Jailbreak

East
Friday, October 23, 2009
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Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Kelly, and DDC Commissioner Burney toss some dirt to commemorate the beginning of construction on the Rafael Vinoly-designed 121st Precinct Stationhouse in Staten Island.

Top brass breaks ground on the Rafael Vinoly-designed 121st Precinct Stationhouse in Staten Island.

City-funded architecture work is becoming scarce, if the DDC’s latest list of Design and Construction Excellence firms is any indicator, so it’s heartening when public projects promised during the boom times move into the construction phase. Today, Mayor Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Kelly, and DDC Commissioner Burney broke ground on the Rafael Vinoly-designed 121st Precinct Stationhouse, which was unveiled in last year. It will be the first police station built on Staten Island since 1962, and the first in the city to be built under the 2030 sustainable design initiative. The project is expected to earn a LEED Silver rating and to be completed in 2012. See a rendering after the jump. Read More

All Planning Is Local

East, East Coast
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
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Stringer (far left) and Anthony Borelli, his planning director (far right), with last years fellows. (Courtesy MBPO)

Stringer (far left) and Anthony Borelli, his planning director (far right), with last year's fellows. (Courtesy MBPO)

One of the roles played by the city’s 59 community boards—besides issuing liquor licenses—is to oversee local planning issues, and while the input of the board is only advisory, it tends to weigh in the decision making of the City Planning Commission (as was the case at Hudson Yards earlier this week) and the City Council. The only problem is, the boards have no professional planners on staff. Manhattan has been blessed with a great deal of help the past three years, however, thanks to a fellowship program begun by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, and today he announced it will hopefully be expanding to the entire city by next year. Read More

Bloomy: Paint It White

East
Thursday, September 24, 2009
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Al Gore, Mayor Bloomberg, and others put a final coat on a new white roof for a warehouse in Long Island City. (Courtesy Office of the Mayor)

Al Gore, Mayor Bloomberg, and others put a final coat on a new white roof for a warehouse in Long Island City. (Courtesy Office of the Mayor)

New Yorkers, grab your paint brushes and rollers. That’s the message from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, as he and Mr. Global Warming himself, Al Gore, kicked off NYC Cool Roofs, part of the city’s new service program that gets volunteers to paint city roofs white. A cheaper and less intensive alternative to green roofs, white roofs help keep buildings cool by reflecting the suns rays back from whence they came—though they don’t address stormwater issues like their verdant cousins. Read More

Fijne Verjaardag Sol Lewitt!

East, East Coast
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
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Ben Van Berkel stands before the New Amsterdam Pavilion he designed with his firm UN Studio and Handel Architects located at the Battery. (Courtesy Handel Architects)

Ben Van Berkel stands before the New Amsterdam Pavilion he designed with his firm UN Studio and Handel Architects located at the Battery. (Courtesy Handel Architects)

That would be Dutch for “Happy Birthday Sol Lewitt!” For you see, the Dutch have arrived in the city this week to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the voyage of Henry Hudson and the subsequent founding of New Amsterdam. As part of the week-long festivities, they have unveiled a Ben Van Berkel-designed pavilion (above) down on the Battery that was announced back in January. But once those festivities are over, perhaps ours trans-Atlantic friends might head uptown to Columbus Circle, where the MTA unveiled its latest Arts for Transit project today, a 53-foot long tile rendition of one of Lewitt’s wall drawings entitled “Whirls and twirls (MTA).” The installation was revealed today as it would have been the Conceptualist artist’s 82nd birthday. (He died in 2007.) Read More

Good Old New York

East, East Coast
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
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Making the streets—and buildings—safer for New Yorks seniors. (Courtesy Streetfilms)

Making the streets—and buildings—safer for New York's seniors. (Courtesy Streetfilms)

Yesterday, the city released a report, “Age Friendly New York,” [PDF] about creating a place that is more appealing to seniors. After all, New York can be hard enough as it is without a bum hip and fifth-floor walk-up. (Why else do so many of us flee for Florida in our autumn years?) The report contains the expected investments in senior centers and “social inclusion,” but roughly 40 percent of the 59 initiatives deal directly or indirectly with issues of equal concern to architects and planners, like more seats at those fancy Cemusa bus shelters, more affordable housing dedicated to seniors, and improved elevator and escalator access. “The initiatives we’re launching will go a long way towards helping older New Yorkers live more connected, vibrant, and meaningful lives,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a press release. The best part is, it might even mean a nicer city for the rest of us, not to mention some much need work for the city’s designers. See all 23 initiatives after the jump. Read More

Rezoning Day

East, East Coast
Thursday, July 30, 2009
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Yorkville, one of the high density areas of Manhattan that will be elligible for more affordble housing under a change to city zoning approved Wednesday. (Wikimedia Commons)

Yorkville, one of the high density areas of Manhattan that will be elligible for more affordble housing under a change to city zoning approved Wednesday. (Wikimedia Commons)

The rezoning of Coney Island may have takn up all the oxygen at the City Council Wednesday, but it was far from the only rezoning to pass, and far from the only important one. The council also approved a major downzoning of Williamsburg and Greenpoint, which, at 175 blocks, is not only huge, but important, as it was meant to protect the area from out-of-scale overdevelopment. It may be a little too late for that, but better late than never, we guess. Or maybe never again is more like it. The Flatbush neighborhood on the south side of Prospect Park got a similar treatment, receiving a massive 180 block downzoning again to protect against uncharacteristic development. Dumbo was rezoned, though in a particularly contextual manner, given its unique historic character, as were four contiguous neighborhoods in Queens. But perhaps most important was a citywide change to the inclusionary housing bonus. Read More

The Big Bad Box Store?

