Posts tagged with "Brownsville":

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A new online planning platform lets residents shape a neighborhood from the comfort of their smartphones

In a creative digital shift, the City of New York has residents of one Brooklyn neighborhood tagging up a storm on a new urban planning platform designed to affect neighborhood change IRL. With the help of coUrbanize, a Boston-based city planning and community engagement startup, the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) is testing its new toolkit of neighborhood planning ideas in Brownsville, Brooklyn. Building on community input gathered in The Brownsville Hundred Days to Progress Initiative and the department's guidelines for neighborhood planning, HPD is using coUrbanize's platform to aid the Brownsville Neighborhood Planning Process, a community planning initiative that seeks to increase the neighborhood's supply of affordable housing; add retail along Livonia Avenue, a main commercial artery; and enhance public safety with vacant lot revitalization, among other measures. Instead of convening residents in a church or a rec center basement, coUrbanize brings neighborhood planning meetings online, distilling the often-complex studies and terms that planners throw around with impunity (ULURP? CEQR?) into an easy-to-understand format and tag-able map that solicits residents' ideas. Founded in 2013 by graduates of MIT's School of Architecture and Planning, the site is geared towards people who want to participate in their community's planning but may not have time or schedule flexibility to attend a meeting. In Brownsville, a neighborhood where many have limited access to the internet and 37 percent of households live below the poverty line, HPD uses coUrbanize's platform to encourage residents text in feedback on areas the city has identified as sites for improvement. "We're committed to reaching voices not often heard, traditionally," said Karin Brandt, coUrbanize founder and CEO. The text messaging service also has a general line where people can voice ideas that aren't on the city's radar. In a welcome display of constructive feedback and civility—two attributes generally not reserved for online comments sections—Brownsville residents are using coUrbanize's platform to map places of interest in their neighborhood that they love, those that are just okay, and ideas for what could be better or built anew. Amid endorsements of spaces like the Osborn Street park and mural and the (Rockwell Group–designed) Imagination Playground at Betsy Head Park, many commenters called for more extracurricular activities for neighborhood youth, sit-down restaurants, and better amenities in parks. The Brownsville planning project is in the second stage of its four-stage timeline right now, with a final plan expected by February 2017. Right now, the coUrbanize toolkit is used mainly by municipalities in Massachusetts, but cities farther afield (Atlanta, San Antonio) are signing up. The City of Boston is using the platform to widen its community engagement for Imagine Boston 2030, the city's multi-pronged planning effort that comes with a stellar city nerd reading list. Check out the platform here.
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Rockwell Group–designed Imagination Playground opens in Brownsville, Brooklyn

Local students and community members joined NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, City Council Member Darlene Mealy, and David Rockwell, founding principle of Rockwell Group, for the opening of the Imagination Playground at Betsy Head Park in Brownsville, Brooklyn. Although the concept derives from adventure playgrounds and similar philosophies of unstructured play, the Brownsville Imagination Playground is technically the first permanent one of its kind in Brooklyn, and the second worldwide. (The first, also designed by the Rockwell Group, opened in 2010 at the Burling Slip in Manhattan). The $5.05 million project was influenced by tree houses, a foil to the monolithic blocks of high-rise public housing for which Brownsville is best known. A curved ramp wends its way through mature trees, while blue foam blocks, cut into funky shapes, along with water and sand, are tools for children to collaborate, build, or create by themselves. Traditional play elements—slides swing sets, chess tables, and a basketball court—round out the program. A year before the Burling Slip playground opened, Rockwell Group tested the designs in Brownsville with former NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe. David Rockwell elaborated on the process: "When we were asked to do a second Imagination Playground, it gave us a chance to do a couple of things from a design perspective: One, these London Plane trees were incredible, they were a landmark that was important to preserve. We were able to create a path that weaves around the trees. Like the lower Manhattan playground, it's a playground you can see from 360 degrees. It's really a community space." https://www.flickr.com/photos/136339520@N03/25924630244/in/dateposted-public/ This reporter dodged zooming children and risked limb (well, ankle—platform sandals were a bad choice for this assignment!) to give you, dear readers, a panoramic view of the park from the bridge. (Look closely at 0:55 in the video above and you can see another local landmark, the Kenneth Frampton–designed Marcus Garvey Village.)
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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.
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Rockwell Group Designs A Treehouse-esque Playground for Park in Brownsville

The Rockwell Group and NYC Parks unveiled their plans last week to turn a 1.5-acre section of Betsy Head Park in Brownsville into a lush and active playground. When designing Imagination Playground, the firm looked to treehouses for inspiration. The site will feature a winding ramp that snakes around London Plane trees and connects to slides and a series of jungle gyms that spill out into an open area with sand, water, benches, and plantings. In collaboration with landscape architecture firm MKW + Associates, the Rockwell Group has taken on this project pro-bono and will donate a set of Playground Blocks to the Brownsville Recreation Center. The $3.92 million playground was funded with the help of government subsidies from Mayor Bloomberg, Borough President Markowitz, and Council Member Mealy. Partner David Rockwell founded Imagination Playground in partnership with NYC Parks and KaBOOM, a non-profit organization, to encourage activity and unstructured play for children at nominal cost by providing loose building blocks in outdoor recreational spaces. Right now the project is slated to break ground in spring of 2014 and open in 2015.    
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Showtime for school in rundown Brownsville Theater

Like many outlying parts of the city, Brownsville fell hard from its turn-of-the-century grandeur, with decaying reminders of its former greatness. Among them is the Loews Pitkin Theater, once home to the likes of Jackie Gleason, Milton Berle, Humphrey Bogart, and Al Joelson's last performance, as well as thousands of eager movie goers. The building has been closed since 1969—until last week, when a ground breaking was held for a new charter school and retail complex. Curbed and Brownstoner were among those in attendance, and they got some pretty amazing pictures of the building's decrepit interiors (see some after the jump). We've since been sent the above rendering by the developers, POKO Partners, who are working with Kitchen & Associates, a firm based in Collingswood, New Jersey on the renovation. According to POKO, the project will mesh what remains of the building's sumptuous Art Deco interiors with high-tech, sustainable features, creating something at once historic and cutting edge. The base of the building will house some 70,000 square feet of retail with a 90,000-square-foot, 1,100-seat elementary and middle school above, run by Ascend Learning. The project is expected to be completed in the next 18 months. "The Loews Pitkin Theater is exciting because it embodies POKO¹s core values of revitalizing neighborhoods and enhancing communities through positive and responsible real estate development," POKO President and CEO Ken Olson said in a release.