Posts tagged with "WXY":

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New renderings released of WXY’s Brooklyn Army Terminal landscape redesign

New renderings of Sunset Park’s Brooklyn Army Terminal (BAT) and its renovated landscape—part a multimillion dollar expansion project—have been released, as first reported by Untapped Cities.

In 2015, Mayor de Blasio dedicated $115 million of funds to renovate the three million-square-foot site into a campus that would bring in commercial and industrial tenants. A former World War I military supply base, the Cass Gilbert–designed site was designed to foster an intermodal system of transferring goods between ships, trains, and trucks. The confusing circulation has previously deterred tenants from moving to the facility, and in an effort to attract more tenants, New York–based WXY is redesigning the campus's outdoor space. 

WXY's new public space improvements, which span 12,000 square feet, include new seating, permeable pavement for improved stormwater runoff, and better wayfinding mechanisms for pedestrians to navigate between the ferry landing, parking, and the building. The existing landscape will be preserved where possible. 

The city acquired the complex in 1981 and the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) is the steward of the terminal. The city has been trying to attract new tenants in its ‘Core Four’ industries: traditional manufacturing, advanced manufacturing, food manufacturing, and Made in New York (production of film, TV, and fashion). The terminal's floors are made out of reinforced concrete and can support loads of 250 to 300 pounds a square foot, making it well suited for manufacturing industries. 

The renovation will bring an additional 500,000 square feet of manufacturing space by this fall. Rent hikes and small spaces have forced manufacturing companies out of the Garment District, and the city hopes the revival of Sunset Park’s many industrial spaces will aid the ailing industry, according to a New York Times report earlier this year.

“The Brooklyn Army Terminal has grown into a hotbed for modern manufacturing, diversified talent, and entrepreneurial zeal,” said NYCEDC President Maria Torres-Springer in a statement last year.

The redevelopment of BAT joins neighboring Industry City and the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal along the Sunset Park waterfront.

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WXY to plan Brooklyn campus for film and fashion industries

This post has been updated to reflect WXY's planning role in the project. This week New York City unveiled plans for a $136 million garment factory and film lot complex in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. New York's WXY is planning the "Made in New York" campus, a waterside project that includes new space for film and television production, upgrades to existing facilities, and streetscape improvements at Bush Terminal. “We have used our ‘Made in NY’ brand to grow fashion and film companies, and today, we're committing some of our most important real estate assets to support them as well," said Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, in a statement. "These industries support hundreds of thousands of families with good wages, and they need affordable and modern space to grow. The ‘Made in NY’ Campus represents the collision of our creative economy and advanced manufacturing. This is going to be a 21st-century working waterfront that keeps our city the capital of film and fashion.” Other, as-yet unnamed firms will design a 100,000-square-foot film and T.V. facility with sound stages, space for shoots, plus augmented reality and virtual reality facilities. Renovations to two existing buildings will yield almost 200,000 square feet of fashion manufacturing space for marking and grading, cutting and sewing, patternmaking, and sample-making. The city says the layout is meant to encourage collaboration and resource-sharing between tenants in different sectors of the industry. Outside, WXY-led improvements will add a new plaza, as well as energize a 43rd Street campus corridor that allows public access to Bush Terminal Piers Park. Potential food and retail tenants will have a chance to lease 7,500 square feet for their operations at the onsite SF Café Building.  The 36-acre Bush Terminal, neighboring Brooklyn Army Terminal, and the Brooklyn Wholesale Meat Market together comprise the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) Sunset Park District, an industrial park that's home to more than 165 enterprises. The Made in NY campus is expected to open in 2020. The announcement recognizes the struggle core industries face in an increasingly expensive city. Five percent (182,000) of the city's jobs are in fashion, while the film industry employs 130,000. Though both industries sustain New York's glamorous image, many enterprises have trouble finding affordable space for local manufacturing and production. The city hopes the Bush Terminal campus will support existing companies while attracting new businesses. For some designers, it may be cheaper to work with factories abroad, but for many, a local facility allows for greater oversight and faster communication if, say, a client wants a new sample that day or a small run of a style that responds to new trends.
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WXY and Local Projects–designed theater included in new Bronx affordable housing complex

