The Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) this week approved a Parks Department plan to renovate a historic park, but proposed replacement of tall art moderne fencing with a shorter new fence—in keeping with an initiative to make parks more welcoming—was vigorously debated by commissioners and members of the public. At Tuesday's hearing, the Parks Department presented an expansive proposal to spruce up Jackie Robinson Park in West Harlem. The 13-acre greensward, once called Colonial Park, hugs Bradhurst and Edgecombe avenues between West 145th Street and West 153rd streets. Its rolling hills host a swimming pool and bathhouse at its southern end, one of the city's 11 WPA-era pool complexes and the only one built in a minority neighborhood. Designed by Aymar Embury II and Henry Ahrens, architects who worked under then-Parks Commissioner Robert Moses, the Jackie Robinson Play Center, built between 1935 and 1937, is art moderne through-and-through, with its simple brick massing anticipating the work of Louis Kahn. The pool and park perimeter are encircled by fencing; the most distinctive barriers are thin steel posts set between brick piers that match the bathhouse facade. The Parks Department would like to replace those landmarked fences with shorter ones, in keeping with Parks Without Borders, a new program to make parks more open and visually appealing. That program launched in 2015 with eight parks in the five boroughs selected for improvement the following year: Communities nominated parks for facelifts that could include lowering tall perimeter fences or removing them entirely, opening up narrow entrances, and building curb appeal in park-adjacent spaces. At various points in her presentation to Landmarks, a Parks Department representative called the entrances "unwelcoming" and referred to the fences as "giant," "heavy," "fortress-like," and "harsh," but acknowledged that the piers' brickwork matches the bathhouse. The Parks Department wants to remove the eight-foot-high perimeter fence at the southern border, which is bent and broken in places, and replace it with a four-foot-high barrier whose decorative elements borrow from fences elsewhere in the park of an earlier vintage. The agency also raised the possibility, based on its own research, that the southern fences were added at a later date (though the LPC designation report ties their to the construction of the pool and bathhouse). This project would come out of the almost $5 million in capital funds the city has allocated to carry out planned repairs, but that funding is not yet secured. Manhattan Community Board 1o reviewed the plans and supports the proposed changes. The fences were the subject of intense debate at the hearing, with members of the public and some commissioners voicing concern that the proposed fencing just doesn't harmonize with the surroundings. "This would be like replacing moderne windows with Victorian windows in an art deco building," said Patrick Waldo, reading a statement from preservation group Historic Districts Council (HDC). Reducing the height of the piers without reducing their width, HDC argued, would look strange and not dialogue appropriately with the monumentality of the pool complex. The group's statement noted that the wrought iron fence, which borrows from another park fence of a different era, is "stylistically inappropriate," adding that the complex is akin to a total development like Rockefeller Center; changing the details by stretching or shrinking them would compromise the overall design. In his testimony, landscape architect and preservation consultant Michael Gotkin called the fence replacement an "empty gesture." Gotkin, a longtime resident of the Upper West Side and West Harlem, believes that instead of the Parks Department addressing issues like inequality and disinvestment that prevent access to parks, the fences are being lowered for symbolic reasons. By the same logic, his testimony doubted whether the agency would lower Central Park's imposing Vanderbilt Gate or the tall wrought iron fence around the East Village's Stuyvesant Square. "We deserve as much preservation as rich neighborhoods," he said. After the hearing, historian and Harlem resident Michael Henry Adams highlighted a subtext to the planned changes in a historically black and rapidly gentrifying neighborhood where the median annual income hovers around $36,000. "It's just nutty to be talking about these airy-fairy things of making the park more welcoming for affluent white people when to do that, you are diminishing and altering an individual landmark. I think that's wrong." Adams has chronicled Harlem in two books and to works to preserve its history with Save Harlem Now!, a group he co-founded. The Landmarks commissioners, too, had conflicting perspectives on the fence replacement plan. Like every other commissioner, Adi Shamir-Baron favored the removal of chain link fences but called the removal of the larger piers a "strange thing to do." Formally, they dialogue with the monumentality of the building, but for her raised larger questions about their contemporary perception. "There's another discussion here: our new understanding of the heroic language of public work. We are uncomfortable with it. The tension around that is important to think about: What means what to whom?" Commissioner Diane Chapin noted that ideas around how the perimeters of parks should look are always in flux, she was not convinced on the appropriateness of a more ornate fence. Her colleague Michael Goldblum asked if there were other options: Could the piers stay and the fences be lowered? Lower most of the pillars but leave the ones near the entrance intact? "It's within preservation ideology and philosophy to make some changes along the perimeter and not be [a] slave to every possible historic aspect," said LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan, a statement with which Commissioner Frederick Bland agreed. Sybil Young, a Parks preservationist, requested approval from the Commission in light of the fact the project's funding remained undecided. Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan assented and the commission agreed it could approve the work, among other requested changes. If and when the Parks Department has the capital funding for the new fences, it can go back to the LPC for discussion. An LPC spokesperson said that if there is significant new information the commission may hold an additional public meeting. A Parks Department spokesperson said that right now, except for work at the two southern entrances, the agency does not have funding or LPC approval for a new southern border fence or money to reduce the height of the piers. The agency is not actively seeking funding for the southern border portion of the project.
