Posts tagged with "New York City":

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2017 Best of Design Awards for Lighting – Indoor

2017 Best of Design Awards for Lighting - Indoor: Second Avenue Subway Lighting Designer: Domingo Gonzalez Associates Location: New York, New York The opening of this subway line, promised since 1928, was critically important. The debut of four new stations involved an effort filled with numerous compliance challenges. To create a successful lighting strategy, the designers developed custom luminaires—from bare lamp uplights to structure-engaged lensed downlights and wallwashers—to work within an unyielding architectural module. Lighting in high spaces and over escalator wellways is maintainable by a specialized scaffold system proposed and tested by the lighting designers. The installation reminds passengers of the vision that realized this dynamic new line after so many years. "The Second Avenue Subway is not a luxury project, but the design solutions are very effective and given the constraints and demands of the project, executed in a very effective and functional way that will make commuters undoubtedly happier." -Matt Shaw, Senior Editor, Architect's Newspaper (juror) Lighting Design Contributors: Domingo Gonzalez Nancy Lok Patrick Merosier Rosemarie Seeland Nelson Downend Honorable Mention Project: Body Factory Architect: BFDO Architects Location: New York, New York Body Factory encompasses a dramatically lit retail space and softly illuminated private treatment rooms. The walls of the retail space are surfaced in gray parged concrete, indirectly lit from LED striplights placed in the gaps between the panels. Direct lighting in the treatment rooms comes from large, round LED lenses recessed into the dropped ceiling.
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Take a tour of New York’s marble-wrapped Oscar Wilde bar

The building housing Oscar Wilde, a new bar at 45 West 27th St. in Manhattan’s NoMad district, was once the headquarters of New York City’s Bureau of Prohibition and the mob, whose members reportedly listened in on federal agents there. With 300 whiskeys and 32 beers on tap, many sourced from New York State, Oscar Wilde’s 118.5-foot-long bar—one of the longest in the city—is the centerpiece of the entire 5,874-square-foot space, starting from the front, near the entrance, and eventually wrapping around the back wall. Designed and commissioned by owners Tommy Burke and Frank McCole, the bar consists of a top of white Italian Carrara marble, while the base is gray-green, ornately carved, Victorian-inspired Connemara marble from Ireland. The entire bar was carved by hand in Vietnam. Carved stone can be found elsewhere throughout Oscar Wilde: on the hostess desk directly inside the front door, as well as on what McCole calls “belly bars,” individual bars with round tops where patrons can stand and drink. McCole and Burke spent five years collecting the wonderfully eclectic works of art, stained glass, and furniture that cover almost every square inch of every surface of Oscar Wilde, making between 30 and 40 trips to Ireland, the British Isles, and France to find objects for sale at old estates and auctions. They even uncovered European antiques, such as the oak door of the restroom on the ground floor, in Argentina. Scattered throughout—on many carved elements, in the windows, on some walls—are direct quotations from Wilde’s writings. The bar officially opened August 15, with C3D Architecture as the architects of record.
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Snøhetta reveals tapered residential tower for Manhattan’s Upper West Side

Snøhetta has released the first renderings for a split, tapering tower set to rise between Lincoln Center and Central Park in New York City. Snøhetta hopes that this reimagined tower-on-a-base scheme for 50 West 66th will simultaneously engage pedestrians at street level, while also paying homage to the surrounding neighborhood through the use of a familiar material palette. At 775-feet tall, the 127-unit residential building will stick out from the traditionally lower-slung neighborhood surrounding it, but Snøhetta has carved away bulk from the tower’s upper floors to minimize 50 West 66th’s effect on the skyline. Referencing Manhattan’s long history of natural stone construction, the studio has described the tower as being sculpturally excavated, and the 16th-floor amenity terrace prominently cleaves the building into two volumes. Even at that height, residents will be able to see across Central Park to the east, as well as across Hudson River to the west. A two-story textured limestone, bronze and glass retail podium will also contain an entrance for an adjacent synagogue on 65th street and create an approachable neighborhood access point. More windows are introduced to the limestone facade as the bulk of the building rises above the podium’s setback, and the slender tower portion is clad in a bronze and glass curtain wall.  Other than the planted, multi-story terrace that anchors 50 West 66th, the tower portion has had its corners sliced away to expose balconies at its opposing corners and create a series of cascading loggias. Triangular, bronze-panel-clad cutaways taper the tower’s corners and join at the tip to form an angular crown. The warm materials, cutaways and slim top all serve to soften the building’s presence in what has been a historically low-to-mid-rise area. The project’s reveal has come amidst a particularly busy month for Snøhetta. Besides being tapped for the Oakland A’s new stadium and an underwater restaurant, the Norwegian studio has also faced criticism for its proposed glassing over of Philip Johnson’s postmodern AT&T Building. Construction is expected to begin in the first half of 2018.
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A closer look at Zaha Hadid’s first residential property in New York