Today officials broke ground on Bronx Commons, an affordable housing complex designed by Danois Architects and WXY Architecture + Urban Design. The mixed-use development, in the South Bronx's Melrose, includes 305 affordable apartments and is developed by local nonprofit WHEDco and BFC Partners in conjunction with New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). In a distinctive twist, the project is grounded by a 14,000-square-foot, 300-seat arts and cultural center and performance space. The Bronx Music Hall, which grew out of WHEDco's storefront music "lab," will bring programming to thousands annually and focus on nurturing the borough's artists. A public plaza and 22,000 square feet of retail at East 163rd Street rounds out the program. “As we build more and more needed affordable housing, there is no finer tribute to New York’s deep artistic history than including a music hall in this Bronx development," said Mayor Bill de Blasio, in a statement. "The projects will transform long-vacant City land into a vibrant cultural mecca and residential community for the borough and the City. I congratulate the Melrose community, and the future residents of this 100 percent affordable development." True to its diverse programming, the project is being executed by three different New York firms. Danois Architects is designing the housing, while WXY and Local Projects are designing the Bronx Music Hall. The latter firm specializes in interactive media design and its work anchors the new and stellar permanent exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York. The 426,000-square-foot project is being built on vacant city-owned land, the last free parcel in the Melrose Commons Urban Renewal Area. The city is touting its "deep" affordability, with units for households making between 30 and 110 percent of the Area Median Income, or $22,032 and $89,760 for a family of three. The borough's median household income was $34,299 for 2015. This article appears on HoverPin, a new app that lets you build personalized maps of geo-related online content based on your interests: architecture, food, culture, fitness, and more. Never miss The Architect’s Newspaper’s coverage of your area and discover new, exciting projects wherever you go! See our HoverPin layer here and download the app from the Apple Store.
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A notorious former Bronx prison site to become affordable housing

The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) recently unveiled plans to redevelop a former Bronx juvenile prison into a mixed-use development centered on affordable housing.

WXY architecture + urban design (WXY) is collaborating with Body Lawson Associates (BLA) to transform the infamous Spofford Juvenile Detention Center into the Peninsula, a $300 million project that will create 740 units of 100 percent affordable housing.

Claire Weisz, principal-in-charge of WXY, said that “no parts of the former prison [were] being reincorporated” into the development. “The goal is to create a campus that incorporates living and working to reimagine this promontory place in Hunts Point,” she added.

The rest of the team—Gilbane Development Company, Hudson Companies, and Mutual Housing Association of New York (MHANY)—was chosen through a 2015 request for expressions of interest (RFEI).

The team is working with longtime neighborhood stakeholders like the Point CDC, BronxWorks, Casita Maria Center for Arts and Education, Urban Health Plan, Sustainable South Bronx, and others.

In 2014, Majora Carter—the urban revitalization activist and founder and former executive director of Sustainable South Bronx—partnered with AutoDesk to imagine alternatives to the Spofford site, which operated as the Bridges Juvenile Center when it was shuttered by the city in 2011 over appalling conditions and inmate abuse.

Along with the typical deliverables that come with a project this size—retail, community, and green space—the Peninsula will bring 49,000 square feet of light industrial space to the Hunts Point neighborhood.

Weisz said that “recreating and reconnecting the street grid” while “making a courtyard space [that] expresses the permeability and openness to the community” was a “priority of the team’s proposal.” Victor Body-Lawson, principal at Body Lawson Associates, added that the team “designed the courtyard as a hub that will foster interactivity between the community, residents, and visitors while melding commercial, manufacturing, and residential activities around a central space.”

In addition to providing housing, the plan integrates different types of workspaces, including artist work studios and light industrial space for Bronx-based businesses to both launch and expand. The Peninsula will host a business incubator, job training facilities, school space for pre-kindergarten (an on-site Head Start program will be incorporated into the project) and higher education, 52,000 square feet of open space, and an 18,000-square-foot health and wellness center operated by Urban Health Plan. “The housing and these work spaces will together create a lively and open addition to the neighborhood of Hunts Point,” said Weisz.

Food, too, is key to the Peninsula: The NYCEDC stated that in addition to a 15,000-square-foot supermarket, local favorites like Il Forno Bakery, Soul Snacks Cookie Company, Bascom Catering, and Hunts Point Brewing Company will be setting up shop in the development. According to Weisz, these “will serve as anchor tenants for the Peninsula because they provide access to fresh produce, offer health care services, and strive to be part of a larger vision that benefits their growing business and the community they serve.”

The five-building development is coming online in three planned phases: Phase one is expected to be complete in 2021, with phase two coming online the year after and the third phase set to open in 2024.

