New York City's Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) might be in a highly publicized “state of emergency” over its failing infrastructure at the time of writing, but much less attention is paid to how much it falls short in meeting federal accessibility guidelines. Only 24 percent of New York’s 472 subway stations are accessible overall; a fact not lost on disability advocates. But a recent New York Times article highlighted a case of community-based opposition to new elevators that would make a downtown station more accessible. Only blocks from the World Trade Center complex in Manhattan, residents on Broad Street have been trying to push back against a $20 million pair of elevators that would connect to the J/Z Broad Street station on their block. The elevators are a concession on the developer Madison Equities' part, in exchange for an extra 71,000 square feet of buildable area at the 80-story, mixed-use tower at 45 Broad St. Urbahn Architects will oversee the project. The elevators will provide access to a subway line that only has five accessible stations out of a total of 30. However, at a Community Board 1 meeting last month, approximately 270 residents of 15 and 30 Broad Street had signed a petition opposing what they called “dangerous structures.” Residents cited terrorism concerns, specifically a fear that the glass elevator booths would turn into shrapnel if a bomb went off. But disability activists have called the fear a thin veil for NIMBY-ism. “It’s total NIMBY,” Edith Prentiss, president of Disabled In Action, told The Times. “It’s ‘Don’t affect my property values, don’t affect my — I love this — my iconic view.’ I can understand that they paid a lot of money, I’m sure, but that does not abrogate my civil rights.” As the back-and-forth over elevators at this particular stop continues, so do several lawsuits brought against the MTA by a coalition of disabled residents and advocacy groups. The lack of elevator-accessible trains directly contradicts the Americans with Disabilities Act, but the MTA has claimed that bringing such service to every station would be an undue financial burden. For its part, the agency has responded that they are already spending $1 billion to bring 25 stations into compliance and that overhauling the entire system would cost $10 billion. As the NYC subway system runs 24 hours a day, and because retrofitting a station typically modifies how service runs there for several months, any planned upgrades will likely stress the already straining subway service even further. Still, with some of the deepest and highest subway platforms currently inaccessible to disabled riders, and as funding for much-needed MTA fixes are up in the air, it remains to be seen whether these concerns will be addressed in the near future.
Posts tagged with "New York City":
Multimedia artist Derrick Adams will premiere his first major museum exhibition in New York with Derrick Adams: Sanctuary. Hosted at the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD), Derrick Adams: Sanctuary draws on The Negro Motorist Green Book, an annual guidebook for black travelers during the Jim Crow era, to reinterpret themes of mobility, freedom and leisure. “Sanctuary captures the spirit of road travel at a time when black Americans were not able to move safely around the country,” said Guest Curator Dexter Wimberly in a statement. “When I think about freedom in the truest sense of the word, I’m struck by how relevant The Green Book still is today.” Derrick Adams: Sanctuary will present eight mixed-media collages on wood panels, as well as large-scale sculptures. Through the inclusion of politically and historically relevant found fabrics in his collages, Adams comments on a period when infrastructure connected the country physically but deeply entrenched systems of exclusion prevented black travelers from crossing racial boundaries. His work highlights the importance of leisure for black Americans, as they could be legally denied safe spaces when traveling until the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Shannon R. Stratton, MAD’s William and Mildred Lasdon Chief Curator, stressed the material’s modern day relevance. “It’s a nod to leisure as subject while acknowledging collage’s historic relationship to current events and pop culture. As part of MAD’s 2018 spring season, The Personal Is the Political, Adams demonstrates how vernacular materials and accessible techniques have been fertile ground for powerful, yet approachable, expressions of selfhood.” Accompanying Adams’ show will be the opening of Unpacking the Green Book: Travel and Segregation in Jim Crow America in March. The exhibition will dive into the history of The Green Book in an interactive project space, and present digitized copies of the original text. Ultimately the show’s organizers hope that this new exploration of author Victor Hugo Green’s work will allow museum guests to frame 21st century issues of mobility and race in a broader historical context. Derrick Adams: Sanctuary will open Wednesday, January 24th with a special preview event for members from 6:00 pm to 8:30 pm, and run from Friday, January 25th through August 12th. Unpacking the Green Book: Travel and Segregation in Jim Crow America will run from March 1st through April 8th. Derrick Adams: Sanctuary has been guest curated by Dexter Wimberly, Executive Director of Aljira, a Center for Contemporary Art, with support from the MAD Assistant Curator Samantha De Tillio. Samantha De Tillio also curated Unpacking the Green Book: Travel and Segregation in Jim Crow America.
