Since Wednesday, an aluminum woman is joyfully resting in the grass of City Hall Park. Among her well-set figurative friends are a bronze giant, an octopus man, and a couple of luminous neon creatures. The new sculptures are part of The Public Art Fund's yearly exhibit in the park, an ongoing project for more than 30 years with the aim of making visitors experience art more directly. This year’s show, named Statuesque, brings together a group of six artists from four different nations. The ten works experiment with the sculptural tradition of the human figure, and are installed along the park's pathways and on lawns. “City Hall Park is really a great backdrop for this art,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at the opening. “The placement invites people to get up close and personal with these more contemporary figures and sculptures.” The featured artists are Huma Bhabha, Aaron Curry, Thomas Houseago, Matthew Monahan, Rebecca Warren, and Pawel Althamer. Never displayed together before, the pieces all tend towards abstraction over realism, and texture over refinement of finish––some exuberant, many robot-like and other almost gruesome. “It is unfiltered, it is memorable and it is immediate,” chief curator and director of The Public Art Fund Nicholas Baume concluded. New for this year is a free cellphone audio tour via an iPhone app.
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Our friends over at Urban Omnibus created this delightful video entitled Archipelago, a sort of cinematic corollary to the current New New York show at the site's mothership, the Architectural League. Billed as "a day in the life of five New York neighborhoods: Hunts Point, Jamaica, Mariner’s Harbor, Downtown Brooklyn, and Chelsea," the video really is amazing for how it so succinctly captures the mind-boggling diversity of the city, revealing both the familiar and obscure to even the most stalwart local in a way so seamless that the city, for once, seems truly bound together despite all its disparity. The soundtrack alone, from Mr. Softee in the Bronx to freestyling on Staten Island to the constant sirens, is irresistible. It's the fastest eleven-and-a-half minutes you'll watch for some time. Almost as fast as the city it chronicles.
It would appear the Second Avenue Subway is really, truly happening. Not to have doubted all the construction work that's gone on so far, but we have been-there-done-that about half-a-dozen times over the past century. Now, however, the 200-ton Cutter Head has arrived, the main piece of the Tunnel Boring Machine that will begin carving out the tunnels for the first phase of the new line. The MTA posted some pretty cool pics of the device, including the one above, on its Facebook page. And if that weren't socially networked enough, there's a YouTube flick of the thing being lowered underground with a soundtrack that sounds oddly like that of a softcore sex scene in some '90s movie. Second Avenue Sagas points out that this is largely "symbolic," as the real challenge, technically and fiscally, is not digging but building the lines and stations. That said, we still wonder if all this money wouldn't be better spent on maintaining service than pushing ahead with capital projects, even if it does mean their nth death. While you ponder, the flick and more pics after the jump.
On a day when the MTA announced that its budget shortfall may now surpass $400 million as last year's payroll tax is bringing in even less revenue than expected, Mayor Michael Bloomberg began his day underground. He and MTA chief Jay Walder were touring a new station underway at 34th Street and 11th Avenue, the terminus of the underway 7-Train extension. At least during boom times, the project was seen as a boon to residential development on the Far West Side. Now, with construction limited and the MTA in desperate need of money, transit advocates like the Straphanger's Campaign and the City Council continue to call for tapping capital funds—namely stimulus set-asides—to help cover the gap. And if two recent projects are any indication, maybe that's not a bad idea. Perhaps, on their way to today's photo op, Bloomberg or Walder picked up a copy of amNY. Therein, they would have seen reports by Heather Hadon detailing leaks at two recently completed MTA projects, South Ferry and Cortlandt Street stations, both of which are said to be leaking. If this is where all that capital money is going, perhaps we'd be better off with more trains, albeit dingier ones. The MTA and others insist that using capital funds is only a stop gap solution, while the MTA needs real, sustainable reform. This may be true, but it would help if the work that was getting done weren't so shoddy. What'll people think when the Starn brother's mural starts to run. Or the fancy new BRT buses catch a flat?
We've come to hate snow in the city, as it readily turns to gross, sock-soaking brown muck. But today, when we stumbled upon a scene straight out of Aspen, we were reminded just how beautiful and transformative the white stuff can be. Ducking into Muji for some last-minute holiday shopping on our way back from the Gehry theater press conference on 10th Avenue, we were delighted to find a mountain clearing where the courtyard of the Renzo Piano-designed Times building once was. From the birch trees to the unbesmirched snow, its the sort of sight you would struggle to find even in Central Park, let alone Midtown. Excuse us for getting sentimental—it must be the eggnog—but these are the sort of moments that remind us of the power and import of good architecture.
The good news continues for mass transit, as the MTA announced today that the first phase of construction on the extension of the 7 Train has been completed, stretching from 26th to 34th steets, where trains will be housed as they shuttle back-and-forth between the West Side and Flushing, Queens. The Bloomberg administration, which is paying for the $2.1 billion project, put together this nice video to help demonstrate the subterranean, and thus often invisible, work. It's the kind of stuff New York mag is calling in its annual roundup a reason to love the city: our perseverance on such mighty projects, past falterings be damned. And yet, these are exactly the kinds of capital expenditures some transit advocates are hoping to cut into to stave off the MTA's budget crunch. Will the next stop be to stop?
