Posts tagged with "New York":

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Seward Park Redevelopment Clears Major Hurdle

Last night, the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (SPURA) took a giant step forward after 44 years of contentious debate. Community Board 3's Land Use, Zoning, Public and Private Housing Committee approved guidelines for development of the city-owned land at the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge. SPURA’s use of the term “urban renewal” reveals just how long the debate has been going on, a relic from the Moses era when the master planner evicted poor residents from tenements to build affordable housing and an unrealized downtown expressway.  Some housing did get built, but much of the unused land became parking lots. “While there were, at times, deep and principled disagreements among stakeholders, I believe that ultimately this process brought our community together,” Assembly Speaker Sheldon Sliver said in a statement. “The final guidelines that were approved by the committee tonight strike an appropriate balance between the needs and concerns of all stakeholders and will result in a development that will ensure our neighborhood continues to thrive.” The guidelines call for 800 to 1000 housing units to rise on the land and to be divided 50-50: 50 percent market rate and the remaining percentage to go to below and middle income families. The breakdown of units for the low to middle income is 10 percent middle income, 10 percent moderate, 20 percent low and 10 percent low income seniors. That the plan incorporates market solutions wasn’t lost on the crowd gathered at the Henry Street Settlement. The area, once a hotbed of Socialism, still retains some of that rallying spirit. During public comments, several speakers requested that document demand 100 percent affordable housing. “The work of Sidney Hillman and others has been destroyed and prostituted,” longtime resident Michael Gottleib told the committee, evoking the name of the area's famed labor leader. One point did unite much of the crowd; several said that the Essex Market should be preserved. For some, the city-owned and subsidized market represents an optimistic scenario for future development. Describing the food hall, speaker Carol Anastasio called it “a mix of the old and the wave of the future.” Emotions continued to run high while the committee listened. Residents displaced in 1960s stood alongside young residents forced out by the high rent. One young woman complained the she and a childhood friend can no longer afford to stay, even though she maintains a moderate income. “I help people at a not for profit and I can’t even help myself,” she said. “Can’t I come back to my own ‘hood? Where I was raised? Where I had my first date?” The full board is expected to approve the guidelines tonight. From there,  several civic hurdles must be cleared before ground is broken.
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World Trade Weekly: White Dots Edition

At first glance, it seems that the riot of square white panels suddenly appeared on the base of One World Trade, but  photos from the past few weeks show that they were going up all along. Closeup shots taken today reveal metal bolts protruding out from the panels. The curtain wall fasteners for the metallic scrim?
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Robert Moses Goes to the Opera

This Saturday, January 15, the Knickerbocker Chamber Orchestra will lift their bows and the ghost of Robert Moses will flood the World Financial Center Winter Garden. Gary S. Fagin composed Robert Moses Astride New York from which the music will be drawn. A vocal performance by Rinde Eckert will accompany the score, but best of all, it's free. The New York Times recently sat in on a rehearsal for the Moses musical with author Robert A. Caro who penned the authoritative tome on New York's Power Broker. The performance includes events from Moses' life and career including a fight over a parking lot at Central Park's Tavern on the Green and Moses' resignation. From the Times:
Mr. Caro said he was particularly pleased by the musical’s last section, which recalls Moses’ dedication of a bench in Flushing Meadows, one of the parks he’d built. It is the poignant scene that concludes “The Power Broker,” in which Moses wonders why he wasn’t sufficiently appreciated.
While Robert Moses Astride New York is a work in progress, when complete, Fagin plans to include other pivotal characters from twentieth century New York including activist Jane Jacobs and Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia. The free performance by the Knickerbocker Chamber Orchestra with Rinde Eckert takes place Saturday, January 15 at 7:00PM at the World Financial Center Winter Garden.
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The Other Side of Ellis Island

Most visitors to Ellis Island only get to see the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. I was fortunate enough to go on a hard hat tour of the island's south side, which is not open to the public, and explore newly stabilized structures including the new ('new' as of 1934) ferry building and part of the old South Side Hospital Complex.
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Models of Freedom: Architectural Model-Maker Featured on Television

