Posts tagged with "Queens":

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Amazon may have canceled its NYC headquarters, but its footprint is everywhere

For many of the people opposed to Amazon establishing a second headquarters (HQ2) in Queens, New York, casting the company into total exile was never the point. At its heart, opposition lay with the terms of the deal that wooed the company—its massive tax incentives, the process that had created the deal (without input or oversight from the New York City Council or local communities), and the dramatic impact such a real estate development project would have on the city's working class, especially by aggravating its gentrification and displacement crises. Facing a groundswell of local opposition, Amazon announced that it had canceled its plans for a new Queens campus on February 14, just three months after announcing its selection. While HQ2's optics and scale made it a legible enemy to rally against, Amazon's less splashy development projects have already become part of the fabric of many cities, including New York. Taking inventory of Amazon’s existing physical footprint in the city, one begins to perceive a shadow infrastructure at work which reshapes urban environments more through privatized logistics and information systems than through campus construction. In Manhattan, Amazon’s physical presence might best be recognized in retail. It was at the company’s 34th Street bookstore that protestors demonstrated on Cyber Monday following the HQ2 announcement. Indeed, like HQ2, the company’s retail stores serve as useful rallying points. But inside the same Midtown Manhattan building that hosts the bookstore sits a more explicit locus of Amazon’s presence: a 50,000-square-foot warehouse and distribution center for the company’s Prime Now delivery service. It might be helpful to state here what Amazon actually is: a logistics company misrepresented as a retail company misrepresented as a tech company. Over time, the types of products the company sells have expanded beyond books and bassinets into less obviously tangible commodities like data (via Amazon Web Services), labor (via Amazon Mechanical Turk), and “content” (via Twitch and Amazon Studios productions). Ultimately the company’s appeal isn’t so much in the stuff it provides but the efficiency with which it provides stuff. Computation is obviously an important part of running a logistics operation, but Amazon’s logistical ends are frequently obscured by the hype around its technical prowess. And while Amazon is increasingly in the game of making actual things, a lot of them are commodities that, in the long run, enable the movement of other commodities: Amazon Echos aren’t just nice speakers, they’re a means of streamlining the online shopping experience into verbal commands and gathering hundreds of thousands of data points. Producing award-winning films and TV shows gives the company a patina of cultural respectability, but streaming them on Amazon Prime gets more people on Amazon and, in theory, buying things using Amazon Prime accounts. Amazon’s logistical foundation is most blatantly visible in the company's nearly 900 warehouses located around the world. Currently, the company has one fulfillment center (FC) in New York City. The 855,000-square-foot site in Staten Island opened in fall 2018 and had already earned Amazon $18 million in tax credits from the state of New York before the HQ2 deal was announced. Additionally, a month before the HQ2 announcement, Amazon had also signed a ten-year lease for a new fulfillment center in Woodside, Queens. The same day that Amazon vice president Brian Huseman testified before the New York City Council about HQ2, Staten Island warehouse employees and organizers from the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU) announced a plan to form a union at the Staten Island FC, citing exhausting and unsafe working conditions better optimized for warehouse robots than employees. These conditions are far from unique to Staten Island—stories about the grueling pace, unhealthy environment, and precarity of contract workers at fulfillment centers have been reported regularly as far back as 2011. And yet, when the Staten Island FC was first announced in 2017, a small handful of media outlets made note of this record. Unions and community leaders weren’t galvanized against the Staten island FC the way they were by HQ2 or the way they had been when Wal-Mart attempted to come to New York in 2011. In some ways, the HQ2 debacle gave new life and momentum to an organized labor challenge previously hidden in plain sight (or at least in the outer boroughs). Of course, Amazon’s logistics spaces aren’t solely confined to far-flung corners of the New York metro area: There are two Prime Now distribution hubs in New York, one in Brooklyn and the other at the previously mentioned Midtown Manhattan location. Same-day delivery service Prime Now originated from that Midtown warehouse in 2014 and spawned Amazon Flex, an app-based platform for freelance delivery drivers to distribute Prime Now packages. (Ironically, one of the reasons Amazon has been able to become so effectively entrenched in the city is because of this kind of contingent labor force—any car in New York City can become an Amazon Flex delivery vehicle, any apartment a Mechanical Turker workplace.) The art of logistics also depends in part on the art of marketing. To support that marketing endeavor, Amazon has a 40,000-square-foot photo studio in a former glass manufacturing plant in Williamsburg that produces tens of thousands of images for Amazon Fashion, the company's online apparel venture. The company's forays into fashion, while less publicized, may also position it to become one of the largest retailers of clothing in the world. New York is also home to 260 Amazon Lockers: pickup and package return sites for select products typically located in 7-Elevens and other bodega-like environments. Like Prime Now, the Lockers streamline and automate a process that would normally involve lines at the post office. First appearing in New York in 2011, the 