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Evan Bindelglass reports for Curbed: Landmarks Approves Extell's Restoration of 734 Broadway

Second time's the charm?

That was the case Tuesday morning for Extell's plans to restore 734 Broadway, which dates to 1872. The Landmarks Preservation Commission approved the plans, which were created by preservation experts Beyer Blinder and Belle. What they want to do, in short, is install a two-story penthouse on the roof of the five-story building, remove the fire escape from the front of the building, repaint the back of the building, and demolish a shed behind the building. Late last year, the plans were presented to Community Board 2, which voted to approve the proposal with some modification. Then Extell went before the Landmarks Preservation Commission a few weeks later and the commission said no.

That leads us to Tuesday morning, when Extell returned to the LPC with an updated proposal.

Perhaps the most notable change is that the top floor of the penthouse addition is now pushed farther back from the front of the building. The LPC agreed that removal of the fire escape is fine since it was not original to the building and that because the shed was changed so much over the years, there was no need to keep it.

With the penthouse being pretty hard to see from anywhere that doesn't look down at the building, the LPC approved the proposal unanimously. Also approved unanimously was the application for the LPC to recommend the City Planning Commission approve use of the building for retail on the ground floor and residential units on the floors above.  

Aaron Seward reports for The Architect's Newspaper: In Detail> 19 East Houston Street

The new building mimics the scale of its neighbor and its Houston Street face is meant to appear as though it has been sliced away, revealing the section.

Up through the 1920s, Houston Street was a narrow little passageway through the lower Manhattan trenches, no bigger than Spring Street is today. It was not until the 1930s, as part of Robert Moses’ overhaul and modernization of New York City, that it took on its current form as a multi-lane thoroughfare. The transformation from urban lane to city highway involved the demolition of quite a few buildings, and resulted in a number of odd-shaped and sliver-like lots that would only appeal to a developer in the city’s current real estate reality.

One such oddity is a triangular plot on the south curb of Houston bordered by Broadway and Crosby Street—a prominent location that for years has been home to a fruit stand, a subway entrance, and an MTA parking lot. The brick wall of the building bordering the lot has been used as a billboard for much of this time, home for an age to an iconic DKNY advertisement, and now branded with the logo of the Southern Californian clothing company Hollister and an artificially distressed rendition of the California state flag.


The façade system’s depth and variation are inspired by Soho’s historic cast iron façades.

This awkward patch of land is now being developed by New York City–based real estate investment and operating company Madison Capital. It will soon be home to a building comprising four floors of retail (one subterranean) and three floors of office space. With a 36-foot exposure on Crosby Street, a little over 200 feet on Houston, and nothing but a razor’s edge on Broadway, the building will offer about 5,000 square feet of leasable space per floor, considering vertical circulation needs and an MTA easement for the subway entrance. This relatively limited amount of space was not seen as an impediment to finding likely tenants. In the words of Perkins Eastman principal Navid Maqami, “The value of the property is not so much in the floor plans and square footage—it’s the location more than anything else. It’s about visibility and who would want to be there.”

The building's glass façade will glow at night along Houston Street.

Since the site sits at the edge of the Soho Cast Iron Historic District, the design of the building had to pass muster with the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Perkins Eastman took a contextual/contemporary approach to this challenge. The structure’s massing and floor-to-floor heights match that of its immediate neighbor, keeping it on-scale with the area. The treatment of the Crosby façade is the most contextual. It is clad with a Danish grey brick that closely matches the material facing other buildings on that street (Denmark was apparently the closest place to source a natural brick of that particular color) and also features punched windows and even a cornice.



The Houston façade, on the other hand, is a contemporary interpretation of the 19th-century cast iron facades that predominate in Soho. Here, the architectural notion is that a pre-existing building has been sliced by the widening of the street, leaving a sectional view of the structure. In addition to communicating this idea, Maqami and his design team played on the strong horizontal character of the historic district’s facades, their layering and depth, and their variation and elaboration from floor to floor.

To emulate these features in a contemporary idiom, the team employed two layers of floor-to-ceiling glass—one set 18 inches inboard from the other—aluminum pilasters, and a frame of the Danish grey brick that carries over from the Crosby Street face. The outboard panels of glass are all 15 feet wide, while the inboard panels vary in width from 1 foot 6 inches to 7 feet 2 inches. The architects change up where these varying-width panels fall, thus modulating the expression up the elevation and creating a sense of movement along high-speed Houston Street.

