Off I-95 in the northern Bronx, just past the swamps at the mouth of the Hutchinson River and the paved paradise at Bay Plaza mall, arise 35 massive, brick and concrete tower blocks. Most residences nearby are single-family, but Co-op City's 24-story towers shoot out of the ground like sore, red-brick thumbs. But, as out of place as they seem, there are many similar complexes all around New York City and the rest of the country: Stuyvesant Town by the East Village, Riverton Square in Harlem, and the gone-but-never-forgotten Pruitt-Igoe projects of St. Louis. According to Adam Tanaka, a New York–based urbanist who studied these Bronx housing blocks for his Harvard graduate dissertation, Co-op City is the country's largest and most successful cooperative living facility. Many of its 35,000 residents have been living in them since they opened 50 years ago. In a mini-documentary published with CityLab, entitled "City in a City," Tanaka interviewed residents, building managers, representatives, and others involved in the conception of the towers to understand what makes these buildings so successful compared to other projects. On top of interviews and historical analysis, documentary footage shows what life at Co-op City is like. During most weekends of fair weather, tenants and local merchants buy and sell art and food, local musicians perform while residents dance, and children play on the swing sets. Wildlife even has a large presence there: residents have reported seeing deer. What is so special about Co-op City that allows for beautiful scenes like this to be the norm? Tanaka suggests the towers owe their success not to the City of New York, nor to any federally-funded programs, but to their fellow resident, architects, and the coalition of labor unions responsible for the towers’ development. The documentary highlights several of the complex's relatively unique features: a ban on market-rate apartment resale, permanent rent control (which was established in the early '70s after the state tried to increase rents for Co-op City’s tenants), affordable down payments, an elected representative board, self-funded maintenance, and a racially, culturally, and financially diverse group of tenants. But architectural features like larger-than-average apartments with grand windows and ample living and storage space, as well as multiple communal parks and green spaces—all of which was designed by architect Herman J. Jessor, inspired by Le Corbusier’s Villes Radieuse and Contemporain—play major roles, as well. In the documentary, Alena Powell, a resident of Co-op City since 1973, said a friend from the Upper East Side “was amazed because [Powell’s] living room could hold her [friend's] living room and kitchen all together.” Powell also “likes the fact that [she’s] not on top of other people as if [she] was living in Manhattan.” Other residents remark about how “spacious” the apartments are, and how they love the consistent natural light. Pleasing as they may be for many who live there, the Co-op City buildings were (and are) not without criticism. According to an article in Curbed by historian James Nevius, the Co-op City buildings stand as a testament to the ethics of erasing "slums," and to the power of the infamous Robert Moses, whose "bulldoze it" approach to entire neighborhoods is a highly-debated matter, to say the least. During construction in the early 1970s, many rallied against the design and construction of the towers, citing the cheap and unpleasing exterior. Nevius cites Jane Jacobs, who stated they were “truly marvels of dullness and regimentation, sealed against any buoyancy or vitality of city life.” Nevius also references criticisms by the AIA: "Similarly, the American Institute of Architects complained that 'the spirits of the tenants' at Co-op City 'would be dampened and deadened by the paucity of their environment.'" However, many in Tanaka's documentary do not share those opinions and come to the towers' defense. Ken Wray, former executive director of the United Housing Federation, says “the aesthetic was ‘Why waste money on the outside of the building?’ You don’t live on the outside of the building…People driving by might think it’s ugly but people who live there know what [the apartments] look like.” Often overlooked, too, is a sprawling meadow laced among the buildings. According to Nevius, over 80 percent of Co-op City's footprint is dedicated to landscaping: grass and trees with play structures, courts, benches, and market stands on the perimeter. For the people who use these daily, these are helpful amenities that similar developments do not have. Co-op City raises questions about the emphasis on policy or architecture, about interior design versus exterior, about the house and the outdoors, and about ownership and citizenship. Regardless of where one lands on these issues, there's something to be learned from these 35 towers in the Bronx.
