Posts tagged with "Parks":

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Tracking the Health of New York’s Rivers One Raindrop at a Time

Courtesy Riverkeeper
In May 2011, a shocking 80 percent of the 59 water samples taken from various sites in the Hudson River were determined to be unacceptable by the Riverkeeper, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving water quality on the Hudson River. What makes water “unacceptable”? Sampled sites are tested for enterococcus, a human pathogen often found in sewage that can potentially cause health problems like Meningitis and urinary tract infection. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Enterococcus count standards vary for different sites (for beaches, state governments discourage swimming if the count is over 35 colony forming units per 100ml). As for the part of Hudson River bordering New York City, an enterococcus count greater than 104 units per 100mL is considered "unacceptable." And, quite frankly, gross. This year, according to Riverkeeper's latest water quality report from May, only 12 percent of the sampling sites were unacceptable and 7 percent were diagnosed with possible risk. The enterococcus count along the East River at 23rd Street was reported to be a mere 10 units per 100ml. What has caused the seemingly huge increase in water quality around New York City? It appears this year's gains were a meteorological fluke caused by differences in weather over the two years. Frequent rainy weather during May 2011 caused stormwater to overwhelm the city's sewer system creating a condition known as Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO). The excess rainwater present during a CSO causes raw sewage to be discharged into nearby bodies of water. This year, May was relatively dry, leaving the sewer systems intact and the enterococcus levels low. In effort to avoid such leakages caused by stormwater, a new plan for gray and green infrastructure with over $5 billion in funding was implemented in April, 2012. The plan calls for green and blue roofs to capture and store stormwater, allowing it to slowly seep into the sewers rather than overwhelming them all at once. Specially-designed plant beds, rain gardens, and tree pits with engineered soil and water-loving plants also hold water, filtering it and absorbing pollutants. While New York dodged a sewage-filled bullet this year, this initiative promoting innovative rainwater management infrastructure could help achieve sustained water quality increases in years to come.
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Benepe Walks the Ten-Minute Walk

Gone will be the miniature civic history lessons that punctuated ribbon-cutting speeches made by Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe. With yesterday's announcement that the commissioner is moving on to the non-profit Trust for Public Land (TPL), the plaudits are pouring in. But as the Bloomberg Administration begins is slow-motion wind down, New Yorkers should be wary of comparisons to the "good" Robert Moses, builder of parks and playgrounds, despite the scale of public works undertaken under Bloomberg. But in terms of Parks, there is little doubt that Benepe's tenure was historic in scope. Now, one of the mayor's signature initiatives—that a park be within a ten minute walk from every home—is about to go national. But will what flies in NYC fly in Louisville? "If I’ve learned one or two things in this job it's that no one model will work for every situation," he said in a telephone interview yesterday. Last month, TPL launched ParkScore, a platform that rates park systems in America's 40 largest cities, with the "ten-minute test" as one of the major criteria in ranking the cities. While widely lauded for drawing attention to the need for accessible park space in cities, there has also been some grumbling about the survey's methods, or even its effectiveness in helping draw attention to the plight of urban parkland. D.C. blogger Richard Layman worried that DC's respectable 5th place position might take the pressure off leadership to make improvements. But Benepe said that the ParkScore is a good way of "spreading the news." The commissioner added that the city's data differed from that of the Trust's when it came to accessibility.  The Trust found that 94 percent of New Yorkers live within walking distance of a park, while the city's more conservative estimate places it at about 84 percent within the ten minute range. "It's a ten percent improvement and that has largely had to do with the Schoolyards to Playgrounds initiative," said Benepe. The initiative to turn moribund schoolyards into after school playgrounds was funded in part by the Trust ($200 million in land purchases and design). It's an initiative that might work elsewhere, "within limits," he said. Funding will, as always, prove to be the central challenge. "Most cities don’t have the density that New York has and most don’t have great wealth," he said, adding that while he believed that the Obama administration would do more if they could, the days of FDR-level federal support for parks dissipated in the seventies. Nevertheless, the public/private model widely touted in New York  may well become the national way of doing things. "New York didn't corner the market in creative wealth," he said .
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Troy, Troy Again! Architects Revamping an Aging Waterfront

