Posts tagged with "New York City":

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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.

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American Museum of Natural History files plans for Gilder Center expansion

The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) filed plans for its $340 million expansion with the Department of Buildings (DOB) yesterday, an indication that the project is moving forward, according to Real Estate Weekly.

Designed by Chicago-based Studio Gang and officially named the Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation, the project was unanimously approved last year by the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). The 245,000-square-foot, six-story expansion will be erected on the western side of the museum.

The proposed building is noticeably different from the AMNH’s current architectural language of Victorian Gothic, Beaux Arts, and Richardson Romanesque, but the Gilder Center will act as connective tissue for existing exhibition spaces. (The museum's Ennead-designed Rose Center for Earth and Space, while modern, is also styled very differently.) In January, Studio Gang's founding principal, Jeanne Gang, revealed the latest interior designs, which are inspired by ice glaciers and canyons to create an organic theme.

The museum plans to expand its research, educational, and exhibition capacity by building a Butterfly Vivarium, an Invisible Worlds Theater, an insectarium, and new classrooms. The designs also include 30 new circulation connections meant to solve current wayfinding issues at the museum.

While the proposal cleared the LPC and garnered support from other officials and organizations, residents and preservation and park advocates had some reservations due to the building’s encroaching footprint on Theodore Roosevelt Park. But the designers adjusted their plans, and now the building will only take up less than two percent of the 10-acre park.

The Gilder Center is slated to open in 2020, if construction starts imminently.

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Governor Cuomo proposes congestion pricing as a way to fund transportation repairs

With New York City’s subway system in a dire state—extensive delays, people getting trapped in subway cars, derailments—public officials have been scrambling to find a way to repair its aging infrastructure. Last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio proposed a "millionaire's tax" for wealthy city residents that would pay for infrastructure upgrades and reduced fares for other riders.

Now, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo revealed his own plan to raise funds and ease traffic at the same time: congestion pricing.

Congestion pricing was brought up by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg ten years ago but was quickly shut down because of concerns that it favored Manhattan residents. Cuomo is bringing it back as a solution to the city’s current transit crisis, according to The New York Times.

By putting tolls on roads and bridges leading into Manhattan, a constant funding stream will be created. It will also help to reduce traffic flowing into the city and on gridlocked streets. Congestion pricing is already in place in other cities like London, Stockholm, and Singapore.

Cuomo is piggy-backing on Bloomberg’s failed plan to create a new congestion pricing scheme that will win crucial support from stakeholders, including the State Legislature. “Congestion pricing is an idea whose time has come,” Cuomo said to the Times, though he added that his plan would be significantly different from Bloomberg’s.

Move NY, an independent transportation group, revealed its own congestion pricing proposal, offering a glimpse of what Cuomo’s plan may look like. Drivers would pay a toll of $5.54 in each direction for the four bridges that cross the East River into Manhattan, and also a toll to cross 60th Street in Manhattan northbound or southbound. The plan also proposes lowering tolls at other crossings. Move NY estimates that this system could yield around $1.47 billion in annual revenue, of which most would go towards repairing infrastructure. Alex Matthiessen, leader of Move NY, told The Times that group is talking with Cuomo's administration about developing the proposal.

While both de Blasio’s tax plan and Cuomo’s congestion pricing proposal have been getting attention, it does not solve the immediate issue of raising $800 million for emergency funds to finance immediate repairs on the subway. The state has already contributed $400 million and expects the city to fund the rest.

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NYC Ferry seeks approval to build docks for two new routes

New York City’s ferry service, which has seen a surge of popularity amidst the city's current transportation crisis, is looking to add two new routes that will cater to the Lower East Side, the Bronx, and Queens, by next summer, as first reported by DNAinfo.

The city’s Economic Development Corporation (NYEDC) filed an application with the Army Corps of Engineers earlier this month to expand the NYC Ferry service by building docks along the Soundview and Lower East Side route.

The Soundview route will stop at Clason Point, East 90th Street, East 62nd Street, and terminate at Wall Street’s Pier 11. The Lower East Side route will make stops at Long Island City, East 34th Street, Stuyvesant Town, Corlears Hook, and also end at Wall Street. The application also included a request to construct 22 floating docks for a “homeport” and boat barge at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, a site that is going under extensive redevelopment.

