The NYC Department of Buildings recently launched a YouTube channel. You'd think the department's time would be better spent actually inspecting buildings instead of making videos about inspecting buildings, but a) given the black eye the department suffered after the two crane accidents two years ago, and b) this is a pretty damn good video, let's let our criticism slide. In fact, this simple black-and-white-photos-and-voiceover film verges on tearjerker. "A lot of the companies out there welcome us and are happy to see us out there performing a safety inspection, and then there's that percentage that want no part to do with us," intones inspector Joseph Coben, the Bronx still thick in his voice. Interesting factoids about the three-year-old scaffolding team abound, like how every scaffold gets a walkthrough no matter how dangerous, and how thankful workers are for the inspector getting them off a dangerous site they can't leave without risking their jobs. Grab some popcorn and a hardhat and enjoy.
Posts tagged with "New York":
The Downtown Alliance unveiled "Restore the View" today, the latest installation in its re:Construction program, which gussies up downtown construction fencing. The program began in 2007 and has gotten bigger each year, with five installations done earlier this summer and now three from Pasquarelli, the first artist to conceive of more than one. "Restore the View" just went up over the weekend at the site of Fitterman Hall, across from 7 WTC. "Secret Gardens" will mask road construction on Chambers Street and "Hours of the Day" is going up on a plaza across from the new W Hotel on Washington Street. Not only is it nice that the Alliance is concerned with how these sites look, but it means there is a lot of work still going on downtown. Still, one project is conspicuously missing, and that is the Urban Umbrella, the winner of last winter's UrbanShed competition. UrbanShed was launched by the DOB and the New York chapter of the American Institute of Architects with the goal of redesigning those ubiquitous construction sheds that must be set up at even minor construction or renovation sites. The hope was to make something more transparent and accessible, something apparently achieved by the Urban Umbrella. Apparently because the new construction shed was to be installed some time this summer at one of Lower Manhattan's multiple construction sites. So far nothing. James Yolles of the Alliance said it should be up by October, DOB said year's end. Still no word on why there have been delays, but it's too bad because who is going to want to huddle together on a blustery fall day for the ribbon cutting?
The West End Preservation Society could only save two of the buildings it had hoped for, but an entire neighborhood has been preserved in the process. Back in 2007, a clutch of concerned citizens living on West End Avenue were dismayed to learn that two pairs of brownstones were bound for the wrecking ball, to be replaced by the sliver buildings much in vogue in Manhattan's narrow upper reaches over the past decade. The houses at 732 and 734 West End Avenue are currently being demolished, but 508 and 510 West End Avenue survive, and likely will for some time thanks to the efforts of the society. The LPC is now preparing to finalize plans for a new, expansive historic district—lobbied for by the preservation group—running the length of West End Avenue from 70th Street to 109th Street. The result will be two-miles of almost uniterrupted pre-war grandeur. The commission recently sent out letters to affected property owners notifying them of a September 15 informational meeting at P.S. 75 (located in the district-to-be at 735 West End Avenue). Such meetings are typically a precursor to "calendaring" a project, when it officially enters public review, a step that is now expected by October or November. Commission spokeswoman Elisabeth de Bourbon said a final map of the proposed district will be released at next month's meeting, and it will include 745 new buildings—large by most historic district standards, though the Upper West Side already boasts some 2,035 landmarked buildings. Technically, the commission will not be creating one new district but expanding five that line West End Avenue. Though the result will be one contiguous stretch of landmarks, de Bourbon said the idea was to group them in a way that would honor the individual character of each district, "its history and its rhythms." By expanding the existing districts, the commission will also protect more buildings on the side streets, further what many consider one of the most pristine stretches of pre-war architecture in the city.
For the first time in 15 years, the Unisphere, one of the '64 World's Fair's numerous icons, is back on, its fountain at full force thanks to a $2 million renovation funded by the Queens Borough President and the city. Designed by landscape architect Gilmore D. Clarke, the fountain is, as Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe puts it, part of the city's Versailles that is Flushing Meadows. While not quite the Lincoln Center fountain, we'd still sit here any day and enjoy some Belgian waffles, which a press release informs us were served at Thursday's rechristening, having been a favorite at the Fair.
