Posts tagged with "New York City":

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American arts and architecture commissioner Anne Bass dies at 78

On April 1, Anne Bass, influential investor and patron of the arts, died at the age of 78. Bass famously commissioned the Bass House, one of the most ambitious residential designs by the modernist architect Paul Rudolph, completed in Fort Worth in 1976. According to Paper City Magazine, Anne and her husband Sid Bass commissioned Rudolph to design with little constraints other than its need to house a complex spatial program with a contemporary-art gallery for the couple’s extensive art collection. Aerial drawings of the house suggest its layout and dynamic cantilevers were inspired by Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright’s landmark residence constructed four decades prior. Like other projects within Rudolph’s body of work, the home is divided into a dizzying 12 levels with 14 distinct ceiling heights, one of which defines the home’s entrance beneath a 40-foot-long cantilever. “The ideal of weight and counterweight, similar to the movement of the human body, became the genesis of the house,” Rudolph reportedly said of the design. Anne became a well-known figure in landscape architecture circles as well after commissioning Russell Page, the British gardener famously responsible for the landscaping of the Frick Museum, to design the sprawling grounds of the home. The Basses moved into a Rosario Candela-designed apartment building in New York City in the 1980s, where the haute couture Anne commissioned from the likes of Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior, and Karl Lagerfeld is a part of the Metropolitan Museum collection. Rather than updating the apartment with modernist aesthetics as she had requested from Rudolph a decade prior, Bass called on legendary interior designer Mark Hampton to subtly update its 1920s detailing. “The vocabulary is traditional,” Anne explained, according to Vogue, “and it would have been a sin to remove it and make it totally modern.” Splitting her time between New York City and Fort Worth, Texas, Bass became publicly known as a philanthropist and champion of arts institutions including the New York City Ballet, the New York Public Library, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.
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The Architect’s Newspaper recognizes excellence at the first Annual Design Gala

On March 11, The Architect’s Newspaper hosted its inaugural Annual Design Gala in New York, which recognized leaders in architecture, design, and construction in North America. The night consisted of a cocktail reception followed by an awards dinner; both held in the Stanford White-designed Bowery Savings Bank, a sumptuous Beaux-Arts space bedecked with a bevy of classical detailing and a 65-foot vaulted ceiling ballroom ringed by Corinthian columns and crowned with Tiffany glass. For AN, the Annual Design Gala fills a programmatic void within the design community. “The inspiration for this gala came when I realized that there was no premiere gala specifically celebrating all aspects of Architecture; from the architects, planners, designers to the engineers and contractors,” said publisher Diana Darling. “And, it’s our vision at The Architect’s Newspaper that this is the first of many.” The awardees of the gala were selected by a 22-person voting committee—many of whom were members of ANs jury for the 2019 Best of Design Awards—and were recognized in seven categories. Building of the Year was awarded to Beyer Blinder Belle and Planners, INC Architecture & Design, LUBRANO CIAVARRA, Mathew Nielsen Landscape Architects, MCR/MORSE Development, Stonehill Taylor, and Turner Construction for their work on the TWA Hotel; Denise Scott Brown received the Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of her decades of leadership in the architecture and design community; Studio Gang was honored in the Excellence in Building category for recent projects such as Solar Carve and Mira Tower; Urbanist of the Year went to Kate Orff of SCAPE and Columbia Urban Design; Leong Leong received the Interior Excellence award; builder Sciame Construction was awarded Contractor of the Year, and Buffalo-based terra-cotta manufacturer Boston Valley Terra Cotta was honored with Innovator of the Year. In honor of Denise Scott Brown’s Lifetime Achievement Award, AN commissioned designer Vilaplana + Vilaplana to produce Ode to Denise Scott Brown, a vinyl print inspired by the raucous postmodern architecture advocated for and designed by Venturi Scott Brown & Associates over the decades. Erica Hill Studio directed and produced audio and visuals for the Design Gala.
