Since Mayor Bloomberg's plan to rezone midtown east was first announced, it has stirred debate among local stakeholders, preservationists, and advocacy groups. Now Department of City Planning has offered up a set of new amendments—in the "A Text" section of the proposal—that responds to some of these key concerns expressed by New Yorkers while also serving the primary goal of the rezoning: To support and boost the growth of midtown's competitive office district.
The most notable change is an added residential component. In the initial proposal, the zoning incentives were reserved for office, hotel, and retail, but now DCP will allow up to 20 percent of a new development's floor area to be occupied by residential as-of-right. A developer can bump up the percentage of residential up to 40 percent by undergoing the full Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). The same rules still apply to these mixed-use developments—in order to attain extra building height, developers are required to contribute to the District Improvement Fund. The exact rate for the contribution for residential will be set by a different criteria from that of commercial use.
Hotels in new developments would also be limited to 20 percent of the floor area as-of-right. Through the ULURP process developers could turn the remainder of the building into a hotel. This rule wouldn't apply to existing hotels, however, which could be rebuilt fully on the site.
Some of New York City's critical historic landmarks—such St. Patrick’s cathedral, St. Bartholomew’s Church Central Synagogue, and Lever House—will also benefit from these amendment changes. The DCP has recommended establishing a Northern Landmark Transfer Area that would extend from 48th and 49th streets to 57th Street, and from Third Avenue to Fifth Avenue. Modeled after the Grand Central Subarea, this new district would allow landmarks to transfer unused air rights to adjacent sites.
With this amended proposal, new rooftop restaurants or gardens could crop up around the area. One modification would alter the "stacking rules" to allow for top floors of mixed-use buildings to be activated by commercial use.
When confronted with the option to ride the elevator or muster up enough energy to walk up multiple flights of steps to a destination, most of us opt for the elevator. But according to the Bloomberg Administration, we might choose differently when surrounded by a built environment that encourages physical activity. In response to our country’s mounting obesity crisis, Mayor Bloomberg has recently changed design standards, launching a new series of pro-health and anti-obesity initiatives that promote physical activity in buildings and public spaces.
The plan comprises of three main elements. The first is the creation of The Center for Active Design, a non-profit organization that fights obesity and chronic disease such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers, by implementing active design strategies in the construction of buildings, streets, and neighborhoods. This was accompanied by an Executive Order that Mayor Bloomberg signed on June 27th obliging all city agencies to incorporate smart design strategies that promote physical activity in new construction and renovation projects. Finally, Bloomberg has proposed two acts of legislation to the City Council that promote access to stairways in all major construction projects by hanging signs on walls and near elevators that recommend taking the stairs.
These efforts are the latest in the Mayor’s campaign to urge New Yorkers to live a healthier lifestyle. Past initiatives include his ban on cigarette smoking in bars, restaurants, and outdoor public spaces, prohibiting restaurants to use trans fats, and forcing food chains to include calorie counts on their menus. The Bloomberg Administration firmly believes that by making stairways more visibly accessible people will feel more inclined to use them, by beautifying our streetscapes more people will be encouraged to walk or ride a bicycle to work, and by creating public spaces conducive to physical activity people will feel inspired to get outdoors, exercise, and live a healthier lifestyle.
After nearly five years at the New York City Economic Development Corporation, Seth Pinsky (pictured) is leaving public life for a position at RXR Realty. As president of the EDC, Pinsky ushered in a number of major real estate deals including Atlantic Yards, Hudson Yards, and the Cornell Tech Campus. He also was charged with the task of heading up the Special Initiative on Resiliency and Rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy, which gave birth to “A Stronger, More Resilient New York." Mayor Bloomberg has nominated Kyle E. Kimball, currently the executive director of NYCEDC, to take on the role of President. (Photo: Courtesy NYC EDC)
All too often public buildings can fall short on creativity, but with the launch of the Design + Construction Excellence Program in 2004, the Bloomberg administration has raised the ante and tapped a number of top architecture firms from around the world to work on a slew of new city projects. The New York City Department of Design and Construction (DDC) announced today that they have selected 26 emerging and leading architecture firms out of pool of 264 applicants to participate in the next wave of the program, including the likes of BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group, nArchitects, and TEN Arquitectos.
