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Jared Kushner's scaled-down plans for an addition to top of the landmarked SoHo building finally gets the thumbs up from the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

It looks like five times is the charm for Jared Kushner of Kushner Cos. and his plans to make additions to SoHo's landmarked Puck Building. The city Landmarks Preservation Commission unanimously approved a scaled-back version of the developer's plan to build atop the 203,000-square-foot, mixed-use building at 295-309 Lafayette St., at East Houston Street, on Tuesday. The approved additions are 20 feet shorter than the previous plan, courtesy of reduced ceiling heights. Meanwhile, the size has been scaled back by approximately 1,500 square feet, and the materials were changed from glass and metal to predominantly masonry and brick in order to match the existing building. The proposal also includes a restoration of the 10-story Romanesque revival-style building's original parapet and crenellations. Mr. Kushner's architects presented the original proposals three months ago. All the commissioners were pleased with how far the project has come since they first saw it in September, and three subsequent times after that, according to a spokeswoman for the Landmarks Preservation Commission. “I am very pleased with the results. We got an extension approved that allows us to go forward with a special project,” said Mr. Kushner, in a statement. “The additions to the building will further enhance one of the most iconic buildings in the world.” “They've reached the target of minimalism in terms of massing,” said Landmarks Commissioner Michael Devonshire, an architectural conservator, in a statement. Landmarks Commissioner Michael Goldblum added that Mr. Kushner showed, with this version, “a tremendous willingness to exercise modesty and restraint.” Even the local preservationists seemed pleased with the revised plans, at least for now. “We are very glad that the Landmarks Preservation Commission listened to calls from New Yorkers to reject prior versions of this proposal, which would have overwhelmed and fundamentally changed one of our city's most beloved landmarks,” said Andrew Berman, the executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, in a statement. “Only time will tell if the final, scaled–back version approved by Landmarks today is truly worthy of this great New York landmark.”   Read more:  Puck Building Jared Kusher
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The city's Landmarks Preservation Commission unanimously approved Jared Kushner's plan to build atop the Puck Building.
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NEW YORK CITY LANDMARKS PRESERVATION COMMISSION Robert B. Tierney Chairman FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2011 No. 11-12 GRAND CONCOURSE HISTORIC DISTRICT AND FOUR INDIVIDUAL LANDMARKS PROTECTED Another noteworthy building from the earlier stage of the district’s development is the Concourse Plaza Hotel at 900 Grand Concourse between East 161st and 162nd streets. Built in 1923, the same year as nearby Yankee Stadium, the 11-story Colonial Revival style hotel drew such distinguished guests and visitors as Yankees greats Babe Ruth, Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle and presidential candidates Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy. “The buildings in the district were so solidly built that they emerged from a period of neglect largely unscathed, and still retain many of the fine architectural details that first attracted residents to the Grand Concourse in the 1920s and 1930s,” said Chairman Tierney. “This is a great day for the Bronx.” Union League Club, 38 East 37th Street at Park Avenue The nine-story, brick-faced clubhouse, located at the southwest corner of 37th Street and Park Avenue, was completed in 1931 and combines elements of the 18th century Federal and Georgian styles of architecture. It was designed by (Benjamin Wistar) Morris & (Robert Barnard) O’Connor. Prior to establishing the firm, Morris received a number of significant commissions, including the annex to the Morgan Library, the Cunard Building and the Bank of New York & Trust Company building at 48 Wall St. Originally located in a former residence on the north side of Union Square in Manhattan, the Union League Club was founded in 1863 to support the United States and the Republican Party. During the Civil War, the club organized the first black regiment in New York State and its members later played a significant role in establishing the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It also was one of the first social clubs in New York City to welcome women. The club’s current site was assembled by prominent Murray Hill families who wanted to maintain neighborhood’s residential character, and sold the property with restrictions dictating the size of buildings could be constructed there. The 37th Street façade of the club incorporates a curved, double height entrance pavilion and oversized Palladian style windows, and a central pediment that frames a cartouche with club’s initials. A lintel decorated with four female faces surmounts the wood doors of a second entrance on Park Avenue. Women gained full membership privileges in 1988, and Democrats were permitted to join in 1937. “After 80 years, the Union League Club remains a stately gem on a tranquil corner of Murray Hill,” said Chairman Tierney.

Governor Cuomo recently revealed the future of JFK Airport's iconic TWA Flight Center designed by Eero Saarinen. This terminal has sat vacant for 14 years. Although it's been known that the terminal would house a hotel, who would make develop this idea was a mystery until last week. MCR Development has a plant to turn the historic structure into The TWA Flight Center Hotel, a facility with 505 hotel rooms, 40,000 square feet of meeting space, six to eight dining establishments, and a 10,000-square-foot observation deck.

