Friday, September 30, 2005
I took this shot from a roof-top party at Silvercup Studios in Long Island City last night. The party was celebrating the installation of the largest green roof in New York City on top of the studios where Sex and the City and the Sopranos was/is filmed. (I wrote about the green roof for the Times.) The sunset was spectacular (as was the party). Click the photo to enlarge, or click here to see four shots in a time lapse arrangement.
What better way to get going on a Friday morning than with a controversy over boobies? An argument over the display of the above painting in the window of an East Village gallery is easy fodder for those who decry the current state of the neighborhood as a yuppie playpen, but you'll be happy to know that there's at least one guy committed to keeping the East Village edgy:
In the week since the gallery’s curator put the painting in the window, several local residents have requested he remove it...
“What a bunch of nerds these kids are!” said Jesse Gee, the gallery’s curator, standing inside his store on a recent Friday afternoon.
Thursday, September 29, 2005
On a side note, the DUMBO gallery collective at 111 Front Street, Second Floor where the Wessel + O'Connor gallery is, has rather organically become a center for photography. I was going to write about it awhile back for the Times, but alas, I just couldn’t come up with anything new to say about DUMBO, even though the gallery collective itself is definitely worthy of ink.
Investment funds totaling $190 million have been created in the past year in
The funds' manager, the Phoenix Realty Group, expects to finance more than 3,000 homes in the next five years. As in many work force projects, the builders will be allowed to construct more units than typically permitted under zoning laws. The "density bonuses" enable the developer to make up the lost profit on each unit by selling more of them.
This strikes me as precisely the right way to go about providing home-ownership opportunities for middle income people: investment funds incentivizing developers to build higher-density housing around public transportation. This is killing a bunch of birds with one stone: reinvesting in urban cores, cutting down on the need to drive and consume gas, creating vibrancy and density to support further commercial investment, and hopefully relieving pressure on exurban sprawl.
The article doesn't report out what programs are being implemented in New York except to say that zoning variances have been offered to developers if they include moderate-income housing in their plans for Greenpoint and Williamsburg. That's like throwing a few bricks into the Grand Canyon.
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
P.S. I took the above photo for the Times, and here's a link to a brief photo essay of downtown Cleveland.
A piece in today’s Newsday gets in on the "middle class is getting squeezed by housing prices" media jag. Wonder how those working class and poor folk are doing… but I digress:
For the first time, there are more than 1 million owner-occupied homes in the
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Rendering by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill:
Monday, September 26, 2005
Conceptual Floating Art Meets Mocking Meta-Art
Robert Smithson's concept of a Floating Island -- a 30'x90' man-made island towed by a tugboat around Manhattan -- has, after three decades, become reality. Touted as the "anti-Gates," ... Smithson's Floating Island docked yesterday for the last time … conceptual art mash-up narrowly avoided.
Approaching the [Floating Island] on its starboard side was a small motorboat, affixed to which was a replica of one of the saffron-colored gates created by Christo and Jeanne-Claude that dotted
“We're not going to spend the next ten years debating what should happen here,” Randy Daniels, then the state's secretary of state and board chair of the preservation corporation, [said in 2003]. But by this spring, with progress seemingly stalled, Daniels had lost his optimism.
“It takes two years to clear your throat in he told the Times. And earlier this month, Daniels prepared to leave the board, saying … “We truly don't know what it will be but we have a general idea of what it can be.”
Two and a half years later, and all they have is a "general idea of what it can be”? Why does everything have to be planned to death? With stunning views, vast open space and beautiful historic buildings, why can’t we just do one small thing at a time there, like open it up to the public more than a few weekends in the summer? Let people slowly but surely discover the place and see what happens.
Above photo of Nolan Park on Governor's Island.
Aside from Mr. Holl's glass-and-concrete center at Pratt's
The Sunday Times had doppelganger real estate stories, one asking if it is better to rent or buy, and the other quantifying what we all know intuitively: that the middle class is getting seriously squeezed by housing prices. From the first story:
Add it all up - which The New York Times did, in an analysis of the major costs and benefits of owning and renting, including tax breaks - and owning a home today is more expensive than renting in much of the Northeast,
And from the second story:
Across the country, the median price of a single-family home has climbed 29 percent in two years, rising to $218,600 this year from $170,000 in 2003, according to the National Association of Realtors. At the same time, median family incomes rose 8 percent. The association's Housing Affordability Index dropped over the same time period, falling 15 percent in the last two years.
