/29/2019: A spokesperson for the Queens Public Library has said that DDC determined that the water was due to a problem with fire sprinkler, which has been resolved. Water also seeped from the rooftop area through a doorway. DDC is addressing both these problems and is working with contractors to repair the cracks in the floor. The Steven Holl Architects–designed Hunters Point Library in Long Island City, Queens, is already facing troubles, according to the New York Post. Previously under fire for its accessibility issues—the adult fiction stacks could only be accessed via staircase, a feature which met ADA compliance as the library claimed that patrons with limited mobility could ask librarians for help (the books have since been moved)—the building was suspected of leaking (it has been determined to have been both a faulty sprinkler system and an insufficiently weather-proofed door) and has been showing cracks on the floor, some as long as ten feet, just a month after opening.  In addition, librarians and patrons say there are major sound issues, with floors that “screech” when chairs are moved and a quiet room that is anything but. Librarians also told the Post that they felt the 22,000-square-foot building, which New York magazine architecture critic Justin Davidson described as a five-story “Seussian obstacle course,” could have made a better attempt at maximizing its usable space for books and other resources, rather than being designed like a “museum or gallery.” Librarians have also reported inadequate visibility within the library. Curbed says that the Queens Public Library system is working with the Department of Design and Construction, who was responsible for the actual building of the library, to address these concerns. The Hunters Point Library was a much-anticipated addition to the Queens waterfront and is eminently visible from the Manhattan waterfront. Through the project was approved in 2010, construction didn’t begin until 2015 and it opened just this September. Costing approximately $41 million (over $1,800 per square foot), the library was built as part of the Bloomberg-era Design and Construction Excellence initiative, which brought a series of public buildings with serious architectural chops to the city. As Davidson has previously pointed out, they came in often at staggering prices, due perhaps more to government inefficiency and bureaucracy, as well as state rules that require taking on the lowest-bidding contractors, than because of high-flying architectural fees and forward-thinking designs. (Holl himself reportedly told would-be publicly minded architects in New York City to “get ready to lose money, and do it with a smile," according to Davidson.) Steven Holl Architects and the New York City Department of Design and Construction have been contacted for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.
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Hunters Point Library called out over accessibility issues

Three sections of Steven Holl’s recently opened Hunters Point Library in Long Island City, Queens, have raised concerns due to only being accessible by stairs and are now being reorganized. While the library was previously applauded for the staircase’s design, and there's an elevator, it doesn't provide access to the three, tiered levels of stacks above the lobby. The Queens Public Library has announced that it is taking steps to fix the issue, but given the project's lengthy development timeline, how could such an obvious flaw make it past the design phase?  “With all the money they spent and all the years of delay, it struck me as strange," library patron Joe Bachner, told Gothamist. With the building costing upwards of $41 million, it does seem to be a big mistake that such popular sections of a library (fiction and periodicals) would exclude individuals with wheelchairs or other mobility challenges, as well as parents with strollers, and the elderly.  The library does technically meet the American Disabilities Act's (ADA) requirements due to a promise that librarians would retrieve books for patrons unable to make it up the stairs—but patrons don’t always know what they are looking for when they enter a library. The search and the discovery are a part of a library’s experience—a crucial part of obtaining knowledge. This statement was met with backlash by community members on Twitter (and in the comments on our previous article about the building's opening): “A 41 million budget and accessibility wasn’t considered in a beautiful inclusive way...” posted Sinéad Burke As Justin Davidson wrote in New York Magazine, "Staircases can be wonderful, providing drama, seating, exercise, and hangout spaces all at once—but they must never be the only option. Holl’s design, as sensitive as it is in many ways, fails to take that mandate seriously." In a statement to Gothamist, Public Library President and CEO Dennis M. Walcott said, “Our goal is to be inclusive and provide access and opportunity to all.” The library plans to move the fiction stacks to another location in the library and provide the community with updates as they come.
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Plans for ex-Amazon site in Queens aim to move forward with the community in mind