6-foot-tall locker units can range between 6 and 15 feet wide, with the individual lockers in each unit capable of holding packages no larger than 19 x 12 x 14 inches (roughly larger than a shoebox). While early reports indicated that store owners received a small monthly stipend for hosting the lockers, the main sell for store owners is the possibility of luring in more foot traffic. But a 2013 Bloomberg article noted that smaller businesses were frustrated by the limited returns from installing the lockers and increased power bills (lockers use a digital passcode system, requiring electricity and connectivity). There is an irony in the fact that for almost a decade before the HQ2 debacle, small businesses have been ceding physical space to Amazon only to be stuck with monolithic storage spaces serving little direct benefit. Following its acquisition of Whole Foods in 2017, Amazon installed Lockers in all of the supermarket’s locations in the city. Whole Foods was already associated with gentrification and had an anti-union CEO before the Amazon acquisition; if anything, Amazon upped the ante by attempting to bring Whole Foods more in line with Amazon’s logistics-first approach. Reports that Amazon has plans to open a new grocery chain suggest that early speculation about the Whole Foods acquisition was correct: Amazon wasn’t interested in Whole Foods in order to sell produce so much as to gain access to the grocery company’s rich trove of retail data, which Amazon could use to jump-start its own grocery operations. A data-driven approach has been at the core of Amazon’s logistics empire: The company was one of the first to use recommendation algorithms to show consumers other products they might also like, and Prime Now relies extensively on purchasing data to determine what items to stock in hub warehouses. It’s unsurprising, then, that the most profitable wing of Amazon’s empire is Amazon Web Services (AWS), its cloud computing platform. AWS’s physical footprint in New York City is relatively small, with a handful of data centers within city limits. Its most visible presence may be the AWS Loft in Soho, which opened in 2015, part of a small network of similar spots in San Francisco, Tokyo, Johannesburg, and Tel Aviv.  Part coworking space for startups that use AWS and part training center for AWS products and services, the Loft inhabits a kind of in-between space between data services and marketing. The space is free for AWS users and is full of comfy seating and amenities like free coffee and snacks—ironic considering Amazon's reputation for being absent of the kinds of perks expected at tech companies. Belying its small spatial footprint, AWS is a major part of the city’s networked operations. The New York City Department of Transportation and the New York Public Library are both presented as model case studies of successful AWS customers, and AWS has signed contracts with multiple city agencies, including the Departments of Education and Sanitation and the City Council as far back as 2014. AWS is also a major vendor to municipal, state, and federal agencies—and, increasingly, has come under scrutiny for its multimillion-dollar contracts with data mining company Palantir Technologies, which works with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to track and deport migrants, and for peddling its face recognition technology to police departments across the country. Some of the criticism of Amazon's campus deal with NYC came from New York City Council members, apparently unaware their office was paying Amazon for hosting web support. To be fair, New York City’s AWS contracts (including the City Council’s) are a fraction of the kind of revenue Amazon is vying for in federal defense contracts. And at this point, AWS is the industry standard upon which most of the internet runs. The situation reflects the depth to which Amazon has insinuated itself as a fundamental infrastructure provider. New York may have dodged a gentrification bullet with HQ2, but as with so much of Big Tech, Amazon’s impact on cities might look more like death by a thousand paper cuts. A new campus might be more visible than the hidden machinery of a city increasingly reliant on delivery-based services, but both impact local economies, residents, and living conditions. Amazon’s long-standing logistics regime also inspires an infinitude of Amazon-inspired niche delivery startups familiar to New Yorkers as a pastel monoscape of subway ads hawking mattresses, house cleaning services, and roommates, to name just a few, along with the precarious jobs that are their defining characteristic. There have been continued efforts in New York to challenge Amazon’s frictionless logistics regime since the HQ2 withdrawal. Pending City Council legislation banning cashless retail would affect far more businesses than just Amazon’s brick-and-mortar operations (which have automatic app-based checkout), but it would certainly stymie any expansion of its physical retail footprint. State Senator Jessica Ramos has joined labor leaders in calling for a fair union vote at the future Woodside fulfillment center. These sorts of initiatives are often more drawn out and less galvanizing than those to halt a major campus development. But they’re crucial to a larger strategy for making the tech-enabled systems of inequality in cities visible. In 2019, the premise that the digital and physical worlds are mysteriously separate realms has been effectively killed by the tech industry’s measurable impact on urban life, from real estate prices to energy consumption. Comprehending the full impact of companies like Amazon on cities and seeing beyond their efforts to obscure or embellish their presence (glamour shots of data centers, anyone?) requires a full examination of these infrastructures outside of the companies' preferred terms. By demanding public accountability, New York's elected officials and community groups may have demonstrated the beginnings of just how to do that.
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Queens towers interrupt the view at MoMA PS1’s James Turrell installation

