Learning From, and Ignoring, Hong Kong

East Coast, International
Monday, August 16, 2010
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Hong Kong (right) and Kowloon, one of the many cities-within-cities that have sprung up on the island in recent decades. (Mr. Wabu/Flickr)

We’re fairly critical of the planning process here in New York, but our pal Norman Oder has us beat a thousand times over with his watchdog website The Atlantic Yards Report. Which is why we were surprised to find him writing over on Urban Omnibus about just how laudable our way of doing things can actually be, at least compared to the current vogue for Asian-style authoritarian planning, particularly that of Hong Kong. Jumping off from Vishaan Chakrabarti’s praise for Hong Kong’s “doubling down on density,” Oder points out that of the locals he’s heard from, “enough is enough.” Read More

NYC Snatches Sustainability Czar from PDX

East Coast, National
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
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There are few places better for the Bloomberg administration to look for a new head for the Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainabilty than Portland, that utopia of urban green living. (To some, it borders on zealotry.) Today the administration announced that David Bragdon, the president of Metro, the City of Roses’ land-use and management body, will be replacing the recently departed Rohit Aggarwala. He has his work cut out for him, as his predecessor was the chief architect of the city’s lauded PlaNYC 2030 plan, though it appears the office is in capable hands. Read More

Rockwell Makes a Ruckus at Imagination Playground

East, East Coast
Thursday, July 29, 2010
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Rockwell, in—what else?—black T-shirt, with Mayor Bloomberg and other elected officials at Tuesday's opening. (Spencer Tucker/Courtesy Mayor's Office)

“It doesn’t seem like it, but everything connects with each one perfectly,” said Gabrielle Sunderland, 12, squinting happily toward the hot July sun. Around her were piles of weather- and germ-resistant foam blocks in sundry shapes and sizes. The blue pieces are the signature element of David Rockwell’s Imagination Playground, which opened Tuesday on Burling Slip near the South Street Seaport.

A designer of theaters, high-end restaurants, and Broadway stage sets, Rockwell found his own children bored by the playgrounds of Lower Manhattan. So he set out to create a playspace where kids could use their own imagination, just as he once did. “Playgrounds are the places where kids can learn how to be a community and create their own worlds, but the ones we visited were all too linear,” he told AN at the opening. “That gave me the idea of a different kind of playground.” Read More

NYC DOT Puts Peddles to the Pavement

East, East Coast
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
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Better busing and biking, coming to a stretch of First Avenue near you some time this fall. (Courtesy DOT)

First came Times Square, then, all in the course of a few weeks, 34th Street, Union Square North, and Grand Army Plaza. Now, Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan has set her sites on bus rapid transit for the east side of Manhattan. Granted this project, like those above, have been kicking around her office in one form or another for years. But to see all of them getting off—or should we say on—the ground in such a short window is welcome news, especially as the MTA continues to fumble and falter. For all the talk of parks, and not condos, being the legacy of Mayor Bloomberg’s third term, perhaps the exploits of his occasionally maligned Transit Commish should not be overlooked. After all, we’ve got 42 more months of this. At this rate, we could have a citywide space program going by then.

Statues Settle In at NYC City Hall

East, East Coast
Thursday, June 3, 2010
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Mayor Bloomberg opens the Statuesque show in City Hall Park, standing before Aaron Curry's "Yellow Bird Boy" (2010).

Since Wednesday, an aluminum woman is joyfully resting in the grass of City Hall Park. Among her well-set figurative friends are a bronze giant, an octopus man, and a couple of luminous neon creatures. The new sculptures are part of The Public Art Fund’s yearly exhibit in the park, an ongoing project for more than 30 years with the aim of making visitors experience art more directly. Read More

A River Runs Through Times Square

East, East Coast
Monday, May 24, 2010
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A before and after of Molly Dilworth's "Cool Water, Hot Island," the winning entry for a semi-temporary installation in the new-ish Times Square.

