Brooklyn’s Fort Greene Park will live to see another day in its current state. After over three years of controversy, the New York Supreme Court has decided that the 30-acre landscape would not be subject to a redesign or the removal of 83 mature trees until a proper environmental impact review is conducted. The lawsuit was brought against the N.Y.C. Parks Department last April, in which the Sierra Club, the City Club of New York, and Friends of Fort Greene Park (FFGP) demanded the court pause the $10.5 million renovation of the park’s northside entrance, which would have effectively destroyed a 1970’s brutalist plaza by landscape architect A. E. Bye, Jr. Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux in 1868, Fort Greene Park has been renovated three times in its history. The plan put forth by the Parks Department would revamp the northwestern corner on Myrtle Avenue, an area heavily utilized by local residents in a nearby housing development, and knock out Bye’s pathway—a series of mounds reminiscent of graves as AN previously noted—that leads visitors already inside the park to the 150-foot-tall Prison Ship Martyrs’ Monument. The leveling of this iconic intervention, according to stakeholders, and the addition of the proposed concrete plaza would replace an existing 13,000-square-feet of green space. The decision to update the park is part of the Park Department’s Parks Without Borders program, an initiative started in 2015 to upgrade eight city parks with enhanced accessibility and better connectivity to the neighborhoods that surround them, free of fencing. The Landmarks Preservation Commission approved the redesign in late 2017. Based on the recent hearing, the Parks Department is now required to conduct a full environmental review before moving forward with the project. A previously released assessment was denounced by Friends of Fort Greene Park, which found out via a Freedom of Information Act request that the initial statement was heavily redacted and excluded comments from a city-hired landscape architect who recommended all trees be kept on-site, except those that were weak or weren’t in keeping with the park’s historic nature. “The Parks Department fell short in its responsibilities to be transparent and accountable throughout its Parks Without Borders design process,” said Ling Hsu, president of FFGP, who agrees the northside of the park needs enhancements, but specifically, maintenance repairs and accessibility updates. “This park isn’t broken,” she said, “so ‘fixing’ it only means giving it some long-delayed maintenance attention, not the significant redesign the Parks Department has planned.” Nick Paolucci, a spokesperson for the city's law department, told AN in an email that it will continue to work together with Parks to pursue the proposal in full: “The court has delayed important park enhancements such as improved accessibility and other benefits that were supported by the community," wrote Paolucci. "We disagree with this ruling—the city followed the law and the approvals needed for this type of project. An environmental review was not required. We are reviewing the city’s legal options to continue this important initiative.”
Posts tagged with "lawsuit":
The Philharmonie de Paris was infamously over budget and two years behind schedule when it opened in January 2015. Two years later, the Philharmonie issued a $189.5 million fine against Jean Nouvel, the building's Pritzker Prize-winning architect, for his failure to deliver the project on-time and on-budget. Earlier this week, Nouvel filed a lawsuit against his former client claiming that the fines were “unprecedented in the world of architecture” and “totally disproportionate,” according to the Guardian. The project was initially budgeted for $217 million in 2006 but ballooned to $419 million by the time it was complete. The publicly-financed concert hall, which was built in the lower-income and largely-immigrant 19th arrondissement, has meanwhile become synonymous with extravagance and oversight in public works. Nouvel was outspoken about his opposition to the concert hall during its construction, going as far as suing to have his name taken off the project and boycotting the opening. His unsuccessful 2015 lawsuit claimed that building had radically shifted from the original design and that his firm was not responsible for the project nearly doubling in price. Nouvel’s lawyers, William Bourdon and Vincent Brengarth, told the Guardian that the Paris Philharmonie was unreasonably holding Nouvel’s firm, Atelier Jean Nouvel, solely responsible for the delays and budget issues. Nouvel has continuously maintained that the project overran its budget for reasons outside his firm’s control. "I affirm that in no case was I at the origin of any cost overrun on this project. The public report of Cour des Comptes of February 2012 evokes 'poor piloting,' 'many delays related to the fluctuations of the public arbitrations' which 'obviously influenced the cost of the operation,'” he wrote in a statement boycotting the opening of the Paris Philharmonie. "The public report of the French Senate of October 17th, 2012 evokes 'initial underestimated costs' before the launching of the competition and specifies the main reasons of overruns, which have nothing to do with me.”
