Posts tagged with "Susannah Drake":

Placeholder Alt Text

NYC Parks Commissioner talks policy, parks, and breaking down barriers

Over the next three months, The Architect’s Newspaper will feature a series interviews with Susannah Drake, founding principal of DLANDstudio, and leading public space advocates about the meaning, design, and development of public space. Up first, New York City Parks and Recreation Commissioner Mitchell Silver will discuss New York's Parks Without Borders initiative to make parks and open space more accessible. Borders are a hot topic in our current politically volcanic world. Some are geographic, most are political, and many have to do with resources and strategic control. Robert Frost’s poem titled Good Fences Make Good Neighbors is often misinterpreted as suggesting that defined boundaries between people or societies are positive. In practice, defined borders can lead to violence, social isolation, inefficiency, and habitat loss.  The classic phrase, “living on the other side of the tracks,” was taken to the extreme in the United States after World War II as new highway systems, elevated transportation structures, slum clearance, and dehumanized public housing towers transformed cities across the United States. Today, cities including Cleveland, New York, Philadelphia, and St. Louis are working to break down physical and perceived boundaries to make a healthier living environment for all. In New York City, the efforts of three groups, one public and two nonprofit, demonstrate how smart urban planning and design can make the city healthier, safer, and more democratic by improving underutilized public lands. Mitchell Silver, commissioner of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, is the visionary behind the city’s Parks Without Borders program. As a native New Yorker who spent his formative years in the city before traveling the country and the world as a planner and thought leader, his vision as head of the public parks agency has been to expand the availability of park space by breaking down physical barriers, jurisdictional boundaries, and site lines into city parks. AN: What is the origin of the Parks without Borders program? MS: The origins came from two sources. Growing up in New York, I was always bothered by the big berm that separated Flatbush Avenue from Prospect Park. The road seemed like a raceway defined with so many fences and barriers. Through professional and personal experience, I encountered different forms of public space around the world and saw far fewer barriers. Public space was seamlessly connected to the city. Of course, fences are needed for sports and steep slopes but in many cases, they are unnecessary. When I became commissioner of the Parks Department, I remembered something that Frederick Law Olmsted said about parks: “The sidewalk adjacent to the park should be considered the outer park.” What I recognized was that the sidewalks around parks, such as Fort Greene Park and Prospect Park, were under the jurisdiction of the Parks Department but felt separate. The land from the park to the curb should feel like part of the park. The public realm should be seamless. The public doesn’t know or care who owns the land. The New York City Police Department needed to own the idea of crime prevention through community design. I submitted the idea to the Mayor as part of OneNYC and through a partnership between City Planning, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Environmental Protection, and our agency, and a $50 million pilot was launched. There were two components: $40 million was dedicated to eight showcase projects, determined through the extensive public process that received over 6,000 nominations. In addition, $10 million was dedicated to parks and playgrounds across the city already under development to enhance the park design.   The key principles are to make a seamless public realm by rethinking the edges, entrances, and adjacent spaces of parks across the city. Open space should be open. Growing dense urban centers need vital public space for all races, genders, and ages across the board. What barriers have you met in implementing the project? Resistance encountered? As with all projects of this nature, we met with all of the community boards via borough board meetings and held public meetings in each of the five boroughs to explain the program and ask the public to nominate a park for the program. We communicated our theory that good uses tend to push out bad uses. In other words, plan for what you want to see and not what you don’t want to see. Feedback was split along demographic lines. Older people perceived fences as safeguards and that reducing the height of fences and opening up parks invited crime and homelessness to take over. But we have had early success. At McDonald Playground in Staten Island where Parks Without Borders money was dedicated to a Community Parks Initiative project, the community was initially concerned about lowering fences. The park feels so open now that people ask if we added more land. And, while the plan for Fort Greene Park in Brooklyn is greatly supported by the community, there has been resistance related to the planned removal of some large, invasive, non-native trees, and the mounds constructed in the 1970s as part of the project. What is the schedule of implementation? Over 20 parks are in the pipeline. The showcase projects will be completed by 2020. They include Prospect Park, Seward Park, Jackie Robinson Park, Corona Park, Fort Greene Park, Faber Park, Van Cortlandt Park, and Hugh Grant Circle. How does the program align with other DPR/Administration initiatives? NYC Parks is advocating for Equity, Access, Placemaking, and Healthy Living. One of the programs, Walk to a Park, is intended to reduce the time it takes to get to a park. Reducing barriers and moving entrances helps increase access to parks. DPR planners conducted a thorough planning process examining the location and attributes of parks across the city and determined where residents might be underserved. Using GIS, they mapped a five-minute walk from parks, playgrounds, and trails across New York City and then used the analysis to prioritize capital expenditures. Does the DPR Parks without Borders program impact all communities across NYC regardless of demographics? Yes, with multigenerational, ADA access. At McDonald Playground, a woman hugged me suggesting that I changed her life because she can now sit with her daughter in a quieter area of the park and watch the kids play ball. She said I extended her life.  