The third and last case study in this three-part series related to breaking borders is an interview with Carter Strickland, the New York State director of the Trust for Public Land (TPL), regarding the TPL's Schoolyard to Playground Program. The previous interview was with Deborah Marton of the New York Restoration Project. The Architect’s Newspaper: Can you give me some background on the Trust for Public Land Schoolyards program and how it breaks down borders? Carter Strickland: Since 1996, the Trust for Public Land (TPL), has been working out of its New York City office to partner with the City of New York and its Department of Education, to transform low-performing asphalt “play yards” into multi-benefit play spaces used by the schools during the school day and the local community after school, on weekends, and on holidays and vacations—including all summer. Our work breaks down the physical border between schools and the surrounding community by unlocking fences and opening a new neighborhood park and breaks down institutional and other borders by involving the community in the visioning and design process before the park is built, and in the programming and use of the park after it is built. AN: How do you choose where to work? CS: Over the last 20 years, TPL has worked with the city to identify asphalt schoolyards that offer little in play value—mostly barren, uninspiring asphalt yards that have no play equipment except for rundown basketball courts, that shed water from their impervious surfaces to the storm sewers and retain pools of water days after rainstorms, and, because they are black asphalt and absorb the sun’s rays, are increasing the urban heat island effect. These areas are surrounded by high wire mesh fences; they have all the charm of a prison yard. Worse, they were historically locked up, only used by the school, and not available to poor communities starved for open space. We look for principals, teachers, and custodians who are ready and willing to invite the community in. AN: How has the program grown? CS: That model was pursued on a small scale initially dependent on corporate funding, with 12 sites built in the first eight years. By 2004, the city had obtained mayoral control of the school system and was open to public-private partnerships, and TPL was able to formalize its partnership in an MOU with the NYC Department of Education and the NYC School Construction Authority to renovate schoolyards. The agreement provided 2 to 1 matching funds from the City of New York for the development of five playgrounds a year for five years, a pace maintained from 2004 to 2007. Former mayor Michael R. Bloomberg launched PlaNYC, a comprehensive sustainability plan for the city that adopted a goal of having every New Yorker live within a 10-minute walk of a park. To meet this goal the city encouraged creative approaches and especially cross-silo efforts, and the program really took off. The city entered into a partnership with TPL, which would serve as the community engagement intermediary with schools and neighbors, the Department of Education (which Mayor Bloomberg got control of from the State of New York), and the Department of Parks & Recreation, which designed and built the playground transformations, and approximately 150 more part-time schoolyards were transformed into full-time community playgrounds between 2007 and 2013. The PlaNYC work wrapped up but NYC Department of Environmental Protection stepped up as a funder for parks that absorb water to meet the goals of the NYC Green Infrastructure Plan, and many councilmembers and borough presidents sought to fund these mini-parks for the benefits of their communities. Recently, New York State has funded playgrounds in central Brooklyn as part of its comprehensive Vital Brooklyn health initiative. To date, TPL has worked with the city and various funders to build 197 green playgrounds, with 15 more in various stages of design and construction. AN: What are the environmental benefits of the initiative? CS: Since 2013, TPL has designed playgrounds to include green infrastructure elements such as rain gardens and absorbent turf fields, turning each of the spaces into a stormwater capture system. This has helped the city to meet its legal mandate to reduce stormwater runoff going onto the Combined Sewer System (CSS) in NYC that contributes to Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) during rainstorms, a significant source of pollution to the nearby rivers and harbor waters. AN: Can you explain the design process? CS: TPL and its consultant landscape architects work with students, teachers, and neighbors to design a new, full-service playground for the school’s use, with new play equipment, sports fields with synthetic turf (it was determined that real grass would not survive even one week of intense use), a running track, performance areas, trees, and gardens with both flowers and places to grow vegetables. We spend five-to-ten weeks in the schools and community, with schoolchildren measuring the grounds, undertaking a sun/shade analysis, surveying the community for a recreational needs analysis, and learning about budget and other constraints. Our professionals turn this data and vision into alternative designs, which are then voted on by the school community. In this way, we transform not only public spaces but empower the community and students with knowledge and the experience of improving their neighborhood. AN: How is TPL using New York City as a prototype for work across the country? CS: The TPL Schoolyard to Playground model has been replicated in other cities in the US, including in Philadelphia, where it works with the very progressive Philadelphia water department in creating “water-smart” playground in both parks and at schools, as well as in Newark, New Jersey, and in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Epilogue Use of vacant lots for parks and community gardens is not a new idea. A March 28, 1896, article in Scientific American article titled “Cultivation of Vacant Lots by the