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The Astor Cube is back, along with plaza and streetscape improvements by WXY

After two years in storage, New York’s Astor Place Cube is back for a few more spins, along with a reconfigured plaza and streetscape that are designed to make high-density urban living more bearable. New York City officials held a ribbon-cutting and sculpture-spinning ceremony today to mark the completion of repairs to the rotating Cube sculpture by Bernard “Tony” Rosenthal and the larger $21 million Astor Place/Cooper Square reconstruction project that provides an improved setting for it. Officially known as The Alamo, Rosenthal’s Cube was removed for safe keeping and cleaning on November 25, 2014, so it would be out of the way during plaza reconstruction. It was returned this month, signaling completion of public improvements designed by Claire Weisz of New York-based WXY, in conjunction with the city’s departments of Design and Construction (DDC), Transportation (DOT), and Parks and Recreation. "The redesign of Astor Place brings us yet another beautiful public space that New York City has wrestled back from the automobile,” said DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg at the ribbon cutting ceremony. “We have now made the plaza space more welcoming for pedestrians and we have brought back distinctive elements—like the iconic Cube—that have long made this such a special gathering place and gateway to the East Village." Trottenberg wistfully recalled her own involvement at Astor Place. After graduating from Barnard in 1986, she said, she worked in publishing near the Wanamaker Annex back when that's what liberal arts graduates did. “This space means a lot to me,” she said. “I once sold used books under the Astor Place Cube, back when you could still make money selling books.” “The reconstruction of Astor Place—and the reinstallation of the East Village’s beloved Alamo—provides a terrific example of how well-designed public space can create a more unified,  better functioning public sphere,” said Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver. “Fluid, attractive and walkable spaces like Alamo Plaza are crucial as we work together to create a greener, healthier New York City.” “I am thrilled the Cube is back at Alamo Square and that we are celebrating upgrades to another pedestrian plaza in our city,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Marking the heart of the East Village, Astor Plaza, and this iconic artwork stand as a crossroads for thousands of New Yorkers.” The 15-foot Cube is one of the best-known sculptures in the city, popular for the way it spins on its axis. First installed in 1967, the Cube is made of jet-black Cor-Ten steel, weighs 1,800 pounds and spins easily when touched, making it a favorite late night toy for neighboring college students and others. Rosenthal (1914 to 2009) created the Cube as part of Doris C. Freedman's Sculpture in Environment installation, sponsored by the New York City Administration of Recreation and Cultural Affairs when the East Village neighborhood was a Bohemian haven. Symbolizing the constant swirl of urban life, it is as contextually emblematic as the Financial District’s 1987 Charging Bull by Arturo Di Modica. It was the first permanent contemporary outdoor sculpture installed in the city of New York. The reconstruction of Astor Place and Cooper Square were completed as part of an effort to upgrade infrastructure throughout New York City, to give residents and visitors public spaces that provide a relief as the city becomes more densely developed. The city has a goal of ensuring that all New Yorkers live within a 10-minute walk of quality open space. The Department of Design and Construction managed the project for Transportation and Parks. The community enhancement project created two new pedestrian plazas and expanded and renovated two others, bringing 42,000 square feet of new pedestrian space to the neighborhood. The redesign incorporated an existing subway station and created a safer configuration for vehicular and pedestrian traffic. It introduced larger sidewalks; 16,000 square feet of planting areas with new trees and automated, in-ground irrigation systems; 6,700 square feet of permeable pavement; 2,100 square feet of curbside rain gardens for improved drainage; and racks for more than 100 bikes. The Cube was renovated at a cost of $180,000. According to a statement from the Department of Design and Construction: “Astor Place is one of Manhattan’s busiest hubs. With nearby institutions like New York University, Cooper Union, and Parsons School of Design, thousands of cars and pedestrians flow through the area every day. Activity in this plaza space has only intensified in recent years with new buildings rising and businesses moving in to accommodate Manhattan’s population growth.” In addition, the DDC statement notes, “Astor Place is the site of a tricky intersection. Three avenues meet one another, where they form two adjacent triangles. Because of this, the area has been notoriously difficult for pedestrians to navigate. You could very easily find yourself standing in the middle of a traffic median with no access to a protected crosswalk. For years, the surrounding community and city planners saw an opportunity to transform Astor Place into a calmer, safer space.” To reimagine Astor Place, the city agencies turned to WXY, an architecture and urban design firm with a track record for working in complicated parts of the public realm. “We tend to get projects that have gone a long time without being solved, like undersides of bridges or areas surrounding viaducts,” said principal-in-charge Claire Weisz, in a statement issued by DDC. “It’s really about bringing design thinking to unusual problems, or problems that people put off solving.” The redesign was intended to reduce stress for everyone in the area. It creates sidewalks and roadways that are more clearly delineated to calm and guide drivers, and it provides more space for pedestrians, especially in Astor Place’s Alamo Plaza. Custom-designed tables, chairs, and umbrellas encourage pedestrians to stop and take in the view. There are also more trees and benches in Astor Place. At the southern tip of the Astor Place area is Cooper Triangle and Village Plaza. Cooper Triangle got new street fixtures, including steps that provide seating and meeting areas for pedestrians. More pedestrian space was added by narrowing the width of the adjacent road. Reconstruction of Astor Place began in 2013 after the local Community Board approved the plan. Besides moving public art, work included relocating underground utilities and installing new features such as lighting, bicycle racks, and plantings. Planners say in-depth traffic studies were a key step in redesigning and rebuilding roadways to calm the flow of cars. Weisz said she used the unusual geometry of the area to reimagine pockets of under-used public space.  “How do we reconnect people to their environment, not just by views, but by interacting with it?” she said. “The more options we have and the more developed our infrastructure is, the more possibilities we have for continuing our density in the city.” While Astor Place is a high profile project, planners say, areas throughout New York City are receiving similar treatment on a smaller scale. The DDC launched its Plaza Program in 2008, inviting New Yorkers to nominate their own neighborhoods for a plaza redesign. Earlier this year, the DDC and DOT also completed Fordham Plaza in the Bronx and La Plaza de las Americas in Manhattan. Others in the works include George B. Post Plaza, Lowery and Bliss Plazas, Putnam Plaza, Roosevelt Island Plaza, and Times Plaza. Although the Cube was immortalized as a mosaic landmark at the nearby 8th Street-NYU Subway Station by artist Timothy Snell in his Broadway Diary mosaics (2002, for the MTA Arts & Design program), residents have long had concerns that the frequently and roughly used sculpture may change with the area. An Alexander Calder sculpture was planned in 2011 to take the place of the Film Academy Café during 51 Astor’s development but never arrived. The lobby of that building itself now features Jeff Koons’s whimsical 16-foot-tall Balloon Rabbit (Red), 2005-2010, ironically greeting all visitors to Big Blue. During the same plaza redevelopment in 2014 that prompted the Cube’s temporary disappearance, the Department of Transportation removed around 6 light posts encased with episodes of Mosaic Trail, a classic, yet illegally installed hallmark of the East Village begun around 1984 by local street artist Jim Power.
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Former Bronx juvenile prison to become 740-unit affordable housing development

