New York City’s Department of Buildings (DOB) has fired a shot across the bow of developer Extell Development over 50 West 66th Street, a Snøhetta-designed 775-foot-tall tower first revealed at the end of 2017. The 127-unit residential tower, which was first announced as a 262-foot-tall building in 2015, has used a contentious zoning tactic to boost the building’s height, and accordingly, the prices it can command. The middle of the tower includes a 160-foot-tall mechanical void that does not completely count towards the maximum floor area ratio (FAR) defined by the zoning code. While the Department of City Planning had claimed that it would close the loophole in the zoning code responsible for these so-called "towers on stilts" by the end of 2018, that deadline has come and gone. The city now expects to finalize their fix by the summer of 2019. Although the DOB had already greenlit construction at 50 West 66th Street, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer announced today that Extell has 15 days to go back the drawing board and remove the unnecessary height. If Extell doesn't, its construction permit would be revoked. “This is a victory not only for the Upper West Side, but for communities all over the city that find themselves outgunned by developers who try to bend or break zoning rules for massive private profit,” wrote Brewer in a statement. A number of Upper West Side residents and City Councilmember Helen Rosenthal have been outspoken opponents of the project, which, if built, would become the tallest building in the neighborhood. It remains to be seen if Brewer’s decision will carry a precedent for similar projects that have gained extra height by stacking their mechanical rooms—a tactic also employed by the piston-like Rafael Viñoly Architects-designed tower at 249 East 62nd Street.
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This week, two housing organizations, CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities and the Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES), announced their intention to apply for a rezoning of the Two Bridges waterfront area in the Lower East Side. They asked that Community Board 3, where the meeting was held, and Borough President Gale Brewer become co-applicants of the proposal. This plan targets the proposed development of luxury skyscrapers in the Two Bridges area, which includes a 1,008-foot tower by developer JDS, two 700-foot towers by developers L+M and CIM, and a 724-foot structure by Starrett. For these organizations and other local residents, the Two Bridges projects only signal the beginning of a massive redevelopment that will push out low-income residents. In their rezoning proposal, a 350-foot height limit for new buildings would halt all of the tower projects. These concerns about affordability and exclusion have been heightened after construction began on Extell's massive, 847-foot condominium tower One Manhattan Square directly next to the Manhattan Bridge and also located in Chinatown and the Lower East Side. Extell’s renderings of the tower’s target audience don’t do much to quell that fear. The proposed rezoning would apply to a long ribbon of waterfront in Two Bridges stretching from Catherine Street to around East 13th Street. Beyond the height restriction, the plan would also require new developments to commit 50 percent of their units as permanently affordable housing, and 55 percent of the new construction on a storage facility site. It would also institute an anti-harassment policy to prevent landlords seeking to demolish or redevelop their buildings from harassing tenants and require special permits for commercial establishments. Finally, the plan would rezone parts of East River Park as parkland, including an existing sports field, piers, and walkways. This rezoning proposal builds on the ideas generated in the 2014 Chinatown Working Group plan, which was restricted to a more localized area of Chinatown not inclusive of the waterfront after the de Blasio administration claimed the area it covered was too large. This Working Group plan was also bolstered by a host of community groups including GOLES and CAAAV. Although pursuing rezoning through the application process can cost a great deal of time and money, even after the Department of City Planning’s (DCP) waives fees for community groups like GOLES and CAAAV, both organizations are supported in the legal process by the Urban Justice Center (UJC), which relies largely on foundation support. Now it is all a matter of timing – the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) takes seven months to move forward, and even then it is not sure whether the City Planning Commission will approve the application. The proposal will be reviewed by the Community Board 3 Land Use Committee on Wednesday, October 18.