The design minds behind the waterfront destinations of West Harlem Piers on the Hudson River, the India Street Park in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and the Edge Park in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, have been chosen for yet another waterfront revamp. W-Architecture, a New York City-based architecture and landscape architecture firm, was selected to design and renovate the Troy Riverfront Park in Troy, New York, a $1.95 million project that's part of the city's plan to redevelop its Hudson River waterfront. Currently under construction, diseased trees are currently being cleared to open up views to the river and create a more sustainable and seamless connection to the city's downtown. Troy, like many cities on the Hudson River, has a rather neglected waterfront. Barbara Wilks, principal of W-Architecture, is known for reusing existing site materials in her park designs, but she said, "There was nothing left—it had been made into a park in the 1970's. We did incorporate the existing Vietnam memorial that had been located there later as well as the statue of Uncle Sam, who was from Troy." Accessibility and views were also an issue taken under consideration by the design team. "The most inviting aspect is the orientation to the river. From the existing park, the river was hardly visible. Now all the topography is being regraded to focus on the views up and down river." The park is concurrently being developed with the former city hall site to the west and aims to reopen towards the end of this summer.
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Hollywood Freeway Park Gains Allies in High Places

LA’s proposed 44-acre Hollywood Central Park, which would be set atop the capped 101 Freeway between Santa Monica and Hollywood boulevards, made new friends in Washington last week, according to the LA Daily News. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood met with local congressman Adam Schiff and Friends of the Hollywood Central Park (FHCP), a non-profit formed in 2008 to raise funds for the park. LaHood expressed interest in the project, and provided insights on its development and possible benefits. He also offered to have members of his staff contribute to its planning process. As noted in the FHCP website, the park would be built on a deck constructed over the below grade portion of the freeway in that area, allowing easy park access from adjacent streets. FHCP stated that the “44-acre street level urban park allows us to rethink and reimagine our physical environment," adding that the final design would incorporate ideas developed by students at the USC School of Architecture's Master Landscape Studio. AECOM and The Olin Studio have also completed studies for the project. Park features would include “an amphitheater, walking trails, a dog park, a children’s playground, water features, recreational facilities and much more.” The AECOM feasibility study estimates the cost of building the park at $949 million; a more recent cost estimate by Psomas Engineering puts the total development cost closer to $1.15 billion. It's among several freeway cap parks proposed in the city. While $2 million in funding for the park’s EIR was approved by the CRA/LA Board in December 2011, the recent banishment of California's redevelopment agencies puts the funding in question. FHCP board members are working to resolve the issue and say they are moving forward with development. Once the EIR is completed, the feasibility report estimates that the park would take four years to complete.
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Design for Final Segment of High Line Revealed!

Tonight, the design team from the High Line will present plans for Section 3 to the community.  Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe will introduce James Corner from the project's lead team, James Corner Field Operations, and Ricardo Scofidio from Diller Scofidio + Renfro. High Line co-founder Robert Hammond will moderate a post presentation discussion. Unlike the last two sections of the High Line, Section 3 will be intimately integrated with one major developer, as opposed to a variety of property owners and stakeholders. From 30th to 34th Street, the High Line wraps around Hudson Yards, the 12 million square foot office and residential district being developed by Related Companies. Much of the new section will be built cheek by jowl with Related's construction. At the westernmost section overlooking the Hudson River, an interim walkway will span the existing self-seeded landscape, so as coordinated design efforts alongside Related's development and give Friends of the High Line time to raise more funds. The estimated total cost of capital construction on the High Line at the rail yards is $90 million. Construction is expected to be complete by the end of 2013 with a full public opening in spring 2014. All renderings courtesy Friends of the High Line. Click on a thumbnail to launch the slideshow.
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Another $9 Million Banked for Chicago’s Newest Linear Park

Today, Mayor Emanuel announced an additional $9 million in pledges for the Bloomingdale Trail, completing funding for the first phase of the elevated rails to trails project, according to the Sun-Times. The funds include a $5 million gift from Excelon, $1 million each from Boeing and CNA, and a $2 million commitment from the city, which, combined with $37 million in federal funds, will cover the $46 million cost of the first phase. The city and park advocates hope to raise an additional $36 million to complete the project, mostly through private, corporate, and foundation sources.
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Chicago’s Bloomingdale Trail Taking Shape