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NYC eyes emptied dorms, Javits Center as makeshift coronavirus treatment hubs

With classes and conferences of all stripes being postponed, canceled, and migrated online as the widening coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic brings life in New York City to a grinding halt, two sizable patches of real estate are being eyed by officials as potential locations to set up additional emergency hospital beds. This move would help alleviate pressure on already overburdened medical facilities that are bracing for a deluge of infected patients in need of acute treatment. As of this writing, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New York City is over 2,000. As reported by Politico, a key locale being considered by city officials as a “medical surge facility” is the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. Sprawling across 1.8 million square feet on Manhattan’s far West Side, the Pei Cobb Freed-designed Javits Center certainly has the raw space to spare as the twelfth-largest convention facility in the United States. And, for now, it has the availability as well considering that all operations at Javits have been put on pause until April 30. Some events beyond April 30, notably the International Contemporary Furniture Fair, have also been canceled. The Javits Center is a state-run enterprise operated by the New York Convention Center Operating Corporation, which itself is a subsidiary of the Empire State Development Corporation. Omar Bourne, a spokesperson for New York City’s emergency management department, relayed to Politico that Mayor de Blasio’s administration is still awaiting a response from the state as to whether the Javits Center could potentially be used as a temporary medical facility if need be. The Chinese city of Wuhan converted numerous convention centers and exhibition halls into pop-up hospitals during the height of the pandemic there. All of those facilities, as well as the city’s rapidly erected modular emergency facilities, have since been shuttered as the reported cases of the virus in and around Wuhan have gone from a flood to a slight trickle to nothing. Not far from the Javits Center, Madison Square Garden, a multipurpose arena clocking in at around 820,000 square feet, is also being considered as a potential emergency treatment center where COVID-19-stricken New Yorkers would be isolated and treated. The idea is one being floated by Council Speaker Corey Johnson and his colleague, Stephen Levin. In addition to converting Javits Center into a medical facility, Johnson and Levein “also argued that the city and state should transform Madison Square Garden, the home of the ailing Knicks, into a home for the ailing,” wrote Politico. Unlike the state-run Javits Center, Madison Square Garden is privately owned by sports and entertainment behemoth, the Madison Square Garden Company. In addition to gargantuan, glass-paneled convention centers and the home venue of an enfeebled NBA franchise, the soon-to-be-vacated dormitories of New York University are also being mulled as potential temporary treatment centers. As an email statement to NYU students reads: “There are significant indications that the State, as part of its contingency planning, is looking at university dormitories as settings for overflow beds from hospitals.” A small number of NYU students, including certain graduate students, law and medical students, and undergraduates who receive special exemptions are being allowed to stay put in their dorms. Otherwise, students must vacate all campus residence halls no later than March 22. As of March 15, two members of the NYU community, a student and an administrator, have tested positive for COVID-19. Noah Hopkins, a politics student at NYU, detailed the rather chaotic student housing situation in a March 18 op-ed published in The Guardian:
“Over the past few days, the roughly 12,000 students living in the NYU housing system saw the situation escalate around us and heard nothing from administrators. On Monday afternoon we received an email saying the residence halls would be closing on 22 March. We were told all students must vacate their rooms by the 22nd, or within 48 hours if possible.” “Students who already left campus and did not prepare their rooms for checkout have been strongly encouraged to return to New York, collect their belongings then return home. Regarding those unable to return to New York before the closure date, the university has said only that their items will be packed and shipped to them. We have not been given a timeframe for when this might happen, nor have the obvious privacy concerns been addressed.”
Per the Washington Square News, the city’s department of emergency management has not formally requested that NYU—or the City University of New York, for that matter—empty its dorms so that they can be used as treatment facilities. But the possibility that the dorms could, in the very near future, be repurposed into makeshift medical hubs is something that's very much on the table. As reported by Bloomberg, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is pushing to increase, via executive order, the number of hospital beds within the state by 9,000 although thousands more beds might ultimately be needed as the spread of the coronavirus peaks in the coming weeks. Five thousand of the initial 9,000 beds would be in New York City. Already, around 1,300 additional beds have been set up or are due to be set up at a handful of municipal hospitals in the Bronx, a former nursing home in Brooklyn, and at a chronic care facility on Roosevelt Island. Hotels across the city could also be converted into isolation/treatment centers in the comings days in an effort to boost the number of available beds. On Wednesday, Cuomo announced that a 1,000-bed Navy hospital ship, the USNS Comfort, will be deployed to New York City. The vessel, however, is undergoing maintenance in Virginia and will likely arrive in New York Harbor in weeks, not days, as per Bloomberg.
