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A Lifeline for the Upper High Line?

Last we checked in, it seemed that the officials were willing to let a successful bidder for the MTA's Hudson Yards site tear down the part of the High Line that runs through it. But now it seems that the old rail trestle, slowly becoming a park, has a better chance of survival. Real Estate Board of New York president Steven Spinola, the developers’ rep in the bidding process for Yards site, tells us that the Hudson Yards Development Corporation showed a presentation yesterday that included a preference for cultural institutions, lots of open space, an attempt at affordable housing, and sympathy for the High Line. “They likely will say to developers: We would like to see the High Line continue, so explain what the ramifications would be of keeping it,” Spinola said. “I think they started off negative about the High Line and they’re now looking to keep it an open question.” Will developers — who must sink more than $300 million just to install a platform over the rail yards — willingly invest around an elevated park? “The High Line, if done properly, can clearly be an attractive amenity for the city,” Spinola says. “A few months ago people said, ‘Of course it’s a problem,’ and yesterday people said, ‘We’ll analyze it.’” —Alec Appelbaum Earlier: The High Line, Suddenly Not as High?

Public to Get Input on Hudson Yards Next Month

The public will soon get a long-deferred first look at Hudson Yards, the vast swath of rail depot and waterfront that Bloomberg once targeted for a Jets/Olympic stadium. Amid reports that the MTA has considered awarding the whole site to one nervy developer — remembering, perhaps, how much efficiency Larry Silverstein brought to ground zero — civic activists have demanded public review of the design rules for the site. And that's what they'll get: Last night, Hudson Yards Development Corporation president Ann Weisbrod said there will be a public presentation on May 8 at 6 p.m. Of course, this is a public-review sprint for a development marathon: MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin says the transportation agency, which owns the land, will ask for bids by the end of May and then quickly go through the required public process, reviews by the local community board and so forth. But at least you'll get an early peek at what you'll have to live with for the next hundred years. —Alec Appelbaum

What Daniel Libeskind Does When Not Rebuilding Ground Zero

Royal Ontario Museum
The sneering was involuntary when we read that Daniel Libeskind, whose idealistic World Trade Center scheme became the cudgel that George Pataki used to freeze ground zero, would keynote a weeklong conference of brand managers at Chelsea Piers. But then the effervescent architect started guiding a half-full ballroom through his recent work, and we realized this guy's had a lot of output while we've bickered over a memorial. Libeskind's new projects under construction include a jagged apartment tower facing downtown Cincinnati and a wing of the Royal Ontario Museum that suggests a giddy urban campsite. Libeskind, as ever, refused to carp. On the World Trade Center, he told us: "You see the slurry wall being repaired — you see something optimistic there." Well, at least he does. —Alec Appelbaum

West Chelsea Car-Elevator Apartments: Going Down?

No doubt you remember the hype: Architect Annabelle Selldorf's design for 200 Eleventh Avenue included private car elevators, which would lift owners, still in their vehicles, to their apartments. Selldorf was allegedly inspired by the body-shop flatlands of West Chelsea, but it was no coincidence that this extra layer of privacy made the building attractive to celebrities; there was a report that Madonna was scouting a unit. But now the Fire Department might put an end to all that fun. Howard Hill, FDNY's chief of fire prevention, in early February wrote to the city's Buildings Department, to object to the plan. "For obvious life-safety reasons," he wrote, "this design concept and use should be prohibited."

First Look: Second Avenue Subway Stations

We reported earlier on today's groundbreaking for the Second Avenue Subway, and we told you that "stations on the line will have natural light and column-free corridors (and, according to renderings, odd shards of Daniel Libeskind–esque glass)." Here now, renderings of those stations. (There's a larger version here.) Libeskinn-esque, indeed. —Alec Appelbaum Earlier: Daily Intel's coverage of the Second Avenue Subway

Ground Broken for Second Avenue Subway, Again

In a damp tunnel under East Harlem this morning, Governor Spitzer, MTA executive director Lee Sander, and lots of other officials — though not Mayor Bloomberg, who was in Cincinnati campaigning against guns — gathered to break ground for the first phase of a Second Avenue subway. It was actually a wall-tapping, marking the start of preparations for a tunnel-boring machine to expand an existing tunnel dug in the seventies. The line, called the T, will have a royal-blue logo and share stops in its first phase with the Q. Most of the tunnel will be 80 feet underground, said MTA Capital Construction chief Mysore Nagaranjan, though the tunnel where the ceremony took place is only about 45 feet down.

