Posts tagged with "Queens":

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Willets Point redevelopment is back on track, and 100% affordable for phase I

The on-again-off-again redevelopment of Willets Point in Queens is finally moving ahead, after an injunction early last year seemed to have doomed the project. As first reported in the New York Times, Mayor Bill de Blasio has struck a deal with the project’s original developers, and 1,100 units of affordable housing are now set to rise on the parcel. First announced in 2011 under former mayor Michael Bloomberg, the original Willets Point project would have repurposed 23 acres on the site of the former Shea Stadium in Flushing-Corona. Queens Development Group, a city collaboration with developers Sterling Equities and The Related Companies, would have built out 4.5 million square feet of mixed-use development with 2,500 units of housing, 500,000 square feet of office space, 900,000 square feet of retail. The most contentious portion of the original redevelopment was Willets West, a one-million-square-foot-plus mega-mall that would have pulled land from the nearby Flushing Meadows Corona Park. After a state court ruled in 2015 that the city couldn’t legally parcel up the park, Willets Point seemed dead in the water. With the announcement of a new plan for the Iron Triangle (as the neighborhood is known for the high number of auto repair shops), de Blasio has skirted around the state’s concerns by dropping the mall entirely. Instead, the Queens Development Group will now build 1,100 affordable housing units on the six acres that the city already owns, in addition to a 450-seat elementary school and front-facing neighborhood retail. 100 apartments will be set-aside for formerly homeless families, and another 220 will go to seniors. Other than the increased number of affordable units, 1,100 units versus the original 875, the city will retain control of the land instead of selling it to the developers as originally promised. Related and Sterling will also be responsible for remediating beneath the project site before construction on the residential buildings can begin; Willets Point has been used for manufacturing for a century. Most of the immigrant-owned auto shops and scrap yards are now gone, after the city seized the land under eminent domain in preparation for the redevelopment. The site clean up is expected to finish in 2020, with 500 of the 1,100 units to be completed in 2022. The plan for the remaining 17 acres is up in the air at this point, and Mayor de Blasio has convened a task force with Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and Council Member Francisco Moya to come up with further development plans. “Willets Point has been 12 years of bad politics and broken promises. With this deal, we can look to providing some great housing relief for a lot of people who need it. By securing school seats, deep affordability, and senior housing we have accomplished something none of the previous iterations have been able to,” said Moya.
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2017 Best of Design Awards for Civic – Educational

2017 Best of Design Award for Civic - Educational: Elmhurst Community Library Architect: Marpillero Pollak Architects Location: Queens, New York With over 80,000 users speaking more than 57 languages, Elmhurst is the second-busiest circulating library of the 64 in Queens Library’s network. The building’s massing maximizes the impact of an existing community park and highlights the civic role of two reading rooms that emit a welcoming glow after sunset. The main circulation spine extends the streetscape toward a group of trees in the block interior. A system of brightly colored “portals” supports orientation and interaction among programmatic spaces catering to diverse age groups, reinforcing the library’s neighborhood significance. The main architectural elements are two structural glass cubes that position patrons within the community park and on the urban thoroughfare of Broadway. The park cube makes legibile the operations of the library’s two main floors with a monumental stair grounded by a bookshelf, while the Broadway cube floats above the main entry displaying the work 955 Shapes by artist Allan McCollum. “This handsome new library takes full advantage of its site with its richness in textures and colors, and provides a welcoming cultural and educational resource for this Queens community.” —Irene Sunwoo, Director of Exhibitions, GSAPP (juror) Structural Engineer: Severud Associates General Contractor: Stalco Construction Percent for Art (Selected Artist): Allan McCollum Structural Glass: W & W Glass Material Supplier for Terra-cotta Rainscreen: Boston Valley Terra Cotta   Honorable Mention Project: Lakeview Pantry Architect: Wheeler Kearns Architects Location: Chicago, Illinois Lakeview Pantry has transformed a dilapidated pet daycare into its first permanent home. Located adjacent to an L station, the renovated building immediately sends a welcoming message to both neighbors and clients with its large storefront windows and colorful, bright interiors. The goal of the architecture is to create a space that provides dignity to those in a time of need, furthering the Pantry’s mission.   Honorable Mention Project: University of California, San Diego Jacobs Medical Center Architect: CannonDesign Location: La Jolla, California The ten-story UC San Diego Jacobs Medical Center functions as three medical specialty centers—housing inpatient services for high-risk obstetrics and neonatal care, cancer care, and advanced surgical care. The building’s overall curvilinear form was driven not only by the design of the patient units, but also by the goals of capitalizing on views, maximizing daylight, and minimizing solar gain and glare. The elevated gardens and terraces bring nature up to the patient level.
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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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With new plan, NYC seeks to revitalize Downtown Far Rockaway