Poor,” described prototypical gardens on New York City vacant lots intended to be a prototype for cities across the country. While the focus was on food production the social value cannot be discounted. An important difference between this work and that of the three leaders interviewed is an attitude that works across demographics and socioeconomic borders. They are opening up space and expanding attitudes about how we treat one another. This progressive move away from the anti-planning that Commissioner Silver described to an open and inclusive process is helping us move beyond postwar attitudes that created so many urban ills. Every organization is buttressed by new data, analysis, and design tools to make more public space available in the growing city. Parks Without Borders has very meaningful perceived and real physical impacts. To the extent that that streets, sidewalks, neighborhoods, and parks become more fluidly connected to the city, quality of life in neighborhoods across the five boroughs will improve. The work of NYRP in developing vacant lots and underused NYCHA property for community gardens has had a transformative impact on the social and economic well-being of underserved communities. At Trust for Public Land, opening up schoolyards has direct benefits on local neighborhoods, and engagement of kids, teachers, and principals in a design process that involves both form-making and environmental considerations will have a long-lasting impact on the people involved in the development process. The city of the future is evolving as a greener connected polis thanks to the efforts of these and other visionary leaders. Borders are opening on the city level as political rhetoric nationally suggests a grim alternative.
Posts tagged with "PlaNYC":
To avoid total inundation and more of those hot, sticky summer days, New York City is trying hard to forestall the impact of global warming. While tackling coastal resiliency, the city is turning its focus to buildings, the source of 75 percent of the city's greenhouse gas emissions. To address the issue, last month Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled the NYC Retrofit Accelerator, a program that will provide consulting and support, for free, to building owners who would like to conserve electricity and water, and upgrade to clean energy systems. Officials hope that, in addition to slashing emissions, energy retrofits will reduce building owner's operating costs. This program builds on the success of 2012's NYC Clean Heat, a component of PlaNYC that was introduced by the Bloomberg administration. The program works towards goals outlined in 2014's One City: Built to Last, which set a goal of reducing emissions 80 percent by 2050. By 2025, officials hope the accelerator will serve over 1,000 buildings per year, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by one million metric tons each year. This would save property owners $350 million per year in utility costs. The biggest climate offenders are buildings that burn heavy heating oil. Consequently, the program primarily serves these buildings, as well as any building that participates in a Housing Development Corporation (HDC) or a Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) program. Efficiency experts at the Retrofit Accelerator will help owners select appropriate retrofits, conduct energy audits, apply for related permits, get financing, apply for tax credits, train maintenance staff, measure energy efficiency over time, and comply with local laws. Interested property owners can visit the Retrofit Accelerator's website or call 311 to determine their eligibility.
Eight years ago, in the face of rapidly rising carbon emissions, PlaNYC—New York City's sustainability and resilience blueprint—set a goal of reducing emissions 30 percent citywide by 2030 compared to a 2005 baseline. "Enormous progress has been made thus far: the growth has been stopped and emissions have substantially decreased—by 19 percent," observed Laurie Kerr, Urban Green Council's Director of Policy. "But as impressive as that is, we need to do more, faster." Enter One City: Built to Last, the city's ten-year building upgrade plan aimed at helping reach Mayor Bill de Blasio's ambitious "80 x 50" goal: 80 percent citywide reductions by 2050. Kerr and John Lee, Deputy Director for Buildings and Energy Efficiency at the NYC Mayor's Office of Sustainability, will be on hand next week at Facades+ NYC to outline the initiative with special reference to the design and construction of high performance building envelopes. The AEC industry holds the key to the 80 x 50 mission, said Kerr. "There are tricky technical, financial and logistical issues to solve. The cutting edge will need to push the craft and the supply chain to arrive at solutions that are efficient, scalable, and appealing to tenants." But the answer to the environmental challenge will necessarily entail behind-the-scenes work as well as splashy innovation, she noted. "The rank and file will need to become proficient in new techniques, such as PassivHaus, that require dramatically greater vigilance on un-sexy issues like thermal bridging and infiltration." Much of the burden for improved performance falls on the building exterior. "High performance envelopes are going to play a major role in achieving 80 x 50—we're simply not going to get there without them," said Kerr. "This will be true for new buildings, but it will be even more important for the existing building stock, which may need everything from sealing, to better windows, to re-wrapping or interior insulation on some properties." The call for upgrades on a large scale is sure to benefit the AEC industry financially, she pointed out, but its members will have to work for their money. "It will entail considerable creativity and craftsmanship to develop and deliver the cost-effective strategies for each facade type—from midcentury modern to brownstones to brick towers in the park," said Kerr. To hear more from Kerr and Lee on One City: Built to Last, register today for Facades+ NYC.
