A 68-story, mixed-use tower set to rise in East Harlem between 96th and 97th Streets on Second Avenue is facing renewed pushback from community groups, even as the New York City government seem to be in unanimous agreement over its development. While the massive, 1.3 million-square foot complex would replace the existing Marx Brothers Playground, developer AvalonBay has promised to rebuild it “piece by piece” nearby; a compromise that preservationists have found unacceptable. As the New York Times reports, the battle over 321 East 96th Street hinges on whether the Marx Brothers Playground is, as the name suggests, a playground or a park. While the distinction might seem small, developing on parkland requires approval from governor and State Legislature. Despite the name, the playground has been maintained by the city parks department since 1947 and bears a plaque on the gates stating the same. Once completed, the new development at the site would yield 1,100 residential units, with 330 of them affordable, 20,000 square feet of retail space, and 270,000 square feet for three schools. One space will be for the School of Cooperative Technical Education, a vocational school, and the other two will be extension spaces for the nearby Heritage School and Park East High School. The educational component is integral to the project, as the New York City Educational Construction Fund (ECF) is a development partner. Pushing back on what they see as the city ceding public land for a private tower, the Municipal Arts Society, along with several preservation groups and the backing of the Trust for Public Land, have filed a lawsuit on December 22nd meant to block the development. Replacing the 1.5-acre playground has the backing of the local community board, City Council, Parks Department, borough president, and former City Council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, all of whom have argued that the additional housing and education facilities are sorely needed. “That is not your typical set of approvals,” said Alyssa Cobb Konon, one assistant commissioner at the parks department. “And I think it speaks to broader support for the project.” Still, Governor Andrew Cuomo has agreed to look into whether the Marx Brothers project would be replacing parkland, and will appoint the commissioner of the state parks department, Rose Harvey, to determine the legal status of the playground. However, as the Times notes, Governor Cuomo has preemptively given his go-ahead to the development, having signed a bill granting AvalonBay the right to begin construction if the site’s legal challenges are found to be without merit. The lawsuit comes at a contentious time for East Harlem, as the recently passed rezoning has already begun changing the neighborhood and creating more parkland.
Posts tagged with "playground":
Now on view at BSA Space is an exhibition and accompanying education program that focuses on playgrounds around the world. Dubbed Extraordinary Playscapes, it will run until September 5, 2016 and was curated by Design Museum Boston. On display are drawings, sketches, videos, scale models, and playable installations featuring 40 international playgrounds. Examples of contemporary architect-designed playgrounds in the U.S. abound: in April, the Rockwell Group–designed Imagination Playground (featured in Extraordinary Playscapes) opened in Brownsville, Brooklyn. Similarly, in December the renovated Adventure Playground in Central Park, designed by Richard Dattner, also opened. These two playgrounds provide the opportunity for “unstructured play,” a growing trend in playgrounds. Some of the designs featured in the exhibition include: Wild Walk in Tupper Lake, New York, designed by Chip Reay; PlayForm7 in Singapore, designed by Playworld Inc; Esplanade Playspace in Boston, designed by Halvorson Design Partnership; Takino Rainbow Nest in Takino, Japan, designed by Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam; Maggie Daley Park in Chicago, designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates; and Ambulance Playground at Beit CURE Hospital in Malawi, Africa, designed by Super Local. You can read more about Extraordinary Playscapes here.
The Rockwell Group and NYC Parks unveiled their plans last week to turn a 1.5-acre section of Betsy Head Park in Brownsville into a lush and active playground. When designing Imagination Playground, the firm looked to treehouses for inspiration. The site will feature a winding ramp that snakes around London Plane trees and connects to slides and a series of jungle gyms that spill out into an open area with sand, water, benches, and plantings. In collaboration with landscape architecture firm MKW + Associates, the Rockwell Group has taken on this project pro-bono and will donate a set of Playground Blocks to the Brownsville Recreation Center. The $3.92 million playground was funded with the help of government subsidies from Mayor Bloomberg, Borough President Markowitz, and Council Member Mealy. Partner David Rockwell founded Imagination Playground in partnership with NYC Parks and KaBOOM, a non-profit organization, to encourage activity and unstructured play for children at nominal cost by providing loose building blocks in outdoor recreational spaces. Right now the project is slated to break ground in spring of 2014 and open in 2015.