Posts tagged with "Brooklyn":

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Explore this interactive map of the Gowanus Canal’s slightly scary microbiology

The Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn is notorious for its filth. Normally a sure fire way to contract dysentery, cancer and arsenic poisoning, the canal is now the subject of study from a diverse collaborative effort: Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects, biotech nonprofit GenSpace, the Gowanus Canal Conservancy, and data visualizers Landscape Metrics. Called the BK BioReactor, the undertaking employs a small autonomous watercraft that samples waters throughout the infamous canal (an U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Superfund site). The researchers set out to catalog its microbial communities before the canal undergoes dredging and sub-aquatically capping as part of the Superfund cleanup later this year. https://vimeo.com/156573571 Why the Gowanus? The team aims to discover new microorganisms "unique to the urban realm." With many urban areas facing similar pollution challenges, there may be important lessons to be learned. "The Gowanus Canal is an incubator for the evolution of such bioremediating functions, attesting to its industrial past and its capacity for self-renewal," they stated. To carry out the task, the group are using the BK BioReactor: a mobile watercraft that takes samples and stops at 14 "Smart Docks" throughout the canal. The craft measures "water temperature, pH, salinity, and dissolved oxygen; and most importantly grant researchers and citizen scientists access to the microbiome below the cleanup cap. Subsequently, an interactive microbiological map has been produced, locating all the different microorganisms, the vast majority of which are bacteria. However, in some parts of the canal, large quantities of the siphoviridae virus family can be found. For those wondering, this is not linked to syphilis (which the canal has been associated with). That's not to say the findings were in any way healthy however. "Many of the species identified in preliminary samplings are also found in the human gut (a result of raw sewage) while other species reveal influence of the canal’s proximity to the ocean," the group said. "Regardless of their source, the microbial melting pot of the canal has fine-tuned its metabolism, swapping genes with neighboring communities and evolving novel functions to develop real-time strategies for the unique state of the canal." https://vimeo.com/156590188 Other substances discovered included:
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In latest push to clear backlog, NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission designates nine new landmarks

Tasked with clearing its 95-item backlog, New York City's Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) is moving swiftly to shape the future of historic structures in the Big Apple by clearing its docket. On Tuesday, the LPC voted to designate nine items—eight individual structures and one historic district—as New York City Landmarks.
Perhaps the most recognizable item on the list was the Pepsi Cola Sign, which has graced the shores of Long Island City, Queens, since 1936. The sign is not a typical landmark. It's an ad for a beverage conglomerate, albeit a charming, retro ad. A debate arose around the nuances of the designation at a meeting in February to present evidence in favor of preservation. Supporters' eyes ping-ponged anxiously as LPC members brought up possible obstacles objections: Would designation cover the metal scaffolding that the bottle and logo are attached to, or would designation encompass just the signs' iconic appendages, leaving a loophole to alter the sign's arrangement?
The LPC decided to landmark the Pepsi sign, noting in its recommendation that the sign was preserved once before, as the factory it flanked was sold in 1999. The LPC's decision recognizes the city's manufacturing heritage, and preserves the spirit of place that's otherwise the face of bland waterfront luxury condo development. The grassroots Historic Districts Council (HDC) recommends that the LPC "investigate additional preservation protections, such as an easement or some other form of legal contract to help ensure this landmark’s continued presence."
In all, there were ten items recommended for designation, including two whose eclecticism and allure rival the Pepsi sign (the commission delayed a vote on Immaculate Conception Church in the South Bronx.). One residence is a Gravesend landmark: The Lady Moody-Van Sicklen House, a stone, 18th-century Dutch-American-style farmhouse, is a rare survivor from Brooklyn's agrarian past. Local lore holds that the house belonged to Lady Deborah Moody, one of the area's first European women landowners.
New Yorkers thrilled by the Neoclassical flourishes of the Fifth Avenue facade of the Metropolitan Museum of Art will be delighted by the LPC's recognition of the Vanderbilt Mausoleum, a diminutive-by-comparison and little-known work by the same architect. École des Beaux Arts–trained Richard Morris Hunt designed the Romanesque Revival final resting place for the titans of industry, located in Staten Island's Frederick Law Olmsted–designed Moravian Cemetery. The Vanderbilts were so impressed by the meeting of minds that they hired Hunt and Olmstead to collaborate on the clan's low-key country house in North Carolina.
With that memento mori, the LPC voted to designate a few 19th-century structures within Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery. Although the entire cemetery, a National Historic Landmark, was up for local designation, even ardent preservationists advocated against the designation, noting that landmark status could place onerous restrictions on the 478-acre cemetery's operations: The plots, headstones, and mausoleums are owned by individuals, with 1,200 new "permanent residents" added annually, potentially complicating the regulation process.
The largest rural cemetery in the U.S., Green-Wood was designed by David Bates Douglass under the guiding landscape principles of Andrew Jackson Downing. The Gothic Revival entrance on Fifth Avenue, designed by Richard Upjohn and home to a vigorous parakeet colony, was declared an Individual Landmark in 1966. A chapel in the same style by Warren & Wetmore (the same firm behind Grand Central Terminal) received designation this time around, as did the Gatehouse and Gatehouse Cottage at the Fort Hamilton Parkway entrance.
For more information and updates on the extension of a Park Slope historic district, St. Augustine’s Church and Rectory, New England on City Island, and other newly-landmarked items, check out the LPC's website.
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Munich Residents Demand Affordable Housing Replace Parking Spaces