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Originally unveiled in 2013, Zaha Hadid’s first residential property in New York is nearing completion. Situated on the High Line in close proximity to Hudson Yards, one of NYC’s largest developments, the intimate building offers 39 condo units, many of which include private vestibules and entrances. The project is perhaps the epitome of luxury “21st-century dwelling” in New York, but for all of its loaded amenities catering to private residents–an automated valet, one of the first private IMAX theatres in the world, advanced home automation capabilities, 24-hour gym, juice bar, private automated storage accessed via a secured viewing room (inspired by the design of a Swiss bank vault nonetheless)–the architects say the essence of this project is about an urban contextual response that results in a building that doubles as public art for passersby to enjoy. This dynamic plays out in the building envelope, a sculptural expression of hand-rubbed steel that weaves between motorized doors, windows, and curved glass units. Ed Gaskin, senior associate at Zaha Hadid Architects, said “in the great tradition of quintessential New York buildings, such as Rockefeller Center and the Chrysler Building, 520 West 28th is a building that seeks to improve the public realm through art and architecture.”
  • Facade Manufacturer M. Cohen and Sons (exterior metal cladding and railings); Stahlbau Pichler GmbH/Srl (curtain wall and window wall); Sunglass (glazing)
  • Architects Zaha Hadid Ltd; Ismael Leyva Architects (Architect of Record)
  • Facade Installer M. Cohen and Sons
  • Facade Consultants Gilsanz Murray Steficek
  • Location New York, NY
  • Date of Completion 2017
  • System curtain wall over flat slab concrete frame
  • Products Aluminum frame curtain wall and window wall; handcrafted exterior metal cladding panels; Large scale curved glass; custom motorized sliding doors; custom motorized operable windows
The proximity of the High Line was particularly important for the architects, who say they were inspired by the overlay of public space near the site, namely the contrast between an elevated free-flowing High Line pathway with the urban grid of streets below. In response, the architects developed an “urban layering” concept that resulted in split levels, challenging the orthodoxy of flat floor plate construction. The resulting split-level configuration is articulated by a continuous chevron ribbon composed of a 900-piece hand-rubbed steel panel installation. “Rather than a staggered zigzag climbing the facade from floor to floor, the chevron is a continuous line, extending along and framing living spaces, bending around the soft curves of unbroken panoramic glass corners and wrapping the facade in free flowing lines each connected and looping continuously from one floor to the next,” said Gaskin. “Balconies and set-back terraces further express a sense of layering in the urban fabric heightened by balconies projecting and dynamically gesturing toward the High Line where it meets the site.” The metal facade was meticulously hand-crafted from stainless steel, recalling the spirit of Chelsea’s industrial past. The panels were engineered, cut, and welded by M. Cohen and Sons, a Philadelphia-based metal fabrication group offering design assist, engineering, project management, and installation services. They achieved a lustrous blackened finish by an antiquing process, light orbital brushing and hand tinting, to produce an effect that resonates with the adjacent elevated rail structure of the High Line.   The structuring of the 11-story building was achieved with a conventional flat plate in-situ reinforced concrete. Local areas of post-tensioning were required where cantilevered floors and balconies exceed the limits of flat plate spans.   Glazing design was key to the energy and visual performance of the building envelope. Insulated glazing units (IGU’s) track continuously around flat and radiused segments of the perimeter of the building. IGUs are composed of a layered assembly of three low iron glass panels, two of which are laminated together, with an air void along with low-e coatings for solar protection. The transition between flat and curved units was greatly scrutinized by the project team to ensure visual clarity and color consistency across the fluid expression of the building envelope. One of the challenges, however, was the convex and concave curvatures of the design required varied glazing manufacturing processes which yielded slightly different visual results. The major difference between concave and convex glazing was the location of the coating surface, which produced an “almost imperceptible change in color” according to Gaskin, who said the team “exploited architectural conditions to minimize the visual impact of these differences.” The concave units were located in full shade at deep balcony recesses, contrasting with exposed conditions of the convex units. Gaskin said this contrast of conditions assisted in masking the already subtle differences in glazing appearance. Additionally, during the product sourcing phase, the project team’s attention was focused on testing the supplier’s capability to deliver consistent quality through production and inspection of full-scale mock-ups. This attention to detail ultimately resulted in a “continuity of quality,” according to Gaskin, which was achieved by “understanding material qualities, impacts of manufacturing techniques and working with suppliers to coordinate and test results across different types of glass manufacturing and window unit assemblies.” The project complied with all code requirements, maximizing gross floor area (GFA), building height, and standard setback conformance. The IGUs were installed in a curtain wall system that hung on the outside of floor decks to fully enclose the building. These were selected after design simulation models of thermal and energy performance, which compared the assembly to more commonly-specified window wall systems which sit between floor decks. Gaskin said the facade design at 520 W 28th “successfully demonstrates a way of achieving dynamic and organic sculptural form by repetition of a limited number of standard cladding panel types. Further, use of common installation details and practices allows us to apply the best practices for envelope performance and costs.”
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New York City targets greenhouse gas emissions of buildings in new plan