Fox News featured Ed Wood and Leszek Stefanski of Radii Inc. last night, giving viewers a behind the scenes glance at a craft little known outside of architectural circles. Wood explained the relevance of architectural models in the face of advances in computer animation. He noted that there is, perhaps, a kind of dishonesty to the flat screen. “The physical model allows freedom,” he said. It was a sound bite that no doubt gelled with Fox producers, who promptly posted the video to their “Rise of Freedom” website under the subtitle “Designing Freedom.”
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New York Expands Pop-Up Cafe Program in 2011

Could 2011 be the year of the pedestrian in New York? Under the guidance of DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, NYC sidewalks will continue their slow march into the street next year as the city launches a major expansion of its "pop-up café" pilot program across its five boroughs. The first pop-up café tested out in Lower Manhattan this year proved successful enough that Sadik-Khan has expanded the program, planning for up to 12 sidewalk extensions. The concept is simple: street space is limited and valuable. To that end, New York has been evaluating whether the highest and best use for street space along narrow sidewalks is storing cars. Like a glorified Park(ing) Day spot made (semi-)permanent and held on high, these pop-up cafés invite pedestrians to imagine their city in new ways. In fact, the concept draws its inspiration from such pedestrian interventions. San Francisco began a Pavement to Park initiative incorporating their own version of the pop-up café, called a "parklet," several years ago, drawing upon the success of the Park(ing) Day event and pedestrian plazas in New York. California-based RG Architecture designed New York's pop-up café based on their parklet designs in San Francisco. New York's first pop-up café, recently put in storage for the winter, consisted of a six-foot wide wooden platform spanning about five parking spaces. The space accommodated 14 brightly colored café tables and 50 chairs. Sadik-Kahn says the concept is not only an innovative approach to urban design, it's also good for business. Each pop-up café is sponsored and maintained by adjoining shops and the benefits are tangible with up to 14% increases in business when the cafés were installed. "The Pop-up Café has been like night and day for our business, transforming a loading zone full of trucks into an attractive space that makes our storefront much more visible and accessible to potential customers," said Lars Akerlund, owner of Fika Espresso Bar, in a release. "This green oasis has really opened up the street, drawing more foot traffic and making the whole area more appealing." While each pop-up café is paid for by private businesses, the space is treated as public. Simply relaxing and enjoying the city is free and encouraged. The city is accepting applications for next year's pop-up cafés through Friday, December 3.
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I Saloni Kicks Off Street Walking Event

A weeklong celebration of Italian art and design kicked off last night at Scavolini, the haute kitchen emporium in Soho. Italian officials, architects, designers, and a sprinkling of royalty in attendance gave the event a mixture of gravitas and glamour. Titled "I Saloni Milano in New York," the event will run through January 8. Several programs fill the calendar, including last night's "Italian Design Street Walking", which turned Soho and parts of the Upper East Side into a mini Milan for the night. Italian heels navigated the cobblestones of Greene and Wooster Streets to view 20 open showrooms, with cocktails and Italian food provided by Eataly (a self-guided version of the showroom tour will also continue through January 8). Starting today, a video installation by Robert Wilson in collaboration with Italian ballet dancer Roberto Bolle can be seen at Center 548, on view through December 18. And on Friday, architect/filmmaker Peter Greenaway will launch the U.S. debut of his digital installation Leonardo's Last Supper at the Park Avenue Armory, which will run from December 3 through January  6.
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A Thousand Drops of Light in Madison Square Park

