The latest news on New York architecture.


Voulpat dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Sed diam nonummy nibh euismod tincidunt ut laoreet dolore magna aliquam erat volutpat.
Nicole Anderson reports for The Architect's Newspaper.

Just before New York City’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio, moved into city hall, City Planning took steps to implement lasting changes to the land use process, leaving a final stamp on the city it has drastically reshaped over the last 12 years under Mayor Bloomberg’s governance. This updated process is designed to accelerate the time it takes for applicants seeking approval for new developments. The agency’s new rules target the period when a project is first introduced to City Planning, leading up to an applicant’s certification to enter the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure. This phase, often delayed by redundancies, has historically been vague and unstructured, putting a strain on both the developers carrying the projects and on the architects trying to solidify designs. “Before we had formal standards, you would get one piece of advice and then it would shift in the next application. Now that we have formal standards, we know what we’re aiming for: transparency of where they are in the process. What will happen next and what we will have to do next to move the project forward. Not just call up a planner,” said Carol Samol, director of BluePrint and City Planning Bronx Borough Office. Before instituting these changes, the agency conducted a voluntary pilot program with 90 applicants over 16 months to test out the new rules of reviewing land use and environmental review applications. “The regulatory process in New York was traditionally and until recently the most complicated in the nation. It is a combination of things—which comes from both the nature of individual agency and the successive reviews from agencies,” said Rick Bell, Executive Director of the American Institute of Architects New York. “We have been trying to concentrate our efforts in the AIA on the cumbersome nature of the process.” Bell, among other stakeholders and practitioners, was asked by City Planning to provide their feedback on the review process. To simplify and speed up the pre-certification process, City Planning has launched a formal tracking system to follow an applicant from the “moment an applicant walks in the door” to make sure all requirements are being met. There is also a set of new standards to create reasonable time frames to help guide the projects along. For instance, a new rule stipulates that if the agency fails to act at a certain point, the project is allowed to proceed to the next stage with the application. “The worst possible scenario for an architect is to realize that something isn’t possible,” said Bell. “How early in the game can you get a sense of the general shape and form the building will take? The idea is that you don’t wait until the end of the process to find out what you’re doing.”  
Jose Luis Gabriel Cruz reports for Archdaily. Seven months after the New York City Council approved Cornell University’s two million square foot technology campus in Roosevelt Island, new information has been released — along with a series of new renders. Envisioned as “a campus built for the next century,” Cornell Tech’s first set of buildings has tapped into the talent of some of the most respected architecture firms in the city: Morphosis‘ Pritzker Prize-winning Thom Mayne, Weiss/Manfredi Architecture, Handel Architects, and Skidmore Owings & Merrill. Three buildings have undergone design development since the approval of SOM’s original master plan: the First Academic Building (Morphosis), the Colocation Building (Weiss/Manfredi Architecture), and the 350-unit residential tower (Handel Architects). These facilities will be connected by a quarter-mile-long ‘tech walk’, designed by James Corner’s Field Operations, which serves as a spine that weaves together the ensemble of buildings whilst functioning as a public pedestrian space that spans the campus’ twelve acres. The First Academic Building Sustainable practices are core design principles for the new campus, with design schemes aiming to generate enough energy to run the First Academic Building. Per the latest images, the academic and co-location building’s roofs will both feature solar cells. “It’s literally a lily pad and the building is under this thing,” describes Mayne. In attempts to create a visual axial connection to the existing Manhattan grid, the First Academic Building’s entry aligns with 57th street from across the East River. “The lack of privacy,” Mayne adds, “is a radical promotion of transparency.” During a December city council meeting, officials from Cornell, along with all of the architects, discussed the topic of flexibility. The exponential advances in technology and engineering have left many laboratories obsolete, thus requiring building interiors to become easily adaptable. The Co-Location Building “This particular building,” explains Marion Weiss, “is an invention,” designed to be a concentrated hothouse of academia and industry. By splitting the building in two and allowing the exterior landscape to seamlessly spill into its core, students and entrepreneurs will share spaces meant to foster interaction with the larger, more public tech community. The Residential Tower Handel Architects — the latest recruitment in the roster of architects — is still in the process of designing the residential tower, projected to house students, faculty and staff in a mixture of micro-units, one-, two- and three-bedroom suites. Planned amenities include a gym, bike room, lounge, roof deck, multi-purpose collaboration and media rooms. The images depicting the residential towers do not represent the current or final design.    