In a statement, CEO Tyler Morse says the development "will celebrate and preserve" the building, "returning the landmark to its original glory and reopening it to the public. [...] Whether staying the night or simply exploring, international visitors and New Yorkers alike will be able to experience the magic of the Jet Age in this extraordinary mid-century icon."


A rendering shows a low rise building peeking out from behind Saarinen's swooping beauty, and a press release says that the new building will "set back from the terminal, designed to defer to the landmark," which will become the hotel's lobby. The new building and any changes to the Flight Center, which is an interior and exterior landmark, will have to be approved by go before the Landmarks Preservation Commission.
[UPDATE: While the LPC will have a say in the process, the project is actually not under the commission's jurisdiction since it is owned by the Port Authority, which is not bound by LPC decisions.]
The developer also has a "plan to include innovative museum focusing on New York as the birthplace of the Jet Age, the storied history of TWA Airlines, and the Midcentury Modern design movement." The redevelopment is a public-private partnership between MCR Development, JetBlue, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, but it will be privately funded. MCR converted the old General Theological Seminary into the High Line Hotel, so they know a thing or two about working with historic buildings. Governor Cuomo said that officials are currently working on a masterplan for the entirety of JFK Airport, which should be unveiled within 12 months. Work on the TWA Flight Center Hotel is expected to break ground next year, and open in 2018.
And now, just for fun, some photos inside the glorious building:
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New Whitney Museum

They say the building is "not about the architecture but the art", but passing it the other day it was hard not to appreciate this modern beauty. If you are NYC and have some free time make sure to give it a visit. The Whitney Museum of American Art has never stayed in one place for long. It has had four different homes in its 84-year history — the latest a $422 million glass-and-steel construction that recently opened in Manhattan's Meatpacking District — and each of those homes speaks to a particular moment in the evolution of American art and museum culture.


The new building has several terraces, part of a design that some critics say distract from the art. Nic Lehoux/Courtesy of the Whitney Museum of American Art

The museum's first home was established by its founder — a woman who was born into one of the country's wealthiest families, and then married into another. Her name was Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney and she was a big supporter of the so-called Ashcan School and artists like George Bellows and Edward Hopper, who painted the gritty reality of life in the city. And according to Bruce Altshuler, director of the museum studies program at New York University, Whitney was also a working sculptor. "She was not just a patron," he says, "but actually a member of an artist community." Altshuler is standing inside the Whitney Museum's first home, which consists of several converted row houses that today house the New York Studio School. He says Whitney moved here in the 1910s. She lived upstairs, kept a sculpture studio downstairs and started organizing shows by American artists. "She amassed a quite substantial collection of artworks which, in 1929, she offered to the Metropolitan Museum of Art as a gift," he says. "They turned it down and she decided to open her own museum."

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Restitching the Bronx

City agencies advocate removal of the reviled Moses-era Sheridan Expressway.
The proposal would improve connection and increase waterfront access in the Bronx.
Courtesy DCP
Only a few weeks before administrations changed hands at the mayor’s office, New York City released a comprehensive inter-agency report seeking to overhaul the Sheridan Expressway, the short but divisive freeway that cuts through the southern Bronx. This new study, which solidifies a number of recommendations introduced last spring, is part of a larger effort to reinvigorate a part of the borough that has been split apart by the unsightly expressway, creating perilous pedestrian crossings and exposing residents to hazardous air pollution. The scope of this report is more far-reaching than simply the revamping of the Sheridan. It also calls for rezoning to allow for mixed-use development, which the agency says will lead to an increase in jobs.
Plan showing the segment of the Sheridan proposed to become a boulevard.
City Planning (DCP) worked collaboratively with the New York City Department of Transportation, the Economic Development Corporation, and Housing Preservation and Development to put this study together, officially titled, "The Sheridan Expressway Study: Reconnecting the Neighborhoods Around the Sheridan Expressway and Improving Access to Hunts Point." “We always knew this was a long-term plan and would span many administrations,” said Carol Samol, City Planning Bronx Director at DCP. “There are some things we can get quickly, and others that will take more time and require more major steps such as an environmental review and a public review process.”
The proposal not only requires inter-agency teamwork, but also necessitates extensive coordination between city and state. Since the highways are operated by the state, these recommendations must be vetted and ultimately carried out by the New York State Department of Transportation. The 1.5-mile Sheridan Expressway—a remnant of Robert Moses’ failed plan to create a link between the Triborough Bridge and the New England Thruway—generally operates substantially below capacity but is often used by trucks. To relieve congestion and enhance the connection to the Greenway and Starlight and Concrete Plant parks for pedestrians, the city recommends rehabilitating the northern half of the expressway and turning it into a boulevard. The plan entails three new crossings to establish a direct path to the waterfront and also adding ramps to enable trucks to reach the industrial corridor at Hunts Point more easily.
The city hopes that these improvements will set the ground work for the rezoning of the waterfront and attract new development, drawing more people back to the Bronx and righting a wrong from one of Moses’ most fractious urban renewal plans. “This study gave us a chance to be visionary about the neighborhood, but to also look at small changes that when all combined will have a powerful effect,” said Samol. “The South Bronx will be a better place.”
Nicole Anderson
Left to right: Map showing portion of the Sheridan Expressway affected by the report; Moses-era map showing portion of the highway that was never built; map showing proposed changes.