Since setting up shop in New York, the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) has quickly become one of the most visible architecture firms in the city. It all started with the tetrahedron-shaped residential "courtscraper," first called W57 and now dubbed Via, that is now nearing completion on 57th Street. And then there is BIG's viewing platform at Brooklyn Bridge Park that has been likened to a Tostito. (That nickname has stuck, but the project's funding has not.) Across the East River from the park, over on the Lower East Side, BIG is also in the planning stages for the Dryline, a flood protection system of landscaped berms and parkland that was awarded $335 million in the Department of Housing and Urban Development's Rebuild By Design competition. And then of course there is the recently-unveiled Two World Trade Center that may or may not be a staircase for King Kong. As these projects have been unveiled one after the other, anticipation has been building over BIG's planned residential building in Harlem. Now, thanks to some early renderings obtained by NY YIMBY we have a sense of New York City's next BIG thing. The residential building on 126th street would make a serious statement with an undulating, concave facade of glass and what appears to be concrete or metal panels. (The design is actually quite similar to BIG's 1200 Intrepid at Philadelphia's Navy Yard.) The T-shaped structure would cantilever over Gotham Plaza, a retail building on 125th street that is owned by Blumenfeld which is developing the BIG project with Extell. YIMBY reported that the building contains 233 apartments, most of which are studios and one-bedrooms. (Twenty percent of the building—47 units—will be priced below market-rate.) As the site also noted, the building's design appears to remain in flux as its facade has been rendered in both black and red.
Members of the Arts Student League of New York voted to allow Extell to cantilever their super-tall skyscraper (pictured left) over their landmarked building. In return for the air rights, the league will receive $31.8 million, which it plans to use to upgrade its current facilities. According to the New York Observer, “Extell imposed a hard deadline, telling the League that if the deal was not approved by Wednesday, it would walk away and build without the cantilever.” This overwhelming vote paves the way for construction to begin on the Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill-designed tower.
Extell Development made waves as when they announced their 1,004-foot-tall skyscraper One57 by Christian de Portzamparc on Midtown Manhattan's 57th Street (which made headlines most recently for crane troubles during Hurricane Sandy), but their next project a few blocks down the street looks to climb even higher. Developers announced in the Wall Street Journal on Sunday that Chicago-based Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture will design an 88-story, 1,550-foot-tall tower on West 57th Street just east of Broadway, an area quickly becoming known for skinny skyscraper proposals. Adrian Smith, a former design principal at SOM's Chicago office, and Gordon Gill, a former design associate at SOM, are two of the leading authorities on supertall buildings, while at SOM and at their own practice. While at SOM, Smith was the designer of the world's current tallest skyscraper, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. In more recent years, AS+GG has retrofitted Chicago's Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower), designed the Quintai International Tower in China, the Dancing Dragons towers for Seoul, Korea's Yongsan Business District and the Federation of Korean Industries Tower, and taken on what could be the world's next tallest tower, the kilometer-high Kingdom Tower in Saudi Arabia. AS+GG's new tower for Extell, their first in Manhattan, will stand 300 feet above the Empire State Building and taller than the World Trade Center excluding its antenna. It will house the city's first Nordstrom department store with a hotel and residences above. The architects were selected from a pool of top name architects including SHoP and Herzog & De Meuron, who both are already working on towers in New York City. Extell president Gary Barnett told the Journal that Seattle-based Nordstroms actually recommended AS+GG for the job. No groundbreaking has been set and financing must first be secured, but the tower could be complete as soon as 2018.
Hurricane Sandy is bearing down on New York and New Jersey, and the current 55 to 60 mile an hour wind gusts tearing through Central Park have already taken their toll on Manhattan's starchitecture, partially collapsing the construction crane at Christian de Portzamparc's supertall One57 tower on West 57th Street. The storm snapped the boom of the crane at the summit of the 95-story, 1,004-foot-tall residential tower, which now dangles precariously over the streets of midtown Manhattan. The scene on the street is still developing, but NY1 reports that the crane could become off-balance causing a further collapse. Surrounding streets have been closed and emergency crews are on the scene. [Via Observer & Curbed.] Elsewhere in New York, wind gusts are picking up. The storm surge along the East River has sent water rushing into low-lying areas of the East River Esplanade and FDR Drive. In Brooklyn, AN stopped by the Gowanus Canal (photo below) at approximately 1:30pm to find a higher-than-normal water level, but no significant flooding in the area. As Sandy moves closer to land, winds and rain are expected to increase and the storm surge to rise.