In a nearly unanimous vote, on July 10th the City Planning Commission approved the rezoning and revitalization plan for Downtown Far Rockaway in Queens, as first reported by CityLand. The plan aims to re-establish Downtown Far Rockaway as the peninsula’s commercial and transportation hub through new zoning that encourages mixed-use development, new public spaces, improved pedestrian walkways, and better access to community services. It's also one of several neighborhood rezonings in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s push to build more affordable housing. Downtown Far Rockaway is the historic commercial core of the peninsula: located near Rockaway Beach and Jamaica Bay, it's serviced by stops on the A train as well as the LIRR. The area has not been rezoned since the 1961 Zoning Resolution that subsequently prevented residential developments in the commercial and manufacturing zones that feature extensively in the area. Downtown Far Rockaway also has few local employment opportunities, little open space, and poor pedestrian access. Rezoning, which is the plan’s backbone, would foster new residential and mixed-use developments, especially on the area's larger streets. One part of Far Rockaway would also be designated an Urban Renewal Area, which would enable the City to purchase and transfer properties to developers. The “roadmap for action” plan also aims to incorporate the current community by improving existing commercial spaces and local businesses as well as increasing accessibility to job training, education, and community services. According to CityLand, the city is already investing $100 million in the area, with improvements including "streetscape reconstruction, sewer upgrades, park improvements, storefront improvement, and library upgrades." The plan was passed with conditions that include community-based project labor, a new school and park, and limits on up-zoning. Additionally, a 22-block area (bounded by Caffrey Avenue, Redfern Avenue, Nameoke Avenue, Beach 22nd Street, and Gateway Boulevard) would be designated for Mandatory Inclusionary Housing. The final vote will be made by Major de Blasio, who has already indicated his support of local neighborhood rezoning and revitalization plans.
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Louis Armstrong House Museum’s new Education Center breaks ground

The Louis Armstrong House Museum in Corona, Queens, broke ground on its long-awaited expansion project, the new Education Center, today. The project is located across the street from the landmarked house of the legendary jazz musician. The new $23-million, 14,000-square-foot center will allow the museum to offer expanded programming, including concerts, lectures, exhibitions, and community events. The museum’s research collections, which are currently housed at Queens College’s library, will move into an Archival Center on the second floor. There will also be a Jazz Room for musicians to rehearse and perform their music, fulfilling the living legacy of the Louis Armstrong. In 2006, the State of New York awarded Queens College and the City University of New York (CUNY) $5 million to begin the design process, and in 2007, the Department of Cultural Affairs gave another $5 million. New York–based Caples Jefferson Architects was selected to head the design of the center. Once it is completed, the firm will seek a LEED Gold rating. The center’s facade is composed of three sections: curved window panes along the bottom, a flat, recessed middle section with a terrace above, and a green roof on the top. Its entrance is placed at an angle along the curved facade to establish a direct visual connection to the house, according to the architects’ description on their website. Openings in the roof allow light to cut through, illuminating different heights of the exhibit spaces and research rooms. “The groundbreaking for the Education Center is the next step toward creating a Louis Armstrong campus,” said Michael Cogswell, executive director of the museum, in a press release. “There is nothing else like it in the jazz world.” Louis and Lucille Armstrong purchased the house (which is the museum today) in 1943 and lived there for the entirety of their life. The site is a National Historic Landmark and a New York City Landmark, now owned by Department of Cultural Affairs and administered by Queens College. The project is slated to finish in 2019.
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AIA Brooklyn + Queens Design Awards winners announced

