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Biking Dutchman Hijacks Governors Island Planning Meeting

Walking into a presentation by the five finalists vying to design a new Governors Island park last night, everyone thought there were two front-runners: James Corner, who has proposed a "superthick" promenade abutting a dense lawn and a "fog forest" with misters to lead you to soccer fields, and Joshua Prince-Ramus, whose plan calls for a patchwork of parcels around the edge that can adapt to private development. But then Adriaan Geuze, another of the finalists, rode into the Chelsea auditorium on a wood-frame bicycle, and he stole the show. Geuze is a Rotterdam architect with corkscrew hair and, last night, a floral-print shirt, and he got the crowd laughing when his PowerPoint presentation showed a butterfly landing on the island and then spreading into a "poetic pattern" of zany footpaths.

How to Succeed in Hudson Yards Without Really Trying

Does the developer who wants to tear down the High Line above 30th Street have an inside track on getting the Hudson Yards contract? Sources who ought to know tell us that the Durst Organization, which complained last week that preserving the High Line would cost $117 million, has hired the architecture firm of FXFowle to prepare its Hudson Yards bid. Coincidentally (we're sure), FXFowle is the same firm that prepared the architectural protocol for the project on behalf of the MTA and the Hudson Yards Development Corp., a city-created overseer. The MTA claims it wants to keep the High Line, provided it understands the costs and revenues involved. But it will take quite a bid by another developer to dispel the notion that Durst has already seen the answer sheet. —Alec Appelbaum

Libeskind to Build Another Tower in Lower Manhattan

Daniel Libeskind has been busy lately, with a museum opening in Toronto, new residential projects around the world, and a Freedom Tower stubbornly moving nowhere in Lower Manhattan. And now he's got another — more easily built, one presumes — building coming to New York. The architect told us yesterday he has a commission to design a residential tower somewhere in Lower Manhattan — though he won't say much more than that until paperwork is filed Friday. Here's what he'll reveal: The commission is from a private client, and he hopes to make the building a landmark "by taking the notion of green out from the inside of the building." It won't be on Liberty Island, as we originally guessed, but Libeskind confirmed it's on a built "historic site, one of the iconic sites of New York City." And, he added, "I guarantee you'll see the Statue of Liberty from there." Hmm. You have any guesses? —Alec Appelbaum CORRECTION, July 13: A Skidmore, Owings & Merrill flack emails to remind us that the Freedom Tower currently being constructed isn't even Libeskind's design anymore; it's by SOM's David Childs. So maybe this new one will not only be more easily built, but will also stay Libeskind's!

Starchitect Showdown! Will Rockwell or Gehry Build the Better Playground?

It's never too early to start Manhattan tykes on high-end real-estate mania. The Parks Department has just announced that Frank Gehry will be designing a no doubt titanium-clad playground for Battery Park — which puts the L.A.-based starchitect in head-to-head competition with New York's own David Rockwell, the man behind countless restaurant and hotel interiors, some of Broadway's wittiest set designs, and a planned "imagination playground" on Burling Slip, a bit uptown on the East River. How do the two compare? See for yourself.

Bloomberg Wins Big Ally, Loses Councilman in Traffic Fight

As the battle over congestion pricing builds toward hearings in the State Assembly at the end of this week, the MTA — a state agency not always on the same page as City Hall — is starting to look like a Bloomberg ally. At a hobnobbers' breakfast this morning, MTA chief Elliott Sander offered his warmest words yet for what he adroitly renamed "value pricing." Staring at potential operating deficits of more than $1 billion annually by 2010, Sander acknowledged the plan's alluring promise of revenue and predicted that his agency could "align demand with supply" to accommodate riders who ditch their cars.

Will Tax-Happy Georgians Foil Bloomberg's Traffic Plans?