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Coronavirus cancellations hit New York Design Week

NYCxDESIGN, the weeklong annual celebration of design that encompasses 400-plus events from product launches, installations, exhibitions, talks, open studios, and more across all five boroughs, has been postponed due to precautions meant to curb the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Originally slated to kick off in May 12, NYCxDESIGN will now take place in October and coincide with a slew of previously scheduled citywide architecture and design events including the Cooper Hewitt, National Design Museum’s National Design Week, the Architecture and Design Film Festival, Open House New York Weekend, and the AIANY Center for Architecture’s Archtober—or Architecture and Design Month—programming. While the suspension of NYCxDESIGN is an unfortunate but necessary one, it appears that October will be an action-packed month for design professionals and enthusiasts in New York City. One element of NYCxDESIGN that will be moving forward in May as planned is the NYCxDESIGN Awards program, which will take place via a digital ceremony with another live event occurring in October. Additional details regarding rescheduled events will be announced in the coming months. “NYCxDESIGN was conceived to bring New York together in celebration of the incredible talent in the city, and the tremendous examples of international design that are shown here, said Edward Hogikyan, vice president and executive director of NYCxDESIGN, in a statement. “Gathering our community around design is so central to the work we do that, given the concerns around COVID-19, we are shifting from our annual Festival in May to a reconceived fall program to ensure the safety and well-being of all who participate in and visit NYCxDESIGN.” The largest and most widely attended of all design happenings scheduled for May, the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF), still, as of this writing, plans to run from May 17 through May 20 at the Javits Center in Manhattan per the ICFF website. Two other major design events coinciding with ICFF and NYCxDesign, WantedDesign Manhattan (May 17 to 20) and WantedDesign Brooklyn (May 14 to 18), have also not been suspended as of this writing. For the first time in its history, WantedDesign Manhattan plans to co-locate at the Javits Center with ICFF instead of at its normal venue, the Terminal Stores building.* Brooklyn Designs has also not announced if it continue as planned May 10-12 at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Relatedly, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and numerous other cultural institutions in New York City have also extended their closures until May 15. Now in its eighth year, NYCxDESIGN was previously operated by the New York City Economic Development Corporation. Starting this year, media company SANDOW has taken over that role. *ICFF and WantedDesign both canceled several hours after this article was first published. The next editions of both events will take place in 2021.
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Original blueprints for World Trade Center towers found in trash, sold for $250,000

Though they were destroyed nearly 20 years ago, the Minoru Yamasaki-designed World Trade Center towers, 1 and 2 World Trade Centers, remain in clear memory for architects and non-architects alike. Their shared height and radical abstraction made them instant icons of the late modernist movement and a dual symbol of New York City’s renewed presence in the postindustrial global economy. The Twin Towers’ undeniable significance made the recent discovery of their original blueprints all the more worthy of attention, including the unusual trade of hands that took place in the last half-century. After the two towers were completed in 1973, the blueprints fell into the hands of Joseph Solomon, a former junior partner in Emery Roth & Sons, a New York-based architecture firm that partnered with Yamasaki on the project. Documenting elevations, sections, design details, and virtually all other elements of the site, the blueprints were serendipitously found in the trash in Denver, where Solomon brought them as he set up a new practice. Solomon passed away in 2017, leaving his daughter to clear out his garage, which, unbeknownst to her, included the valuable blueprints. Denver resident Jake Haas saw the drawings lying in front of the Solomon home and, quickly determined their worth, sold them to local pawnshop owner Angelo Arguello, who then sold them to James Cummins Bookseller, a Manhattan-based rare book dealer, thus bringing the blueprints back to where they were first drawn up. “I think you do get a sense of what a massive undertaking this was,” Brian Kalkbrenner, a seller with James Cummins, told the Wall Street Journal while marveling at the plans in their entirety, thought to be the only complete set in existence. The rare book dealer subsequently put them up for auction during the New York International Antiquarian Book Fair at the Park Avenue Armory held last weekend where they were shown to the public for the very first time and, according to Channel 9 News, were sold for an astounding $250,000. While the winner of the auction has not been disclosed, Haas expressed that he would like to eventually see them on display in a local museum for the public to remember the towers that once stood tall in the Financial District.
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Master plan for Sunnyside Yard megadevelopment places affordable housing front and center

The master plan for Sunnyside Yard, the second rail yard-blanketing megadevelopment to take root in New York City in less than a decade, has been unveiled. But when comparing Sunnyside Yard, in western Queens, to its predecessor, the upmarket enclave Hudson Yards on Manhattan’s far West Side, similarities between the two, aside from their positioning atop active rail yards and their massive size—28 acres for Hudson Yards and a staggering 144 acres for Sunnyside Yard—are far and few between. When the first of Hudson Yards’ two phases opened in March 2019 seven years after breaking ground, the new neighborhood, studded with skyscrapers designed by an impressive roster of top architects, became an instant magnet for controversy over, among other things, its preponderance of multimillion-dollar condos. (To be clear, there isn’t a total dearth of affordable housing at Hudson Yards.) Sunnyside Yard takes a dramatically different approach, and much-needed affordable housing is at the very core