In what may seem like a backhanded vote of confidence for Related Companies’ Hudson Yards development, Extell’s Gary Barnett has revived plans to build on their parcel at Eleventh Avenue between 33rd and 34th streets and he’s unabashedly naming it “One Hudson Yards.” Like Related’s new Coach tower, Extell’s Kohn Pedersen Fox-designed tower will sit on terra firma, while the majority of Related’s multi-use plan will be built atop the functioning rail yards. The proposed tower would rise 56 stories above the No. 7 line entrance. The compliment missed: Related’s Steve Ross told the New York Post that the name was an attempt to “deceive tenants and the public.”
Last week, as New York was blindly transfixed on its impending Thanksgiving feast, the Brooklyn Bridge Park (BBP) released renderings of a proposed mixed-use development that has been floated to help fund the waterfront park. Seven proposals stacked, folded, and otherwise covered in plants a program calling for several hundred hotel rooms and residences on two park-side sites on Furman Street. The developer/architect breakdown was full of the regular big names and heavy hitters: Brooklyn's Two Trees selected WASA/Studio A; Toll Brothers worked with Rogers Marvel; SDS worked with Leeser; Extell went with Beyer Blinder Belle; Dermot with FX Fowle; RAL with CDA; and Starwood teamed with Alloy Development, Bernheimer Architects, and n Architects. Building any new buildings along the park has been a contentious issue, but the tax revenue the new development would generate would go a long way toward BBP's financial sustainability. While architects whipped up some flashy renderings, one aspect seems certain to rouse fans of Brooklyn Heights' elevated promenade. In several of the renderings, views of the Brooklyn Bridge appear slightly interrupted despite guidelines that limit the height of new construction. BBP spokesperson Ellen Ryan told AN that all of the proposals adhere to the Special Scenic View Corridor regulations set forth by City Planning, which are actually lower in height than the old cold storage warehouses that once stood on the site until the 1950s. The building height limits range from 55 feet on the south parcel and 100 feet on the north. That's not the only thing driving neighborhood angst. The Brooklyn Eagle pointed out that the public only has about four weeks to review and comment on the proposals—until December 22—and at the height of the holiday season rush no less. There's a lot to like about the proposals as well. WASA/Studio A clad their curvilinear buildings with giant green walls with windows poking through while Rogers Marvel and others planted every available rooftop space with green roofing. FXFOWLE's stacked metal-mesh-covered volumes connect to the planned Squibb Park pedestrian bridge, providing direct access to its rooftops in what looks to be a gesture to the High Line. Leeser Architects' futuristic proposal called for a massive atrium filled with a gym and a floating pool, while Starwood's team of Bernheimer and n Architects lifted their proposal to provide views of the park along the sidewalk. Take a look at all of the proposals below and share your thoughts in the comments. All images courtesy respective firms / Brooklyn Bridge Park.
