Posts tagged with "New York City":

Placeholder Alt Text

Feniosky Peña-Mora steps down as NYC DDC commissioner

Feniosky Peña-Mora has stepped down as commissioner of the New York City Department of Design and Construction (DDC), a position he has held since 2014. He will return to Columbia University as a professor, where he was previously the dean of the university’s engineering department. The DDC oversees the design and construction of all of the city’s public buildings such as libraries, fire stations, and infrastructure projects like sewers and water mains. In March, Peña-Mora and Chief Architect Margaret O’Donoghue Castillo unveiled guiding principles for the revamped capital construction program Design and Construction Excellence 2.0. In a letter obtained by DNAinfo, Peña-Mora wrote to his colleagues, "It has been my great honor to work with each and every one of you, and I will always cherish my days leading this wonderful agency.” "Together we’ve also made great strides in project delivery, processing record numbers of payments and change orders faster than ever, which means we’re working more efficiently for our clients, consultants, and contractors," Peña-Mora continued. "The agency’s successes have led to City government placing more faith in it, and adding new responsibilities." Mayor de Blasio offered the following statement:
I deeply appreciate Feniosky Peña-Mora’s extraordinary service to New York City. From his work awarding nearly $1.2 billion in M/WBE contracts, to instituting wide reforms that have already made the agency more responsive, to improving our response to Hurricane Sandy, he made our City a better place. He navigated the agency through a period of robust growth, overseeing more than 860 construction starts and completions valued at more than $9 billion—all while winning more than 80 design awards and helping 1,600 students participate in DDC engineering programs. This is impressive stuff. While I am sorry to see him go, we did know this day would come. Indeed, he put off his return to Columbia, where he is a tenured professor, for an additional year to continue to serve the city. As we search for an equally strong candidate to run this critical agency, I thank Feniosky Peña-Mora’s for his service.
He is the latest city official involved in the problem-riddled Build it Back program to step away, and also came under fire for his hiring of a councilman's wife and for awarding city contracts in a quid-pro-quo for extremely positive press coverage.
Placeholder Alt Text

New Penn Station concourse is now open to the public

The West End Concourse of the revamped Moynihan Train Hall is now open to the public. Designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill's (SOM) New York office, the work is the first phase of a wider project that sees Penn Station engulf the James A. Farley Building.
SOM's work gives commuters greater access to 17 of Penn's 21 tracks; it also increases the overall floor area of the station complex. As a result, pedestrian accessibility into the concourse itself has been improved, with people now able to enter from Eighth Avenue—a boost for those looking to live or work at Hudson Yards.
Phase Two of the project will see more extensive work done to the Moynihan Train Hall. This will include a new lavish skylight comprised of the building's original steel trusses. SOM has been spearheading the move to rejuvenate the Penn Station for some time. In 1999 the firm submitted a proposal that saw a parabolic, glass-and-steel canopy cover a multi-level concourse that allowed travelers to view the trains beneath. Eight years later, SOM presented further plans, this time with a higher glass and steel roof structure. In 2010, the practice's New York arm was awarded the commission to design Penn Station's West End Concourse. Now those plans will be moving forward, with a $1.6 billion price tag.
"Our design for Moynihan Train Hall culminates a long-held vision to create a new transportation hub that serves not only as a suitable entry and departure point to our magnificent city, but also a destination unto itself," stated Roger Duffy, design partner at SOM in a press release. "We are honored to have been involved with this project since its inception and look forward to continuing to make Moynihan Train Hall a new landmark for New York City."
According to the same press release, in revealing the plans yesterday, Governor Cuomo said: "The state-of-the-art infrastructure, technology upgrades, and wayfinding improvements of the expanded West End concourse will provide immediate relief for passengers enduring increasing congestion and overcrowding in Penn Station and help New Yorkers get to where they need to go better and faster."
Placeholder Alt Text