The American Institute of Architects Brooklyn + Queens Design Awards (BQDA), which now works with AIA Staten Island and AIA Bronx, has announced the winners for its 2017 gala, the second edition of the awards. This year, the AIA chapters of Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Staten Island, all collaborated for the awards. They're aiming to promote chapter members and affiliates by recognizing, as they said in a press release, "the best architecture and professionals that Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and The Bronx can offer." A jury from AIA Long Island sifted through more than 100 entries, and after a month's worth of deliberation, allocated awards in 13 categories; each AIA Chapter also has its own award. 2017 Brooklyn Chapter Award Casa de Sombra Bade Stageberg Cox 2017 Queens Chapter Award Spire Lofts Zambrano Architectural Design
2017 Staten Island Chapter Award Midtown Redevelopment Project: The City of Monessen v+b Architects
2017 BQDA Design of the Year Elmhurst Community Library Marpillero Pollak Architects Below, are the winners of the 13 categories: Residential (1-2 Family) BQDA Award of Excellence and People's Choice Winner Artist Residence, Brooklyn Lynch Eisinger Design Architects, LLP BQDA Award of Merit Prismatic Bay Townhouse, Brooklyn Peterson Rich Office, LLC

Residential (Multiple Family/Multiple Dwelling)

BQDA Award of Excellence Creston Avenue Residences, Bronx Magnusson Architecture and Planning, PC BQDA Award of Merit and  People's Choice Winner 365 Bond Street, Brooklyn Hill West Architects

Residential (Mix Use Residential)

BQDA Award of Excellence and  People's Choice Winner Navy Green, Brooklyn FXFOWLE BQDA Award of Merit Fulton Street Development, Brooklyn GreenbergFarrow

Institutional

BQDA Award of Excellence and  People's Choice Winner Elmhurst Community Library, Queens Marpillero Pollak Architects BQDA Award of Merit The Novogratz Center for Athletics, Brooklyn Jack L. Gordon Architects

Commercial - Small Projects

People's Choice Winner CREATE, Queens New York Design Architects

Commercial - Large Projects

People's Choice Winner Apple Store Williamsburg, Brooklyn Bohlin Cywinski Jackson

Additions/Renovations

BQDA Award of Excellence and  People's Choice Winner Olmsted Center Annex, Queens BKSK Architects BQDA Award of Merit Park Slope Townhouse, Brooklyn GRADE 

Adaptive Reuse/Historic Preservation

BQDA Award of Excellence and Queens Chapter Award Spire Lofts, Brooklyn Zambrano Architectural Design People's Choice Winner Brooklyn College Barry R. Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema & 25 Washington Restoration at Steiner Studios, Brooklyn Dattner Architects

Interiors

BQDA Award of Merit Maple Street School, Brooklyn Barker Freeman Design Office Architects, PLLC and Marvel Architect and 4Mative Design Studio People's Choice Winner Beyond at Liberty View, Brooklyn Zambrano Architectural Design

Small Firm/Sole Practitioner

BQDA Award of Merit Warehouse Loft, Brooklyn studio modh architecture People's Choice Winner House Front Addition, Queens Architecture Studio

Local Firm/Beyond BQDA/International

BQDA Award of Excellence Resort in the Maharashtra Hills, Shillim, India Khanna Schultz BQDA Award of Merit Josai i-House Dormitory, Tokyo, Japan Studio SUMO and Obayashi Corp People's Choice Winner University of Pennsylvania School of Engineering and Applied Sciences Forman Active Learning Classroom, Philadelphia. Studio Modh Architecture

Local Firm/Local Project

BQDA Award of Excellence and  People's Choice Winner Courtyard House, Brooklyn vonDalwig Architecture

Unbuilt

BQDA Award of Excellence North Brother Island School + Habitat, Bronx Ian M. Ellis and Frances Peterson BQDA Award of Merit 1490 Southern Boulevard, Bronx Bernheimer Architecture People's Choice Winner The Table Top Apartments: Affordable Housing in New York City, Brooklyn and Queens Kwong Von Glinow Design Office

Student - Urban Design 

BQDA Student Award of Merit and  People's Choice Winner Brooklyn Cinematic Hotel, Brooklyn Yasmine Zeghar 
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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.