Don't count on Bloomberg's congestion-pricing plans quite yet, you northern city-slickers. Seems the great state of Georgia might beat us to the federal money the mayor is counting on to fund the implementation of his plan. Outside a New School forum on urban issues this morning, Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin gently told us that her suburban neighbors in Fulton and DeKalb Counties have already voted to join Atlanta in expanding a tax to fund rapid transit, and Washington demands cities show proof of matching funds to get this federal money. "That puts us at the top of the list for federal funding," Mayor Franklin explained. "Our local people are willing to tax themselves, and that's a big hit in Washington." Albany, meantime, has yet to give Bloomberg the money he needs to show the Feds we're all on the same page. "If Atlanta is the economic hub of the state, the state has to take leadership on public transit," Franklin said. "And you could make the same argument in New York." Hey, we're trying. —Alec Appelbaum Earlier: PlaNYC Fine Print: Waiting for Albany

Gwathmey Shocker: Soho Condo to Look Like Soho!

Celebrity architect Charles Gwathmey didn't make himself many East Village friends with his last project here, the so-called Sculpture for Living on Astor Place, which was widely derided as out of context for the neighborhood. Perhaps he's learned his lesson. We got an early peek at Soho Mews, his newest local effort, and it's a tasteful, intriguing new condo that's a clever update of Soho's cast-iron factory tradition. The façade uses different treatments of glass, frosted here and unvarnished there, to create what Gwathmey describes as an "active Tartan grid" that will glow with different colors at different times of day. And the block-through lot, with a courtyard between the West Broadway and Wooster Street entrances, allows a sumptuous lobby that recalls the classic uptown prewars. "It's a courtyard model that is unique in the city and patterned on the great old hotels," the architect told us. "This is a loft tailored for a design-savvy customer." And one who likes his Soho to look like, well, Soho. —Alec Appelbaum

What Does a $91 Million Train Station Look Like?

Because there's news today that the new Metro-North station to be built at Yankee Stadium, set to open in spring 2009, will cost $91 million, twice its initial price tag, with the city kicking in some $39 million, and because we also like showing you renderings of construction projects under way throughout our fair city, we herewith present a sketch of the new station — that bridge on the right heads east from the station, above East 153rd Street, and lets fans off behind home plate of the current stadium, which will still leave them more than a few blocks from the new stadium — provided by the MTA. For what the thing costs, we hope the real one's at least in color. —Alec Appelbaum Next Stop: Yanks [Metro NY]

Will Bill Clinton Push Congestion Pricing?

Bill Clinton
Former President Bill Clinton popped up at the city's Climate Summit today to lend his name and considerable funding clout to greening the city. Mayor Bloomberg's PlaNYC calls for city buildings to decrease carbon emissions by 2017, and Clinton has brokered a deal that might actually achieve that goal. Five banks (including local institutions JPMorgan Chase and Citibank) committed $5 billion to finance new insulation and lighting for buildings in sixteen cities, including New York. Four energy companies will audit the work at discount prices, and three trade groups will train minorities and the unemployed to rehab the buildings. Clinton didn't stop the giving there — Bloomberg predicted a "creative ongoing partnership with the Clinton Foundation," which we guess will be put to work on congestion pricing. With a cajoler-in-chief like Clinton at his side, Bloomberg just might be able to persuade state lawmakers to support it. —Alec Appelbaum

No High Line in Redeveloped Hudson Yards? MTA Promises Public Will Have Last Word

At the Hudson Yards Development Corporation public meeting about redevelopment plans for the huge West Side rail yard the other night, Friends of the High Line boosters distributed American Apparel T-shirts with the logo "High Line Railyards," a reminder that a good chunk of the now-beloved trestle runs through the site and implicitly urging the MTA to ensure that whoever develops there protects it. MTA chief planner Bill Wheeler dubbed himself a High Line fan, but he warned that developers' bid prices would guide the MTA's decision about protecting it. (In other words, if someone will pay more for the site but plan to remove the High Line, the MTA would be okay with that.) But here's the good news for High Line supporters: The public-review process for the site means the MTA's decision won't be the last word.

