A small sliver of urban infrastructure has been both the bane and blessing of one city in Central New York for 60 years. Interstate 81, an 855-mile-long highway stretching from Tennessee to the U.S.–Canadian border, sliced through downtown Syracuse upon its completion, sparking generations of socioeconomic segregation. Today, the viaduct that hovers over Syracuse’s urban core has reached the end of its functional life, spurring residents and the state’s department of transportation (NYSDOT) to consider next steps for the consequential corridor and how reimagining the site might transform the city in dramatic ways. This isn’t a new transportation tale, but the decisions made in Syracuse could have a major impact on the health and wealth of its locals. For nearly a decade, conversations have centered around three options for the deteriorating viaduct: replace it with a new overpass, build an underground tunnel, or design a street grid that slows traffic through downtown Syracuse and thereby spurs development and a more walkable city. One grassroots group calling for the street grid is Rethink81. They’ve created a digital narrative that paints a clear picture of the city’s wrought history with the highway and what its future could look like. Renderings of the street grid site show new buildings, a green street, and a bike path that extends south on Almond Street in between downtown and University Hill. The street grid seems like the eco-friendliest and fiscally responsible option at $1.3 billion, but many are against it. The DOT estimates that a new elevated highway will cost $1.7 billion but take nearly ten years to complete. Some upstate members of the state legislature even favor the tunnel despite its hefty price tag of $3.6 billion, according to consulting firm WSP Global. The latest discussions—from Albany to Syracuse—center around whether the tunnel idea is still truly on the table. "It's the million dollar question," said Jason Evans, associate principal at Ashley McGraw Architects and member of ReThink81. "The tunnel seems like an excessive investment to make for what would essentially be a duplicate route for traffic to bypass downtown.” Both the tunnel and rebuilt viaduct would allow cars to zip through the city at the same rapid pace as they do today. But that’s just the problem, says Syracuse University architecture professor Lawrence Davis. The city’s biggest issues stem from the fact that hardly anyone lives, works, or plays in downtown. The mass exodus of white residents to the suburbs after World War II caused investment to be drawn away from downtown. To this day, the suburbs remain Syracuse’s wealthiest districts. “This is a vitally important thing to study because a lot of American cities are going through a similar thing and are taking a cost-benefit analysis of their infrastructure,” said Davis. “I’m arguing that the city of the future isn’t so much a concentric city but a multicentric city that’s built in the interest of everybody and provides a variety of neighborhood types.” When the viaduct was built, it cut off Syracuse’s lowest-income residents, members of the largely African American 15th Ward, from the new developments that have risen over the last several decades. This has contributed majorly to the city’s rising poverty rates. Ranked the 13th poorest city in the nation in 2016, it’s also one of the worst places for black Americans to live, according to data from 24/7 Wall Street last year. These stark realities date back to the decision made to build the highway in 1957. Yusuf Abdul-Qadir, Central New York chapter director of the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), helps educate the local community and university students on the multilayered segregation that’s resulted, and how this modern moment in Syracuse’s history could help end the physical and financial isolation so many people feel there. “A highway isn’t naturally discriminating against everybody, but it creates a number of issues,” he said. “The car has literally split the city and made parts of it less desirable for development. If you look at these constituencies and their effective income, they are living this way because nothing’s been done to provide equitable opportunities for housing choice, economic mobility, or inclusion. It’s caused generational poverty.” Abdul-Qadir and the NYCLU are putting together an expert team of lawyers, urban planners, and project councilors that will continue to fight on behalf of Syracuse’s underrepresented populations as the I-81 debate moves forward. “This isn’t just an urban movement or a policy movement,” he said. “It’s a human rights movement and we’re trying to build momentum.” As of July, the NYSDOT was working on a new environmental impact statement that details how the three options will affect the city. A draft is expected to be complete by early 2019, at which time the public will be able to weigh in with commentary.