Shortly after Amazon backed out of building a new headquarters in Long Island City, Queens, (LIC) on February 14, developers and city officials began revisiting earlier plans for a mixed-use development on the 28-acre waterfront site. Due to the controversy of the failed Amazon proposal, all plans for the site will now have to face New York City’s public review process, meaning the community board, borough president, and city council would all have a say in the plans moving forward.  According to the Licpost, a coalition of community organizations have been calling on the developers since April to produce one comprehensive plan for the area as opposed to rezoning separate sites with different goals. Back in 2017, Plaxall’s residential redevelopment proposal was centered around rezoning the former industrial shipping port, Anable Basin, through the creation of the “Anable Basin Special District” which would include eight mixed-use buildings, light manufacturing, and retail space.  Out of the group of property owners who recently spoke with the de Blasio administration and City Council, one landowner was noticeably absent: Plaxall, who had proposed the original conversion on the site before Amazon moved to claim it and commissioned WXY to create a master plan. However, Plaxall’s managing director, Paula Kirby, told POLITICO earlier this week that they “remain committed to pursuing a vision that builds on LIC’s history as a center of innovation and creativity, and to working with our neighbors and the city on a plan to make Anable Basin an integral part of the future LIC waterfront." While their scheme would require rezoning, the general idea seems to be guiding the future of the site.  Throughout the Amazon debacle, it seems all participants have learned that the swath of land has a great untapped potential for bringing in jobs, but that community needs must be addressed first. Rather than building more condos, developers are now welcoming the idea of multifamily buildings that would have some income-restricted units, per city mandate. Other priorities discussed with the community organizations include several new schools, an arts center, a contiguous bike lane, and open parks.  According to one consultant, the number of new jobs doesn't have to be sacrificed to achieve those things. “Just based on the scale, the scope and breadth of the district, including the Plaxall site…in its full build-out, it approximately comes out to about 50,000 jobs,” MaryAnne Gilmartin of L&L MAG told POLITICO Brent O’Leary of the Hunters Point Civic Association told the Licpost that, “Instead of developers telling us their plans for our neighborhood, the community should express their vision and needs and the developers work within that vision so that the neighborhood develops properly.” He has helped organize meetings with TF Cornerstone and L&L MAG which are expected to take place in October at a currently undecided date.
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Steven Holl’s amble-worthy Hunters Point Library is finally open

Steven Holl has faced some real challenges with the Hunters Point Library in Long Island City, Queens—both artistic and pragmatic. Its completion after nine years can now be celebrated (construction began in 2015), but it’s a long time to wait for the $40 million, 22,000-square-foot-project, built by the city’s Department of Design and Construction (DDC). For the last year, precautions were made to adjust balconies off the central atrium space to prevent any suicide attempts. Nevertheless, it has been well put together by Steven Holl Architects, with Olaf Schmidt in charge, and opens today, September 24. Holl points out that what makes the library tick is its connection between what it looks like and how it’s experienced. He sums it up as a “browsing circuit,” comparable to his plan for an earlier unbuilt American Memorial Library in Berlin. For both there was the open stack, finding your own books, and seeing what others of interest were there at their side. In Queens, this is accomplished by suggesting readers movement along a multitude of stairways that are punctuated by levels with select bookcases off the sides, designed with shelves which accommodate readers’ books and/or their computers. Holl favors both artifacts, but he insists on the continuing presence of books. Holl also sees this space as a community center for presenting lectures, reciting poetry, or offering philosophical views. The latter can take place below, in the meeting room, or on the roof level at an outdoor setup with its dark wood seats. Literature for the earlier Berlin library tells of its fulfilling an aim of John Cotton Dana (1856-1929), the American librarian’s officiation of the open stack. Dana wasn’t alone, but the Americans open stacks library was actuated by him. Coming upon more than the original call number gives the reader a wider choice, a chance to browse. Inside—the exterior views have already been discussed—the good number of stairways suggest the presence of a Gianbattista Piranesi’s Carceri second state etching, Pier with a Lamp (1761). In 2007 Holl had rendered a watercolor painting based precisely on this print, transforming it over from a typical dark, mysterious, and haunting Piranesi to a brightly lit, upbeat image. This changeover in mood to a cheerful interior is the kind of atmosphere which John Cotton Dana prescribed for his ideal public library. He said,
Let the shelves be open, and the public admitted to them, and let the open shelve strike the keynote of the whole administration. The whole library should be permeated with a cheerful and accommodating atmosphere.
I would say that Holl has unknowingly fulfilled Dana’ s goal and maybe consciously paid homage to Piranesi. The cheerfulness of Holl’s library is—in spite of his knowledge of the persistence of doubt and uncertainty in our world–due to strong light coming in from the huge windows (modulated by metallic curtains) and enhanced by artificial lighting; LED and canisters lights provided by Dove and other companies. Answering Piranesi and some Cubists intents, there are theatrical views in addition to Holl’s fully tectonic field: A bold, slanting north/south white form resembling a beam (but is in actuality the underside of the egress stair clad with sheetrock) moving through a portion of the building is perpendicularly met by a curved mass and sheaved with bamboo, allowing for flickering light and shadow earth color effects, like early Cubist still lifes and landscapes. The photos above by Paul Warchol show how the library presents an ambiguous spatial field; the fragmented mass is a typical Cubist formal language. One other especially noteworthy interior view is the vaulting of the children’s area into an atrium space. The children’s area is across to the south, shielded by a curved vault of rounded steel tubes bent with metal decking spanning between, as observed by Justin den Herder of Silman, the engineering firm who helped realize the job. This structural element is also clad with bamboo panels allowing for a billowing curvature. The teen section is tucked away on the 5th level, off the atrium, and, above, on the roof deck, is the small outdoor theatre for lectures and cafe treats. Other contributors to Holl’s design were Michael Van Valkenburgh’s landscaping and Julianne Swartz’s optical devices. Van Valkenburg was hired to design a much more complicated scheme but the budget was sharply reduced, allowing only for several Honey Locust trees. Swartz’s four sculptural lenses were placed strategically along, and inside, the library to control views, echoing the playfulness of the sixties-era lens boxes designed by Mary Bauermeister. According to Swartz, “I make sculpture because it relates to the body.” This, in extension, is incredibly fitting for a design by Holl, since his work is ultimately tied to phenomenology. Alongside Holl’s sublime measures of the atrium, is his human scale and measurement throughout. Libraries around the globe have proliferated recently; they’re increasingly offering more than borrowed books. Is it too much to say, that our new community library in Queens, complete with its 50,000 books, now provides usefulness and beauty, equal to any of these others or even greater than some?
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New York City's elevated infrastructure pilot returns to beautify Queens