We knew that Gehry Partners had trimmed its staff recently due to the recession. But according to a story in Architectural Record, the cuts are much worse than we thought. Tony Illia writes that the company has reduced its staff from 250 a year ago to 112 now. That's more than a 50 percent chop! Many of the cuts are due to the losses of projects like Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, and the delay of projects like Grand Avenue in Los Angeles. Still the firm is still set to move into roomier new digs in El Segundo (pictured above) later this year. Should be.. spacious. Still the story says the firm is working on new projects like a Guggenheim in Abu Dhabi, the Beekman tower in Lower Manhattan, and the Eisenhower Memorial in Washington.
As we wrote in our story last week, Frank Gehry might not be involved with any buildings on the Atlantic Yards site and not just the arena. As a Forest City Ratner spokesperson told me, "Frank might design one of the buildings later, I don’t think it’s impossible. But right now, he is just the master planner.” Well, as of yesterday, WNYC reported that the it will be impossible after all:
Just two years ago, developer Forest City Ratner was insisting Gehry would design each and every one of the 16 towers that surrounded the arena. Gehry had dubbed one of them Miss Brooklyn. But two sources close to the project say now the developer is not planning to use Gehry any more, citing costs, the architect's lack of interest and the complications of meshing different architectural styles in a small space. A spokesman for Forest City Ratner said Gehry is still "involved" in the project but did not answer specific questions. The developer says it plans to break ground on the arena this fall, and the first residential building six months later.While this is unsurprising news, it highlights just how challenging the project will be going forward, from the prospective of design, and also reaffirms a frequent criticism of Ratner's project, that the developer has no interest in building anything but the arena. Sure, it could be done, but at what (additional) cost?
Alan Gerson, the City Council rep for Lower Manhattan, issued a major statement today along with the Lower Manhattan Redevelopment Committee, which he chairs. The statement lays out 17 demands the committee feels will ensure the timely opening of the memorial plaza by Septmber 11, 2011. It opens with an imposing if realistic appraisal of the challenges dogging the project so far:
The World Trade Center site is one of the most technically complicated modern construction projects ever undertaken: the building of five high rise towers, concomitantly, on a sixteen acre site over two train lines; issues of unprecedented toxicities and missing human remains; all in the middle of a bustling residential and business district. The architects, engineers and workers on the ground deserve credit for the performance of a difficult task, and interruptions, unexpected technical problems and delays should have been anticipated from its inception.Gerson said that with the economy faltering, some might want to scale back or delay the project further, but he sees it as a WPA-style infrastructure opportunity, which can create jobs and infrastructure, which will be crucial once the economy rebounds. Gerson finished by asking Mayor Bloomberg, the Port Authority, and the LMDC to come together to finish the project on-time and in-line with Gerson's recommendations. An LMDC spokesperson said that the agency welcomed the advice but had the various projects under control. "It doesn't really look like anything new," the spokesperson said. And, according to today's Times, the disparate parties overseeing Ground Zero have come up with a new plan to finish the memorial and much of the site by the tenth anniversary. Update: Bloomberg spokesperson Jason Post responds: "We have different views. Council member Gerson thinks we need to add another layer of bureaucracy, the administration thinks we need to remove one." A list of Gerson's recommendations and a link to the full statement after the jump.
1. Appoint an auditor general to monitor all Lower Manhattan redevelopment projects 2. Reaffirm the 9/11/11 deadline for permanently opening the Memorial Plaza 3. Modify PATH train mezzanine to achieve simple elegance with columns 4. Within 90 days, the MTA must re-issue bid specifications for the Fulton Street Transit Hub with specification changes aimed at lowering costs by at least $200 million 5. Fully fund Fiterman Hall’s reconstruction 6. Reaffirm the Performing Arts Center (PAC) at the proposed location, with the 1,000-seat theater in a Gehry designed building, with the Joyce Theater as the anchor tenant 7. The Port Authority must issue a timeline for the turnover of Tower 2 to Silverstein Properties immediately and issue a status report and timetable, with benchmarks for the completion of any outstanding infrastructure work on the sites for Towers 2, 3 and 4 8. Immediately convene a Memorial access planning group 9. The LMDC must release design specifications 10. NYPD and FDNY must conduct and release a full security and fire safety audit of plans for the underground museum 11. Produce a Lower Manhattan bus plan within nine months 12. The LMDC must immediately issue a detailed status report and timetable on 130 Liberty Street and provide regular updates 13. Close Vesey Street between Church Street and West Broadway, but only if the Port Authority meets the burden of demonstrating that to do so would materially save time or provide for greater safety 14. Continue the Steering Committee recently established by Port Authority Executive Director Ward 15. Continue the Port Authority briefings for Family Members and Community Leaders in Lower Manhattan 16. Integrate the Tribute Center permanently into the Museum Entrance Building 17. Create a mechanism to strengthen construction site safety and Lower Manhattan’s livabilityRead the eight-page statement, with details on all 17 points, here.
During an unrelated call earlier today, Craig Dykers, head of Snohetta's New York office and the man behind the 9/11 memorial pavilion, divulged that he was rather disappointed with the renderings that the city released last week to widespread fanfare. It's bad enough that the design has been scaled back--like everything else on the site--but Dykers said that officials also went behind the firm's back to have the renderings done. He was then kind enough to send along some model shots he greatly prefers. Check 'em out after the jump.