It has not been a good day for Gary Barnett and his Extell Development. First, the Post's ur-real estate columnist Steve Cuozzo gave Barnett a hard time for delays at his skyline-bursting Carnegie 57. (How come Tony Malkin didn't complain about this one, by the way?) And this evening, Borough President Scott Stringer has announced he is giving the project his ULURP thumbs down. What more does everyone want? Barnett has promised to build a school, to up the affordable housing from 12 percent to 20 percent, and he has hired one hell of an architect. But this is far from enough apparently, given Stringer's strongly worded announcement. There are two schools of thought when it comes to ULURP: community boards and BPs who do not like a project can either approve with modifications or disapprove with modifications. Though there is an open debate as to which sends a stronger message to the City Council, which has ultimate say on land-use projects, Stringer tends to subscribe to the former school, saying "yes, but" far more than he says "no, but." In other words, a "no" from Stringer is a rare thing (see: 15 Penn, Manhattanville, etc.) and should probably give Barnett pause. Here is the rationale, from Stringer's announcement:
Riverside Center development is the largest development site remaining on the Upper West Side. The proposal includes five mixed-use buildings, 1,800 public parking spaces, an elementary/middle school, 135,000 SF of ground-floor retail, and an automobile showroom and service center. Its redevelopment has the potential to improve existing site conditions, create thousands of new jobs, and provide much needed neighborhood amenities. Riverside Center is also the last remaining undeveloped or unplanned piece of the Riverside South development, which failed to achieve broad consensus and resulted in detrimental impacts on the community. [...] While emphasizing that the “development of the [Riverside Center] site is desirable to the Upper West Side community,” the borough president’s recommendations identifies several areas that necessitate improvement and modification. The current proposal lacks good site planning, creates inactive streetscapes, and obscures access to the proposed open space. Additionally, the proposed project has many environmental impacts that require real mitigations. The borough president’s recommendation advocates for the inclusion of public amenities such as a public school of an appropriate size to meet the needs of the community and additional active recreational space.Granted Stringer's recommendations are wholly advisory, but they do point to the rough road ahead, not least because City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden aired her own reservations about the project when it was certified back in May. Local City Councilwoman Gail Brewer has also expressed skepticism and is not especially pro-development by the council's standards. Still, Barnett has repeatedly shown his willingness to compromise on the project. To see it built, he will almost certainly have to continue doing so.
The Times' dogged development reporter Charles Bagli had a big scoop yesterday on Christian de Portzamparc's new tower, Carnegie 57, and what it portends for a construction recovery. That said, we couldn't help but notice a minor error in the article's lede: "Gary Barnett, one of New York City’s most prolific developers, is about to start construction of a $1.3 billion skyscraper on 57th Street that will overtake Trump World Tower as the tallest residential building in the city." The only problem is, Trump World Tower was already surpassed by Frank Gehry's Beekman Tower, which topped out in November. That shimmering, Bernini-swaddled building rises to 867 feet, six feet higher than Costas Kondylis' Death-Star-on-Hudson. We wouldn't have mentioned this except that the errant factoid has been picked up all over the place. Granted, Bagli could have meant completed residential buildings, but it also leaves out the issue of other prospective projects like Hines' MoMA Tower by Jean Nouvel, which, even at its haircut height of 1,050 feet, is still taller than Barnett's 1,005-foot tower. Just saying. (Keep in mind that while we were busy writing this frivolous blog post, Bagli was off blowing the lid on another major story, this time that plans to move Madison Square Garden have been revived.)
Typically, developers don't do any more work than they have to in New York, given how much work it takes to build around here, and input at the community level is even rarer. The architects and renderings usually make the rounds of the community boards during the public review process, and that's about it. Which is what makes Extell Development's approach to their Riverside Center project so interesting. Not only has the developer made a number of presentations to community since announcing the project in 2008, but it appears Extell has even made some concessions, according to Curbed. As the image above shows, the heights of the three buildings facing the water have been reduced considerably, though those nearer to West End Avenue have been slightly increased. That the project still calls for 2,500 units suggests that the density is still the same and the tower have been reduced but bulked up, likely more a concession to the Department of City Planning than the community. After all, Curbed points out that, with the exception of no big box stores being included, the locals are still pretty peeved:
Already complaints about affordable housing and environmental impact (including exhaust from the auto dealership) are surfacing, but the most damning critiques could be those coming from people who say the whole thing reeks of Battery Park City.So it seems like some of the alternative ideas were considered, they were barely incorporated. With the plans expected to become official next month, we'll see if the "exclamation point to Riverside South," as it's been called, doesn't turn out to be a question mark.