The building’s first three floors, which are all dedicated to retail, are faced with transparent glass panels. This changes in the top three office floors, on which the inboard glass panels are treated with an increasingly opaque ceramic frit pattern. On the fourth floor the inboard panels feature 33 percent frit, on the fifth floor they feature 66 percent frit, and on the sixth and top floor they feature 100 percent frit, thus providing a higher and higher degree of privacy as you go up the elevation.

For those of you wondering what will be done with the thin-edge-of-the-wedge space at the corner of Broadway, it will be left empty, a soaring atrium from the second floor up, giving whatever retail tenant that takes the space a highly visible branding opportunity. Whatever piece of advertising fills this space, it will show through the glass façade to the bustling throng entering Soho from the Village—a preservation of the building-as-billboard condition that has ruled this site for the past few generations.


Eric Jankiewicz reports for Curbed: Board Says Glass Addition 'Makes No Sense' for MePa Building The French bistro Pastis closed at the end of February for a 15-month renovation, and while restauranteur Keith McNally promises that the restaurant will reopen in the same spot, the building owners have other plans for the building in the works as well. Last night, Manhattan's Community Board 2 denied a request to add two stories to the historic building at 9-19 Ninth Avenue, owned by Aurora Capital Associates and William Gottlieb Real Estate. Renderings created by BKSK Architects showed a two-story glass top on the structure, which sits in the Gansevoort Market Historic District, and the board was not impressed. "To crown this old building with this cap of glassmakes no sense," said one community board member. "It has nothing to do with this neighborhood and it's completely out of context."
The original two-story building would be mounted by another two stories, which would also hold commercial space, but that's where the congruity ends. The original structure is made out of bricks, but the proposed addition would consist of two overlapping panels of glass. The affect, architect George Schieferdecker admitted, is shocking, but that is what they intended. "We wanted to create a contrast because it reflects the clashing spirit of the neighborhood," Schieferdecker said. "The base is strong and imperfect and the addition has a glass that is very rough and artisanal." One layer of glass is smooth and clear, running through the entirety of the two upper floors. The second layer is a thick, coarse material that one of the representatives described as "the most delicious piece of glass." This second piece is layered over the first and projects outwards a little bit, leaving space between the two parts. Unlike the first layer, this second does not cover the top two stories. Instead, it covers a smaller ribbon of in the middle of the floors. The architects tried to place this ultra-modern design within the historical context of the neighborhood. "The historic district had a history of tearing down, building up, tearing down, building up," they said. "It's also a district where there is a lot of grittiness, age and evolution." And when the community board members began to criticize the design, the architects went back to the history, the clashing, and the conflicts. "You're missing what's exciting about this building," Harry Kendall, a rep from BKSK. To which the board replied with their resolution: "It compromises the most iconic landmark." The designs go before the Landmarks Preservation Commission next, and they'll decided if the development moves forward or if BKSK heads back to the drawing board.

Jeremiah Budin reports for Curbed: Landmarks Loves BKSK's Redesigned 130 Seventh Ave. South.

It's been a rocky road to Landmarks approval for mixed-use condo development 130 Seventh Avenue South, but after two redesigns the Commission finally signed off on the building yesterday, and did so with unanimous enthusiasm. "I cannot imagine a better building for this site," said Commissioner Michael Devonshire. "As a New Yorker, I thank you for this building." The Commission had ripped apart the original proposal for the site from architect Peter Samton, comparing it to "an industrial loft that has been added to in the '80s." Samton was subsequently replaced by BKSK Architects, whose new design was not quite as loathed by the LPC, but still deemed to be too tall and too glassy.

However, BKSK's revised design, which they presented yesterday, won over the Commission completely. Lowered by one floor, with a façade of brick and brownstone masonry interwoven with glass and intermittent metal fins and increased detail on the side walls (which are very visible due to the odd shape of the lot), the new building was declared "thrilling" by Commissioner Fred Bland and approved unanimously. The project is being developed by Erez Itzhaki and Continental Ventures.  

Joe Anuta reports for Crain's: Manhattan boro prez seeks more landmarks.

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer plans to introduce legislation that would require the city Landmarks Preservation Commission to consider any building older than 50 years for review, whenever a developer files permits to demolish it, she announced Friday.