The Army Corps is seeking comments and suggestions for the proposed new docks, one of which at the South Bronx landing is nearly 58 feet long. The responses will then be used to “issue, modify, condition, or deny a permit,” according to DNAinfo.

The ferry system is Mayor Bill de Blasio’s $55 million plan for a five-borough network that focuses on connecting residential areas to Manhattan’s business districts, as well as bringing increased transportation access to the city’s underserved communities. Rides are operated by Hornblower, a Californian company that has previously operated in New York before, and cost the same amount as a subway ride ($2.75). Current routes include an East River, Rockaway, and South Brooklyn. An Astoria ferry route is slated to begin on August 29.

This second phase of expanding NYC Ferry’s services, which only launched in May, comes after reports revealed the system had hit the one million rider mark in July. Both routes, if the application is approved, will begin next summer.

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Midtown East rezoning gets final approval from City Council

After five arduous years, New York City’s Midtown East rezoning proposal cleared City Council today, paving the way for new office towers to rise in the neighborhood.

The proposal, approved 42-0, updates the area’s zoning code to incentivize new, dense development and revitalize the flagging business area in order to compete with the Financial District and Hudson Yards. The 78 blocks in the area are currently home to more than 250,000 jobs and generate ten percent of the city’s property tax base, according toNew York Daily News article penned by Councilman Daniel Garodnick. The city anticipates 6.5 million square feet of office space being added to East Midtown.

Developers can build higher and gain more floor-area-ratio (FAR) by either buying landmarked air rights or making specific transit improvements (targeted mainly at subway stations). Several recent changes include the lowering of the air rights minimum: developers can purchase air rights at $61.49 per square foot, of which the proceeds will go toward a public realm fund. Developers are also required pay upfront for transit improvements if they choose to go that route; buildings will not be occupiable until those improvements are finished.

“The goal is to improve Midtown, not keep it as it is,” Councilman Garodnick said at the meeting.

The city has committed $50 million to start improving public spaces—before anything is built—and the first project includes a shared street on 43rd Street, near Grand Central Terminal. Over the next 20 years, the city estimates that up to 16 properties could take advantage of the rezoning.

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New renderings released of WXY’s Brooklyn Army Terminal landscape redesign

New renderings of Sunset Park’s Brooklyn Army Terminal (BAT) and its renovated landscape—part a multimillion dollar expansion project—have been released, as first reported by Untapped Cities.

In 2015, Mayor de Blasio dedicated $115 million of funds to renovate the three million-square-foot site into a campus that would bring in commercial and industrial tenants. A former World War I military supply base, the Cass Gilbert–designed site was designed to foster an intermodal system of transferring goods between ships, trains, and trucks. The confusing circulation has previously deterred tenants from moving to the facility, and in an effort to attract more tenants, New York–based WXY is redesigning the campus's outdoor space. 

WXY's new public space improvements, which span 12,000 square feet, include new seating, permeable pavement for improved stormwater runoff, and better wayfinding mechanisms for pedestrians to navigate between the ferry landing, parking, and the building. The existing landscape will be preserved where possible. 

The city acquired the complex in 1981 and the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) is the steward of the terminal. The city has been trying to attract new tenants in its ‘Core Four’ industries: traditional manufacturing, advanced manufacturing, food manufacturing, and Made in New York (production of film, TV, and fashion). The terminal's floors are made out of reinforced concrete and can support loads of 250 to 300 pounds a square foot, making it well suited for manufacturing industries. 

The renovation will bring an additional 500,000 square feet of manufacturing space by this fall. Rent hikes and small spaces have forced manufacturing companies out of the Garment District, and the city hopes the revival of Sunset Park’s many industrial spaces will aid the ailing industry, according to a New York Times report earlier this year.

“The Brooklyn Army Terminal has grown into a hotbed for modern manufacturing, diversified talent, and entrepreneurial zeal,” said NYCEDC President Maria Torres-Springer in a statement last year.

The redevelopment of BAT joins neighboring Industry City and the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal along the Sunset Park waterfront.

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Report reveals staggering new details on NYC capital project delays

The Center for an Urban Future (CUF), a nonpartisan policy organization, released a report in April of this year purporting that internal practices within several New York City agencies are partially to blame for the deficiencies of public construction projects. Titled Slow Build, the document outlines a variety of findings related to the schedule and budget of capital projects, including the revelation that the median duration for a cultural project is seven years and costs nearly $930 per square foot to build.