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Landmarks approves new building around historic movie palace

This week the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) cleared the way for the owner of a historic but dilapidated theater to build a new structure around the interior and replicate its historic features, leaving the aura—but little of the original—in place. The movie theater, RKO Keith’s, is one of the city's only surviving "atmospheric" theaters built in the early 20th century. Abandoned since the mid-1980s, the opulent Churrigueresque structure's interior was landmarked in 1984, though a series of owners did little over time to curtail extensive deterioration inside. Now, a new owner, Xinyuan Real Estate, has hired Pei Cobb Freed & Partners to transform the Flushing, Queens building into 16 stories of offices and apartments. (Last week AN contributor Edward Gunts covered the theater's history and the current development.)
At a Tuesday meeting, the LPC voted unanimously to re-authorize a previously issued Certificate of Appropriateness to build out Pei Cobb Freed's vision and undertake preservation work on the interior. Plans call for retail and an apartment lobby to be built around the 1928 theater's landmarked ticket lobby and grand foyer (the rest of the interior was initially landmarked, but its protections were removed by the Board of Estimate after an appeal by an owner). Significant architectural elements will be conserved, while those too damaged for conservation or missing will be replicated offsite and reinstalled in the theater. Those changes, the LPC said, will be reviewed and permitted at staff level. Pei Cobb Freed is collaborating with New York–based historic preservation firm AYON STUDIO on the project. During the meeting, AYON founding principal Angel Ayón explained how steel trusses will span the landmarked interiors on the east-west and north-south axes to preserve the cavity as construction on the new building gets underway. When the architects have a new envelope, the team will be able to reinstall the plaster, woodwork, and new curtains. Ayón likened the work on the decorative features to the preservation of Times Square's Lyric Theater, which underwent a similar process to remove and conserve ornamental plaster.

The LPC is working with the owner to make sure plaster gets put back in place. The two parties agreed to $10 million bond for storage and periodic inspection of the plaster, though the commission said those details still being hammered out. One major requirement of interior landmarks is that they remain open to the public. Patrick Waldo of preservation advocacy group Historic Districts Council (HDC), as well as Christabel Gough of the Society for the Architecture of the City, raised concerns about the accessibility of a space that fronts a future (private) apartment lobby. HDC "strongly" suggested the street entrance be re-examined to expose the interior more fully; at the very least, the group recommended strong wayfinding signage to alert the public to the presence of the landmark.

To the knowledge of those in the room, there hasn't been another instance where an interior was preserved but the building around it demolished. Echoing others, Commissioner Frederick Bland summed up the situation as "very strange." With much of the theater's ornamentation slated for replication, “This is one of the strangest, if not the strangest, situation I’ve seen as a commissioner,” he said. “At what point is a landmark lost?"

To get more insight into the theater's place in New York history, Gunts reached out to Anthony Robins, a former senior preservation specialist at the agency who wrote the original designation report, for more on RKO Keith's. Here's what he had to say:

The recent history of the RKO Keith’s—once a mainstay of Flushing—has been dismal. Designed by Thomas Lamb—perhaps New York’s most prolific theater designer—it was planned originally as a vaudeville theater, with movies more or less an afterthought. Lamb designed it as a so-called “atmospheric” theater, attempting to create the illusion that the theater’s customers were seated outside, under the stars, in a picturesque Spanish village. The Spanish-inspired ornament ran throughout the theater into all its major spaces. Located at the major intersection of Main Street and Northern Boulevard, the Keith’s became a very visible institution in the neighborhood.
By 1984, the Keith’s, still in use as a movie theater, was one of only three major “atmospheric” theaters surviving in New York City (the others being the Loew’s Paradise in the Bronx and the Valencia in Queens, both now official landmarks). The Landmarks Preservation Commission’s designation of the Keith’s entire interior that year was cut back at the Board of Estimate to include just the grand foyer—apparently because a politically connected developer wanted to include the site in a proposed new shopping mall. That plan evaporated, as did the plans of a subsequent developer, but the Keith’s remained shuttered; for 30 years it has sat vacant, decaying and crumbling, its interiors long since vandalized, even as other grand movie palaces have been lovingly restored. Now comes the ultimate indignity of the proposed demolition of the theater shell, and the grand foyer’s disassembly and reconstruction, all by itself, as an odd relic of a vanished theater from another era. There can be no happy ending for this story.
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Historic Queens movie palace threatened with demolition

A 1928 vaudeville and movie palace in Queens by architect Thomas Lamb would be substantially demolished and replaced with a 269-unit residential tower designed by Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, under a plan that New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) will consider Tuesday. RKO Keith’s Flushing Theater at 135-29 Northern Boulevard in Queens is the building that would be replaced by a residential tower. Along with the Valencia, in Jamaica, Queens, the RKO Keith’s appears to be one of two surviving "atmospheric" theaters of note still standing in New York in good condition, according to architectural historians. Originally seating 2,974 but closed since 1986, it featured marble staircases, an indoor fountain, gilded plasterwork and chandeliers in the auditorium, and a vaulted blue ceiling with lights that simulated stars. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The owner and developer of the Queens property is Xinyuan Real Estate, a Chinese firm that bought it last year for $66 million. Xinyuan is seeking to raze the bulk of the theater to make way for its project. The plan requires approval from the Landmarks Preservation Commission because the city has designated part of theater an interior landmark, and that means it can’t be altered without approval from the preservation panel. The theater as a whole was landmarked in 1984, as the best one of only two surviving movie palace atmospheric theaters in New York City, based in large part on the preserved condition of its auditorium and the reversible nature of its division into a three-screen cinema. That designation was later amended by the city's Board of Estimates to remove the auditorium and the majority of the theater, leaving landmark protection for the ticket lobby, original ticket booth, grand foyer, ceilings, and fixtures and interior components of these areas. The LPC issued a permit in 2005, extended to late 2017, to demolish all but the designated sections. After the transfer of ownership in 2016, with a new architect attached, the LPC has an opportunity to review an expiring Commission decision from 2005, when Queens was not as vibrant as it is today, and when the city approved substantial demolition of an exceedingly rare New York-specific community-centered building type in order to spur residential development in the area. Xinyuan, based in Beijing, is the latest in a series of owners who have attempted to redevelop the property. The developer has proposed to temporarily remove and restore plasterwork and other ornamental features from the protected section of the theater, while work on the residential tower is underway. It would then reinstall the plaster pieces as part of the replacement structure. The reinstalled sections would presumably provide a reminder of the larger theater that previously occupied the site and help attract residents. According to documents on file with the city, the developer’s application is to re-authorize a Certificate of Appropriateness for the construction of a new building to enclose the interior landmark, and to “disassemble, restore off site, and reinstall salvaged ornamental plasterwork and woodwork and replicas.” Ayon Studio is listed in the application as coordinating the preservation-related aspects of the lobby rehabilitation. Drawings on file with the city indicate that the Pei Cobb Freed tower would be 16 stories tall and glass-clad. It would be H-shaped in plan, with walls and balconies facing Northern Boulevard and other streets at a slight angle. The ground level would contain commercial space, and underground parking would be provided for about 300 cars. The exterior would show no trace of the Thomas Lamb theater currently on the site. Atmospheric theaters closely followed the designs of planetariums and were first designed by Austrian-born theater architect John Eberson in 1923. The first was the now-demolished Majestic Theater in Houston (1923), where the auditorium ceiling simulated the night skies, with hidden machinery that projected "clouds" moving across the plaster ceiling, painted deep blue with star-like electric lights, with walls often built up in stages for the effect of garden follies. Reproduced around the country in a variety of architectural styles, these theaters recognizably featured an open, lit evening sky with stars and clouds, and walls built up, symmetrically, as stage sets suggesting a foreign setting. Eberson wrote that, "We visualize and dream a magnificent amphitheater, an Italian garden, a Persian Court, a Spanish patio, or a mystic Egyptian templeyard, all canopied by a soft moonlit sky." Although Eberson was the originator of this type, Lamb, already the most prolific movie palace architect, became well associated with this type of movie palace, especially in New York. A survey of the country's movie palaces cites 27 major New York examples. Seven of these were designed as "atmospherics" out of 34 listed from across the country: the RKO Keith's, the now-demolished Triboro in Astoria, Queens, the Valencia in Jamaica, Queens, the now-demolished Loew's 72nd Street (in Manhattan), Pitkin in Brownsville, Brooklyn (now retail), the Paradise in the Bronx (now a church), and the Brooklyn Paramount (now a school gymnasium). In its heyday, the RKO Keith’s attracted performers such as Judy Garland, Mae West, Bob Hope, Jack Benny, and the Marx Brothers. Xinyuan's application notes that precedents for temporary removal and installation of ornamental plasterwork include the Lyric, Apollo, Selwyn (also known as the American Airlines and the Roundabout), and Eltinge (also known as the Empire and AMC 25) theaters in Times Square. Other Xinyuan projects include The Oosten in Williamsburg and a 100-unit development in Hell’s Kitchen. JK Equities was the seller of the RKO Keith’s. The hearing on the theater is scheduled to start around 9:30 a.m. at 1 Centre Street, ninth floor.  If the project is approved, according to the application, the developers would remove the ornamental plasterwork and other protected material this spring and start tearing down the surrounding structure in the fall. Their schedule calls for construction of the residential tower to begin in the spring of 2018 and be complete by the spring of 2020. For more details on the hearing, see the LPC's web page here.
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Philip Johnson’s New York State Pavilion all set for $14 million revamp