Next week a framework plan for the abandoned elevated rail embankment known as the Bloomingdale Trail will be released. Curbed Chicago has posted some preliminary images from the Chicago Department of Transportation that were shown in public meetings last fall. While advocates have stressed that the project is not a copy of New York's High Line, these very preliminary study images look a lot like the High Line, minus the bells and whistles like the bleachers for traffic viewing. Conceived as both the linear park and a transportation corridor--rather than a path for promenading--the pathway looks very narrow, again like the High Line, which can lead to pinch points and crowding. What sets the Bloomingdale Trail apart, however, is its context, which includes a number of residential neighborhoods. The embankment will likely be linked to neighborhood pocket parks by ramps. More refined plans from the design team, which includes Arup and Ross Barney Architects, might resolve these issues. The public, and AN readers, will see more on March 8.
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Go West, Solar Decathalon: DOE Selects New SoCal Venue for 2013

We've known since early last year that the Solar Decathlon, the biennial event showcasing the best in energy producing, student-designed houses, was no longer welcome on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. due to concerns over wear and tear on the "nation's front yard." The 2011 Decathlon, won by the University of Maryland, was pushed to a far corner of the Mall between the Tidal Basin and the Potomac River midway through the design process, causing outcry from student teams who were finalizing their house designs. Officials later announced that future Decathlons might leave D.C. entirely, and today, Department of Energy Secretary Stephen Chu confirmed that it will be moving about as far away from the Mall as possible—to the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California between Los Angeles and San Diego. Orange County Great Park, comprised of 1,360 acres of recreational area designed by landscape architect Ken Smith and built on a former air field, has been taking shape over the past several years, with a new 7.5-acre Palm Court and 18.5-acre North Lawn already complete. We still found it curious, however, that the Department of Energy noted the site's "ample visitor parking" and direct freeway access considering arriving by car might be the least sustainable way to access the exhibition. The Department of Energy said the decision to move the Solar Decathlon site was based in part on extending the audience of the fall exhibition of houses. The Great Park also incorporates environmental concerns into its design, including undulating bioswales filled with native plants that help to store and filter water runoff. The $65.5 million first phase is expected to be complete this year after a series of athletic fields are finished. AN's West Coast Editor Sam Lubell visited the park last October to check in on its progress and noted the strengths and weaknesses of reclaiming a disused airfield. Future phases of the park could take another 15 to 20 years to complete. While the new location might lack the prestige of the grand allée leading from the U.S. Capitol building, the California site will make the sustainability showcase more accessible to a new audience on the west coast, and it seems safe to bet that the student teams (listed below) should have no problem juicing up their solar cells in sunny SoCal. The following teams have been selected from around the world to compete in Solar Decathlon 2013: · Arizona State University and the University of New Mexico (Tempe, Ariz., and Albuquerque, N.M.) · Czech Technical University (Prague, Czech Republic) · Hampton University and Old Dominion University (Hampton and Norfolk, Va.) · Middlebury College (Middlebury, Vt.) · Missouri University of Science and Technology (Rolla, Mo.) · Norwich University (Northfield, Vt.) · Queens University, Carleton University, and Algonquin College (Kingston and Ottawa, Ontario, Canada) · Santa Clara University (Santa Clara, Calif.) · Southern California Institute of Architecture and California Institute of Technology (Los Angeles, Calif.) · Stanford University (Palo Alto, Calif.) · Stevens Institute of Technology (Hoboken, N.J.) · The Catholic University of America, George Washington University, and American University (Washington, DC) · The University of North Carolina at Charlotte (Charlotte, N.C.) · The University of Texas at El Paso and El Paso Community College (El Paso, Texas) · University of Calgary (Calgary, Alberta, Canada) · University of Louisville, Ball State University, and University of Kentucky (Louisville, Ky.; Muncie, Ind.; and Lexington, Ky.) · University of Nevada Las Vegas (Las Vegas, Nev.) · University of Southern California (Los Angeles, Calif.) · Vienna University of Technology (Vienna, Austria) · West Virginia University (Morgantown, W. Va.)
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Pushing for a New Park in Chicago’s Lakeview Neighborhood