Beyond physical fences and walls, what other kinds of borders have you seen in your time as commissioner? Rules create barriers. We don’t want to engage in anti-planning which can exclude rather than include people. Including more people in more existing parks is one example. Anti-planning, or planning to prohibit a certain group is not fair. For example, some of our playgrounds have a sign that states: “Adults prohibited unless accompanied by a child.” That means a senior citizen is prohibited from using a public space or must walk to another park that doesn’t have that rule. To address this inequity, NYC Parks in 2017 evaluated all city playgrounds and installed new signs at locations that would allow adults in a park or playground, but only prohibited adults in fenced off areas where children’s play units were located, like swings, slides and climbing structures. This one change allows more adult New Yorkers and visitors to enjoy green space like sitting under a tree or using a comfort station.   As a planner what is your perspective on borders that might exist because of climate or geographic lines that are mapped but not always perceived by the public? Rockaways? In places where public safety is an issue such as around water, clearly there need to be rules and physical barriers to keep people safe. Environmental conditions can also require limited access. For instance, the habitat for piping plovers needs to be protected by limiting beach access. This reduced the walk score but was an important trade-off. In natural areas, controlling beach erosion is important. Sometimes these barriers are jurisdictional, particularly in coastal areas. New York City is doing a better job than in the past. What is your perspective on urban and transportation design decisions in the direct post-war period, in the '60s and today in relation to race, demographics, and urban living? White flight of the '60s, urban renewal with its characteristic superblocks, and highways dividing neighborhoods were not the highlight of good planning. Cities were perceived as unsafe and as a result, many parks were surrounded with high walls to create defensible space. Now Parks Without Borders is changing this situation by moving from defensible space to open and inclusive space. Prospect Park is a great example. Programming by the Alliance activated the park. They designed for what we want to see rather than what we don’t want to see. There are so many users in our parks that space needs to be very inclusive. Our parks are our outdoor living rooms and reflect those that use them. While DPR does not have purview over public housing, it would be great to get your perspective on the landscape of housing projects in New York City as well as their overall relationship to the city. The “tower in the park” model is somewhat right. The park part is not right. Residents assume that the landscape is off limits because it is fenced off. Design organizations are now engaging NYCHA Tenant Associations about opening-up the green space within the NYCHA housing campus. For example, some NYCHA Houses have converted open space to community gardens, so the trend of better using NYCHA green space is moving into the right direction. Digital access to information creates places where people collect in the city. Beyond these spheres are dead zones that might be considered another form of border. Are there any efforts by DPR to expand digital access? I’d love to see WiFi in parks. We currently have charging stations at some beaches and WiFi in some parks. Lack of funding for maintenance and operations is an ongoing issue for public space. How will Parks Without Borders impact maintenance needs of parks? Maintenance practice of 21st-century parks warrants reexamination. More funding and more staff are welcome but aren’t the answer. We need to be innovative with resources. The agency is now using a zone approach with analytics to optimize the work of maintenance crews. We are also employing new design approaches and adding horticultural staff. One example is having park cleaning seven days per week. This seems like an addition, but the change is cutting down Monday absences because those crews were not unfairly burdened with the weekend trash. This created a better team ethos. Utilization of staff is as important as getting more staff. Working smarter with specialized teams with more training that can troubleshoot issues system-wide (catch basin team, green infrastructure team) is helping. Any final words? With limited resources we are forced to think about what is important and how to be innovative, which I base of the 3 S’s of management: You must have the right organizational structure to achieve your vision and mission. You must have the right systems in place to be successful. You must have strong management and operation standards across the five boroughs to function as one agency.  