The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) have unveiled renderings for plans to redevelop a former Bronx juvenile prison into a mixed-use development centered on affordable housing. WXY architecture + urban design (WXY) are collaborating with Body Lawson Associates (BLA) to transform the notorious Spofford Juvenile Detention Center into The Peninsula, a $300 million project that will create 740 units of "100 percent" affordable housing. Along with typical deliverables—retail, community, and green space—for a project this size, the Peninsula will bring 49,000 square feet of light industrial space to the Hunts Point neighborhood. The project is one of many mixed-use complexes cropping up in the borough: In May, Mastermind Development broke ground on a $117.7 million project in East Tremont and FXFOWLE's La Central in Melrose is moving forward. The development team—Gilbane Development Company, Hudson Companies, and Mutual Housing Association of New York (MHANY)—was chosen through a 2015 request for expressions of interest (RFEI). The team is working with longtime neighborhood stakeholders like the Point CDC, BronxWorks, Casita Maria Center for Arts and Education, Urban Health Plan, Sustainable South Bronx, and others. In 2014 Majora Carter, the urban revitalization activist and founder/former executive director of Sustainable South Bronx, partnered with AutoDesk to imagine alternatives to the Spofford site, which operated as the Bridges Juvenile Center when it was shuttered by the city in 2011 over appalling conditions and inmate abuse. DNAinfo reports that a development team spearheaded by Carter was rejected in favor of the winning proposal. "The lack of diversity on the team chosen by NYCEDC to develop Spofford is not indicative of Mayor de Blasio’s much-publicized commitment to including minority businesses in the city’s contracting," Carter told DNAinfo. "Instead EDC selected a typical team composed exclusively of white men 'partnered' with uncompensated minority nonprofits to whom no transformative capital benefits will accrue." The five-building development is nevertheless coming online in three planned phases: Phase one is expected to be complete in 2021, with phase two coming online the year after, and the third and final phase set to open in 2024. In addition to providing housing, those facilities will host a business incubator, job training facilities, school space for pre-K (an on-site Head Start will be incorporated into the project) and higher ed, 52,000 square feet of open space, and an 18,000-square-foot health and wellness center operated by Urban Health Plan. Food is key to the Peninsula: According to the NYCEDC, in addition to a 15,000-square-foot supermarket, local favorites like Il Forno Bakery, Soul Snacks, Bascom Catering, and Hunts Point Brewing Company will be setting up shop in the development.
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Building of the Day: The Battery