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On September 12, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs announced a call for applicants for “City Canvas,” a 24-month-long pilot program designed to improve New York City’s visual landscape through the installation of large-scale, temporary artwork on protective construction structures including construction fences and sidewalk sheds. Protective structures scattered throughout the five boroughs of New York have been criticized for their invasive nature and unattractive appearance. While New York construction codes typically prohibit the alteration of these structures, the City Canvas program will allow select artists and cultural institutions to install visual art on the unsightly supports that lurk over the city’s construction sites. “Sidewalk sheds are unattractive, but they keep us safe,” Buildings Commissioner Rick D. Chandler, P.E., told Broadway World. “If anyone can bring some love to the sidewalk sheds New Yorkers love to hate, it’s our city’s artists.” There are two main goals associated with the City Canvas initiative: to improve the pedestrian experience of city residents and tourists by transforming protective structures into beautiful works of art, and to increase opportunities for artists and cultural institutions to gain recognition and create artworks that are representative of the communities in which they are installed. “Art is a way for people to connect, and promoting the installation of more art in public spaces is a fantastic way to create a stronger sense of community in neighborhoods throughout New York City,” Council Member Robert Cornegy, Jr. told Broadway World. “City Canvas is an innovative way to support local artists and build community, all while beautifying otherwise unattractive construction sites. I hope the many great cultural nonprofits that serve our city take advantage of the great opportunity, and that it becomes a lasting initiative that brightens our public spaces for many years to come.” During the pilot period, the City is seeking proposals from at least one qualified nonprofit organization to install artwork on at least one location. The deadline is Friday, October 12. The pilot program will run for the next 24 months. Application instructions are available in detail on the NYC Cultural Affairs website.
For the past two years, the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (DHP), the Department of Buildings, the Fire Department, and the Department of City Planning have been working with city council members to legalize more basement apartment rental units, and this June the city took a major step forward. According to City Hall, “The City is using innovative strategies to unlock more affordable housing at every level – including the basement.” Currently, thousands of people are occupying basement and cellar apartments deemed not fit for habitation. According to Council Member Rafael Espinal, “In East New York, I can comfortably estimate that over 75 percent of the basements are being rented illegally.” Also, they haven't been properly registered with the Department of Finance. Following an initial feasibility study, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Council Members Brad Lander, Rafael Espinal, and Inez Barron proposed legislation this summer to establish a three-year pilot program to facilitate the creation and renovation of apartments in the basements and cellars of certain one- and two-family homes in Brooklyn Community District 5. This demonstration program intends to provide clearer guidelines for landlords looking to make qualifying basements legally habitable. The de Blasio administration has invested $11.7 million in the new program. According to a City Hall press release, “This innovative program will provide safe and legal housing options to more New Yorkers.” Modifications of existing construction codes are designed to improve health and safety standards for occupants while reducing the overall cost of conversions. Barron said, “This bill will enable landlords to make necessary structural adjustments to their basements so that these potential living spaces can be legalized and legitimized.” The DHP is seeking a qualified community-based organization (CBO) to administer the program. The DHP will fund the CBO to assist landlords with completing low-interest loan applications and selecting approved contractors to complete the work. To qualify as a landlord, a homeowner must have an income at or below 165 percent of area median income and occupy the one- or two-family home as their primary residence. If the pilot program succeeds it will potentially expand to all five boroughs.