Inefficient architecture and infrastructure is among the leading contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. According to the U.S. Green Building Council, buildings account for 39% of CO2 emissions in the United States and consume 70% of the nation's electricity. In New York City, fossil fuels burned to provide heat and water to buildings are the number one source of emissions – 42% of the city's total. This week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a new plan to drastically reduce the emissions of aging buildings across the city. Despite Trump's hasty withdrawal from the 2016 Paris Agreement, de Blasio pledged to adhere to the treaty and accelerate New York City's action to cut its fossil fuel emissions. If approved by the City Council, owners of buildings larger than 25,000 square feet must invest in more efficient infrastructure (including boilers, water heaters, insulated roofs and windows, etc.) by 2030. This applies to around 14,500 private and municipal structures across the city. Owners of buildings that have not complied will face penalties beginning in 2030, ranging from fines of $60,000 a year for a 30,000-square-foot residential buildings to $2 million for a 1 million-square-foot buildings). Penalties may also include restrictions on future permitting for noncompliant owners. The plan also aims to produce 17,000 middle-class "green jobs" by 2030, including plumbers, carpenters, electricians, engineers, architects, and energy specialists. The announcement has given climate advocates a much-appreciated boost of public support, but also raises concerns for homeowners and renter advocates. The New York State Tenants and Neighbors Coalition tweeted at Mayor de Blasio that the city's promise to "stop landlords ... from displacing tenants or raising rents based on the cost of improvements" was only really possible if rental laws were changed to begin with: What does this all mean for architects working today? This latest development might be applied to provide a new standard for new structures built between now and 2030 (and long after) to incorporate more common-sense energy efficiency features. The Mayor's office has not responded to AN's query on whether this program or its penalties will apply to buildings constructed from 2017 onward. This new legislation marks the first major step by New York City to work toward the goals outlined in the de Blasio administration's 80 X 50 Roadmap – which commits to reducing the city's greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050. Donna De Costanzo, Director of Northeast Energy and Sustainable Communities at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) remarked on the plan: “Reducing the amount of energy used in the buildings in our city will put money back in New Yorkers’ pockets while improving air quality and creating jobs."
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Queens Museum show brings unrealized architecture to life

