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Thread: Con Ed site on the East River

  1. #1

    Default Con Ed site on the East River

    NEW YORK TIMES
    http://www.nytimes.com/2001/03/05/arts/05NOTE.html

    March 5, 2001
    Fireworks or Fallbacks for Two Developments on the East River?
    By HERBERT MUSCHAMP

    Lightning struck the skyline twice last week. Two bright flashes lit up the future of architecture in New York. First came the announcement that Arquitectonica, the Miami-based firm, had been hired to design a set of residential high-rises for Queens West, the mixed-use waterfront development across the East River from the United Nations headquarters. Then came the news that five teams of architects would be competing to create a master plan for the development of the nine-acre Con Edison site, just south of the United Nations.

    This opens up an intriguing prospect: two private developers, facing off across the water, competing not just for profits but for architectural distinction. Would anyone else like to join the fray? Let's see who can build not only taller or faster but who can build best. An architectural free-for-all on the East River: that's my idea of fireworks on the Fourth of July.

    Arquitectonica's design for Rockrose Development Corporation, developers of the 74-acre site in Queens where Pepsi-Cola was bottled and canned until two years ago, is still in development. But it's not too soon to comment on the promise of this project and the obstacles faced by the architects in fulfilling it. The project, expected to cost $1 billion, will occupy almost 22 acres in the northern area of Queens West. It will include seven apartment towers, for a total of 3,000 new units. There will be 13.5 acres of parks, streets and other public spaces.

    Arquitectonica is sui generis. Bernardo Fort-Brescia and Laurinda Spear, the firm's principles, were the first American architects of the baby-boom generation to start building on a large scale.

    The Spear House in Coral Gables, Fla., designed by them in collaboration with Rem Koolhaas, was among the most photographed residential designs of the 1970's. Later, Arquitectonica imprinted itself on the public imagination with the high-rises the firm designed for Brickel Avenue in Miami.

    As featured backdrops in the 1980's television series "Miami Vice," these towers helped establish the new image of that city as an economic and cultural crossroads between Latin America and the United States. And they defined the specialty for which Arquitectonica has become known: a highly inventive, often colorful manipulation of the tall building type.

    Arquitectonica is the Ricky Martin of contemporary architecture. While retaining Latin roots, the firm has built widely around the world. Its cosmopolitan outlook suits Queens West.

    There is nothing profound about this firm's work. On the other hand, there is none of the spurious historical depth asserted by the retro buildings at Battery Park City and Riverside South. This brings us to the obstacle Arquitectonica must reckon with in attempting something fresh. Queens West, sponsored by a division of the Empire State Development Corporation, is stuck with a Battery Park City-clone master plan and design guidelines.

    For a site where views are paramount, the guidelines restrict the use of glass in favor of masonry walls. Instead of encouraging new approaches to planning, the master plan mandates neo-traditional towers on bases with uniform street lines. Can the bishop's-crook lampposts, world's-fair benches, hexagonal pavers and other theme-park accessories be far behind? Will we have Gene Kelly look-alike doormen dancing to "Singing in the Rain"?

    Arquitectonica should be given the widest latitude in responding to the conditions of the site. After all, the context here extends far beyond the neighboring low-rise brick buildings of Long Island City. It also includes the midtown skyline, the river and its bridges, the airports in Queens and, not least, the United Nations headquarters and all it symbolizes for the city and the world beyond.

    That is the context, too, for the Con Ed site. These two new projects should be seen as parts of a loosely defined whole: a new river city, with two waterfronts, in which the East River will serve as a unifying public space, an aquatic Central Park. The United Nations would provide this new city's landmark anchor.

    The Con Ed site is being developed by FSM East River Associates, a partnership between Fisher Brothers and Sheldon H. Solow. Described by the developers as the largest site of undeveloped land in Manhattan, the property has been dominated for nearly a century by a Con Ed steam plant, which will be demolished.

    The developers envision a mixed-use project of office and residential towers, with the precise mix not yet determined. It will also include shops, parks and other recreational spaces.

    It could take three to four years to obtain the required approvals, including the city's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure. The developers may also face challenges from environmentalists, public space advocates and other civic groups. Construction costs have not been estimated for the project, which could total five million square feet.