The quest to brighten and enliven the numerous disused public spaces underneath New York’s elevated infrastructure continues. Last year, the Design Trust for Public Space and New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) presented the first pilot space in their joint Under the Elevated/El-Space program, which activated the space under the Gowanus Expressway in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Now the Design Trust has released the first look at its second pilot space at Dutch Kills Street in Long Island City, which will turn the space below two elevated roadways into a sustainable community gathering space. The Dutch Kills Street site, much like the Gowanus Expressway “el-space,” will reroute runoff from the spaces above through stormwater drains. A set of gabion planters (wire mesh frames with a permeable stone filling) with low-light flora and an illuminated art fence will enliven the public plaza. As the Design Trust notes, New York has millions of square feet of public space that are sitting unused, often creating dangerous conditions for pedestrians. These dark, often-impermeable spaces can cut up neighborhoods and divide communities; the El-Space program is creating a comprehensive framework that can be applied city-wide for reclaiming these areas. El-Space 2.0 will open to the public on May 16 (interested visitors can RSVP here) as part of NYCxDESIGN. The El-Space Toolkit, a framework for officials, private stakeholders, and community groups that want to realize el-space projects in their own neighborhoods, is also in the works and will launch at a later date. The program isn’t slowing down, and the Design Trust–NYCDOT is working on their third el-space beneath the Rockaway Freeway in Queens.
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Amazon's new Queens campus might displace 1,500 affordable units

Amazon’s confirmation earlier this month that it would be dropping one half of its future campus in Long Island City (LIC), Queens, immediately drew condemnation from state representatives and a group of New York City’s elected officials. As the furor grew over Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan to rezone a portion of LIC for the tech giant’s campus, Cuomo released an op-ed today where he hit back at critics of the plan and touted the economic growth that Amazon would bring to New York. Housing affordability had been a point of contention among critics of the $3 billion in subsidies that Amazon will be receiving, and a new report from Politico shows that Amazon’s campus will preclude the creation of 1,500 affordable housing units. Amazon’s investment in the city won’t be insignificant. According to the Office of the Mayor, the online retail behemoth is expected to create 25,000 new jobs by 2029, going up to 40,000 in 2034. In 2019, Amazon will take half-a-million square feet of office space at One Court Square (the Citigroup Building) while their 4-million-square-foot headquarters on the LIC waterfront is under construction. Once work wraps up in 2029, Amazon is expecting to potentially add another 4 million square feet to their campus by 2034. The site of this future development? Anable Basin, an industrial enclave currently owned by the plastic company Plaxall. Plaxall had been gearing up to enact a WXY-master-planned redevelopment of their 15-acre site that would have created 5,000 new residential units, 1,250 of them affordable. Developer TF Cornerstone was also set to build their own 250 affordable apartments on an adjacent site owned by the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), but that project has also been subsumed. An Amazon spokesperson has confirmed to Politico that the no housing will be built on their Queens campus. Long Island City is home to the Queensbridge Houses, the largest public housing development in the Western Hemisphere, but the official line from the de Blasio administration is that the Amazon campus will only be a net positive for the area. A spokesperson for the NYCEDC told Politico that HQ2 will buoy the neighborhood economically, and Mayor de Blasio seemed to agree. “One of the biggest companies on earth next to the biggest public housing development in the United States—the synergy is going to be extraordinary,” said de Blasio.
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Governor Cuomo proposes rezoning in Long Island City as Amazon confirms HQ2 locations

