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.
Posts tagged with "New York City Department of Design & Construction":
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.
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.
There was one question on everybody’s mind in New York this spring: What happened to Rick Bell? On March 27, without warning or explanation, the former executive director of AIANY and the Center for Architecture tendered his resignation, effective immediately, which AIANY’s board of directors promptly accepted. The unforthcoming announcement stirred up a steamy fountain of rumor and conjecture—very little of it fit for printing—over what could have precipitated Bell’s speedy departure, and AIANY’s continued reticence on the matter (there seems to be a gag order in place among its staff) hasn’t done anything to lessen the sheer salacious heights to which the gossip has climbed. Bell, for his part, doesn’t seem to be very phased by the upheaval. Eavesdrop spotted him at the Storefront for Art and Architecture’s annual benefit party—held this year in the unfinished lobby of the Rafael Viñoly–designed 432 Park Avenue—wearing a T-shirt that read “I Am Still Alive” and smiling like the cat that ate the canary. Also like a cat, Bell has landed on his feet. On May 8, New York City Department of Design and Construction Commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora announced that the agency had hired him as its executive director of design and construction excellence. Meanwhile, in an interesting game of musical chairs, the AIANY appointed David Burney, who recently left his post as commissioner of the DDC, as its interim executive director.