James Turrell installation in QueensNew York, faces an unclear future after visitors began to notice its skyspace has been interrupted by the neighborhood’s newest high-rise. Meeting is a part of the MoMA PS1 campus and was designed by Turrell between 1980 and 1986 with the goal of creating a meditative place where guests would be able to gaze at the sky away from the ebb and flow of the outside world. The piece is a purely white room with a square hole in the ceiling, drawing guests to look up to the deep blue. A series of LED lights undulating in color changes the ways people perceive both the room they are in and the sky above. However, for those who enjoy visiting the piece and watching the New York sky without the interruptions of gentrification on the skyline, this experience may have just come to an end. Last week, visitors to Meeting began taking photos of what appears to be a series of bars and pipes at the lower edge of the piece, and PS1 has temporarily closed the room, according to The New York Times. The shapes, it turns out, are scaffolding belonging to a luxury, high-rise condo building under construction on the Queens–Long Island City border. Though museum officials have said the scaffolding will not be seen once the building is finished, many locals and Turrell fans are afraid their beloved installation and undisrupted view of the sky is gone for good. Among these is Craig Adcock, a professor of art history at the University of Iowa, and author of James Turrell: The Art of Light and Space. He recently told Gothamist any disruptions of the sky “will ruin [the effect]. It won’t work properly if there’s a building with lights up that’s visible.” Fans have also taken to Twitter to express their fears for the exhibit (and their city) by photoshopping the original picture to now depict a sky interrupted by countless advertisements and drones, as well as by some familiar buildings, such as One Times Square, and the infamous 432 Park Avenue and 56 Leonard. The same developer in charge of the intruding high-rise, Jerry Wolkoff, was also responsible for building another luxury residential tower on top of the famous and widely-loved 5pointz, a fortress for graffiti artists whose works lined the walls before they were whitewashed and erased forever in 2013. In 2016, a federal judge ruled Wolkoff pay 21 artists at 5pointz $6.7 million for the damages of the lost art.
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New York’s proposal for Amazon’s HQ2 is much worse than we thought