A mobile meditation studio hit New York City’s streets on February 5th, and made a special afternoon stop in front of the AN office today at 21 Murray Street in Manhattan. The BE TIME bus, with interiors designed by architects Rolando Rodriguez Leal and Natalia Wrzask of AIDIA STUDIO, will offer 30-minute meditation sessions for stressed New Yorkers. After originally planning on launching in late January, the bus has finally been spotted rolling around Manhattan. At only 27 feet long and seven feet, four inches wide, the interior of the bus had to feel larger than it actually is. The designers worked around this limitation by custom fabricating a series of reflective metal panels, perforated with a repeating fractal pattern, that gives the space a light and airy feel. Wood paneling and flooring was used for a more typical studio look, and all of the walls curve to soften the geometry of the space. Being inside of a bus, the studio naturally has two ends, which allowed the designers to build out focal points for the participants. A glowing, color-changing orb sits at the far end, and represents an awakened “third eye”; practically, it serves to focus guests’ attention on the instructor. Both ends of the bus have been clad in a mirror finish, and this interplay with the lack of hard angles creates a wrapping infinity effect. The BE TIME bus held a special half-day public unveiling event on February 5th from 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm at Madison Square Park, complete with free classes. After the new launch, the bus will make stops around the city and announce their upcoming locations on the BE TIME website and via Twitter. Thirty-minute sessions for first-timers will cost $10, a discount off the typical $22 cost. Designing for mindfulness has been a hot trend lately, as architects have integrated meditation studios in nearly every project type, including schools. With the launch of BE TIME, wellness design has gone mobile.
As New York City’s subways continue to crumble and traffic congestion increases, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo have been at odds over the best way to fund mass transit improvements. That may all be about to change, as Governor Cuomo’s Fix NYC Advisory Panel has released their final report and called for the creation of congestion pricing zone in Manhattan. Mayor de Blasio has historically supported a “millionaire’s tax” on the city’s richest residents, while Governor Cuomo has proposed a congestion pricing scheme for vehicles crossing Manhattan’s 60th Street in either direction. In light of Fix NYC’s findings, Mayor de Blasio has seemingly shifted his position and voiced a willingness to implement some form of congestion pricing, if the funds were locked into improving the city’s transit network. Originally formed in October of last year, the Fix NYC panel invited policymakers, real estate developers, planners, MTA employees and other stakeholders to come up with policy fixes to improve mobility across the New York City region. The panel has ultimately recommended splitting any improvements across three phases. Phase one would see a focus on realistic, short-term reforms at the ground level. These range from studying transportation improvement opportunities across the outer boroughs and suburbs, to improving traffic law enforcement, and most importantly, beginning the installation of “zone pricing” infrastructure. This infrastructure would encircle a certain area and allow drivers to be charged for entering or leaving a certain area at specific times or days of the week. Phase two leans heavily on implementing congestion pricing. A central business district would be established as everything south of 60th Street in Manhattan, and for-hire vehicles and taxis would be charged every time they crossed the district’s border. Phase three would ramp up the second phase’s congestion pricing plan, first for trucks, and then to all vehicles entering the district by 2020. While trucks would pay $25.34, for-hire cars would likely only pay $2 to $5, with the overall affect of reducing traffic congestion during the busiest times of the day. Personal vehicles would have to pay up to $11.52 to travel through Manhattan during the busiest times of the day. Drivers would be offered some relief, however. “The Panel believes the MTA must first invest in public transportation alternatives and make improvements in the subway system before implementing a zone pricing plan to reduce congestion. Before asking commuters to abandon their cars, we must first improve mass transit capacity and reliability,” reads the report. It’s estimated that the pricing scheme could raise an additional $1.5 billion a year for the city’s ailing MTA. Governor Cuomo’s response to the report’s findings was muted, and in a statement, he promised to study the proposal more in-depth. Congestion pricing plans have never taken off in New York City despite being proposed regularly since the 1970s, and it remains to be seen whether the mayor’s office or state legislature will seriously take up the issue.