The second story discusses the myriad ways in which house-poor middle class people are cutting back on other things – from vacations to food – to pay for their expensive shelter, which gets to an interesting point that is made by “creative class” guru Richard Florida in his otherwise poorly executed book The Flight of the Creative Class. In addition to the ill effects of bubbles in general, he says the housing boom has been an unfortunate waste of investment money. What used to fund start-ups, high-tech R&D, and other creative pursuits is now going towards housing, which doesn’t contribute much to the long-term advancement of civilization. A roof doesn’t really have a multiplier effect no matter how expensive it is. It either keeps the elements out or it doesn’t. Only if it gets repeatedly torn off in hurricanes (!) does a roof continue to employ people.
Friday, September 23, 2005
Also from the Regional Plan Association's newsletter today (scroll to next item) is a review of Paul Goldberger's Up From Zero: Politics, Architecture and the Rebuilding of New York, which just came out in paperback (note that the paperback version uses the Towers of Light on the cover instead of Libeskind's original "Freedom Tower"). I couldn't agree with Alex Marshall more:
...after reading Up From Zero, and knowing the difficulties Libeskind’s design has encountered, I found myself regretting that the design of Rafael Viñoly and Frederic Schwartz was not chosen, which vied with Libeskind’s plan for selection until Gov. Pataki made a choice. The centerpiece of the Viñoly-Schwartz [Think team] plan, at least initially, was two tall, lattice-work towers that would rise from the site and be essentially ornamental and symbolic, and completely public. The private office buildings with their 10 million square feet would be left to another portion the site, and perhaps for another time, when the office sector rebounded. Such a plan would have avoided
the controversies that have plagued Libeskind’s and David Childs’ Freedom Tower, which must double as a symbol AND a giant office tower.Although meant to symbolize freedom and openness, the base of the tower was recently redesigned to resemble a windowless battle-hardened bunker to withstand a terrorist blast (emphasis added).
Ugh. That's really depressing. I'm going to Bikram yoga to sweat it out. Have a good weekend. The weather is supposed to be marvelous.
Auto dependence is expensive, and it’s hard to find a way to pay for it that’s not regressive. That’s why it’s vital to choose the right investments. This region should focus on improving the accessibility and capacity of its transit-oriented places. There are three large scale projects that would go a long way toward accomplishing that goal: the Second Avenue Subway, a Long Island Railroad connection to Grand Central Terminal, and a new passenger rail tunnel under the Hudson. At the same time,
more mixed-use development should be focused on transit villages in towns along train lines in Long Island, Connecticut, the Hudson Valley and New Jersey.
I have written about a transit-oriented developer, Eric Anderson of Urban Green Builders, who has undertaken redeveloping Bridgeport, perhaps one of the most significant projects underway in the Tri-State region. It is exactly the sort of place that will become highly desirable as it's transformed into a mixed-use transit village. If I had two nickels to rub together, that's where I'd be investing.
To illustrate my point, look at the example of two current
Previous Polis posts on Coney Island (the first one outlines my misgivings about redeveloping Coney Island, the second one summarizes the city’s recent announcement of its strategic plans, the third one is a summary of New York magazine’s article about the developer Joe Sitt who wants to build ‘vegas on steroids’:
Thursday, September 22, 2005
Today, Newsday reports that MTA’s new internal communications system crashed, which has been ten years in the making:
The MTA's subway modernization plan suffered a setback this week when a new communication system crashed after it was unable to handle radio traffic generated by a routine delay, officials said Wednesday.
The breakdown on Tuesday clipped contact between dispatchers and hundreds of trains ... It also delayed by weeks the opening of a $225 million midtown control center that was to replace an antiquated NYC Transit facility in
It’s easy to crack on MTA, but here’s a serious question: Is MTA’s communications infrastructure our version of a weak and eroded levee system?
*Apologies to Noam Chomsky.
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
P.S. The NY Post reports that new monitors were announced in the wake of The Permanent Citizen's Advisory Committee issuing a stinging report about MTA's communications system. How about this for an art installation project in select subway stations: Walls of TV monitors playing in a continuous loop that infamous Saturday Night Live skit of MTA personnel making garbled announcements.
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Trevor Body, architecture critic for the
This planner’s paradise – Downtown Vancouver – has exemplary urbanism, a lively social mix, and a high quality of life, all of which make it ever more attractive as … a retirement zone for baby boomers, and much less attractive as a place to conduct business.