While the nationwide application process for Amazon's HQ2 was largely shrouded in secrecy, New York City residents are finally starting to get some answers about the closed-doors deal. The city's Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) released the city's proposal to the public on Tuesday, along with a promotional website dedicated to HQ2. Some of what it reveals is expected—boasts about the city's transit, talent pool, and local amenities—but it's the concessions from the city that have raised eyebrows and triggered a trio of City Council hearings on the terms of the deal, the first of which was held yesterday. On Wednesday morning, the city council committee on economic development hosted Amazon's vice president of public policy, Brian Huseman, and the NYC EDC President James Patchett. In a three-hour-long hearing, the two were given the chance to defend their decision to bypass the city's traditional land use review process (ULURP) that would have lawfully determined how the new HQ2 will affect Long Island City, Queens, its projected home. We now know the deal was secured through a state-controlled process known as a general project plan (GPP), where large-scale and dense developments are scrutinized at a different level if they're being constructed in a low-income area. Among the more controversial promises in the 2017 proposal is the offer to use eminent domain to gather more parcels for the campus and "override local zoning" to speed up and develop the campus in ways that the retail giant might want. Of the potential sites listed in the proposal for an Amazon extension beyond One Court Square, Long Island City's formerly tallest tower, about 20 are privately owned and only a handful belong to the city. One of the private sites in contention is held by plastics company Plaxall, where a potential apartment building or office tower will be constructed. Because this property is included in the GPP, it means that Plaxall and Amazon will altogether avoid ULURP approval through the city council. In yesterday's meeting, led by Council Speaker Corey Johnson, council members questioned Huseman and Patchett in a series of fiery turns, each expressing serious concern over not only the physical development of Amazon's campus, but also the company's assistance to ICE, its employees' rights to unionize, and whether it would help nurture local young talent in the area and promote diversity within its headquarters. Johnson, alongside Western Queens' representative Jimmy Van Bramer, pointedly asked Huseman if Amazon would be willing to redirect New York's planned $500 million capital grant to the four public housing developments near the site. Like many of the companies' responses, Amazon tiptoed around the questions by citing its projected job creation numbers.   What's even more troubling about this deal is the city's Non-Disclosure Agreement with Amazon that stipulated that the EDC would notify the corporation of all public records requests related to the bid in order to "give Amazon prior written notice sufficient to allow Amazon to seek a protective order or other remedy." While the EDC's promise is not unusual, explicitly stating why is. As the director of a good government nonprofit told Politico, “They don’t normally spell it out so the business can run to court." Yesterday's economic development hearing was fueled with anger over the off-the-record deal to lure the retail giant to New York. City Hall allowed a portion of the public to attend the meeting, where frequent outbursts by protesters disrupted the proceedings. In January, the city council committee on finance will focus on the city and state subsidies provided to Amazon, while a meeting in February will zero in on the potential impact the deal could have on Long Island City's infrastructure, housing, and transportation. Once that's over, the project plan will still have to be reviewed by the local community board and go through an environmental review. The mayor also announced a new 45-member Community Advisory Committee tasked with sharing information and gathering feedback on a number of issues, including public amenities, training, and hiring programs, as well as community benefits. The committee will begin meeting in January.
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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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Snøhetta to design a sunset-hued library in Far Rockaway, Queens

Snøhetta’s dreamy vision for the new Far Rockaway public library in Queens, New York, is inching closer towards reality. Queens Public Library announced that the existing 50-year-old structure will officially close next week ahead of reconstruction. The $33-million project, designed by the Brooklyn- and Oslo-based firm, will break ground over the footprint of the 9,000-square-foot building in the coming months. The library is located at 1637 Central Avenue and was the talk of the town after Hurricane Sandy nearly destroyed the surrounding Rockaway community in 2012. In the aftermath of the storm, the library helped provide disaster relief to local residents. Snøhetta’s design for the new library is slated to not only bring stellar architecture to an often-neglected area of New York, but also help spur revitalization in the neighborhood. The redesign will double the space inside the library by adding new children’s and teen rooms, an ADA-compliant entrance and restrooms, an elevator, a large meeting room, and more. With these enlarged spaces, the library hopes to expand its burgeoning community programming. While significantly bigger than the original library, the two-story structure will feature an entirely green design to help it run efficiently. It will be LEED Gold certified, utilize daylight to control interior temperatures, and include a blue roof that captures stormwater. The site will also be elevated to exceed the new FEMA flood zone guidelines in case of future storms. Snøhetta’s sunset-hued, boxy building is sure to stand out in downtown Far Rockaway not only because of its angular massing but also because of its distinctive cladding. According to the architects, “the simple form provides a calm contrast to the visual noise of surrounding retail outlets.” At the corner of Mott and Central Avenues, the library’s main entrance will take the shape of a carved pyramid, outfitted with transparent glass so passersby can see what’s going on at night. Through a fritted glass curtain wall wrapping the structure, light will be diffused into the central atrium and gathering spaces below during the day. The new Far Rockaway Library is expected to be complete in 2021. Starting October 30, the library will operate out of 1003 Beach 20th Street through the end of construction.
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Fellows at the Institute for Public Architecture reimagine the future of Queens