PlaNYC to Be Unveiled on Earth Day

PlaNYC — the catchall term Mayor Bloomberg has given both the planning document being drafted to guide New York's development over the next 23 years and the months-long process of public meetings to gather input for it — is, it turns out, almost ready to be unveiled. The formal announcement will come next Sunday, April 22 — you know, Earth Day — at the American Museum of Natural History on the Upper West Side, a City Hall source confirmed to us today. The city has been explicit that PlaNYC is needed to help it deal successfully with an anticipated population explosion while our infrastructure ages and the environment deteriorates. So, while we're excited to see the plan, we confess the museum's symbolism is making us nervous: dinosaurs … carcasses … oy. —Alec Appelbaum

Pretty, Affordable Housing for Brooklyn?

Maybe visionary architects can do more than concoct condos and museums in this town. A competition to design affordable housing in the South Bronx, which ended with the January selection of U.K. architecture firm Grimshaw and local good-guy architect Richard Dattner, went so well that the city's Department of Housing, with other agencies, is planning another, similar competition for later this year. The city will collect proposals for a 150-unit complex, dance theater, and retail space in Brooklyn, near BAM, by May 4, Housing commissioner Shaun Donovan said at the Center for Architecture last night, when he also announced another, unspecified competition for later this year. Architect Markus Dochantschi of StudioMDA, part of the runner-up team for the Bronx project, told us that he and his group will submit to the Brooklyn competition, and last night, for the first time, he showed off their Bronx proposal — a scheme of colorful mid-rise buildings that absorb sunlight and eschew dark hallways. The Brooklyn winner would face Frank Gehry’s Miss Brooklyn and her gargantuan friends — unless, of course, it's built while lawsuits keep all those titanium panels waiting on the loading docks. —Alec Appelbaum

With Polshek Tower Dead, Chelsea Seminary Turns to Affordable Housing


The pooh-bahs of nouveau Chelsea and the guardians of old Chelsea might want to start working together. The General Theological Seminary, situated in an elegant Gothic quad on West 20th Street, has been trying since 2005 to get approval to build a James Polshek–designed residential tower at the Ninth Avenue edge of its property. (With everyone else making money off the neighborhood's real-estate boom, the aspiring Episcopalians saw an easy way to finance a desperately needed renovation of its buildings.) But after being shot down by old-timers on the local community board in February, the seminary last night announced it was giving up its residential-tower dreams. Now it's proposing a much smaller, seven-story (but still Polshek-designed) structure along Ninth, with a library downstairs and co-ops upstairs. (The co-ops will help pay for at least some renovations.) And there will also be one more part of the new plan, according to seminary executive vice-president Maureen Burnley: During negotiations with the community board, she said, the seminary offered some of its land to the New York City Housing Authority for affordable-housing units. Score one for the old guard. —Alec Appelbaum

French ‘Vision Machine’ Starts Rising in Chelsea

"Nothing has ever been built like it in NYC," says Jean Nouvel's publicist of a project the French starchitect has designed for 19th Street and the West Side Highway, and though it's a publicist's job to say that, she might actually be right. Nouvel, a perennially mentioned Pritzker Prize contender, announced that construction has begun — and released the first renderings — on the same day Richard Rogers won the 2007 prize. Is it a recyclable takeout rice container? No, it's a "Vision Machine," an energy-efficient skyscraper in which, to quote the publicist, "every single pane has been figured out to correspond to an interior space and no two are alike."

