Posts tagged with "DDC":

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Report reveals staggering new details on NYC capital project delays

The Center for an Urban Future (CUF), a nonpartisan policy organization, released a report in April of this year purporting that internal practices within several New York City agencies are partially to blame for the deficiencies of public construction projects. Titled Slow Build, the document outlines a variety of findings related to the schedule and budget of capital projects, including the revelation that the median duration for a cultural project is seven years and costs nearly $930 per square foot to build.

The Department of Design and Construction (DDC) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) oversee capital projects for the city. According to the report, these agencies utilized inefficient systems and protocols that are in need of a policy overhaul to improve project delivery.

The report, produced in collaboration with Citizens Budget Commission, analyzed the details of 144 library and cultural buildings that were completed between the 2010 and 2014 fiscal years, supplemented by dozens of expert interviews. Among the claims made, the report found that “86 percent of delays occur before construction begins, with many projects getting tripped up in the initial scoping and design phases.” This suggests that extensive reviews for public projects and inaccurate cost-procurement processes are a major source of the problem. The report also identifies city-initiated scope alterations, which often lead to costly and prolonged change orders during construction, as contributing factors to the delays.

In addition to the bureaucratic logjam, the report also draws attention to certain state laws “that both mandate a low-bid procurement system and prevent city projects from adopting a design-build process.” While many of the report’s recommendations include streamlining municipal procedures, CUF also suggests a loosening of state laws to accommodate less restrictive procurement practices for public buildings.

This suggestion is not out of the question as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo did sign into law design-build protocols for infrastructure-related projects in 2011. However, these changes to architectural contracts would require stronger advocacy by city leaders, political capital which has not yet materialized. Not only is 2017 a mayoral election year, but recently the former DDC Commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora was forced to step down amid controversies related to delays in Hurricane Sandy–rebuild efforts that have long been overdue. It is unlikely that this issue will attract much attention in the coming months.

It is critical to note, however, that this survey includes projects largely shepherded by the Bloomberg administration and did not review the policies, initiatives, or funding practices of the current administration. The Hunters Point Community Library by Steven Holl, for instance, has been in the pipeline since 2008 and just recently experienced another delay regarding an unforeseeable glass shipment fiasco from Spain.

For its part, the city appears to be making moves to rectify some of the concerns raised in this report. A spokesman for the DDC cited that since July 2014 procurement durations have been reduced from an average of one year to nine months, and that project durations have shortened by up to 40 percent. The spokesman also highlighted a new division of the DDC called Front End Planning Unit that “[ensures] that the scope of work and budget meet necessary requirements” before a project is accepted.

When it comes to awarding public design contracts, the DDC announced in 2016 a change to its proposal-solicitation program, launching the Design and Construction Excellence 2.0 (DCE 2.0) initiative, a revamp of the DDC’s exclusive on-call list for NYC architecture firms. Though the CUF report does not mention this program, the DDC stated that the shift was necessary to “encourage the development of perceptive solutions that enhance performance ranging from minimizing emissions of greenhouse gasses to design that engages groups who may feel left out.”

The program was originally launched in 2004 and has included firms such as Bjarke Ingels Group, Steven Holl Architects, and Diller Scofidio + Renfro. Now the list of 26 companies is subdivided into four sections by project scale allowing for more competition among the firms, ensuring that the right team can handle the scope of the projects. DCE 2.0 is an effort by the agency to address not only the quantifiable metrics of project delivery addressed by CUF, but also the qualitative role that architects play in the delivery of public buildings.

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Feniosky Peña-Mora steps down as NYC DDC commissioner