Rebecca reports for Brownstoner. Two Trees’ Domino proposal has cleared another level of the land use review process. On the last day of the year, Tuesday, outgoing Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz approved the plan along with a few minor modifications, such as variances for zoning, commercial space and affordable housing. “We are extremely grateful for Borough President Markowitz’s support for the Domino Sugar project over the past year and approval of our plans this week,” said Two Trees’ Jed Walentas in an emailed statement. “We look forward to working with new Borough President Eric Adams and Brooklyn leaders over the next few years to bring more affordable housing, local jobs, and much needed public open space to South Williamsburg.” Next up, Domino will need approval from the City Planning Commission and the City Council to get full ULURP certification.  
Cate reports for Brownstoner. The full City Council Thursday approved the proposal championed by outgoing Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz to turn Childs restaurant into an entertainment complex and public park. The $53,000,000 project, now called the Seaside Park and Community Art Center, will involve restoring the landmarked façade and building a 5,000 seat amphitheater, park and playground. “By restoring this iconic section of the Boardwalk, Coney Island’s revitalization will continue, providing multiple cultural and educational benefits, as well as economic and residential advantages,” said the owner of the complex, iStar Financial, in an emailed statement. Coney Island’s Community Board 13 voted against the plan, although their land use committee was in favor. The Landmarks Preservation Commission unanimously supports it.  
Megan Riesz reports for The Brooklyn Paper. City preservationists are slapping the just-opened Gowanus Whole Foods Market with a fine today for failing to keep up the long-abandoned historic building the high-end supermarket sits on either side of, according to a city spokeswoman. The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission will hit Whole Foods with a $3,000 fine for failing to maintain the dilapidated Coignet building at the corner of Third Avenue and Third Street, despite a promise to fix it, according to commission spokeswoman Elisabeth DeBourbon. Locals who have been calling on the organic grocery giant to fix up the landmarked concrete-and-brick structure for years cheered the decision. “Anytime there’s accountability, I’m going to be happy,” said Gowanus resident and musician Martin Bisi, who has documented the building’s decay, including the disappearance this week of a crumbling banister on its front steps. “Hopefully this will be enough of a deterrent where it will motivate Whole Foods to keep it up.” A few grand is pocket change to the grocery giant, which took in $11.7-billion in revenue in 2012. The city gave the retailer a permit on Aug. 1 to repair and restore the landmark, but that work has not yet begun, DeBourbon said. A Whole Foods spokesman said he was not aware of a violation, though he had heard construction workers talked to the city about plans to revamp the Coignet façade. Neighbors have accused Whole Foods of letting the Coignet building rot since the company bought the property in 2005. The loss of the right banister was only the latest in a long line of blows to the building, including the recent appearance of a large crack on its base that neighbors said was caused by construction on the supermarket. “Every time I walk by, it just seems more dilapidated,” said Joe Mariano, a member of the activist group Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus. “It’s just crumbling away.” Whole Foods has categorically denied that it has played any part in the disintegration of the former New York and Long Island Coignet Stone Company headquarters. “I do not think that the building is in any different condition — except that it has been sitting there for 10 years,” Whole Foods spokesman Michael Sinatra said. The Coignet building may have been the first concrete building in the city when it was erected in 1873. It was designated a landmark in 2006.