Midtown East rezoning proposal one step closer to final approval

The rezoning of Midtown East in New York City is one step closer to approval after the latest proposal was presented at yesterday’s City Council meeting, although not without significant opposition from the public. The rezoning proposal has made an arduous, five-year-long journey with support and roadblocks along the way. The Department of City Planning (DCP) has pushed the proposal forward, claiming that it will incentivize the development of new office buildings, preserve landmarked buildings, and improve the public realm in the area. The designated site runs from 39th Street to 57th Street and is bordered by Madison Avenue from the west and 3rd Avenue from the east. With Hudson Yards luring away businesses and the Financial District offering newer buildings with larger floor space, the DCP has primarily made it their goal to make the proposed Midtown East sub-district area a premier business area. If this latest proposal passes, it would add a potential 16 new developments in the area and allow developers to build up to 40 percent taller and bulkier than is currently permitted in Midtown. In exchange, they would be required to either complete improvements to below-grade transit infrastructure (i.e. improve major subway stations), rebuild legally overbuilt floor areas of pre-1961 buildings, or if they transfer landmark development rights, pay a minimum contribution ($78.60 per square foot) to a public realm fund. “We expect hundreds of millions of dollars to go into this fund,” DCP’s Director Edith Hsu-Chen said. The fund is expected to improve aboveground infrastructure, including widening pedestrian streets and creating shared streets. Another part of the proposal includes the Pfizer headquarters building. Since it was built before the 1961 Zoning plan, it will automatically get a free density boost of floor area ratio (FAR) 10 to FAR 15 and possibly incentivize the pharmaceutical company to sell the building and leave the city, as The Real Deal reports. While infrastructure improvements to subway stations were applauded (especially concerning the latest MTA woes), concerns were expressed from councilmembers about the transparency of the use of the public realm funds and whether developers could “game the system,” according to Councilman Daniel Garodnick, a long-time supporter of the proposal. Other questions raised included the potential—and highly likely—increased traffic in the 116 traffic intersections that will be affected, the increased shadows overcast, as well as the lack of new public space, which has been an issue for many of the proposal’s opponents. Since developers are already gaining extra FAR from contributing to the public fund, they do not have to take part in the POPS (Privately Owned Public Spaces) program, a voluntary zoning mechanism where developers get more floor space by building a public space. The meeting saw many community members pushback against rezoning without the mandatory inclusion of open, public space. “What remains to be determined, after all this time, is what the public will be receiving,” said a representative for Vikki Barbera, chair of Community Board 5. “Open space is not some optional amenity, it is essential for all good planning.” The City Council will meet later this month to vote on the latest proposal.
Placeholder Alt Text

New York’s floating food forest allows people to pick their own food

The term ‘farm-to-table’ is one that is touted across New York City, but it’s a concept that’s hard to realize for normal city residents without access to farmland (farmers markets and Whole Foods don’t count). Cue Swale: a floating food forest that's built atop a 5,000-square-foot barge that is currently docked at Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 6 and is looking to revolutionize the food industry in the city. Founded in 2016 by artist Mary Mattingly, Swale allows visitors to forage for their own fruits and vegetables. Acting as both a piece of interactive public art and as a means to provide fresh food, Swale encourages New Yorkers to reconsider their perceptions on edible landscapes—“foodways”—and their relationship to nature. With Swale as a test case, Mattingly aims to shift policies regarding edible landscapes on public land. While there are 100 acres of community garden space in the city, there are actually 30,000 acres of park space. Picking one’s own food is illegal on New York City public land, but it is technically legal on a barge due to waterway common law. “At its heart, Swale is a call to action. It asks us to reconsider our food systems, to confirm our belief in food as a human right and to pave pathways to create public food in public space,” said Mattingly in a press release. Last year, Mattingly transformed the old construction barge by filling it with soil, edible plants, and flowers. This year, thanks to a partnership with the apple cider company Strongbow, alongside other governmental organizations, the barge added apple trees and winding paths. Using edible forestry techniques that mimic natural ecosystems and require less human maintenance, the barge allows for unlimited foraging of anything from asparagus to artichokes to blueberries. After it’s stint at Brooklyn Bridge Park is over on June 30, Swale’s next stop is Concrete Plant Park in the Bronx from July to August. For more on Swale, visit its website here.
Placeholder Alt Text

President Trump taps his son’s wedding planner to run N.Y. and N.J. federal housing programs

A longtime Trump family associate will soon be responsible for administering billions of dollars in federal housing funds. Lynne Patton organized the wedding of President's son, Eric Trump, coordinated Trump golf course tournaments, served as the Eric Trump Foundation's vice president, and is a senior aide to the Trump family. News broke today that—starting July 5—she'll be leading U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s Region II, which includes New York and New Jersey. According to the New York Daily News, Patton has a long-running relationship with the Trumps that goes back to 2009 when she started as their "event planner." However, questions have immediately arisen regarding her qualifications for her new role at HUD. Her LinkedIn page lists a J.D. from Quinnipiac University but includes a "N/A"; Yale University is also listed but with no additional information. The New York Attorney General also began "looking into" The Eric Trump Foundation after a report from Forbes appeared to expose practices that broke state laws. Patton's directorship at HUD will include block grants and rental vouchers that go toward senior citizen programs and housing inspections; The New York Daily News reports that HUD funds 100 percent of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA)'s capital repair budget and 70 percent of its operational budget. The role Patton is filling has been vacant since January 20.
Placeholder Alt Text