This is the twenty-seventh in a series of guests posts that feature Archtober Building of the Day tours! On today’s Building of the Day tour, Beth Franz, RLA of Quennell Rothschild & Partners (QRP) walked us through the past, present, and future of The Battery. The Battery is built on the site of what was once Fort Amsterdam, later renamed Fort George once the British took over. One of the first things Franz pointed out to us is an original stone placed at what was the corner of the fort. During the redesign process—a collaboration between QRP, Starr Whitehouse Landscape Architects and Planners, and WXY architecture + urban design (WXY) with the Battery Conservancy and the Parks Department as clients—QRP decided to completely expose the stone, which made it vulnerable to damage, but it enabled visitors to the park to have a connection to the old fort. We then walked to Castle Clinton, passing by The Battery Oval. The two-acre site acts as a connection from the main entrance to the park at Battery Place and State Street to Castle Clinton. During the Robert Moses era, this portion of the park was a two-lane pathway, mostly devoid of greenery. The oval is mounded, which helps it to act as an amphitheater and inside the oval there are 300 blue plastic chairs that have proven to be very popular with visitors. So popular in fact that they are being mass produced for anyone to buy. Franz then led us to the waterfront promenade, where she explained to us the different design phases of The Battery. After the dire financial times of the 1970s and 1980s when New York’s parks were suffering from neglect, The Battery Conservancy was established to ensure the park was kept in good shape for all New Yorkers to use and enjoy. In 1982, Philip Winslow led the first major redesign of the park with the goal of putting the landscape first and getting rid of the broken landscapes designed during the Moses era. The park is outlined with enormous 7,000-pound granite blocks that serve as a demarcating line between the busy public streets and the quiet garden-like atmosphere of the park. Along the perimeter are various monuments to different people and events. QRP restored these monuments to their original design and placed them at the end of streets that terminate at The Battery. These are designed to help bring visitors into the park and capture their attention. Walking along the bike path, Franz told us how integral it was in the design process. With safety for bikers and pedestrians in mind, QRP added visual cues for pedestrians that they are entering the bike path. They also wanted cyclists to be aware of those who might be in the path: There is granite striping on the paths and rumble strips to alert cyclists as well. Additionally, the path gets quite narrow in portions, which forces cyclists to slow down and be aware of their surroundings. Along the bike path is The Battery woodland, which consists almost entirely of native grasses and plants. The vision is that this will resemble a meadow that Europeans might have found on Manhattan Island when they first arrived. This area does not need to be mowed and it does not use fertilizers or chemicals to maintain the trees and grasses. We ended our tour at the Tiffany Gardens. These gardens also consist of native plants and are mounded, much like the oval. The mounding serves two valuable purposes. Firstly, since the subway tunnels are just inches below the park, the mounds provide enough soil for the plants to take root. Secondly, Franz explained that they create something called “conceal and reveal.” If the landscape is totally flat, a viewer can see the entire park and not be as enticed to enter. If a mound is partially blocking their view, they become interested in what lies beyond and enter to explore the area. The new SeaGlass Carousel designed by WXY is located next to the Tiffany Gardens. Across from the carousel is the last unfinished part of the park, which will be a playground, meant to encourage imaginative play for children of all ages. Among the hustle and bustle of the Financial District, The Battery offers a wonderful respite and it truly is one of New York’s most beautiful parks. About the author: Jacob Fredi is the Public Programs and Exhibitions Coordinator at the Center for Architecture. When he’s not on Building of the Day tours, you can find him playing board games (Class Struggle!) and brewing his own beer.
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Building of the Day: Manhattan Districts 1/2/5 Garage and Salt Shed

