03.10.09

03.10.09

As part of the “Not Business as Usual” forums at the Center for Architecture, a new website, Exchange Point, has been launched. Be sure to visit to post your resume, look for job opportunities and collaboration prospects, post available office space, search for continuing education courses, and more!

– Jessica Sheridan, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP


CLICK ON BLOG CENTRAL: AIANY BLOG: The AIANY Chapter’s Blog Central features opinion pieces on architectural issues relevant to NY-based designers, firms, and projects, along with spotlights on debates and discussions at the Center for Architecture and AIANY. It is an informal discussion board. To become a regular contributor to Blog Central, please e-mail e-Oculus. Pen names are welcome.

2009 Building Type Awards Announced

The AIA New York/Boston Society of Architects Building Type Award Winners are:

Housing — Built Honor
Hacin + Associates, Inc.
FP3, Boston, MA

Hacin + Associates, Inc.
Project Place Gatehouse, Boston, MA

Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects with Schuman, Lichtenstein, Claman, Efron
The Visionaire, NY, NY

Housing — Built Merit
Studio Daniel Libeskind with Davis Partnership
Denver Art Museum Residences, Denver, CO

nARCHITECTS
Switch Building, NY, NY

Health Facilities — Built Merit
HOK
Community Hospital of Monterey Peninsula Expansion (CHOMP), Monterey, CA

ikon.5 architects
The Center for Wellness at the College of New Rochelle, New Rochelle, NY

Health Facilities — Unbuilt, Commissioned Merit
NBBJ with Chan Krieger Sieniewicz
Massachusetts General Hospital, Building for the Third Century, Boston, MA

Jurors Roll Out Red Carpet for 2009 AIANY Design Awards

Event: 2009 AIANY Design Awards: Jury Symposium and Announcement of Winners
Location: Center for Architecture, 02.23.09
Speakers: Brian Healy, AIA — Principal, Brian Healy Architects; David Miller, FAIA — Partner, The Miller|Hull Partnership; Terence Riley, AIA — Director, Miami Art Museum & Partner, K/M; Randy Brown, FAIA, LEED AP — Principal in Charge, Randy Brown Architects; Ivonne Garcia, AIA — Associate Principal, AECOM; Eva Jiricna, Hon. FAIA — Principal, Eva Jiricna Architects; Peter Chermayeff, FAIA — Principal, Peter Chermayeff and Poole; Rahul Mehrotra — Principal, Rahul Mehrotra Associates; Dominique Perrault, Hon. FAIA — Principal, Dominique Perrault Architecture
Moderator: Barry Bergdoll — The Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design, Museum of Modern Art
Organizer: AIA Design Awards Committee
Sponsors: Benefactor: ABC Imaging; Patrons: Cosentino North America; Syska Hennessy Group; The Rudin Family; Lead Sponsors: Dagher Engineering; The Durst Organization; HOK; Mancini Duffy; Sponsors: AKF Group; Building Contractors Association; FXFOWLE Architects; Hopkins Foodservice; Ingram Yuzek Gainen Carroll & Bertolotti; JFK&M Consulting Group; KI; Langan Engineering & Environmental Services; Mechoshade Systems; Rogers Marvel Architects; Studio Daniel Libeskind; Tishman Realty & Construction; VJ Associates; Weidlinger Associates; Zumtobel Lighting/International Lights

Architecture Honor Award-winning Dutchess County Residence by Allied Works Architecture (left); Interiors Merit Award-winning Nike Genealogy Of Speed by Lynch/Eisinger/Design (right).

Helene Binet (left); © Albert Vecerka/Esto (right); Courtesy AIANY

Since this year the AIANY Design Awards were held the night after the Oscars, perhaps the comparisons were inevitable: “This is our Academy Awards moment,” quipped chapter president Sherida Paulsen, FAIA. But luckily the jurors and moderator Barry Bergdoll of the Museum of Modern Art refrained from performing musical numbers. Instead, they offered discussions of the winning projects, culled from more than 400 submissions, and advice on mistakes to avoid in submitting for the awards.

There was no Slumdog Millionaire-style sweep, but some names did pop up more than once. Allied Works Architecture won an Honor Award in the Architecture category for a guest house in Dutchess County, NY, and a Merit Award for the Museum of Arts and Design in Manhattan. Slides of the former showed a house with a steel frame that continues beyond its actual volume, as if suggesting the presence of a phantom extension. Juror Brian Healy, AIA, compared the effect with work of Sol LeWitt and enthused about how the house “allowed these kinds of ghost structures to float out and frame unoccupied space.”