Jeremiah Budin reports for Curbed. 6 Cortlandt Alley, the condo development previously known as 372 Broadway, finally had its date with the Landmarks Preservation Commission yesterday, and the meeting went about as well as these things usually go with they focus on multi-story glass additions on top of old buildings: not all that well. "It's too busy up there and draws your attention to it," commented commissioner Joan Gerner, while commissioner Fred Bland advised that the addition "has to be more recessive." The overall consensus was that while a two-story addition could actually be approvable in this case, this one would need to blend in to the existing building more. The redesigned storefront was also not a big hit with the commissioners. Architects TRA Studio will have to rework the already long-delayed project a bit, and present again at some point in the future.  
Jeremiah Budin reports for Curbed. Only one building (technically, that building is three buildings) in the Two Trees Domino Sugar Factory development is under the purview of the Landmarks Preservation Commission—the individually landmarked Domino Sugar Refinery (third from the left). At a public hearing yesterday, the Commission took a look at architectural firm Beyer Blinder Belle's designs for that structure, and the reviews were mixed. In a previous Domino development plan, back when the site was owned by the Community Preservation Corp. and the Katan Group, the Refinery was supposed to go residential. Now it will be turned into office space for tech companies, a switch that is being lauded by politicians. The previous design, also by Beyer Blinder Belle, was approved by the LPC three years ago, but did not include the four-story glass addition (two stories on the Kent Avenue side) that proved to be a point of contention at yesterday's hearing. "The proposal before the Commission today contains more square footage than the prior approval due to the retention of the building's core and a second rooftop addition," said the Historic Districts Council's  Nadezhda Williams. "Keeping the bulk of the additions to the back portion of the building where it interferes with only the least distinguished piece of the building would much more preferable than disturbing the main view of the individual landmark and its iconic chimney."
Although Commission chair Robert Tierney called the proposal "extremely appropriate and impressive" (marking quite possibly the first time that a four-story glass addition on top of an individual landmark has ever been referred to as "appropriate"), not all of the commissioners agreed. Commissioner Michael Devonshire commented that the addition would obscure the masonry on the (shorter) Kent Avenue side, and other commissioners remarked that it appeared to "float" above the building. Commissioner Margery Perlmutter thought that the addition was simultaneously too big and too small, in that it is one third the size of the existing building, but also that it would be "struggling against its massive neighbors." All in all, some confusing advice for the architects, but since the Commission did not approve the Modified Certificate of Appropriateness, Beyer Blinder Belle will have to make some revisions and present again at a later date.
Alex Ulam reports for The Architect's Newspaper. Chances are most New Yorkers don’t know where Hudson Square is located. But the launch of the first phase of a $27 million streetscaping initiative may turn relatively obscure neighborhood, bounded by the West Village, SoHo, and Tribeca, into one of the most attractive places in the city. Plans call for the formerly industrial neighborhood to be completely redesigned with gantries festooned with public art, deployable dumpsters planted with trees, yellow gridded crosswalks, and special light fixtures designed by Thomas Phifer and Partners. Along with custom designed street furniture and new plantings, the neighborhood’s streets are slated to become some of the most sustainable in the city through the use of features such as permeable pavement and structural soil. The plan to revamp the area is the brainchild of the Hudson Square Connection Business Improvement District (BID). The vast majority of BIDs throughout the city focus on sanitation and safety, but this one is unusual in that it is almost wholly oriented toward urban design and landscape. “When we were formed the primary purpose was urban beautification because this area was already pretty clean and pretty safe,” said Ellen Bair, president of the Hudson Square Connection BID. “What it wasn’t was a neighborhood.” Bair said that the plan’s adventuresome aesthetic and sustainability features reflect the sensibilities and the concerns of the young professionals who work in the creative industries—such as media, graphic design, and architecture—that form the majority of the more than 1,000 businesses located in Hudson Square. “This is a neighborhood where sustainability is in the DNA of the people who work here,” said Bair. Phase one of the plan involves a $3.2 million contribution from the city and a $4.4 million contribution from the Hudson Square Connection BID. It will result in the planting of 360 trees throughout the neighborhood