“Working in partnership with these talented architects and DDC’s client agencies, we will continue to build New York’s libraries, firehouses, police precincts, EMS stations, cultural institutions, and other projects with creativity, beauty, and an emphasis on community improvement,” said Commissioner David J. Burney in a statement.
From this group of firms, six will be considered for projects costing more than $15 million, and twenty will be assigned to projects of less than $15 million. The DDC selected the following twenty firms for the under $15 million group: Abruzzo Bodziak Architects, Bade Stageberg Cox Architecture, Belmont Freeman Architects, Biber Architects, Cooper Joseph Studio, FR-EE Fernando Romero Enterpris, Gray Organschi Architecture, Hanrahan Meyers Architects, Leroy Street Studio, Levenbetts, Matthew Baird Architects, Monica Ponce de Leon Design and Architecture, Moorehead & Moorehead, nArchitects, Rice + Lipka Architects, Smith-Miller + Hawkinson Architects, Spacesmith, Studio SUMO, WXY, and Yoshihara McKee Architects.
The six firms that will focus on projects of more than $15 million include: Allied Works Architecture, BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group, Ennead, Steven Holl Architects, Studio Gang Architects, and TEN Arquitectos.
With his time in office coming to a close, Mayor Bloomberg is moving swiftly ahead with his administration’s affordable housing plan, and calling on developers to submit proposals to build on the last sizable stretch of vacant city-owned land in the Melrose and HUB area of the South Bronx. The NYC Department of Housing Preservation & Development (HPD) is overseeing the Bronxchester Project, and yesterday announced a Request for Proposal (RFP) to develop two parcels into affordable housing and mixed-use space.
In the last decade, a wave of new affordable housing developments have taken root in Melrose, a neighborhood destroyed by the arson epidemic in the 1970s and then essentially deserted in the 1980s.
“Not long ago it was a rarity to see new affordable homes being constructed in a neighborhood littered with abandoned buildings and rubble strewn lots. What we now see are thousands of new affordable homes and apartments that have laid a foundation for stability and growth in this community; today this is the new normal,” said HPD Commissioner Mathew M. Wambua in a statement.
The Bronxchester Project will join other like-developments, such as the Grimshaw-designed Via Verde housing complex and the sprawling Melrose Commons Urban Renewal Area, which has added over 2,800 residential units to the neighborhood.
The parameters of the project are fairly flexible: Developers have the option to submit proposals for one or two parcels, but must include mixed-income housing, open space, and commercial space or a community facility. The RFP deadline is July 3, 2013.
Bloomberg Philanthropies has announced the winners of its Mayors Challenge, a competition meant to generate innovative ideas for the improvement of city life. Out of the 300 cities that submitted proposals, the giving institution created by New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg gave the Grand Prize for Innovation to Providence, RI, and its mayor, Angel Taveras. The city was awarded $5 million to implement its project, what Bloomberg Philanthropies called a "cutting-edge early education initiative." Under the initiative, participating children will wear a recording device home that will monitor the conversations they have with their parents or other adults. The transcripts of these conversations will then be used to develop weekly coaching sessions in which government monitors or someone will coach the grownups on how better to speak with their children.
Bloomberg Philanthropies said it selected the "revolutionary approach" for the way it uses "proven technologies to measure vocabulary exposure in low-income households and help[s] parents close the word gap." Hello Big Brother! But, then, it's not a surprising choice coming from the man who has recently tried to ban jumbo sodas, did ban smoking in public places, and ordered the erection of signs at fast food restaurants telling consumers just how fat they're about to become.
Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, and Santa Monica also made the top five list, each taking away $1 million to put toward the implementation of their own proposals. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel plans to build a data system to help city leaders make better decisions to prevent problems before they happen. Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter will launch a new procurement process to make it easier for entrepreneurs and "social innovators" to answer RFPs. Santa Monica is developing an index to measure well-being and thereby make it part of policy making.
Houston walked away with the Fan Favorite prize, which added $50,000 to its purse. This prize was co-sponsored by the Huffington Post and resulted from 58,000 votes. Bayou City mayor Annise Parker is developing a one-bin recycling program, or One Bin For All, as it is called. The measure will save citizens the nuisance of sorting their refuse. Instead, recyclables will be separated from regular garbage at transfer facilities, with the goal of recycling 75 percent of all waste. Houston is currently seeking a private company to partner with on the project.