The Museum of Arts and Design might seem a more surprising choice, given its sometimes-tepid critical reception, but the jurors defended it for making the best of a tricky adaptive reuse project and for reinvigorating the idea of the vertical museum. The jurors also praised Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s Honor Award-winning design for Alice Tully Hall, done in collaboration with FXFOWLE Architects, as a project that used the bones of an existing space to create something transformative. Thomas Phifer and Partners was another double winner in Architecture, with Honor Awards for the Millbrook House in Millbrook, NY, which skillfully exploits its verdant views, and the Susan and Raymond Brochstein Pavilion at Rice University in Houston, TX, a transparent, sustainable pavilion that the jurors appreciated for the way it responds to the spirit of the surrounding architecture without slavish mimicry.

The Interiors jury chose not to give any Honor Awards, simply conferring eight Merit Awards. “Not one really rose up above the others,” Randy Brown, FAIA, LEED AP, explained. “I think we were just looking for that ‘wow’ project… and I didn’t feel like we saw it.” Still, the Merit winners include some memorable entries, such as Nike Genealogy of Speed by Lynch/Eisinger/Design, a design featuring one wall whose fluid bent-steel forms might evoke the curves of a running shoe, providing a striking contrast with the rectilinear forms of product displays on the opposite wall. Brown praised the design for “pushing the technology of architecture.” Another winner in NYC, the Finger Apartment by noroof architects, stood out for its ingenious space-saving devices in a 540-square-foot apartment for a family of four.

Among the Projects honorees was the Honor Award-winning Summer Blow-Up by Stageberg Architecture PLLC: Bade Stageberg Cox. The installation’s mushroom-like inflatable structures did not win the Young Architects Program competition to design the P.S.1 courtyard this summer, but the jurors were charmed by their humor and transience. The Merit Award-winning Marriage Bureau by Johannes M. P. Knoops envisioned a spot to tie the knot on the roof of the Manhattan Municipal Building, featuring grand views of the city skyline. “Why not celebrate the city and marriage at the same time?” said Peter Chermayeff, FAIA, drawing laughter from the crowd.

In a Q&A period, OCULUS editor Kristen Richards asked jury members about pluses and pitfalls for future applicants to keep in mind in preparing their submissions. This resulted in an outpouring of tips: Put your Big Idea in the first sentence — you’ll lose the jurors’ attention if you don’t grab it right away. Test your portfolio by showing it to friends and colleagues, to make sure your project and the intention behind it are easily comprehensible. Dark, blurry images don’t serve you well — presentation counts. And last but not least, read the instructions: In a blind competition, don’t include your firm name in the submission materials.

Coping Strategies for New Practices

Event: New Practices | New Landscapes: A Call to Action
Location: Center for Architecture, 02.25.09
Speakers: Farnaz Mansuri, Assoc. AIA — Lead Designer, De-Spec; Ruperto Arvelo, AIA — Principal, Arvelo Architecture + Interiors; Matthew Bremer, AIA — Principal, Architecture in Formation; Roberta Kravette — Director, Nieuw Amsterdam Kitchens
Moderator: Marc Clemenceau Bailly, AIA — Principal, Gage/Clemenceau Architects
Organizer: AIANY New Practices Committee

The Navy Green Master Plan and Affordable Housing Development. The collaborative design team: FXFOWLE Architects (lead), Curtis+Ginsberg Architects, Architecture in Formation, and Rader+Crews (landscape). Client: Pratt Area Community Council with Dunn Development and L&M Equities.

Architecture in Formation

If large, established firms are laying off qualified workers at alarming rates, how can new or small practices stay afloat? In the first of a five-part series, the AIANY New Practices Committee attempted to answer that question.

Roberta Kravette, director of Nieuw Amsterdam Kitchens, encouraged emerging practitioners to “hang tight and be resilient.” This downtime provides an opportunity to reflect on their strengths and missions, she said. New firm practitioners could trade time with friends in other fields for business coaching and accounting advice — skills that architects often lack.

New practitioners should engage with colleagues in allied fields through community organizations, including community boards and neighborhood coalitions, according to Ruperto Arvelo, AIA, principal of Arvelo Architecture + Interiors. Volunteer organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and Architecture for Humanity and professional referral organizations such as Business Network International (BNI) are networking opportunities that allow architects to educate others about their work and can occasionally lead to paid projects.