In Seattle, the University of Washington (UW) is battling the city and three local nonprofits—Docomomo WEWA, Historic Seattle, and the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation—was discussed last Friday at a hearing at the King County Superior Court though a decision is still pending. The issue: whether the city can declare More Hall Annex, the 1961 Brutalist building on UW’s campus, a historic city landmark, and effectively stop future development plans on the site. The building is already on the national and state registers of historic places. Designed by The Architect Artist Group (TAAG) that included Wendell Lovett, Daniel Streissguth, and Gene Zema, the building was once home to a nuclear reactor for training nuclear engineering students. The lawsuit embodies the age old case between developers and preservationists, a “freedom to” vs. “freedom from” debate: the university wants to exercise their control, or freedom to develop, and for the city and three involved non-profits, it’s a case of protection, or freedom from demolition of historically significant buildings. “If the university wins it could set a precedent for exempting the UW and other state universities from local land-use laws,” writes Crosscut, an online nonprofit newspaper based in Seattle. "If the city prevails, Seattle’s landmarks ordinance could apply to buildings on campus, including the historic More Hall Annex, aka the Nuclear Reactor Building, which the UW wants to tear down but preservationists want to save.” UW is arguing this is a constitutional issue, while the city believes the UW Board of Regents must adhere to land-use regulations. The clash between the university and the city over More Hall Annex is not new. In 2008, The Seattle Times wrote a piece on the controversy, "UW building is hot, but is it historic?", that profiled a UW architecture graduate student’s plan to help save the building. After learning UW wanted to demolish More Hall Annex, she nominated it to the National Register of Historic Places. The university did not move forward on demolishing the building because of the recession. The student's application was successful. In 2009, More Hall Annex was added to the National Register of Historic Places, an unusual move as the building was less than 50 years old at the time and architects involved in the project were still alive. Yet the university re-examined its plans. In early 2015, according to GeekWire, UW hired Seattle firm LMN Architects to develop plans for a second computer science building. A draft environmental impact statement featured options exploring the More Hall Annex site. Microsoft pledged $10 million to UW to help fund the project. More Hall Annex has stood empty for more than two decades. The nuclear reactor was decommissioned in 1988 and fully decontaminated just under a decade ago.
Luxury New York architect Peter Marino is allegedly being sued for making racist and sexist comments. Deirdre O’Brien, Marino’s former office manager, worked at his eponymous firm for 14 years. On October 26, Marino allegedly “’unleashed a tirade’ against her in front of male executives… He ordered her out, calling her a ‘c–t’ as her back was turned” reported the Post's Page 6. The suit also alleges that this is not an isolated incident, but rather the tipping point for O’Brien, who claims that Marino has a history of making racist comments against his black and Asian employees, as well as calling his female employees offensive names. O’Brien claims that she was fired after issuing a complaint to the HR department, which is what led to her unfair dismissal suit. Marino, known as “fashion’s favorite architect,” has designed hundreds of stores for high-end fashion brands such as Chanel, Christian Dior, Bulgari, and Louis Vuitton, and got his break designing Andy Warhol’s townhouse in 1978. Recently, he designed a 12-story residential building on New York’s Highline with developer Michael Shvo. He is also rather infamously known for his biker-inspired, full-leather get-ups—replete with codpieces. Unfortunately for Marino, not everyone has leather-thick skin when it comes to being called the c-word.
Home builders and developers in Chicago have sued the city to block a tightening of its affordable housing laws, which were recently revamped to encourage more private development of units accessible to low-income residents. Hoyne Development and the Home Builders Association of Greater Chicago say the longstanding Affordable Requirements Ordinance (ARO) violates the Fifth Amendment because it involves the taking of private property without "just compensation.” Earlier this year Chicago City Council voted to overhaul of the ARO, which compels private developers to build affordable housing or pay "in-lieu" fees. Those fees were too low, many argued, and resulted mostly in developers paying their way out of having to devote a substantial amount of new housing stock to affordable units. But in their suit the developers argue raising the fees could backfire by making $900 million in planned construction suddenly infeasible. The new ARO fees take effect October 13. As Brentin Mock writes for CityLab, the outcome of the case could affect similar proceedings in Los Angeles and New York, where so-called inclusionary-zoning plans are in the works.