of the sprawling development master-planned by Practice for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU). In total, Sunnyside Yard will include 12,000 affordable housing units—the most in New York City since Co-Op City in the Bronx was completed in 1973—as the Wall Street Journal reports. Half of Sunnyside Yard’s apartments will be earmarked as affordable rentals for New Yorkers earning 50 percent below the area median income and the other half reserved for affordable homeownership initiatives. Half of the aforementioned affordable rentals would be reserved for very low-income New York families earning less than 30 percent of the area median income. In addition to housing, the ground-up carbon-neutral neighborhood, a project of the New York City Economic Development Corp (EDC) co-planned with Amtrak, will include 60 acres of parkland and open public space, multiple libraries, a score of healthcare facilities, and up to a dozen new schools. “While the overall program is flexible in terms of location and quantities,” explained PAU, “the plan calls for 100 percent affordable housing; a mix of office, retail, light-manufacturing and institutional programs; and lays out an armature of public goods to support these uses.” While Sunnyside Yard has yet to be slapped with a total price tag, the cost to build a protective deck over most of the 180-acre rail yard partly owned by Amtrak—the master plan encompasses 80 percent of the total site—is estimated at $14.4 billion. This also includes the cost of building out necessary street-level infrastructure, utilities, and more. New Yorkers shouldn’t hold their breaths for a huge influx of affordable housing soon, as the project will take decades to complete, with a new regional transit hub, Sunnyside Station, taking priority over housing in terms of what will come first. PAU notes that “the team has identified a series of early investments that respond to pressing community needs and could be implemented in the near term.” Sunnyside Station, identified through community engagement as one of the pressing needs, is one of these early investments. Developers have yet to be selected for the project although the plan gives priority to women- and minority-owned firms and community-centered nonprofits. A consortium composed of Amtrak, the MTA, and the city, along with “community and elected officials will guide the planning process,” wrote the Journal. Writes PAU:
Encircled by thriving neighborhoods that are both tall and small, artistic and prosaic, diverse and even more diverse, Sunnyside should connect, celebrate, and enhance its surroundings. Like the rest of Queens, with its vast industrial and residential neighborhoods, the World’s Fair grounds, MoMA PS1, the Noguchi Museum, Socrates Sculpture Park, and Gantry Plaza State Park, the ideas for Sunnyside must be diverse, creative, and contemporary. These places—like the future-facing borough they call home that led New York into the Jet Age—have never been about the same old same old, never about nostalgia, and never succumb to the banal. Neither should Sunnyside Yard, which could portend our future as a city.
“It’s unprecedented in the last 50 years and it’s amazing,” Jonathan F.P. Rose, an urban planner and affordable housing developer, told the Journal. “When you combine those things with schools, parks, health care, social services, it creates the platform for people to move forward economically with their lives.” How Sunnyside Yard will be paid for is a detail that’s yet to be ironed out, and backers of the project admit funding will be an uphill battle moving forward. Cash will likely come from a mix of federal, state, and city resources including affordable housing subsidies and tax-exempt bonds. Sunnyside Yard recently made news when the project's EDC-organized steering committee lost Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sylvia White of the Justice for All Coalition as members. Their resignation came after local residents and leaders strongly objected to the project during a months-long public outreach period. Those in opposition believe that the funds that would be allocated by the city to develop and build Sunnyside Yard should instead be used for more urgent community needs. In her resignation letter, Ocasio-Cortez argued that funds “should be invested in shoring up the existing transportation infrastructure that already exists there or investing it in other under-funded public resources that our community relies on.” “Sunnyside Yards presents an opportunity to build a stronger New York for generations to come that includes more open space, transit, affordable housing, jobs and green infrastructure in western Queens,” wrote an EDC spokesperson in response. “This planning process has always put community engagement at the center. We’re committed to continuing our work with the community to build a strategic vision that can better serve local residents and all New Yorkers.” It was first announced that the New York-based PAU had been selected to develop the project master plan in May 2018. Landscape architecture firm Nelson Byrd Woltz and Carlo Ratti Associati are among the collaborators that worked alongside PAU in realizing the vision, which as the Sunnyside Yard executive summary states, is “not a shovel-ready mega-development plan, but rather a long-term framework to guide decisions, ensuring that they are led by public priorities, and centered on human needs.” “As an architecture firm deeply committed to advancing equitable, ecological, and joyful cities, PAU has been honored to collaborate with the City, Amtrak, the Steering Committee, our extraordinary consulting team, and innumerable local stakeholders on this intensively community-based, long-term vision for Sunnyside Yard,” said Vishaan Chakrabarti, founder of PAU, in a statement. “At over 180 acres, the Yard represents our city’s most significant opportunity to realize shared progressive goals all in a carbon neutral environment that will set a model globally for sustainable urban growth while maintaining a scale and density reflective of Western Queens. Neighboring communities now have a unique opportunity to leverage this Plan to address long-standing needs in terms of transportation, housing, jobs, open space, social infrastructure, and environmental resilience.” In a 2019 article about Sunnyside Yard, AN editor-in-chief William Menking speculated that “we are more likely to get another version of Hudson Yards on this public land.” Although nothing yet is set in stone, PAU's ambitious master plan helps to ensure that this won't be the case.