Matthew Bremer, AIA, principal of Architecture in Formation, discussed the importance of collaboration for emerging practices. Smaller firms can merge and pool resources, ideas, and capital to form a team that can compete with “the big guys,” he said. Bremer speaks from experience: his firm is currently collaborating with several firms as part of the Navy Green Master Plan and Affordable Housing Development. The overall design team is FXFOWLE Architects (lead) with Curtis+Ginsberg Architects, Architecture in Formation, and Rader+Crews (landscape). The Supportive Housing building is also being done by Architecture in Formation (design architect) with Curtis+Ginsberg Architects (executive architect).

Farnaz Mansuri, Assoc. AIA, principal of De-Spec, noted that doctors and lawyers get their work primarily through referrals and are typically more diligent about billing than architects. She suggested that architects establish a forum where city agencies, developers, private clients, and larger architecture firms seeking collaboration could post projects, similar to classified ads. “This would encourage both entrepreneurship, camaraderie, and ultimately lead to better work.” [Note: the AIANY launched Exchange Point, for this reason. Click the link for more information.]

Corbu, the Endless Frontier

Event: Le Corbusier: Latest News from the Front
Location: Center for Architecture, 03.03.09
Speakers: Jean-Louis Cohen, Ph.D. — Sheldon H. Solow Professor of the History of Architecture, New York University Institute of Fine Arts; Mary McLeod — Professor of Architecture, Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation (respondent)
Introduction: Francine Goldenhar — Director, La Maison Franç aise, NYU
Organizers: La Maison Franç aise, NYU; AIA-NY Global Dialogues Committee

If understanding modernity means understanding Le Corbusier, it’s apparent that nobody completely does. Even historian Jean-Louis Cohen, steeped in the minutiae of Corbu’s life, works, correspondence, and psyche, finds that the study of Modernism’s chief theorist reveals incessantly unfolding levels of mystery. “I don’t consider myself a Corbumaniac,” Cohen averred, and his scholarly attention to the details of Corbu studies seems to have immunized him against the extreme reactions that Corbu tends to evoke. (Anyone assuming that time has calmed down the Corbuphobic faction should look at Guy Booth’s screed in the BBC Magazine, attacking his legacy as “monstrous.” This appeared less than a month ago.)

Like many public figures who operate under pseudonyms, Corbu had what Cohen calls a “double nature”: he was simultaneously Corbusier the prophet and Charles-Edouard Jeanneret the “Sunday painter” and private man. Corbu wrote some 20,000 to 25,000 letters, including one or two a week to his mother, as well as the Gesamtkunstwerk now known in John Goodman’s improved 2007 translation of Toward an Architecture, plus a series of lesser, unpublished writings that advanced his thinking. (“Every time Corbusier lost a competition,” Cohen said, “he tried to get revenge with a book.”) He engaged in complicated relations with the political world, drawing up plans for both Stalinist Moscow and the Italian Fascist government’s colonial regime in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (Cohen finds his politics “more naive than cynical”); he may have had flings with dancer Josephine Baker and/or the center of the British Profumo scandal, Christine Keeler (then again, Keeler’s signature in his correspondence may be a prank). He was not above doctoring photos to prove a point or publishing others’ designs as his own.

A mind as large as Corbu’s is full of ambiguities, and Cohen approaches them with both tolerance and skepticism. Cohen’s Corbu is a “spongelike” creature, borrowing ideas from cities and colleagues, creatively refracting his influences as much as he reflected them. Conditions on the front lines of Corbusiology appear lively and turbulent; London’s Barbican Centre is currently hosting an exhibition of his work, and Renzo Piano Building Workshop’s planned addition to the grounds of the Chapel of Notre Dame du Haut in Ronchamp is stirring controversy (Cohen believes it violates the contemplative spirit of the site but has gained public approbation as a “genius meets genius” project). Even while confining his attention to Corbusier’s works and thought directly — many more panels and volumes will be filled with theoretical debates over his legacy as an urbanist, the (mis)applications of his work in America and elsewhere, and the counter-reactions they have evoked — Cohen made it clear that “a lot is still to be expected from this man.”