The NYCx initiative, a collaborative effort between the tech industry and the New York City’s mayor’s office, has announced the names of the 22 tech leaders who will be advising the program’s efforts to use smart city ideas to tackle urban issues. First announced in October of last year by Mayor Bill de Blasio, NYCx was designed to tackle pollution, income inequality, climate change, transit issues and more by connecting local startups with global tech companies. New York’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Miguel Gamiño and Deputy CTO Jeremy Goldberg are leading the program, with help from the newly formed 22-person Technology Leadership Advisory Council. The program has hit the ground running, and awards for all four of NYCx’s current initiatives will be distributed in the first half of 2018. The most ambitious problems being tackled have been categorized as moonshot projects, which partner with global entities, while another set of challenges, the co-lab challenges, are designed to collect community-specific solutions for localized problems. The most ambitious of these questions might be the Climate Action Challenge, as the city is seeking proposals to transition fully to electric vehicles in every borough in only five to ten years. Split between two “tracks,” the challenge wants to simultaneously develop new ways of charging electric vehicles, as well as make charging stations ubiquitous across the city. Winners will be announced on April 30th, 2018, and each selected team will receive up to $20,000 and work with the city to implement their ideas. On the co-lab side, the mayor’s office wants to create safer nighttime corridors and activate public areas in Brownsville, and wire up Governor’s Island with 5G wireless internet by this May. Both challenges involve changing how the local community interacts with public space, and could provide a template for future urban planning and development throughout NYC. The Technology Leadership Advisory Council, which will be evaluating these projects, has attracted members of the country’s largest tech companies. Microsoft, Ford, LinkedIn, Google and more have all contributed talent and will continue to work with the city government on projects “from drones to blockchain,” according to the mayor’s office. This partnership makes sense on its face, as several of these companies are already developing their own smart city models. The full list of 22 advisory members can be read here.
Following months of public comments, New York City’s Mayoral Advisory Commission on City Art, Monuments and Markers, formed last September by mayor Bill de Blasio, has finished its review. The commission was created as response to the rising fervor around removing contested monuments around the country, as local activists pointed out that New York has its fair share of statues that celebrate problematic historical figures. The most contentious of the monuments under review was the Christopher Columbus statue that anchors the Columbus Circle roundabout on the southwestern corner of Central Park. New York’s Italian-American community slammed the possibility of removing the statue when the commission was first announced, while others decried celebrating a figure whose actions directly led to the killing of native peoples and the seizing of their land. Instead of removing the iconic statue, de Blasio has announced that plaques will go up explaining historical context, as well as the creation of a monument celebrating the achievements of indigenous peoples near Columbus Circle. Citing the “layered legacies” of each of the items under review, the commission’s report recommended a number of changes for several other highly public monuments, which the mayor has already signed off on. The statue of Theodore Roosevelt on horseback in front of the Museum of Natural History, recently doused in red paint by activists, will stay put. Instead, the museum will be offering educational programs on both Roosevelt’s history of conservation as well as his views of colonialism. Additional markers will be installed around the statue to the same effect. The J. Marion Sims statue at 5th Avenue and 103rd Street bordering Central Park was also under deliberation. Known as the “the father of modern gynecology,” Sims’ legacy has come under fire for his well-known experimentation on unanesthetized slaves. Citing the lack of contextual relevance for the statue’s current site the commission voted to relocate it to Green-Wood cemetery, where Sims is buried. While the original pedestal will remain in place in East Harlem, a plaque will be installed that discusses the issues Sims’ legacy raises. Finally, a marker for Marshal Philippe Pétain has been left in place on Lower Broadway’s “Canyon of Heroes”, which denoted a stretch from the Battery to City Hall where ticker-tape parades are typically held. The marker was installed in 2004, when the Downtown Alliance installed a series of 206 granite markers along the avenue, each representing a ticker-tape parade that had been held on Broadway. The Frenchman had been hailed as hero after returning from WWI and honored with a parade in New York, but later became a top figure in the collaborative Vichy government during WWII. In light of his eventual conviction for treason, the commission recommended installing signage that would re-contextualize the markers, as well as stripping the “Canyon of Heroes” name from Lower Broadway. The committee’s full report is the culmination of months of public hearings and thousands of public comments.