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NYC flood barrier project suspended by Trump administration

On January 18, President Donald Trump took to Twitter and made clear his feelings about a proposed $119 billion—later downgraded to $62 billion—proposed seawall with retractable gates that would stretch six miles across Lower New York Bay The system would shield low-lying areas of New York City and New Jersey from the same type of catastrophic flooding unleashed by the storm surge of Hurricane Sandy in 2012. That storm, which wreaked havoc up and down the Mid-Atlantic coastline, resulted in roughly $19 billion in damages in New York City alone. Trump called the idea, one of five flood-blocking proposals being studied by the Army Corps of Engineers, “costly, foolish and environmentally unfriendly.” He went on to claim that the barrier “probably wouldn’t work anyway,” before going on to warn New Yorkers to “get your mops and buckets ready.” In his tweet, an obvious reaction to a New York Times story on the sea wall published the day before, he also misstated the proposed cost of the deluge-preventing defense system to be $200 billion. Just weeks later, a crucial study considering that plan, as well as the four less intensive and expensive proposals, have been abruptly and “indefinitely postponed” by the Corps. As the New York Times reports, the announcement took some of the Corps’ own officials by surprise, while “local politicians and advocates said the decision was stunning at a time when climate change is threatening New York’s future with intensifying storms.” The project was first initiated by the Corps in 2017. Per Gothamist, it was anticipated that they would release a feasibility report as soon as this summer detailing the proposals, costs and benefits, and other information. And, even if a specific long-term plan were to be hypothetically approved and green-lit for federal funding, it could take upwards of two decades to complete such a project. As the Times noted, Trump cannot personally nix ongoing projects within the Corps. Work plans for the agency are jointly decided by Corps officials, the Department of Defense, and the White House Office of Management and Budget, while funding for their projects is allocated by Congress. But considering the previous Tweet, the President’s apparent antagonism toward infrastructure projects that would benefit his hometown, and his apathy toward climate resiliency projects that require federal funding, it’s difficult not to speculate that the move was orchestrated by Trump himself. “We can only speculate, but I think the tweet gives a clue as to the reason,” Robert Freudenberg, vice president for energy and environment with the Regional Plan Association, explained to the Times. “This is a president who gets good headlines for his base out of acting against ‘blue’ states, and there’s a disturbing pattern of stalling or trying to end projects that are important to the Northeast.” “This doesn’t happen,” added Freudenberg. “This is an in-progress study.” Even the Corps official in charge of the project, which only focused on flooding from Sandy-like storm surge but not sea-level rise or stormwater runoff (to some criticism), expressed how abnormal it was for an ongoing project to be shelved and have its funding suddenly halted. “When you’re working on something, you never like to be caught in a position where you’re shut down in the middle before you even finish your mission,” said Clifford S. Jones III of the agency’s New York office. Speaking to the Times, a senior administration official dismissed any notions of a personal vendetta on Trump’s part, and claimed that the Corps’ flood defense study was, in their words, “too expensive and unfocused.” The official went on to claim that the White House “remains committed to helping communities address their flood risks.” Calling the halting of the project “reckless,” New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, who has been critical of the project’s limited scope, told the Times that “there is no other study underway at this scale that could give federal dollars to protect our people, our businesses and our ecosystems.” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York also expressed his dismay with the decision in a press statement: “The administration is being penny-wise and pound-foolish by not funding the studies that allow New Yorkers to prepare for the next superstorm. There was no reason given for these cuts—because there is no answer.”
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Is Trump holding up NYC congestion pricing and Second Avenue Subway funding?