SITU Studio crafts a uniquely flexible display system for a New York City vinyl record and audiophile store

Despite the recent resurgence in vinyl record sales, brick-and-mortar music retail remains a challenging business. New York City’s Turntable Lab—which sells vinyl, high-end audiophile equipment, and merchandise, catering to professional DJs and casual listeners alike—had successfully graduated from its small starting location near the Cooper Union to a larger, 1,200-square-foot space nearby. But Turntable’s owners knew their store needed to be nimble to survive. “Products always change…how you display things, where you might need to move things around. Maximum flexibility was what we were shooting for,” said Turntable Lab partner David Azzoni. The new store required that adaptability, but the owners didn’t want to lose the gritty basement feel of the old location.

They turned to Brooklyn-based interdisciplinary firm SITU Studio; the two teams had already collaborated to design a no-frills, flat-pack turntable stand that was successfully Kickstarted. Aleksey Lukyanov-Cherny, partner at SITU Studio, said the firm looked to DIY sources for inspiration for the store. “The brilliant detail: It’s a cleat. It’s actually something very straightforward, something your DIY handyman at home will build in his garage for tools,” he explained. The cleats run throughout the space, supporting around 10 different sets of brackets, hooks, and rails, all of which hold stands, shelves, and display inserts.

This system allows for extreme flexibility, but SITU Studio had to work hard to refine the cleat, ensuring that the racks would be secure without requiring tools or extensive force to change them around. Turntable Lab also visited SITU Studio’s workshop throughout the design process, bringing samples of products, to measure what dimensions and displays worked best. “We spent a lot of time just drawing and cutting these things out, playing with just the round-overs, the radiuses…there was a lot of massaging radiuses,” Lukyanov-Cherny recalled. One major decision was to cut out the center of the display brackets, thereby keeping the cases visually open. “It just flows,” said Azzoni.

SITU Studio selected clear finished and untreated Baltic birch plywood for the entire system, with high-pressure laminate for its heavily used surfaces. The plywood—CNC-milled into shape—retains the old shop’s raw, utilitarian feel but balances it with clean lines. And Turntable Lab’s owners couldn’t be happier with the result. Armed with a basic set of display units, they can easily swap out products and how they’re displayed. In the back of the store, each vinyl storage/display unit rolls on wheels and can be moved to make space for events.

Parked among the vinyl records and T-shirts is the old store’s timeworn turntable stand, still used by DJs for in-store concerts. Its plywood has weathered darkly with use, and it sharply contrasts with the fresh plywood around it. But it won’t be the only aged one for long.

“These things can take a beating; you don’t want to refine things that people will be touching. You want to think about materiality and how it ages over time,” Lukyanov-Cherny said. “Eventually,” he added, gesturing from the new plywood displays to the old turntable stand, “they’re all gonna look like this!”

Placeholder Alt Text

Artists protest funding cuts to the arts at Trump Tower

On President Donald Trump’s birthday, New York City artists held performances inside Trump Tower’s not-so-secret public gardens to issue a call-to-arms against the White House's proposed budget cuts to arts funding. The performances, which took place earlier today, are part of a rising trend where activists now use Trump Tower’s public gardens as spaces for political activism. The gardens and atriums inside Trump Tower were a part of Trump’s 1979 agreement with the city, which led to the creation of 15,000 square feet worth of public space in exchange for a zoning variance to build an additional 20 stories. The agreement also stipulated that these privately-owned public spaces (POPS) be accessible to the public from 8 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. daily. “Today in an act of resistance, we take back what is rightfully ours, the public space inside Trump Tower, and use the power of art to protest this administration,” said New York City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer, who is also chair of the committee on cultural affairs. “There is an assault on the arts, culture, and thinking in this country right now.” Trump’s budget proposes eliminating federal funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. “We gather as artists and citizens to celebrate our country's commitment to the freedom of expression and the exchange of ideas between all people,” said Lucy Sexton, an artist at the event. Performers used art as a way to cover a wide range of subjects that have been topics of hot conversation in Trump’s administration, including climate change and Russia. Trump himself was also a topic of interest, in performances like Brick x Brick, where participants wore brick-patterned jumpsuits adorned with statements of misogynistic violence made by Trump. The performance was a way to “demonstrate disdain to Trump’s policies,” according to Caterina Bartha, the event’s curator, adding that it was “a gift to New Yorkers who attended the free performance and a call to people across the country to fight to save the arts from Trump’s axe.”
Placeholder Alt Text

