You Wanna Buy a Rail Yard?
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]
in other news
Moynihan Station Is Back From the Dead, Probably
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 ComethThe 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?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
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 ManhattanDaniel 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
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
it just happened
Bruce Ratner Wins a Round in Atlantic Yards Legal Battle
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!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
in other news
We’re Worried About Develop Don’t DestroyOur 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.
Trump’s Condo-Hotel Gambit Works; City Approves Soho Tower
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
atlantic yards watch
Ombudsmania Comes to Brooklyn
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]
High Line Cars Should Stay on the Street, Community Board Says
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
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
Chase Needs More Cash
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.
atlantic yards watch
And So the Demolition Begins
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]
the morning line
Council: 2; Mayor: 0
• 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]
in other news
It’s Not Easy Being Green
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.
it just happened
Judge Won’t Stand in Ratner’s WayA New York State judge announced this afternoon that she won’t stop Bruce Ratner from razing several Brooklyn buildings to start construction on his Atlantic Yards project. Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn appeared in a lower Manhattan courtroom Tuesday to request a temporary restraining order against Forest City Ratner, keeping the developer from starting demolition pending a May 3 hearing on DDDB’s lawsuit claiming in inadequate environmental-review process. Justice Joan Madden promised a decision today, and she has now denied the DDDB request. FCR showed Madden a schedule Wednesday outlining the demolition of fifteen buildings between April 18 and the end of June, she wrote. Reasoning that a restraining order “is a drastic remedy which should be sparingly used,” she wrote she failed to find “factual support” that the first nine buildings on the block will “affect the nature and character of the area.” DDDB chief Daniel Goldstein quickly issued a statement. “The court expressly stated that in making today’s TRO decision it was not pre-judging the merits of petitioners claims filed on April 5th,” he said in a press release. He has called a protest for Monday at 8 a.m. at 191 Flatbush Avenue, where he expects demolition work to begin.
In the Matter of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn v. Empire State Development Corporation [PDF]
On the Upper West Side, a Rare Win for TenantsScore 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.
Public to Get Input on Hudson Yards Next MonthThe 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
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
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
Photograph, Then DestroyThe usually indefatigable Develop Don’t Destory Brooklyn, which media outlets across the city can typically rely upon for Ratner-castigating press releases pegged to almost any occurrence, sent this today:
From: Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn
Sent: Tuesday, April 10, 2007 10:36:46 AM
Subject: Sol Lewitt Wall Paintings in Ratner Building Slated for Atlantic Yards Demo
Artist Sol Lewitt, a giant in the conceptual and minimal art movements and one of the great innovators in the past 40 years, died on Sunday at the age of 78. Lewitt was famous, amongst other works, for his wall paintings …
644 Pacific Street is in the footprint of Bruce Ratner’s proposed “Atlantic Yards” project, specifically in the footprint of the arena itself. In that building, once occupied by one of Mr. Lewitt’s studio assistants, are at least two wall paintings by the artist. The building is in the list of the first round of demolitions the developer intends to begin in the coming weeks. These wall paintings should be photographed for historical documentation and the Sol Lewitt catalogue.
Photographed?! That’s it? Either they’re crappy Lewitts, or Daniel Goldstein is going soft.
On Sol Lewitt [DDDB]
atlantic yards watch
Another Lawsuit, and More ConstructionThe Atlantic Yards standoff has entered a stage probably best described with the help of a folksy simile, maybe something about a man haranguing a bear that, meanwhile, is quietly chewing his leg. How so? Well, today there’s news of the fourth and latest lawsuit against Forest City Ratner, this one filed by Assemblyman James Brennan. It demands that the Yards’ business plan be made available for public scrutiny. On the ground, meantime, there’s conspicuous activity (deliberately so, say critics): Bulldozers are humming, an old bus parking lot is gone, and asbestos is being ferried out of a Pacific Street building in preparations for demolition. Come to think of it, the situation is beginning to look less like a standoff and more like a game of chicken. But, then, we wonder if Brennan even needs to win his suit for it to be a success: Demanding transparency on a high-profile city project is probably not the worst thing to do if you’re running for city comptroller.
UPDATE: Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn’s indefatigable Daniel Goldstein emails to point out that the most recent lawsuit against Ratner, fresh out of the legal oven, was filed today by 26 co-petitioners seeking to annul the Yards’ environmental-impact statement. The Brennan suit has been kicking around since last month. The more the merrier!