This is the tenth in a series of guests posts that feature Archtober Building of the Day tours! For today’s Building of the Day tour, we visited the 2016 AIANY Design Award Winner, Manhattan Districts 1/2/5 Garage and Salt Shed. The Garage and Salt Shed are two separate buildings with specific purposes for the Department of Sanitation. The 425,000 square-foot LEED Gold Certified garage opened in 2015 and houses sanitation trucks from three Manhattan sanitation districts, serving 300,000 residents. Dattner Architects and WXY architecture + urban design worked very closely with the Department of Sanitation, the Public Design Commission, the Department of City Planning, and the Department of Design and Construction to design a building that was functional yet would fit in well with the cityscape. The facade of the building is double skinned, with the interior facade made of glass to allow natural light into the building while the outer façade is composed of 2,600 “fins” made of perforated aluminum. These fins move throughout the day, following the sun to reduce glare inside and keep the temperature pleasant. They also serve the purpose of blocking the headlights and view of the trucks in the garage, which was very important to the neighbors of the garage. Self-sufficiency was a major theme of the construction of the building according to Gia Mainiero, AIA of Dattner Architects. To that effect, the garage has a green roof, the largest in New York City, which helps with energy conservation in the entire building. The plants that comprise the green roof are desert succulents, which require little care and no additional watering. The roof also plays a role in the water conservation of the building. Rainwater from the roof and water created from the Con Ed steam system is collected in a 20,000 gallon tank used to both wash the trucks and supply the building’s sewer system. While the placement of the building was at first controversial, residents are reportedly very pleased with the design of the structure and happy with the fact that it helps keep garbage trucks off the crowded streets. Across the street from the garage is the Salt Shed, which holds 5,000 tons of salt used to keep New York’s streets clear in the winter. It is one of 36 facilities throughout New York City meant to hold de-icing salt. The building is designed to resemble a lump of crystallized salt, with a 32-degree angle on the roof—salt’s natural angle of repose. Salt in the Salt Shed reaches a height of roughly 45 feet and is refilled by trucks as needed in the winter. The structure is currently a grayish-white color, but slag mixed into the concrete means that it will change colors as the building ages. At night, architectural lighting lights the building in a magnificent way and it has become akin to a sculpture of the neighborhood. In fact, as we were on the tour, there was a photoshoot in front—not the first according to our guides. Quite a creative use for a building filled with tons and tons of salt. Tomorrow, we head to Horizon Media. About the author: Julia Christie is the Office Manager at AIANY / Center for Architecture.
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A new model for affordable artist studios in Manhattan

“I just got tired of people always talking about the same problem—it’s simple, just don’t go for the highest dollar [as a landlord],” said sculptor Andrea Woodner in response to constantly hearing how hard it is to foster the arts in New York City. When the third floor became available in her building, 25 Park Place, she worked with architect and business partner (the pair cofounded Design Trust for Public Space) Claire Weisz of WXY to renovate it for artists’ work studios to be leased below market rate. They dubbed it the Hercules Art/Studio Program (named for the 1930s Hercules Seating sign on the building).

Woodner initially envisioned the type of studio she once had: a large, empty sunlit space. However, after talking with a few artists, she amended her plans from three 1,000-square-foot studio spaces to seven 300-square-foot spaces, which would be cheaper. “It’s custom-made for this generation of artists,” said Woodner. “It’s not what I had, but it’s what they wanted.”

Weisz gutted the 5,700-square-foot space to create the seven studios, a common area, an industrial kitchen, bathrooms with showers, and a gallery. “It looks simple, but it took a lot of fussing,” said Weisz.

Getting sunlight to permeate the north-south-oriented floor proved particularly tricky. Weisz built partial, eight-foot-high walls to provide privacy without inhibiting natural light or the flow of heating and cooling. Although the budget was tight, Weisz opted to splurge on gallery-quality lighting designed by Domingo Gonzalez of DGA.

Woodner selected the seven students to fill the space by visiting local graduate programs at Hunter College and Columbia University. Each applicant had to submit a statement explaining that having a rent-controlled studio was critical to him or her to be able to continue working. Finalists were then interviewed to make sure they would be a good fit for the collaborative space. Woodner plans to host discussions, shows, and panels in the building to further connect the artists to the community and vice versa.

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There are hopes to expand the program. “I’m a realist,” said Woodner. “The headwinds are in appreciating real estate value, so to do anything other than that is an uphill climb. I am doing it because I can afford to do it. I am happy to do it. I would like to encourage other landlords to contribute space as well. We are only going to be able to chip away at this, but if we can make some incremental changes toward bringing artists back to lower Manhattan, it can be mutually beneficial…the city needs the artists as much as the artists need the city.”

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Claire Weisz on WXY’s reimagining of the Brooklyn Strand

From a pedestrian perspective, Downtown Brooklyn and its waterfront have an odd relationship. Despite the Brooklyn Bridge’s looming (literally) presence in DUMBO, the area’s potential to become an idyllic promenade and an active space has never quite been realized.