The proposed legislation would require the commission to take 30 days for public review before deciding whether or not to consider a building for landmark status. Separately, it would also codify a provision that prohibits owners of buildings under consideration for such protected status from gaining demolition permits. Ms. Brewer announced the legislation at a news conference along West 57 Street, where developers are currently building some of the city’s tallest towers, including Extell Development’s One57 and JDS Development’s super-thin tower nearby. In the past, many leading landlords have opposed the unbridled expansion of the number of designated landmarks in the city as stifling needed new development in favor of preserving old buildings they claim are of questionable aesthetic or historical value.

In addition to announcing her proposed legislation, Ms. Brewer also called on the commission to study buildings along West 57th Street after the five-story Rizzoli building, built in the 1920s, and passed over twice by the commission for landmark status. According to the beep's office, that property is now slated for alterations. "We are here today to ask that the LPC immediately study those remaining buildings on West 57th Street to identify and landmark those that represent the best of their eras," Ms. Brewer said. But it is unclear how the commission will act under the de Blasio administration, which has yet to name a new chair for the commission, though as Crain’s previously reported, the mayor is coming narrowing his focus.

The body, which has the power to freeze development by putting a property on its calendar, has long been a contentious topic in the city between developers and preservationists. But that age-old rivalry took on extra urgency after the Real Estate Board of New York released a study in September showing virtually no new affordable units had been built in landmarked districts, which cover 30% of Manhattan, over the past decade. Preservations contend that those same districts have preserved rent-regulated units.

Andrew J. Hawkins reports for Crain's: De Blasio zeroes in on landmarks appointment. Mayor Bill de Blasio is close to filling another hole in his administration: chair of the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission. Several names are on the short list, two of whom are Ward Dennis, a partner at Higgins Quasebarth and Partners, LLC, a historic preservation consultant firm; and Kate Daly, the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s current executive director. Neither could be reached for comment. Other names that have been floating around since at least January include Ronda Wist, vice president for preservation and government relations at the Municipal Art Society; Carol Clark, an adjunct professor at Columbia University who previously served at the Brooklyn Historical Society and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development; and Chris Collins, formerly counsel for the City Council’s Land Use Committee. Ms. Wist declined to comment; the rest could not be reached. Multiple sources say the appointment is imminent. A spokesman for the mayor did not return a request for comment. The appointment will come at a tense time for the commission. The commission has come under fire from developers, landlords and the construction industry, who complain that it has been too aggressive in its push to landmark large swaths of the city. The Real Estate Board of New York released a report last year that revealed over a quarter of Manhattan was landmarked. “We hope that the next commission chairman will look carefully at historic districting and consult with the City Planning Commission much more than it’s done previously,” said Richard Anderson, president of the New York City Building Congress. The commission’s current chairman, Robert Tierney, was grilled by the City Council at a recent hearing about how preservation activity may conflict with the mayor’s goal of building and preserving 200,000 units of affordable housing. Mr. Tierney, a Bloomberg administration holdover, disputed the notion put forward by critics that landmarking was used to control development in certain neighborhoods, arguing that its only intention is to preserve neighborhoods with cultural and historical significance. If Mr. de Blasio appoints Ms. Daly, who as executive director oversees the agency’s budget and personnel, it would send the signal that he is content with the current direction of the agency. However, if he chooses Mr. Dennis, who is the favored pick of developers, he may be interested in shaking up the commission’s senior staff. According to a source inside the commission, Mr. de Blasio's delay in replacing Mr. Tierney has frustrated existing commissioners. At least two commissioners plan to resign but have not done so yet because their absence would make it impossible for the commission to reach a quorum on new business, and they would unlikely be replaced until after a new chair is named. Once those commissioners do step down, they would create new vacancies to be filled by the mayor, presumably with the input of the new chair.

Zoe Rosenberg reports for Curbed: 130 Seventh Ave. South's Revised 'Glacier' Fails To Woo LPC

With their prior success in creating historically sensitive designs, BKSK Architects thought they might have done so again yesterday when presenting their renderings for a mixed-use project at 130 Seventh Avenue South to the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Since the project's initial design, courtesy of Peter Sampton, was panned by the LPC in September, BKSK has stepped in.

"We believe a façade that clearly speaks of its time is an effective way to heal this scar" caused by the "ruthless cut of Seventh Avenue South at one point in time," said BKSK's Harry Kendall and George Schieferdecker, with Schieferdecker adding that the triangular site "offers us a great opportunity to be in the Flatiron mode". But yesterday afternoon, the LPC and a room full of neighborhood preservationists proved them wrong, citing the design as "monolithic" and like a "glacier". No one in the room was reluctant to acknowledge that the current site occupant, a one-story restaurant, is an "eyesore". However, few believed the new design was appropriate for the neighborhood.

