Posts tagged with "Queens":

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Turrets, Trumpets, and Baseball Greats

Yesterday morning, after a bevy of Modernist aficionados crowded into the Landmarks Preservation Commission hearing room to tout the merits of Bunshaft's interiors at the  Manufacturers Hanover Trust, the commission turned their focus to two historic African American neighborhoods: Sandy Ground in Staten Island and Addisleigh Park in Queens. The unanimous vote for the landmarks designations passed on the first day of Black History Month. While the three building designations in Sandy Ground may have appeared a bit piecemeal to an outsider, the historically inclined might have been able to knit together the original fabric of the historic black community on Staten Island. The designations included the Rev. Isaac Coleman and Rebecca Gray Coleman House, the Rossville A.M.E. Zion Church, and two wood frame houses on Bloomingdale Road. The real blockbuster designation went to Addisleigh Park Historic District. The new redistricting includes more than 400 homes, putting the area firmly in the historic camp with Sugar Hill in Harlem, though its English Tudor, Colonial and Mediterranean Revival suburban homes make it look more like Ardsley or Bronxville in Westchester. The land, purchased at the end of the 19th century, saw its first homes in the 1910s and 1920s. Originally an exclusive white neighborhood that prohibited blacks from moving in through restrictive covenants, the area became a legal battleground when white neighbors took to the courts to keep blacks out during the 1940s. But by that time the area was already home to 48 black families, including Lena Horne, Count Basie, and Fats Waller. "The very people who had to fight to preserve it had to fight to get in it," noted one of the commissioners. After the Supreme Court ruled against racially restrictive covenants in 1948, the area blossomed as a middle class black community. Horne, Basie and Waller were joined by baseball greats Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella. Bassist Milt Hinton and Ella Fitzgerald moved in. For Rene Hill, a member of the United Coalition of Veterans and Community Rights (UCVCR), the designation was bittersweet because it did not include the 55 acres of the Community Living Center run by the Veterans Administration. Nearly half the site has been proposed for a housing development by St. Albans Village, LLC. Resident Yvonne Jackson nodded her head in agreement, but said the day was still worth celebrating. Jackson  grew up walking through Addisleigh Park on her way to school and bought her  home in the neighborhood after retiring in 2001. She said, "I always told my friends, when I grow up I have to move there."

Flooding the Unisphere Once Again

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.
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The Most Fun at P.S. 1?

Admittedly, we've been pretty darn obsessed with this year's P.S.1 Young Architects Program, Pole Dance. But after last week's party, the enthusiasm appears to have been justified. Not because this is the first one ever with its own interactive component, where you can log-on to the Pole Dance site and manipulate its sound (also a first) with your phone, or watch visualizations, or upload your own pictures. Not because of all the beautiful and architecturally famous people who came out, as our photos clearly document. No, this may just be the best damned pavilion in the program's decade-long history because it's the most damn fun. Your proof is after the jump.
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Warm-Up Lap for Pole Dance

Over the weekend, we happened to be biking by the (newly renamed) MoMA PS1 in Long Island City when we noticed something unusual, familiar, even. It was SO-IL's Pole Dance, this year's Young Architects pavilion, taking shape. The museum was closing, so we only snapped one furtive, washed-out photo (let's call it arty) on our cellphone before security made us leave. Fortunately, Frederick Fisher cut some slats in the imposing concrete wall he created as part of the museum's 1997 redesign, so we managed to capture a little bit more of the installation, emphasis on little. Still, it looks like it'll be fun, and we can't help but notice how close it is to the renderings, as you can see after the jump.
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Inching Toward ULURP Reform

On Monday, the Charter Revision Commission held its latest meeting, where its members called for a series of five panels to better inform their decision on what, if any, issues to put on the ballot this fall—or next, more on that in a moment. One of the five panels that was called for was on land-use reform, the best indication yet that the commission may well perform the major overhauls the city's developers and planners have been calling for, as we noted in a recent issue. The commissioned announced today that the land-use panel will be held June 24, at the Flushing branch of the Queens Library, and in addition to experts, public input will also be taken. So if this is an issue you care deeply about—be honest, who doesn't love ULURP?—then we'll see you there. As for this fall or next, the biggest debate remains not what but when the commission will conclude its work, as some commissioners and members of the public insist it is moving too quickly to fully engage all the necessary issues.
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A Castle Near the Sand