The Institute for Public Architecture has just finished its third biannual summer residency fellowship, Panorama of Possibilities: Queens, with final presentations having been held on August 22 at the Queens Museum in New York City. The 13 fellows, all mid-career architects and designers, have worked in seven groups to propose futures for a democratically-developed Flushing, Corona, and Willets Point. The night’s presentations began with a focus on sociological and interpersonal experiences of people’s homes and daily commutes. By the end, the presentations had moved towards a community-wide, cultural reworking of the public as an active stakeholder in its own parks, neighborhoods, and Business Improvement Districts (BIDs). The first group examined accessory dwelling units as a way to increase access to affordable housing by reimagining a structure that is already ubiquitous in Queens. The second group responded to the prompt, “I am willing to share ____ with ____,” to explore and question our understanding of the home and ways of introducing new models of multi-generational housing. The third group sought to challenge normative ways of urban design and created an interactive board game that allowed individuals to voice the changes they would like to see in their own neighborhoods. Another looked at the effects of development on specific opportunity zones and on children growing up in these communities. One fellow considered ways in which Flushing Meadows-Corona Park could be made more accessible and be better integrated into the community. Yet another investigated possible futures for Willets Point's automotive industry. Lastly, a group proposed a new vision for BIDs that would support multifaceted “cultural commerce” rather than just retail in order to support social service providers and small business owners of all kinds. There was an amazing turnout of architects, designers, community members, family, and friends in the audience. Those who had seen previous preliminary presentations remarked on the rigor and scope of each project and their tremendous development over the course of the six-week fellowship.
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Michael Graves and Landscape Forms create a new “courtscape” for the US Open

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the US Open, Michael Graves Architecture & Design (MGA&D) teamed up with Landscape Forms to redesign the courtside furniture that takes center stage during the upcoming two-week tournament. The United States Tennis Association (USTA) unveiled its sleek new “courtscape” earlier this week at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadow, Queens.   The new furniture, a collection featuring seating for the players, umpires, and line judges, as well as a “cooler corral,” is part of the US Open’s major rebranding effort. Not only were the designs created to maximize ease of use for those on the court, they speak to the organization’s goal of making a modern, iconic look for the tournament and its New York location. Before crafting the collection, MGA&D met with everyone involved in the US Open from players to officials, fans, sponsors, broadcast partners, and tech crews. Through their research, the design team concluded that the furniture must address three primary goals: visibility, usability, and functionality. As inspiration for the design, they took nods from the landscape of New York City such as its park benches (seen in the player’s seating) and the cantilevered balconies found on buildings (seen on the umpire stand). MGA&D used virtual reality technology to help USTA stakeholders realize their vision. The team then worked with Michigan-based Landscape Forms, who specializes in high-design site furniture and advanced LED lighting, on the engineering and manufacturing of the collection. The group’s custom division, Studio 431, created seating products with thin profiles and graceful curves using perforated steel and aluminum surfaces as the primary materials. These lightweight but durable products are now prominently featured on four of the show courts at the tennis center in Queens. Donald Strum, MGA&D principal of product design, helped lead the project. He said this unique opportunity to create a courtscape for the USTA was one of the most satisfying projects he’s ever worked on. “Seating should express utility, be comfortable, and carry a beautiful personality as well,” said Strum in a statement. “The various performance requirements of this collection made the project endlessly fascinating.” All the courts at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center will be outfitted with the new furniture next year ahead of the 2019 championship.  

Tour – 1939 & 1964 World’s Fairs: Flushing Meadows-Corona Park Fairgrounds

Join this 2-hour walking tour throughout Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens, site of the 1939 and 1964 New York World’s Fairs. Following the map plan of both original fairgrounds, the tour will include such sights as the Queens Museum (formerly NYC Pavilion), Philip Johnson’s NY State Pavilion, the Unisphere (exact site of the Trylon and Perisphere), Port Authority Heliport, the Westinghouse Time Capsule, and the Hall of Science. Join guide Lloyd Trufelman for a tour of these sites, along with assorted statues, fountains, former pavilion locations and various other fragments.
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Virginia Overton’s site-specific work at Socrates Sculpture Park rethinks raw construction materials