Holl Shines New Light on Kansas City

Event: Films and Conversations with the Architects: Steven Holl: The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Bloch Building. Producer: Edgar B. Howard. Director: Tom Piper
Location: Center for Architecture, 02.19.09
Speakers: Steven Holl, AIA — Founder & Principal, Steven Holl Architects; Suzanne Stephens — Deputy Editor, Architectural Record
Organizers: Checkerboard Film Foundation; AIANY
Sponsors (film): Peter Jay Sharp Foundation

The New Bloch Building and the Nelson-Atkins Museum.

Courtesy of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

When the competition to design the addition of the Nelson-Atkins Museum was held in 1999, all of the entrants presented a design on the north side of the site. Steven Holl, AIA, however, suggested otherwise with his proposal called “stone and feather,” which placed the addition on the east side, perpendicular to the existing building. At the Center for Architecture, Holl explained, through film and discussion, the process to make his vision into a building that combines light with architecture, art, and landscape.

The film, produced by Edgar B. Howard and directed by Tom Piper, illustrated how the Bloch Building works with the existing museum to create an unfolding experience for visitors. Traveling from the Nelson-Atkins Museum through the sculpture park, Holl placed five glass “lenses” partially buried in the landscape. During the day, these lenses create varying qualities of light and perspectives for the galleries, and at night they glow like “lanterns” to illuminate the garden. Circulation and exhibition come together as a winding course, which gives shifting views of the galleries, outside sculpture, and the original museum.

After the screening, Holl talked more about museum and presented three other projects currently in the works: The Knut Hamsun Center in Hamaroy, Norway; Nanjing Museum of Art and Architecture in Nanjing, China; and the Herning Center for the Arts in Herning, Denmark. He explained that all of the projects are connected, not just because they are museums, but also because the designs consider the “particularities of the program.” Architecture is not about style, he concluded. Instead, the “site and circumstance” of the place are important, and he tries to re-examine this idea with every new project he encounters.

20th Century Construction Law Hinders 21st Century Construction

Event: Public Architects Series
Location: Center for Architecture, 02.24.09
Speakers: Terri Matthews — on behalf of the Construction Law Committee of the NYC Bar Association
Organizers: AIANY Public Architecture Committee

Currently, owners of public projects in New York are mandated to use the design-bid-build service delivery methodology for projects, with awards for the construction work going to the lowest competitive bidder(s), based primarily on price. However, this is not necessarily appropriate for every project type. Modernization of the State’s public procurement law would improve the tools available to public owners, resulting in successful collaborations and commissions, and, in turn, better public projects. At the Center for Architecture, Terri Matthews, a lawyer speaking on behalf of the Construction Law Committee of the NYC Bar Association, addressed an audience of architects, owners, and builders to discuss the Construction Law Committee’s efforts to recommend public procurement law reform for all public owners across New York State. Matthews also works as Senior Policy Advisor for the NYC Department of Design and Construction.

The Construction Law Committee of the NYC Bar Association serves to address legal and policy issues affecting the construction industry. The committee’s response to the recent State Asset Maximization commission argues that the present financial crisis warrants immediate action to provide public owners more flexibility in selecting the appropriate service delivery method for their capital construction projects — a coveted luxury enjoyed by private owners. In addition to design-bid-build and public-private partnerships (which the Commission is currently considering), design-build, and construction-manager-at-risk processes are alternate service delivery methodology options that have been implemented in the private sector as well as the public sector in other states.

Matthews discussed the number of reasons that design-bid-build is not appropriate for every project. In particular, the mandatory separation of the designer from the contractor during the design phase can lead to misalignment between the design and the reality on the ground, embedding delays and generating costs that could have been avoided by early communication among the parties. Having the lowest initial construction price does not always provide for long-term operation and maintenance costs. The lowest initial cost may, in fact, entail higher operation and maintenance costs, which are at odds with the current focus on sustainability — both environmental and financial. In addition, designers have noted that this misalignment can result in complex designs being executed inadequately. The lowest competitive bid requirement in the current process can make make public work even less attractive to contractors whose success in the private sector comes, in part, from the ability to rely on prior professional relationships and experiences with construction managers and sub-contractors.