Feniosky Peña-Mora has stepped down as commissioner of the New York City Department of Design and Construction (DDC), a position he has held since 2014. He will return to Columbia University as a professor, where he was previously the dean of the university’s engineering department. The DDC oversees the design and construction of all of the city’s public buildings such as libraries, fire stations, and infrastructure projects like sewers and water mains. In March, Peña-Mora and Chief Architect Margaret O’Donoghue Castillo unveiled guiding principles for the revamped capital construction program Design and Construction Excellence 2.0. In a letter obtained by DNAinfo, Peña-Mora wrote to his colleagues, "It has been my great honor to work with each and every one of you, and I will always cherish my days leading this wonderful agency.” "Together we’ve also made great strides in project delivery, processing record numbers of payments and change orders faster than ever, which means we’re working more efficiently for our clients, consultants, and contractors," Peña-Mora continued. "The agency’s successes have led to City government placing more faith in it, and adding new responsibilities." Mayor de Blasio offered the following statement:
I deeply appreciate Feniosky Peña-Mora’s extraordinary service to New York City. From his work awarding nearly $1.2 billion in M/WBE contracts, to instituting wide reforms that have already made the agency more responsive, to improving our response to Hurricane Sandy, he made our City a better place. He navigated the agency through a period of robust growth, overseeing more than 860 construction starts and completions valued at more than $9 billion—all while winning more than 80 design awards and helping 1,600 students participate in DDC engineering programs. This is impressive stuff. While I am sorry to see him go, we did know this day would come. Indeed, he put off his return to Columbia, where he is a tenured professor, for an additional year to continue to serve the city. As we search for an equally strong candidate to run this critical agency, I thank Feniosky Peña-Mora’s for his service.
He is the latest city official involved in the problem-riddled Build it Back program to step away, and also came under fire for his hiring of a councilman's wife and for awarding city contracts in a quid-pro-quo for extremely positive press coverage.
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Check out this cool, free calendar featuring New York’s best public buildings (and more)

Missed the FDNY's smoking-hot firefighter calendar? Too old for Lisa Frank? Need an upgrade from puppies and kittens? Fear not—the Department of Design and Construction (DDC) has released a very sleek 2017 calendar featuring New York's newest public buildings. The city's capital construction agency is responsible for bringing hundreds of municipal projects to life, above- and below-ground. Next year's calendar showcases some recent projects in clean black-and-white line drawings: Dattner and WXY's acclaimed Spring Street Salt Shed leads off, while SOM's disaster-proof emergency call center and the agency's own Fordham Plaza revamp close out the year. Take a look through the gallery above to see all featured buildings (plus boats and art, too).
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DDC picks 26 firms to design New York’s new public buildings

Today the New York City Department of Design and Construction (DDC) announced the latest round of local firms pre-qualified to design public projects in the five boroughs. Through the Design and Construction Excellence 2.0 Program, the 26 firms will have exclusive access to respond to Requests for Proposals (RFPs) through 2019 for projects with an estimated cost of $50 million or less. The program, founded in 2005, is designed to reduce the time it takes for the agency to procure design services: Once selected, firms can submit "mini-proposals" for public buildings, additions and renovations, parks, and plazas that are then evaluated and selected by committee for construction.  The program's recent projects include Snøhetta's Times Square pedestrian plaza, Dattner and WXY's Spring Street Salt Shed, Studio Gang's Brooklyn firehouse and training facility, and BIG's police station in the Bronx. Firms from the last round of the program (2013-2016) worked on 53 DDC projects and billed more than $26 million in design fees. “By promoting quality design, we can improve our city’s long-term resilience and sustainability, enhance access, mobility and public services, and contribute to the unique character and rich culture that make New York special,” said Public Design Commission executive director Justin Garrett Moore, in a statement. “For over a decade, the DDC's Design and Construction Excellence Program has been one of the City's best tools to deliver quality public projects. This new round of DCE 2.0 firms builds on that legacy and reflects the diversity, creativity, and expertise that we need to help build our City and improve the quality of life in neighborhoods throughout our five boroughs.” Nine of the firms selected for this round are owned by women or people of color. In fiscal year 2015, the DDC gave one-third of its contracts—valued at $242 million—to Minority- or Women-owned Business Enterprises (MWBEs), part of the mayor's goal to award 30 percent of all city contracts (in dollars) to MWBEs. This year's list, below, is divided into four categories based on company size, and includes 12 prior participating firms:   Micro firms (1 to 5 professional staff, eligible for projects projected to cost up to $5 million) Small firms (6 to 20 professional staff, eligible for projects projected to cost $2 to $15 million) Medium firms (21 to 50 professional staff, eligible for projects projected to cost $10 to $35 million) Large firms (Over 50 professional staff, eligible for projects projected to cost $25 to $50 million)
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Q+A> Commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora, New York City Department of Design & Construction

