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Jail Reopening and Expansion Proposed for the Corner of Atlantic and Smith

Brooklyn jail
Two city commissioners revived plans last night to reinvent the jail system — and, they say, gloss up Atlantic Avenue in the bargain. Martin Horn, who runs Corrections and Probation, told a roomful of architects that marooning detainees on Rikers Island thwarts justice (“Nothing angers a judge more than having a jury impanelled and a defendant stuck in traffic on the BQE”) and tempts disaster (the one bridge to Rikers evidently sits between a jet-fuel tank and what Horn describes as “railroad cars full of chlorine gas”).

Developer’s Dreams Deferred in Long Island City

Silvercup West
Long Island City won't be transitioning from Next Big Thing to Big Thing quite as quickly as some were planning. In August 2006, Alan and Stuart Suna, the brothers who run Silvercup Studios near the Queensboro Bridge, unveiled city-approved plans for Silvercup West: a new soundstage and offices and 1,000 apartments (150 priced for people of moderate means), plus retail, a gym, and an esplanade on the waterfront, all designed by Pritzker Prize–winning architect Richard Rogers and set to begin construction in 2008. But it's taken a year, Silvercup CEO Alan Suna says, to get permission to enter the site and test the soil around a power plant the team will have to clear. And now that the builders have gotten into the dirt, they've discovered that the bedrock was not where they expected it to be. Is there something toxic in there? Nobody will say. So when will we get this handsome new neighborhood? “We really can't give a target date at this point,” says Silvercup spokesperson Cara Marino Gentile. Adds Rogers spokesperson Paul Stelmaszczyk, “We are not currently working on any adjustments to the design.” That’s the sound of a project stalling out. LIC loft-dwellers have a little more time, it seems, to relish that pioneer spirit. —Alec Appelbaum

Robert A.M. Stern Likens New Larry Silverstein Development to the ‘Titanic’

99 Church
Developer Larry Silverstein says his new deal to build a Four Seasons hotel and condo tower downtown will help steer lower Manhattan through the banking industry's crisis, but not everyone in his circle is matching his strut. At a civic-alliance breakfast this morning, Silverstein presented his plan to replace the stately former Moody's headquarters, up Church Street from the Woolworth Building, with a 912-foot stone tower by 2011, creating the city's tallest residential building. The building's design is by neoclassicist Robert A.M. Stern, who worked up 15 Central Park West — which, Silverstein crowed, "broke all records for sales." But this morning, after some lukewarm talk about assisting in the rebirth of lower Manhattan "in a way that I'm comfortable with," Stern betrayed some major butterflies. "I never thought when I was growing up in New York that I'd get to design a building taller than the Woolworth Building," he told us. "That makes for sleepless nights and exciting mornings — I'm like a guy on the Titanic, and I just hope we don't crash." —Alec Appelbaum

Chris Smith: Ratner Showing Fear, At Last?

Atlantic Yards
Here's the argument Bruce Ratner's lawyers won't be making in court: "Please hurry up and make a decision on the lawsuits challenging Atlantic Yards, judges, because the delay is cutting into our profits." But while the sentiment goes unvoiced, that's what Ratner's current posturing is really all about. Last week Ratner's representatives filed papers with a state appellate panel seeking to expedite a ruling because "the credit markets are in turmoil at this time … There is a serious question as to whether, given the current state of the debt market, the underwriters will be able to proceed with the financing for the arena while the appeal is pending."

JPMorgan Chase Tower at WTC Site to Lose the Beer Gut

JPMorgan Chase Tower
We're no closer to knowing when the toxin-clouded former Deutsche Bank building will come down from its corner at the World Trade Center site, but we have fresh reason to look forward to the JPMorgan Chase tower that's supposed to replace it. Someone close to the process tells us that the ponderous bulge on the lower floors of the design (labeled a "beer belly" by some critics) has vanished from the plans. Early renderings indicated that the projection would hold the bank's trading floor, but it was received negatively by preservationists. The building still must negotiate a tangle of parking, security, and public spaces while offering wide, high trading floors, says our source. "Amenity floors and cafeterias and conference centers add up to different sizes," the insider explained. So some creative structuring beyond the standard straight tower model may still be required. But we have it on good authority that the architecture will be more sloping than slouching. That is, of course, if the state clears the site up before JPMorgan gets tired of waiting and starts considering other locations… —Alec Appelbaum

Dan Doctoroff's Replacement: Innie or Outie?