Piles of dusty, black waste from coal and petroleum processing have been piling up on Chicago’s southeast side, angering residents and prompting Mayor Rahm Emanuel to weigh in on the contentious environmental issue. The Sun-Times has reported that Emanuel will introduce an ordinance at next month’s City Council meeting banning new storage facilities for so-called petcoke—a byproduct of the oil refinery process that can be sold overseas. It’s a step back from an outright ban proposed in December by Alderman Edward Burke, whose constituents were outraged by black dust clouds wafting from uncovered piles of petcoke along the Calumet River. Southeast side communities like Calumet, South Chicago, and South Deering are no strangers to industrial zoning. The Illinois-Indiana border has long been a pastiche of brownfields, residential communities, natural areas, and heavy industry. But the swirling black dust incited a class-action lawsuit filed against three storage sites last year. Chicago’s Department of Public Health shares area residents’ concerns. “We know that petcoke is a respiratory irritant and the main concern is if the petcoke is inhaled,” Commissioner of Public Health Dr. Bechara Choucair told the Sun-Times. “If you have somebody with asthma or other respiratory problems, inhaling petcoke would really lead to more problems…We are advancing this ordinance to protect our residents.” The anticipated zoning ordinance would prevent new petcoke storage facilities from entering the city, and would keep current outfits from expanding. KCBX, the largest such facility in the area, says the ordinance is unjustified, a sentiment shared by some business groups:
Mark Denzler, vice president of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association called the ordinance “a solution in search of a problem.” … The Illinois Chamber of Commerce is also questioning the ordinance, calling it an “overreaction.” “We don’t understand what the mayor is trying to accomplish here. Petcoke and coal have been handled and stored in Chicago for decades with few issues. This seems like an overreaction to one incident – good policy rarely comes from overreacting,” Doug Whitley, Illinois Chamber of Commerce CEO said.KCBX is an affiliate of Koch Industries, the business empire of brothers Charles and David H. Koch. Their company, Koch Carbon, came under fire last year for storing the same material along the Detroit River.
A bizarre parliamentary maneuver two weeks ago granted and subsequently revoked landmark status for Bertrand Goldberg’s embattled Old Prentice Women’s Hospital in Chicago, leading some to speculate about legal recourse for a coalition of preservationists who have fought owner Northwestern University’s plans to demolish the building. Today members of that coalition took their battle to court, alleging the Commission on Chicago Landmarks “acted arbitrarily and exceeded its authority.” The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Landmarks Preservation Council, calls on the court to send the Prentice decision back to the commission for reconsideration. It echoes procedural complaints first made before the commission even met Nov. 1, when members of the Save Prentice Coalition decried a meeting agenda that apparently “pre-orchestrated” the failure of the proposal to protect Prentice. Commissioners first voted to recognize the building’s merits for preservation and granted it landmark protection; they then voted two hours later, during the same meeting, to revoke that protection. The basis of the second vote was an unusual presentation from the commission of Housing and Economic Development, which argued new construction would bring jobs and research dollars that supersede the importance of preserving Prentice. Today’s lawsuit alleges that the council was not permitted under its guiding ordinance to consider economic matters in it decision. A judge will consider the suit this afternoon. The Chicago Architecture Foundation today opens its Reconsidering an Icon show, which will feature 71 proposals for reuse of the building, compliant with Northwestern’s biomedical research requirements. The show will be open until February. UPDATE [3:58 p.m. CST]: Cook County Judge Neil Cohen granted Prentice temporary landmark status Thursday afternoon, preventing the city from issuing a demolition permit for now. “We’re going to do no harm to Prentice while this can be resolved," Cohen said. The next hearing is Dec. 7.
As we recently predicted, the California Redevelopment Association and the League of California Cities yesterday filed a lawsuit in the California Supreme Court over the recent passage of bills to eliminate, or at least "ransom" its more than 400 redevelopment agencies. AB 1X 26 eliminates redevelopment agencies while AB 1X 27 allows agencies to exist if they agree to pay their share of $1.7 billion this year and $400 million annually. The central claim in the lawsuit is that AB 1X 26/27 violates Proposition 22, the constitutional amendment passed in 2010 to “conclusively and completely prohibit State politicians in Sacramento from seizing, diverting, shifting, borrowing, transferring, suspending, or otherwise taking or interfering with” revenue dedicated to local government, including redevelopment agencies. Under the terms of AB 1X 27, cities with redevelopment agencies intending to make their share of the $1.7 billion payment must notify the state by October 1. But the lawsuit requests a stay to prevent the legislation from going into effect until the court rules. So for the third year in a row California's redevelopment funding will become a decision of the courts. Isn't this fun?
The Observer is reporting that Windermere, an individual landmark dating from the late 19th Century located on West 57th Street, was recently purchased for $13 million, or an astounding $181-per-square-foot. The sumptuous red brick apartment building had fallen into disrepair some years ago after its Japanese owner apparently lost interest in it, leading to a lawsuit we covered last year. Last Thursday, the commission announced [PDF] a landmark victory in its civil suit, which netted a record $1.1 million payment to the city, $2.6 million for seven displaced tenants of the former SRO, and an agreement from the new owner of the building to restore it to its former glory. (The suits had to be settled before the sale could go through.) So it looks like a win-win for everyone: An affordable gem for some enterprising developers, a windfall for the city, and a victory, most importantly, for those poor tenants.