What’s your building burning? Some 10,000 buildings in New York City are stuck on the dirty stuff—heavy heating oils—to keep warm, which is polluting the air across the city. But as of the first of this month, the city has begun to phase out these feuls in favor of more environmentally-friendly and health-conscious alternatives. As part of plaNYC’s initiative to remake New York City with the cleanest air of any major U.S. city, NYC Clean Heat aims to achieve a 50 percent reduction in fine particulate matter (PM2.5) by the end of 2013. While used by only one percent of the city’s buildings, heavy oils No. 4 and No. 6 emit more emissions than all of the cars and trucks on New York’s streets. The elimination of the use of these heating oils in favor of cleaner fuels, such as No.2 oil, Biodiesel, natural gas, and steam, is estimated to save 120 lives a year, as well as prevent 200 respiratory and cardiovascular related emergency room visits, and 77 hospitalizations. Currently, three grades of heating oil are used in New York City: No. 2, No. 4, and No. 6. Quite literally the “bottom of the barrel,” No. 6 heating oil resembles tar, and like No. 4 oil, can contain sulfur, nickel, and other impurities which create soot when burned, thus polluting the air and lessening boiler efficiency. The byproduct, PM2.5, lodges in lungs and aggravates respiratory illnesses, while nickel inhalation can lead to heart disease. With PM2.5 concentrations 30 percent higher in neighborhoods that rely heavily on heavy heating oils, and nickel concentrations over nine times higher than those of any other major U.S. city, it is no surprise that 300,000 New York children suffer from asthma. NYC Clean Heat aims to cooperate with property owners, building managers, tenants, and environmental organizations to achieve its goals. Check out this map to see what you and your neighbors are burning, and contact NYC Clean Heat for additional information getting your building converted.
With nine million dollars total in prizes up for grabs, The Mayor’s Challenge simply asks for innovations in city life, a subject that’s been a growing concern for countless architects, planners, and governments worldwide. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the competition last week calling for individual designers and teams to address urban challenges from sustainability to citizen empowerment. "Every day, mayors around America are tackling increasingly complex problems with fewer and fewer resources," Bloomberg said in a statement. "Our cities are uniquely positioned to inspire and foster the innovation, creativity, and solutions needed to improve people's lives and move America forward." Mayors of cities with a population above 30,000 people—about 1,300 across the country according to the 2010 census—are invited to participate as team leaders. Entries will be theoretical, but will be judged for their vision, ease of implementation, potential for impact, and replicability in other cities. Teams are encouraged to present new and radical ideas relevant to multiple cities addressing social or economic problems, improving customer service, improving accountability, or that help governments run more efficiently. But what ideas are big enough to change cities across the country? The challenge points to PlaNYC, an initiative launched by the Bloomberg administration in 2007, calling in part for transforming 4,000 acres of New York City land into public space to provide every New Yorker with a park within a ten-minutes walk from their homes; Chicago's 311 hub, implemented in 1999, also helped improve city life by combining multiple city services and access points in one easy-to-reach location, providing efficient customer service and encouraging public engagement. From the contesting cities, twenty finalists will be chosen to attend an Ideas Camp and among them five will be named national winners, with one $5 million grand prize and four $1 million prizes to help implement the ideas. All qualified entrants are required to RSVP by July 16th, 2012 and apply by September 14th,2012.