On March 9, New York City Department of Design and Construction (DDC) Commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora and Chief Architect Margaret O’Donoghue Castillo unveiled guiding principles for the revamped capital construction program, Design and Construction Excellence 2.0, at the Center for Architecture. AN spoke with Commissioner Peña-Mora about Build it Back, revitalizing neighborhoods through civic projects, great architecture within budgets, and how small firms can partner with the DDC. The Architect's Newspaper: In his State of the City address, Mayor de Blasio cited three neighborhoods—Brownsville/Ocean Hill, the South Bronx, and Far Rockaway—for targeted revitalizations. Through the Design Excellence Program, the DDC has major civic projects in design or under construction in all of those neighborhoods. What is the DDC's role in facilitating neighborhood transformation? Commissioner Peña-Mora: In the Chief Architect's office, we have this inter-client conversation where we look at how the different projects in a neighborhood can support each other. For example, in Brownsville, we have quite a few: [There's] Rescue 2, by Jeanne Gang, but we also have some library projects, we have some plazas. We wanted to really talk about how each one of these projects can support what is happening in the others and help the whole neighborhood. We're looking at a neighborhood approach, those are some of the conversations that we're having. The issue is that each agency (City Planning, NYC DOT) looks for funding for their own projects, but since we're actually doing the same neighborhood for all those agencies, we can see the whole map of all the projects and how to integrate them. Many of the projects commissioned under the Design and Construction Excellence program are inventive, beautiful buildings from high-profile architects. Critics have noted, though, that these projects often run far over budget and behind schedule. What is the ideal balance between cost-effectiveness and beauty in civic architecture and public spaces? I do not subscribe to the thought that because a building is beautiful [it is] more expensive. I think there are a lot of factors that play into the cost of a project. Sometimes the scope changes, or the duration of the market; some of those projects, when the scope changes, they have to be stopped while we get more funding. Sometimes, those project have gone through the fiscal recession, and when you restart those projects, [Agencies] have to say, "Okay. At that time I was thinking I wanted to do this, and now I'm thinking that I want to do that." Each project is unique, and each cost overrun and late project has its own story, and I wouldn't say that's because these are beautiful projects, or that they're done by a [famous] architect. I would say that they're not necessarily correlated, but again, I haven't done all the research for it. Let's talk about Build it Back. So far, over 1,200 rebuilds have been completed. What's next for the program? Right now, part of our portfolio are three different segments: HPD is doing one group, we are doing one, and "choose your own contractor" is another group. We have around 1,700 homes that we have to elevate, reconstruct, or rebuild. Mayor de Blasio has asked us to finish the program by the end of this year. Right now, 95 to 99 percent of our homes are in design, and we hope that we are going to start the construction phase in the summer to be completed at the end of the fall. What is so important about the Build it Back program, you know, is a lot of people talk about the houses, but I like to refer to the homes. Each one of them has a very personal, different family story. We just finished one in 120 days. The family was expecting a baby, and we wanted to finish the project before she was born. Although Baby Nora came early, it was so rewarding to see that family in that elevated home, that resilient home, that has been restored. This is a story that will repeat 1,000 times, for each family that we are helping. Normally, we work through agencies, and this is the first time we're working directly with New Yorkers. So, it's quite different for us, but very rewarding. What's one piece of advice you'd give to smaller architecture firms who are looking to work with the DDC for the first time? We just went though a competition, and we did this new category called the micro, in which we allowed [firms of] less than five people to propose [projects]. Small firms should never be discouraged if they didn't make the competition that just finished. They should be preparing for the next one that coming in two to three years, and also be looking for other opportunities with the DDC. We also have a stand-alone competition, but the stand-alone usually requires larger firms, so smaller firms should be looking to collaborate with other small firms to create consultant [groups] to be able to work on our projects.
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WXY steps up design on one of New York’s long-neglected stair paths