    The competition finalists, chosen from a roster of 40 firms, include three winners of the Pritzker Architecture Prize. The five teams of finalists are: David Childs of Skidmore Owings & Merrill, Richard Meier, Peter Eisenman and Hugh Hardy; HOK Architects and Schuman Lichtenstein Claman Efron; Kohn Pedersen Fox, Rem Koolhaas, Davis Brody Bond and Toyo Ito; Henry Cobb and James Ingo Freed of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, and Machado & Silvetti Associates; and Christian de Portzamparc, Gary Edward Handel & Associates.

    The finalists will present their proposals in sketchbook form late next month and early May, with the winning team to be designated shortly thereafter. The competition is being led by Bill Lacy, executive director of the Pritzker Prize and president of Purchase College of the State University of New York. The composition of the jury has not been announced, though it is expected that the final decision will be made by the developers themselves.

    It is exceptional, in New York, for a private developer to go for architecture, much less to adopt the competition system as a way to get there. But there are good reasons to guard our optimism in this case.

    One could imagine a more brilliant lineup. To judge from this list, it appears that the developers are trying to weigh economic factors and architectural values in the same scale. It is perilous to mix quantities with qualities. The temptation to confuse one with the other is often too great .

    It is safe to say, for example, that the architects at HOK will not be winning Pritzker Prizes any time soon. You do not, for instance, need a competition if a strictly commercial firm like HOK is under serious consideration. You hold a competition to get on the high road. Otherwise, it might be easier to try the Yellow Pages.

    The finalists bring a range of experience and aptitude to the competition. Mr. Koolhaas and Mr. Ito represent artistic risk. HOK stands for ultimate fallback. Mr. Portzamparc signifies a continental sophistication that may lie beyond worldly grasp, or at least local reach. The other two teams are the respectable choices. Aren't we tired of respectable choices?

    Short competitions allow little time for architects, clients or jurors to educate themselves in subjects that should form the basis for informed judgment. This is a major disadvantage in New York, where standards have been low for a long time. Architectural innovation depends on its relationship to precedent. The Con Ed site has a powerful one in the United Nations headquarters, which itself is now facing the need for expansion and repairs.

    The architectural ambition of the developers, the international scope of the competition and its emphasis on team collaboration: these factors were also instrumental in the design of the United Nations. The design process, supervised by Wallace K. Harrison, is documented in George Dudley's fine book "A Workshop for Peace." The process remains an ideal toward which architects and clients should reach.

    Another precedent can be found in the fantastic X-City complex, a private, mixed- use development designed by Harrison for William Zeckendorf on what was to become the United Nations site. Commissioned by Zeckendorf, X-City included offices, apartments, waterfront parks and a domed, lozenge-shaped building intended for an opera house and an orchestra hall. But in 1946 the Rockefeller family purchased the property from Zeckendorf and donated it to the United Nations.

    Harrison's work is the subject of serious study and appreciation today, to a degree not equaled even in his lifetime. The X-City plans are among his finest. Harrison's fusion of modern rationality and romantic theatricality is still a sound touchstone for envisioning this great waterfront site. It would be ludicrous to replicate Harrison's forms. It's his thinking that bears emulation.

    Harrison's optimism about the future is particularly apt. Nothing could be more disastrous than to repeat the Battery Park City formula of ersatz prewar urbanism. We have seen the past, and it doesn't work. Not in contemporary architecture, anyhow. Once you start regressing down those dreary "New York Was Yesterday" skids, you close the door to art.

    This is the moment for New York to recast itself creatively for its place in the worldwide information city. Come May, when the Con Ed site's developers select the winning team, the jurors will have their turn to be judged.

  2. #2

    Default Con Ed site on the East River

    NY Post
    PFIZER SCOURS MIDTOWN FOR HEADQUARTERS TOWER

    By LOIS WEISS

    July 26, 2002 -- Pfizer, Viagra's maker and the world's largest drug company, has a prescription for a new city headquarters of around 2 million square feet.

    For several months, it has been prowling 42nd Street with Josh Kuriloff of Cushman & Wakefield for a place to expand and consolidate its offices, a deal that originally called for less than 1 million sq. ft.

    While Pfizer has had conversations with Douglas Durst for One Bryant Park - Durst's 1.6 million sq. ft. office tower to be at the northwest corner of 42nd Street and the Avenue of the Americas - it could be that a competing parcel gets the drugmaker's nod.

    The New Jersey Business Journal reported Pfizer may be close to a deal with FSM Associates - Fisher Bros., SheldonSolow and Morgan Stanley - for a new 2 million sq. ft. skyscraper on land they are buying from Con Edison.

    "It's speculation and we will not comment on any rumor," said FSM spokesperson Howard Rubenstein.