Posts tagged with "NYC Parks":
The famous—and famously neglected—New York State Pavilion in Queens is poised for a major revamp. The city last week announced it is giving the pavilion, in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, a $14.25 million redesign. Originally conceived by Philip Johnson and Lev Zetlin for the 1964 World's Fair, the pavilion is a far cry from Johnson's Glass House but became a New York City icon nonetheless. Now, though, the National Register–listed item is largely abandoned, looming over other World's Fair infrastructure that has been successfully incorporated into the park.
“The scope of the project includes structural conservation work on the observation towers, waterproofing of the tower bases, improvements to the electrical infrastructure and architectural lighting of the observation towers and the Tent of Tomorrow,” a NYC Parks Department spokesperson told the Queens Chronicle. This is far from the first time Johnson's pavilion has made news. An ideas competition last year solicited proposals for a revamp that ranged from the practical to the fanciful, while in 2015, the pavilion's Tent of Tomorrow was painted American Cheese Yellow to match its original color scheme. The Parks Department has approved the schematic design, and Queens Community Board 7 signed off on the plans. Now, other city agencies are reviewing the project for approval.
The work, however, depends on a successful bid for the project. If all goes well, construction is scheduled to start next spring and wrap in fall 2019.
NYC Parks and UNIQLO USA announced the ten artists selected for the Art in the Parks: UNIQLO Park Expressions Grant for 2017. The UNIQLO grant, which accepted proposals last fall, is part of NYC Parks’ initiative to increase cultural and arts programming in previously underserved parks. Each artist will receive $10,000 to execute his or her piece and installation will begin this June. The chosen locations are Joyce Kilmer Park and Virginia Park in the Bronx; Fort Greene Park and Herbert Von King Park in Brooklyn; Thomas Jefferson Park and Seward Park in Manhattan; Flushing Meadows Corona Park and Rufus King Park in Queens; and Tappen Park and Faber Park in Staten Island. The judges, a committee of art professionals and community members, selected proposals that not only had creative and artistic merit, but also responded to the park and its surroundings. The winning artists and their submissions for each borough are: Manhattan Brooklyn Bronx Queens Staten Island
Parks Without Borders discussion series in NYC will explore innovative ideas for parks and public space
Today, NYC Parks announced the launch of a new Parks Without Borders Discussion Series that aims to explore new ideas for parks and public space. Continuing through 2017, the conversation will expand on topics from NYC Parks’ Parks Without Borders Summit of last spring. Hosted by commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP, the discussion series features park and public space leaders throughout the United States, with topics such as new park design, peacemaking and engagement, building greener parks, healthier communities, and more resilient neighborhoods. The series will be held on the third floor of the Arsenal Gallery in Central Park. “The Parks Without Borders Discussion Series is the first of its kind, and we are excited to welcome so many esteemed guests. Conversations about improving our cities and public spaces are crucial to progress and change,” said Silver in a statement. The debut events will take place January 18, February 9, and March 9. January 18, “The Seamless Public Realm,” will host Kathryn Ott Lovell, commissioner of Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, Jayne Miller, superintendent of Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board, Jane Rudolph, director of the Department of Parks and Recreation for Arlington, Virginia, Silver, and Lynn B. Kelly, executive director of New Yorkers for Parks as the moderator. Thursday, February 9, “Rethinking Public Space,” will bring Justin Moore, AICP, executive director of NYC Public Design Commission, Signe Nielsen, commissioner of NYC Public Design Commission and principal at Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects, and Rudolph as the moderator. Thursday, March 9, “For the Love of Cities,” introduces Peter Kageyama, author “For the Love of Cities: The Love Affair Between People and Their Places,” and Silver as the moderator. NYC Parks is working to find innovative ways to develop public spaces, using the discussion series to inspire creative conversations about how to strengthen and improve the parks system. “Great parks make a great city, and at this series we will have the chance to hear from some of the greatest parks leaders in the country,” said Kelly in a statement.
