Spreading out across 10,000 acres of parkland, Jamaica Bay in Queens, New York will now serve as the focus of a new science and resilience institute spearheaded by the City University of New York (CUNY) to understand how urban ecosystems respond to changing weather patterns and global warming. The CUNY-led research consortium, temporarily housed on Brooklyn College's campus, will collaborate with other leading New York institutions to study the efficacy of natural flood protections, such as dunes and salt marshes, in safeguarding New York's coastline. These findings will benefit and be applicable to other cities and regions that are vulnerable to flooding as sea levels rise and storms become more frequent and powerful. “In the City of New York, we have a powerful and dedicated partner to promote visitation, education programs, scientific research and opportunities for recreation in our urban parks,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell at the announcement of the new program yesterday. “And now, in CUNY and their academic partners, we have a consortium of world-class institutions to advance our understanding of climate change and its impact on our natural systems. Working together, we will develop and coordinate approaches to coastal resiliency for Jamaica Bay that can serve as a model for communities around the world threatened by climate change.” The institute will formally launch in October with the "Urban Resilience in an Era of Climate Change: Global Input for Local Solutions" symposium, which will investigate and come up with strategies to make urban areas more resilient. Mayor Bloomberg also introduced a new public-private partnership, called Jamaica Bay—Rockaway Parks Conservancy, founded to support the development and operations of the parklands and waters in the Jamaica Bay area. The Conservancy will also be responsible for programming and amenities including, boat rentals, food trucks, and biking.
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In a neighborhood of glass and steel, Fiterman Hall stands out. The new building, part of the CUNY Borough of Manhattan Community College downtown campus, is designed by Pei Cobb Freed and sits adjacent to the World Trade Center. The 17-story building is fronted in large prefabricated red-brick panels rhythmically relieved by square glass windows revealing multilevel interior atria. At a cost of $325 million, this is not your grandmother's little red schoolhouse. The vertical seams between the brick-faced precast panels betray the interlocking nature of classic red brick and the smooth prefab surface contrasts the tactile quality of hand laid masonry. Regardless, the panels certainly place Fiterman apart as an institutional structure amidst corporate America’s continued penchant for glass. Brick paneling is hardly new, but with prefabricated buildings making inroads, it’s hard not to view them as another form of value engineering requiring less union hands at the construction site. But David Sovinski, director of industry development for the International Masonry Institute (IMI), said that their membership doesn’t have a problem with the material. IMI is an alliance between the International Union of Bricklayers, Allied Craftworkers, and contractors who promote masonry construction. He noted that IMI union members are better trained to install the panels, as they are with most enclosure methods except glazing. Their main goal, regardless of the method, is to keep trained union hands on the site. “They get man hours off all kinds of construction,” said Sovinski. “You can always go to a factory in rural Pennsylvania for nonunion cheaper labor, but our training is more productive. If you use a trained craft person you don’t get callbacks to fix mistakes.” The completion of Fiterman Hall is probably one of the more high profile uses of the material in Manhattan, but with the Gotham West tower swiftly rising on Eleventh Avenue and 44th Street, it won’t be the largest. There, more than 1,200 apartments will stretch over almost an entire city block. Gotham’s 11th Avenue tower and midblock low-rise are already getting brick panels slapped on as fast as you can say "prefab." Once again, at Gotham, the panels appear smooth, uniform, and manufactured. “I prefer laid in place, I think it’s a better system,” admitted Sovinski. “When you see these fake solutions, it just looks poor.”