The Port Authority is in denial about its leaking Oculus

Seen staff mopping inside the World Trade Transportation Hub recently? No, they're not mopping up vomit from puking patrons sick at the sight of the Oculus' horrific detailing. No, no, they're mopping up puddles from leaks. In May, rain resulted in water drizzling down to elevators and balconies in both wings of the Oculus. At $4 billion, the transportation hub's leaks may even be more costly than the Russian kind the U.S. is currently more accustomed to experiencing. In early May, officials from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (the agency that owns the transit hub) blamed construction work going on at the adjacent 3 World Trade Center. At the time, legislators did call for an investigation into the issue as well. That didn't appear to do much, though. Perhaps, one supposes, the investigation slipped on some marble as the agency in a prepared statement on Friday, May 26, denied that the Oculus was indeed leaking at all. "There were no leaks in the Oculus this week," spokesman Steve Coleman said, despite a reporter witnessing the leaks with their own eyes. "We soak it up and drain it. It’s a lot of work. It’s nonstop," an Oculus mopper told the New York Post recently. "People do have accidents. Like the last rainy day, somebody almost broke their neck here on the marble,” the maintenance worker continued. The victim in question, a woman, was apparently walking down a set of stairs when she slipped on a puddle. "They slipped and they really hurt themselves because, you know, these are marble floors." Construction workers adding the final touches to Santiago Calatrava's billion dollar transit and retail behemoth have said building work was rushed. "Everything is not done so you’ve have to come back and do it,” Shawn Cumberbatch also told the New York Post as he was caulking an unsealed seam in the main room. "They just wasted a lot of cash over here. This should have been done. If they just took their time and got it right the first time, we wouldn’t have this problem." In April this year, two men sustained injuries after an escalator malfunctioned. Earlier in the year, a woman was killed in February when she fell off an escalator after reaching too far for her hat.
Placeholder Alt Text

Extensive Alexander Calder exhibition now on display at the Whitney Museum

An extensive exhibition featuring works by Alexander Calder, who renowned for the use of kinetic movement in sculpture, is now on display at New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art. The exhibition, Calder: Hypermobility, offers visitors a rare opportunity to experience the artist’s works as they were meant to be—in motion. Previously, the dynamic pieces of art were thought to be difficult to show in museums and were often left static. The moving pieces of artworks are motorized and wind-propelled, creating a choreography of rotations and unpredictable movements. Some of Calder’s earliest works are on display, including his early motor-driven abstractions and wall panels with suspended active elements, as well as other major examples from his later years. While people could actually touch Calder’s works themselves during his lifetime, the sculptures at this exhibition can only be set in motion by ‘activators,’ people who are trained to handle the delicate pieces. There’s an intrinsic relationship between the art and the city that only a location at the Whitney can offer. The exhibition space on the eighth floor of the Whitney Museum, where the works are on display, opens up to the city and creates a connection between the city and the gallery space. “This is a show that can only happen in New York,” Jay Sanders, curator of performance at the Whitney, said at the press preview, adding that the exhibition exaggerates the inter-relation between the urban bustle and the artist’s works. “Calder’s works is a wonderful hinge between these realities.” In addition to the gallery display, there will also be a series of performances, concerts, screenings, and episodic, one-time demonstrations led by the Calder Foundation. These contemporary artists will work in dialogue with Calder’s works. Calder: Hypermobility is on view from June 9 to October 23, 2017, at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Placeholder Alt Text