Thanks to a partnership between government, a local artist, and a global athletic brand, basketball players on Manhattan's Lower East Side can now enjoy colorful courts and high-style hoops that highlight the energy of the sport. The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (NYC Parks) teamed up with Nike and KAWS, the Brooklyn-based artist and toy designer, to transform Sara D. Roosevelt Park's two basketball courts into vibrant permanent installations. The four vividly-hued backboards and their matching asphalt playing surfaces—painted with bright character silhouettes against kaleidoscopic backdrops—were unveiled in a ceremony last week. “The newly installed pop-art design, conceived by Nike and KAWS, is an exciting new add to these refurbished Sara D. Roosevelt Park basketball courts. The collaborative work here not only make these courts a destination for recreation, but also for viewing creative, culturally relevant, pop-art,” said NYC Parks commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, in a statement. “Thanks to Nike for funding the stunning facelift of such a great Lower East Side amenity that is at the intersection of multiple Lower East Side neighborhoods and districts.” Nike, which recently collaborated with Portland, Oregon on its bike share program, committed $300,000 to the basketball courts for the KAWS installation and general spruce-up. The park, which opened in 1934, last received a major overhaul twenty years ago. Although this collaboration was public-private, over the past several years the Parks Department has launched three major public initiatives to refurbish parks citywide. The Parks Without Borders project asks New Yorkers to nominate parks that could be better knit into the existing urban fabric through edge-condition design interventions, while this summer, Mayor Bill de Blasio committed $150 million to reinvigorating anchor parks, the largest and best-loved parks in the five boroughs. The older but ongoing $285 million Community Parks Initiative (CPI), started in 2014, added nine new sites to its improvement list in September. CPI targets parks in low-income, historically disinvested neighborhoods with growing populations.
It's not just New York City's Anchor Parks that are receiving renewed attention: Earlier this week, the city announced that nine additional parks would be fully renovated as part of the ongoing Community Parks Initiative (CPI). The CPI is $285 million project that was launched in 2014 and aims to improve "historically under-funded parks in densely populated and growing neighborhoods with higher-than-average concentrations of poverty," according to a press release. 60 parks will be rebuilt and 100 more sites will receive "targeted improvements and enhanced programming," such as "new pavements for basketball courts, new plantings, and aesthetic improvements." The CPI—which also features an annual $2.5 million budget for ongoing park maintenance—is also part of the Mayor de Blasio's oneNYC plan, which broadly aims to encourage economic growth, ecological sustainability, and resiliency, all while reducing inequality. “For health, for relaxation, and for happiness, great neighborhoods need the great neighborhood spaces the Community Parks Initiative creates,” said Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, in a press release. “This is why CPI is not only an investment in parks—it’s an investment in the well-being of millions of New Yorkers for generations to come.” The nine parks to be renovated are: Bronx · Garrison Playground · Playground 174 · Playground 134 · Plimpton Playground Brooklyn · La Guardia Playground · Weeksville Playground Manhattan · Abraham Lincoln Playground · Audubon Playground Queens · Almeda Playground According to the press release, 35 of the inaugural CPI parks have already broken ground on construction. 12 other parks are in the design phase and more sites will be added to the initiative next year.