Alice Tully Hall: A First Blush of Success

Event: Alice Tully Hall Press Preview
Location: Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, 02.19.09
Speakers: Reynold Levy — President, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts; Frank A. Bennack, Jr. — Chairman, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts; Katherine Farley — Vice Chairman, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and Chairman, Lincoln Center Development Project; Elizabeth Diller — Principal, Diller Scofidio + Renfro; Charles Renfro, AIA — Principal, Diller Scofidio + Renfro; Sylvia Smith, FAIA, LEED AP — Senior Partner, FXFOWLE Architects; Adam Kusinitz — Senior Project Manager, Lincoln Center Development Project; Ron Austin — Executive Director, Lincoln Center Development Project; Mark Holden — Principal, Acoustics, JaffeHolden; Peter Flamm — Chief of Staff and Senior Director of Planning and Logistics, Lincoln Center Development Project
Organizer: Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts

The newly opened Alice Tully Hall, re-named the Starr Theater.

Iwan Baan

Stars such as Yo-Yo Ma and David Byrne have graced the stage of Alice Tully Hall, but during a preview before its recent opening, the real star was the redesigned theater itself. With its eye-catching expanses of wood veneer curving over gill-like forms along the sides of the theater, the space seemed to embrace the onlookers with warm tones and understated forms.

The visually cohesive expanse of wood veneer was part of design architect Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s strategy to give the newly named Starr Theater a sense of intimacy it had previously been lacking, Elizabeth Diller explained. Thanks to the help of acousticians JaffeHolden, they were able to improve the 39-year-old auditorium’s acoustics and eliminate rumbles from the subway, but an equally important goal was to eliminate “unwanted visual noise,” she said. “In many halls, there are distracting elements like acoustic panels and hardware, railings, exposed equipment, exposed light fixtures, and so forth. And for this hall, we developed a high-performance wood skin, which you see wraps the entire hall, all the surfaces: the floor, the stage. We thought of the wood almost like a bespoke material, almost like a tailored suit.” The skin encloses lighting and other equipment, and its “gills” are designed to perfect the acoustics, said Sylvia Smith, FAIA, LEED AP, of associate architect FXFOWLE Architects.

The thinness of the veneer is conducive to a certain signature effect: in the moment when the theater goes dark and a hush falls before a show starts, the walls can light up in a rosy “blush” when illuminated by LEDs from behind. (See “The Unnatural: How Diller Marches to a Different Drummer,” Reports From the Field, e-Oculus, 06.24.08). When demonstrated, this glowing effect appeared a bit patchier than expected, but no doubt its novelty will still make an impact on audiences.

While “intimacy” was the watchword of the theater, designing the lobby and exterior spaces of the hall was about creating a sense of celebration and connection to the surrounding city, according to Diller. In the past, Lincoln Center has suffered from a reputation for elitism fostered by its austere superblock architecture that appeared unwelcoming from the surrounding streets. In the original 1969 Brutalist design by Pietro Belluschi, the Juilliard building that includes Alice Tully Hall was “entirely internally focused and mute to the street,” she said. In the new design, a dramatic cantilever at the corner of 65th Street and Broadway not only expands Juilliard’s space but also provides a “framing canopy” for Tully. Large glass curtain walls yield views inside, creating part of a new “Street of the Arts” along West 65th Street — a concept that was first unveiled almost five years ago and is finally starting to come to fruition, noted Lincoln Center Chairman Frank Bennack.

Especially appropriate for these recession-pinched times, the hall offers ample and inviting hang-out spots for those without tickets but longing for somewhere to relax, people-watch, and perhaps grab a cup of coffee. A visible café in the lobby tempts passersby, and outside, a whimsically designed “infopeel” (incomplete at the time of the tour) offers stairlike seating and information screens in a structure shaped like a candy wrapper curling up from the ground. “Whether you’re buying a ticket or not, we want you to come; we want you to stay a while; we want you to enjoy this precious public space on a very dense island,” declared Reynold Levy, president of Lincoln Center.

RPA, CNU Seize the Day for Smart Growth

Event: New Urbanism for New Yorkers
Location: Museum of the City of New York, 02.25.09
Speakers: John Norquist — President, Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU); Robert Yaro — President, Regional Planning Association (RPA)
Introduction: Susan Henshaw Jones — President & Director, Museum of the City of New York; John Massengale — President, CNU New York Chapter
Organizers: CNU-NY; RPA; American Planning Association NY, CT, and NJ chapters; Institute for Classical Architecture

Since the Regional Planning Association (RPA) announced its original plan for greater New York in 1929, RPA President Robert Yaro noted those familiar with the organization’s and the city’s history may be viewing the current economic crash with a sense of déjà vu. Both the RPA and the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) interpret White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel’s already-famous line “Never let a serious crisis go to waste” as a signal that spatial reconfigurations comparable to those seen during the New Deal may be imminent. The RPA’s initial plan was in many respects a precursor of New Urbanism, and with a president who reads Jane Jacobs, political and economic conditions may be more favorable toward transit-based planning and other public quality-of-life investments than at any point in living memory. Yaro and CNU President John Norquist discussed the current prospects with different emphases and warnings, but in many respects the groups are working with the same playbook.