This Sunday, September 17, the Queens Museum opens Never Built New York, organized by the co-curators of Never Built Los Angeles (2013)—AN's Contributing Editor Sam Lubell alongside contributor, critic, and writer Greg Goldin. The exhibit, designed by Christian Wassmann, highlights unrealized architectural gems and urban design as its predecessors did, with a focus on New York. Spanning 150 years, the show presents works that would have "dramatically changed the landscape of New York for better or worse," according to Lubell. In Goldin's words, it's meant to examine "the capacity of draftsmen and model makers to seduce you, when the real world effects [of those designs] could have been disastrous." Divided into three discrete spaces, the show features the speculative work of recognized architects like Harvey Wiley Corbett, Frank Lloyd Wright, I.M. Pei, Steven Holl, Buckminster Fuller, and others. Each of the three spaces—the Rubin Gallery, the Panorama of the City of New York, and the Skylight Room—approaches the plans and drawings at a decidedly different scale. The Queens Museum itself is the only remaining in-use building from New York's 1939 World's Fair—its open, light-filled lobby was revamped by Grimshaw Architects in 2013. In the show, Eliot Noyes' proposal for the Westinghouse Pavilion at the 1964 New York World's Fair is represented as a 1:6 scale silver bouncy castle, gleaming under a skylight. It's by far the splashiest piece of the show – the original would have been much less fun, a series of concentric spheres clustered around a rotating platform showcasing Westinghouse's utilities business, resembling a giant fidget spinner to the contemporary eye. On the walls surrounding the plush pneumatic project are models and drawings for projects related to the Museum and its home, Flushing Meadows. One highlight is a massive star-viewing platform called Galaxon by Paul Rudolph that was designed for the space where the Unisphere now stands, but was rejected from the 1964 New York World's Fair. Tilted at 23 degrees (supposedly the best angle for star-observing), this massive saucer epitomizes the rush of scientific and popular excitement in the 1950s and '60s leading up to the lunar landing, while the Unisphere, in contrast, centers Earth and earthly endeavors as monumental (its size is still astonishing at 140 feet tall). In the Rubin Gallery, a dim, tapered room roughly resembling the shape of Manhattan, models, renderings, and drawings are arranged salon-style on the black walls. Organized geographically rather than temporally, this is the meat of the show, though much of it is contextualized only by a fold-out newspaper guide. At the entrance, viewers find work located in Staten Island and Lower Manhattan; at the exit, work located in Upper Manhattan and Queens. The first item on view is Thomas Hastings's National American Indian Memorial. In 1913, project leaders held a groundbreaking ceremony on Staten Island attended by 32 Native chiefs, only to discover later that fundraising for the project had been a sham. Many monoliths and megaprojects lie within the elongated space: a plan for Ellis Island sketched by Frank Lloyd Wright on a napkin (translated into beautiful renderings by Taliesen Associated Architects), Robert Moses' infamous Lower and Midtown Manhattan Expressways, Steven Holl's aqueous urbanist experiments the Bridge of Houses (1981) and Parallax Towers (1990), and Buckminster Fuller's 1960 solution to house a quarter of a million people—fifteen 100-foot conical towers in Harlem — and so many more architectural relics. The projects in the room represent only about a fifth of the material that the curators combed through in the almost two years it took to put together the exhibition and its companion book. The third area, the Panorama of the City of New York, is already familiar to many urbanists and architects, and reason enough to make the trek out to Flushing Meadows. In the familiar model landscape of the city, the curators have placed 26 luminous models of the unbuilt projects, fabricated over a summer by students from Columbia University's GSAPP program. Gazing down from a platform surrounding its perimeter, the massive structures from the previous room suddenly appear small – or rather, at scale with the city's existing fabric, scattered throughout the boroughs, emitting a ghostly light. In the words of the curators, this lighting choice was meant to evoke the perspective of astronauts gazing down at a lonely planet, evoking a sense of fragility. On the opposite side of the model, a virtual reality station is set up with several headsets containing graphics generated by Shimihara Illustration of five keystone projects in the exhibit. Making use of spherical photography, the headsets allow viewers to toggle from a bird's eye view of New York City to a ground-level perspective of each project as it would have appeared in real life, in some cases with terrifying grandeur, as is the case for Fuller's spiky-crowned, towering Harlem housing units. When asked about the inspiration for the exhibit, Lubell referred to Rebecca Shanor's The City That Never Was (1991) as a particularly influential text, Robert A.M. Stern's famous New York book series, and Hugh Ferriss' examinations of the art of rendering, from practical urban interventions to lurid, futuristic daydreams. The curators were wary of remarking positively on most of the projects, suggesting that many were perhaps best suited for the realm of imagination alone. "Thank God that never came to pass" was a frequent aside. Due to the colossal scale of the majority of works featured (a hint at why they might not have received adequate funding), many would have resulted in the destruction of existing architectural treasures, such as a 55-story Park Avenue skyscraper by Marcel Breuer that would have cut its foundation directly through Grand Central Terminal. The show does spotlight a few modest, jewel box pieces, including Joseph Urban's design for the 1926 Metropolitan Opera, which was squelched by the institution's board. Architects will find in Never Built New York a parallel New York full of architectural wonders, whether better off unbuilt or not. The show is on view through February 2018.
Location:
Queens Museum
New York City Building
Flushing Meadows Corona Park
On view:
September 17, 2017 – February 18, 2018
The Architect's Newspaper is a media sponsor of the exhibition.
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A temple dedicated to Oscar Wilde is coming to New York