In addition to the money, each of the five members will receive a trophy designed by international art star Olafur Eliasson. While no image of the trophy was available at blog time, a description was: "The Mayors Challenge Prize for Innovation award is a spherical sculpture formed by three concentric circles—square, circle, and dodecagon—encircling a hanging compass. The compass indicates steadily north, uniting the prize winners and assisting viewers in imagining their collective responsibility to navigate towards the greater good for all."
The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) is starting to make a dent in its epically long backlog of repairs. The agency just announced that that it has completed 73,000 work orders, which leaves them with 349,479 to go. Mayor Bloomberg and NYCHA launched an action plan back in January to reduce the backlog, and with $10 million from City Council, the agency has be able to hire 176 workers to specifically help with maintenance and repairs. [Image: Courtesy NYCHA]
Now that Congress has passed the $51 billion emergency aid package, Mayor Bloomberg is forging ahead with the recovery plans. The City will set aside $1.77 billion in federal funds dedicated to rebuilding homes, businesses, public housing and infrastructure that were damaged by Hurricane Sandy. Bloomberg did, however, warn that it could likely take a few months for the programs “to be approved and implemented.” Since the storm, the city, in conjunction with FEMA, has helped homeowners in New York through its Rapid Repairs Program.
In a press conference last week, Bloomberg announced that the city will create a $350 grant program to help owners of single-family homes rebuild residences that bore the brunt of the storm, and another $250 million dedicated to “enhance the resiliency” of multi-family housing units. New York City’s public housing sustained considerable damage during the storm, which resulted in up to $785 million in damage to 257 buildings in 32 housing developments. NYCHA will receive $120 million in aid to repair and prepare buildings for future storms by taking measures such as purchasing permanent emergency generators.
The city will also provide $100 million in grants to over 1,000 businesses affected by the storm. Businesses will be able to obtain loans of up to $150,000 and grants as large as $60,000. An additional $140 million will be spent on efforts to help build infrastructure for utilities and to jumpstart economic activity in the five business zones that are located in vulnerable areas.
In post-Hurricane Sandy New York, it looks like Zone A is expanding, and stretching beyond waterfront properties to encompass buildings farther inland. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) released preliminary new maps on Monday revealing that an additional 35,000 homes and buildings are now listed in flood zones. Business and homeowners included in these new zones will likely see their insurance rates rise.
More maps will be published in late February, and the official ones will be available this summer. The New York Times reported that while the maps will not “formally go into effect for two years,” Mayor Bloomberg is getting ready to deliver an executive order that would help rebuild damaged homes that weren't located in the original flood zones but now included in the new FEMA maps.
In related Hurricane Sandy news, Congress just passed a $51 billion emergency aid package to help victims in New York, New Jersey, and other states rebuild their homes and businesses.
The lights on the Loew's Kings Theater's marquee have been dark for over 35 years since the last showing of Islands in the Stream in 1977. In fact, the entire king-size, 3,200-seat, French-Baroque movie palace is looking quite dim these days, much of its ornate plasterwork worn, damaged, or missing from years of decay and neglect and its terra-cotta facade in need of cleaning. City officials had to string ropes of temporary construction lights through the still grandiose, if a little shabby, lobby, just to make the announcement on Wednesday that Brooklyn's largest indoor theater is coming back to life in a big way thanks to $93.9 million in new investment from public and private sources.
Built in 1929, Chicago-based firm Rapp & Rapp's design of Loew's Kings Theater was inspired by the Paris Opera House, its lobby featuring a flowing mahogany and marble staircase even Charles Garnier could admire. Loew's Kings is one of the five decadently ornate "Wonder Theaters" built around New York City, representing the theater-operator's flagship venues and designed in eclectic styles from Cambodian Neo-Classical to Rococo and Atmospheric villa courtyards. (Be sure to check out AN's photos of the theater from our tour in 2011.)
It was at the foot of the Kings' grand staircase that Mayor Bloomberg joined other city officials to announce the groundbreaking of the restoration effort, which is expected to return to theater to its original glory and open it to performances by 2014.