With major cities running short on affordable housing, local residents have adopted unique measures to air their grievances. In New York, the Brooklyn Anti-Gentrification Network (BAN) held a sign outside a real estate summit in Brooklyn last year, asking car-driving attendees to honk if the rent was "too high." Earlier this year, students at the University of Cape Town in South Africa erected an iron shack on campus to decry the lack of housing available to poor students around the city. For people living in Munich, the solution was simple but proactive. Leerstand089, a citizen group in the city, listed all vacant parking spaces to shame the authorities into building more affordable housing for residents. The plan worked, with a 120-unit apartment complex now slated to replace a parking lot once used at the 1972 Munich Olympics. The area is surrounded by large gardens with trees, a modest soccer field, and a swimming pool. To prevent the rent prices from rising, the apartments will be economically built to keep them within Germany's rent stabilization threshold. Leerstand089, which stands for vacancy and Munich's area code, has notched up several other successes with a number of buildings being earmarked as housing sites. The most recent is a 5,700-square-foot building now designated as a public housing cooperative that will contain 11 rental apartments. The group's basic action plan encourages everyday citizens to call out neglected buildings. If the building is being left unattended, they will report it to the city so it can be put to better use.
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Mayor de Blasio’s $2.75-per-ride ferry service to begin summer 2017

Expanding on the East River Ferry system, Mayor de Blasio will see his $55 million plan for a five borough ferry network come to fruition summer 2017.  At $2.75-a-ride, the system will be managed and operated by a California company, Hornblower, that has a proven track record in the industry, having run services in New York for ten years. Currently, the ferry caters to Manhattan residents and those on the shoreline between DUMBO, Brooklyn and Long Island City, Queens. The network will be expanded to escort people to Astoria, Queens; Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn; and the Rockaways, Queens. Come 2018, Soundview will service the Upper and Lower East Side. Another proposal looks to extend the service further to Staten and Coney Island, though no completion date has yet been penned in. The cost of a ferry trip will align with the price of a single subway ride. Bicycles may be carried on for an extra dollar. This is less than half of what it costs for a standard weekend ferry fare at the moment. Such a pricing scheme is no accident, either, as de Blasio has his eyes on integrating the network with the rest of the MTA system. According to de Blasio, commuters will be able to enjoy the "fresh air, harbor views, and a fast ride on the open water" on the 20-minute journey between Astoria and Manhattan's East 34th Street, as well as being able to make the most of the ferry on the hour-long commute between the Rockaways and Wall Street. “Today I applaud Mayor de Blasio for his $55 million capital commitment to a 5-borough ferry system and declaring that New York City’s waterfront will be open for all. The ripple effect from this service will be felt throughout the entire city from Bay Ridge to Bayside; from Staten Island to Soundview,” said Councilman Vincent Gentile. “Access to a true 5-borough ferry system will be just another jewel to add to our crown here in southwest Brooklyn, one that will be a boon to small businesses and real estate alike.”
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Brooklyn-based studio embraces topophilia to craft quilts out of city streets

Brooklyn-based Haptic Labs has created some strikingly beautiful polysilk and cotton quilts with hand stitched topographical accents.