With snowpocalypse about to descend on the city, summer feels a long way away. But there is cause for sun-soaked celebration today, as the Landmarks Preservation commission calendared the Shore Theater, the first step in the public review process to make the building an official city landmark. The calendaring is actually the first fruits to bear from the Bloomberg administration's 13th hour deal with developer Joe Sitt. It will be months before amusements return to a saved Coney Island, but a major negotiating point for the community—and the amusement community in particular—was more landmarks in Coney to protect the area's historic buildings from the flood of development the city's rezoning hopes to create. So far, there are no other buildings in the docket besides the 1920s theater-and-hotel building, though, which could be cause for concern—especially after the area's oldest building recently suffered water damage. Still, after decades of deterioration, any progress is good. In other landmarks news... The commission also calendared today the Gramercy House and the Addisleigh Park Historic District. The former is an apartment building on East 22nd Street designed by Edward and Charles Blum in 1929 and completed in 1931. The building, according to the commission report, boasts "textured brickwork, contrasting base and striking polychrome terra cotta trim." Meanwhile, the latest proposed historic district (the 101st?) is located in Queens and comprised of 426 buildings, the St. Albans Congregational church and its campus, and 11 acres of St. Albans Park. Many of the buildings date from the 1910s to 1930s, and according to this page on the Historic Districts Council's website, the area was an enclave in the 1950s for the city's well-to-do blacks, including Jackie Robinson, W.E.B. DuBois, Count Basie, Joe Louis, and Ella Fitzgerald, among other notables. Here's a map of the area, and you can see it in GoogleMaps here. Finally, the commission voted in favor of two new landmarks today. The Penn Club, formerly the Yale Club, is located on 44th Street between 5th and 6th avenues, near a clutch of other robber baron-era clubhouses. The 11-story building was completed in 1901 on commission from Yale, with designs by two Yalies and McKim, Mead, & White alums, Evarts Tracy and Egerton Swartwout. The building was later acquired by Penn. The other new landmarks is the 143 Allen Street House, which was built around 1830 for ship captain George Sutton, a time, as the commission report notes, "when the Lower East Side was a fashionable residential district." And so the circle is complete. These two buildings also had hearings the same day as Paul Rudolph's 23 Beekman Place, so it's quite possible that building could be coming up for a vote in the near future as well.

Dance, Dance Architecture

Florian Idenburg just sent us this video, part of SO-IL's presentation to the Young Architecture Program jury for their winning design, Pole Dance, which will be the pavilion for this summer's Warm Up at P.S.1. No wonder he and Jing Liu prevailed. Could there be a bigger architecture party in the works? Who knew a "a metaphor for these uncertain times," as we put it, could be so much fun. If this turns out even half as well as in the video, it will probably be the best pavilion yet, so much so, Simon and Garfunkel will be forced to reunite and perform. (As for concerned neighbors, Idenburg assured us in Thursday's interview that the balls will not be able to jump the wall.)
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P.S. 1 is SO-IL

UPDATE: Get the full story, including renderings, on our main page. Well into its second decade, P.S.1 and MoMA's Young Architect's Program looked just south of its Queens home for this year's winner, selecting Brooklyn's SO-IL Solid Objectives Idenburg Liu to design the now famous summertime pavilion in the P.S. 1 courtyard. They beat out two fellow Brooklynites, Freecell and Easton + Coombes, Cambridge's William O'Brien, Jr., and a dark horse Danish contender BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group. Renderings will be released at a MoMA event tomorrow, but a press release describes their entry thusly:
Conceived as a participatory environment that reframes the conceptual relationship between humankind and structure, Pole Dance is an interconnected system of poles and bungees whose equilibrium is open to human action and environmental factors. Throughout the courtyard, groups of 25-foot-tall poles on 12 x 12-foot grids connected by bungee cords whose elasticity will cause the poles to gently sway, creating a steady ripple throughout the courtyard space.
While still young, SO-IL is no stranger to success. The firm recently completed a new atelier for Derek Lam above his SANAA-designed showroom on Crosby Street in Soho, and plans are in the works for a trippy green roof not far from P.S. 1 in Sunnyside, Queens. Idenberg's best known work is with another museum, however, as he was the project manager on the New Museum.
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Willets Wonderings