Just as some statues to slavery are being torn down, a statue championing a worthy cause is going up in New York City. Due to open September 11, a temple dedicated to Oscar Wilde will be unveiled inside The Church of the Village on West 13th Street. Designed by New York and Dublin–based artists David McDermott and Peter McGough, the temple will contain a statue of the esteemed author. Inside the temple, visitors will be immersed in the Victorian era as McDermott & McGough set the scene of the exact moment Oscar Wilde visited America for a year in 1882. To accomplish this, bespoke wall coverings made from fabric have been installed along with furnishings and architectural and decorative details of the time. In a press release, the artistic duo described the temple as a "time experiment" and dedicate it to honoring those who fought for equal rights for gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender peoples. “For more than twenty years, we have wanted to create The Stations of Oscar Wilde to Reading Gaol, echoing the Catholic Church’s iconography and the ritual purpose of the Stations of the Cross,” added McGough. (Reading Gaol was the English prison where Wilde served two years hard labor for "homosexual offences" in 1895.)
At the center of the temple is a central altar and a four-foot, three-inch statue of Oscar Wilde. Below reads "C.33," Wilde's assigned prison number. On either of the statue will be eight paintings that narrate Wilde's arrest and incarceration. Another altar will also be on display, this one being dedicated to people suffering with and who have died from AIDS. McDermott & McGough’s 1987 painting Advent Infinite Divine Spirit will lie adjacent the altar, joined by a votive candle stand and a book for visitors to leave messages.
Other paintings from McDermott & McGough on show include portraits of Alan Turing, Harvey Milk, Marsha P. Johnson, Brandon Teena, Xulhax Mannan, and Sakia Gunn, all deceased and all who suffered and struggled for recognition of their identity. The Oscar Wilde Temple, as it is officially known, aligns with McDermott & McGough: I’ve Seen The Future and I’m Not Going, a retrospective of the two artitsts on show at the Dallas Contemporary from October 1. The Church of the Village can be found at 201 West 13th Street, on 7th Avenue and the exhibition runs through December 2 this year.
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Ai Weiwei public artworks are coming to New York CIty, here’s where to find them

Thanks to the Public Art Fund (PAF), New Yorkers will be able to find art from Chinese artist Ai Weiwei in all five boroughs, commencing October 12. Titled Good Fences Make Good Neighbors, Ai's work falls on PAF's 40th anniversary and features 18 sculptural installations, 200 two-dimensional works, and 100 documentary images. Ai, who studied Western modern and contemporary art in New York City as a student in the 1980s, reflects current global geopolitics and international migration in his work.  Some of Ai's installations, such as a metal cage under the Washington Square Arch, are site specific, whereas others, like a new series of more than 100 images found on JCDecaux bus shelters and newsstands, as well as LinkNYC kiosks, are not. With regard to the latter, the documentary photographs will be paired with quotes from poets and writers and will touch on global displacement. These will appear in all five boroughs, as will 200 lampposts banners that have images of displaced people on them.  As for the other large-scale sculptural installations, these can be found at the Doris C. Freedman Plaza in Central Park; the Unisphere, at Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens; 48 East 7th Street, East Village; 189 Chrystie Street, Lower East Side; 248 Bowery, Lower East Side; The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, Astor Place; Essex Street Market, Lower East Side; and ten JCDecaux Bus Shelters in Downtown Brooklyn and Harlem. “Ai Weiwei is unique in having combined the roles of preeminent contemporary artist, political dissident, and human rights activist in such a prominent and powerful way,” said Public Art Fund Director & Chief Curator Nicholas Baume in a press release. “In many ways, Good Fences Make Good Neighbors is the culmination of his work to date. It grows out of his personal experience of ‘otherness,’ his distinguished practice as both artist and architectural designer, as well as his intensive research on the international refugee crisis and [the] global rise of nationalism. At the same time, his long and formative history with New York has been deeply influential in the development of this exhibition.” Ai will create variations on the fence—from metal chain link to synthetic netting—to form interventions that adapt to their sites, as if growing out of urban space and changing how we relate to the fence and our environment. Good Fences Make Good Neighbors runs through February 11, 2018.
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Regional Plan Association calls for a new Port Authority Bus Terminal at the Javits Center

