Pier View

On a misty day last week, the city’s newest active recreational facility, Pier 2 at Brooklyn Bridge Park, opened with a flourish of eloquence, and a day of basketball and handball. On hand were Alicia Glen, the Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development and Chair of Brooklyn Bridge Park (BBP), along with newly-appointed Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP, and BBP President Regina Myer. Also speaking at the opening were Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy Executive Director Nancy Webster and elected officials including State Senator Daniel Squadron, Assembly Member Joan Millman, and Council Members Stephen Levin and Robert J. Cornegy. Commissioner Victor Calise of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities was also present, as were design notables from around the world, including Andreas Vaa Bermann, head of the Norwegian Design Center, Norsk Form.

The Deputy Mayor praised the design by landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates and Regina Myer and Nancy Webster for making it happen. She said: “What an incredible moment to expand active recreation here in Brooklyn Bridge Park,” and that “since its opening in 2010, the park has fast become a major attraction and community amenity.” Parks Commissioner Silver noted that he moved back to Brooklyn for his new job, and will be a frequent user of the new pier. The Commissioner said: “Not since the creation of Marine Park in the 1930s has the city seen the creation of a park of this size and importance,” adding, “The park is truly open to all.” Continue reading “Pier View”

Bring Them as Eagles

Mayor Bill de Blasio came to the Great Hall of Cooper Union’s landmark Foundation Building on Thursday, 04.10.14, to deliver a speech that catalogued some of the specific initiatives of his first 100 days in office, and which anticipated the path that his administration will pursue. Particular areas of focus of his speech were education, affordable housing, pedestrian safety, and equal opportunity. The broader theme was a description of the attributes of a progressive city. New York, the mayor asserted, has been a model for other cities across the nation and can be so again. What follows are excerpts transcribed in place that may be of particular interest to architects and others in the design community. In the superb setting of the Great Hall, with its history and volumetric quality, it was hard not to be impressed, as well, by the speechwriting skill and oratory of our new mayor. Quoting Abraham Lincoln, Robert Kennedy, and James Russell Lowell (“fate loves the fearless”), Mayor de Blasio’s central theme – “the Progressive City” – in many ways resonated with Lowell’s new world Voyage to Vinland, from which the famous line was taken:

Strong from self-helping;
Eyes for the present
Bring them as eagles’,
Blind to the Past.
They shall make over
Creed, law, and custom…
Fate loves the fearless;
Fools, when their roof-tree
Falls think it doomsday;
Firm stands the sky.
Over the ruin
See I the promise.

(from Voyage to Vinland; started 1851, completed 1869)

Mayor de Blasio’s remarks:

“I would like to thank all of the friends who are with us today as we mark this special occasion. We have a lot to celebrate, a lot to be thankful for. I want to thank everyone here at Cooper Union, this extraordinary treasure. This stage is renowned for over a century and a half as a place where people come together to think and to dream. An extraordinary education is offered here. Curious minds have come here over the generations, people seeking truth. It is the perfect setting to discuss all that our city is capable of. Abraham Lincoln said right here on this stage, ‘Let us have faith that right makes might.’ Continue reading “Bring Them as Eagles”

At ABNY, per aspera

Governor Andrew Cuomo spoke of New York State’s economic resilience at the 3.14.14 lunch of the Association for a Better New York (ABNY) held at Cipriani 42nd Street. After a brief introduction by ABNY President William Rudin, the Governor stated that when he took office, “The economy of New York State was in disarray. And we were paying the price: People and businesses were leaving the state.” He noted that “spending out-paced income in New York State for 50 years. You can’t spend more than you make.” Criticizing spending vs. revenue generation by former Governors Nelson Rockefeller and George Pataki, he held back from a critique of the economic policies of former Governor Mario Cuomo, saying, “I’m still close with his wife.” Continue reading “At ABNY, per aspera”

Top of the Morning

Mayor Bill de Blasio welcomed Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny to Gracie Mansion for an early breakfast on Monday, March 17. With two hundred other daughters and sons of Ireland in the room, among them labor leaders and cultural figures, the Mayor was effusive in his praise, saying “the presence of the Irish in New York City over the centuries is to be celebrated today in the peoples’ house.”

Recalling his youth in Massachusetts, growing up in the district represented by legendary House Speaker Tip O’Neill, Mayor de Blasio said that he saw the benefit of Irish political leadership at close hand and was raised in an atmosphere very much benefiting from Irish culture. Continue reading “Top of the Morning”

Great Scott

“Our transition is practically done. The team is on the ground.” These were the concluding comments by newly-elected NYC Comptroller Scott M. Stringer as he addressed a large audience of architects, engineers, and builders at the Construction Industry Breakfast Forum organized by the New York Building Congress (NYBC) at the Hilton on Thursday, 02.27.14.

After introductory remarks by NYBC Chairman Thomas Z. Scarangello, NYBC President Richard T. Anderson, and Iris Weinshall, in her capacity as co-chair of the NYBC’s Higher Education Committee, the Stringer noted: “We have a responsibility to think beyond four-year budgeting to think of long-term economic expansion.” He added, “Now it’s our generation’s turn to make these long term decisions.” Speaking of why New York can succeed in the new post-service economy, the former Manhattan Borough President noted: “Our city is the capitol of art, media, and entertainment. New York is where companies find content to fuel their businesses.” Continue reading “Great Scott”

FitCity Columbus: Oh Boy in Ohio

Phil Ochs, the lyrical folk singer who shared Greenwich Village and the ‘60s with Bob Dylan, grew up in Columbus, Ohio, and sang of his youth there, with lyrics saying: “I’ve been all over the country / But I don’t believe I’ve had more fun / Than when I was a boy in Ohio.” With CoGo bike-share and car2go municipally-owned smart cars, Columbus has blazed an example of a city where fun goes to set a new standard. The 15th largest city in the country, Columbus and its mayor, Michael B. Coleman, have embraced the concept of Active Design with a system of linked parks, discrete neighborhood improvements such as those in the Short North Historic District, and riverfront changes including the Scioto Mile. This spirit was described in a recent WOSU public radio segment “All Sides with Ann Fisher” marking the opening of the Ohio version of the “FitNation” exhibition curated in New York by Emily Abruzzo, AIA, LEED AP.