Posts tagged with "New York City":
A James Turrell installation in Queens, New York, faces an unclear future after visitors began to notice its skyspace has been interrupted by the neighborhood’s newest high-rise. Meeting is a part of the MoMA PS1 campus and was designed by Turrell between 1980 and 1986 with the goal of creating a meditative place where guests would be able to gaze at the sky away from the ebb and flow of the outside world. The piece is a purely white room with a square hole in the ceiling, drawing guests to look up to the deep blue. A series of LED lights undulating in color changes the ways people perceive both the room they are in and the sky above. However, for those who enjoy visiting the piece and watching the New York sky without the interruptions of gentrification on the skyline, this experience may have just come to an end. Last week, visitors to Meeting began taking photos of what appears to be a series of bars and pipes at the lower edge of the piece, and PS1 has temporarily closed the room, according to The New York Times. James Turrell: The Art of Light and Space. He recently told Gothamist any disruptions of the sky “will ruin [the effect]. It won’t work properly if there’s a building with lights up that’s visible.” Fans have also taken to Twitter to express their fears for the exhibit (and their city) by photoshopping the original picture to now depict a sky interrupted by countless advertisements and drones, as well as by some familiar buildings, such as One Times Square, and the infamous 432 Park Avenue and 56 Leonard. The same developer in charge of the intruding high-rise, Jerry Wolkoff, was also responsible for building another luxury residential tower on top of the famous and widely-loved 5pointz, a fortress for graffiti artists whose works lined the walls before they were whitewashed and erased forever in 2013. In 2016, a federal judge ruled Wolkoff pay 21 artists at 5pointz $6.7 million for the damages of the lost art.
Construction is one of the most dangerous occupations, especially in New York City, home to some of the world’s tallest skyscrapers. While construction accidents are commonplace, statistics collected over the past ten years demonstrate that construction tops the charts as New York City’s most lethal industry, with more injuries reported last year than any other year following the post-recession building boom, as reported in the Commercial Observer. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of construction-related deaths in New York City has remained steadily high over the past few years, with a slight decrease from 21 to 20 annual deaths in 2017. The most recent construction fatality, according to the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB), occurred in November 2018, when a worker was crushed by a forklift on the site of a six-story residential condo in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. One month prior, a worker repairing the facade of a 20-story co-op in Kips Bay, Manhattan, died after a fragment of the building collapsed on top of him. Despite these gruesome accounts, there are still incidents that have yet to be reported, as the DOB only tracks deaths related to a violation of the city’s construction code, rather than tracking all work-related injuries on the job site. There are at least a half-dozen more fatalities that occurred in 2018 than the 12 cases reported by the DOB, bringing the actual number closer to 20. Although the annual death toll has remained constant in recent years, construction accidents surged significantly in 2018. According to the DOB, 761 construction workers were injured last year, which is a 13 percent increase from the 671 incidents that were reported in 2017. Due to the elevated injury rates, the City Council has implemented a number of measures aimed at protecting construction workers and reduce accidents and deaths on job sites. Among them was a law passed in September 2017 mandating construction workers to attend at least 40 hours of safety training by September 2020. The rise in construction-related accidents since then may indicate that employers are not taking these safety precautions seriously, and that the city is not doing enough to protect construction workers from deadly mishaps.