Crain's has released its annual Book of Lists, which includes a listing of the largest 25 New York-area architecture firms, ranked by the number of New York-based architects. The New York area, in this case, includes New York City, Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties, as well Bergen, Essex, Hudson, and Union counties in New Jersey. All of the information is based on 2016 numbers, and most of the information was self-reported by firms. The project totals includes projects in the design stage, under construction, or completed in 2016. In the case of a tie, firms were listed alphabetically. Without a doubt, these are the giants that are shaping New York's built environment, and far beyond. 1. Gensler New York-area architects: 254 Worldwide architects: 1,177 U.S. projects: 6,806 International projects: 1,742 2. Perkins Eastman New York-area architects: 253 Worldwide architects: 452 U.S. projects: 650 International projects: 200 3. HOK New York-area architects: 224 Worldwide architects: 1,171 U.S. projects: 981 International projects: 814 4. Skidmore, Owings & Merill New York-area architects: 157 Worldwide architects: 374 U.S. projects: 375 International projects: 357 5. Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates New York-area architects: 127 Worldwide architects: 212 U.S. projects: 44 International projects: 164 6. Spector Group New York-area architects: 86 Worldwide architects: 88 U.S. projects: 169 International projects: 10 7. CetraRuddy Architecture New York-area architects: 84 Worldwide architects: 84 U.S. projects: 76 International projects: 3 8. FXFOWLE New York-area architects: 75 Worldwide architects: 75 U.S. projects: 136 International projects: 8 9. Ennead Architects New York-area architects: 72 Worldwide architects: 75 U.S. projects: n/d International projects: n/d 10. STV Architects Inc. New York-area architects: 71 Worldwide architects: 93 U.S. projects: 1,712 International projects: 13 11. Robert A.M. Stern Architects New York-area architects: 64 Worldwide architects: 64 U.S. projects: 186 International projects: 41 12. Gerner Kronick & Valcarcel New York-area architects: 60 Worldwide architects: n/d U.S. projects: 75 International projects: 0 13. SLCE Architects New York-area architects: 57 Worldwide architects: 58 U.S. projects: 63 International projects: 1 14. Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners New York-area architects: 54 Worldwide architects: 78 U.S. projects: 261 International projects: 21 14. Dattner Architects New York-area architects: 54 Worldwide architects: 54 U.S. projects: 98 International projects: 0 14. Stephen B. Jacobs Group New York-area architects: 54 Worldwide architects: 56 U.S. projects: 30 International projects: 2 17. HLW International New York-area architects: 48 Worldwide architects: 74 U.S. projects: n/d International projects: n/d 18. CannonDesign New York-area architects: 47 Worldwide architects: 453 U.S. projects: n/d International projects: n/d 19. AECOM New York-area architects: 46 Worldwide architects: 1,491 U.S. projects: n/d International projects: n/d 20. H2M Architects & Engineers New York-area architects: 43 Worldwide architects: n/d U.S. projects: n/d International projects: n/d 21. Pei Cobb Freed & Partners Architects New York-area architects: 36 Worldwide architects: 36 U.S. projects: 24 International projects: 21 22. Francis Cauffman New York-area architects: 33 Worldwide architects: 83 U.S. projects: 176 International projects: 1 22. TPG Architecture New York-area architects: 33 Worldwide architects: 33 U.S. projects: 1,238 International projects: 11 24. EwingCole New York-area architects: 32 Worldwide architects: 150 U.S. projects: 400 International projects: 0 25. Perkins & Will New York-area architects: 30 Worldwide architects: 684 U.S. projects: 3,263 International projects: 1,088
With the recent revelation that New York City’s proposed Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX) streetcar project had missed its deadline for launching the public review process at the end of December, new questions have arisen over how feasible the project is. As the city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) has instead chosen to begin a review of the streetcar’s cost and feasibility this year, it’s worth looking back at the BQX’s bumpy ride through 2017. The last time AN wrote about the BQX, it was to report on the release of a leaked memo from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s advisory team to Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen in April. While the 16-mile-long BQX line was originally envisioned as a way to transport residents up and down a revitalized Brooklyn-Queens waterfront by April 2024, the memo called into question the rising costs of relocating below-grade utilities along the line’s route. It was additionally suggested that the use “value-capture” for the $2.5 billion project, which would finance the BQX through rising waterfront property values, might not be enough. Fast forward to November 9th, when two anonymous sources with connections to the project told the New York Post that “It’s going to die.” Citing the contentious relationship between Mayor de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo, and breaking with the mayor’s assertion that the BQX