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With the official news of Dan Doctoroff's departure as the city's economic-development czar, the hunt is on to find a lame-duck replacement for him — one that can carry out the mayor's ambitious NYC2030 plan. So, one source tells us that City Hall recruiters have been feeling around for any takers and have so far reached out to at least two possibilities. One of them is Alan Fishman, the former president of Sovereign Bank who now chairs the mayor's Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation. (A call to Fishman was not immediately returned.) The other person that's said to have been asked about Doctoroff's job is Sean Donovan, who now runs the mayor's Department of Housing Preservation and Development. “This could be a very good choice,” one politico told New York. “Shaun and Dan have very different philosophical approaches to development. Shaun has a great reputation for working with community groups and community boards and can build allegiances there, and that was always Doctoroff’s weakness. He wanted to bulldoze things through.” Donovan is the choice most frequently mentioned in press reports, but Fishman could be the private-sector outsider we hear that City Hall has been secretly hoping for. Time, and more rushed press conferences, will probably tell. —Geoffrey Gray Earlier: Dan Doctoroff May Still Save Us

Have We Found Libeskind's Manhattan Tower at Madison Square Park?

One Madison Ave
Some months ago, Daniel Libeskind told us he was designing his first tower in Manhattan. We asked where it was, and he said he couldn't tell us, yet, but he would as soon as all the official folderol allowed. A few days later, someone who knows Libeskind mumbled something to us about "One Madison," then promptly hushed up. For months, Libeskind's people have said only that Israeli developer Elad Properties is Libeskind's client for a project somewhere in Manhattan. Well, today, an Israeli news service is reporting that Elad is developing a 74-story apartment tower at One Madison Avenue. You know, that pretty landmark with the illuminated clock tower? According to the report, they'll be adding many stories to make the new structure one of the tallest residential towers in the world.

Coney Island USA to Buy Its Building, Thwarting Thor

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You'd need a fortune-teller to determine the future of Coney Island these days: What will Thor Equities ultimately build, and will the city swap land with the developer, as has been proposed, to preserve amusements on the boardwalk? But this much, at least, is clear: Fans of sword swallowers and facial tattoos can down a celebratory pint of Coney Island Lager in two weeks, when the nonprofit that runs the Mermaid Parade, the Coney Island Museum, and the Circus Sideshow closes a deal to buy the building it currently leases. Coney Island USA founder Dick Zigun says that with the city’s backing, it will purchase the 1917 structure, originally a restaurant, at a price of $3.6 million — beating out Thor for the deal. "We have never been so secure and permanent in the neighborhood," Zigun said, "and that's totally thanks to the political leadership of New York City." Within five years the building will be restored to its former glory and the Coney Island Circus Sideshow will expand, along with the Freak Bar and museum gift shop, to twice its size. Best of all, this means the Mermaid Parade will have a long-term home base. Unless, Zigun points out, everything is under water 30 years from now. —Daniel Maurer

There Goes the Neighborhood: Longstanding UWS Lefty Emporium to Close

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Isn't the Upper West Side — especially the upper reaches of the eighties and into the nineties (and well into the hundreds) — supposed to be for lefty intellectual sorts following familiar routines in their sprawling, rent-controlled prewars? Not anymore, it increasingly seems. The owners of Liberty House, a neighborhood fixture on Broadway and 92nd, posted a sign two days ago announcing it will close its doors after 39 years in business, leaving area residents wondering where they'll find antiwar posters, jewelry handmade by local artisans, and Frida Kahlo tchotchkes.

Take a Look at the Freedom Tower Lobby

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Some day — one hopes sooner rather than later — the Freedom Tower will be an actual building, not just an idea to argue about, and that building will have a lobby. Daily Intel got the first look at renderings of the planned lobby, designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. A 60-foot-high expanse of prismatic glass looks out on the memorial pool. "The lobby sheds light into the memorial pool," explained SOM's TJ Gottesdiener. "And the front door is celebrated." Where the old Twin Towers sealed themselves from the street, the new lobby echoes the old bustle of downtown — true to the notion that Daniel Libeskind laid out before he lost control of the building's design. "The greatest thing about Danny's master plan is that it lets streets flow," Gottesdiener said. Got that? Even more impressive than the renderings, SOM just said something nice about Libeskind. —Alec Appelbaum

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]

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]

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.

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?

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

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.

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!

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

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

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