The Regional Plan Association (RPA) has published a report that calls for major changes to how transit is operated between New Jersey and Manhattan. In 25 years, the report explains, daily commuters into Manhattan from New Jersey increased by 70,000 to 320,000. "Our current system of trains, buses, subways, ferries, and roads does not have enough capacity to serve another 72,000—let alone another 150,000," said the RPA. The report goes adds that while rail journeys from Penn Station have almost tripled, bus travel is where major growth has taken place, increasing by 83 percent. As a result, the RPA's biggest proposal is for a new Port Authority Bus Terminal (PABT) at the base of the Javits Center. This $3 billion project would not mean destroying the current PABT in Midtown, it said, but it would create an additional bus hub to relieve the Midtown terminus. "The ramps connecting the Lincoln Tunnel and the PABT are immovable and any solutions must keep them in place," the RPA argue. "Any other building site large enough for existing and expanded PABT operations will be enormously expensive; and any relocation will put the PABT passengers further from their destinations and the extraordinary subway connections they now enjoy." While having some bus routes into Hudson Yards is a good idea, access to the #7 train may not be adequate from a capacity perspective. Secondly, that train doesn't go anywhere useful for those coming into Manhattan—it's a line that primarily services Queens. The RPA, however, had other points to make, notably stressing the importance of the Gateway Project. "The new tunnels must be in place before the existing tunnels fail. Simply put, this is the highest infrastructure priority for the nation." Furthermore, the RPA called for Gateway to be turned into a through-running service, no longer terminating at 7th Avenue, but going onto Sunnyside Yards in Queens by going eastward under Manhattan. Planning consultants ReThink Studio also have a scheme similar to this. Keeping with rail travel, Vishaan Chakrabarti and PAU's proposal to move Madison Square Gardens to an adjacent site was praised by the RPA, creating what it called a "beautiful train station." All in all, this plan would be executed in phases. These phases were outlined and can be found below.
Phase One Build gateway tunnels and a bus terminal in the basement of the Jacob Javits Convention Center. Phase Two Build Gateway East with through service at Penn South. Constructing Penn South with fewer, wider platforms and two new East River tunnels would increase throughput at Penn Station by 30% and greatly expand rail service for New Jersey Transit, Long Island Rail Road, and Metro North riders. New direct rail service into Penn Station for Bergen and Monmouth counties would reduce travel times and shift bus riders to rail in these under-served counties, relieving highway congestion and pressure on the bus terminals. Phase Three Build new tail tunnels to expand service and meet future capacity needs
The report in full can be found here.
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James Corner Field Operations’ Freshkills Park moves closer to realization

James Corner Field Operations' plans for Freshkills Park in Staten Island inched closer to fruition this week after New York City authorities awarded a $23 million contract to Lomma Construction Corporation to carry out the first phase. Occupying what was once the Fresh Kills Landfill site on Staten Island, the North Park will cover 21 acres and be open by 2020. In an email to The Architect's Newspaper (AN), a spokesperson for NYC Parks said that North Park had been identified as an area for simple recreational facilities, vast natural settings, meadows, wetlands, and creeks. "It is envisioned as a lightly programmed natural area connecting with Schmul Park in the Travis neighborhood, extending the rich habitat provided in the adjacent William T. Davis Wildlife Refuge, and capitalizing on one of the quietest and most sheltered areas of Fresh Kills," they said. Inside visitors will be able to find an observation tower from which they can look over the Arthur Kill River and watch birdlife on the marshes. When complete, Freshkills Park will be 2,200 acres—almost three times bigger than Central Park, second only to Pelham Bay Park. It will be the largest park built in New York City since the 19th century. 450 of its acres will be wetland. The Phase One work will also mean that come 2020, the public will be able to use broad pathways, "secondary paths," a seven-acre seed farm, a forested plateau, a composting comfort station (i.e. a composting public bathroom), a picnic lawn, a waterfront overlook deck, a bird observation tower, and a bicycle repair station. A parking lot for 67 spaces will also be included. Some areas of the park are now open to the public, though only during certain times of the year. According to DNAInfo, two parks connected to Freshkills have already been completed: the Richmond Avenue greenway and one entrance to North Park, Schmul Park.