Clearing of Atlantic Yards’ Site Proceeds as Legal Thicket Grows Denser [NYT]
New TKTS Now on Track for Fall
When the stalwart seventies-era TKTS booth in Father Duffy Square — it’s not Times Square, mind you, but the square just north of it — came down a year ago, we were promised a new version, complete with a shiny red staircase as a roof, a public space to rival Rome’s Spanish Steps, in time for last New Year’s Eve. No dice. What happened? An ownership change at the manufacturer originally slated to provide glass for that new hull derailed things, architect Nick Leahy of Perkins Eastman tells us. But the team is finalizing its choice for a new supplier, Leahy says, and expects the goods by late summer. “It was a hiccup that we managed,” Leahy says. “The ticket booth is in place and the geothermal heating [underground] is in place, and I would expect installation by early fall.” Which means it’ll be ready for next New Year’s or whatever autumn events — the World Series on the Jumbotron, the Macy’s parade, impeachment hearings — you might be looking forward to. —Alec Appelbaum
the morning line
• The Times reveals that the Garden State has been regularly raiding its own state-worker pension fund, funneling billions into other government projects. Given the size of its public sector, disaster looms; New Jersey, we thought better of you. [NYT]
• Activists in East Harlem faced bulldozers in a dramatic, and failed, showdown over a community garden. The site, on 110th and Fifth, is being cleared for the future Museum for African Art — and, of course, a luxury condo tower. [amNY]
• The Giuliani campaign, God’s gift to tabloids, has turned to Rudy’s international-policy experience: “I’ve probably been in foreign lands more than any other candidate” as a private consultant, he assured New Hampshire and hinted he’ll hit Iraq next. [NYDN]
• The Knitting Factory, the Tribeca music institution, is promising not to go the way of Tonic, Sin-é, CBGB, and many others: Should the rent skyrocket when its lease runs out, the club will try buying the whole building. [MetroNY]
• And midtown’s old-money hangout/tourist trap ‘21’ Club has even longer arms than previously thought: It just stopped the Pittsburgh Pirates from naming a stadium sports bar “Club 21.” Because otherwise the two would be indistinguishable. [NYP]
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.
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]
Moynihan Station, an Autopsy
It’s Over, and It’s Over
Dan Doctoroff Issues Vague Call for Bold Sacrifice
A city planning guru dropped hints Monday that Team Bloomberg might be considering “congestion pricing” to charge drivers for the privilege of adding to gridlock, and today Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff the chief planning guru did nothing to discourage the speculation. Speaking at the annual meeting of the New York Metropolitcan Transportation Council, a regional body that coordinates federal transportation funds, Doctoroff talked of needing “a shift in the way we use automobiles” and called “congestion road, transit and pedestrian” the city’s main barrier to growth. He also noted that taxes and user fees funded the 1811 street grid, the dedication of Central Park, and the city’s water network. “Those who benefit should pay,” he said. Was he hinting at a new fee on driving or cars? Providing political cover for an MTA fare increase? Telling the suburban county chiefs in attendance to look out for a commuter tax? It remains to be seen. But he did promise to issue the mayor’s sustainability plan in early April, just before tax time. —Alec Appelbaum
Earlier: Bloomberg’s Planners Hear Public on Traffic Woes, Would Rather Talk About Something Else
Forget Condos; It’s ChinatownAn 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.
Bill Moyers Does Not Care for Glass Phallic Symbols (or, Not Unreasonably, for Us)A few weeks ago, Daily Intel’s “Neighborhood Watch” mentioned Bill Moyers’s involvement in neighborhood protests over a residential tower the New-York Historical Society wants to build on the Upper West Side. (Later, we got confused and suggested he was also opposed to a Chelsea development, a mistake we quickly corrected.) In a letter to the magazine, Moyers takes issue with our portrayal, takes another jab at the Historical Society, and concedes that we did at least spell his name correctly.
The text of his letter is after the jump, or you can read it here as a PDF. (See real Moyers letterhead!)
South Street Seaport: Some Fresh Food With Your Towers?