Can Columbia build anything without causing a ruckus? There is, of course, the famous gym proposed for Riverside Park that triggered the 1968 riots, and more recently the huge fight over its 17-acre Manhattanville expansion. Now the Times is reporting a "teapot-size storm" surrounding the university's proposal to build a new athletic center within its complex in Inwood. According to the Gray Lady, the issues are the same as anywhere in Manhattan: light, views, and context. “It does not relate well to the community,” said Gail Addiss, 61, an architect who lives opposite Baker Field. “It’s similar to Frank Gehry architecture — large metal things whose glare is going to cause more brightness to reflect into people’s windows.”
There are few places better for the Bloomberg administration to look for a new head for the Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainabilty than Portland, that utopia of urban green living. (To some, it borders on zealotry.) Today the administration announced that David Bragdon, the president of Metro, the City of Roses' land-use and management body, will be replacing the recently departed Rohit Aggarwala. He has his work cut out for him, as his predecessor was the chief architect of the city's lauded PlaNYC 2030 plan, though it appears the office is in capable hands. According to Willamette Week:
Bragdon’s leadership of the regional government will be remembered for the addition of substantial green spaces to the region, bringing fiscal sanity to Metro’s budget, somewhat frosty relations with the suburbs, and an ongoing wrestling match over the issue of whether to expand the urban growth boundary.He's also a big advocate for alternative transportation, and The Oregonian says he may even be a contender for mayor in 2012. Of Portland, that is, not New York. (Unless of course things go especially well...) As for our mayor, he said the following in a release outlining his decision: "David is an exceptional addition to our team here as we continue to implement the initiatives in PlaNYC and work to update the plan and expand it to include solid waste." Wonder if that was in the job description?
It'll be at least 4 years before Santiago Calatrava's scaled-back, over-budget World Trade Center PATH station is completed (though as our upcoming feature on Lower Manhattan showcases, everything's been a long time coming, but it seems to have finally arrived). Still, from the start of the interminable process, we've had some of the flashiest renderings around to tuck us in at night. Now comes an illustrated video courtesy the Journal's Metropolis blog that gives us our clearest view yet of just what's planned, as well as what Calatrava meant when he told the New Yorker a while back that he was striving for something akin to Grand Central—a truly great room where the interiors, not the exteriors, would be what truly matters. If this video is any indication, despite all the cutbacks, he's succeeded grandly.
Like many outlying parts of the city, Brownsville fell hard from its turn-of-the-century grandeur, with decaying reminders of its former greatness. Among them is the Loews Pitkin Theater, once home to the likes of Jackie Gleason, Milton Berle, Humphrey Bogart, and Al Joelson's last performance, as well as thousands of eager movie goers. The building has been closed since 1969—until last week, when a ground breaking was held for a new charter school and retail complex. Curbed and Brownstoner were among those in attendance, and they got some pretty amazing pictures of the building's decrepit interiors (see some after the jump). We've since been sent the above rendering by the developers, POKO Partners, who are working with Kitchen & Associates, a firm based in Collingswood, New Jersey on the renovation. According to POKO, the project will mesh what remains of the building's sumptuous Art Deco interiors with high-tech, sustainable features, creating something at once historic and cutting edge. The base of the building will house some 70,000 square feet of retail with a 90,000-square-foot, 1,100-seat elementary and middle school above, run by Ascend Learning. The project is expected to be completed in the next 18 months. "The Loews Pitkin Theater is exciting because it embodies POKO¹s core values of revitalizing neighborhoods and enhancing communities through positive and responsible real estate development," POKO President and CEO Ken Olson said in a release.