As temperatures continue to plummet in New York, it may not be a total surprise that a giant iceberg has found its way onto the city's streets. Last week, the Garment District Alliance bared its latest interactive art installation, Iceberg, which can be found at the Broadway pedestrian plazas between 37th and 38th Streets. The installation, composed of jagged metallic arches that illuminate and make noises evocative of melting ice as visitors walk through them, was created by ATOMIC3 and Appareil Architecture in collaboration with Jean-Sébastien Côté and Philippe Jean. The work was inspired by actual icebergs and is intended to chronicle the life cycle of a floe, from when it first breaks off the edge of a glacier to when it ultimately melts due to climate change. Part of the motive behind creating the installation was to acknowledge the significance of climate change and global warming, and how they will continue to worsen if people don't make more environmentally-conscious changes to their lifestyles. “This is an astonishing installation that transforms Broadway into a gleaming, interactive experience for pedestrians, while reinforcing an important environmental message,” said Garment District Alliance president Barbara Blair in a statement. Despite the serious message that the piece tries to convey, it appears to be a fun addition to the streetscape, where visitors can playfully interact with the structure, as well as pose for a photo-op. Aside from the arches flashing different colors and emitting loud “drip” noises as people pass under them, the arches make thunderous crashing sounds every so often to indicate an iceberg calving. The energetic spectacle draws in large crowds to the already bustling Garment District, just a few blocks south of Times Square. This isn’t the first time the sculpture has been unveiled to the public; it made its first debut at the 2012 Luminothérapie festival in Montreal. The installation is part of the year-round public art program, “Garment District on the Plazas,” and it will be on view through February 24.
New York City mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Wednesday his support for a tax on vacant storefronts. The measure would be a response to the unusually high storefront vacancy rates across Manhattan. The New York Post reported that in an appearance on WNYC and at a subsequent press conference the mayor called vacant storefronts "a blight on neighborhoods." The mayor and proponents of such a tax argue that landlords are choosing to let storefronts sit empty for months and sometimes years at a time rather than rent the spaces to tenants at a lower rate. The Post has previously reported that many landlords would rather hold out and wait for a high-end tenant rather than lock in a cheaper tenant on a long-term lease. The result is that thriving parts of the city like Soho and the Upper West Side have storefront vacancy rates of 20 percent or more, well over the standard 5 percent. Proponents of the tax argue that landlords of vacant storefronts are hurting small local businesses that can't afford the extremely high rates that owners are demanding. After a first term with its fair share of ups and downs, de Blasio was reelected in 2017 with the promise to continue pushing for a progressive vision for the city. Many have criticized the mayor for spending too little time focused on city issues and spending too much time trying to raise a national profile with visits to Iowa and other trips. His turbulent and often unproductive relationship with New York State governor Andrew Cuomo, an ostensible ally in the Democratic party who is also competing for national attention, has not helped his standing in the eyes of New Yorkers eager for substantive improvements on local issues like city housing and transit. De Blasio's recent State of the City address announced progressive initiatives on many of those issues wrapped up in a campaign to make the city the #FairestBigCity in the country. While it remains to be seen whether or not de Blasio will join the 2020 presidential race, such moves may help burnish his reputation as a progressive government executive.
New York’s famed Chrysler Building is up for sale for the first time in over 20 years. According to the Wall Street Journal, the art deco office tower’s current owners, city developer Tishman Speyer and the Abu Dhabi Investment Council, which owns 90 percent of the property, officially placed it on the market this week. An exact number on the building’s value has yet to be announced, but experts say its unlikely that the piece of prime real estate will attract more than its asking price before the recession. Tishman Speyer bought the Chrysler Building back in 1997, spending over $100 million in facility upgrades on the historic structure as well as two other buildings. The Abu Dhabi government group claimed a stake in the property in 2008 for a whopping $800 million. Since then, such foreign investment and supposed stability in the property have sparked interest from new tenants, such as Creative Arts Agency, LinkedIn, Expedia, and Shutterstock. Despite securing leases with these companies, the prewar building faces many challenges in maintenance and upkeep. WSJ estimated that this will affect the overall sales price of the structure, along with the increasingly expensive lease it holds through the Cooper Union School, which owns the land beneath it. On top of that, the 90-year-old building has to now compete with the slew of starchitect-designed commercial skyscrapers that have popped in the last decade. Though it’s still an essential part of the New York skyline, some fear the Chrysler Building may not be as wanted as these newer, more sustainable structures designed to accommodate the modern worker. But who knows? Maybe a new owner will drop money on a major retrofit. When it opened in 1930, the Chrysler Building held the title as the world’s tallest building. It shocked the city and the nation at 77 stories tall with a 185-foot spire, designed by architect William Van Alen. The Empire State Building soon surpassed the height of the 1,046-foot structure by 204 feet.