This contrarian viewpoint is one worth considering, but it overlooks the fact that
I’m all for planning – which
Monday, September 19, 2005
Over the past few years, [Joe] Sitt’s real-estate company, Thor Equities, has quietly spent nearly $100 million buying up a huge swath of
Like a curated art show, Emerge NYC, open about a month now, is a selection of emerging designers of fashion and art – jewelry, clothes, rare books, bags, etc. – arranged in what amounts to an urbanized version of a 3,500 square-foot indoor market. The 26 tiny boutiques are an affordable way for designers to get a piece of real estate on highly trafficked block in
Of course, the whole thing depends heavily on foot traffic. This model doesn’t work on a desolate urban street or in an auto-oriented suburb. And there really isn’t anything revolutionary about the business incubator model. So, perhaps it is a bit of an overstatement that this is the future of retail, but it certainly has the feel of a successful model that brings together proven concepts under one roof.
Friday, September 16, 2005
Thursday, September 15, 2005
- The transformation of
Stillwell Avenueinto Stillwell Midway, a public open space connecting existing amusements with new development.
- A redesigned
incorporating new open space around the iconic Parachute Jump between Steeplechase Plaza and the boardwalk. It will feature the winning design of the Parachute Pavilion Design Competition by the KeySpan Park team of Kevin Carmody, Andrew Groarke, Chris Hardie and Lewis Kinneir (see below). London
- Addition of hotels, possibly a spa and probably a mall on
- 3000 housing units (mostly condos, and some affordable, but few details about this are in the press release)
- Restoration of the Shore Theater (now closed) and the retention and restoration of the historic B&B Carousel (announced last month)
The boardwalk improvements will get underway immediately, according to the press release, with the rest unfolding by 2009. As Curbed recently noted regarding yet another announcement about the long-awaited
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
Mayor Bloomberg is expected to announce redevelopment plans for
It really is the perfect Jane Jacobsian amusement park, meeting three of her four criteria to create and sustain vibrancy and diversity: mixed primary uses, short blocks, old buildings (i.e. cheap space), and high density (to which I would add, complementary infill development). The boardwalk is continuous, but has short perpendicular blocks to break up the monotony. It has plenty of old buildings and high density. This being an amusement park, obviously, it doesn't have a lot of mixed primary uses, but in terms of entertainment, it doesn't get much more diverse than this: rides, food, beach, games, and most importantly, open space for self expression (from break dancers to Evangelists, see photo essay linked at right). The plans to be unveiled today might be complementary infill development, and if that is the case, great. But if it ushers in Disnification or -- worse! -- a mall, that could really damage the character of this national treature that is only a subway ride away.
And speaking of the subway, MTA opened its new station there at the beginning of the summer. For a great article by Alex Marshall for Metropolis magazine about this gorgeous subway station with its solar-powered canopy, click here (the article also has cool historical info, i.e. Fred Trump, Donald's father, tore down the Beaux-Arts "Pavilion of Fun" for condos that were never built!). So I say, get the people out there, welcome them with a beautiful subway station, and then let them do their thing. Let Coney Island evolve organically, as Ms. Jacobs would say.
(Although the above rendering isn't necessarily what's going to be unveiled today, it is the winning design in the Van Alen Institute/New York City Economic Development Corporation competition, on view with other entries through Oct. 31. For more info, click here.)
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Annabelle Selldorf is handling the interiors -- 1,400-3,400 square feet -- who characterizes the style as "free of the sort of gratuitious gestures that masquerade as important design today." Cast those stones! (Click to enlarge lovely interior rendering by Carlos Grande at Hypertecture.)
Monday, September 12, 2005
A couple of months ago, the Jen Bekman gallery on Spring Street (off Bowery) had an exhibit entitled Bicycles Locked to Poles, featuring photos taken on the streets of New York City by John Glassie (who has a book by the same name, published by McSweeney’s). Artist David Shapiro has taken this concept a step further. From today's Times (above photo by Ruby Washington):
Where do all the old bicycles go: those twisted, rusted, fragmented remnants of freewheeling happiness that are chained to poles and left for dead on
A group of them, at least, have been given second acts as objets d'art by a New York-based artist who found about 100 bikes on city sidewalks this summer and took them to his own
To this burgeoning artistic trend, I add my own photo taken on St. Mark’s Place last winter (the mural at Tasty Falafel has since been painted over):
Saturday, September 10, 2005
Friday, September 09, 2005
“Residential real-estate prices in
“Amtrak Is Said to Be Planning a Big Fare Rise” NY Times
“Jonathan Salazar turns 4 on Sunday. Naturally, his family will have a party for him. But it will probably be a demure gathering, because it is Sept. 11.” NY Times
“Set to release on September 16th, ‘Lord of War,’ features [Chelsea Hotel resident] Ethan Hawke.” Living with Legends