Congestion pricing is at the traffic-alleviating heart of a $51.5 billion funding strategy developed by New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) to raise funds for upgrades and repairs that will help resuscitate the agency’s flailing, failing New York City Subway system. But the plan, which would provide the MTA with $15 billion in bond sales for much-needed funding for signal improvements and enhanced station accessibility, has appeared to have hit a bureaucratic snag. With the congestion pricing scheme slated to kick off in 2021 (although that date now seems a stretch), New York would be the first city in the United States to implement congestion pricing as a means of raising funds for public transportation modernization efforts. Although many particulars are still being ironed out by the state, toll-based congestion pricing would apply to vehicles entering Manhattan from points south of 60th Street during peak traffic hours. An additional fee would also be added for for-hire vehicle rides, which should ideally reduce the number of Uber and Lyfts on the road. As previously reported, Los Angeles County is also mulling a similar congestion pricing plan that would reduce traffic while underwriting mass transit projects. As announced last week in a press conference by Governor Andrew Cuomo, however, New York’s congestion pricing scheme is apparently being “held hostage” by the Trump administration, which must grant the plan approval—via the Federal Highway Administration—before the environmental reviews can begin. While not all of the roadways that would be impacted by the congestion plan are federally funded, many are, thus the need for a federally-mandated environmental review process. For example, as Streetsblog NYC points out, Canal Street is technically part of Interstate 78. To date, the federal government has offered the state no guidance with regard to environmental review processes, essentially putting the brakes on any forward movement for the time being. Cuomo has framed the delay as an act of retaliation for the state’s refusal to hand over data culled from the Department of Motor Vehicles to the Department of Homeland Security that would be used for immigration enforcement. “Will they hold congestion pricing hostage? Yes,” the New York Post quoted Cuomo as saying at the press conference. “It doesn’t happen without the federal government’s approval and right now, they’re not approving it.” Cuomo revealed in another press conference held this past Monday that $3 billion in federal grant funding for Manhattan’s Second Avenue Subway expansion has also been derailed by President Trump. Encompassing three new stations and two miles of tunnels, the first phase of the East Side’s forever-awaited Second Avenue Subway line opened in January 2017. The $6 billion second phase, which would stretch the line from East 96th street to East 125th Street with three new stations, is anticipated to be operational by 2027-2029. The project is currently in the preliminary design phases. Trump had previously expressed decidedly non-antagonistic feelings toward the Second Avenue Subway and its progress. The Trump administration has also delayed funding to rehabilitate a rapidly deteriorating Hudson River rail tunnel that took on significant damage during Superstorm Sandy. The tunnel project is part of Amtrak’s Gateway infrastructure initiative geared to improve rail travel along the Northeast Corridor. It was downgraded to “medium-low priority” status by the Federal Transit Administration earlier this month, “The federal government has been slow, obstinate and I think purposefully difficult whenever they can,” Cuomo told reporters last week in reference to the federal foot-dragging that's slowing crucial New York infrastructure undertakings. “It’s political extortion … and, I think, you see this across the board, and I’m not holding my breath for them to approve congestion pricing.” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has expressed similarly waning confidence that congestion pricing will be implemented at the start of next year. He went as far as to suggest that the funding needed to fix his city’s ailing subways system will only come through if a Democrat takes the White House this November. “I am hoping that the professional folks and reason will prevail,” de Blasio recently explained on the most recent episode of WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show. “It doesn’t always happen in Washington, and if that doesn’t happen, then I am hoping for an election result that will change things in November.”
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New York’s Demisch Danant gets colorful with modern and contemporary furniture

Up through February 22, admirers of 1960s and ’70s French design may observe a richly laid out exhibition of upholstered furniture at the Demisch Danant gallery in Greenwich Village, New York. Appropriately titled Color Diaries, the presentation provides an ample selection of works by such pioneers of French furniture design as Jean-Pierre Laporte, Pierre Paulin, Joseph-André Motte, Olivier Mourgue, and René-Jean Calliette. Together, the saturated hues and curved, clean lines of their oeuvres harmonize with each other in the gallery’s ground floor space. Augmenting the interplay of color and form are textile works by American artist Sheila Hicks, which alternately punctuate and limn the abundant presentation. Visitors are encouraged to interact with the miniature, painted-wood block sets that mirror the simplified forms and interchangeable hues of the furniture on display. While the influence of the Color Field Painters is evident in the designs’ emphasis on monochrome and texture, the exhibition highlights the effortlessly domesticated—yet no less vibrant—nature of such works as Motte’s Armchair, Model 770 (1958) or Mourgue’s Djinn Loungue Set (1964). Each embodies the holistic vision of an individual object yet integrates effortlessly with the comparable designs around them. Read more about the show on our interiors and design website, aninteriormag.com.
