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Art Society Chief Retires; Moynihan Station Apparently Complete

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So it seems the longtime president of the Municipal Art Society, Kent Barwick, who's run the preservationist organization for nearly four decades, is stepping down. The Crain's story reporting this news, which we happened across today, notes the Society's major accomplishments under Barwick: leading the effort to save Grand Central, preventing Mort Zuckerman from building huge towers on the old Coliseum site that would have cast large shadows on Central Park, pushing for waterfront parks and development, and, Society chairman Philip Howard told Crain's, "building a magnificent new Moynihan Station." Oh? We'll admit we haven't been up Eighth Avenue in the Thirties in a week or two, but, um, we really think someone would have told us if there were a magnificent new Moynihan Station. Right? Municipal Art Society Head Stepping Down [Crain's NY]

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You Wanna Buy a Rail Yard?

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So, once again: Any takers for the West Side rail yards? You know, the 26 acres of relative wasteland along Eleventh Avenue, from 30th to 33rd Street? The state and the yards' current owner, the MTA, formally announced today that it will be accepting bids for the whole shebang. The part of the offering that City Hall will like: twelve acres of greenery and a "cultural center." The part the developers will like: residential "skyscrapers up to 70 stories tall." The usual suspects are expected to come a-courting: Tishman Speyer, Brookfield, the Durst Organization, and Vornado (the last two working in concert). And the part that we find immensely curious: The buyers will be required to submit separate bids "with" and "without" the High Line, a stretch of which grazes the yards. Which means, in essence, that nobody — least of all the sellers — has any idea whatsoever how that one will play out. Bids to Be Sought for West Side Railyards [NYT]

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Moynihan Station Is Back From the Dead, Probably

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It's tough to keep track of what's going on with Moynihan Station. Seemingly decades ago, the late Senator Pat Moynihan came out with the idea of relocating Penn Station into the adjacent Farley Post Office, a 1912 building designed by McKim, Mead, and White to complement their old Penn Station across the street, now tragically destroyed. The idea picked up steam and sometime around last year, when it had grown into a major office-and-entertainment complex, anchored by the train station but also including a relocated Madison Square Garden and several new towers, it seemed set to go. Then in October it was delayed, and in December it was killed. According to yesterday's Times, though, now it's back again, and it's even bigger than before:
In the next three weeks, two of the city’s largest developers will unveil new plans for rebuilding the station, moving Madison Square Garden, replacing the Hotel Pennsylvania, and erecting a pair of skyscrapers, one of which would be taller than the Empire State Building, over the site of the existing station.

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The Bike Man Cometh

The Street Wizard of Copenhagen is coming to New York. That's a big deal, and great news for bicyclists and pedestrians: Danish planner Jan Gehl made his name by formulating little fixes — a plaza here, a planter there — that vastly improved pedestrian life in his home city and others from Milan to Dublin. New Transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, along with Planning commissioner Amanda Burden, took a field trip to meet him last month, and she told us last night that she's hiring him for Big Apple projects. Sadik-Khan won't say yet what he'll be working on in New York, but his firm, Gehl Architects, studies street use and designs ways to encourage it — so we suspect Department of Transportation leaders want him to make local landmarks more pleasant for walking, biking, or waiting for the light to change. Maybe he'll unchoke the Times Square bow tie, for instance, or propose ways to cross Brooklyn's Grand Army Plaza in less than 30 minutes. Presumably he's open to suggestion. —Alec Appelbaum Earlier: What Does Socialite/Planner Amanda Burden Do on Vacation?

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On Perry Street, the Death of Real-Estate Bling?

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Luxury-condo marketing went through the looking glass at a brokers' breakfast this morning for 166 Perry Street, a new 24-loft, bumpy steel-and-glass condo set to rise just east of Richard Meier's sleek towers in the far West Village. The building has private swimming pools for its penthouse duplexes and art-installation screens over the ground floor, but, interestingly, Corcoran Sunshine marketers are pushing it as, well, simple. "There's an architecture-collector market," marketer James Lansill told us in Jean-Georges's Perry Street restaurant, which will deliver room service to the building. "It's not about bling at all." Oh, no. Not at all. —Alec Appelbaum

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Biking Dutchman Hijacks Governors Island Planning Meeting

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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.

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Libeskind to Build Another Tower in Lower Manhattan

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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!

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Music and Passion Not Much Longer the Fashion: Copa to Close July 1

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The famed — if these days sort of down-on-its-heels — Copacabana nightclub is set to close in its current 34th Street location on July 1. It's been known for some months that the club will become a casualty of Hudson Yards redevelopment: A stop on the extended 7 line will go in its spot. But the actual closing date was first confirmed to us yesterday afternoon by a club publicist. The original Copa was on 60th Street; it relocated first to 57th Street and Eleventh Avenue, and it has been at its current location for the past five years. Some of the club's current parties will move to Columbus 72, which is also owned by the Copa crew, but there's no new location yet for the famous club. "Eminent domain," grumbled the club's publicist. —Tayt Harlin

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Bruce Ratner Wins a Round in Atlantic Yards Legal Battle

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A federal judge this afternoon dismissed Goldstein v. Pataki, the key eminent-domain case seeking to block Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megadevelopment. It's a major setback for the Develop Don't Destroy crowd, right? Wrong, says Matthew Brinckerhoff, DDDB's lead lawyer. Indeed, he calls it good news. "There was an initial ruling by the federal magistrate saying we didn't belong in federal court, and now a district court has said we belong in federal court but dismissed the claim," Brinckerhoff told us. Now, he says, his clients can focus their appeal on the merits of the case — that public officials delivered the massive project to Forest City Ratner when it should have gone to multiple bidders in a public process — rather than on jurisdictional technicalities. "Given where we were, we are not worse off," Brinckerhoff said. Of course — and we're not lawyers — one would imagine it would be even better not to have to appeal at all. But Brinckerhoff is standing firm and tossing off sound bites. "This is far from over," he said. —Alec Appelbaum

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Gwathmey Shocker: Soho Condo to Look Like Soho!