This Federalist-style four-story building across the street from the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral was the church’s former school and convent for nearly 200 years. Built in 1826 to replace an orphanage and parochial school founded in 1822, Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral School educated generations of locals and immigrants (including Martin Scorsese; according to a New York Times article he “struggled under the merciless ministrations of the Sisters of Mercy”) before closing in 2010. In 2014, the archdiocese sold it to Hamlin Ventures and Time Equities, who hired Marvel Architects to design the Residences at Prince, a seven-unit condo attached to a 6,100-square-foot space still retained by the church for its offices and community space. Because the structure is a landmark, the exterior elements—namely the windows—were restored. “Integrating glass into [the] historic facade, we supported the architect to update the aesthetic,” said Spencer Culhane, building envelope specialist at Schüco. Preservation consultant Higgins Quasebarth & Partners and Marvel completed the restoration using two styles of windows since the building was built in two different time periods. “The new wood window sashes are shop painted with a durable finish to provide a long-term protected finish,” said Nebil Gokcebay, associate at Marvel. In the interior courtyard, new expanses of glaze and thermally broken windows were installed. Having undergone numerous revisions, the south-facing 200-year old facade is patched up by bricks that fill up what were previously windows. This playful window arrangement (lower level windows occupied by the church are opaque) inspired the new north facade. A similar asymmetrical composition was made with Schüco’s AWS windows throughout. “Between the design starting point and in contrast to the historic double-hung windows in a pre-Civil War wall, we developed an all-glass vocabulary,” said Jonathan J. Marvel, principal at Marvel. Architect: Marvel Architects Location: New York City Codevelopers: Hamlin Ventures and Time Equities Contractor and Fabricator: TRU Architectural Historic Preservation Consultant: Higgins Quasebarth & Partners Facade Windows: Kolbe Windows & Doors Courtyard Glazing System: Guardian Glass Courtyard Glass and Window Systems: Schüco
Governors Island could soon be home to, well, homes. Or at least dormitories. The New York Harbor island could house the city’s newest innovation and education hub while maintaining its identity as a beloved recreational oasis. Crain’s New York reported that City Hall will hold a public hearing next month on its plans to rezone the island's former military base to make way for a proposed 4.5 million-square-foot, mixed-used development. Mayor de Blasio's office posted a notice last week about the hearing, which will be the first step in an environmental review process for the project. Aiming to attract a combination of tech and life-science firms, educational institutions, dormitories, as well as a convention center and hotel, the city wants to build out the development as a way to enhance exposure for Governors Island. The 172-acre landmass currently functions as a leisurely getaway for urbanites to enjoy during the summer. Though city-owned, it’s managed and maintained by the Trust for Governors Island. The new development, which would be constructed on the south side of the island, would help annually fund the costs of the island's 43-acre park. With this proposal, it seems the city wants to piggyback off the success of Roosevelt Island’s Cornell Tech campus and bring those small island–big money vibes south of Manhattan. Plus, space for ground-up construction in New York is limited and Governors Island remains one of the more barren sites in town. Any new facilities part of the proposal would be built on two plots of land currently zoned for residential development. The problem is that residential construction has long been prohibited on Governors Island, which is why the city wants to first rezone the land before bringing businesses on board. After an extensive public review process beginning with next month’s meeting, City Council is expected to vote on the proposal in fall 2019. If passed, the rezoning would allow low-rise commercial structures to be built on the site as well as proposed dorms and hotel properties that could potentially rise as high as 300 feet. Crain’s also noted that the city has already commissioned a second ferry to take construction workers out to the site. But that won’t be enough to transport future commuters to and from the development, even in combination with an expanded East River Ferry service. That’s why the Economic Development Corporation is in talks to put a gondola between Lower Manhattan and Governors Island, further mimicking the layout of Roosevelt Island, which is reachable via a gondola and the F train. The public hearing for the rezoning proposal is scheduled for September 26 at 6:00 p.m. at the Battery Maritime Building in Lower Manhattan.
