Posts tagged with "the Bronx":

Flowers and Recycled Planters Transform a Step Street in the Bronx

A formal dedication for a creative urban intervention called ARTfarm brings flowers and greenery to a formerly barren step street in the Bronx.  Architects Valeria Bianco, Christian Gonsalves, Shagun Singh, and Justin Taylor designed and built the project  with help from Architecture for Humanity and the Bronx Museum of the Arts. Drawing inspiration from a nearby farmers' market, ARTfarm recycles wooden cabinet doors and crates into 59 planters for a variety of plants and transforms a concrete and stone stairway into a lush tiered garden. ARTfarm received $5,000 in funding from the New York Department of Transportation Art Program, pARTners.  The program seeks to transform New York's public realm through art and design to create a safer, more inviting streetscape. “From concrete step streets to chain link fences on ordinary street corners, we’re bringing art to streetscapes citywide to redefine these in-between spaces,” said Commissioner Sadik-Khan in a release. “With the help of our local partners, New Yorkers are rediscovering slices of neighborhoods near and far through colorful artwork that makes these places more attractive, welcoming destinations for everyone.” ARTfarm was built by local school children, community residents, and Architecture for Humanity volunteers and will be in place for eleven months.  The installation is located on Step Street at 165th Street and Carroll Place in the Bronx.

Parks Department Coopting NYC Skaters?

On Tuesday, the Parks Department cut the ribbon on the River Avenue pocket parks in the Bronx. It is the latest piece of the sprawling, long-overdue parks system promised by the Bloomberg administration in exchange for the parks sacrificed and taxes forgone in the name of the House That Steinbrenner Built (God rest his soul). But that is not what is truly interesting about the River Avenue park. What is is that it contains a skatepark. The fourth one to open this summer, in fact, preceded by new ramps and half-pipes at Hudson River Park (above), Flushing Meadows, and Robert Venable Park in Brooklyn’s East New York neighborhood. A very popular park opened last year as the first piece of the McCarren Park pool’s redevelopment. (This reporter saw young scalawags jumping the fence to get in even before it was finished, so eager were they to ollie about.) The Parks Department now has 11 skateparks under management, with more on the way. Meghan Lalor, a Parks spokeswoman, said evolving tastes were to thank for the explosion in skateparks. “While there is no formal initiative to build more skate parks per se, we’re always attentive to ways to provide what New Yorkers want and need as their interests in sports and recreation evolve, and we’re delighted to offer them the opportunity to perfect their skills on inline skates, skateboards, and bikes in safe, designated areas,” Lalor wrote in an email. And yet it still seems like a startling idea, city-sanctioned skating. After all, this is the administration that would not even tolerate ancient (and famous!) graffiti along the High Line, even as all this new gnarly pavement seems akin to putting up canvases around the city for the express purpose of tagging. Perhaps skating has gone so mainstream that it is no longer subversive, and thus nothing to worry about. Or perhaps the Parks Department is herding all the skaters together to keep them off the streets and out of the parts of the parks where they are not welcome. Now wouldn’t that be truly subversive?

A Hub-bub in the Bronx

Of all five boroughs, the Bronx arguably fell the furthest during New York City's 1970s collapse (the decade that saw the infamous burning) while it has not seen nearly the revival of Brooklyn or Queens in recent years. There's the new Yankees Stadium, and the Grand Concourse remains resurgent, but there is still much to be done. The city's Economic Development Corporation is hoping to nudge things along just a bit east at the Hub, an architecturally and historically rich area centered around the intersection of 149th Street, Third Avenue, and Melrose Avenue. On two lots covering 112,000 square feet where the 2/5 Trains shoot out of the ground, the city is hoping to create a new mixed-use retail center that can anchor the area's continued redevelopment. An RFP for the project released last week is rather vague, though it notes the appeal of the location and the 200,000 daily pedestrians. Among the desired uses are a school, shopping, and a grocery store, as the project is located within the FRESH program boundaries. The RFP also urges for LEED Silver, an admirable cause as sustainability is often a second thought around these parts, as is public space, which is why the city is also mandating a plaza at the corner of 149th Street and Third Avenue. Proposals are due September 22.