The old Fulton Fish Market never caused such a stink. Word leaked last week that the new owner of South Street Seaport, General Growth Properties, wanted to create a tower and open space over what’s now the morose “festival marketplace” of Pier 17 — and last night, area residents attempted to slap down the idea. “People in this room are terrified at the idea of towers,” declared Jeffrey Schneider, head of the 117 Beekman Street condo association. General Growth’s architect, Gregg Pasquarelli, whose firm SHoP worked on the city’s plan to build pavilions and parkland on nearby East Side piers, promised that squeezing the mall’s square footage into a tower was just one of “25 plans” he’s mustering for the new owner. Neighbors want playgrounds and schools; Pasquarelli mentioned the possibility of an outdoor market. Indeed, civic types have proposed New Amsterdam Public, which would be a year-round healthy-food cornucopia. Locally grown kumquats near historic vessels sounds lovely, but General Growth rep Michael McNoughton tells us he expects “several more months” of public talks before his firm proposes a plan. Talks, indeed. As a 119 Beekman resident said: “If you think we’re difficult, wait until you deal with Brooklyn Heights.” —Alec Appelbaum
Kids Do Grown-up Planning for a Chinatown Park
Find the development imbroglio at ground zero childish? Redirect your gaze to Chinatown, then, where some kid-focused planning is progressing in a very mature way. The nonprofit design firm Hester Street Collaborative is rebuilding Sara D. Roosevelt Park — that slab of concrete and turf running from the Manhattan Bridge to Houston Street — by using art exercises to determine what kinds of new fields and seating areas the local kids and elderly need, and the designers celebrated their progress last week at their second annual Chinese New Year party. Collaborative director Anne Frederick says she’s still building consensus and won’t show off designs yet to avoid ruffling feathers — Larry Silverstein, are you listening? — but her group and the schoolkids it trains have already made a mark. There’s talk of making the sidewalk-stenciled names and kid-painted historic signs it set up last spring at Allen and Grand into the basis for a permanent upgrade of the midblock malls. —Alec Appelbaum
Atlantic Yards Begins Not With a Bang But With a Bulldozer in a Snowy Lot
There it is, folks: The start of demolition for Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards. Reports say they’re knocking down a disused bus depot to create a temporary rail yard so that construction can begin. From the AP’s pictures, it just looks like they’re using a really big bulldozer to move some barrels and take down a chain-link fence. Either way, historic!
Earlier: Bruce Ratner Swings His Ball
atlantic yards watch
Bruce Ratner Swings His Ball
It has begun. As you read this, Bruce Ratner’s bulldozers should be moving in on a defenseless bus depot on the eastern edge of the Atlantic Yards site. Depending on your point of view, this is either an uplifting bit of symbolism or the rough equivalent of Bambi’s mother getting shot by hunters. For the Daily News, which seems capable of looking at the multi-skyscraper megaproject only through the prism of basketball, everything’s coming up roses: “The Brooklyn Nets arena has finally got game,” its coverage begins. Naturally, the ever-indignant Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn takes a different tack.
the morning line
Viva Sullivan County
• Governor Spitzer has approved a “Las Vegas-style” gambling den in the Catskills. The Mohawk tribe will run it, despite the casino being 400 miles away from its reservation, and the state will get a 25 percent cut. That is, if environmentalists and the U.S. Secretary of the Interior get on board. [NYT]
• Call us twisted, but we love watching JetBlue continue to flagellate itself over last week’s stranding of its JFK passengers; the CEO of the formerly cuddly airline is scripting a my-bad TV ad and proposing a “customer bill of rights” that will financially penalize JetBlue for such things. [NYDN]
• The Brooklyn District Attorney’s office seems eager to reinvent itself as a telenovela. An ADA was suspended for allegedly passing witness info to her boyfriend, a defense attorney; that’s one day after a female investigator was accused of a dalliance with a jailed mobster. How soon before evil twins show up? [NYP]
• Next up for Bloombergian rezoning: the Garment Center. Crain’s predicts “a flurry of buying and selling.” Luxury condos? Actually, no, just newer and better offices. Whew. [Crain’s]
• And you can always rely on the City Council for an offbeat ordinance proposal. Today, the honor goes to Councilman Simcha Felder, who wants warning labels on coffee. [amNY]
Happy Chinese New Year!Carroll Gardens: Will a bank, national chain store, or real-estate office replace Bleach House, the Dickensiansly named, now-defunct launderette on Court Street? [423smith]
Chinatown: Party like it’s 4705! That’s right, the Chinese New Year kicked off this weekend. Welcome to the Year of the Pig. [Gothamist]
Coney Island: The PR firm for development giant Thor Equities has released another homemade-looking “newsletter” about future Coney fun — which yet again makes no mention of Thor’s planned condo towers for the area. [Gowanus Lounge]
Greenpoint: From the looks of the floor plan, it seems like the Polish movie house turned Burger King at 910 Manhattan Avenue is due to become Greenpoint’s first Starbucks. Rejoice or recoil? [Curbed]
West Village: When special people like Sarah Jessica Parker, Lucy Lawless, or Christine Quinn need to pick up a package, they do it at Something Special, a mailbox-rental place on Macdougal and Houston. [The Villager]
in other news
Well, It’s a Marvelous Night for Luxury Condos
Fulton Mall isn’t the only cityscape element earmarked for the insta-nostalgia scrap heap today. Moondance Diner, the Soho staple beloved by tourists and film crews, is heading into the sunset as well. And as much as we’d love to tell you that the diner and its adjacent parking lot are being replaced by a community center teaching disadvantaged kids interior design and molecular gastronomy, that’s not the case. The case is l-u-x-u-r-y c-o-n-d-o-s. (When the city is entirely luxury condos, where will people eat? Shop? Park? Are we the only ones who wonder this?) It remains to be seen if the developer, Hudson Island LLC, will add insult to injury by, say, appropriating the shimmery texture of the Moondance logo for the lobby walls.