Although step-streets—pedestrian corridors that replace auto-centric streets in hilly neighborhoods—are more often associated with San Francisco, New York City has 94 step-streets of its own. WXY Architecture + Urban Design partnered with AECOM to revamp a full-block step-street in Inwood, Manhattan's northernmost neighborhood. The so-called "step-stair" connects busy Broadway with a residential complex, Park Terrace East. The New York City Department of Design & Construction (DDC) chose Brooklyn–based WXY to rehabilitate the 215th Street right-of-way's crumbling surfaces and worn planted areas. The passage, which officially opens to the public on February 3rd, hews closely to the original design. In addition to improving the stair condition, WXY encircled newly planted trees between the two staircases with cobblestone pavers. Historic lampposts that flank the landings remain intact, though the fixtures are swapped out for more original-looking globes, as in the 1915 photograph below. A bike channel on both sides eases the schlep up and down the 50 foot incline. "The Inwood community deserves a safe stair path," said Claire Weisz, founding principal at WXY, in a statement. "But they also deserve a beautiful public space they can feel proud of, where neighbors can greet one another as they pass on their daily commute." The step-street was on the city's repair radar for years. In April 2012, The Daily News reported that Inwood residents had been petitioning for spruced-up stairs since 1999. The rendering in that piece is identical to the one re-released today, though there's no word on what's held up the project for almost four years.
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Fordham Plaza, one of New York’s busiest transit hubs, is now one of the city’s most pedestrian-friendly

The NYC Department of Design and Construction (DDC) and the NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) recently unveiled the redesigned, ultra pedestrian-friendly Fordham Plaza. Vision Zero's mandate to reduce traffic-related injuries and fatalities guided the $34 million renovation of the north Bronx transit hub. Bounded by Webster Avenue, East Fordham Road, and East 189th Street, the Grimshaw Architects–designed Fordham Plaza now boasts fresh plantings, as well as stationary and movable seating elements to provide a respite for the nearly 80,000 pedestrians per day that travel along Fordham Road. True to the plan released in 2014, the plaza features a new market canopy, kiosks, a cafe, and—rare for New York—a public toilet. The redesign was carried out in collaboration with the NYC Plaza Program, a NYC DOT program that has spearheaded the creation of 69 plazas, 16 of which are in development or currently under construction. A 40 percent reduction in asphalt created more space, and more safety, for pedestrians at Fordham Plaza. The plaza now sports shorter pedestrian crosswalks, "direct" crosswalks that discourage jaywalking, and a 25 percent increase in pedestrian-only space. These interventions should improve access to Fordham University’s Rose Hill Campus, right across the street. Fordham Plaza primary program is transit: 12 local and express bus lines, as well as the fourth-busiest Metro-North station. Bus stops were redesigned to improve pick up, drop off, and the loop-around, especially around East 189th Street and Webster Avenue, that guides buses off towards Westchester County, Manhattan, and all over the Bronx. OneNYC Plaza Equity Program will provide the Fordham Road BID with funding to maintain the plaza. $10 million came from a U.S. Department of Transportation TIGER grant, and $2 million from the state Department of Transportation.
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In the Bronx, delays seem interminable for long-anticipated Roberto Clemete Plaza

"The Hub," in the Bronx neighborhood of Mott Haven, couldn't be better named: it's the center of commercial activity in the South Bronx, and one of the busiest intersections in the city. As its dense avenues are packed with shoppers and commuters, the city moved to expand and improve Roberto Clemente Plaza, a public space that's a respite from the hectic nearby streets. In 2008, the NYC Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) upgraded streets and public space in the area, improving walkability with 15,000 additional square feet of sidewalks, pedestrian islands, and streets partially reclaimed for pedestrians. As part of these improvements, the NYCDOT remade Roberto Clemente Plaza, at Third Avenue and 149th Street. Extra street space was repurposed into a temporary pedestrian plaza with the addition of paint, planters, and gravel. In 2010, NYCDOT passed the torch to the NYC Department of Design & Construction (DDC) Design Excellence Program to create a permanent Roberto Clemente Plaza. The DDC partnered with Brooklyn-based Garrison Architects to design the plaza. Renderings show a curved green strip, lined with benches, that lets plaza visitors take in the streetscape. It's been over two years, however, since the project with an 18 month timeline began, and there's no firm end date in sight. The DDC estimates that construction will last through 2017 (though its website says construction will be complete by August 2016). Neighbors are furious. The constant construction has caused declining revenues for businesses bordering the plaza, and the ever-present construction equipment is an eyesore, residents and business owners claim. In conversation with Streetsblog, Third Avenue BID Director Steven Fish summed up the community's attitude towards the project. “General consensus is that this is a hellhole and there’s no end in sight.” The DDC claims to be "working diligently" with the contractor to minimize further delays.  
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James Russell appointed Director of Design Strategic Initiatives at New York City DDC