[This is the old, panned design from September.]

What BKSK proposed was a 14,000-square-foot residential, 2,000-square-foot commercial building with five full-floor units and a two-story penthouse. The building would stand 75 feet to the top of the bulkhead, and 85 feet at the building's highest point. In their revision of prior "slice of glass" plans, the architects most notably attempted to reflect the surrounding neighborhood in their design by including vertical brick beams amongst the curtain wall façade at the points where the site's original party walls stood. But this contemporary tactic was what really seemed to irk neighbors and commissioners.

The commissioners' comments echoed ones uttered about the Peter Sampton-designed building for the same site at the LPC back in September, with Commissioner Diana Chapin noting, "the verticality is not appropriate" given the scale of the neighborhood. Commissioner Michael Goldblum took a different stance on the scale of buildings in Greenwich Village, declaring, "It ain't Park Slope". One speaker who represented several downtown City Council members declared that the building "will dramatically alter the sense of place at the site that lies in the heart of the historic district." Another speaker argued that masses of the city's visitors flock to Greenwich Village specifically because of its scale and charm, in contrast to Midtown's. Would this "disproportionate" lodging for just a few deplete the neighborhood of that charm? So it's back to the drawing board for developers Continental Ventures and the Keystone Group. See you at the next hearing.  

Eric Jankiewicz reports for Curbed.

Today, the Landmarks Preservation Commission approved plans for a new building at 100 Franklin Street, a development they sent back to the drawing board in November. Peter Guthrie of the development and design team at DDG presented a completely different design, stripped of all the elements that had once made Tribecans seethe. "I think this is extraordinary and exhilarating," one member of the commission said about the changes. "This is now resolved in the right way." The original iteration featured a slew of materials—fritted glass, metal, recovered brick—but a more simplified version won over the commission.

The new building, which the commission said fits more with the neighborhood, features brown bricks, as well a Romanesque arch on the ground floor and Jack arches throughout the façade. DDG first revealed their plans to the public last year during a community board 1 meeting. Located in Tribeca, the area currently holds two triangular parking lots created in 1930s, between White and Franklin Streets on Sixth Avenue. Soon after the plans were shown, more than 800 people signed a petition calling the building "historically inappropriate," according to DNAinfo.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission echoed the same sentiment in their deliberations at the time. The design proposals were for a condo that featured four-layered façade, with fritted glass, reclaimed brick, metal, and interior glazing. All of which the commission called "attention-calling" at the top and that it "just seems muddled and trying to do a lot of things."

The developers and architects took all of this feedback and came back today with a completely revised design, which a commissioner called "simple and elegant," and, most importantly, "contextual." During his presentation, Guthrie actually apologized to the commission for the original design and likened him and the developers to excited revelers, drunk from anticipation.

"I'm glad you guys went back and sobered up," a member of the commission said right before they voted to approve the building. It had been previously thought that the developers would have finished purchasing the lot by end of 2013. But the developers asked Peter Matera, the current owner of the 100 Franklin St. lot, for more time before setting a closing date.  

Annie Bergelin reports for The Architect's Newspaper: The Missing Link. AECOM designing new path to connect New York City's East River Esplanade.