The famous—and famously neglected—New York State Pavilion in Queens is poised for a major revamp. The city last week announced it is giving the pavilion, in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, a $14.25 million redesign. Originally conceived by Philip Johnson and Lev Zetlin for the 1964 World's Fair, the pavilion is a far cry from Johnson's Glass House but became a New York City icon nonetheless. Now, though, the National Register–listed item is largely abandoned, looming over other World's Fair infrastructure that has been successfully incorporated into the park.

The work, however, depends on a successful bid for the project. If all goes well, construction is scheduled to start next spring and wrap in fall 2019.

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$1.5 billion Hallets Point project in Astoria given green light for a second time as Cuomo secures affordable housing plan

The Hallets Point project in Astoria, Queens, is back on track after Governor Cuomo secured approval of the Affordable New York program earlier this month. The scheme is essentially a replacement for the “421-a” initiative which had been in place for 50 years and encouraged city developers to build more affordable homes incentivized through tax breaks.

Backed by the Durst Organization, the project began construction at the start of 2016, though this stopped just a day later as the 421-a program came to a close, meaning that the developers could not afford to continue the project. It was due to cost $1.5 billion and cover 2.4 million square feet.

Subsequently, it had been reported that Durst had drastically curtailed their plans for the site: A project that once promised seven buildings housing 1,917 market-rate dwellings and a further 483 affordable units along with a supermarket, school, and waterfront esplanade had been reduced to one building boasting a measly 163 units—all of which had been paid for before 421-a ended.

However, Durst spokesperson Jordan Barowitz told The Architect's Newspaper that the plan was "never scaled back." "We just said that if 421-a wasn’t in place we couldn’t move forward, it's the same plan," he said. Barowitz also added that if Cuomo's Affordable New York act hadn't gone through, Durst would have been forced to scuttle affordable housing on the other projects such as 1800 Park Avenue (which is still in the design phase) and the Queens Plaza Park scheme in Long Island City. 