The designs include coastal motifs from Nantucket to Australia, and city terrains that began as a tribute to designer Emily Fischer's mother Peggy who started to lose her eyesight from complications of macular degeneration. The first Haptic Lab quilts were meant to be used as tools for the visually impaired, and everything the studio designs is inspired by the tactile over the ephemeral:

Haptic designs counter the rapid digitization of our lives by privileging the real, physical world our bodies occupy. Like a cane that safely guides someone down the sidewalk, our projects serve as tools for sensation. We make intricate quilts, kites, furniture, and environments that combine new technologies with traditional craft techniques—infusing a sense of play and timelessness into everything we make.
The City Quilt series employs subtle white-on-white stitching to inscribe a city's streets into fabric. The queen-sized City Quilt for the studio's home borough covers Coney Island through Greenpoint, and, like the other quilts in the series, is stitched in India, and is made of 100 percent cotton. The result is an intricate and subtle homage to 12 major metros, five of which are pictured below: The newest collection, debuting at the Architectural Digest Design Show in NYC, includes faceted maps of the world made in partnership with the Buckminster Fuller Institute, using Architect Richard Buckminster Fuller's original Dymaxion drawings.
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Renderings revealed for impending transformation of Brooklyn Navy Yard’s Building 77

These days, the Brooklyn Navy Yard's looking ship-shape: Green Manufacturing Center, Dock 72, Steiner Studios, and Admiral’s Row are undergoing redevelopment. Now, the Navy Yard's largest building, Building 77, is in the midst of a top-to-bottom renovation, and there are new renderings of what the space will look like, inside and out. The one-million-square-foot building, a former ammunition depot, will include 16,000 square feet of rooftop space and eight 1,200-square-foot terraces. The top two floors, branded as The Beacon, offer stellar views of Downtown Brooklyn and Manhattan, 11-foot ceilings, and 140,000 square feet of commercial space, Brownstoner reports. Due to the Navy Yard's large size and distance from rail transit, there's an internal transit system in the works: a two-loop shuttle service will bring workers to nearby subways and the LIRR. The best part? Shuttles will have free wifi. For the bike-inclined, seven Citi Bike stations will be installed. A 1,600 space parking lot is the main concession to car culture. If ease of access is not enough to entice potential visitors, then the promise of Nova lox and herring in cream sauce by legendary appetizing store Russ & Daughters should lure the Jewish soul food–loving masses. Russ & Daughters is the anchor tenant of Building 77's 60,000-square-foot food hall, according to leasing documents released by the Brooklyn Navy Yard. To sweeten the deal for not-in-Brooklyn business owners shopping for new space, Building 77 is participating in the Relocation and Employment Assistance Program (REAP), a New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) program that gives business income tax credits to businesses that are currently based below 96th Street in Manhattan, or outside of New York entirely, that are bringing jobs to the outer boroughs (and some areas above 96th Street). When all construction is complete, it's estimated that the Navy Yard will employ 16,000 and have a yearly economic output of $2.35 billion. Take a look at the gallery below to see more images of Building 77's impending transformation:
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Semi-Permanent Ink: Artist Charlotte Mann collaborates with Wolf Gordon on art installation in Brooklyn

Wolf Gordon's impressive Wink surface can turn any wall into a dry erase board. The design possibilities are endless considering Wink is completely translucent and can be applied to any color paint, wood, metal, or patterned wall covering without changing the original look. U.K.–based artist Charlotte Mann created a site-specific, large-scale installation at the Gowanus Souvenir Shop using the product that is on view until March 13. The 1:1 scale drawing is different from her typical pieces, which are much more permanent. Mann said that, "Using dry erase as a medium actually made things easier because I could change my mind, and allowed me to improvise." A portion of the installation has been photographed and reproduced as a limited-edition digital wall covering that is for sale at Gowanus Souvenir Shop, 543 Union Street, in Brooklyn. View a time-lapse video of the project below:
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Downtown Brooklyn Partnership releases new report on robust development in Downtown Brooklyn