Authorities expect the whole of Freshkills Park to be fully open by 2036. More information can be found on the park's website, here.

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$243 million later, NYC’s Department of Transportation still fails to meet ADA regulations for street curbs

About 80 percent of New York City’s street curbs are not in line with federal standards for the disabled, as first reported by DNAinfo.

A recent study by a federal court monitor revealed that even after $243 million in taxpayer funds over the last 15 years were allocated to build curb cuts, the city failed to keep them up to the Americans With Disabilities (ADA) regulations. Curb cut, or curb ramp, is the term for a ramp created by grading down a sidewalk to meet the surface of the adjoining street.

There are 116,530 ramps across the city; some were built to ADA standards but never maintained while around 4,431 curbs were simply built without ramps.

Special Master Robert L. Burgdorf, who is also the original author of the ADA Act of 1990, blamed the city’s 2002 settlement with the Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association. In a report he submitted to federal court, he noted that the settlement did not set up any timelines for building curb cuts, nor did it require ADA compliance for curb cuts.

“It is quite plausible that the 2002 stipulation may actually have slowed down progress in achieving accessibility of the curb ramps of New York City,” he wrote in the report.

According to Burgdorf, the city only built 198 ramps in 2016, down from 6,667 ramps in 2002.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) responded by saying it increased the budget—$800 million over the next 10 years—for inspection and construction of these ramps. “As the nation’s largest municipal transportation agency, NYC DOT takes its responsibilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) very seriously,” Scott Gastel, a DOT spokesperson, said to DNAinfo.

Burgdorf’s report recommended that the city survey all curbs within 90 days, install ADA-compliant ramps for the curbs without them in five years, and repair all of the noncompliant ramps within eight years. However, city officials estimate that it could take another 20 years before all curbs are brought up to standard,

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What’s being done—or not—to save Manhattan’s small businesses from Amazon and big box competition

Broadway, Manhattan’s longest street and a main commercial drag, spans the length of the island from hilly Inwood to Lower Manhattan’s breezy Bowling Green. There are shops from nose to tail, but a recent survey found that Broadway is also home to almost 200 vacant storefronts, dead zones on one of Gotham’s liveliest thoroughfares.

Glaring vacancies aren’t limited to Broadway though. From Madison and Fifth Avenue to Broadway in Soho and Bleeker Street in the West Village, high-end commercial strips in Manhattan are having trouble attracting commercial tenants. A healthy vacancy rate is 5 percent, but some fancy areas are in the midst of high-rent blight, with one in five (20 percent) storefronts vacant.

Further north, in Washington Heights, a whole block of immigrant-owned businesses were essentially evicted after new landlords proposed a 100 percent rent increase and declined to renew their leases.

Why is this happening?

The causes are predictable, but the solutions are not.

High rent, high taxes, regulations that favor owners over tenants, and plain old capitalism—the incentive for owners to seek their property’s maximum value, and the consumer’s desire to acquire goods at the lowest price—all contribute to the twin plagues of vacancy and the mall-ification (national chains displacing small, local businesses) of Manhattan. Stakeholders, though, disagree on what should be done to solve a growing crisis at street level.

This spring, the Manhattan Borough President’s Office (MBPO) recruited volunteers to count all the vacant storefronts along Broadway, citing a dearth of information on how many vacancies exist, and where. The survey follows an effort from two years ago where the office reached out to small businesses and offered potential policy solutions to businesses’ problems.

But first the report had to determine what a small business is, a question that is not as obvious as it seems.

The federal government’s Small Business Administration (SBA) measures business size by number of employees or the company’s value, depending on the sector. The Small Business Act, though, uses a measure that doesn’t exactly conjure visions of mom-and-pops: It says small businesses have fewer than 500 employees. Under the same rules, a microbusiness has fewer than five employees and requires $35,000 in capital or less to get going.

In New York State, small businesses are companies that employ fewer than one hundred people, while New York City’s Department of Small Business Services doesn’t set a number. Instead, it encourages any self-identifying businesses to seek out its resources.