Now that Amazon has officially confirmed that it will split its second headquarters between Long Island City, Queens, and Crystal City in Arlington, Virginia, each city is gearing up to address the logistical concerns of dropping in 25,000 new tech employees. To that end, New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo is reportedly planning to rezone the 20-acre Anable Basin site in Long Island City (LIC) using a General Project Plan (GPP) to accommodate the online retail giant. Though the area is currently zoned as a light manufacturing district, its owner, the plastic container company Plaxall, had previously tapped WXY for a master plan that would redevelop the industrial zone into a mixed-use redevelopment. Using a GPP, the same process used to rezone Brooklyn’s Pacific Park (neé Atlantic Yards), the state would potentially be able to initiate a rezoning of Anable Basin without the approval of New York’s City Council. As a result, the basin and two adjacent city-owned sites that Amazon has been eyeing could potentially become a mixed-use campus and series of office buildings, zoned at a much higher density than New York’s zoning code would typically allow. The Plaxall draft plan had previously angled to build 5,000 residential units, but as Crain’s noted, the GPP would allow for millions of square feet of office, residential, and mixed-use space. Although the GPP would still require an environmental review and is subject to community input during that phase, all of the recommendations received from the local community board and City Planning Commission would be non-binding. The pushback from New Yorkers against Amazon’s decision was nearly immediate. The backlash was built on a number of factors, including concerns over affordable housing in Queens, transportation issues, fears that Amazon’s influence would price out the borough’s diverse residents, and anger over the amount of state and city money being handed to the company. In Amazon’s official HQ2 press release this morning, the company disclosed that New York State would be giving away $1.525 billion in tax credits. Most of that, $1.2 billion, would be returned through New York State’s Excelsior Program over 10 years, subsidizing each employee to the tune of $48,000. The remaining $325 million will be given to Amazon in the form of a direct grant from Empire State Development, based on the amount of square footage it’s expected to occupy. In return, Amazon has pledged to invest $2.5 billion in each portion of its dual headquarters. A portion of the property taxes from the new Amazon campus will go toward funding transportation improvements in Long Island City, and the tech company has also promised to carve out space for a tech incubator and public primary school. Still, those concessions haven’t mollified critics. As soon as Amazon’s decision to settle in Queens was leaked last week, New York’s incoming, newly-democrat controlled state senate and assembly pledged to stop the flow of taxpayer money to Amazon. Democratic Assemblyman Ron Kim told Capital & Main that he would look into rerouting the state’s economic development money (mainly corporate subsidies) into student debt relief, and called the correlation between tax breaks and corporate incentives unhealthy. On Twitter, western Queens representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez let loose with a thread blasting Albany for giving away over a billion dollars in tax breaks when Amazon hasn’t initiated hiring quotas, protection for workers, or any promise to avoid displacing long-time LIC residents. State Senator Michael Gianaris and Queens Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer also released a joint statement outlining their problems with what they described as a “massive corporate welfare” giveaway. In the release, both offices went on record as calling the Amazon deal a giveaway from the 99 percent to prop up the 1 percent. It remains to be seen how effective these protests will be, or whether state-level legislators will be able to wring any concessions out of either Amazon or the Cuomo administration. In related news, Amazon also announced their intention to bring an “East Coast hub” to Nashville that would employ up to 5,000. The company will be building out one million square feet of energy-efficient efficient office space while investing $230 million in the city and expects to pay $1 billion in taxes over the next ten years. In return, Nashville has promised up to $102 million in tax incentives depending on whether Amazon hits its hiring targets. Amazon will begin hiring for all three of the newly revealed locations sometime in 2019, though it may take up to 15 years for the LIC and Crystal City locations to fully integrate their 25,000 employees.
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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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Long Island City riverside development would bring Queens one of its tallest towers