On its tenth anniversary, the local nonprofit development corporation Downtown Brooklyn Partnership has released a report that details just how well the development of downtown Brooklyn is going. Downtown Rising: How Brooklyn became a model for urban development demonstrates how, since its 2004 rezoning, private investors have put more than $10 billion into Downtown Brooklyn. The report was commissioned by the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership and produced by the Rudin Center for Transportation Policy at NYU. “Downtown Brooklyn has harnessed its determined capacity for creative change to undergo a true rebirth over the past decade,” said Tucker Reed, president of the Partnership. “This report demonstrates just how far strong civic leadership can go when it’s bolstered by smart public investment, and provides the first definitive account of how we came so far, so fast—and where we need to go from here.” At a panel hosted at NYU and moderated by Professor of Urban Policy and Planning Mitchell L. Moss last week, Reed, Joe Chan (executive vice president, Empire State Development Corporation), Regina Myer (president, Brooklyn Bridge Park), and Hugh O'Neill (president of economic consulting firm Appleseed) discussed the report and next steps for downtown Brooklyn. Since the creation of a central business district in the Group of 35 report, Downtown Brooklyn has transformed itself into a tech hub, a center of arts and culture, a nexus of higher education. Between 2000 and 2013, the district's population grew by 17 percent. The number of residents with a bachelor's degree nearly doubled, and median household income grew by 22 percent. Reed mentioned that, as part of its community development goals, the Partnership "is working on workforce development" to close a skills and opportunity gap among residents without a college degree. The report has five recommendations for continued growth which center on clearing barriers for development through incentives and flexible zoning, as well as greater investment in transportation, the arts, and public space:
  1. Downtown Brooklyn and the city should ensure that innovative new companies have room to grow through increased—and targeted—commercial office space investment.
  2. The city should learn from the 2004 rezoning of the area, which allowed flexible permissive zoning and land use policies and resulted in a surge in development. The city should avoid trying to achieve narrowly defined policy objectives by enacting overly detailed zoning restrictions and prescriptions.
  3. The city should continue to invest in innovative public space improvements, such as the Brooklyn Strand initiative and completion of Brooklyn Bridge Park, that make Downtown Brooklyn a more attractive place to live, work, invest, do business, and visit.
  4. Developers and property owners, non-profit organizations, and the city need to work together to ensure that cultural institutions, arts organizations, and individual artists can continue to play a vital role in the ongoing transformation of Downtown Brooklyn.
  5. The city needs to address long-standing gaps in the area’s transportation networks, including lack of transit access to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, difficulties in getting between the core of Downtown Brooklyn and the waterfront, and the scarcity of good options for travel between existing and new waterfront neighborhoods and growing concentrations of jobs along the East River.
What do you think: Will these strategies keep the neighborhood on its upward development trajectory, or is the celebratory document failing to consider downsides like the loss of affordable housing and the decimation of independent retail on Fulton Street?
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Pringle-topped Coney Island Amphitheater on the Boardwalk set to open this July

