Beaming Up the City

East, East Coast
Monday, May 10, 2010
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A Shrike Commander twin-prop plane at twilight, like the ones being used to map New York at night. (Courtesy Texas Aviation)

If you were in New York any time during the last half of the last month, while you slept, you were being zapped with lasers. Or rather, the buildings you slept in. This according to a downright cool story in the Times today reporting that the city has been using a small prop plane to develop far-and-away the most detailed map we’ve ever seen. Like Robert Moses’s famed Panorama dozen times over, “but more accurate and digital,” as Rohit Aggarwala, the departing sustainability czar, told the Grey Lady. More than just creating a solar map of the city’s building stock, the aerial study is beginning to turn up an incredible data set, including all the pitch roofs capable of accommodating solar panels, how much—if any, sadly—of our wetlands remain, and even “zoning changes and stricter building codes.” And here you thought lasers were only good for tag, lasik, and jedi.

Recycling Finally on NYC Streets?

East, East Coast
Monday, May 10, 2010
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Council members Peter Vallone, Christine Quinn, Jessica Lappin, Jimmy Van Bramer, and Letitia James in Astoria earlier today, pushing for more recycling bins in the city. (William Alatriste)

When was the last time you found yourself on a city street, empty water bottle or given-up-on crossword in hand? Being the conscientious New Yorker you are, no doubt you looked around for a recycling bin to deposit your refuse in. Odds are, you didn’t find any nearby, as the city—so often held up as a green beacon—is woefully lacking in recycling receptacles. That could change soon, with the passage of a package of recycling-related legislation that was unveiled just before Earth Day last month. Since the launch of a public recycling pilot program in 2007, there are now 300 bins scattered across the city. The council hopes to double that number within three years of the legislation’s passage and increase it to 1,000 within a decade. But the city has a long way to go, considering there are more than 25,000 “corner baskets” located in the five boroughs. Read More

The Wright Ingredients

East, East Coast
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
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Welcome to the Wright, now approved by two dead baldmen. (Courtesy Andre Kikoski Architects)

Local boy Andre Kikoski won the James Beard Award today for his flashy new restaurant inside the Guggenheim Museum. It replaced the once dowdy cafeteria designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, for whom the award-winning eatery is named, long a vestigial space tucked in under the museum’s sweeping rotunda. Now all flashy curves and color, Kikoski’s space, which opened in January, was even considered a might bit better than the food served therein by New York food critic Adam Platt. The Wright beat out another local spot, Brooklyn’s Choice Kitchens & Bakery by Evan Douglis Studio, and Greensboro, Alabama’s PieLab, designed by Project M. Kikoski joins recent award winners Thomas Schleeser of Design Bureaux (2009) for Chicago’s Publican, Tadao Ando (2008) for Morimoto New York, Lewis Tsuramaki Lewis (2007) for New York’s (now defunct) Xing, Bentel and Bentel (2006) for the Modern… (We’re noticing a trend here, which maybe helps explain why the food in the city is so darn good.)

The Difference a Year Makes

West
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
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The Sacremento County Courthouse, home of the Superior Court that made the authorities ruling. (Tom Spaulding/Flickr)

For better and worse, a Sacramento Superior Court judge ruled yesterday that the California legislature had not violated the state constitution in seizing some $2 billion from hundreds of local redevelopment authorities across the state, money that will continue to be used to cover educational shortfalls within the state’s sagging budget. This is good news in that it does not further imperil already tenuous state finances that have pretty much been trimmed well into the marrow. At the same time, as we detailed last year, this is an unprecedented taking of local funds—covered through special property taxes having nothing to do with the Legislature—that could also imperil the state’s economy by limiting the work the redevelopment authorities can do, work that often times goes to architects. Read More

Waffling on Walmart

Midwest
Monday, May 3, 2010
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Walmart has one store in Chicago, in Oak Park on the West Side. Can it pull off the same feat in Pullman? (Courtesy Google Maps)

The story surrounding plans for a new Walmart on Chicago’s Far South Side keeps changing faster than the retailer’s prices. Last week we noticed that its attempts to break into Brooklyn were eerily similar to those in the Windy City, though we failed to mention how the linchpin of the current argument, that no one would dare locate in Pullman, does not hold true in East New York, as the Gateway Center already has a Target and a few other big box stores. But according to the Chicago Reader, that may not be the case in Pullman either. The paper did the unthinkable and—gasp!—called up the other retailers who the local alderman said he contacted, including IKEA, Dominick’s, and Jewel-Osco, to confirm that they had turned Alderman Anthony Beale down. Read More

Spare Land-Use Change?

East, East Coast
Thursday, April 29, 2010
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Community groups and unions protest the Kingsbridge Armory, a project that died in part because of its CBA arrangements—or lack thereof. (Matt Chaban)

Yesterday, the Times ran an interesting story about the potential illegality of Community Benefit Agreements, as determined in a report by the New York City Bar Association. The report argues such agreements should not be fostered by the city, even if there is nothing that can be done to stop a developer from negotiating with local community groups—something the bar believes can lead to corruption—and, failing that, not to allow the agreements to have a bearing on land-use decisions. The Times’ article concludes with a note of resignation, though, that CBAs are here to stay, so deal with it. What a capital idea! In fact, the reason this story rang so true with us is that it sounds a lot like one of the issues that came up while working on our piece on the Charter Revision Commission. Herewith is yet more reason to take a serious look at land-use issues and not just term limits.

Walmart? Fugedaboutit!