For years there has been an inconvenient gap in the East River Esplanade between East 37th and East 60th streets, disrupting what could be a contiguous promenade experience along the waterfront. The gap is there because of two major built projects that cause the north section to be disjointed from the south section. The first is FDR Drive, the brainchild of Robert Moses who gave preferential treatment to vehicular traffic along the East River.
The second is the United Nations headquarters, an iconic Modernist building complex that trumps local land use in the interest of global alliances. Despite these two obstacles, AECOM has come up with a solution to bridge the gap on the East River Esplanade. The conceptual design work that AECOM has prepared for the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) reveals that there will be a new piece of infrastructure dedicated to pedestrian and bicycle circulation decking over the water adjacent to the FDR Drive. The primary objective is to connect the north and south portions of the Esplanade, but the design team is using the opportunity to introduce other amenities as well.
Gonzalo Cruz, a creative design director at AECOM and project manager for the Esplanade project, explained that the design seeks to develop easily accessible connections to the street grid, provide three programmatic nodes, and establish a “ribbon” of features to integrate the mile-long project as one cohesive design. Between 38th and 41st streets there is a recreation node designed for active uses such as children’s play areas and fitness equipment. At 48th Street there is a gathering node for passive recreation with an amphitheater seating area, shade trees, and a variety of seating options, including a bar area with benches and small gathering spaces. And at 53rd Street there is an environmental education node with educational signage and ecological plantings.
Cruz pointed out that an increasing number of people want to ride bicycles in New York, either for recreation or commuting, therefore the city needs to build the infrastructure to facilitate that objective. The expanded esplanade will feature a bike lane separated from the pedestrian walkway to streamline north-south movement along the East Side of Manhattan.
Developing ideas for the project has been a true collaborative effort, said Cruz. AECOM worked with various city agencies and community groups to determine how to deal with access, programming, and logistics. Internally, AECOM brought together their landscape design and planning team with the environmental design and marine engineering teams to solve the complex design problem. The goal is to design a project that benefits the local community, as well as the city at large, and Cruz believes that they have been successful thus far with the conceptual design.
Cali Williams, vice president of EDC, agrees. “We’re proud of the open engagement process that sought and subsequently applied the best ideas from both the design team and local community to achieve the highest standards of form and function,” said Williams. There is no set timeline to develop the project yet, but planning is underway. For those of us who long for the landscape-oriented transformation of the New York City waterfront, this project cannot come soon enough.
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A Vision for a Self-Reliant New York

Rory Stott reports for Archdaily.

Bird’s-eye view of Midtown Manhattan’s neighborhood food hubs in New York City (Steady) State.

“In an era of incompetent nation states and predatory transnationals, we must ratchet up local self-reliance, and the most logical increment of organization (and resistance) is the city.” This is how Michael Sorkin, writing in Aeon Magazine, explains his hypothetical plan to radically change the landscape of New York City, bringing a green landscape and urban farming into the former concrete jungle.

Street view of Amsterdam Ave. in northern Manhattan featuring a mix of traditional and advanced agricultural growing techniques.

The plan, called “New York City (Steady) State”, produced over six years by Sorkin’s Terreform Research Group, is not designed simply for aesthetic pleasure; it’s not even an attempt to make the city more sustainable (although sustainability is the key motivation behind the project). The project is in fact a “thought-experiment” to design a version of New York that is completely self reliant, creating its own food, energy and everything else within its own borders.

Street level view of the interior courtyard space in the Figure Ground Switch.

The key idea behind the project is to create a sustainable society from the bottom up – rather than relying on government to impose one from the top down – by applying autarky, a political concept which describes a completely closed system. This system resonates well with many established notions of sustainability: ideas such as 'cradle-to-cradle' or 'net zero' often demand closed loops or minimal outside influence.

New York City (Steady) State, Master Plan B.

After defining the extents of the study (including only the five boroughs of New York City and creating “an almost completely 'unnatural limit' to constrain the study), the first step was to define how a city as urban as New York might be adapted to provide food for its 8.5 million inhabitants. Using a variety of skyscraper farms, and reclaiming streets and under-utilized city blocks, Terreform has calculated that it would be technically possible to produce 2,500 calories per person, per day. Combining this with a sophisticated distribution network would give each resident access to enough food.

Exterior rendering of a vertical tower designed specifically for meat production.

A plan as dramatic as this obviously brings drawbacks: the first iteration of the design was calculated to require 25 nuclear power stations to generate the energy required to produce all this food, a result that was “somewhat at odds with our larger intentions.” However, this is where the project’s intention as a thought experiment comes into play: the radical design is meant to test boundaries, to take on a seemingly impossible task and see what the implications are of meeting it.

Street view of 147th street in northern Manhattan where dominance has shifted from vehicular circulation to food production and distribution.

“On the whole, we’re sanguine about the differences between the logics of comparative advantage and the politics of self-realization, and the difficulties of negotiating the territory in between,” explains Sorkin. The truly desirable solution to environmental crisis and social inequality will lie somewhere between our current situation and the designs of Terreform. But without their investigation pushing the boundaries of what is feasibly possible – and showing us just how different our urban environment could be – then our quest for sustainability would be limited, and therefore incomplete.

New York City streets and blocks with proposed Figure Ground Switch, where the buildings occupy what were streets and the interior blocks are reserved for vertical towers and traditional food production.

More images of “New York City (Steady) State”.