The Coney Island boardwalk, arguably the best place in New York for people-watching and watching people consume copious amounts of fried seafood, is about to get a new spiffy venue: the long-anticipated, 5,000-seat Coney Island Amphitheater on the Boardwalk is set to open this July. Although plans have been in the works to open the venue for a few years, this is the first official announcement of a set opening date. The Amphitheater will host sports, concerts, and film screenings under its potato-chip-like awning. Plans call to adaptively integrate the Childs Building, long vacant, into the building's program. With the Landmarks Preservation Commission's blessing in 2013, the 1923 building is set to be fitted with 50-foot-tall doors that will let breezes flow inside during the summer, but that can also be shuttered during the winter months for year-round use (the building used to host Lola Star's roller disco before that event moved to the Lefrak Center at Prospect Park). Anticipating the popularity of summertime events, overflow crows from the amphitheater and the Childs Building can be accommodated in a 40,000-square-foot outdoor space, next to the boardwalk. The developer is New York–based iStar Financial. https://www.instagram.com/p/TvUQVXItCL/?tagged=childsbuilding
New York City Economic Development Corporation worked out a deal between iStar and the nonprofit Coney Island USA in 2014. The city invested $60 million in the project, which facilitated the property acquisition, reuse of the Childs Building, the building of the Amphitheater and outdoor space.
"The opening of the new amphitheater further enriches Coney Island’s long history of offering the City of New York, and especially the borough of Brooklyn, unique entertainment in a seaside environment,” said Dick Zigun, founder of the sideshow and CEO of Coney Island USA.  “We are looking forward to making the traditional Coney Island events, such as the Mermaid Parade, even bigger and better with the addition of Brooklyn's newest destination attraction.”
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Back to the Future: New York City explores streetcar transit route linking outer boroughs

Remember the New York City streetcar? Unless you're a New Yorker of a certain age, you definitely don't. Advances in transportation technology (what die-hard conspiracy theorists refer to as Great American Streetcar Scandal) drove streetcars all over the U.S. straight to the last stop. Yet, it's now very possible that two neighboring boroughs, Brooklyn and Queens, will be reunited once again via a new streetcar line of their very own. The streetcar plans legitimate what transportation planners (and Michael Kimmelman) have known for years: commuting patterns in the city have changed, and the hub-and-spoke model no longer serves diffuse, inter- outer-borough commuting patterns. In his State of the City address last week, Mayor de Blasio proposed a 16-mile waterside streetcar route, the Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX), that would run through 14 neighborhoods, from Brooklyn's Sunset Park through Astoria, Queens. These areas have seen swift transitions from their industrial origins and rapid population growth as the waterfront settles comfortably into its post-industrial future. Renderings are credited to a nonprofit called the Friends of the Brooklyn Queens Connector. According to The Daily News, members include "transit experts, community leaders and business giants like Doug Steiner of Steiner Studios, investor Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures and Helena Durst of the Durst Organization real estate firm." When the plan was announced in January, AN reached out the the nonprofit repeatedly for comment to confirm stakeholders and received no response. With backers like these, concerns about gentrification and potentially developer-driven policy have been raised. Some see the streetcar idea as a way to spur already-high land values along the waterfront, although the streetcar could also provide the more than 40,000 residents of waterfront NYCHA complexes with better access to public transportation. Others have raised concerns about locating the line in a flood zone. Still others have questioned why the city needs to spend billions on a new form of transportation, one that moves at a pokey 12 miles-per-hour, when bus service could be offered along a similar route. There is time to debate: Although energy around the plan is high, the groundbreaking is a long way off. The plan's timeline states that construction is expected to begin in 2019, and service could begin in 2024. The city pegs the cost at around $2.5 billion, although earlier estimates ran $800 million lower.
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In gentrifying Brooklyn, illicit luxury housing is sprouting from community gardens