Kingsbridge Conundrum

What to do with the Kingsbridge Armory, empty for more than two decades? That was the question the Related Companies answered with a proposal for a new mall, which was resoundingly rebuffed last year by the City Council, in part because that mall would have lacked union labor. The question of what to do with the mall was implicit in Related's offer, as well, the suggestion being that without the mall, the massive nearly 600,000-square-foot building would continue to sit empty for more decades. Well, Bronx Borough President Rueben Diaz, Jr., one of the pols that led the fight against the mall, thinks he has an answer of his own, as the Observer reports, or at least he hopes the taskforce he's appointed to come up with a solution does. As Diaz put it in a statement:
"My critics have challenged me to come up with something better for the Kingsbridge Armory, and I am prepared to answer that call. There are a number of different options besides retail that could eventually make their home in the armory, be it the expansion of the film industry, arts and recreation space, green manufacturing, or a combination of these and many other uses."
The taskforce itself is rather impressive, including big names like Majora Carter, an influential environmental consultant formerly of the Sustainable South Bronx, developer and political big wig Jack Rosen, Kathy Wilde, head of the pro-business Partnership for New York City. It'll be interesting to see what this influential group comes up with.

Bowled Over by Bronx Architecture

The Bronx isn't exactly known for its architecture, excepting maybe the Grand Concourse, but the Lehman College Art Gallery is hoping to change that perception with a new and very impressive website chronicling the borough's vast architectural heritage. (The gallery happens to be located in one of those hidden treasures, a campus building that was Marcel Breuer's first project in the city.) The site, called simply Bronx Architecture, chronicles some 75 notable buildings scattered about the borough, ranging from the notable (the Bronx County Building, the Hall of Justice, the Kingsbridge Armory, new Yankee Stadium) to the obscure (Villa Charlotte Bronte, the Institute for Special Education, Williamsbridge Reservoir Keeper’s House). The site also contains thorough biographies of the architects behind these buildings, as well as profiles of 35 Bronx neighborhoods, walking tours, maps, teachers' guides, and—in case there was any doubt in Bronx Architecture's authority—a bibliography of 55 sources. It's a remarkable enterprise, and arguably unmatched in scope and style by anything in the other four boroughs, though it does have a predecessor: the gallery launched a similar site surveying the Bronx's public art in 2003. Should you be impressed enough to toast those behind Bronx Architecture, swing by the gallery tonight to celebrate its 25th anniversary, its current show, and the launching of the site. To which we say, "Cheers!"

The Curious Case of Adolfo Carrion

As if President Barack Obama hasn't already had enough problems with vetting his Cabinet, it now turns out Adolfo Carrión, the former Bronx borough president and newly minted director of the Office of Urban Policy, may have failed to pay an architect who performed work on his house. An architect whose sizable project the Beep happened to sign off on just months before renovations took place. The Daily News broke the story on Monday and has been following it closely ever since. But it was today in the Times that we got what we'd really been waiting for. No, not news that the Bronx district attorney's office is looking into the allegations, though that is good to hear, too. What we had yet to see so far was a good picture of the house, which, as you can see above, is none too shabby. (Google Street View just wasn't doing it because, as best we can tell, the house is down a long driveway.) To bring you up to speed, on Monday, the News alleged that Carrión had not paid his architect, Hugo Subotovsky, for renovation work dating to 2006. The paper also noted that around the same time, the architect had gotten approval from Carrión during the ULURP process for Boricua Village, a 452-unit, mixed-use development project that includes a new campus for Boricua College, the independent university serving a largely Latino student body. Two days later, Carrión acknowledged that he failed to pay the architect for the work, which entailed adding a porch and balcony to his Victorian house on City Island at a reported cost of about $36,000, including $3,627.50 in architectural fees. Carrión said he had yet to pay the architect because a "final survey" had not yet been filed with the city, despite the work being completed in early 2007. The same story also noted that Carrión had actually signed off on three of Subotovsky's projects:
In a second case, Carrión recommended approval of a housing development on St. Ann's Ave. on May 27, 2008. Two months later, he announced he was sponsoring $3 million in taxpayer funds for the project. Carrión approved a third project, an 8-story, 128-unit housing complex called Shakespeare Place, on Oct. 24, 2007.
The thing is, if you know anything about the ULURP process, there should be nothing unseemly about a borough president signing off on a local architect's work, especially one, who, from the look of his site, practices almost exclusively in said borough. The problem is that Carrión should know better. For an honorable project like the Boricua campus and a hard-working architect to get sucked into a political morass is a shame. And yet, Carrión was out there today defending himself, claiming that he had done nothing wrong and would pay the fees in due course.