New York City papers reported this week that employees for the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) have been having regular orgies in a Bronx public housing complex. The bombshell is a bizarre cap on a summer of horrible news for the agency. New York Daily News reported on Monday that at least two supervisors were pressuring staff at Throggs Neck Houses to participate in alcohol-fueled sex parties in the property's offices. The parties happened on multiple occasions, and staff even counted time at the events as overtime so that they would be paid for participating. The entire Throggs Neck staff has since been reassigned to other properties, but no one has been fired. The greatest penalties have apparently fallen on two ringleaders who were suspended without pay for 30 days while the organization conducts an investigation. One of those people, Brianne Pawson, was the supervisor of grounds at the property and is the daughter of Charles Pawson, NYCHA director, the Daily News reported. Outrage from residents and city council members over the scandal and subsequent lack of disciplinary action only add to the heat NYCHA has felt this summer, as dangerous flaws in its operation have been exposed. Residents in East Harlem have reported that they frequently don't have running water; playgrounds have collapsed while children played on them; drinking water tanks have contained dead animals and human excrement; hundreds of children have suffered lead poisoning after living in apartments with toxic paint. And that's just this year. Reports have uncovered a litany of other complaints and failures, all apparently stemming from gross mismanagement and underinvestment by the authority. Vito Mustaciuolo was named general manager for the organization this summer on the heels of Shola Olatoye's departure from her position as chair of the authority. Earlier this year Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York, declared a state of emergency for the organization after several properties lost heat during the winter, and a recent lawsuit targets Bill de Blasio, mayor of New York City, for his responsibility in a lead poisoning scandal. NYCHA is the country's largest housing authority and shelters over 400,000 New Yorkers. Its leader is appointed by the city's mayor, but it operates as an independent corporation. This year Congress approved an increase in federal funding for the authority after the Trump administration initially proposed cutting support.
The saga of New York City’s proposed Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX) streetcar has taken yet another turn, as Mayor Bill de Blasio placed responsibility for funding the $2.5-billion project on the federal government. At an August 24 media roundtable, de Blasio dodged questions about how much the city would be contributing to the project and claimed that while a detailed BQX plan was incoming, federal subsidies were necessary to move things along. “When we have a more detailed plan we'll speak to it,” said de Blasio, “but the primary focus I have beyond the resources that would be created via its very existence because of increased property taxes for that area, is the need for federal support. I don't think it's doable without federal support, but we'll speak to the details.” It looks like the federal government is throttling back its investments in mass transit, as the Federal Transit Administration has been consistently decreasing the amount of money allocated to intra-city projects. Still, it might not be impossible for the city government to secure federal funds for the BQX; the Gateway rail tunnel between New York and New Jersey, long maligned by President Trump, has seen a consistent trickle of money through Congressional action. While the city still has yet to release a draft report of the BQX’s route, there has been no mention of changing the 2019 groundbreaking. The de Blasio administration was (and seemingly still is) shooting for a 2024 completion date, but even if funding is secured in time, the reconstruction of the decaying Brooklyn-Queens Expressway could alter any previously proposed route. De Blasio added that details on the BQX’s next steps would be forthcoming. “Figuring out how to do it is what we've been working on cause it is complex, we're going to have an announcement soon on the details. But, you know, bottom line is the original concept makes sense, we believe there will be some real funding created by its presence but, we're gonna need some additional support.” The nonprofit Friends of the BQX declined to comment.
A fire broke out at the Statue of Liberty Museum construction site on Monday, forcing 3,400 people to evacuate New York’s most famous tourist attraction, reported CBS News. The incident occurred on the north side of Liberty Island where the 26,000-square-foot museum, designed by FXCollaborative, is currently being built. According to the FDNY, three 100-pound propane tanks caught fire around noon yesterday where a new security screening facility is under construction. Work was being done on the roof of the building, which sits about 200 feet from the base of the statue, during the time of the fire. None of the tanks exploded due to the accident but one construction worker was injured. It took firefighters two hours to contain the flames. Set to open next May, the $70-million museum is being developed by the Statue of Liberty–Ellis Island Foundation, the National Park Service, and the U.S. Department of the Interior. The existing museum, which is laid out inside the statue herself, can’t accommodate the number of tourists the site sees per day. The new expansive design will be able to hold over 1,000 visitors per hour and will include three gallery spaces covering 15,000 square feet of the facility along with an outdoor plaza and a green roof that doubles as a terrace overlooking the monument. The museum will also sit above 500-year flood levels and feature exterior materials that can withstand hurricane-force winds and inclement weather. As of 2 p.m. Monday, the island opened back up to visitors and work resumed on the scene. The site has been under construction for just over a year by Phelps Construction Group and is on track for a spring 2019 opening.
