Hooked on Biking

East Coast, Other
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
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Speaking of biking in the city, the Forum for Urban Design held an exhibition and party last night for its first-ever competition. Entitled Reimage Red Hook, the competition sought to make the pioneering, cobblestone neighborhood the premier cycling spot in the city.

Red Hook is notoriously inaccessible, with only one distant subway station and two bus lines. More than the jobs or cheap furniture it brought, the opening of the new IKEA was most celebrated by locals for the free water taxi and shuttle bus services it brought to the neighborhood. Which is why Lisa Chamberlain, the group’s executive director, said it decided to set the competition where it did.

“Red Hook has a serious transportation problem,” she said. “We didn’t want to take a nice neighborhood and make it nicer. We wanted to take a neighborhood where it could actually have a real economic impact.”

At the exhibition, hosted at the Beard Street Warehouse adjacent Fairway, six finalists were displayed, along with ten honorable mentions. Jonathan Marvel, principal of Rogers Marvel Architects and one of the jurors, made brief remarks about the six finalist, before Chamberlain announced the winners. The four runners-up were Heather Aman Design, Route Peddlers, H3 Hardy Collaborative + EWT, and Jordan Parnass Digital Architecture.

She then called the remaining two teams up, HOK Sport and Jonathan Rule, had them say a few words about their projects, before announcing the upset winner, Rule, who also happened to be the only individual entrant.

A recent grad from GSD, Rule has actually been working in Spain for morcillo + pallares the past few years, though he is a native son of Brooklyn. His father, a fellow architect who was beaming after the winners were announced, said Jonathan had almost not flown over because of the $1,000 ticket. Thanks to the $10,000 prize, though, the elder Rule joked, “He should have no problem covering that now.”

Asked by AN if he might be swinging by Disneyland, or at least Euro Disney, with the remains of his prize money, Jonathan paused before admitting to the unsexy truth. “No,” he said. “This is going to pay back Harvard.” As for his triumphant return to the borough of his youth, Rule acknowledged that is was familiar territory, having written his thesis on the Gowanus Canal. He also said it was gratifying to beat out such big names as HOK Sport and Hugh Hardy.

On a more somber note, Rule said his entry was dedicated to Sam Hindy, a childhood friend and son of Brooklyn Brewery founder Stephen Hindy, who died in a cycling accident last year. “It’s been on my mind ever since,” Rule said. “How can you educate motorists and make the city safe for bicyclists.” Here’s hoping, through Rule’s hard work, that we’re one step closer.

Be sure to check out the Forum’s special competition page for videos, renderings, and explanations of all 16 projects. Chamberlain said the group is still deciding the best way to further these designs, though she also pointed out that representatives of both the city planning and transportation departments were on the jury. “Hopefully they absorbed some of our ideas,” she said.

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