Consequently, the MBPO’s March 2015 report called for a standardized measure of “small,” and the recommendations in its report are geared toward firms with 15 or fewer employees.

No matter how you define them, it’s clear that the not-so-invisible hand of the market is driving these firms out of business on Manhattan’s main streets. One problem? Stratospheric commercial rent increases. In 2014, the average asking rent in Manhattan was $65.14 per square foot. With ever-more high-income individuals flooding Manhattan, landlords are reluctant to offer 10- or 15-year commercial leases lest they get stuck with a lower-paying tenant as commercial land values in the neighborhood skyrocket.

Other problems, the report found, include businesses not having enough insurance, delaying tax payment, and under-budgeting for utilities. On the city side, some business owners in the report cited punitive agency inspectors who, instead of working with the owner to correct an issue, slapped the business with a fine.

Additional solutions don’t seem politically viable or aren’t effected at a scale that works.

A special tax for businesses in most of Manhattan eats into viability, too. In June, Mayor Bill de Blasio rejected the city council's proposal to alter commercial rent tax, an almost four percent surcharge on annual rent of $250,000 or more on businesses below 96th Street. As rents have risen, the tax threshold has stayed the same, and more businesses have become impacted. A bill (sponsored by Councilmember Dan Garodnick) that would raise the ceiling to $500,000 in annual rent didn’t make it into the final 2018 budget, though the item could be considered at a later date. If that limit were approved, the city would lose $52 million in revenue annually.

Zoning regulations encourage new development with huge storefronts that work for Chase and CVS but not for their independent counterparts. On the Upper West Side, though, neighbors are seeing mixed success from initiatives like a 2012 zoning change that limited storefronts to 25 feet, but don’t limit store size, as businesses are free to expand up or down as space permits.

But some advocates say these reforms don’t go far enough to stop business closures and the encroachment of chain stores.

“There is a crisis,” said Kirsten Theodos, cofounder of TakeBackNYC, an advocacy group for New York City small businesses. New York is losing 1,000 small businesses and 8,000 jobs per month. Theodos, who lives near the East Village, said all of this “fuels the hyper-gentrification and whitewashing of the city, a process that’s really accelerated over the past six years.”

Her group supports the Small Business Jobs Survival Act (SBJSA), a piece of local legislation that would set new rules around renewing commercial leases. Among other provisions, SBJSA would give commercial tenants, at minimum, a ten-year lease plus right to renewal and the option of arbitration to come to a new rent. The legislation is designed to slow, not stop, the rate of change in neighborhoods, and level the playing field for florists and bakeries competing for storefronts with Starbucks and Pottery Barn.

When the bill was first introduced in 2014, it had the support of 17 councilmembers—now it has the support of 26, or half the council. But in a city dominated by real estate interests, the bill is a nonstarter, Theodos explained. REBNY, the city’s largest real estate trade association, opposes the proposed rules, rallying around the idea that land values are subject to the “free market” and (incorrectly) deeming the rules “rent control.”

Even real estate boosters, though, acknowledge the downtrends in the market. According to REBNY, average asking rents in Manhattan this past spring fell in 14 of 17 of the borough’s top shopping strips compared with 2016 and record highs in 2014 and 2015. But the group maintains that a variety of factors set Manhattan apart from the suburbs, and grant the city a degree of immunity from experts’ dire predictions about the death of retail. In New York, REBNY says there are “strong market fundamentals,” including diverse food tenants, online retailers opening storefronts, and the eternal cache of a New York, NY address.

But to REBNY, doing well means collecting more rent. Fifth Avenue between 14th and 23rd streets (the Flatiron Fifth Avenue corridor) and Broadway between Battery Park and Chambers Street (the Lower Manhattan corridor) did the best, with ground floor rents rising by 18 percent to $456 per square foot in the Flatiron and 11 percent to $362 per square foot along the Lower Manhattan corridor. The report only looks at rents along main strips. Rents on side streets, according to the report, could diverge from the main drag; conversely, a gorgeous space on a prime corner may command greater asking rent and affect averages all along the strip.

It’s not only high rents and taxes that are driving businesses to close. Online shopping is slaying retailers big and small, in Manhattan and the suburbs and beyond. Right now, unchecked real estate speculation and limited protections for small-business owners mean that there is little protection against ultimately having a national bank and pharmacy on every corner.