Goodnight, Moondance [NYS]
in other news
Who’s Afraid of Brooklyn Redevelopment?
The great thing about the Atlantic Yards imbroglio is that, while everyone’s busy yelling about that, other developers can do all sorts of things right next door. There are, for example, at least three condo towers quietly rising on the edges of Bruce Ratner’s megaproject. And now, with very little fanfare, a deal has been reached to erect one of Brooklyn’s tallest buildings mere blocks from the epicenter. Where, you ask, will it go? Let’s see how to break this to you. Remember Fulton Mall? Excellent. Now forget it.
the morning line
• A seven-months-pregnant Brooklyn cop stands accused of covering up for her ex-con husband, who shot another (plainclothes) officer. We give it seven weeks until it’s a Law & Order plotline. [NYDN]
• Speaking of ripping things from the headlines, the speed with which the Law & Order machine has absorbed Adrienne Shelly’s murder is rubbing a lot of people the wrong way — even the actress playing her corpse. [NYT]
• With the U.N. building set for a $1.2 billion spruce-up, diplomats are looking for a temporary home; Bloomberg has scheduled a private talk with Condoleezza Rice about keeping the august institution in NYC for the time being. We suggest HoJo’s. [NYP]
• The 55-story Bank of America Tower at 42nd and Sixth is going to be the greenest building in town, with a 300-ton icebox for a cooling system and recyclable tap water (it will feed the sprinklers in the rooftop garden). If, you know, costs allow. [amNY]
• And the state is hiring marketers to fuck up, sorry, “invigorate” the iconic “I ♥ N.Y.” ad campaign. Because leaving good enough alone is just not the New York way. [WNBC]
Beware of Riprap in Greenpoint and Williamsburg
The city presented its latest plans for redeveloping the Greenpoint-Williamsburg waterfront Wednesday night, and — believe it or not — local activist groups liked the proposals. The new plans include boat launches, picnic grounds, wetland preserves, which are all things — like a more natural-looking waterfront, a bit of which is shown in the rendering above — community groups have been asking for. “I believe they are making a true effort to tune the plan into a community vision,” said Laura Hoffman of the Greenpoint Waterfront Association for Parks and Planning. She gave props to how the plan integrates Greenpoint Terminal Market artifacts — like old ropes and bricks — into the park’s design. (We like this new rendering not least because landscapers call the sort of rocky water-edge depicted “riprap.”) How’d things get so lovey-dovey? Team Bloomberg persuaded three developers of waterfront high-rises to turn over open space to the city, and then the city designed with local priorities in mind. The impending towers still give some Williamsburgers the willies, and earlier renderings of the waterfront, warned Jasper Goldman of the Municipal Art Society, “looked like San Diego.” But gritty riprap? That’s so New York. —Alec Appelbaum
Urban Planners Agree: New York in 2030 Will SuckPlanning to stick around town for the next 23 years? You might want to reconsider … Apparently the New York of 2030 — the major American city at the second-greatest risk of catastrophic hurricane damage after Miami, by the way — will be facing a homelessness epidemic, more Miss Brooklyn–esque way-out-of-scale enormous buildings over rail yards, a major shortage of engineers qualified to construct such things, and a war between the union and nonunion laborers who build them. These were the lessons of last night’s NYC 2030 planning meeting, which opened with a cheery presentation by Bloomberg’s sustainability czar, Rohit Aggarwala, who has the task of preparing a 2030 blueprint by March, and had come to urban-planning experts for volunteer brainstorming. It turned out to be presumably not the brainstorming he was hoping for.