Now, however, New York practice WXY architecture + design—who specializes in planning, urban design, and architecture–is proposing to connect DUMBO, Downtown, and Brooklyn Bridge Park. As part of a public-private scheme, in collaboration with the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership (DBP), WXY’s project, the Strand, sets about creating views within the site, giving it an identity while creating a place that puts pedestrians first.

WXY principal Claire Weisz said that the first thing her practice sought to do was to see what connections needed to be reestablished with a focus on who they should serve. “One of the main priorities of the Strand effort is to privilege pedestrians and cyclists,” said Weisz. “We [looked] at what spaces used to connect and then we sought a way to reimagine and provide resources to the public spaces and places that are valued by the people living, working, and studying in this area.”

Striking a dialogue and creating a “positive sense of journey” was another key aspect of the scheme. Working with Copenhagen artist group Superflex, a responsive and pedestrian friendly scene was established: Here, functional, yet visually inspiring routes were developed, evoking the cultural and historical aspects of the area’s neighborhoods from Fulton to Farragut and the Navy Yard.

Weisz also spoke of new subway connections and the potential to develop sites around infrastructure, adding how the Gateway to Brooklyn action plan concept “demonstrated the importance of approaching access holistically.” In light of this, Weisz proposed connecting Cadman Plaza East with the walkway off the Brooklyn Bridge, thus protecting pedestrians who “have to dodge traffic at Cadman Plaza West.”

Weisz noted how the dominance of car travel has led to the emergence of “unappealing leftover public space.” Here, she explained, a “continuous city fabric where walkable, bike-able, active streets connect Downtown Brooklyn to the Waterfront” is a necessity from an infrastructure perspective.

While improved circulation is a priority, visual connectivity is also on the agenda. Weisz plans to give landmarks visual precedence to celebrate Brooklyn’s history and improve wayfinding throughout the Strand. As a result, the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges are allocated framed views from within the Cadman Plaza Park, Anchorage Plaza, and Trinity Park, in order to reaffirm the sense of place throughout the Strand.

“The Strand’s identity is linked to not losing the layers of history that made Brooklyn what it is today but adapting them for today’s needs,” said Weisz, who added that creating a “cohesive” identity was discussed with stakeholders.

“The main challenge of the Strand has been demonstrating the potential of spaces that are currently invisible to the public,” said Weisz. “Whether it be spaces around, over, or under highways [or] a new vantage for accessing and experiencing the Brooklyn Bridge, residents can look forward to a rejuvenated place that realizes the potential for the Strand to better connect downtown Brooklyn.”

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New renderings, community vision revealed for WXY–designed Brooklyn Strand

Today, 40 stakeholders released the Brooklyn Strand Community Vision Plan, a set of recommendations for developing almost 50 acres of public space that links the Brooklyn Bridge to Downtown Brooklyn. The plan focuses on broadening connectivity along the corridor by making the space more attractive and pedestrian-friendly, and improving access to the waterfront between the Navy Yard, DUMBO, and Downtown Brooklyn. In 2014, Mayor de Blasio announced a set of plans to further catalyze the growth of downtown Brooklyn. One of these plans was the Brooklyn Strand, now a disjointed set of parks, greenways, and plazas bisected by highway feeder ramps that present wayfinding challenges even to seasoned New Yorkers. Since then, New York–based WXY Architecture + Urban Design has led not-for-profit local development corporation Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, Brooklyn Bridge Park, the Department of Parks and Recreation, the Department of Transportation, and over 250 community stakeholders through an intensive planning process to re-vision the Strand. Recommendations from the just-released community vision include enhancing non-car links between Borough Hall Park, Columbus Park, Korean War Veterans Memorial Plaza, Cadman Plaza, Commodore Barry Park, the Bridge Parks, and Trinity Park; a "Gateway to Brooklyn" adjacent to Brooklyn Bridge Park with a viewing platform; creating a permanent market at Anchorage Plaza; reopening the long-shuttered Brooklyn War Memorial to the public; broadening access to Commodore Barry Park; widening sidewalks; installing public art to animate under-utilized public space; realign Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE) ramps to make the pedestrian experience less alienating. “The Brooklyn Strand Community Vision Plan is an exciting and ambitious effort to reconnect Downtown Brooklyn’s historic neighborhoods to each other, reinvigorate open space and improve access to the waterfront,” proclaimed New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) president Maria Torres-Springer. “The Plan is the result of an extensive and collaborative community engagement process, and it provides a promising roadmap to the future for this historic business district. At NYCEDC, we look forward to continuing our work with the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, community stakeholders and elected leaders, and to making the reinvigoration of the Brooklyn Strand a reality.”
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Revamping Astor Place-Cooper Square for pedestrians and public space