Construction may not be expected to pick up until next year, but the city is already prepping for it with the UrbanCanvas program, for which registration closes Monday. The Department of Buildings and Department of Cultural Affairs are seeking out designers and artists to create new scaffolding, fencing, and other otherwise unsightly construction protections, of which there are nearly 1 million linear feet. If that's not enough, ArtBridge, a Chelsea non-profit, is pursuing a similar program, albeit just with the overhead scaffolding—which are also due for a redesign—though ArtBridge submissions are due tomorrow, so get cracking. And should you be not a designer but a building, or more accurately empty lot, owner looking an alternative way to dress up your site, consider Woods Bagot's Icebergs. As the firm describes them:
The design uses a modular and reusable steel frame, wrapped in translucent polycarbonate panels at grade and topped by infl ated pillows of super-lightweight ETFE (ethylene tetrafluoroethylene). One-tenth the weight of a conventional taxpayer building and able to be erected and dismantled in days, Icebergs deliver speed to market, reduce labor costs, and minimize future development hurdles. Icebergs achieve these economies by optimizing two of earth’s most affordable materials: air and light. The translucent roof is made of self-cleaning polymer sheets, one percent the weight of glass, and air-filled to form rigid “pillows”. These pillows are supported by “air beams”—used in airplane emergency slides and lightweight tents—to create the iconic pyramid forms that shed rain and snow.The Icebergs could transform hundreds of vacant sites here and around the world into events spaces. It's a great idea. Until the buildings comes back. Which can't come soon enough.
Urban Omnibus has put together another great video, this time on Superfront, a new-ish storefront collaborative space on the further reaches of Atlantic Avenue. (We're partial to it not only because it's a cool idea but also one of us is moving around the corner and also happens to have a friend who lives in the back of the space from time to time.) The video is basically an interview with the space's founder, Mitch McEwan, an ebullient mouthful of architectural contradictions. Our favorite line: "There really aren't a lot of opportunities to make mistakes in architecture. And this is an opportunity for me to make mistakes in architecture." Now what's yours?
It looks like New York isn't the only city with a controversial mosque on the horizon—and in the case of Marseilles, that's quite literally where it's going. Archinect points us to a BBC report about the Grand Mosque, a huge new complex atop one of the city's northern hills. As the video above shows, the complaints are akin to those surrounding the proposed mosque around the corner from the World Trade Center site—concerns about culture, paternalism, terrorism, and community, though in France the concerns are obviously less direct. In a favorable sign for the NYC mosque, the local community board voted against landmarking the former Burlington Coat Factory ahead of a binding review at the commission next Tuesday. The vote is non-binding but tends to carry some wait, though we're curious to see what actually happens, as this should be one of the more interesting commission meetings in recent memory. Do check back for a full report.
While it was nearly hot enough to fry in egg in Times Square Tuesday, things have since cooled off a bit, and not simply because the temperature dropped back into double digits. Today the city's Department of Transportation began installing in the public plazas Molly Dilworth's 18-month installation, "Cool Water, Hot Island," which will not only prettify the eight newish plazas with an abstracted heat map of the city but also reflect some sunlight, making for a more comfortable experience. Meanwhile, DOT along with the Department of Design and Construction announced that it had selected Nordic knockouts Snøhetta as the lead designer for the long-term transformation of the square. The selection of Snøhetta is not exactly a surprise, as it is one of the eight firms in the city's Design + Construction Excellence program, from which DOT had already said it would make its choice because it streamlines the design process as the firms are prequalified. Yet it was Snøhetta's experience outside the city that helped win it the commission. “It is a classic New York story that reconstruction of the ‘Crossroads of the World’ will be led by a firm with an international reputation for creative vision and excellence,” DDC commissioner David Burney said in a statement. Snøhetta's preference for public art, landscape design, and sustainability may have played a role in its winning the commission. Still, the nature of the project is rather new to the firm, most of its successes having come through buildings such as the Library of Alexandria and Oslo Opera House, though both are incredibly public in their nature, so Snøhetta should prove a good, and certainly interesting fit, as its work at Ground Zero has shown. Joining the Oslo- and New York-based firm on the design team are WXY Architecture and Design, Weidlinger Associates (engineers), Mathews Nielsen (landscape), Billings Jackson Design (industrial), and Bexel (audio-visual), all of whom are Excellence program participants. The design work is just beginning, with no time line or budget yet set for its unveiling, according to a DOT spokesperson, though the plan remains to begin construction in 2012. The firms will be responsible for improving the pedestrian experience in the plazas as well as the infrastructure for the various events held in Times Square throughout the year. "Our goal is to improve the quality and atmosphere of this historic site for pedestrians and bicyclists while also allowing for efficient transportation flow for the betterment of the city,” said Craig Dykers, head of Snohetta's New York office and its co-founder. And in more Molly Dilworth news, online art gallery Art We Love is selling a series of seven prints for 15 bucks a pop.