New York City’s outer borough may be getting yet another tall tower, as a recently revealed development in Long Island City, Queens, would bring thousands of residential units to an industrial corner of the neighborhood. As the New York Times reports, landlord Plaxall Realty has proposed converting its 15-acre riverside property into a mixed-use development that would include 5,000 apartments, 3.1 acres of public space, and 335,000 square feet set aside for manufacturing. The plan from New York-based WXY lays out not only retail and restaurant options for the site, but an additional 70-story tower that would become one of tallest in Queens if it were actually built. The borough has seen more of these projects lately, with the 984-foot City View Tower still on track to become Queens' first supertall tower. Anable Basin, the 1,000-foot long artificial channel that the development takes its name from, would anchor the 6-block complex. While Anable Basin was used as an industrial shipping port since its construction in 1868, Plaxall wants to modernize the inlet by ringing it with an elevated esplanade, installing flood barriers, and building docks for kayakers. Plaxall, a plastic container company who used to house factories in the area, has also called for the creation of an “innovation zone” in the development. 335,000 square feet of light manufacturing space will be set-aside in a co-working and living style arrangement, and Anable Basin residents could potentially leave their apartments and head straight down to their ground-floor studio space. Such a large project would trigger the city’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) requirements, and Plaxall has stated that approximately 1,250 of the proposed 4,995 units would be affordable. The details released yesterday make no mention of how affordability would be determined. Converting an area historically zoned as industrial will come with a set of caveats. Plaxall will need to have the area rezoned, and may sell the entire parcel even if they can find a development partner. If the proposal moves ahead, the Anable Basin special district would allow the public to access a section of the western Queens’ waterfront that had been closed off for centuries. Already in possession of 13 acres, Plaxall has been confident that the private landlords holding the other two will be on board with the scheme. Paula Kirby, granddaughter of Plaxall founder Louis Pfohl, told the Times that Anable Basin was “a unique opportunity to really make a skyline for Long Island City,” The New York City Department of City Planning will hold the first public comment hearing in early December. Construction is slated to begin in 2020.
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Long Island City’s latest mixed-use development will include factory space

Long Island City’s booming waterfront could be getting yet another high-rise, mixed-use project. However, this time the developers are proposing something new: the inclusion of factory space with the shiny new apartments.

After a year-long selection process, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYEDC) chose developers TF Cornerstone (TFC) to lead the $925 million mixed-use development on the 4.5-acre site at 5-40 44th Drive and 4-99 44th Drive, as first reported by the New York Times. ODA, Handel Architects, and Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects are the architects.

TF Cornerstone’s proposal will see a 1.5-million-square-foot, two-building complex with 1,000 rental apartments as well as 100,00 square feet of light manufacturing space. There will also be 400,000 square feet of offices, 19,000 square feet of stores, an elementary school, and a one-acre waterfront park along the Anable Basin on the East River.

The two towers are planned to rise to around 65 stories and 50 stories but will taper towards the top. The apartments will range from studios to three-bedroom units and 25 percent of the units will be below market rate in accordance with the EDC's Request for Proposal (RFP).

“One of the primary goals of this project is to support the commercial, technology, artisan, and industrial businesses of Long Island City, while also balancing that work environment with [the] market and affordable housing,” Jake Elghanayan, principal at TFC, said in a press release. TFC will also be working with three other development partners: Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center, Coalition for Queens, and BJH Advisors.

New York’s current zoning laws separate housing and manufacturing industries, creating clear boundaries in the city as to where factories can be. This project, which still has years to go before construction starts, will require rezoning approval to include manufacturing space in the development. If all goes according to plan, however, the project is expected to be completed by 2022.

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Steven Holl's Hunters Point Community Library rises next to the East River

In the year 2010, Steven Holl was chosen to design a community branch of the Queens Library on a commanding site in Long Island City. It would be located opposite the United Nations Headquarters on the shore of the Queens side of the East River and on an angle with the Roosevelt Memorial. In this location bordering Gantry State Park, with a worthy communal purpose, Holl designed a kind of sparkling, bejeweled gate to the city. While the site's close proximity to the U.N. and the Roosevelt Island memorial creates an honorable pedigree, there is a spate of developers' towers around the library—well-built, but expediently designed. Because of the growth of Hunters Point, there was need for a communal branch library. New York City's Queens Library and New York City's Department of Design and Construction (DDC) co-sponsored this modernist design.