Today, The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (NYC Parks) and Japanese clothing company UNIQLO announced that UNIQLO has committed $200,000 in a grant to be issued over the next two years. The “Art in the Parks: UNIQLO Park Expressions” grant will install original artworks by New York City–based artists in 10 parks (two parks per each of the New York City's five boroughs). The grant is part of NYC Parks’ broader initiative to bring frequent public art exhibits to parks that have not had cultural programming in the past. The participating parks are Joyce Kilmer Park and Virginia Park in the Bronx; Fort Greene Park and Herbert Von King Park in Brooklyn; Thomas Jefferson Park and Seward Park in Manhattan; Flushing Meadows Corona Park and Rufus King Park in Queens; and Tappen Park and Faber Park in Staten island. Over the next two years, 20 emerging artists who “submit the most compelling public art proposals” will each receive $10,000 to complete their projects for their assigned park. The first round of artists will be announced in January 2017 and the first artworks will be ready for public display in spring 2017. The announcement was held at 11:30am this morning at Fort Greene Park Plaza with NYC Parks commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, UNIQLO USA CEO Hiroshi Taki, UNIQLO global director of corporate social responsibility Jean Shein, city councilmember Laurie Cumbo, and artist Alexandre Arrechea, as well as local artists and community members. This project is one of several in which UNIQLO has engaged to better local communities. In addition to its clothing recycling program, an ongoing initiative that collects gently used clothing at its stores and delivers them to those in need, the company has donated millions to people in need, such as refugees, disaster victims, and disadvantaged youth.
Mayor de Blasio has announced $150 million in funding for major improvements to five New York City "anchor parks." The mayor chose one large park per borough—Highbridge Park in Manhattan, Betsy Head Park in Brooklyn, Freshkills Park on Staten Island, Saint Mary’s Park in the Bronx, and Astoria Park in Queens—to receive $30 million to upgrade facilities. Together these parks are within walking distance of 750,000 residents, but have suffered in years past from under-investment. The city has designated the five sites as anchors because they are community resources in densely populated, lower-income areas that have strong development potential. Parks Department commissioner Mitchell Silver told PIX11 that the chosen parks are a "stabilizing force in neighborhoods and offer more diverse resources than smaller community parks." “New Yorkers deserve to have the greatest parks in the world steps from their homes. That’s why our administration is focused on park equity, which brings fair access to and development of parks across the city. The Anchor Parks program, joined with the Community Parks Initiative and Parks Without Borders, marks another major step in advancing park equity for all New Yorkers,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. In the fall, Parks officials will outreach the surrounding communities to determine the best improvements to make. The announcement follows the Parks Department's groundbreaking on its first Community Parks Initiative (CPI) project last week. The mayor started CPI in 2014 to improve green space in low-income neighborhoods. City officials gathered at Thomas Boyland Playground in Bushwick, Brooklyn to celebrate the start of construction on the first 35 sites that will be built in CPI's first phase (an additional 12 parks are in design, with more sites to be announced soon). The $3 million renovation at Thomas Boyland will add a natural turf baseball field, basketball court, fitness equipment for adults, new landscaping, and a redesigned children's play area with a cooling spray shower. Last fall, de Blasio announced that CPI will receive $285 million in capital funds through 2019.
The New York Restoration Project (NYRP) has launched a petition to turn more than 360 lots deemed unbuildable into parks, gardens, and other green spaces, often in underserved neighborhoods. These lots are considered unusable for building because of their odd size, shape, or proneness to flooding. Rather than leaving them abandoned, the NYRP is offering to transform these patches of land into usable green spaces. They are petitioning the Mayor's office to place this land under their care. Public parks are an incredibly valuable part of a neighborhood, with benefits to quality of life for residents as well as potential for urban farming and use as a community space. Parks are often few and far between in the neighborhoods that need them most, while those in more affluent neighborhoods tend to have more resources available for maintenance. By acquiring this otherwise unusable land from the city and relying on volunteers for labor, the NYRP would be able to provide an essential service to underserved neighborhoods in all five boroughs at a low cost, as well as cleaning up the vacant lots. The NYRP just celebrated the 20th anniversary of its founding by Bette Midler in 1995. The non-profit organization revitalizes neglected parks across the five boroughs, specifically in underserved neighborhoods. In 1999, Midler and the NYRP led a coalition to save 114 community gardens being auctioned off by the city for commercial development. They now maintain 52 of those community gardens with the help of volunteers. The organization also completed their MillionTreesNYC initiative on November 20, 2015, two years ahead of schedule. With the help of the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, the NYRP planted one million trees across the five boroughs. They also offer free trees for New Yorkers to plant in their yards. Sign the petition here, and find more opportunities to donate or volunteer on the NYRP website.