The city has owned the theater since 1983, when it was seized in lieu of tazxes. Over the years, the roof has been sealed up and some structural problems fixed—just enough to keep the building mothballed for future restoration. In response to a 2008 RFP, Houston-based ACE Theatrical Group was selected by the NYC Economic Development Corporation to refurbish the theater. ACE has previously restored other historic theaters, including the Boston Opera House and the noteworthy Chicago Theater, also designed by Rapp & Rapp. The company has been working to restore the Kings' interior for several years now, but with a new 55-year lease granted to the Kings Theater Redevelopment Corporation, a consortium including ACE, Goldman Sachs, and the National Development Council, full-scale restoration can begin.
Plans call for expanding the facility from 68,000 square feet to 93,000 square feet to accommodate a larger back-stage area for live performances. When it opens in 2014, Loew's Kings Theater (1027 Flatbush Avenue) is expected to show 200 to 250 events per year, contributing to an overall resurgence of Flatbush Brooklyn.
Manhattan's far west side is about to become one of the busiest construction sites in the country. Last Tuesday morning, officials gathered at the corner of 9th Avenue and West 33rd Street to celebrate the second major groundbreaking in the Hudson Yards District, Brookfield Properties' trio of new SOM-designed towers comprising the Manhattan West development to be built over a large rail yard serving Penn Station. The $4.5 billion project's first phase, construction of the north portion of the railroad-spanning platform that will eventually support development, is now underway, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg speculated that the second half of the platform could be underway in coming months. Excavation has been ongoing since the fall of 2012.
"From Battery Park to Riverside Park, it's just amazing how much development there has been all along the west side; an area everybody thought did not have the potential to become a hot neighborhood." Bloomberg said. "Manhattan West will be a prime location in which to live or work, a vital piece of the mixed-use community we've envisioned for the Hudson Yards area, which is beginning to take shape." He noted the project's proximity to Hudson River Park, the High Line and its cultural connections in Chelsea, and ease of access via Penn Station. Bloomberg was joined on stage by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Port Authority's Patrick Foye, Hudson Yards Development Corporation President Ann Weisbrod, Brookfield chairman John Zuccotti, and Brookfield executives Dennis Friedrich and Ric Clark.
Bloomberg attributed the success of the west side to a 2005 rezoning of the Hudson Yards district and the 7-line subway extension. "Let me remind you," he noted. "A subway line paid for by city dollars when the state wouldn't come through." He said over $6 billion has been invested in the area since 2005. Brookfield has owned the Manhattan West site since 1984, and Friedrich noted that the current economic conditions made it the right time to build.
Twin office towers with retail space will anchor the corners of the site, each with two million square feet of office space, and a third residential building will be built along West 31st Street for a total of 5.4 million square feet of space. The cores of the office towers will be anchored in bedrock adjacent to the new platform and the residential tower will be built to the side of the rail yards, adjacent to the new platform.
In addition to the three towers, Manhattan West also calls for a 100-foot-wide swatch of new public space between the office towers built on the new platform. High Line designers James Corner Field Operations will design the new 1.5-acre landscape, which is imagined as a recreated 32nd Street forming a pedestrian link with Hudson Yards and park amenities farther west. "The open space at the center of the development will form a pedestrian-friendly link between those mass-transit hubs and Hudson Yards, the High Line, and the Hudson River Park," Bloomberg said.
The existing 16-story tower built in 1970 and already spanning the yards is also being redeveloped, and the Observer reports that Brooklyn-based firm REX will be handling the updates to the building, which, based on new renderings from Brookfield, includes a new facade. The structure was originally designed by Davis, Brody & Associates.
Initial work includes building the northern platform over the west side rail yards, work that is expected to be complete by late 2014. Friedrich said office construction will start thereafter once financing is secured, remaining optimistic that initial tenants could be on site in the first tower by 2016. Financing for the $680 million deck is already in place with a $340 million construction loan. Brookfield is paying for the remaining $340 million.
The deck consists of 16 prefabricated concrete bridge structures covering 60 percent of the five-acre Manhattan West site. "Initially we planned a platform that involved a very elaborate system of structural steel down at the track level," Friedrich said. "We challenged our engineering teams and they came up with a new plan called a 'segmental precast bridge system,'" that minimizes the disruption to track levels, reduces costs, and speeds up construction time. A sample segment of the platform was on display, which Mayor Bloomberg and spectators signed after the ceremony. The large "launcher" that will set the platform pieces in place (see video above) is currently being fabricated off site.