Upon first stumbling across this massive array of 2,000 LED lights encased in standard light bulbs in Madison Square Park a few weeks ago, I thought holiday decoration had come a little early to the Flatiron's front yard, but as shadowed figures began moving across the field of light, it became apparent that this installation by artist Jim Campbell was something special. Situated on Madison Square Park's Oval Lawn, Scattered Light consists of a three-dimensional grid of light spanning roughly 80 feet by 16 feet and standing 20 feet tall. When viewing the installation from the front, programmed LED lights flicker in sequence to create the illusion of shadows walking through the park. Moving around the artwork causes the image to blue and abstract as the grid moves in and out of focus. Scattered Light video by specialkrb / YT: Scattered Light video by Craig Dorety / Vimeo: The installation is one of three public art projects by Jim Campbell on display in Madison Square Park. Here's more information about the other two from the Madison Square Park Conservancy:
Broken Window, the second installation, will be situated near the main entrance to Madison Square Park at 23rd Street and Fifth Avenue. An array of LEDs encased in a glass-brick wall (70”h x 70”w x 10”d) will create illuminated images that appear to glide across the glass plane, reflecting the movements of the city around them and echoing the aesthetic poetry of the Scattered Lightinstallation. Situated on the eastern lawn adjacent to Madison Avenue between 24th and 25th street, Voices in the Subway Station, the third installation, will feature LEDs encased in two dozen glass tablets (14” x 18” each) arrayed across the lawn at ground level. The light pulses emanating from each tablet will be rhythmically modulated to represent the voices of individual travelers as recorded in conversation on a subway platform, combining to create a visual symphony rendered in light.
Each of the three installations offers an abstracted experience drawn from the urban environment that's at once distant but right at home and it's worth an evening stroll through the park to experience them for yourself. The installations will be on display through February 2011. Interview with Jim Campbell from Switched: Voices in the Subway video by Craig Dorety / Vimeo: Broken Window video by lessthanrita / YT:
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Hudson Square Pushes to Reclaim Pedestrian Space

A major transformation of the once-industrial Hudson Square neighborhood in Lower Manhattan aims to bring pedestrian vitality to streets originally designed for delivery trucks servicing printing houses.  Crain's reports that Hudson Square Connections, the local business improvement district, has selected a design group led by Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects from a pool of 23 respondents to create a new streetscape to improve the area's image. Hudson Square, bounded by Greenwich Street, Houston Street, 6th Avenue, and Canal Street, is becoming increasingly residential as large art-deco buildings are converted into hip offices and dwellings. Details are currently being worked out, but a plan is expected to be in place by the end of 2011.  Mathews Nielsen brings experience from nearby Hudson River Park and the pedestrianization of Times Square.  The team, including Rogers Marvel Architects, Billings Jackson Design, ARUP, and Open graphic design, plans to work with the NYC Department of Transportation on the design. With such a background, it's clear that space will be reclaimed for pedestrians.  Ellen Baer, president of Hudson River Connection, told Crain's, "There are very few places where people can sit and enjoy lunch here. We want to create those oases and green spaces." [ Via Crain's. ]
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Envisioning a Green Future for the BQE