Exemplifying the eternal Robert Moses-Jane Jacobs dialectic, New York’s Astor Place-Cooper Square area has long reflected too much Bob and not enough Jane. Excessive vehicular space has bred human-car conflict points, with pedestrians facing “a super-wide roadway . . . unclear at various traffic lights which way you are supposed to cross,” as noted by Claire Weisz of WXY (formerly Weisz & Yoes). The neighborhood around Cooper Union has become a midrise mélange, ill-serving its role as a campus and gateway between NoHo and the East Village. The chief open space is the under-lit, fenced-off Cooper Triangle, habitable mainly by rodents: A wasted opportunity in the park-starved area between Washington and Tompkins Squares.

Change hasn’t come quickly, but it’s coming. WXY has partnered with the Department of Design and Construction (DDC), Transportation (DOT), and Parks and Recreation (DPR), as well as with landscape architect Quennell Rothschild & Partners, lighting designer Linnaea Tillett, plantsman Piet Oudolf, and contractor Triumph Construction, to remap streets and upgrade the plazas. Adhering closely to the 2011 iteration of a plan vetted in community meetings since 2008, the team is creating an environment that blends landscaping and infrastructure: high-efficiency lighting, granite benches, stepped seating, bicycle racks, a new water main, catch basins, center medians, bioswales, and a dignified allée framing the Foundation Building. Construction began in 2013, and DDC projects opening this summer.

Anticipating Vision Zero by several years, Weisz said, “The plan tried to rationalize the desire lines with the actual street layout,” correcting dangerous conditions. At Fifth and Sixth Streets, “you would find yourself in the middle of Third Avenue without being able to cross the street at a normal crosswalk,” and the subway-entrance island between Eighth and Ninth was “really narrow for the amount of people on it.” With vehicles banned from eastern Astor Place and from Cooper Square below Sixth Street, “you’ll be able to walk pretty easily from Fifth Street all the way  to the subway without having to cross traffic.” A tree-lined Alamo Plaza will replace two lanes of Astor Place, and an 8,000-square-foot Village Plaza will emerge from Cooper Square’s west sidewalk, replacing disorienting lanes and dead zones of striped-off asphalt.

“Essentially, the goal is to continue to encourage the street ballet of the neighborhood,” Weisz said.

“We believe this particular design takes the approach of Jane Jacobs to create spaces that favor the community,” said DDC spokesperson Shavone Williams, stressing community outreach from design through construction.

The DDC “was very much a co-designer on this rather than a client working with consultants,” Weisz said. “[The collaboration was] amazing—we have three agencies, almost with equal billing here, and two community boards.” Maintenance partners include Village Alliance for the Alamo and subway plazas, DPR for Cooper Triangle, and Grace Church School for the Village Plaza.

WXY’s design signature includes zipper benches and environmentally friendly cast-iron drinking fountains developed for DPR (shaped to accommodate water bottles and to vent wastewater into planters and gravel, not hard pipes). Distinctive black cobra-head davit poles will support energy-efficient LED fixtures above Village Plaza. Swales will enhance storm drainage, reducing combined sewer overflows. Tony Rosenthal’s rotating cube Alamo, currently off-site for restoration, will return to its original position.

Village Alliance, City Lore, and other cultural activists have worked with DOT to reinstall components of Jim Power’s Mosaic Trail—“a treasure map” revealing local history, said Bowery Poetry Club proprietor Bob Holman, a City Lore board member. “That the city, which has so long ignored this treasure, is helping to renovate the poles displaced by the renovation and will install them as a piece of public art,” Holman said, “is New York City at its best.” With varied color temperatures distinguishing pedestrian spaces, streets, and buildings, the team expected that “Power’s ceramics would really pop.”

Weisz foresees a return of informal vibrancy as the plazas draw lunchers, seniors, performers, students, and others (Though not nocturnal revelers: The Triangle will be locked at night). By inviting people to linger, these plazas may help energize local businesses assaulted by chain stores and rocketing commercial rents.

Interruptions in Manhattan’s street grid represent the revenge of the organic and historic against the hyper-rational. Sites that syncopate the 1811 plan’s marching rhythm are both robust and sensitive: They are activity magnets, yet they create welcome eddies in urban flows.