Larceny and deed fraud are on the rise, and those with a mind for leaving confusing trails of paperwork are profiting from illegitimate purchases of land. A classic case of this can be found on Maple Street in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Brooklyn. https://vimeo.com/6258261 According to a report by The Nation, the area became a tranquil community space in the summer of 2013. Using a lot no bigger than one-eighth of an acre, local residents constructed vegetable patches and seating areas that successfully brought people together to make use of a shared space. The residents' retreat however, was short-lived. The owners,  Joseph (Joe) and Kamran (Mike) Makhani, apparently have a history of using illegitimate signatures to gain property and have even been to prison in the past for selling homes they did not own. Their company name, H.P.D., LLC, is quite similar to the government agency, NYC Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). When questioned in the video above, Joe Makhani said, "if the client is stupid, that's not my problem." Cut to 2014 and the Makhanis show up and start destroying the lot that the residents had carefully made. Ignoring calls to stop, they only do so when the police turn up demanding a court order to prove ownership. The Makhanis promptly left after no document was produced. So what of the significance of this debacle? The sad truth is that these ordeals are cropping up more and more with cases being becoming increasingly complex with name irregularities making documented selling and purchasing of land harder to find. "No one is talking about it, but we're seeing this every day," said Sonia Alleyne told The Nation on behalf of the Department of Finance. "I don't think anyone realizes how big this story is." The ordeal features all the tell-tale signs of larceny and deed fraud. The initial purchase of land from the nephews of the deceased owners for $5,000 (an incredible and questionably low price); Social Security numbers failing to match up; spelling "mistakes" (McKany rather than Makhani); illegible notary names and the fact that the license number isn't even present; traits that, in the City of New York Sheriff Joseph Fucito's eyes, scream fraud. Anyone attempting to investigate ownership/sale history of the land, it seems, is lead down rabbit hole after rabbit hole. Sheriff Fucito stated that 15 deed-fraud arrests were made in in the last year, and that (as of August 2015) his office was on the trail of over 1,000 cases. Gardens in Bushwick and Crown Heights have likewise found themselves embroiled in similar conflicts. Fucido believes that many fraudulent cases go undetected and that the real number of cases is much higher. Why the sudden rise in deed fraud? Gentrification may be partly to blame. Brooklyn residential prices are increasing at an alarming rate, and land with debatable ownership is the perfect target for fraudsters. Experts such as Christie Peale, executive director of the Center for New York City Neighborhoods, say that paperwork is deemed legitimate all too easily. "The problem is this open process that allows people to just walk in and file false instruments," said Peale.
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Jeanne Gang’s fire station brings civic design to deep Brooklyn neighborhood

Chicago-based Studio Gang is designing a modern fire station for the Brownsville community in Brooklyn. The two-story, precast concrete structure, to be built on a vacant lot at 1815 Sterling Place, includes bright red accents as the facade pulls away from the street plane. The so-called Fire Rescue 2 facility "is intended to become a tool for training, enabling FDNY Company 2, an elite force of firefighters and specialized rescue workers serving the people of New York for nearly a century, to stage and simulate a wide range of emergency conditions in, on, and around the building," according to a project description from Studio Gang. This training program inspired Jeanne Gang, the firm's principal, in designing the building. "During emergencies, the Company must often utilize voids in buildings," the firm stated, "whether creating them to let heat and smoke out of a structure or locating them as a means of escape." The structure's design responds with its own voids demarcated in red that reveal windows, staircases, and a second-floor terrace. The facade of the 19,000-square-foot structure will be built of precast concrete and red glazed terracotta tiles. The 46-foot-tall structure is meant to respond to the scale of neighborhood buildings. Gang organized the fire house around a central interior that "enables the team to practice rescue scenarios that mimic conditions common to the city." The space is a sort of modern recreation of balconies, bridges, doorways, ladders, and stairs that the firefighters might encounter in the city. The void dually allows air and light to penetrate deep into the structure, enhancing the living quarters for the firefighters. While the facade's jagged geometry and bright color conveys the structure's purpose and sense of urgency, the interiors are designed to help firefighters cool off. Inside, a kitchen forms the hub of social life for the firefighters, adding another layer of heat to the project's design. Plenty of green space, including a backyard and open-air porches, allows the firefighters to cool off when not on duty. Studio Gang is working with SCAPE / Landscape Architecture on the project. The building also includes several sustainable gestures such as a green roof, geothermal HVAC system, and a solar hot-water system. Fire Rescue 2 is programmed to include office space, dormitories for firefighters, a kitchen, exercise rooms, training space, and storage. "With its adaptable spaces, environmental approach, and civic scale, the new Rescue 2 firehouse is both a neighborhood fixture and important piece of infrastructure, supporting a highly trained corps who safeguard those who call New York home," Studio Gang stated. Permits for the project were filed in October 2015, according to real estate watch-blog New York YIMBY. The project is estimated to be complete in 2017. In July 2015, the design was honored with an Award for Excellence in Design from the New York City Public Design Commission. Elsewhere in New York, Studio Gang is working on a major expansion to the American Museum of National History and an embattled condo tower along the High Line called the Solar Carve. The firm has opened a New York office to handle the increased workload. Also, don't miss AN's exclusive interview with Jeanne Gang while kayaking the Chicago River here.