Long Island City, or, more specifically Hunters Point, has a rural history that extends back to the 17th century and only later became a cultural and commercial center that is now heavily residential. There are many galleries here, too. In Hunters Point, in the vicinity of the library, 10,000 residential units were built in the last decade and there is a projection of more in the near future.

This Queens Library makes its books available; while it welcomes digital technology, and sets apart a space for cyber activities and working computers, it spurns the notion of a 'bookless library.' In that sense, it is a humanist institution: embracing tradition while also focusing on up-to-date technology.

The architectural design activity for this library may have begun in 2010, but the initiating plans for the social presence of a library were begun about a decade earlier by Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, a Queens Democrat. Van Bramer made it possible for Holl's building to reach above a single story, which was Holl's wish for a more monumental statement so that the 81-foot high building would not be dwarfed by the surrounding towers and have a presence on its own. As it turns out, the construction of the new library will cost the city $42 million.

Contemporary materials were de rigueur for Queens: steel and reinforced concrete and reinforced glass sheets were still industrial, while their functions were solved with the help of digital programs like Rhino. Robert Silman's structural engineering firm postulated that they needed many beams to stiffen the building around the huge windows, so that without any columns in the building, it could withstand any wind pressure. Nine major beams go straight across the narrow building—40-feet wide—in an east/west direction. This supports the suspension of the floors which often are not continuous from north to south. In other words, there is some tricky cantilevering of the floor levels. The walls are a meager 12 inches thick so the steel reinforcement is crucial.

In the beginning, Holl planned for the facing material to be a foamed aluminum, but it was substituted by a subtle, sustainable aluminum paint due to cost constraints. The paint will cover the oriented strand board texture of the reinforced concrete wall surfaces. This all-over texture from flat-surfaced random wooden bits for the formwork is opposed to the Brutalists' rough plywood surface formwork texture. This sustainable painted surface will achieve a glow or “subtle sparkle.”

This was not Holl's first experience designing libraries. In 1988 he won a competition for an extension to the venerable Berlin Amerika Gedenk Bibliothek, but it was not built, a lost commission that he sorely remembers.

Holl is very conscious of nature's intrinsic part in his designs. This Queens Library building is economical and sustainable, in accord with Holl's consciousness of our standing in this planet; it meets the LEED standards. Although the energy system is efficient, they could not use expensive geothermal wells. Another unfortunate budgetary constraint was the prohibition of a reflecting pool, a feature which often accompanies Holl's architecture. However, the project is surrounded by Gantry State Park, a fine imposing setting. There is planned transition between the park and the Library grounds in the form of steps leading towards it. Saved from the budgetary cuts to the building is the rooftop auditorium for which Queens Library recently okayed the funds.

Light coming into the library is profuse: it arrives from all sides. In order to filter the glare, Holl designed silvery, translucent motorized curtains to cover the large-scale windows and this sun screening helps to control the amount of air conditioning dispenced. The largest window on the western exposure has a slanted lower linear frame echoing the line of stairs. Its peculiar shape is vaguely reminiscent of the art of Keith Haring.

Circulation paths have been created around the library for processional movement: The main route leads to the adult section at the west where stairs climb parallel to the diagonal edge of the window frame. There is an elevator on the east side, but the pride of place is the ceremonial climb to different levels of open stacks of bookshelves for three age groups.

A major aesthetic notion of the building is its virtual sculptural carving out of the rectangular mass of a box until it arrives at divisions like the three main age areas. This effect, according to Olaf Schmidt, associate at Steven Holl Architects, might come from Holl's preoccupation with limestone carvings around 2010. Holl, himself, has described some of these buildings' sculptural formations as “subtractive.”

Holl's intuitive inclination can perhaps best be linked to a penchant for the sense-centered ideas of Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1908-1961) and his notion that the body and that which it perceives cannot be disentangled from each other.

Into this mix can be added a rationalizing element, the introduction of proportions. In all his work, Holl is guided by the Fibonacci series and the Golden Section (1.618 ratio) to bring equanimity to the visitor's mind.