Back in February, when the Bloomberg administration announced it would be making the closure of Broadway in Times Square permanent, Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan told us, basically, that she had been very impressed with the Dutch dots she had seen adorning closed roads in the Netherlands. In the end, the Department decided on something a little more complex for the installation that will adorn the roadway for the next 18 months, before permanent renovations can begin sometime in 2012. Beating out 149 artists, designers, and aesthetes is Brooklyn’s Molly Dilworth, whose Cool Water, Hot Island is an abstracted representation of Manhattan’s heat island effect, that extra blanket of warmth that plagues most urban areas. The piece should be installed by mid-July 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.

Childs Anchors Atlantic Yards?

East
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
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Might a 1- or 7-WTC-style building by David Childs one day replace some of those ghost towers behind SHoP's rendering of their Atlantic Yards arena?

The Brooklyn Paper bumped into David Childs last week, during the opening of his SOM colleague Roger Duffy’s new Toren condo tower, and the BKP is reporting the surprising news that both could possibly be working on some of the 16 residential towers proposed for Bruce Ratner’s nearby Atlantic Yards development.

“First, he brought me in to look at the arena design, which I think is very good now,” Childs said, referring to the current design collaboration between Ellerbe Becket and SHoP Architects. “And then we talked about working together on the residential buildings,” added Childs.

Read More

Gowanus: Sunk or Saved?

East
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
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The shores of the Gowanus are, for better or worse, likely to remain undeveloped for years to come (sahocevar/Flickr)

The Environmental Protection Agency balked at the Bloomberg administration’s controversial proposal to clean up the Gowanus Canal, favoring its own Superfund program in an announcement today, as had been expected. In a statement, regional administrator Judith Enck said  that, after much consultation with concerned parties, the EPA “determined that a Superfund designation is the best path to a cleanup of this heavily contaminated and long neglected urban waterway.” The Bloomberg administration opposed the designation for fear it would stigmatize the waterway and drive off developers who were planning projects on the polluted canal’s shores. Read More

A Castle Near the Sand

East
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
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The Shore Theater was calendared today, the first step in the landmarks process. (vanz/Flickr)

With snowpocalypse about to descend on the city, summer feels a long way away. But there is cause for sun-soaked celebration today, as the Landmarks Preservation commission calendared the Shore Theater, the first step in the public review process to make the building an official city landmark. The calendaring is actually the first fruits to bear from the Bloomberg administration’s 13th hour deal with developer Joe Sitt. It will be months before amusements return to a saved Coney Island, but a major negotiating point for the community—and the amusement community in particular—was more landmarks in Coney to protect the area’s historic buildings from the flood of development the city’s rezoning hopes to create. So far, there are no other buildings in the docket besides the 1920s theater-and-hotel building, though, which could be cause for concern—especially after the area’s oldest building recently suffered water damage. Still, after decades of deterioration, any progress is good. In other landmarks news… Read More

BigUps for BigApps

East, East Coast
Thursday, February 4, 2010
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(Courtesy NYC.gov)

Last fall, the Bloomberg administration launched NYC BigApps, a competition to design web and phone apps using a massive cache of city data. Dozens of developers entered, including the designer of this very blog, and we’re to report that the mayor announced tonight that her team’s Big Apple Ed came in third place overall. Granted a site all about school data may not be that useful to our readers—unless you’ve got kids in the city school system, of course—but the BigApps site is worth checking out because there are plenty of cool apps dealing with buildings, parks, and even one that lets you build a “walkability shed,” determining how walkable various neighborhoods in the city are based on individual criteria. Other personal favorites include a landmarks app, a bike rack app, and one called BldgBeat. Any strike your fancy?

New and Not So New

East, East Coast
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
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Bloomberg (left) and Walder check out a new 7-Train station. Hopefully it won't leak like recent MTA projects. (Courtesy Office of the Mayor)

On a day when the MTA announced that its budget shortfall may now surpass $400 million as last year’s payroll tax is bringing in even less revenue than expected, Mayor Michael Bloomberg began his day underground. He and MTA chief Jay Walder were touring a new station underway at 34th Street and 11th Avenue, the terminus of the underway 7-Train extension. At least during boom times, the project was seen as a boon to residential development on the Far West Side. Now, with construction limited and the MTA in desperate need of money, transit advocates like the Straphanger’s Campaign and the City Council continue to call for tapping capital funds—namely stimulus set-asides—to help cover the gap. And if two recent projects are any indication, maybe that’s not a bad idea. Read More

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