It appears the city's plan to trifurcate development out at Willets Point has been a smashing success, as the Economic Development Corporation announced on Friday that 29 developers from across the country have expressed interest in the first phase of the project, an 18-acre swath of land on the western section of the 62-acre Iron Triangle that contains the densest mix of uses. “The quantity and quality of these responses are strong indicators that the development community has confidence in the successful redevelopment of Willets Point despite current economic conditions,” Seth Pinsky, president of EDC, said in a release. An RFP is expected sometime in 2010 for a selection of those 29 respondents. After that, the next hurdle is finishing land acquisition, which stands at 75 percent of the phase one area controlled by the city. If need be, the city has not ruled out acquiring what's left through eminent domain, a specter that has cast a long shadow over the area's redevelopment, though one that could be sunsetting. Following a court ruling that the state could not seize land in the Manhattanville section of Harlem so that Columbia could build a new campus there, Atlantic Yards opponents are hustling to have their ultimately unsuccessful case reheard, a last-ditch effort to impede the sale of Forest City Ratner's bonds. Whether or not they succeed, all this eminent domain tumult—combined with the recent collapse of plans for the Mother of Them All in New London, Connecticut—could nudge New York over the edge, taking it off the list of a handful of states that have yet to enact eminent domain reform since the Kelo decision four years ago. State Senator Bill Perkins certainly thinks so, calling for the governor to live up to his previous promises of a moratorium on eminent domain in the state. How could this all pay out in Flushing, Queens? David Lombino, a spokesperson for EDC, emphasized the agency's strong track record on reaching deals with business owners in the area, despite the continued intransigence of some. "The response from the private sector is encouraging," he said. Should it come down to eminent domain, but eminent domain is no longer there? EDC, while proffering hypothetical projects, does not respond to hypothetical questions.
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Bloomy: Paint It White

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.”
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We Vote For He

It's a bit of a tradition for newspapers to issue endorsements in political races, and so when we got wind that an architect was running for mayor, well, who else could we support? It being primary day, if you haven't voted yet, we recommend you consider casting your ballot for He Gin Lee. According to the bio on his campaign site, He "was named the 'Architect of the Year' by New York City" in 2003 and 2004 and "is not your typical politician who sees this mayoral position as a role and opportunity to win fame or satisfy personal ambitions." A profile in July in City Hall notes that the Korean-American architect has built numerous churches in Queens, many of which can be found on He's firm's website. And while our incumbent mayor has much for the design and construction of the city (for better or worse), He told City Hall that is his main reason for running: “I’d like to make a beautiful city. That is my goal.” And were he to win, he'd join some 850 fellow architect-pols nationwide.
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Rezoning Day

The rezoning of Coney Island may have takn up all the oxygen at the City Council Wednesday, but it was far from the only rezoning to pass, and far from the only important one. The council also approved a major downzoning of Williamsburg and Greenpoint, which, at 175 blocks, is not only huge, but important, as it was meant to protect the area from out-of-scale overdevelopment. It may be a little too late for that, but better late than never, we guess. Or maybe never again is more like it. The Flatbush neighborhood on the south side of Prospect Park got a similar treatment, receiving a massive 180 block downzoning again to protect against uncharacteristic development. Dumbo was rezoned, though in a particularly contextual manner, given its unique historic character, as were four contiguous neighborhoods in Queens. But perhaps most important was a citywide change to the inclusionary housing bonus. The chief mechanism by which the Bloomberg administration has promoted affordable housing, the inclusionary housing bonus was extended throughout the city beginning with the original rezoning of Williamsburg and Greenpoint in 2005. It had existed since 1987 in some of Manhattan's highest density areas, but it would later be deployed throughout the city because the administration liked how it married private development to the public needs of affordable housing. Essentially, the program offers developers additional density, usually in the neighborhood of 10-12 percent, if they make at least 20 percent of their units affordable. Because this means extra height, it is often worth it in the world of residential development. (At the same time, the program is voluntary, which has created complaints from numerous housing advocates, as some developers forgo the bonus because of construction costs, thereby depressing the number of affordable housing units created.) Yesterday's amendment creates a relatively new home ownership option--it had been deployed in discrete instances in the past--that would not only allow planners and developers to create affordable rentals in neighborhoods, but what are essentially affordable condos. The one downside? The price is regulated, so it would be near impossible to sell and reap much in the way of profits, one of the many reasons for buying a home (at least until recently). The program will likely be targeted at the lowest rungs of the economic ladder, though, where such things are less of a concern and it's more about getting out of the projects or substandard rental housing. The amendment also impacts the original program from 1987, which affects the city's highest density residential districts, the R10s. Currently, affordable units in those projects are ineligible for subsidies, but now they will no longer be exempt, thus paving the way for additional affordable units. (For the best explanation, including some really good visuals, check out the DCP's slideshow.)