The designers behind the Lakeview Area Masterplan, Moss Design, are pushing ahead with a plan for a new park on a vacant lot  on North Paulina Street adjacent to the Brown Line tracks. According to their research there are five vacant lots within a one block area, so there is ample land available for development. This argument has yet to sway Alderman Scott Waguespack, who has opposed a plan for the Special Services Area to acquire the land with the help of the non-profit Openlands. According to Matt Nardella, principal at Moss, the Alderman favors a mixed-use development on the site. Moss and the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce, which funded the masterplan, are currently exploring other options to acquire the land privately. Plans for the park include shade trees, picnic mounds and other seating, a food truck corral, bioswales and other elements. The masterplan is unusual for its emphasis on sustainability, not the typical concern of chambers of commerce. Still, the designers and the chamber believe that attractive open space will make the area more desirable to business and residents.
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AN Video> Esplanade Walk-Through with Amanda Burden

On Thursday, the East River Waterfront Esplanade officially opened to the public. Last week, while the paint on the new bike lanes was still drying, City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden took AN on a walk through of the first section.  The commissioner barely contained her excitement while showing off design details by landscape architect Ken Smith and SHoP Architects. Follow the commissioner as she takes us through the dog run and points out clever details like the "Get-Downs,"  the riverside bar stools,  and "seat walls."
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Rogers Marvel Secures Competition to Revamp White House Lawn Extension

Today, the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) announced that Rogers Marvel Architects (RMA) has won a design competition to revamp President's Park in Washington, DC. The New York-based architects bested a distinguished list of landscape designers, including Hood Design Studio of Oakland California, Michael Van Valkenburgh of Brooklyn, and Reed Hildebrand Associates and SASAKI, both of Watertown, Massachusetts. After September 11th, 2001, security design in major public spaces took on a new significance, and President's Park South—a large ellipse forming a public extension of the White House's front lawn—this meant concrete jersey barriers and fences along E Street. Soon, though, the park could become one of the most pedestrian-friendly—and secure—in the capital, thanks to RMA's subtle combination of landscape architecture and security design. RMA is no stranger to blending security design seamlessly with the surrounding landscape. In New York, they created a secure streetscape for Battery Park City near the World Financial Center, complete with anti-ram walls, public amenities, and landscaping. Nearby, they designed a secure streetscape along Wall and Broad streets guarding the New York Stock Exchange, where sculptural bollards and a mechanical turntable flush with the street both create a distinct pedestrian environment and permit service vehicle access. Officials at the NCPC said today that a design competition was held to garner ideas about making a world-class public park, one where security is key but does not dominate the space. NCPC chairman L. Preston Bryant, Jr. praised RMA's design as a bold statement about security and landscape design that offers a model for keeping our public spaces open and inviting. At the heart of RMA's Washington D.C. design is the strategic layering of security perimeters, which form a flexible boundary accommodating a variety of security scenarios. To accomplish this, the architects raised the central ellipse and placed an anti-ram wall that doubles as a bench around its perimeter; the bench seating faces the ellipse and helps define the iconic space. According to RMA, this elevational tilting formally "presents" the ellipse lawn to the White House while also screening nearby parking spaces from the view of park goers. Punctuating the new perimeter wall are distinct pedestrian entrances with sculptured bollards to help guide pedestrian flow. This new boundary allows for the pedestrianization of E Street facing the White House. RMA vastly expanded the public space forming a large plaza—the E Street Terrace—flanked by leafy groves containing concession and maintenance structures. "The Ellipse is subtly reinvented to address recreation, public promenading, environmental responsibility, and security. We envision a President’s Park South that will physically and conceptually connect the President and the people," said Robert M. Rogers, principal at Rogers Marvel Architects, in a statement. "Around the formal ellipse, RMA calls for a less formal rain garden with natural vegetation designed to handle rainwater runoff from a perimeter parking lot." Officials at the NCPC said at today's announcement that elements of all five short-listed proposals could be incorporated into the final plan. Next, the National Parks Service and the United States Secret Service will review RMA's design before it heads to federal, local, and public review.
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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.