The Central Park Conservancy is embarking on a big fundraising campaign: The nonprofit is seeking $300 million for the care and upkeep of Manhattan’s largest park. The Central Park Conservancy receives only about a quarter of its funding from taxpayers, leaving the other 75 percent to be funded by private donations. Even with a yearly budget of $65 million, many necessary repairs are now long overdue. Its crews must maintain a 693 acres of parkland filled with 20,000 trees. The program is called “Forever Green: Ensuring the Future of Central Park,” and the money it raises will go towards improvements like replacing the pipes in the Conservatory Garden fountain, a new facade for the Naumburg Bandshell, and the restoration of Belvedere Castle. It also seeks to restore Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux's original vision for the space, and will focus on on historic features like The Ramble and the North Woods. While upkeep is costly, the Conservancy claims they help generate over $1 billion in economic activity yearly. The park now gets 42 million visitors, compared to 12 million a few decades ago. That booming number of guests has been hard on the park’s infrastructure. Luckily the conservation effort has no lack of donations from residents who have benefited from having the park in their backyard, including $100 million from hedge fund manager John A. Paulson and $25 million from the Thompson Family Foundation. The fundraising effort, having raised $112 million so far, is already more than a third complete.
The Architect's Newspaper is reporting live from the first Parks Without Borders conference at the New School today, where the New York City Parks Department is announcing the eight winners of its inaugural Parks Without Borders competition, a citizen-driven process to upgrade the nodes, edges, buffers, and "park-adjacent" spaces that form the boundaries between parks, sidewalks, and other public spaces. (Check out AN's coverage of the competition, including an interview with NYC Parks commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, here.) Many parks have uninviting, block-long fences, poor wayfinding, or other barriers to entry that make them difficult to access. The city has allocated $50 million to refurbish the selected parks by softening their edge conditions; more than 6,000 nominations for 692 parks (over 30 percent of city parks) were made by individuals and community groups for the competition. NYC Parks chose eight parks based on criteria that included park access, community support, and current physical conditions. Here are the eight winners:
- Faber Park (Staten Island)
- Prospect Park (Brooklyn)
- Fort Greene Park (Brooklyn)
- Van Cortlandt Park (Bronx)
- Hugh Grant Circle / Virginia Park and Playground (Bronx)
- Jackie Robinson Park (Manhattan)
- Seward Park (Manhattan)
- Flushing Meadows Corona Park (Queens)
Staten Island's abandoned New York City Farm Colony is being redeveloped into Landmark Colony, a $91 million residential community for seniors 55 and older. The architect is Staten Island–based Vengoechea + Boyland Architecture/Urban Planning. The Farm Colony was founded in 1829 as a government-run poorhouse for indigent New Yorkers. Enrollment declined with the introduction of government-run antipoverty programs like Social Security in the 1930s and the Great Society programs of the 1960s. The colony closed for good in 1975. Vacant since then, the Dutch revival–style buildings have decayed and now provide canvases for graffiti artists. In 1982, some of the land was annexed to the NYC Parks Department and added to the Staten Island Greenbelt, which runs adjacent to the property. The site, along with neighboring Seaview Hospital, was designated a New York City historic district in 1985.
With last week's City Council approval, Landmark Colony's opening is set for 2018. Plans call for constructing 344 units, a mix of medium-rise condos and low-rise townhouses, on the 43-acre site, the Staten Island Advance reported.
The complex will include 18,500 square feet of retail, a community center with an outdoor swimming pool, and 17.6 acres of green space. The colony's pond will be refurbished, and a hill with seating will surround a stage for concerts and events. 90 percent of the existing roads will be converted into bike and pedestrian trails.
Some of the ruins will be left standing, and, per the Landmark Preservation Commission approval process, new buildings must be compatible with the architectural heritage of the Farm Colony. Former dormitories will be converted into loft-style condos, while the design of the townhouses will reference the shop building on-site.
With construction expected to take less than two years, urban explorers have a only a few months left to explore the Farm Colony's ghostly ruins.