Trump's Condo-Hotel Gambit Works; City Approves Soho Tower

Trump Soho That sound you just heard is the last huff of Soho's industrial grit. With unceremonious filings last night, the city cleared the Trump Organization to build a 41-story tower on one of Soho's last scraps of industrial land. The Trump Soho project calls itself a "condo-hotel," a taxonomy that lets its developer build what some might call a residential tower in a manufacturing zone without special permits. The Greenwich Village Society for Historical Preservation calls it a precedent for sneaking other condos into other manufacturing zones around town, distorting property values and sundering urban character. For months, GVSHP has urged city agencies to drag the project through a public zoning review to air its potential neighborliness. But on April 26, the development team promised to let shareholders use the units for a maximum of 120 days a year (and for only 29 of every 36 days). Now, GVSHP chief Andrew Berman tells us: "This is a case of the city not enforcing its own laws, and that makes them vulnerable to a lawsuit." Does that mean he's threatening one? —Alec Appelbaum

What Might the Far West Side Look Like? See the Planners' First Sketches

Mayor Bloomberg may not have gotten his Jets stadium on the Far West Side of Manhattan, but some sort of development over the MTA's Hudson Yards is on its way. The state-city Hudson Yards Development Corporation has set preliminary guidelines for land use and open space on the site, and by the end of the month, the MTA will start soliciting proposals from developers for the massive property. We got hold of sketches HYDC showed to neighborhood leaders this spring (they're all after the jump), depicting what the area might look like after its completion; they show a possible Logan's Run–ish skyline, key crossings with and without the High Line in place, and a flicker of the questions likely to dominate public debate. How many parking spaces? How many affordable apartments? How tall? What kind of parks? The general public gets its first say in what's promised to be a long review process at a joint community board–HYDC meeting Tuesday night. Study up. —Alec Appelbaum

High Line Cars Should Stay on the Street, Community Board Says

high line apartment
Sometimes a parking space is just a parking space — even in the glitzy new High Line district. That's what Chelsea's Community Board 4 declared last night when it swatted down developer Young Woo & Associates plan for en suite parking at its 200 Eleventh Avenue development. Plans called for a car elevator that would have allowed residents to drive right to the door of the building's fifteen floorthrough luxury condos — Madonna was said to be interested in buying one — but the Fire Department has made its disapproval known and last night the community board said the plan violated local zoning laws. (The board's decision is only advisory, but the borough president, planning commission, and city council typically follow boards' leads.) Under those rules, a new development can offer parking spots for only 20 percent of its units without a special permit. "The board has a principle that because of too many cars in the community board's confines, they want to enforce the 20 percent," district manager Robert Benfatto told us. So three spots, even hovering ones, would be just fine. — Alec Appelbaum Related: The High Line: It Brings Good Things to Life [NYM] Earlier: West Chelsea Car-Elevator Apartments: Going Down?

Dan Doctoroff's Dream Lives On, in Queens

Remember when City Hall's plan was for the Olympics to save our city? We had our doubts, and the IOC didn't cooperate, but, even so, Queens residents are still getting one benefit of the plan: A 50-meter pool in Flushing Meadow, originally intended to host the Michael Phelpses of the world, is under construction and set to open to the public by fall, according to Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe. "It's most ambitious structure ever built in a park," Benepe said of the 110,000-square-foot space, designed by local firms Handel Architects and Hom & Goldman. The Parks Department even managed to squeeze in a separate diving pool, making this the first city property usable for NCAA swim meets. We're looking forward to toting our flippers and goggles on the 7 train. —Alec Appelbaum

Lincoln Center Holds a Press Conference on Overhaul, Tells Us Mostly What We Already Knew; Also: LEDs!

Will LEDs and info displays seem as quaint in the 2050s as the white-walled, elevated Lincoln Center seems now? Not if architect Liz Diller has the touch her clients say she does. At a construction update today, Diller detailed how Diller Scofidio & Renfro, with FXFowle and other design specialists, plans to festoon every border of the twelve-institution center with a constant stream of showtimes and words as part of the $900 million effort to refresh the fifties-era complex. After recounting already-established plans at the press conference — a new lawn, outdoor restaurants, a sexed-up fountain — Diller told us more about the electronic displays, which, she said, will really grab passersby at key spots on 65th Street and on Broadway.

PlaNYC Fine Print: Gnarly New Parks, Dude, But Who'll Prune the Trees?