Brought to you with support fromModular construction is gaining steam in New York City, with the technique being utilized for new projects ranging from affordable housing to academic facilities. In September 2018, modular technology reached a new height with the tallest modular hotel in the United States, the 21-story citizenM New York Bowery located in Manhattan. For the modular units, Concrete Architectural Associates, Stephen B. Jacobs Group Architects and Planners, and DeSimone Consulting Engineers reached out to Polish manufacturers Polcom Modular, and Aluprof S.A. The units, which measure 48 feet by 8 feet by 9 feet and incorporate two hotel rooms and a central corridor (following a pattern of guestroom-corridor-guestroom), were specifically designed to navigate the street width of New York City. Each module was assembled with the street-facing facade included.
Red Hook Terminal. From Brooklyn, a convoy of flatbed trucks transported the units across the East River to the construction site. The project began with the construction of a four-story concrete base, topped with a 36-inch-thick slab that spans up to 38 feet. This podium, which houses larger amenity spaces below, serves as a transfer slab to support the modular pods above. While the bulk of the citizenM New York Bowery hotel is composed of modular units, there are certain structural elements that span the building’s height. Prior to the craning in of prefabricated components, the construction team poured a full-height concrete structural core along the sites southwest corner and a sheer wall to the north. These concrete structural elements are the primary lateral system for the tower, with the sheer wall largely preventing the modular units from twisting. "Diagonal strap bracing on the module ceiling acted as the floor diaphragm to transfer the floor lateral loads back to the sheer walls," said DeSimone Consulting Engineers Managing Principal Borys Hayda, "the sheer wall's steel connection plates were bolted into the module ceilings and the female end of a Halfen stud embedded into the concrete structure." Once on site, the modules were lifted by crane and stacked module-to-module, each tied to the one directly below by bolted connections. According to DeSimone Engineers, "countersunk bolts were typically used for the diaphragm connections to prevent boltheads from interfering with the bearing of the module above." During construction, the prefabricated units were effectively cocooned within a watertight membrane, with the central portion later being cut out for the hotel’s corridors. After a brief learning curve at the start of the project, the construction team was capable of installing one floor of modular units per week. The top two floors of the tower are framed by structural steel, allowing for larger amenity spaces.Following fabrication, the 210 modular units were transported hundreds of miles from the manufacturing facilities in Goleszów, Poland to the northern port city of Gdańsk where they began the second leg of their trip to New York’s
Last week, the Ronald O. Perelman Center for the Performing Arts, which is currently under construction at the World Trade Center site, was awarded an $89 million grant by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The long-awaited funding brought the project 82 percent of the way toward meeting its total construction costs. “We are grateful to the LMDC for their support to help realize the dream of creating a performing arts center in Lower Manhattan that will serve the local community, New Yorkers from all five boroughs, New Jersey residents, and visitors from around the nation and the world," said Maggie Boepple, President of the Perelman Center. Designed by New York–based firm REX Architecture, the 90,000-square-foot, 138-foot-tall cube-like structure will hold three open and flexible performance spaces that can fit up to 1,200 people. Its bold exterior, which is clad in marble on all four sides, will stand out from the sea of skyscrapers that surround it. The site will also hold various public meeting spaces and an open plaza. At night, the exterior facade will be illuminated with a warm glow. Since construction commenced in June 2017, the main building’s steel skeleton has risen at a relatively monotonous pace, as the majority of construction has taken place below street level at the soon-to-be Vehicle Security Center. Its main entrance is situated beneath the Financial District’s Liberty Park. As of now, an intricate web of concrete pours and steel beams supports the underground garage floors that compose the lower section of the site. Now that funding has been received, the Performing Arts Center should top out by the end of next year and is scheduled to be fully completed in 2021.