James S. Russell has been appointed the Director of Design Strategic Initiatives at the New York City Department of Design and Construction. Leading a research team, he will help the agency to build its already impressive capacity to deliver equitable growth through environmental sustainability and resiliency.
Russell has been a long-time critic, journalist, and consultant on architecture and evolving cities. He has written most recently for The Economist, New York Times, and Wall Street Journal. He was for nine years the architecture critic at Bloomberg News and an editor in several capacities at Architectural Record. He has also practiced architecture with several firms and was made a fellow of the American Institute of Architects. Russell also authored The Agile City: Building Well Being and Wealth in an Era of Climate Change. "As urban challenges grow and diversify, I have gotten an itch to become involved in many of these issues in a deeper, more hands-on way,” Russell told AN. "The DDC challenges me to ‘walk’ my years of journalistic 'talk.’ It is an extraordinary opportunity.”
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Sidewalk Shadows by Artist Nobuho Nagasawa

It would seem that the the once humble blue stone, quarried in New York State, is getting some renewed respect. We recently saw it cleverly cladding 41 Bond by the design-build firm DDG Partners, now artist Nobuho Nagasawa it calling attention to it underfoot in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Nagasawa's installation elevates an everyday visual experience to the level of art, namely tree shadows on a Brooklyn blue stone sidewalk. Incorporated into the DOT's reconstruction of Columbia Street, "Timecast" was funded through the Percent for Art Program and its installation was overseen by the Department of Design and Construction (DDC). The installation is a component of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway Initiative which connects the waterfront from Greenpoint to all the way Sunset Park, including Columbia Waterfront District. The blue stone was fabricated and sandblasted by Brooklyn-based Ottavino Stoneworks and DDC made sure to repour the concrete surrounding the blue stone, so as to ensure an undisturbed visual flow. In her artist statement Nagasawa said that by planting native trees and etching the traced shadows onto the New York stone, the project aims to memorialize local history.  As the young trees grow they will become a "fixed marker of change" in the evolving neighborhood and will inspire people "to think about their own presence over time."
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AN About Town: Last night’s best openings and installations

Thursday was a great night for New York showroom events. AN took advantage of the beautiful fall weather and made the rounds. Here are some highlights: Moroso Traveling Show Moroso celebrated the NYC launch of its traveling show commemorating 60 years of great furniture-making history. Designed by Rockwell Group, the pop-up exhibition will tour New York through November 26, then continue on to Chicago, Philadelphia, Miami, Dallas, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Seattle, and Vancouver. The show features 25 pieces from the Moroso oeuvre, many positioned on raw wood displays next to a timeline illustrated with images and drawings from the company’s archives. New Marazzi Tile Showroom NY Stone Manhattan unveiled its new second-floor showroom dedicated to products from Italian tile manufacturer Marazzi, which will be NY Stone’s only tile supplier. Oysters and appetizers from Le Cirque helped the tiles make a swanky splash in the high-ceilinged space, which features architectural tile and interior porcelain stoneware. DDC’s Venini 90th Birthday Celebration The DDC Gallery celebrated Venini’s 90th anniversary with an installation of the Italian glass-makers work, including recent pieces designed with Dutch design team Studio Job. In addition to the presence of Job Smeets and Nynke Tynagel, dazzling Arnolfini chandeliers and whimsical standing lamps lit up the DDC’s Madison Avenue showroom.
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CityLights Finally Begin to See Daylight

Approximately six years after Thomas Phifer and Partners, the Office for Visual Interaction, and Werner Sobek won the CityLights competition for a new standard streetlight, some of the first examples are popping up in Lower Manhattan. The design for LED streetlights was cutting edge at the time, and the technology was very expensive. Prices for energy efficient LED's have fallen considerably since then, allowing the ultra slim fixtures to find their way onto city streets. The Bloomberg administration has changed New York's scrappy streetscapes in numerous ways, including adding new pedestrian plazas and hundreds of miles of bike lanes, and commissioning new street furniture and newsstands. These fixtures, developed by the Department of Design and Construction and the Department of Transportation, are the latest of these efforts to make gritty city a bit greener and more civilized.