Sculptor Virginia Overton often transforms chunky construction materials into dynamic pieces of art. In her latest show, Built, she uses steel and wood to explore issues of labor, economics, and the land in contemporary society. Now on view at Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City, Queens, the exhibition punctuates the waterfront site with large-scale artworks that evoke the industrial past and creative potential of the site. The show’s curator, Socrates’s Director of Exhibitions Jess Wilcox, said Overton’s display not only unveils the artist’s ability to rethink and iterate ordinary objects, it showcases her pragmatic and collaborative relationship to the setting in which she works. “She was interested in working in metal and engaging with the history of metalworking here in the park,” said Wilcox. “She’s site-responsive rather than site-specific in her work because she’s willing to have her ideas evolve when pieces and materials move in an organic way.” As the first female artist to exhibit a solo collection at Socrates, the Williamsburg-based sculptor spent several months riding the ferry to Astoria to study the park and see how visitors interacted with the objects scattered throughout. For her own exhibition, which opened in May, Overton created each piece on site and situated them strategically in the green space to reveal unique perspectives of the Queens waterfront and the Manhattan skyline. Many of the sculptures contain circular forms that act as unexpected viewfinders and feature nature-inspired elements that contrast with the overall industrial aesthetic. Overton took a silver-sprayed Dodge Ram and placed an elegant aquatic feature and fountain in its elongated truck bed. She also suspended an unfinished wooden beam from steel trusses and turned it into an old-fashioned swing set. An upright rectangular structure outlined in steel displays the shapes and colors of various brass, aluminum, and copper steel pipes.  The largest piece on site, a 40-by-18-foot, crystal-shaped sculpture, took the longest to configure and was built from architectural truss systems and angle irons. Dubbed 'The Gem', its seemingly heavy form cantilevers over the ground at an effortless slant, giving viewers framed views of the park through its faceted core. Pieces like this offer a new role to the support structures that often go unseen within a building’s construction. According to Wilcox, Overton’s site-responsive sculptures most importantly tie into the greater role Socrates Sculpture Park plays in New York as a former industrial site-turned-recreational space. They speak to the park as part of two larger ecosystems—its function as the physical land adjacent to the East River Estuary and its social component as an alternative arts institution in Queens. The Nashville-native’s work often conveys undertones of her rural upbringing, which easily translates to places like this that have undergone significant evolution since the industrial era. With Built, Overton not only nods to the evolution of these geographic locations, but also the way in which her iterated objects can evolve and be redefined with time. “I think architects will notice more than other viewers how she takes the basic elements of building blocks of construction and reorients them to create something totally new,” said Wilcox. “Seeing the world through Virginia’s eyes is like having your eyes being reoriented towards the world.” Built is on view through September 3 at Socrates Sculpture Park at 32-01 Vernon Boulevard, Long Island City, Queens. Admission is free and open to the public.  
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Yayoi Kusama’s sphere-filled installation will come to the Rockaways this summer

Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama is known for making work filled with circular motifs, and her upcoming site-specific installation titled Narcissus Garden is no exception. The installation of silver spheres will be on view from July 1- September 3 at Fort Tilden, a former United States Army base on the coast in Queens. The exhibition is presented by MoMA PS1 as the third iteration of Rockaway!, an art festival that commemorates the Rockaway Peninsula’s ongoing recovery from Hurricane Sandy. First presented in 1966 at the 33rd Venice Biennale, Narcissus Garden is comprised of 1,500 spheres made of mirrored stainless steel. The artistic intervention will transform the interior of the former coastal artillery installation with mirrored surfaces. The region’s military past and the building’s post-Hurricane Sandy state will be highlighted in the reflections of the sculpture. During the first presentation of Narcissus Garden in 1966, Kusama, dressed in a gold kimono, threw the spheres around and attempted to sell them to passerby on the lawn outside the Italian Pavilion. The performance was interpreted as “self-promotion and a critique on the commercialization of contemporary art,” according to a statement from the MoMA PS1. The art piece played an important role in marking Kusama’s career as a performance artist in the sixties. Iterations of Narcissus Garden have since been presented in New York City parks and different venues worldwide. The first iteration of Rockaway! in 2014 featured Patti Smith, Adrián Villar Rojas and Janet Cardiff, while the second iteration in 2016 featured Katharina Grosse. The series is co-organized by Rockaway Artists Alliance, a local non-profit art organization, and National Park Service. For details please check out this link.
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PAU confirmed as Sunnyside Yard master planner