in specially designed tree trenches, larger than typical street tree pits, which will improve the neighborhood’s ability to retain stormwater. “Every year, we will soak up a minimum of eight swimming pools in terms of rainwater, and we will have healthier trees,” said Bair. The next big move is the redesign of the gateway to the neighborhood, a large underutilized traffic island called Soho Square, at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Spring Street, with kidney shaped islands of green to increase permeable surfaces, custom seating, and lighter paving surfaces. One big spur to the plan’s implementation was a residential rezoning that went through last March, which Bair hopes will increase the number of neighborhood residents. Dotted with parking lots and underutilized industrial buildings, the neighborhood is ripe for redevelopment. Some of the choicest real estate will be along Hudson Square’s western boundary, where the recently approved transferal of air rights from Hudson River Park may result in a wall of towers. The Hudson Square Connection plan includes the largest district-wide use of state-of-the-art sustainable street features in the city. Nonetheless, it took four years to get approval from city officials. According to Signe Nielsen, principal at the landscape architecture firm Mathews Nielsen, who is leading a design team that includes Rogers Partners and ARUP, what really made the plan a slam-dunk was the flooding from Hurricane Sandy. “It became an easier sell after people saw the map of the extensive flooding,” she said.  
Amy Zimmer reports for DNAinfo. NBI_School Two architecture students have an ambitious plan for North Brother Island, an abandoned, overgrown patch of green in the East River — they’d like to build a school for children with autism there. Famous for its quarantine hospital where “Typhoid Mary” was confined in 1907, North Brother Island was closed to the public in 1963 after a juvenile drug rehabilitation center was shuttered. It’s now a protected bird sanctuary, but illegal visitors and aggressively growing vines are hurting the breeding grounds of colonial water birds during nesting season, explained Ian Ellis, who developed the school proposal with Frances Peterson while at the University of Texas at Austin's School of Architecture. NBI_School_06 NBI_School_07 They were charged with planning something that would be a topic of controversy, Ellis said. “In its current state, North Brother is without the attention, improvements and upkeep it needs in order to continue acting as a habitat for the wildlife there,” he explained in an email. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that one in 88 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. The Bronx has the most underserved population in New York City for children with ASD, according to Peterson’s research. The designers dreamed of a school that would re-use five existing structures for potentially 208 students and 52 instructors, who would travel to the island via ferry. Their commute would take 10 minutes from Barretto Point Park and Soundview Park, but piers would need to be built. NBI_School_02 NBI_School_03 The classes would be based around three gardens, “each providing a different degree of safety, exploration or risk in order to best satisfy the needs of students,” Ellis explained. The proposal would also rehabilitate buildings that could be used as field offices for the Parks Department, Cornell University’s department of ornithology and the Audubon Society. Four other structures would be left to decay naturally. The aspects that make it appealing to birds — isolation, natural environments and refuge — also make it appealing for autistic children, Ellis said. “It’s a sanctuary as it is. The school simply allows it to be one that promotes and nurtures the lives of children as well as the wildlife that relies on the island for nesting, foraging and reproducing,” he said. NBI_School_04 NBI_School_05 Designing a school for children with ASD can be a challenge, according to Lisa Goring of the national advocacy group Autism Speaks. "Each student's needs can vary pretty broadly," she said. "What may be appropriate for one student may not be appropriate for another. There is a need for a continuum of services and different types of programs." Advocacy groups have raised awareness about the dangers of children with autism wandering, especially close to bodies of water — something the architects discussed and tried to account for through "transitional spaces" connecting classrooms and gardens. Ellis and Peterson haven’t estimated how much such a project would cost, though recognize it would be quite “an undertaking.” “We still need to collaborate further with not only the agencies we propose to inhabit the island, but also with other specialists in seeing what developing a project like this would really entail,” Ellis said. They haven’t had a chance to visit the island — yet. Ellis, who finished architecture school last year and now works for an Austin-based architecture firm, is planning a New York visit this month. “I hope to continue my research while there and, if I'm lucky, get to see the island in the snow,” he said.  