Union Square Rehab: No Year-Round Restaurant

It is, finally, just the sort of weather that makes a vigorous young New Yorker want to frolic — or at least eat and drink — in the great outdoors. Like, for example, at that bar-and-restaurant place inside Union Square. (It's technically called Luna Park.) But wasn't the city planning to do some renovation at the north end of the park, something with that restaurant? Indeed, and yesterday Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe caught us up on the planning. In 2004, he announced plans to complete the Square's beautification by joining the park's two playgrounds and creating a year-round eatery where that weird fortresslike structure now stands, near 17th Street. But after local sputtering, Benepe confirmed to us, Parks has ditched the controversial year-round part.

A Different Kind of Glass Tower for Chelsea

A sales office opened today for — surprise, surprise — a luxury condo building at 459 West 18th Street, and it's a glass-sheet building worth noting both for what it is and who's building it. While most of the city's megabucks glass-façade condos hide occupants and cover hurry-up construction with ornamental window barriers, this one gives glass a fresh role: using huge panes to push out like stages rather than hang like curtains. Perhaps the architecture's interesting because the project, by the Dumbo firm Della Valle Bernheimer, is the very rare case where the architect is also serving as developer. "We emphasized it as a view tunnel north and south by keeping living and dining rooms as clean as possible," says Jared Della Valle. From the street, Della Valle says, the huge glass insertions — delivered from China, where they've got the capacity to produce at that size — should reflect sunlight and emphasize connections between occupants and passersby. "It's meant to disarm people," he says. Okay. Disarmed or not, we think the renderings (there's another after the jump) look pretty cool. —Alec Appelbaum

Moynihan Station: It's Alive?

Huh. Look at that. Last we were paying attention, we were pretty sure Moynihan Station was dead. (Delayed in October, shot down in December, we thought.) But then, this morning, Gotham Gazette's indispensable "Eye-Opener" pointed us to a Daily News squib from Saturday: The state's Public Authorities Control Board — you know, that three-member group Shelly Silver uses to block development he doesn't like — has approved the financing plan that would allow the Empire State Development Corporation to buy the Farley Post Office building from the Postal Service. Guess this means the thing's back on. Who knew? Moynihan Sta. Gets a Key OK [NYDN] Earlier: Moynihan Station, an Autopsy It's Over, and It's Over

Hotel Gansevoort Will Have to Find a New Way to Annoy Neighbors

Hotel Gansevoort
Andrew Berman, chief of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, notched a victory Friday as self-appointed Sheriff of Downtown Tastefulness. For weeks, he'd organized protests and demonstrations near the well-lit, eight-foot-high ads around the Hotel Gansevoort. Today he sent a letter to Buildings Commissioner Patricia Lancaster declaring that the city had seen the light. Berman says the city plans to tell hotel developer Michael Achenbaum that his illuminated signs break the zoning law because they stand at less than a 90-degree angle to Hudson Street. The two-page letter notes that if Achenbaum turns the signs to the legal pitch, "this would of course turn the signs toward the windows of the Hotel, and we hope that the Hotel will simply choose to remove the signs." Now even if that does happen, it's not as if the meatpacking district will morph into a redoubt of elegant restraint. But fear not — Berman's letter CCs all local elected officials and nameless "community groups" with hints of further battles. A round at Pastis, anyone? —Alec Appelbaum Letters from the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation [PDF]

Governors Island Globetrotters Turn to the Park Service

When the short list of potential Governors Island redevelopment plans came out in January, it didn't include a proposal for a postmodern Globe Theater. But that hasn't stopped project founder Barbara Romer and her supporters from pushing on with the idea. Romer mustered dozens of supporters — including Municipal Art Society majordomo Frank Sanchis — to a National Park Service "listening session" at downtown's Federal Hall rotunda last night, where she pushed for a Norman Foster–designed glass-sheathed Globe in the harbor's Castle Williams, where a museum now stands. The event was organized to collect bold ideas for ten nationwide projects the Park Service will fund in the next decade, and, since Parks controls the fort Romer has her eye on, she's now lobbying to get her project named one of those ten. "The adaptive, culturally used forts are the ones people really visit," she said at the session. "The service will choose projects by May 31, and I think it would be really exciting for New York to be on the list." An added bonus: At least according to the rendering Romer displayed, the project would ensure large, pretty snowflakes for lower Manhattan each winter. Which would be much nicer than last week's slush. —Alec Appelbaum