Alicia Glen, New York’s Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development, and Amtrak Chairman Anthony Coscia, announced at a media briefing yesterday that master planning for Sunnyside Yard in western Queens would begin summer of 2018. A steering committee made up of local stakeholders and technical experts will be guiding the process, while Vishaan Chakrabarti’s PAU will be leading the master planning team (confirming a leak from late March). PAU’s team and the steering committee will utilize the results of the feasibility study commissioned in February of 2017 as a starting point in planning for the future of the 180-acre active rail yard. Over the next 18 months, the steering committee and planning team will establish long-term plans for how to best develop the site, and what the most feasible first steps will be. Regular check-ins with the community will also be scheduled, as the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and Amtrak want to keep the process forward-facing. Co-chaired by the city and Amtrak, the 35-person steering committee includes several members of Sunnyside’s Community Board 2; President of the Regional Plan Association Tom Wright; President of LaGuardia Community College Gail Meadow; and representatives from developers, construction associations, Amtrak, NYCHA, and other groups with a vested interest in the project. Also of note was the appointment of Cali Williams, a long time NYCEDC employee as the Director of Sunnyside Yard. Any of the resulting plans will involve decking over an extensive portion of the rail yard while keeping it running for the Amtrak, Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) and New Jersey Transit trains running below. To that end, the actual master plan consultant team is something a who's-who of New York firms. Thornton Tomasetti will be handling the structural engineering, Sam Schwartz Engineering will be responsible for the mobility planning and engineering, and Nelson Byrd Woltz has been tapped as the landscape architect. The Italian firm Carlo Ratti Associati has also been selected as the project’s “futurist”, to help guide expand the team’s thinking about what’s possible. The initial NYCEDC feasibility study determined that decking over 80 to 85 percent of the site was possible, with the potential to build out up to 24,000 residential units, 19 schools, and 52 acres of parkland, at a cost of $19 billion. While monetary considerations weren’t raised explicitly at the May 2nd meeting, it was pointed out that this project would be a significant investment to Western Queens. Right now, the steering committee will be dedicated first and foremost to deciding how to advance what the community wants most out of the development. The steering committee’s formation comes at a critical time for the yard, as the MTA will also be working at the site to bring the East Side Access project online (allowing LIRR trains to reach Grand Central). Governor Cuomo has promised that that particular project will be ready by 2022.
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Check out exclusive first renderings of Kaufman Astoria Studios’ latest expansion

Kaufman Astoria Studios, a film and TV studio that’s been a fixture in Astoria, Queens since its opening in 1921, is expanding in a big way. Local firm GLUCK+ has shared renderings of the forthcoming four-story film and production building, which comes on the heels of Kaufman Astoria opening the city’s first backlot (used to stage outdoor scenes) in 2014. Besides adding several floors of office space, the new building will hold production offices, dressing rooms, prop storage areas, and two stages, increasing the campus's stage space by 25 percent. Once completed, the new building will represent a sizable increase for the studio’s overall campus, which currently stands at 500,000 feet, and includes nine stages and a restaurant. The project, sited at 35-71 34th Avenue, is down the street from the Museum of the Moving Image. From the renderings, it seems that the studio will also be returning a perforated gate at the northern edge of 34th Avenue that was removed in 2014; the same year a new entrance gate and spiral staircase were added to the campus’s south edge. The exterior of the 100,000-square-foot addition will be clad in vertical panels, and the overall scheme fits comfortably into GLUCK+’s design canon. The 84-foot-tall film and production building will hold 68,000 square feet of open office space across the top half, which should be well-lit due to the numerous, narrow vertical punch windows that break up the facade. According to YIMBY, Kaufman Astoria employees can expect 14-foot-tall ceilings and seven balconies. Kaufman Astoria will also be gaining two stages inside of the building’s heftier bottom half, directly below the offices, as well as 134 parking spaces. Kaufman Astoria Studios has been hugely influential in New York's film and television history, and everything from silent movies to TV shows like Sesame Street and Orange is the New Black in more recent years has been filmed there. Construction on the office project began in February 2017, and no completion date has been announced as of yet.