However, Hallets Point—designed by two New York firms Dattner Architects and Studio V—is good to go again. "We're very pleased we’ll be able to move forward with the project and help revitalize the Hallets community and create a bunch of jobs and hundreds of units of affordable housing," Barowitz, told DNAinfo.

In a press release, Durst said:

Hallets Point will transform the now isolated stretch of the Queens waterfront into a thriving residential community with a supermarket, a vibrant mix of retail, an extended and enhanced esplanade, parklands and renovated playgrounds. The project also includes community use facilities, a site for the construction of a new K-8 public school and an additional development lot for the New York City Housing Authority.

The first building to be constructed on the site will provide 405 residential units and a supermarket. It is scheduled to open in Spring next year.

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Fabric screen connects tennis stadium to surrounding park

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Located adjacent to the New York State Pavilion—the host of the 1964 World's Fair—the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center hosts the annual US Open Tournament, one of the oldest tennis championships in the world. In an effort to better utilize the sports campus, Detroit-based ROSSETTI developed a master plan to move the Grandstand Stadium to a far corner of the grounds. The relocation expanded USTA's leasable land into Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
  • Facade Manufacturer Birdair
  • Architects ROSSETTI
  • Facade Installer Birdair
  • Facade Consultants Birdair; WSP (structural engineer)
  • Location Queens, NY
  • Date of Completion 2016
  • System steel frame with PTFE fabric
  • Products custom made PTFE fabric
To mediate between this historic park setting and the tennis campus, ROSSETTI designed a unique exterior skin pattern that metaphorically evokes the translucency of leafy tree canopies and the twisting dynamics of the tennis serve. The material selected, a Teflon-coated fiberglass membrane, polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE)­, is typically used for roofing applications but in this case, a woven version allows for a more translucent breathable effect. The facade assembly is composed of 486 panels, totaling over 26,000 square feet, that fasten to a cable structure with parametric geometry. The system was designed with computational solver software to streamline design and constructability, ultimately saving an enormous amount of time and money in the project. Matt Taylor, design lead at ROSSETTI, said that early on in the design process, the team tried to mimic the faceted geometry of the structure, by ultimately ended up with a curvilinear form: "Even though this was a very complex facade, we had to simplify it to a point where it was repeatable, structurally feasible, and that the detailing could be economic enough to stay within budget." Pierre Roberson, a technical designer at ROSSETTI, led the effort to optimize and simplify detailing of the system. He said the structure of the building was not symmetrical but rather based on spline geometry with an infinite number of radii, and that the key to optimizing the facade was about producing a series of modular components that approximated the perimeter shape. Roberson split the spline of the ring beams into 16 equal segments, finding optimal radii for each segment. After optimizing the beam geometry, Roberson used Galapagos, a parametric tool in Grasshopper3d, to find an ideal strut length from over 1,000 of the individual panel supports. This process standardized the length and angle of the facade strut geometry, which allowed the team to provide models for the shop fabricators, who were able to attach connection points to the ring beams at the same angle. Early on in the process, working with PTFE manufacturer Birdair, ROSSETTI mocked up details using PVC pipes and in-house 3d-printed connection components to test and resolve details in full scale. This became a transportable design, presentation, and technical tool that allowed the connection between the PTFE panel and the steel strut to evolve into an elegant functional expression. Taylor said the mockups led to design changes through a collaborative process between the architect and manufacturer. "Birdair was great to work with—they were up to the challenge of this design." The actual fabric shapes were directed by Birdair’s dimensional and formal requirements. For example, a doubly-curved surface geometry is easier to tension than a standard planar surface. Also, by maintaining a specific dimension of 5-by-10 feet avoided the visual clutter of seams running through the panels. "We could have specified a large panel size and worked a secondary seam pattern onto the panels, but we thought this was a much more elegant solution," said Taylor, adding, "there's something really nice about the pedestrian scale of the panels."