Doctoroff Goes to Harlem, Gets Smacked
Dan Doctoroff, Bloomberg’s all-powerful development czar, very rarely has his ass kicked in public. But at a Harlem symposium on Robert Moses’s legacy last night, Majora Carter, who runs the environmental advocacy group Sustainable South Bronx, did just that. As various bigshots praised the vital role of public input in today’s successful megaprojects — Atlantic Yards was never mentioned — Doctoroff contended that Team Bloomberg had buried Moses’s high-handed legacy. Carter, whose group has proposed a recycling facility where the city wants to build a 2,000-bed jail, begged to differ.
the morning line
One Day, Everything Will Be Named for the ‘Daily Show’ Host
• The Post has “Mob scion” Chris Colombo on tape waxing nostalgic about the days of former New York A.G. Dennis Vacco: “Spitzer is the worst. Vacco was the best. He didn’t care about anything. I had a hook in him.” Oh, the election ad that would have made. [NYP]
• So there’s JFK, La Guardia, Newark and … Stewart? With the Spitz’s blessing, the Port Authority is about to buy an underused airport 60 miles north of the city and turn it into the region’s fourth international hub. Pataki, apparently, hated the idea. [NYT]
• We suppose it was inevitable: The issue of how to list the names of WTC victims on the 9/11 memorial — alphabetically, at random, in weird associative clusters — is now fodder for hysterical TV ads running on NY1. [amNY]
• So there’s this $140 million police-radio system the MTA had been installing in the subways for ten years. It’s done, but the cops won’t use it: Everything sounds “as if you’re talking through a glass of water.” A $140 million glass of water. [NYT]
• And the Daily News somehow “learned,” unprompted by any recent developments, that Thor Equities is planning to redevelop Coney Island as a “glitzy playground” — a plan in the works for years. Let’s not tell the paper about the whole WTC memorial thing; it might upset them. [NYDN]
in other news
Give Me Your Kite Fliers, Your Pork Roast, Your Pot-Smoking Teenagers Yearning to See Bloc Party
Governors Island is a unique spot: It’s 172 acres in the middle of New York harbor featuring a shoreline facing Lady Liberty, landmarked forts, and small hills perfect for sled runs. And as the city and state plan to convert the new-abandoned military base into a public park, you’d like to think the Governors Island Preservation & Education Corporation could come up with an equally unique plan. You’d be disappointed. Last night Leslie Koch, who heads the city-state entity, announced five finalists for a landscape-design competition. The group includes Field Operations, which is overhauling Fresh Kills; Diller Scofidio & Renfro, Field Operations’ partner on the High Line redevelopment; and Weiss Manfredi, currently beloved for a riverside park in Seattle — which suggests we’re heading toward a Governors Island scheme that is perfectly competent but unlikely to be original. What uses should these designers have in mind? Koch proposes multiday music festivals, kite-flying, and cookouts. “Grilling,” she notes, “is illegal in most city parks.” Fair enough. But can’t we come up with some more thrilling plans? Here’s the best hope: The gossamer gondola that Santiago Calatrava sketched for the mayor’s office last summer remains under consideration. Public comment begins this summer. —Alec Appelbaum
Governors Island Preservation & Education Corporation [Official site]
Gridlock Sam Certifies Meatpacking Traffic Jam; Civic Group Seeks a Way Out
The meatpacking district’s nighttime revelers don’t do much for area residents’ peace of mind. The two groups would seem to be natural enemies, but last night the new Greater Gansevoort Urban Improvement Project started seeking common ground to improve the neighborhood. The city plans to make Ninth Avenue one-way from 14th Street to 16th Street. So area stalwarts Jo Hamilton and Florent Morellet, the group’s founders, hosted a design workshop at Robert Fulton Homes to discuss what accompanying streetscape improvements everybody can endorse. Former transportation commissioner (and current transportation guru) Sam Schwartz presented a study confirming Gansevoort Plaza is overflowing: It seems 72 percent of all taxis and black cars there on an average night are double-parked. Block-association veterans then joined nightlife impresarios like Lotus owner David Rabin to suggest ways to make things better. By summer, Schwartz will parlay the ideas (submit yours to firstname.lastname@example.org) into realistic targets. Then Hamilton and Morellet will convene more workshops to harmonize residents, merchants, and bureaucracies. Seems impossible? Maybe not. During the workshop, Hamilton flagged down a DOT liaison to thank her agency’s “cobblestone task force” for upgrading the quaint corner of 13th and Washington. “We did?” the rep responded. Amazing the things you learn when people work together. —Alec Appelbaum