Rory Scott reports for Archdaily.


[Image Courtesy of Architecture Research Office]

In this article on Fast Company, seven leading architects in the field of designing for disaster – including Peter Gluck, Michael Manfredi, and principals of James Corner Field Operations and Snøhetta – give their take on what lessons Hurricane Sandy, one year on, has taught us. Their responses raise a number of issues, but above all share one common theme: urgency. Aside from denouncing what he sees as “architects being ambulance chasers,” Peter Gluck, Head of Gluck+, advocates designing buildings with disaster in mind, for example raising a building of the ground or placing less important functions on the ground floor, so that the damage by a flood is restricted. Advocating multiple systems to deal with problems like flooding, Michael Manfredi of Weiss/Manfredi describes their Olympia Fields project, where they built water retention into the design. Much of Weiss/Manfredi’s work makes use of ‘soft infrastructure’ which absorbs water and energy to reduce the impact of storms. However, Lisa Switkin, associate principal at James Corner Field Operations seems to be in support of a combination of this green infrastructure and traditional storm protection, arguing that wetlands, beaches, dunes and parklands should be used “in addition to raising key infrastructure and utilities.” Principal of Snøhetta Craig Dykers brings in an interesting spin, mentioning not just design, but the education of residents, who could be given incentives to design their homes and gardens in a way that minimize storm impact. He supports small scale solutions in general, saying that “grand and sometimes epic conceptual thinking is useful, but it should be balanced with immediacy.” This thought is echoed by Diana Balmori of Balmori Associates, who advocates “nature based systems” that can be implemented quickly and cheaply, and also by the founder of John Cary. Cary criticizes “the proliferation of design competitions and contests” that appear after these disasters, saying they “don’t address or engage with the real needs on the ground.” Once again, realistic and immediate solutions are the order of the day. Stephen Cassell, a principal at Architecture Research Office believes architects need to think more often and more practically about how their buildings perform in disasters. Elements such as opening windows and escape routes are all small things that can help occupants in a storm. All seven responses see the design of these systems as an urgent problem, presenting realistic, realizable solutions over expensive or outlandish proposals. You can read the original Fast Company article here.

Sara Polsky reports for Curbed. CO|FXFOWLE took a…flexible approach to the competition rules in coming up with this design. The competition brief called for a three-story, 65,000-square-foot building. The firm suggested that a seven-story building taking up a smaller portion of the site would be more energy-efficient and less costly to construct. The approach was a winning one, and construction on the building should begin in late 2014.
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To Raze or Not? MoMA Rethinks Plan

Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times
The American Folk Art Museum.
Published: May 9, 2013 134 Comments
AFTER impassioned protests from prominent architects, preservationists and design critics, the Museum of Modern Art said on Thursday that it would reconsider its decision to demolish its next-door neighbor, the former home of the American Folk Art Museum, to make room for an expansion.
Matt Chaban reports for Crain's,   For six decades, a luxury-car showroom with a distinctive swooping ramp stood at the corner of Park Avenue and 56th Street. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, it was the first of only three New York projects by the modernist master. In six days late last month, the dealership was destroyed. "The loss of a Frank Lloyd Wright, it's a national tragedy," said Simeon Bankoff, director of the Historic Districts Council. Like so many in New York, he had no idea the space was even gone. The end came suddenly and unexpectedly. On March 22, the Landmarks Preservation Commission called the owners of 430 Park Ave. to tell them the city was considering designating the Wright showroom—until January, the longtime home to Mercedes of Manhattan—as the city's 115th interior landmark. Three days later, the commission followed up with a letter. Both went unanswered. Instead, on March 28, the building's owners, Midwood Investment & Management and Oestreicher Properties, reached out to another city agency, the Department of Buildings, requesting a demolition permit for the Wright showroom. The permit was approved the same day, sealing the showroom's fate.   By the following week, workers had arrived and removed every last trace of a space that some architectural historians say inspired Wright's most celebrated New York work, the Guggenheim Museum. The city has lost an architectural gem, albeit a small and seldom-noticed one. Almost no one saw it go. Even if they had, there is almost nothing that could have been done to stop it. And yet this quiet disappearance also raises the question of whether there was anything worth saving. "I'm surprised, but I'm not," said David Hoffman, an executive managing director at brokerage Cassidy Turley, who arranged Mercedes-Benz's last lease for the space, in 2001. "It was notable solely because it was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, but it wasn't the Guggenheim; it wasn't monumental." Ironically, it was the Landmarks Commission's good intentions, and a disconnect between it and the Department of Buildings, that doomed the dealership. In August, the commission received a request to consider landmarking the showroom from Docomomo Tri-State, a preservation group focused on modernist buildings, and the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy. The commission decided to wait until Mercedes vacated the space to proceed. Part of the reason was that an interior-landmark designation can be granted only to a public space, and there had been a long-running debate in the preservation community about whether the showroom was actually anything but private property. Also, the commission had little reason to believe Midwood and Oestreicher would take the action they did. The delay proved fatal, but the outcome was likely inevitable. The commission is loath to designate a landmark without the owner's support, because the landlord, not the city, is ultimately the steward of the space. In the case of the auto dealership, the steward simply had other plans. Representatives for both Midwood and Oestreicher declined requests for comment. "Regrettably, the showroom was dismantled before the formal public designation process could begin," a commission spokeswoman said. "It is disappointing that the owners in this case demonstrated a disregard for the process." [gallery] That process, however, is famously cumbersome. The commission cannot "calendar" a property—the first step in the landmarking process, and the point at which the Department of Buildings is notified not to allow work to be done on the potential landmark—until Landmarks has done sufficient research, which typically involves outreach to the owner. In the interim, the landlord is free to request demolition permits, and there is almost nothing either city agency can do to stop them. The Wright showroom is just one of several such cases in recent years. Back when the Madison Square North Historic District was proposed in 2000, the owners of the former ASPCA headquarters at 50 Madison Ave. removed much of the building's Beaux Arts ornamentation, with the Department of Buildings' blessing. The owners had plans for a multistory addition to create a luxury apartment building, and they did not want their work to be subject to the commission's whims. The tactic worked, and the property was left out of the district. Taking a different tack, the Institute of International Education closed a conference center designed by Finnish architect Alvar Aalto in 2008, thus creating a private space exempt from landmarking. Motivations for doing such end runs around landmarking are clear. "I can't think of too many owners that would be grateful to receive a phone call from the Landmarks Commission when they're about to do work on a building, which could stop their ability to make that investment and increase the value of the building," said Stephen Spinola, president of the powerful Real Estate Board of New York. In the case of the Wright showroom, the architect who worked on the demolition permits corroborates the city's timeline of the destruction coming shortly after the commission had reached out to the landlords. Silviu Zahara, of architecture firm Belea Group, said he had received the job two weeks ago, but he also insists he had no idea the space was crafted by one of the nation's most revered designers. "The drawings I got were from an architect I'd never heard of," he said. "Actually, it wasn't a great-looking space." To be sure, this was one of Wright's lesser works. Mr. Bankoff of the Historic Districts Council said that when he mentioned it to certain in-the-know colleagues, they were shocked to learn there was a Wright hiding in plain sight on Park Avenue. Even the renowned architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable was lukewarm on the showroom. "The spiral ramp motif … which was to be so beautiful an element in the Guggenheim, is employed here, though far less effectively, in part because of the low ceiling and partly because the cramped, abrupt turning motion all too clearly recalls the ramps of multifloor parking garages," she wrote in a 1966 book. "It's outside our scope as an institution, so we don't know what to do about [the demolition], but it's pretty bad," said Richard Armstrong, director of the Guggenheim. Some question whether there was any Wright worth saving, since the space was renovated twice, first in the 1980s and again in 2001. The merits of the space would have been considered at the Landmarks Commission. "That's a debate we should have had, and could have had, but now we can't" because of the demolition, said Vin Cipolla, president of the Municipal Art Society. "That's what the landmarking process is for." Margery Perlmutter, a member of the Landmarks Commission, was shocked to learn about the loss of the showroom. "All it takes is a savvy landlord and a smart tenant to do something special with that space," she said. "How many boutiques can claim to be inside a Frank Lloyd Wright? None that I know of, unless you count the Guggenheim gift shop." Just how much of an asset the space's pedigree could have been to a retailer will now never be known. But Faith Hope Consolo, a retail broker at Douglas Elliman and a self-professed fan of Wright, has her doubts. "It means nothing to a new retailer; they couldn't care less," she said. Instead, she estimates that having a blank slate to work with could add hundreds of dollars per square foot to the value of the lease, especially given the location, a block off busy 57th Street. "Of course, under the law the landlords had the right to do this," Ms. Consolo said. "I just wish they'd had the same respect for Frank Lloyd Wright as they did for their own rights."
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In Detail> Shepard Hall