would require no state-level intervention, the sources broke down why the streetcar relied on the governor’s approval. Several parcels of land along the BQX’s proposed route are owned by the state government and would need permission to build over, and the MTA has stated that it would not cross-honor BQX tickets for the bus and subway systems. Killing the “last mile” aspect of the streetcar is especially important, as the project was initially pitched as linking neighborhoods that lacked mass transit options. Four days later on the 13th, the nonprofit group Friends of the Brooklyn-Queens Connector unveiled a life-sized streetcar prototype at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The mockup featured enough room for 150 passengers and open gangways, while Friends of the BQX have promised that the streetcar would have an average speed faster than the busses it would share the street with. As December drew to a close, the BQX missed a major milestone in failing to launch the public review process. As the EDC begins an in-depth review of the project, Crain’s has noted that the review would save taxpayers $35 million if plans for the streetcar were scrapped, but would delay the project’s launch another six months, potentially costing up to $100 million every year that it’s delayed. Only a few days after, on December 28th the Post reported that the Department of Transportation would need to repair the decaying Brooklyn-Queens Expressway directly over the proposed streetcar route, potentially delaying the project further. While the Friends of the BQX and the mayor’s office have remained adamant that funding for the project can be found, there are still significant hurdles in the way. A route has to be finalized, some sort of agreement between the city and MTA must be worked out, and protection measures for flooding will need to be discussed as the entire line runs along the most climatologically vulnerable part of the waterfront. As 2018 progresses, it will be worth keeping an eye on whether the BQX can meet its original 2019 groundbreaking date. A Friends of the BQX spokesperson gave AN the following statement in regards to the project's future. "The BQX will dramatically increase opportunity for the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers along the Brooklyn-Queens waterfront who are clamoring for better access to jobs, education, healthcare and recreation. We're optimistic that the project will take significant, concrete strides forward in 2018."
A 68-story, mixed-use tower set to rise in East Harlem between 96th and 97th Streets on Second Avenue is facing renewed pushback from community groups, even as the New York City government seem to be in unanimous agreement over its development. While the massive, 1.3 million-square foot complex would replace the existing Marx Brothers Playground, developer AvalonBay has promised to rebuild it “piece by piece” nearby; a compromise that preservationists have found unacceptable. As the New York Times reports, the battle over 321 East 96th Street hinges on whether the Marx Brothers Playground is, as the name suggests, a playground or a park. While the distinction might seem small, developing on parkland requires approval from governor and State Legislature. Despite the name, the playground has been maintained by the city parks department since 1947 and bears a plaque on the gates stating the same. Once completed, the new development at the site would yield 1,100 residential units, with 330 of them affordable, 20,000 square feet of retail space, and 270,000 square feet for three schools. One space will be for the School of Cooperative Technical Education, a vocational school, and the other two will be extension spaces for the nearby Heritage School and Park East High School. The educational component is integral to the project, as the New York City Educational Construction Fund (ECF) is a development partner. Pushing back on what they see as the city ceding public land for a private tower, the Municipal Arts Society, along with several preservation groups and the backing of the Trust for Public Land, have filed a lawsuit on December 22nd meant to block the development. Replacing the 1.5-acre playground has the backing of the local community board, City Council, Parks Department, borough president, and former City Council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, all of whom have argued that the additional housing and education facilities are sorely needed. “That is not your typical set of approvals,” said Alyssa Cobb Konon, one assistant commissioner at the parks department. “And I think it speaks to broader support for the project.” Still, Governor Andrew Cuomo has agreed to look into whether the Marx Brothers project would be replacing parkland, and will appoint the commissioner of the state parks department, Rose Harvey, to determine the legal status of the playground. However, as the Times notes, Governor Cuomo has preemptively given his go-ahead to the development, having signed a bill granting AvalonBay the right to begin construction if the site’s legal challenges are found to be without merit. The lawsuit comes at a contentious time for East Harlem, as the recently passed rezoning has already begun changing the neighborhood and creating more parkland.