A very strange monument has popped up in Manhattan's Battery Park that alludes to a legendary UFO sighting in New York Harbor. Designed by Staten Island–based sculptor Joe Reginella, the curious memorial is dedicated to the six men aboard the tugboat Maria 120, which, according to Reginella, mysteriously vanished in July 1977. Reginella, who The New York Times called “the Banksy of monuments," crafted the NYC Tugboat Abduction monument out of weathered bronze in honor of local lore. Weighing a total of 300 pounds, it depicts a longshoreman kneeling beside an alien figure while looking up at the sky, or rather, an unidentified object flying away. A plaque covering the pedestal of the four-piece monument tells the story of the long-lost Maria 120 and is “dedicated in their memory by Local 333 and the Honorable Mayor Edward I. Koch.” According to Reginella, the urban legend is that the tugboat and its crew, who were patrolling the waters between Liberty Island and Battery Park one summer night, mysteriously disappeared. The crew saw a streak of light shoot through the night sky before an aircraft of sorts crashed into the harbor. The crew radioed the Coast Guard to let them know they’d try to tow the vessel to shore, but when the backup help arrived, both the Maria 120 and the aircraft they claimed to have seen were gone. This isn’t the first seemingly-sincere memorial Reginella has made to poke fun at New York’s many word-of-mouth myths. He’s also done public art pieces dedicated to the Brooklyn Bridge Elephant Stampede and the apparent octopus attack that happened on a ferry near Staten Island. His work isn’t just fun, however—it’s educational. Reginella put together a website, a documentary trailer, and souvenirs to supplement the tugboat abduction story. His logo for the project features the Statue of Liberty with a UFO hovering over it. Interested viewers can even take a Harbor Mystery Cruise to learn more about the oddities that have taken place in New York Harbor. Since Reginella has to pack up and transport The NYC Tugboat Abduction monument every day, it’s periodically on view across from the East Coast Memorial. Catch it before it disappears forever.
The Church Missions House, a historic, Renaissance revival building located at 281 Park Avenue South in New York City, will soon be the new home of Fotografiska. The Stockholm-based photography museum is scheduled to open an outpost in New York in spring 2019. The organization has chosen New York–based CetraRuddy to lead the design makeover and restoration of the landmarked space. Other collaborators on the project include Roman and Williams, which will design an avant-garde restaurant and bar on the second floor, Higgins Quasebarth & Partners, which will preserve and restore the stained-glass windows and limestone and granite facade of the building, and Linq, a tech firm that will design a multi-sensory experience for visitors using flavor, scent, and art. Fotografiska, which views sustainability as a core part of its philosophy, strives to use the power of photography to leave a significant impact on the world. “By following our vision of inspiring a more conscious world, we aim to raise the level of awareness and question what we eat, drink, and take for granted—nudging society towards more sustainable habits,” states Fotografiska on its website. The six-story Church Missions House building will further enhance the cultural significance of Fotografiska and the surrounding Gramercy neighborhood. Built toward the end of the 19th century, the extravagant facade embodies an era in which New York City became a center for art, architecture, and creativity, and it has housed numerous offices and non-profit organizations in the years since. The building is also recognized for its role in the Anna Delvey story, where in 2017, the New York City socialite was arrested on six charges of grand larceny for trying to swindle her way into owning the building by scamming wealthy business acquaintances and hotels. The building’s Italianate style is evident in its arched windows, elegant columns, and decorative enrichments—including elaborate cornices and balustrades. Although the building is located in the midst of lofty skyscrapers and bustling city blocks, it conjures images of the elegant Italian villas of the Renaissance, while at the same time providing the city with valuable restaurant, gallery, and exhibition space. As swaths of Midtown Manhattan continue to disintegrate beneath the rapidly expanding, corporate-run metropolis, the landmark building at 281 Park Avenue is becoming more prominent than ever before. “We have been looking for the right New York location for a while, and the Park Avenue South space is a great opportunity for us to finally start to change the world in the spirit of Fotografiska,” said Geoffrey Newman, project manager and shareholder of Fotografiska New York, in a recent press release.