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John Cetra of CetraRuddy talks recent projects and Facades+ New York

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On April 2 and 3, Facades+ is returning to New York for its largest annual conference, which is split between a full-day symposium followed by the second day of intensive hands-on workshops led by dozens from across the country. Co-chair John Cetra, founding principal of New York-based practice CetraRuddy, collaborated with The Architect's Newspaper in the curation of panels themes and speakers. Panels include; “Materiality & Fabrication: Bespoke Facade Solutions,” “Scaling up Passive House | For the Greater Good,” “Optimizing the Form,” and “Adaptive Reuse Challenges in NYC Historic Icons.” UNStudio founding principal Ben van Berkel and WXY principal-in-charge Claire Weisz are leading the morning and afternoon keynotes, and Jesse Reiser and Nanako Umemoto of Reiser + Umemoto will dive into their spate of recently completed projects. Prior to the conference, AN sat down with Cetra to discuss architectural trends reshaping New York City and the firm’s recent body of work. AN: Over the last thirty years, CetraRuddy has successfully navigated New York's real estate landscape to deliver scores of projects across building scales. What lessons have been learned and what advice would you give young firms today? John Cetra: We’ve learned a lot of lessons over the past 30 years. One of the most salient is that to successfully navigate the New York real estate landscape, architects need to understand the unique context we have to work in and in particular, the zoning resolution and its nuances. In our practice, an advanced understanding of the requirements has allowed us to create unique buildings forms like One Madison and ARO. This applies across the board, whether in contextual zones, landmarked districts, or not. We value context and history, but we are also open and receptive to new thinking, and we like to weave the two together through design. At Fotografiska, we created a new multi-use event space on the top floor of an 1890s-era building by exposing the structural beams holding up the roof. This is an entirely new space—but it celebrates the original materiality and design of the building in a very respectful way. One of the panels will include your recently completed ARO. Can you explain the significance of the project from the perspective of facade design and engineering? ARO’s facade is crucial to its design—it enhances and clarifies the building’s massing, and works in harmony with the tower’s shape. The signature fenestration pattern is comprised of a glass curtain wall with a light metal net that creates a singular graphic overlay or a ‘second skin.’ This net employs 18-inch-deep “fenders" that act as an integrated solar device, reflecting light as the glass areas absorb light. In this way, the sun is a friend of this building—the sky is reflected in its glass and the metal fenders protect the interiors from sunlight at high angles. As the light changes throughout the day, the articulation of the facade creates depth and visual interest, responding to the time of day and weather. From a technical perspective, the unitized curtain wall system required the design team to minimize the number of custom panel sizes and conditions. Even though the massing undulates and projects forward in cantilevered sections, there are only six different shapes and unit sizes that made up the entire facade. You worked closely with AN to co-curate the upcoming conference. What do you hope will be the primary takeaways of the conference? I think the conference will show that there are no set, universal rules, and that building facades can be of very high quality because of the tools we as architects and designers have at our disposal. Digital technology combined with architectural creativity, a thoughtful understanding of context, and understanding of program can result in beautiful buildings that are sustainable, a pleasure to live or work in, and thoughtful additions to our built environment. Additionally, in terms of contextuality, façade design can successfully contribute and respond to the local built environment. The technology exists now to create site-specific, context-aware facade solutions that are also really attractive and, most importantly, climate-responsive. This is a heartening advance that will be discussed in detail at the upcoming conference. Further information regarding Facades+ New York can be found here.
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Teen dies after jumping from the Vessel

A 19-year-old New Jersey resident died this past Saturday evening after jumping from the Vessel, the Heatherwick Studios-designed climbable sculpture in New York City’s Hudson Yards. The New York Police Department confirmed to AN that the person was found unconscious and unresponsive and was taken to Bellevue Hospital, where he was pronounced deceased. The New York Times and New York Post first reported that the person jumped off of the sixth story of the Vessel around 6 p.m. while the structure was still open to visitors. Onlookers reportedly tried to stop the person from jumping and Hudson Yard employees quickly shielded the body from view. Since opening last year, the Vessel has received its share of criticism from architects, urbanists, and critics, as has the rest of the Hudson Yards development. Wachs and others have questioned the sculpture’s placement and scale, noting that the artwork, which is meant to provide views of the area, is dwarfed by the office and luxury condo towers surrounding it. The $150 million, 150-foot-tall artwork is composed of a honeycomb-like mesh of stairs with viewing platforms along the way up. In its coverage, the Times included an excerpt from former AN editor Audrey Wachs’s 2016 article “What do New Yorkers get when privately-funded public art goes big?” In her pointed critique of the then-unfinished sculpture, Wachs wrote: “As one climbs up Vessel, the railings stay just above waist height all the way up to the structure’s top, but when you build high, folks will jump.” She related the design to the Elmer Holmes Bobst Library at New York University (NYU), which was the site of so many suicides that NYU eventually installed large screens in the building’s soaring central atrium to block people from going over the edge of the railings. In the Times article, Wachs said, “I feel terrible for this person and his family and friends…This is not a critique that you would like to be proven right.” AN has reached out to Related, the developer of Hudson Yards, for comment.