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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

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We're Worried About Develop Don't Destroy

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Our worries were unfounded, and DDDB should be worried about us. We got this totally wrong. The federal eminent-domain suit against Ratner — brought by DDDB, charging that the Atlantic Yards project violates the U.S. Constitution, captioned Goldstein v. Pataki — goes on. This was a state suit filed by eleven rent-stabilized tenants, charging that they were given inadequate compensation to move, and it was dismissed only on a jurisdictional issue. Apologies to everyone; mortification to us.

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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

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Ombudsmania Comes to Brooklyn

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Attention, urban megaproject buffs (and perhaps the newly ombudsunemployed Barney Calame), the Empire State Development Corporation, the state entity that green-lighted Bruce Ratner's lawsuit-plagued Atlantic Yards, has a fascinating vacancy about to open up: Atlantic Yards Ombudsman. Fun! Our imagined job listing: Short job description: A community liaison between the agency, elected officials, and the public. Expanded job description: A volunteer willing to stand up in the multiparty crossfire over the project as it lumbers from the demolition to the construction phase — while a sizable opposition lobby calls the whole thing illegal. One of the tasks is "minimizing disruptions" to the process, which may put you in the awkward position of papering over ESDC's own previous findings. Another is providing the media with fresh information on the project, which means your every word will be viciously parsed by dozens of entities with their own agendas. Workplace hazards: Daily flurry of Develop Don't Destroy press releases (the current headline on DDDB.net: "Ombudsperson Schmombudsperson"); collapsing buildings. Compensation: Not nearly enough. Ombudsman slated for Brooklyn project [Metro NY] Ombudsperson Schmombudsperson [DDDB]

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

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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?

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Dan Doctoroff's Dream Lives On, in Queens

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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

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Dan Doctoroff Discovers Communities

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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

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Chase Needs More Cash

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Last we checked with JPMorgan Chase, the megabank wanted to join the ground-zero scrum by building a 50-story skyscraper on the site of the contaminated Deutsche Bank building. There wasn't much opposition; in fact, city officials were ecstatic about this major score for the financial district. But there was one catch, as it turns out: It would need to be an even bigger score for Chase. As today's Times reports, the bank wants the kind of lavish incentive package Goldman Sachs got to build a tower in Battery Park City: $650 million worth of cash grants, tax-free bonds, and a whole buffet of tax breaks. Which left the government in the slightly ridiculous position of explaining how that was then and this is now; Spitzer is not Pataki; and downtown, while it could use a boost, is not exactly a wasteland anymore, either.

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And So the Demolition Begins

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The battle of Atlantic Yards has moved from the rarefied arena of the literary think piece through various political fights and ongoing court battles to, now, the simplest setup possible: In one corner, protesters; in the other, bulldozers. Yesterday, Forest City Ratner began knocking down four of the fifteen buildings around Flatbush Avenue it has slated for demolition. About a hundred Develop Don't Destroy stalwarts — that's the group's turnout estimate — met the machines with some chants and signage, although no one tried to actually halt the demolition. The DDDB word is that Ratner is being hasty on purpose — to create a sense that Atlantic Yards is a fait accompli, even with an eminent-domain lawsuit hanging over it and a more thorough environmental review being demanded as we speak. It's hard to shake a guilty feeling that, crude as the tactic is, Ratner may be succeeding. There's something pre-deflated about a protest sign reading, as one did yesterday, "These Demolitions Are Premature." Premature?! How about "illegal"? "Criminal"? We know they're not, technically. But you're a protest sign; you can say these things! Develop Don't Destroy Release [DDDB.net]

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Council: 2; Mayor: 0

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• The City Council overrode Bloomberg's veto and instituted a ban on metal baseball bats in high schools. And council members did the same with his veto of pedicab restrictions. A two-hitter, if you will. [Bloomberg] • President Bush is in town today for a speech and a photo op at the Harlem Village Academy Charter School, because it's been doing well under the No Child Left Behind act. We're sure the city had nothing to do with the improvement! At any rate, enjoy the gridlock. [amNY] • Historian David Halberstam, Pulitzer-winning legend of New York journalism died in a Bay Area car crash. Halberstam covered the Vietnam war for the Times and went on to write dozens of widely read books on that and other subjects. [WNBC] • The condo-weary Upper West Side is making like the Lower East and mulling a height limit on buildings. Under a proposed plan, all new construction west of the park between 97th and 110th Street would top off at about fourteen stories. [NYDN] • And the Waverly Inn — still not officially opened! — got slapped with 38 points for nine violations by the Health Department, including "mouse activity." We're sure our Grub Street brethren will have more to say, so let us just quickly smile at Mr. Carter's plan for a "Waverly cat" to deal with the mice. [NYT]

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It's Not Easy Being Green

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Mayor Bloomberg's released PlaNYC 2030, his environmental agenda for the next quarter-century, yesterday (on Earth Day! get it?) at the Museum of Natural History (nature! get it?). It's almost too sprawling to recap, not to mention hell to pronounce ("plan-why-see twenty-thirty"?), but we know we'd be thrown out of the Bloggers' Association if we didn't do our best to take the most multifaceted matter and reduce it to five talking points. Herewith, our attempt to suss out the essence of the 127 proposed projects.

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