Parks Dept.
Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC 2030 blueprint isn't all doom and gloom. To keep the city's projected 9 million inhabitants from cranking their environment-destroying A/C, you’ve got to give them places to play. So part of the plan calls for finishing eight major parks abandoned in decades past — with amenities that might be better suited to ESPN2 than Channel 13. There'll be a salt marsh to explore in the Bronx's Soundview Park, Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe told us, and a cricket pitch near the nature preserve in Highland Park, on the northeastern Brooklyn-Queens border. To keep New Yorkers in shape even during the annual monsoonlike rainfalls we'll be experiencing, there'll be a new indoor running track at Ocean Breeze Park, near Staten Island’s South Beach. Community boards will get a chance to submit additional ideas starting this fall.

Dan Doctoroff Discovers Communities

Dan Doctoroff has a big title — Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and Rebuilding — and even bigger ambitions. But as he hits the hustings to sell the mayor's environmentally friendly PlaNYC 2030 package he's finally started embracing small-ball politics. PlaNYC's proposal to build potentially huge housing complexes on decks over rail yards and highways, he said at a New School forum this morning, will proceed at a pace set by the affected community boards — not by Olympic committees or neighborhood-swallowing developers. "The lesson of Hudson Yards and Atlantic Yards is to get communities involved upfront," he told us after the event, though he wouldn't specify which areas he sees as ripe for this affordable-housing development. "We've learned, before we even go public with an idea, to reach out to the local community." Imagine that! (Oh, also, he confirmed the key non-word is pronounced "plan-why-see." Now you know.) —Alec Appelbaum

PlaNYC Fine Print: Waiting for Albany

Mayor Bloomberg might be getting the credit — or the blame, depending on where you sit — for his pushing the idea of battling Manhattan traffic by instituting a fee to drive in prime neighborhoods at peak hours, but the truth is it's not his call. It's the state's. To start, no municipality can limit access to public roads without the state's okay. And even with that okay, to pay for the necessary infrastructure — how the city will track cars and bill their drivers — Bloomberg wants to apply for funding from a $1.2 billion federal fund, and federal rules say the state would have to join that application. Finally, to make clear that the city isn't merely seeking to burden outer-borough and suburban drivers, Bloomberg is promising major transit improvements to allow people to get into the city center without driving — and he plans to pay for those improvements with funds raised by the congestion fees, a city contribution, and an equal state contribution. Bloomberg has promised $200 million from this year's city budget; the state so far has promised nothing. To help convince legislators, the city is proposing 22 projects to help neighborhoods with high numbers of car commuters get better mass-transit access to midtown. So the question becomes: Will an imminent project to let buses escape some traffic lights on Staten Island's Victory Boulevard — one of those 22 plans — be enough to convince Albany to support the plan? We'll see. —Alec Appelbaum

To the Brig With You! Affordable-Housing Plans Progress Near Navy Yard

Don't think that yesterday's PlaNYC hoopla has sapped the city's energy for more planning announcements: Today City Hall announced a development team to create an "unprecedented mixed-income community" on the Brig, a former prison site bordering Fort Greene and the Brooklyn Navy Yard. A partnership called Navy Green will convert the 103,000-square-foot site, which served first as a forties-era naval prison and later as an INS detention center and minimum-security city pen into what plans say is an energy-efficient complex of 434 townhouses and apartments, including dozens of co-ops priced for families earning under $92,000 per year. As these early drawings show (one above, one after the jump), the sparkly towers and new retail are planned for the site — the city mentions an ecofriendly dry cleaner as a potential tenant — under a design that grew out of community workshops in 2003. The conversion, due to start by this summer, illustrates the aggressive hunt for city-owned land that Mayor Bloomberg promised in his speech yesterday. And it'll give New Yorkers the rare chance to come and go from a military prison at their leisure. —Alec Appelbaum

On the Upper West Side, a Rare Win for Tenants

Score one for the renters: Über-developer Kent Swig has hit a major snag in his plans to add a nine-story condo atop 201 West 92nd Street and 200 West 93rd Street, two adjoining six-story rental buildings he owns along Amsterdam Avenue on the Upper West Side. The Department of Buildings has issued an immediate stop-work order on the project and is said to be revoking a previously greenlit application for construction.