Don't Shoot! The New Republic's Sarah Goldhagen takes on architectural photography. Her piece doesn't exactly add much new material to a debate that's as old as photography itself. Much of the piece reads like sage advice from the art history professor who tells students to get their butts down to The Met because the slides don't come close to the real thing. Still, she's no-holds-barred on much maligned medium: "They lie" and "photographs and the photographers who take them unwittingly and willfully misrepresent", etc. Shoot! Once you get through Goldhagen's piece, then segue on to Architect for advice from PR maven Elizabeth Kubany on how to hire an architectural photographer. Mixed in with standard practice procedures (have a preproduction meeting) Kubany dips into current trends, which she refers to as "point of view" photography, i.e.-"chilly modernist perfection" is out "less tidy perspective" is in. Even Goldhagen will love it. Shulman! Enough talking about architectural photography, it's time to take a look at some classics. AN's own Sam Lubell just published a book with Douglas Woods, Julius Shulman Los Angeles: Birth of a Modern Metropolis. (If you're in New York this evening, stop by the Rizzoli Bookstore -- 31 W 57th St. -- at 5:30 for a book signing with Sam!) Architizer has a preview. Killer buildings. LEED certification may have to go the way of the birds. At least that's the way some conservation groups see it. With millions of migrating birds crashing into tall buildings, The Chicago Tribune reports that an extra layer of netting may help LEED buildings stay sensitive to their environmental mission. Solar Heap. The ever morphing PlaNYC has realized yet another initiative. Mayor Bloomberg announced the latest version today (the law requires the plan be updated every four years) and old city landfills get slated for new use. Not another park, not new bike lanes---we're talking solar panel fields. DNA's got the details.
New York City Council passed legislation Wednesday that aims to save the city one billion gallons of drinking water a year. Four bills slated to be implemented by summer 2012 will curb bottled water usage, reduce leaks, refine water efficiency standards, and ban some water-inefficient equipment. The water efficiency legislation affects new construction and changes to existing buildings and includes reducing the allowed flow rate of plumbing fixtures like faucets, showerheads, and toilets and requiring alarms and sub-meters to detect leaks in some water equipment including roof tanks. In a city that uses one billion gallons of water each day, or about 125 gallons per New Yorker, savings from these efficiency improvements add up fast. “The bills we are passing today use a multi-prong approach to increase water efficiency standards in the City," stated Council Member Erik Martin Dilan, Chair of the Committee on Housing and Buildings, in a release. "They encourage the use of products that conserve water, require the installation of sub-meters and alarms to catch water leaks, and seek to increase the use of drinking fountains. These bills not only have the potential to protect the environment, they also have the potential of saving New Yorkers a substantial amount of money." These new regulations were drafted by the Green Codes Task Force, part of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Urban Green Council which has been exploring ways to green the city's construction codes.
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?
New Yorkers, grab your paint brushes and rollers. That's the message from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, as he and Mr. Global Warming himself, Al Gore, kicked off NYC Cool Roofs, part of the city's new service program that gets volunteers to paint city roofs white. A cheaper and less intensive alternative to green roofs, white roofs help keep buildings cool by reflecting the suns rays back from whence they came—though they don't address stormwater issues like their verdant cousins. “It’s such a simple concept—anyone who has ever gotten dressed in the summer knows it—light-colored surfaces absorb less heat than darker surfaces do,” Bloomberg said from a factory rooftop in Long Island City earlier today. “Coating rooftops with reflective, white paint can reduce roof temperatures by as much as 60 degrees and indoor temperatures by 10 to 20 degrees." Gore thanked the mayor for keeping the city "at the forefront of enacting innovative policies that reduce our carbon footprint.” While the Times calls white roofs a stop-gap measure, and more green roofs would obviously be the ideal, they're gaining in popularity, particularly with the Obama administration. The city's program is currently in the pilot stages, with plans to cover 100,000 square feet of LIC rooftops over the next two weeks. The area was chosen for its expansive industrial buildings that make it one of the hotter spots in the city—as well as easier to paint. While the Building Code now requires many new buildings to have white roofs, the city's sustainability czar, Rohit Aggarwala, noted that 85 percent of buildings that will exist by 2030 are already built. "As a result, we must include existing buildings in our efforts to cool the City," he said. "The NYC Cool Roofs program, combined with the building code requirement that re-roofing projects include reflective coating, is critical to meeting the City’s goal of reducing citywide greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2030.”