East
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
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Big blue and bad? (Courtesy Gothamist)

Big blue and bad? (Courtesy Gothamist)

Yesterday, the Bloomberg administration announced the winners of its eighth annual Neighborhood Achievement Awards. Among the honorees was the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership for the Placemaking Award, the Bronx Library Center for the Development Award, and IKEA Red Hook for the Norman Buchbinder Award for Neighborhood Beautification. The latter makes sense, as it sure is a nice park, but we also thought it a bit ironic considering what we saw earlier that day on Archinect, namely an Atlantic article calling the big blue designer retailer the “least sustainable company on the planet.” Read More

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TMI Too Late

East, East Coast
Thursday, July 9, 2009
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Earlier today, the Municipal Art Society posted an incredibly informative presentation that the group gave at the recent City Council hearings on the Bloomberg administration’s plans for rezoning Coney Island. The presentation, which can be found above, pretty succinctly explains what’s wrong with the city’s plan, why it won’t work, and alternatives–proposed, of course, by MAS–that could be undertaken. So why has this presentation surfaced so late in the process, when it will have little, if any impact on the rezoning? Read More

Inlet Assumed

East, East Coast
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
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The actual Bushwick Inlet on the day of the groundbreaking of Bushwick Inlet Park (Courtesy Victoria Monjo).

The actual Bushwick Inlet on the day of the groundbreaking of Bushwick Inlet Park. (Courtesy Victoria Monjo)

Yesterday, in a quiet ceremony attended by Mayor Bloomberg, the city broke ground on the first phase of Bushwick Inlet Park. Situated between North 9th and 10th streets along the Williamsburg waterfront, this initial stage of construction will comprise a synthetic turf athletic playing field. Turns out I was also on the Williamsburg waterfront at the time, on a tour of that neighborhood with photographer and AN Editorial Intern Victoria Monjo, capturing images for our forthcoming developers issue (see last year’s here). One of the images we captured was of Bushwick Inlet itself, which sits three or four blocks to the north of where the festivities were taking place. Eventually, park construction will extend all the way to this placid cove, where, according to the Parks Department’s initial plan, there will be a beach, planted terraces, and a performance garden, whatever that is. See the view from Kent Avenue after the jump. Read More

Eminent Decision at Coney?

East, East Coast
Thursday, July 2, 2009
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How much longer will Coney Island lay in ruin? (TheMikeD/Flickr)

How much longer will Coney Island lay in ruin? (TheMikeD/Flickr)

When the City Planning Commission barely altered the city’s plans–plans that remain diametrically opposed to those of chief landholder Joe Sitt–we couldn’t help but wonder whether the Bloomberg administration would some how grossly undermine its plan, or let it fall on the sword at the City Council, at least part of which is firmly under the sway of Sitt. Thus far, the Bloomberg administration has yet to allow a single one of its nearly 100 rezoning fail at the council, often crafting 11th hour deals. Would, could things be different this time? Read More

Bette Midler, Gardener

Other
Thursday, June 25, 2009
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Shes at it again: Bette Midler is adding to her good works in the city, which already include this Robert A.M. Stern boathouse on the Bronx River.

She's at it again: Bette Midler is adding to her good works in the city, which already include this Robert A.M. Stern boathouse on the Harlem River.

Bloomberg Networks’ architectural critic James Russell writes today about Bette Midler’s continuing commitment to beautifying some of New York’s derelict open spaces (with the unintentional side effect of reducing the number of “Law & Order” crime-scene sites). The Divine Miss M is in New York “to open a community garden next to an abandoned tenement, the 33rd oasis her New York Restoration Project has transformed from garbage-strewn wasteland.” You remember the Peter Jay Sharp Boathouse by Robert A. M. Stern with Armand LeGardeur on the Harlem River in Swindler Cove Park, one of the Restoration Project’s most lauded transformations.

Beautiful Maybe, But Not Bold

Other
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
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Fixer-upper. (mr.seymour/Flickr)

Fixer-upper. (mr.seymour/Flickr)

Yesterday, the Bloomberg administration released an RFQ for a “BQE Beautification Study.” Now that’s a tall order, if ever there was one, as the borough-bisecting biway is one of Robert Moses’ many “most reviled” memories. But the RFQ also signals a diminishment of sorts for the once ambitious mayor. After all, it was only three years ago that, with the help of Alexander Garvin, the city had envisioned decking over the roadway, not only restoring long-separated and suffering neighborhoods but also creating opportunities for considerable amounts of housing. Then again, maybe it was an obvious decision. After all, those grand plans haven’t gone so well of late.

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