Elemental gives George B. Post's Gothic City College landmark a long-in-coming restoration, gargoyles and all
The Gothic revival Shepard Hall in Hamilton Heights, built in 1907, has new glass fiber-reinforced concrete decorative trim in place of original terra cotta.
Courtesy Elemental
Designed by George B. Post and completed in 1907, City College’s Shepard Hall is in all probability the most faithful specimen of English Perpendicular Gothic revival architecture in the United States. The first structure to inhabit the institution’s Hamilton Heights campus, it was modeled on a cathedral plan, its main entrance within a bell tower on St. Nicolas Terrace that connects two flanking academic wings and a central great hall for assemblies. Like many of its Gothic predecessors, unfortunately, the building also featured certain flaws that, over time, led to severe deterioration in the building’s fabric and the threat of catastrophic structural collapse.
the team replaced some 70.000 pieces of deteriorated terra cotta (left) with the gfrc product (right), which could be used to mass-produce repetitive decorative elements. 
Post constructed the hall primarily from local schist—stone quarried during the excavation of the site—and terra cotta, which makes up the decorative elements. He used the terra cotta, however, structurally, as if it were just another piece of masonry. While terra cotta is very strong under compression, it has almost no tensile properties. As a result, when water infiltrated the walls and as the building swelled and contracted with the changing seasons (it was built without expansion joints), the terra cotta could not handle the stresses as well as the schist, and so it began to crack, break up, and come loose. By 1986, when architecture firm Elemental (then The Stein Partnership) answered an RFP to restore and reconstruct Shepard Hall’s envelope, pieces of terra cotta the size of grapefruits had been falling off the building with regularity for some ten years. Only one third of the original material remained. The rest had been filled in with bricks and stucco. From the outset, the architects decided that in replacing the terra cotta, they would employ a rain screen system with a light, thin-shell material fulfilling the decorative aspects and a separate material taking on the structural role. The material would also need to be mass-produced in order to meet the reconstruction schedule. Some 70,000 pieces of terra cotta needed replacing, 3,000 of which were completely unique sculptures—allegorical representations of academics, gargoyles and grotesques, and vegetative motifs. The team considered terra cotta, but the material was quickly ruled out since it would have taken decades to produce the needed pieces by the two manufacturers in the country who could do it at all. They settled on reinforced concrete (GFRC), basically a Portland cement with significant chemical variations. It uses only fine-grain aggregate, a small amount of polymer, glass, and carefully controlled sand.
the thin-shell replicas were bolted back to a new masonry structure, with soft joints between the new masonry and original schist.  
A sprayed product about 3/4-inch thick, the GFRC offered the possibility of speeding up the fabrication of all of the repetitive pieces and keeping cost down. The sculptural elements took a little more time. Those that remained more or less intact were removed from the building, touched up, and used to form rubber-lined production molds. Those that had vanished were recreated from old photographs or extrapolated from fragments. The GFRC system offered a much higher level of precision than did the original process. To be as faithful as possible to the original, Elemental took care to introduce the imperfections characteristic of terra cotta, including tooling marks, irregularities on flat planes, and slight variations in the “white” color from piece to piece. The team filled in the structural gaps left by the terra cotta with traditional masonry structure, and bolted each thin-film replica back to the new masonry. This allowed the creation of soft joints between each piece and the existing schist. When taken across an entire elevation, these small, soft joints comprise a de facto expansion-joint system capable of accommodating significant building movement. In the course of replacing the terra cotta, the architects uncovered a number of other issues that needed attention. The bell tower was discovered to be in a state of structural failure. Steel supports in the existing masonry had corroded to the point of no longer being there. All that was holding it up was the terra cotta, some rubble stone, and a chicken-wire wrapper placed there to keep the gargoyles from falling onto students below. It was completely rebuilt, the cladding removed, a new precast, post-tensioned concrete structure inserted, and then the new thin-film elements attached. Elemental divided the project into ten contract packages, ordered according to severity of need, and tackled them when the budget became available. The firm is now finishing the ninth package. Although not among the gargoyles, the spirit of George B. Post might well sit smiling, twirling his Edwardian whiskers in hearty approval.
Aaron Seward