Park Slope Parents Win Traffic Battle, Lose Composure

Park Slope residents continued to set the standard for urban self-regard last night at New York Methodist Hospital, killing a Department of Transportation proposal in overwrought style. The department had proposed making Sixth and Seventh Avenues one-way in order to reduce traffic accidents. Local outcry was so strong — they suspected a cabal to hurtle Nets fans through the streets — the proposal was pretty much dead before the meeting even started. Since the lecture room was packed with about 250 people, another 200 clogged an anteroom in hopes of telling off Deputy Commissioner Michael Primeggia and giving their children (many of whom were, of course, there) a civics lesson.

Bloomberg's Planners Hear Public on Traffic Woes, Would Rather Talk About Something Else

Back in December, when civic groups proposed the idea of "congestion pricing" — charging cars to enter midtown during prime hours, as a way to control Manhattan's ever-more-horrible traffic — Mayor Bloomberg quickly danced away from it. "The politics of a commuter tax in Albany are probably such that we would never get it passed," he told the Times then. "And what I want to do is focus on those things that we can get passed to help our city." He's since launched PlaNYC, a canvass for opinions about how to help the city survive a million new residents and sharply higher sea levels by 2030, and it seems congestion pricing has wedged its way back into consideration.

Brooklyn Bike Path Pedals Closer to Reality

The Brooklyn Greenway Initiative has almost $19 million in federal, city, and privately raised funds to design and develop a landscaped, pedestrian- and biker-friendly promenade along the currently gritty, grubby, and privately owned Brooklyn waterfronts from Greenpoint to Sunset Park. And at a "fun-raiser" in a Columbia Heights tapas bar last night, the organizers announced that they're ready to come up with their first formal development proposals; they hope to have selected a designer by June for the segment alongside the Navy Yard, the first part to be designed.

Forget Condos; It's Chinatown

An old Chinatown building is being overhauled and prettied up, and — shockingly in today's New York — it's not for a condo conversion. The Oversea Chinese Mission, a 44-year-old evangelical outfit with fellowships and libraries and an aging membership, now has luxury condos on either side of its nine-story headquarters at Hester and Mott. But it announced a renovation last week that calls for reworking the building as a beacon to potential new members. "Right now you cannot see into the building," Nancy Ruddy, a partner in local architecture firm Cetra/Ruddy, told us this morning. The firm has designed a two-story façade of glass, metal, and stained glass to lure locals, from late-shift waiters to early risers.

Actual, Real, Detectable Progress Toward Second Avenue Subway Announced

In a town where big public-works projects can languish for years or even decades — how're you liking that Freedom Tower? — one is well advised to relish tangible steps wherever they can be found. And so we're pleased to report a nugget revealed during a dull MTA board meeting — "terminally boring," one staffer said — this morning: The board authorized $15 million to buy a vacant lot at Second and 93rd for emergency exit and ventilation for the Second Avenue subway's 96th Street stop. Which suggests that stop will actually, you know, be coming. Apparently the MTA reminded a developer at work on an apartment tower there of its "right to condemn," according to staff reports; he agreed to sell for a price that covered his construction costs. By getting an empty lot, the MTA avoids the need to displace existing users, which, as Bruce Ratner can tell you, can create problems. "You’re going to keep seeing stuff like this," exulted lame-duck MTA chairman Peter Kalikow, "and at some point the project goes from doubtful to inevitable." We're still not holding our breath on inevitability. —Alec Appelbaum Earlier: The Second Avenue Subway Is Brought to You By the Letter T