The troubled tower originally designed by Foster + Partners in Manhattan's Sutton Place neighborhood has hit yet another speed bump. Crain's reported that local residents have filed a lawsuit to block the condo building from going up at 430 East 58th Street, claiming that it has run awry of recent zoning changes. Locals are unhappy with the tower's height. Its scale is closer to the skinny supertall towers of nearby 57th Street, which is also known somewhat pejoratively as Billionaire's Row and is the home of some of the city's most expensive apartments. Sutton Place is, however, an affluent mid-rise and low-rise area, home to historic townhouses and exclusive brick apartment buildings. The project has never been welcome in the area. In an attempt to block its rise, the local populace successfully lobbied the city government to change the area's zoning to exclude structures of the tower's proportions. The developers then scrambled to get the building grandfathered into compliance by finishing the building's foundation before the new restrictions took effect last December. The city gave the developers an extension to meet the deadline, which is what the neighborhood is objecting to and suing the project over. The suit is aimed at stopping construction and shrinking the tower, which is currently planned to be 68 stories. The original developer, Joe Beninati, was a relative newcomer to the New York City real estate scene, and after a series of bad financial decisions he lost control of the project, and it went into the hands of Gamma Real Estate. An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Foster + Partners is the current architect on the project.
Offshore wind power may finally be coming to the U.S. if recent developments are any indication. Relatively common in Europe, the technology is still rare on this side of the Atlantic, with just five turbines operating in U.S. waters. That may change, however, as several northeastern states have set offshore wind energy goals and have greenlit several key projects. Yale Climate Connections recently reported on potentially bright developments in the industry. The state governments of Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey have all put in place mandates that will require those states to draw a certain amount of their electricity from offshore wind farms as part of broader sustainability goals. Other New England states are pushing forward projects that would generate hundreds of megawatts of power (for reference the Hoover Dam generates approximately 2,000 megawatts). Connecticut and Rhode Island approved a 400-megawatt project, and smaller projects are coming to Long Island and Maryland. While offshore wind farms may finally be getting their moment, similar efforts seem to consistently get doomed from a wide range of opposing forces. The Navy opposes turbines on much of the West Coast. Conservationists have piped up against plans in the Great Lakes. Although New Jersey had created an offshore wind goal in 2010, the initiative sat dead under Governor Chris Christie, who was apparently not motivated to pursue such projects. NIMBY groups and the fishing industry have killed plans before, to say nothing of politicians who generally oppose any moves away from fossil fuels. Still, falling costs and gradually evolving attitudes on alternative energy may be finally tilting the political landscape in offshore wind's favor. If these New England projects come through, they may set a precedent for other developments across the country.