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The Surveillance Technology Oversight Project wants to curb surveillance abuses

Without a suspicious eye or an advanced degree in software engineering, it can be nearly impossible to keep abreast of the evolving role surveillance technology has had in the law enforcement of the built environment. Biometric databanks, facial recognition cameras, cell phone trackers, and other watchful devices have been quietly installed throughout our major cities with shockingly little public disclosure and virtually no discussion with privacy advocates. New Yorkers deeply familiar with their city's streets, bridges, and subway system may still be largely unaware of the more than 9,000 surveillance cameras currently installed on top of them under the watchful eye of the New York Police Department (NYPD)—and those are only the ones either publicly disclosed or visible enough for the public to spot on their commutes. Their targets, their prejudices, and the malpractices they engender all remain shrouded in secrecy, resulting in discriminatory injustices too numerous for any member of the common public to challenge. With prior experience as a lawyer, technologist, and interfaith activist, Albert Cahn founded The Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (S.T.O.P.), a 501(C)(3), non-profit advocacy organization and legal services provider based in New York City in 2019 with the goal of addressing local officials’ growing use of surveillance technologies and serving the victims of surveillance abuse. Within the last year, S.T.O.P. has already stepped in to litigate against many recently uncovered abuses of surveillance technology and databanks; including the NYPD's misuse of mobile device forensic tools (MDFTs) and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's (MTA)'s use of facial recognition surveillance technology in the Times Square/Port Authority Subway Station. AN spoke with Cahn to learn about the extent to which surveillance devices have already become a common element of the urban fabric, and what organizations like S.T.O.P. can do to lessen their grasp on our personal information. Shane Reiner-Roth: How did your nonprofit begin? Why was surveillance chosen as a central issue? It came out of my prior work as a legal director for The New York Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a nonprofit organization that has worked for more than 25 years to defend constitutional rights.  In that role, I saw the alarming array of high-tech tools deployed by the NYPD that were disproportionately targeting that demographic. It seemed like there was an urgent need to make that our top priority. How do you determine an “impacted community?” Here in New York, the discriminatory habits embedded in surveillance systems mirror those found in more traditional forms of law enforcement. In other words, our group has observed the same patterns of policing that occur in physical spaces using analog techniques being replicated by digital techniques, including identity tracking systems and comprehensive databanks. The Gang Database, for instance, is a confidential record organized by the NYPD that lists over 42,000 New Yorkers as suspected gang members, about 99 [percent] of which are people of color. Oftentimes, the impact of these newly developed systems can engender forms of harassment just as significant as through conducted through stop-and-frisk. The people who are being constantly monitored may not know their lives are under a microscope. We’ve seen technology originally developed for the US military, including StingRay phone tracking towers and Counter-IED (Improvised Explosive Devices) equipment, deployed throughout the city without public disclosure. The public was not only uninformed of their presence, but they also didn’t learn the extent to which these technologies were potentially retaining their data, and they certainly didn’t have a say in how they were dispersed across the city. How do surveillance systems present (or conceal) themselves within NYC’s infrastructure? One of the most difficult parts of surveillance work is that much of the infrastructure is completely opaque to the New Yorkers being monitored. And even if they’re visible to the naked eye, we can’t know by looking at them if they’re running facial recognition, biometric analyses, or any other invasive methods of surveillance.  New York City has the largest investment in anti-terrorism surveillance technology in the country, yet nearly all of it goes unreported. Yet following the initial investment in the physical infrastructure of the city, there's a relatively low cost to add additional layers of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and surveillance technology on top of it. A common example is the ALPR, a device embedded into many of the city's bridges to reads license plate numbers and store them in a database that allows the MTA to charge drivers for crossing. How is the surveillance situation different in various parts of the world? We see cities all around the world grappling with this issue. The issue in China has become well known, in which its citizens can be automatically penalized for behavior its government doesn't find agreeable in the form of automatic reductions through their WeChat accounts. Suddenly, the wheels of a justice system are not only driven forward by AI, but they make it almost impossible to disagree or contend with what the algorithms decide. On the flip side, you have countries like Sweden that intentionally limit the data stored in their license plate reading systems. Their authorities have made it clear that they did not install their system for privacy breeching, even though they could use it to make personal information available to the police, they self-imposed limits as a matter of law through automatic image cropping.  Do you feel there could be a version of surveillance that is morally just? Like any form of law enforcement, advanced forensic systems can, of course, have potentially equitable outcomes—we have seen extreme cases such as with DNA matching to exonerate innocent people, for instance. The problem comes in when it's embedded in our infrastructure without the proper safeguards—when they collect data that is simply inappropriate to collect in a free society. How can ordinary citizens protect themselves against unwarranted surveillance when navigating the city? It's often the case that the people who have the time and money to invest in protecting themselves against surveillance are those who are also least vulnerable to its effects. The clients of mine who may be struggling financially or are undocumented are usually not able to invest the same level of resources. While individuals can always increase their odds of maintaining privacy by improving the security of their digital identities, none of us will be able to protect our privacy until we reform the laws and enforce better police practices. We need systemic reform to be truly secure in our privacy and reverse racial injustices perpetuated by unregulated surveillance infrastructure. Do you hope to broaden your work beyond New York state? There are already so many amazing activists operating throughout the world fighting the same battles we do in New York City. While S.T.O.P. will always be based here, we have offered advice on potential litigations strategies beyond our city and will continue this service in the future.