Taking Urban Infrastructure from NIMBY to YIMBY

(l-r) Michael Friedlander, Director of Special Projects, New York City Department of Sanitation; Claire Weisz AIA, Principal, WXY Architecture + Urban Design; Faith Rose, Senior Design Liaison, New York City Department of Design + Construction; Meredith Griffin, The New York City Design Commission; Dan Klein, Director of Real Estate, New York City Department of Sanitation; Paul Bauer, AIA, Principal, Dattner Architects; Robert Eisenstat AIA, Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Co-Chair; Jeff Dugan AIA, Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Co-Chair

Kirsten Sibilia

West Street elevation: Manhattan Districts 1/2/5 Garage and Spring Street Salt Shed

Courtesy Dattner Architects

Event: Taking Urban Infrastructure from NIMBY to YIMBY: The Manhattan Districts 1/2/5 Sanitation Garage
Location: Center for Architecture, 6.28.12
Speakers: Paul Bauer, AIA, Principal, Dattner Architects; Dan Klein, Director of Real Estate, New York City Department of Sanitation; Faith Rose, Senior Design Liaison, NYC Department of Design + Construction; Michael Friedlander, Director of Special Projects, NYC Department of Sanitation; Faith Rose, Senior Design Liaison, NYC Department of Design + Construction; Claire Weisz, AIA, Principal, WXY Architecture + Urban Design
Organizer: AIANY Transportation and Infrastructure Committee

“As waterfront uses have changed over the last few decades, it has become harder and harder to find sites for New York City Department of Sanitation facilities,” explained Dan Klein, Director of Real Estate for New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY). Land use changes coupled with legislative actions such as the Hudson River Park Act have forced the agency to relocated garages, sparking NIMBYism (NIMBY stands for Not In My Back Yard).

The 425,000sf Manhattan Districts 1/2/5 Garage, designed by Dattner Architects with WXY Architecture + Urban Design for a key site at the corner of Spring Street and West Street, caught the NIMBY-objections of a small but vocal number of high-profile local residents and business interests, including James Gandolfini and Lou Reed. Paul Bauer AIA, Principal at Dattner Architects, presented the development of the garage’s design in response to the program, the site, and the community. The DSNY Director of Special Projects Michael Friedlander’s mantra is to design “the best building in the neighborhood,” and he believes the agency’s commitment to quality architecture has helped to garner local support for these critical infrastructure projects. In essence, good design combined with community input can turn NIMBYs into YIMBYs (Yes In My Back Yard), even when it comes to potentially-noxious projects like a sanitation garage.

The openness of the process and the responsiveness of the design solution were key elements of the team’s approach. The Dattner and WXY-designed building will house over 150 sanitation vehicles, separate vehicle wash and personnel facilities for District’s 1, 3 and 5, and centralized fueling and repair facilities by vertically stacking the program into a highly functional building enlivened with an innovative, double-skin façade. Perforated aluminum louvers hang vertically in front of a glass curtain wall, creating “a diaphanous scrim that both shields and reveals,” noted Bauer “and changes appearance with the time of day, the season, and viewer’s location.” Faith Rose, NYC DDC, suggested that projects like the garage represent how architects and urbanites are starting to think about public infrastructure in a new way and are “beginning to define for what Civic Architecture is today.”

The AIA Guide Launches at the Center


AIANY President Anthony Schirripa, FAIA, welcoming guests to the launch.

Alex Welsh


NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission Commissioner Robert Tierney and Guide author Fran Leadon, AIA speak with a guest.

Alex Welsh


Sarah Russo and Megan Kennedy from Oxford University Press looking at the “Ten in Ten” exhibition.

Alex Welsh


John Morris Dixon, FAIA, speaking about Norval White, FAIA.

Alex Welsh

The fifth edition of the AIA Guide to New York City was launched Wednesday night at the Center for Architecture by more than 250 members of New York City’s architectural community with a program and party sponsored by Oxford University Press, AIA New York, and the Oculus Committee. Overflowing from beyond Tafel Hall, the crowd filled the entire facility, and the program was simulcast for those in the Hines Gallery and the Common Room.

Forty-two years after the first edition was published, the Guide retains its connection to the AIA New York Chapter and reclaims its place on desks and in bookshelves across the city — and beyond — as the definitive chronicle of our city. The “bible of New York Architecture,” as Oxford’s Executive Editor Tim Bent fondly described it, the new edition includes 3,000 images in more than 1,100 pages. “The AIA Guide and Oxford University Press make for a perfect fit,” Bent said. “Easily the most beloved, entertaining, and exhaustive source of information about New York’s architecture, published by a press known for definitive reference copyrights — Here’s to a partnership that should last for decades.”

Fran Leadon, AIA, co-author of this edition with the late authors Norval White, FAIA, and Elliot Willensky, FAIA, regaled the crowd with stories of how he and Norval collaborated daily on the book, overcoming the geographic distance between the South of France (Norval’s home since 1993) and the South of New York City (Leadon resides in Brooklyn) with the help of Skype, GoogleDocs, and Flickr. For two years, they charted and documented the city, with the assistance of 22 City College of New York students who helped comb the city, taking notes and photographing every block of the city’s five boroughs. Together, White and Leadon decided which buildings were “good enough or bad enough” to be included, Leadon recalled. In the finished volume more than 6,000 projects and buildings earned that honor. To read more about the collaboration, Leadon has been a regular contributor to e-Oculus with his column, “Preview: AIA Guide to NYC.”

To celebrate the Guide, the Center opened an exhibition entitled “Ten in Ten,” curated by AIANY Executive Director Rick Bell, FAIA. The exhibition, in the Margaret Helfand Gallery, highlights one project completed each year since the last edition was published in 2000, using reproductions of text and images from the book. “The new AIA Guide to New York City remains an incomparable desk reference and walkabout companion for architects and design enthusiasts alike,” Bell said. “The ‘Ten in Ten’ exhibition highlights how the new Guide captures the changes in our city. It offers an elegant snapshot of the last decade.”

During the program, White and Willensky, co-authors of all five volumes, were remembered in brief remarks by John Morris Dixon, FAIA, Ben Gibberd, and Richard Dattner, FAIA. (See further written tributes to White and Willensky in this issue.)

Copies of the Guide are available for purchase at bookstores throughout the city, at the Center for Architecture, as well as online. They will also be featured in the bookstore at the AIA National Convention in Miami next week. A celebration of the urban landscape of our great city, the book is an invaluable resource, an exhaustive documentation of the history and this moment in time, and a complex story of the ever-changing New York City.

The celebration of the Guide continues on 06.09.10 at The Cooper Union and on 06.21.10 at Bookcourt in Brooklyn. These events are sponsored by Oxford University Press.