East Coast, National
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
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The stores of Gateway Center 1. Might the second phase include a Walmart? (Courtesy Related)

In the last Midwest issue, we recounted Walmarts struggles to infiltrate urban centers, notably in Chicago. But the world’s largest retailer and the nation’s largest employer has also been eying New York for years, and the Daily News reports that it is making a new push in Brooklyn, which has already met resistance from locals and labor without even being officially announced. The weird thing, though, is how eerily similar there approach is in East New York as with the Pullman project on Chicago’s Far South Side. Both are meant to be the anchor tenant in a larger mixed-use development that involves affordable housing (the former is part of Gateway II, the latter Pullman Park) located in the fringes of their respective cities, places that have been historically economically depressed. This puts Walmart in a better position of arguing that the area is in need of jobs, any jobs, not to mention affordable housing, so how dare politicians and unions try to stop it. Whether it works in Brooklyn or the Far South Side, only time will tell, but if Kingsbridge is any indication, it probably won’t happen in the Five Boroughs any time soon. Pullman, however, might be an entirely different story, as Mayor Daley continues to agitate for the project’s approval.

24 Rooms, 344 Square Feet

International
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
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And you thought your apartment was small. Gary Chang, a Hong Kong architect, has outdone us all, managing to cram 24 “rooms” into his 344-square-foot box apartment through the clever use of movable walls, murphy beds, and other various architectural tricks. As he explains in the Reuters video above, it’s the perfect bachelor pad. “I realized that at one moment, I’m performing only one task, so the ideal thing for me is, I don’t have to move, I’m quite lazy, but the place changes for me,” Chang explains. It’s a far cry from his upbringing in the space, however, when he shared it with his parents, three sisters, and a tenant. Should he ever get a girlfriend, he’ll surely find a way to manage.

Some Serious Equipment

East, East Coast
Thursday, April 22, 2010
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Tip drill? Sorta—it's the cutter head, which will do all the heavy cutting for the Second Avenue Subway. (Courtesy MTA)

It would appear the Second Avenue Subway is really, truly happening. Not to have doubted all the construction work that’s gone on so far, but we have been-there-done-that about half-a-dozen times over the past century. Now, however, the 200-ton Cutter Head has arrived, the main piece of the Tunnel Boring Machine that will begin carving out the tunnels for the first phase of the new line. The MTA posted some pretty cool pics of the device, including the one above, on its Facebook page. And if that weren’t socially networked enough, there’s a YouTube flick of the thing being lowered underground with a soundtrack that sounds oddly like that of a softcore sex scene in some ’90s movie. Second Avenue Sagas points out that this is largely “symbolic,” as the real challenge, technically and fiscally, is not digging but building the lines and stations. That said, we still wonder if all this money wouldn’t be better spent on maintaining service than pushing ahead with capital projects, even if it does mean their nth death. While you ponder, the flick and more pics after the jump. Read More

Bucky Comes to Town

East, East Coast
Thursday, April 22, 2010
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The Union Tank Car Dome stood 384 feet wide, the largest structure of its kind when it was completed. (Courtesy theWarrenReport.com)

If you couldn’t make it down to D.C. last month for the Environmental Film Fest, it’s still not too late to catch one of the entries, A Necessary Ruin. The movie tells the story of the untimely destruction of Buckminster Fuller’s Union Tank Car Dome, a piece of railroad infrastructure that was the largest clear-span structure when it was completed in 1958 before being summarily destroyed three years ago. Its epic story will be told tomorrow night next Friday at the Center for Architecture, followed by a lively discussion with Jonathan Marvel, all part of the current show, Modernism at Risk. You can watch the trailer after the jump. Read More

Lean and Green

East, East Coast
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
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New York continues to "go green." (Courtesy Rickshaw Diaries)

Vice President Joe Biden announced nearly half-a-billion dollars in stimulus funding today to promote green retrofits nationwide, and the biggest winner, according to a Bloomberg administration release, is New York State, which took home $40 million of the $452 million pot. The money will go to two programs, the PACE loan program and Green Jobs-Green New York. The former provides low- or no-interest loans to property owners who buy energy efficient building materials, including insulation, solar panels, and geo-thermal systems, which are then paid back through taxes and utility payments, though the retrofits average out to 20 to 30 percent on energy usage over the life of the product. And Green Jobs-Green New York provides funding to launch training programs so there are capable workers who can build, install, and maintain this new wave of high-tech devices.

He Fought the Good Fight

East, East Coast
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
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Daniel Goldstein, DDDB spokesman and spiritual leader, at a press conference in front of Freddy's last November. (threecee/Flickr)

It appears this is the end of one of the greatest real estate battles since Jane Jacobs took on Robert Moses. But just as Penn Station was demolished and replaced by Madison Square Garden, Daniel Goldstein’s apartment building will soon go, replaced by the Barclays Center. We just received an unusual release from Forest City Ratner saying simply that the company “today reached an agreement with the remaining resident residing in the project’s footprint” and would not comment further. Goldstein’s name was not even mentioned, and while we’re waiting to hear back ourselves, the Times confirms it, along with the rather astounding fact that he was paid $3 million for his condo. The unit was originally bought in 2003 for $590,000, though the state notoriously offered only $510,000 last year, citing neighborhood blight. This comes on the heels of news yesterday that deals had been struck with the remaining 7 holdouts, including Freddy’s Bar, which now hopes to move to somewhere near 4th and Union avenues, not too far from its current home.

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