Carl Glassman reports for Trib. Widening cracks in the walls of a 157-year-old, three-story building at 17 Leonard St. sparked fears of a collapse earlier this month, causing the Department of Buildings to slap a vacate order on the structure as well as open an investigation with the Landmarks Preservation Commission. The building's perilous conditions also exposed an ongoing dispute between its owner, Christopher Rolf, and Steven Schnall, the developer of a seven-story condominium building with two-story penthouse that is under construction next door. Each one blames the other. Both sides say they expect the city's intervention to finally force a remedy to the building's rapidly deteriorating state. At whose expense is yet to be determined. The decrepit structure, which has a history of violations and stop-work orders dating back to 2008—amounting to fines of nearly $40,000—has long been slated for residential conversion. It is now on the market for $15.7 million. Built as a stable in 1857, 17 Leonard still has "IMD," or interim multiple dwelling status, with the city and requires considerable work before it can qualify for a residential certificate of occupancy. One person was living in the building at the time of the vacate order, issued on Dec. 7. He declined to be interviewed, he said, because he is in a dispute with Rolf over his tenancy. A construction manager on Schnall's project reported that cracks in the building had expanded overnight on Dec. 7, bringing a response from the Fire Department and the DOB and the vacate order that has also closed a portion of the sidewalk. John Peachy, Rolf's architect, showed a Trib reporter wide vertical cracks along the southwest corner of the building, both outside and just inside the front door. He said there is another crack on the second floor that is three-quarters of an inch wide.  "This corner of the building is just falling in both directions, south and west," he said. Peachy said the cracks had about doubled in width since he had last seen them the week before, and he had been trying to convince the Buildings Department to vacate the building and close the sidewalk for more than a week. "It's reached a point where a partial collapse is imminent," he said. Rolf, who is in poor health and bedridden, and Peachy, claim that the damage began with the construction of Schnall's building. "All of those cracks you're looking at in the front have happened in the last month and cracks in the back started to develop in 2012 and have been getting worse and worse", Rolf said in a telephone interview. "But this real movement in the front where [Schnall's] building is located has just happened within the last two months". He said the problems are the result of Schnall's failure to agree to properly underpin his building, which like other buildings in the area, rests on marshy soil. "It's been damage after damage after damage", said Rolf, who converted neighboring 19 and 21 Leonard Street into residential buildings. "I really don't have the money to repair it so I don't have much choice but to sell it". But Schnall claims that Rolf scuttled his efforts to underpin his building, which he said already bore cracked and bowed walls before construction began and are continuing to worsen on their own. Rolf refused to approve plans to underpin his building so that excavation could begin, he said, and that threatened to stall his project. In April, Schnall took Rolf to court in an effort to gain access to his building and begin the work. "We negotiated for several months with Chris", Schnall told the Trib in an email, "and he simply would not agree to sign a license agreement allowing us to do so unless we rebuilt a substantial portion of his west and south walls and did work to his ceiling, skylight and many other areas that had nothing to do with the underpinning license we were requesting". Schnall said engineers were forced to redesign his building's foundation "at a significant cost" in order to avoid underpinning Rolf's structure. Both sides say they have photographs to prove their claims about when the cracks began to appear, but neither would share them with the Trib. A DOB spokeswoman said that a forensic report that will detail the building's deteriorating conditions and their causes is yet to be completed. "An initial inspection showed that construction work at the adjacent lot is a contributing factor", she said in an email. "If it is at any time determined that our construction was the cause of the cracks we will honor whatever obligation is ours, but at this point safety is our main concern", wrote Schnall, whose architectural plans last year had ignited opposition from nearby residents claiming that the project was out of scale with surrounding buildings. A spokeswoman for the Landmarks Preservation Commission said her agency has also opened an investigation. "We will take appropriate action, if warranted, as soon as it's completed", she said in an email.