The proposals are in after Monday's final public meeting to decide the future of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway trench which severs the Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, and Columbia Street Waterfront neighborhoods of Brooklyn. Residents spoke up and prioritized their wishes for a less disruptive BQE including reduced noise and pollution, increased neighborhood connectivity and bike / pedestrian safety, and an overall greener streetscape. In short, the BQE is going green, or at least as green as a pollution-spewing six-lane highway can be.  Luckily the NYC EDC, NYC DOT, and Starr Whitehouse Landscape Architects have come up with three compelling design solutions to improve the area. Three proposed designs offer increasing levels of complexity and ambition with an eye toward construction and financial feasibility. It remains to be seen what proposed intervention will actually be implemented, but nearly any change to this urban sore can be seen as an improvement.  Take a look at the three proposals below. All three proposals build from one another, beginning with the quick fix, "Maximum Green." This plan seeks to improve the streetscape with widened sidewalks and landscaped bumpouts and curvy chicanes.  At a cost of $10.7 to $18.7 million, this should be an easy sell for even the most frugal politician.  The scheme calls for shaving off unused and excessive street space on Hicks Street to calm traffic and create room for the landscaping and sidewalk. The base model Maximum Green design keeps the existing chain-link fence surrounding the highway, but upgrades include an artsy vine-covered metal screen with built in acoustic panels (see comparison below). Existing bridges also feature added landscaping in large planters and drastically wider sidewalks that could possibly accommodate newsstands or a proposed "BQE Flea."  Even with plants, trees, and places to sit, though, will the next hip Brooklyn hang-out be above a noxious highway? More ambitious, the "Connections" scheme retains the basic improvements of the "Maximum Green" design and adds five new pedestrian and bike bridges across the highway and replace one existing bridge to allow handicap accessibility and help restore the original street grid. Depending on the budget, these spans could become illuminated icons topped with photovoltaic roof panels.  Options include flanking the bridges with vine-covered panels and adding LED lighting to create playful interest at night.  Extra features, of course, mean inflated cost, and the Connections scheme would run between $30.1 and $41.3 million. Finally, the "dream scheme" pulls in the massively landscaped streetscape and pedestrian bridges of the previous two proposals but does its best to mask the BQE out of the neighborhood.  "Green Canopy" offers a massive $28 million steel angle-and-beam structure designed by Kiss+Cathcart Architects creating a pseudo-cap over the BQE trench.  Acoustic panels built into the span mitigate noise while a central mesh of steel precludes the need for an active ventilation system. The iconic structure is then covered in vines and solar cells which could net an estimated $312,000 in electricity annually.  If all that weren't enough, imagine dining while hovering above the highway at the "Trench Cafe."  Retail space in the Green Canopy plan is situated on the existing bridge at Union Street. Cost to cover the highway with a giant metal mesh? $78.8 to $82.7 million.  Cost to forget about the BQE forever? Priceless.  Sound off on your favorite scheme in the comments below.
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Rudolph’s New York Home Passes Landmark Test

The latest Upper East Side landmark isn't another of its signature rowhouses, but rather what's atop one of those brownstones.  Yesterday, the New York Landmarks Preservation Commission unanimously approved landmark status for mid-century architect Paul Rudolph's less-than-context-sensitive home at 23 Beekman Place. Rudolph moved into the 4-story on which the addition sits in 1961 and added his three-story design in 1977, modifying the house throughout his life.  Located between East 50th and 51st Street, 23 Beekman Place has been moving through the landmark process for over a year, and its approval marks an emerging phase in historic preservation. Now that many examples of modern architecture are getting older, they are becoming fair game for landmark protection, a notion the New York Observer says can sometimes be full of contradiction:
And yet there remains a certain alienness to a building like 23 Beekman. In a way, it is an oxymoron, a cancer atop a truly "historic building." The very idea of a modern landmark is itself a contradiction in terms because modernism sought to wipe away history. Consider Robert Moses, Le Corbusier, even Rudolph, all trying to eradicate history, to defeat nature, end poverty and blight, addressing all of the world's ills through their work. Where better to recognize this tension than a building with such a clearly split personality? And yet all of that Utopian zeal failed as much as it succeeded, so much so that many of the buildings it left behind are now unloved, even hated. This makes modernist preservation all the more essential and immediate. Not only have these buildings-beyond-time themselves aged (some quite severely), but they have become examples of architectural idealism, experimentation, and failure. Thus they are something to be saved, even as they sought to wipe out their forebears.
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Have Your Say On the Future of the BQE Monday Evening

It's not too late to join community leaders from the Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, and Columbia Street Waterfront neighborhoods along with the New York City Economic Development Corporation to discuss the future of the Bronx-Queens Expressway.  The third and final BQE Community Design Workshop takes place this evening and will cover refined designed proposals aimed to reconnect areas surrounding the urban expressway. Act quickly, as the final Community Design Workshop takes place this evening from 6:30PM until 8:30PM at the Long Island College Hospital (LICH), Avram Conference Center, Rooms A and B located at 339 Hicks Street in Brooklyn.  Attendance is free and open to the public, but an RSVP is requested at BQE@nycedc.com. Among topics to be discussed are noise reduction, pollution mitigation, beautification, connectivity, and pedestrian safety.  The BQE Enhancement project target area is bounded by Hamilton Avenue and Atlantic Avenue and is planned to be built in the next five to ten years.