Construction cranes dominate the New York City skyline almost as much the city’s tallest spires. A street with scaffolding, especially in Manhattan, is a sight seen more often than not. Thousands of projects are currently underway in the five boroughs and it’s impossible to keep track of them all. To provide some perspective, a new interactive map and database from the New York City Department of Buildings allows you to visualize all the active major construction sites in the city. Updated daily, it unveils the great pace at which the city is changing in real time—not to mention that it shows the disparity in investment from neighborhood to neighborhood. Categorized by square footage, estimated cost, and number of proposed housing units, the data lets users analyze what’s being built right now and where. According to the site, there are 7,457 active permits filed and 197,913,815 total square feet of construction happening now. Brooklyn and Queens have the most sites under construction with 2,800 projects and 2,500 projects respectively. Nearly 2,000 more new buildings are coming up than renovations. So this leads us to ask: How is the city making room for all this new space? The answer: It's building up. The largest-scale project shown is 500 West 33rd Street (a.k.a. 30 Hudson Yards), a 3.9 million-square-foot, mixed-use skyscraper spearheaded by the Tishman Corporation. It’s subsequently the most expensive project going up in New York at a reported $576.68 million. Norman Foster’s 410 10th Avenue (50 Hudson Yards), an office tower, comes in a close second at 2.91 million square feet but is beat out for second priciest project in construction by the residential conversion happening at One Wall Street. The data also details that the tallest new building under construction in New York is, not surprisingly, Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill’s Central Park Tower at 225 West 57th Street. The supertall boasts 98 floors and should top out next year. Also hitting the top ten list of tallest buildings by floor count are 220 Central Park South by Robert A.M. Stern, One Manhattan Square by Adamson Associates and Dattner Architects, as well as the MoMA-adjacent 53W53 by Jean Nouvel. The residential project with the most apartments offered under construction is HTO Architects’ 22-44 Jackson Avenue, a controversial two-towered, 1,115-unit development that’s replacing 5Pointz in Long Island City, Queens. The map also shows the stark differences between the construction corporations leading the market. Tishman currently has so many projects under its purview that together they span a total of around 15 million square feet in New York. Lendlease and Turner fall behind with 5.4 million and 4.8 million square feet, respectively. According to the data, 120 million square feet of apartment projects are underway, with five of the top ten residential projects with the most dwelling units going up in Queens alone. What this map doesn’t do, however, is zero in on how much residential construction is affordable. To find that out, you have to extrapolate from the data by looking at each project’s permit application on the DOB’s website. Having that information more easily available, maybe also as an interactive map, would be even more helpful to normal New Yorkers than a site that largely details the city’s tallest and most expensive buildings. All you have to do is walk outside and look up to know that.
Architect Costas Kondylis, the prolific designer behind over 86 buildings in Manhattan, died Friday at age 78, according to The Real Deal. The cause of death has not yet been announced. Kondylis was best known as one of Donald Trump’s closest and most frequent collaborators in New York City. He designed the 90-story Trump World Tower, formerly the world’s tallest residential structure, in Midtown East for the real estate mogul as well as the Trump International Hotel and Tower at Columbus Circle, and several buildings at Trump Place on Riverside Boulevard. While Kondylis’s extensive resume reveals a handful of projects associated with Trump, the architect’s 50 years designing in New York included countless high-rise designs for various local developers. Born in Central Africa, Kondylis studied in his parent’s home country of Greece before earning a graduate degree at the University of Geneva in Switzerland. After finishing his second masters at Columbia University in 1967, he began working for Davis Brody & Associates. While employed by Philip Birnbaum & Associates, he designed his first notable building, Manhattan Place Condo, in 1984. As one of the first high-rise condo projects in the city, as well as one of the few to focus on luxury design at the time, it caught the eye of Trump who was then expanding his New York building empire. Five years later, Kondylis launched his own firm, Costas Kondylis and Partners in 1989. During this busy time in his career, he designed 65 buildings—one building every six weeks—from 2000 to 2007, TRD reported. Once the practice dissolved two decades later, Kondylis started his own firm, Kondylis Design. It’s argued that Kondylis influenced the New York skyline more than any other architect in history. His more recent projects, Silver Towers, River Place, and Atelier, all towering residential properties, have helped shape the newly-developed far west side of Manhattan. He was largely recognized as the “developer’s architect,” a term he grew to embrace, having worked well with everyone from Silverstein Properties to Moinian Group to Vornado Realty Trust and Related Companies. Though his work was usually on time and on budget, it wasn’t highly favored by critics who saw his large-scale structures as too conventional. Larry Silverstein told The New York Times in a 2007 interview that Kondylis’s name is almost synonymous with the city’s condominium architecture. “He designs an attractive, buildable, functional building,” he said. “If I’m going to do a residential building in New York, the most natural thing in the world is to pick up the phone and call Costas.” Kondylis repeatedly stated that his primary goal was always to please the client. He was regarded as one of the most professional, humble, and patient architects in the business despite criticism or praise of his work. Kondylis died last week in his home and is survived by his two daughters, Alexia and Katherine. A service in his honor is scheduled for October.