CitiesAlive 2018

What is the future of our city regions? Will they be unbearably hot and regularly flooded by intense rains and high tides?  Will they be increasingly unhealthy and more divided between 'us and them'? Will there be a lack of green space and job opportunities? CitiesAlive provides green infrastructure solutions to urban challenges by bringing together designers, researchers, contractors, manufacturers, and policymakers. Discover how to shape a healthier, more resilient future in NYC this September. CitiesAlive 2018  will explore topics like flood management, biodiversity, biophilic design, urban agriculture, vertical forests, coastal greening, green finance, new performance metrics, advancements in green infrastructure policy and regulations and new research findings from over 80 expert speakers. The Architect's Newspaper's network receives 10% off Basic Delegate Passes by using the code ‘archnews10’ during registrations for CitiesAlive 2018. For more information and to register please visit citiesalive.org.
Placeholder Alt Text

WORKac, PORT, and others win Rockefeller Foundation grants to plan future of tristate area

Today the Regional Plan Association (RPA) announced the winners of an inaugural design competition that asked participants to envision a more resilient and equitable future for the tristate area. The New York–based group, in collaboration with CUNY's Catherine Seavitt and Princeton University's Guy Nordenson and Paul Lewis, selected four teams to rethink the region's approach to designing natural and artificial infrastructure. Armed with $45,000 apiece from the Rockefeller Foundation, WORKacPORT + RANGEOnly If + One Architecture, and Rafi Segal A+U will focus on the typology of the suburb, the forest, the city, and the coast, respectively. The teams, diverse but drawing heavily from MIT DUSP's faculty rolls, will work with RPA's team to refine their projects in advance of a June public presentation. WORKac's project will explore new modes of mixed-use development to address issues facing inner ring suburbs from White Plans and Port Chester, New York through Paterson, Montclair, Rahway and Perth Amboy, New Jersey. Meanwhile, PORT + RANGE's focus extends from the Delaware River to northern Connecticut to engage the less populous—but crucially important—periphery. Designers at New York's Only If will team up with Dutch spatial planning firm One Architecture to link the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn more effectively, while Rafi Segal and landscape architect Susannah Drake, together with with Sarah Williams, Brent Ryan and Greg Lindsay, will consider the coastal ecological infrastructure from Atlantic City to Montauk that mitigates potentially devastating impacts of sea level rise. The designers' schemes will inform RPA's fourth regional plan, due out later this year.

“In the past three regional plans, design work was crucial to imagining the future of the region and to making that future legible through innovative representations,” said Lewis, associate dean of the Princeton University School of Architecture, in a prepared statement. “From Hugh Ferriss’s atmospheric renderings to Rai Okamoto’s access diagrams, RPA’s plans have provided unique opportunities for advancing design innovation in concert with visionary transformation of the region. The challenge to the four teams is to build upon that history and envision the future structured around a more expansive notion of 'corridor,' including transportation, ecology, access, and equity.”

Placeholder Alt Text

Under the Elevated: Fellows Named To Study Reviving New York City’s Gritty Underbelly

When it comes to making the most out of city space we've all heard and witnessed the old adage "If you can't build out, build up." But what about building down? The Design Trust for Public Space, a non-profit organization that promotes innovative public spaces such as the High Line, has recently announced the launch of a new project titled Under the Elevated: Reclaiming Space, Connecting Communities. In collaboration with the NYC Department of Transportation (DOT), the Design Trust has just named a team of five fellows that aims to transform the 100 million square feet of dark, dingy, and neglected space that currently exists beneath New York City's elevated train and highway infrastructure into functional, vibrant, and inviting public spaces. “When you look at the impact the mile-and-a-half-long High Line has created, and then consider the potential of these spaces in neighborhoods across the five boroughs, you understand the magnitude of this undertaking,” said Susan Chin, executive director of the Design Trust, in a statement. In order to carry out this enormous task the Design Trust invited professional architects, engineers, designers, and urban planners to apply for five fellowships in Urban Design, Particapatory Design, Policy, Graphic Design, and Photo Urbanism. The Design Trust fellows were selected according to their experience in delivering solutions for projects similar to this undertaking, their ability to work independently and collaboratively, and their willingness to commit significant amounts of time to this project. Susannah Drake, AIA, ASLA, principal of dlandstudio architecture + landscape architecture, was awarded the Urban Design Fellowship. Drake joins the team with experience working on projects such as the BQE Trench: Reconnection Strategies for Brownstone Brooklyn, Rising Currents: A New Urban Ground, and Gowanus Canal Sponge Park. Chat Travieso, a Brooklyn-based artist and architectural designer known primarily for his interactive public art installations that challenge viewers to question their built environment, won the Participatory Design Fellowship. The Policy Fellowship was awarded to planner and urban designer Douglas Woodward, who is currently working on a project titled “The Under Line,” which aims to re-open 33 vacant lots under The Highline for public use. The Graphic Design Fellowship was bestowed to Neil Donnelly, maker of books, posters, websites, and exhibitions often within the art and architecture industry. Finally, a fifth Photo Urbanism Fellowship was awarded to Krisanne Johnson, a Brooklyn-based photographer who primarily shoots powerful images in black and white. Johnson not only won a $5,000 stipend, but will also have her photographs published at the conclusion of the project. Together the Under the Elevated project team will significantly transform New York City by cleaning up and enlivening the gloomy, underutilized spaces that currently define areas such as those beneath the BQE and Harlem's 1 train.
Placeholder Alt Text

Dlandstudio Proposes Plastics Recycling Center at the Brooklyn Navy Yard

Mission: Small Business, Chase bank's new program to promote new small businesses allows residents to vote for their local small businesses to be considered for a hefty $250,000 grant. Among the countless entries for the program, Brooklyn-based dlandstudio's proposal for a new plastics recycling center at the Brooklyn Navy Yard has already received 200 votes. Founded by Susannah Drake in 2005, dlandstudio has long been concerned with sustainability and the environment including a proposal for a Sponge Park along the Gowanus Canal with a permeable landscape to capture stormwater runoff and other industrial waste discharged by flooded pipes in the low-lying neighborhood. This green infrastructure alternative to costly pipes was approved by New York City's Design Commission in January. The new recycling center will accept local plastic waste to be repurposed for new green infrastructure systems similar to the Sponge Park that could be be implemented in Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. The proposition is expected to enhance manufacturing, create new jobs, and manage significant waste streams. If appointed, proceeds from the Mission: Small Business grant will be used for research and execution of the project.