FitCity Columbus, a program organized by AIA Columbus Executive Director Gwen Berklekamp, CAE, and Programming & Development Coordinator Jessie Masters, took place at the Columbus Center for Architecture and Design on 02.19.14. It addressed how architects and designers are tackling heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses by means of active design. The program announcement noted that “from the design of healthcare facilities to initiating public health policy changes, architects play a key role in encouraging people to burn calories through the creation of quality spaces and engaging environments.” The keynote speaker was Columbus-based architect Peter Bardwell, FAIA, FACHA, principal of BARDWELL+associates and co-chair of the AIA National Architecture for Health Knowledge Community. He spoke of how a broad approach is needed to achieve a greater emphasis on health as distinct from using medication to treat disease. The key word was “salutogenic” in an analysis consistent with the tenets of the Active Design Guidelines, also presented later the same evening. Continue reading “FitCity Columbus: Oh Boy in Ohio”

MoMA Mia – A Conversation on the Museum of Modern Art’s Plan for Expansion

Last Tuesday, 01.28.14, a public conversation about the Museum of Modern Art’s expansion plan was convened by The Architectural League of New York, the Municipal Art Society, and AIA New York (to see a video of the full event, click here).

Liz Diller presented the results of the Diller Scofidio + Renfro six-month study commissioned by MoMA, and started her remarks with praise for the American Folk Art Museum, saying: “This is a building by our much-respected colleagues Tod Williams and Billie Tsien. We welcome the opportunity to speak before this group of peers to address these issues in an unfiltered way – even if we don’t change a single mind in the room.”

After welcomes from League president Annabelle Selldorf, FAIA, and MAS President Vin Cipolla, AIANY’s 2014 President Lance Jay Brown, FAIA, spoke of how “as architects and designers, we at the AIA were interested in co-sponsoring this forum because we continually grapple with issues of complex balancing: balancing preservation and change – the morphology of the city; balancing public interest and owner’s needs; and balancing the competing urban scales of the building, the street, and the city.” Before introducing event moderator Reed Kroloff, Assoc. AIA, Brown noted that “other places will learn lessons from what they see and hear today.” Continue reading “MoMA Mia – A Conversation on the Museum of Modern Art’s Plan for Expansion”

AIANY Membership at Historic High

The all-time high number of 5,019 members of the AIA New York Chapter was announced today by Board Secretary Jane Smith, AIA, of Spacesmith. Building on a steady increase in membership last year, under the leadership of 2013 Chapter President Jill N. Lerner, FAIA, the goal of the long-term strategic plan was achieved by a combination of enhanced communications about member value, and increased program and exhibition vitality on the global stage and during the mayoral election. Lance Jay Brown, FAIA, 2014 AIANY President, recognized the achievements of his predecessor, of Board Secretary Smith and her plan for membership development, and of the hard work of AIANY Member Services Director Suzanne Mecs, Hon. AIANYS. President Brown said, “The achievement of this long-awaited milestone underscores that the AIA New York Chapter and our work in civic engagement is increasingly relevant to a large number of architects, associates, those in affiliated professions, and the general public.”

FitCity Miami: Strolling beside the Sea

Michelle Obama turned 50 the same day last week that AIA Miami hosted Fit City Miami: Health & the Built Environment. The full-day conference at Miami-Dade College’s Wolfson Campus brought together architects, planners, designers, developers, public health professionals, and academics to address how building design and policy decisions can improve health outcomes in communities. Although she was not present on January 17th, the First Lady and founder of “Let’s Move” was quoted at the conference as saying: “You’ve got to keep your body active, even if that means just turning on some music and dancing for an hour.” The dozen speakers included Anamarie Garces de Marcilla of the Consortium for a Healthier Miami-Dade’s Health & Built Environment Committee; Breeze Glazer of Perkins+Will’s New York office; Dr. Gillian Hotz of the University of Miami; Karen K. Lee, MD, MHSC, of the NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene; former Miami-Dade Commissioner Katy Sorensen of the Good Government Initiative; and Bernard Zyscovich, FAIA – who was a FitCity8 speaker last year at the Center for Architecture in New York. Continue reading “FitCity Miami: Strolling beside the Sea”

Inaugurale Auguri

“The way we do things is to begin” is a quote attributed to “Go West” Horace Greeley, the 19th-century publisher of the New York Tribune whose statue by John Quincy Adams Ward adorns City Hall Park, across the street from where the Tribune was published. The base of the statue is by AIA co-founder Richard Morris Hunt. Until 1941, another City Hall Park statue called “Civic Virtue,” by Frederick William MacMonnies, attracted more attention and controversy; it was sent to Queens by Mayor LaGuardia and now finds its home in Green-Wood Cemetery, where Greeley is also buried. Horace Greeley was a phrasemaker, social activist, vegetarian, anti-slavery progressive Republican, and, amazingly, the Democratic Party’s candidate for president in 1872. His frozen gaze was directed toward the steps of City Hall on New Year’s Day for the first inauguration of Mayor Bill de Blasio. Continue reading “Inaugurale Auguri”