As introductory remarks by CNU-NY’s John Massengale emphasized, President Obama’s stimulus bill carries the promise of serious progress for urbanists, planners, and regional residents. It’s severely needed, said Yaro — New York’s over-reliance on financial services is now exposed as a vulnerability, a failure to diversify the local economy — but he also offers historical perspective as a caveat against panic. Somehow, we keep bouncing back, Yaro argued. Resilience has a lot to do with density, institutions, and transit, and in these respects the New York region is well prepared to take advantage of the moment.

High-speed rail is an $8 billion priority in the stimulus package, raising the chance that the U.S. may finally get “an Acela that works” (and begin to catch up to nations like Morocco, where the 500-mile Tangier-Casablanca high-speed line is expected to be running by 2013). A strength the region has cultivated more consistently is education: eight of the world’s top 20 research universities are in the Northeast Corridor. Yaro contrasted the city’s relative economic vigor with the post-industrial despondency found upstate. He offered a 14-point set of principles for reanimating the broader Great Lakes region as industrial areas in South Korea, Germany’s Ruhr Valley, and Scotland’s Strathclyde region have done. Cities like Rochester and Buffalo likewise have strong cultural/educational bones; through placemaking strategies integrated into regional- and national-scale planning, Yaro believes, they can and should recover.

As mayor of Milwaukee (1988-2004), Norquist presided over the kind of urban renaissance that Yaro foresees elsewhere. This city reversed a longstanding economic decline, tore down a highway that disfigured its waterfront, built a vibrant walkable neighborhood in its stead, and revised its zoning according to CNU-style form-based codes. Having opposed cities’ over-reliance on federal funding over the years, Norquist sees both constructive and destructive potential in the Obama stimulus. He cautioned that the package’s emphasis on projects that are “shovel-ready” could open up the field to some highly counterproductive national investments. Highway building plans that communities have decisively rejected, he noted, may spring back to life as short-term jobs programs. If the nation takes that approach, he says, we stand to repeat the devastation we brought on ourselves in 1960s urban renewal.

The rise and decline of cities, Norquist emphasized, can be alarmingly swift. His images of Detroit and Berlin during and after World War II illustrated the criticality of transit and grids in a city’s development. By institutionalizing the recognition that streets exist for economic and cultural purposes, not just vehicle movement, Norquist says, we have the chance to capitalize on crisis, repeating the experiences of the New Deal and the City Beautiful movement after the 1890s depression. “As we come out of this recession,” he said, “people who learn these lessons and have these skills… are going to do a lot better. Because America’s going to change.”

Mayor, DOT Pave Way for Pedestrians

Off the heels of a recent survey claiming NYC is the second-worst congested city in the nation, the Office of the Mayor and the NYC Department of Transportation announced a move to ease congestion in Times Square and Herald Square: eliminate lanes of car traffic, and make way for foot traffic. As a pilot program called “Green Light for Midtown” that will run from May through the end of the year, Broadway from 47th to 42nd Streets and 35th to 33rd Streets (at the cross-over points with Sixth and Seventh Avenues) will be closed off to traffic and replaced with café tables and pedestrian lanes. If successful, the program will remain permanent. Finally, people may be able to move through Times Square with ease. And, perhaps, car congestion will be alleviated by 17%, as the DOT is claiming.

“This experiment is a thoughtful and creative approach to our persistent problems — gridlock, pedlock, and thousands of people walking dangerously in the street for lack of space,” said Tim Tomkins, president of the Times Square Alliance. According to the report, more than 356,000 people walk through Times Square daily. Also, although there are 4.5 times as many pedestrians as vehicles, only 11% of the space is currently allocated for them. With a high rate of accidents and congestion that prohibits emergency vehicles from passing, it is about time a pilot program was launched. It makes sense that redirecting traffic to maintain the gridded traffic flow, instead of permitting Broadway traffic to cross over other avenues, would ease congestion. I am looking forward to being able to walk from the Times Square subway station to hang out on the steps of the new TKTS booth without having to put myself in harm’s way.