Icelandic pop pioneer Björk will be world premiering a new concert at The Shed, the cultural institution set to open in Manhattan's Hudson Yards in 2019. Titled Cornucopia, the show will see Björk performing with a seven-piece female Icelandic flute ensemble and other supporting musicians in The McCourt, the forthcoming venue's largest space. "this winter i will prepare my most elaborate stage concert yet, where the acoustic and digital will shake hands, encouraged by a bespoke team of collaborators,” said the singer in a statement. Björk will work with Tony-winning director John Tiffany who will direct the show, Dutch fashion designer Iris Van Herpen on costumes, and Chloe Lamford on set design, along with media artist Tobias Gremmler and frequent Björk collaborator James Merry. Specific dates have not yet been announced for Cornucopia, and tickets are not yet available. There is no word as to whether the show will include new music, or will feature tracks from her extensive back catalog. Björk's most recent album, Utopia, was released in 2017 and imagined an emotional paradise in the wake of her breakup of her longtime partner the artist Matthew Barney. Björk has not yet toured with that album in the U.S. Utopia also used a backing flute ensemble, suggesting that the new concert will work with that material. The Shed is a massive new space designed by DS+R and Rockwell Group that features a retractable ETFE-paneled facade mounted on massive wheels. It is one of the centerpieces of the Hudson Yards development built over train yards overlooking the Hudson River. Alex Poots was hired as the founding artistic director and CEO of the new artspace after stints at the Park Avenue Armory and the Manchester International Festival. The Shed is scheduled to open in the spring of 2019, with the Björk show presumably being one of the inaugural performances.
In honor of World AIDS Day, renowned conceptual artist Jenny Holzer will release a mobile exhibition that will shine a light on the history and current impact of the AIDS epidemic. This December 1, a fleet of five, pitch black trucks featuring LED signs will embark on a journey around the city, showcasing quotes by poets, artists, educators, activists, and people living with HIV and AIDS. The installation, #LightTheFight, is curated by Holzer in partnership with the NYC AIDS Memorial, a project she completed in 2016 that features a series of granite paving stones engraved with Walt Whitman’s 1855 poem Song of Myself. Studio AI designed a white, angular pavilion to house the memorial. The roving billboard project, another text-based artwork by Holzer, signals the launch of the memorial’s Arts and Education Initiative which will bring immersive programming to the city. “It’s crucial to maintain awareness that the AIDS epidemic is live, in New York and around the world,” said Holzer in a statement. “The messages on the trucks’ screens, contributed by feeling people, could comfort those affected by AIDS and reignite fires in bellies to end AIDS forever.” After an interactive ceremony and performance at the memorial site, the trucks will drive up and down Manhattan, animating the special words in black and white with an occasional burst of color to stress the messages on screen. Holzer told The New York Times that the texts will feature a variety of sentiments from tenderness to grief. Throughout the night, the trucks will make pit stops at historically significant locations and sites such as the LGBT Community Center, Times Square, Hudson River Piers near Christopher Street, and the Meatpacking District. At each location, signature condoms designed by Ms. Holzer will be distributed along with educational material on HIV, AIDS, and LGBT rights. #LightTheFight isn’t the first motor vehicle-based installation Holzer has created. IT IS GUNS debuted earlier this year in New York and Washington, D.C., in protest of gun violence. Leading up to the midterm elections this week, Holzer put together a series of tourist buses in Los Angeles, encouraging people to vote. Learn more about #LightTheFight here.