Stop by the latest outpost of Sant Ambroeus for your morning coffee and you may not notice all of the design at play. But you’ll certainly feel it, as you enjoy an espresso, Italian-style, at the counter. Your leg will sink into the angle of the Dark Emperador marble slab, and suddenly you’ll feel anchored, calm. That’s because visitors to the Upper East Side coffee shop are in the competent hands of Bonetti/Kozerski Architecture, who used mock-ups to convince their client to place the glowing pastry case at the back and allow generous room for flow. “There’s always a leap of faith from the client, but the shorter you can make it and the more you can show the reasons, the better,” said Enrico Bonetti, the project’s principal in charge, whose firm lead the renovation of the entire building, now called the Hanley. A native of Bologna and a self-professed coffee obsessive, Bonetti looked to the brand’s heritage, “like a producer,” to create a space that would feel both fresh and within the visual language established since the first Sant Ambroeus opened in 1936. “We adjusted what they had, fine-tuned it, and tried to bring some level of quality that you don’t see, but you feel,” Bonetti said. Every element, down to a brass niche precisely proportioned to hide the requisite box of latex gloves, was carefully considered. “You don’t find places like this in Italy,” Bonetti said, settling into a coffee-colored Thonet chair. “The level of refinement is very New York.” Behind the counter, rounded tiles of Marmo Rosa di Verona were glued to the walls by “two very old installers” imported, like the stone, from Italy. The tiles’ shape mirrors the oiled American walnut tambour that clads the remaining walls, while their shade references Sant Ambroeus’s signature peachy-pink hue. Even the ceiling is painted with purpose, nearly imperceptibly, in Benjamin Moore’s Burlap, a neutral take on the color. While it’s unlikely anyone would notice the hue, the entire space glows warmly thanks to layered lighting with metallic-capped LED bulbs in simple ceiling-mounted Schoolhouse Electric fixtures as well as architectural cove lighting combined with a pair of vintage 1950s Paavo Tynell sconces and brass Alvar Aalto pendants. The same care was given to details like the matte black paint that makes the tables’ legs seemingly disappear, the wood newspaper holders sourced from Germany, and even the height of the custom leather bench, which puts sitters at eye level with those across from them. “These are not things that anybody notices, but at the end, they stay with you if not properly treated.” The team also worked with kitchen consultants Clevenger Frable Lavallee to make the space as functional for those working behind the counter as it is beautiful for those waiting in line. But, Bonetti had more than just his clients to please. “It’s mostly thinking selfishly,” the architect joked, “because I want to come back and have a really good cup of coffee.”
Of all the tools designed to provoke urban compliance, the most effective, it seems, is the old-fashioned letter grade. That’s the tool New York City restaurants have to use, for instance, to communicate their health department ratings to would-be diners. Thanks to newly-passed legislation, New York is becoming the first city in the country to require that "energy grades"—A to F ratings based on federal Energy Star energy efficiency scores—be posted at the public entrances of commercial and residential buildings over 25,000 square feet. Currently, the city collects energy and water usage data on private buildings over 50,000 square feet and public buildings over 10,000 square feet and posts the results for these 11,000-plus properties online. The new rules will broaden energy reporting requirements to owners of eligible private buildings, too, and cover around 20,000 structures total. On December 19, the New York City Council passed the bill, 1632A, authored by Council Member Dan Garodnick. If the mayor signs off on the bill, its first provisions will go into effect immediately, but owners won't have to post letter grades in 2020. To get their scores, building owners will need to fill out an online assessment of their property's performance, and the results will be available in a searchable database, in addition to being posted on the building's public entrances. “As the federal government shirks its stewardship of our environment, it is up to cities to step in,” said Garodnick. Despite the US's recent withdrawal from several global sustainability pledges, the city is still aiming, per the 2015 Paris Agreement, to reduce its greenhouse emissions by at least 80 percent by 2050. Efforts to do so include transitioning to a renewables-based electric grid, achieving Zero Waste landfills, and replacing fossil-fuel based heating and hot water systems with high efficiency systems. "Nearly 70 percent of greenhouse gas pollution in New York City comes from buildings,” said Rory Christian, director of the New York Clean Energy Environmental Defense Fund, in a prepared statement. “Requiring large buildings to post their energy efficiency grades is a natural next step in the evolution of the city’s energy policies.”