The Department of Design and Construction (DDC) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) oversee capital projects for the city. According to the report, these agencies utilized inefficient systems and protocols that are in need of a policy overhaul to improve project delivery.

The report, produced in collaboration with Citizens Budget Commission, analyzed the details of 144 library and cultural buildings that were completed between the 2010 and 2014 fiscal years, supplemented by dozens of expert interviews. Among the claims made, the report found that “86 percent of delays occur before construction begins, with many projects getting tripped up in the initial scoping and design phases.” This suggests that extensive reviews for public projects and inaccurate cost-procurement processes are a major source of the problem. The report also identifies city-initiated scope alterations, which often lead to costly and prolonged change orders during construction, as contributing factors to the delays.

In addition to the bureaucratic logjam, the report also draws attention to certain state laws “that both mandate a low-bid procurement system and prevent city projects from adopting a design-build process.” While many of the report’s recommendations include streamlining municipal procedures, CUF also suggests a loosening of state laws to accommodate less restrictive procurement practices for public buildings.

This suggestion is not out of the question as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo did sign into law design-build protocols for infrastructure-related projects in 2011. However, these changes to architectural contracts would require stronger advocacy by city leaders, political capital which has not yet materialized. Not only is 2017 a mayoral election year, but recently the former DDC Commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora was forced to step down amid controversies related to delays in Hurricane Sandy–rebuild efforts that have long been overdue. It is unlikely that this issue will attract much attention in the coming months.

It is critical to note, however, that this survey includes projects largely shepherded by the Bloomberg administration and did not review the policies, initiatives, or funding practices of the current administration. The Hunters Point Community Library by Steven Holl, for instance, has been in the pipeline since 2008 and just recently experienced another delay regarding an unforeseeable glass shipment fiasco from Spain.

For its part, the city appears to be making moves to rectify some of the concerns raised in this report. A spokesman for the DDC cited that since July 2014 procurement durations have been reduced from an average of one year to nine months, and that project durations have shortened by up to 40 percent. The spokesman also highlighted a new division of the DDC called Front End Planning Unit that “[ensures] that the scope of work and budget meet necessary requirements” before a project is accepted.

When it comes to awarding public design contracts, the DDC announced in 2016 a change to its proposal-solicitation program, launching the Design and Construction Excellence 2.0 (DCE 2.0) initiative, a revamp of the DDC’s exclusive on-call list for NYC architecture firms. Though the CUF report does not mention this program, the DDC stated that the shift was necessary to “encourage the development of perceptive solutions that enhance performance ranging from minimizing emissions of greenhouse gasses to design that engages groups who may feel left out.”

The program was originally launched in 2004 and has included firms such as Bjarke Ingels Group, Steven Holl Architects, and Diller Scofidio + Renfro. Now the list of 26 companies is subdivided into four sections by project scale allowing for more competition among the firms, ensuring that the right team can handle the scope of the projects. DCE 2.0 is an effort by the agency to address not only the quantifiable metrics of project delivery addressed by CUF, but also the qualitative role that architects play in the delivery of public buildings.

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Times Square will host a three-minute psychedelic wonder all this month at midnight

Times Square can leave your head spinning at the best of times, but come the final minutes of each day this month, visitors can witness a psychedelic show on the square's famous advertising boards. Known as Convolution Weave~Lattice Domain and created by MSHR—a collaborative composed of Portland, Oregon–based artists Birch Cooper and Brenna Murphy—the work is a highly colorful virtual landscape of spinning objects. The complex sculptures represent objects that would be impossible to create in reality, as well as more conventional forms, that creating dazzling patterns. "We construct hypershapes that reflect consciousness, just as the content in Times Square reflects the psychic structure of our culture. There are many possible shapes of reality," MSHR said in a press release. "We aim to warp the frayed edges of this media node, minding the intentions behind mental influence through imagery. Our intention is to inject the light stream with objects sculpted for presence of mind." The installation is part of the Midnight Moment, a monthly showing provided by The Times Square Advertising Coalition and presented in partnership with Upfor Gallery and Times Square Arts. Convolution Weave~Lattice Domain can be viewed from 11:57 p.m.-midnight every night this August. Despite hailing from the West Coast, more of MSHR's work can be found in New York—in particular, Queens, where Cooper and Murphy's art is featured in the Past Skin exhibition at MoMA PS1 where it is on view through September 10, 2017.