New York City pension funds will no longer invest in private prisons

The pension system provided by New York City will no longer invest in private prisons, Controller Scott Stringer has announced. Before yesterday, the city's pension fund previously held $48 million in stocks and bonds of three private prison companies: GEO Group, CoreCivic, and Group 4 Securicor. However, the controller's office revealed on Thursday that these stocks and bonds had been sold off after a unanimous vote from the fund's trustees. The three companies have a 20 percent-or-higher revenue yield from private prisons. New York City will reportedly keep track on the portfolios on a yearly basis to see if new private prisons are added. “Morally, the industry wants [to] turn back the clock on years of progress on criminal justice, and we can't sit idly by and watch that happen,” Stringer said in the New York Daily News. “Divesting is simply the right thing to do—financially and morally." The decision to sell off the investments in GEO Group, CoreCivic, and G4S was made after a federal audit of private prisons conducted in 2016 found that some were not meeting the standards set by the Bureau of Prisons (BOP). One of the findings was:
There were periods after [a] riot during which health services staffing levels failed to meet minimum contractual thresholds. Moreover, between December 2012 and September 2015, the approximately 2,300-inmate Adams County facility was staffed with only a single physician for 434 days (43 percent of the time) and a single dentist for 689 days (69 percent of the time). This resulted in inmate-to-provider ratios that were about double those specified in BOP program statements.
In addition to this, the Daily News reported that eight immigrant detainees have died in the last fiscal year while in private immigration detention centers—these house 65 percent of Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees, so said Stringer’s office. In a statement given to the Daily News, GEO Group said: "We strongly reject the baseless claims that led to this misguided decision. We're proud of our longstanding record providing high quality services, while treating the men and women in our care with the respect and dignity they deserve." Meanwhile, John Adler, chief pension investment advisor to the mayor, commented: "Private prison companies prioritize profits over humane treatment of immigrants and inmates, and their stocks' wild price swings over the past year show the risks inherent in their business model. The Mayor supports divestment from private prisons after thorough analysis from our outside investment consultants, the City Law Department, and the Bureau of Asset Management showed that it was a prudent step for our pension funds to take."  
Placeholder Alt Text

Robert Kliment, cofounder of Kliment Halsband Architects, has passed

New York architect Robert Kliment passed away on June 3. Kliment cofounded Kliment Halsband Architects with his wife Frances; the firm received the AIA Firm Award in 1997 and an Honor Award the following year. Kliment Halsband Architects has received upward of 100 awards. In addition to his architecture practice, Kliment was a member of the faculty at Columbia University and the University of Pennsylvania. Best known for his work as a principal designer on the computer science buildings at Princeton and Columbia, the renovation of Yale Divinity School, and courthouses in Brooklyn and Gulfport, Mississippi, Kliment was considered to be a thoughtful, humanistic architect. On the firm’s site, it states, “Our clients are public and private organizations with ambitious educational, cultural, and civic goals.” In its citation for the Firm Award, the AIA jury described the work of Kliment Halsband Architects as “a quiet and persuasive architecture that speaks to the best traditions of our profession.” Most recently, the firm worked on the Sixth Avenue IFC Center in New York. Kliment’s approach could be attributed to his unusual childhood. Born in Prague, Kliment was one of the children rescued by Sir Nicholas George Winton at the beginning of World War Two and made it safely to England. From there Kliment attended school in France and Cuba before studying architecture at Yale for his B.A. After a stint serving with the U.S. Army, Kliment returned to Yale for his master’s degree and won a Fulbright scholarship to study the history and evolution of urban spaces in Italy. He joined Mitchell/Giurgola in 1960 and later opened its New York office. He and his wife founded Kliment Halsband Architects in 1972. Robert is survived by his wife, Frances; son Nick Morris-Kliment and his wife Jamie; son Alex Kliment and his wife Maya; and grandchildren Sam and Lydia Morris-Kliment, and Milan Hernández Kliment.
Placeholder Alt Text

The MTA is circulating free e-books on the subway this summer

Instead of staring vacantly into a phone on the train, the MTA and New York City's three public library systems would like straphangers to bury their noses in e-books, gratis. Starting today, the New York Public Library, the Brooklyn Public Library and the Queens Library will be offering hundreds of free short stories, books, and book excerpts for download through each station's wireless network. Available for six weeks only, Subway Library will let you read titles in the library system as well as selects from five publishers' catalogues. And who doesn't like books? Even Governor Andrew I-don't-control-the-MTA Cuomo had kind words for the program. “I am thrilled that the New York Public Library, Brooklyn Public Library, and Queens Public Library are kicking off the summer reading season and offering free e-books to subway riders through the MTA’s TransitWirelessWiFi™,” Cuomo said, referring to the private wireless services provider for the subway system. “The Subway Library will encourage adults and children to explore new worlds through reading during their daily commute, while spreading awareness of our Wi-Fi and connectivity services underground.” To promote the program, the MTA's gone all out and decked out a real train: Inside, the promotional car is gussied up to resemble the Rose Main Reading Room at the New York Public Library's main branch on 42nd Street: The industrial grey-blue seats are transformed into faux wood benches as book-lined wallpaper edges the car, though the titles are more suggestive than substantive. Curious riders can catch the special train on the E and F lines' 6th and 8th Avenue corridors.