It takes a lot to get a walking New Yorker to look up. Entranced by a phone, or scanning the sidewalk for the fastest way forward, only an explosion, a gunshot, or a really cute puppy can grab one’s attention. So it was with surprise that this writer witnessed, on a recent summer morning, a gaggle of people surrounding a new shoe store on Broadway, in Soho. That store is Galeria Melissa NYC, and the people were staring at feminist video art on two really large screens. Inside, the boutique, by Brazilian designer Muti Randolph, is a footwear paradise in a gallery. This is not the first New York store for Melissa, nor is it the first time the brand, also from Brazil, has worked with the designer. Though Randolph’s vision guided the design of this space, Melissa’s parent company, Grendene, enlisted a local firm to make it all happen. Grendene chose Mancini Duffy for its deep roots in the city and for its retail expertise. Perhaps best known for corporate interiors for clients NBC Sports Group and A+E Networks, the firm has also redesigned one floor of Saks Fifth Avenue, and remade multiple Bloomingdales. So what’s the difference between designing for a department store versus street-level retail? Here, Mancini Duffy did almost nothing to alter the landmarked cast-iron facade, and the store is impossible to miss from the street. In the triangular vestibule, two giant LED screens reflect infinitely off of mirrored flooring. On a recent visit, the screens displayed work by artist Sam Cannon as part of The Future of Her, an in-house exhibition curated by sisters Kelsey & Rémy Bennett. Cannon’s video, a pastiche of mildly subversive candy-colored women’s bodies coated in fluid, heralds the shiny smooth plastic shoes on the main sales floor, just up a metal-lined ramp. The aesthetic is futuristic, if your vision of the future includes lots of lasers. Plastic shoes shine like wet Barbie feet, and the merch looks even more vibrant thanks to white LED ceiling lights. The ribboned overhead lighting is rigged to an MDS lacquered box, which beams out light across at least three walls of mirrors (four if you count the shoes displayed, Hall of Minerals–style, behind a two-way mirror). Melissa’s second life on social media, particularly on Instagram, played no small role in the store’s design. Thanks to online shopping, “there’s been a paradigm shift in how retail works,” said Ali Aslam, designer at Mancini Duffy. Though some decry the death of brick-and-mortar retail, the proliferation of images on the internet is transforming real-life stores into “boots-on-the-ground marketing for brands.” To do this effectively, the team employed eye-catching everything to make the space stand out in that sea of hashtags. In a nod to the structural cast iron columns that dot the main floor, shoes are set out on mini millwork-and-plaster columns, painted a shiny black. While the smaller, movable white displays are lacquer-painted medium-density fiberboard (MDF), the larger, central ones arranged around the structural columns are fabricated in Corian. Though it’s tempting to linger in the main area Instagramming, there are two more rooms to explore. Near the cashier’s desk, a lush green wall beckons from the rear of the space. The architects worked with plantwalldesign, which also did the green wall at Lincoln Center, for this project; the plants can live for decades under (carefully calibrated) light and irrigation systems. The cashier’s desk, Aslam said, exemplifies the collaboration between Randolph and Mancini Duffy. The artist rendered a piece with a long cantilevered edge that looked cool, but would be almost impossible to build. The architects worked with him from the ground up, using the firm’s in-house design lab to 3-D print a model. That model was sent to a millworker in Brazil to create a desk that was “almost to a T the exact thing we agreed on,” Aslam said. Another mini-room, kitty-corner from the cashier’s desk, contains shoes, but the main focus is an immersive video artwork by Signe Pierce, a self-described “reality artist.” The store will host four exhibits annually, a figure that handily coincides with the four best shoe-buying seasons (all of them).