    Neither Kuriloff nor Durst could be reached before press time while a Pfizer spokesperson declined to comment.

    If a deal is eventually sealed, the tower could rise on the southeast corner of 41st Street and First Avenue where the office building at 708 First Avenue has been demolished on the north end of Con Ed's Waterside Plant.

    As one option, the draft environmental review plan suggests the construction at 708 First of an 880-foot tall tower of approximately 1.8 million sq. ft.

    The parcel could also be developed with an even larger building, and both separately and faster than the actual steam plant, which is not likely to be torn down for several years.

    The real estate database CoStar Group shows Pfizer already owns its 670,962 sq. ft. headquarters at 235 East 42nd Street, and the adjacent 300,000 sq. ft. 219 East 42nd Street. It also rents 155,276 sq. ft. next door to the west at 205 East 42nd Street.

    Diagonally across Third Avenue it leases 664,638 sq. ft. at the full block Hiro Building at 150 East 42nd Street.

    It recently leased yet another 24,664 sq.ft. at 300 East 42nd Street.

    "If they are landlocked and looking to expand I see it as a win-win for the pharmaceutical company and the community," said Mark Adams Taylor, chairman of Community Board 6, who added that Pfizer is known as a good neighbor.

  3. #3

    Default Con Ed site on the East River

    The office building at 708 First Avenue is being demolished on the north end of Con Ed's Waterside Plant. 8 June 2002. The Tudor City residential building in the background.





    The view of East Side of Manhattan from Queens West, with UN Secretariat Building and the Con Ed site to the south. Developers envision a mixed-use project of office and residential towers, with shops, parks and other recreational spaces.


  4. #4

    Default Con Ed site on the East River

    the draft environmental review plan suggests the construction at 708 First of an 880-foot tall tower of approximately 1.8 million sq. ft.

    The parcel could also be developed with an even larger building


    What's the mysterious larger building ?

    That development just got more interesting.

  5. #5

    Default Con Ed site on the East River

    If the tower was 880 ft tall, that would be terrific, since the UN would now be flanked by two towers of approximately the same height.
    Of course, if the Pfizer building is 1000 ft or taller, that would be even better...

  6. #6

    Default Con Ed site on the East River

    the people who live in that tudor city building, like the Green Goblin, will have their view completely blocked of the East River, haha suckers!! i hope its even more than 880 ft!! So the new UN building will be directly to the right of that spot?

  7. #7

    Default Con Ed site on the East River

    Most of the windows of Tudor City face Manhattan *because there used to be a slaughterhouse or something near the River.
    The best views won't be blocked then.

  8. #8
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    Default Con Ed site on the East River

    Yes, that whole area was blocks of slaughterhouses, stockyards and tanneries.

    "The developers may also face challenges from environmentalists, public space advocates and other civic groups."

    You can bet on that - I actually met some NIMBYs who live in the tall apartment buildings to the left. They are completely against this development for every imaginable reason and will fight it. I asked why they wouldn't prefer the views of nice new skyscrapers to the smokestacks that are there now. They went on about the character of the neighborhood blah blah blah, but I think it's because they will lose their view of the river.

  9. #9
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    Default Con Ed site on the East River

    Character of the neighborhood. *Right. *Like the apartment buildings they live in, as well as Tudor City, don't interfere with the neighborhood's "character." *Hypocrites, screw them all.

  10. #10

    Default Con Ed site on the East River

    I wonder how a NIMBY would define the "character" of their neighborhood in order to use as a defense against building anything new? *Probably a lot of broad generalizations and flowery words.

  11. #11

    Default Con Ed site on the East River

    From a small NIMBY website:


  12. #12

    Default Con Ed site on the East River

    They do however provide the best tid-bit to date.

    Even the "lower density"alternative included in the DGEIS has 70-story buildings.

    DGEIS is the Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement, in which 70 storeys is the "lowest density". If they opt for such, 70 storeys isnt so awful, who knows the details that the "highest density" would offer, something taller no doubt.

  13. #13

    Default Con Ed site on the East River

    And the best tid-bit.

    newspaper accounts report negotiations with a prospective corporate tenant for an 80-story building at 41st Street.

  14. #14
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    Default Con Ed site on the East River

    Quote: from Stern on 5:37 pm on Dec. 13, 2002
    And the best tid-bit.

    newspaper accounts report negotiations with a prospective corporate tenant for an 80-story building at 41st Street.
    Dude. *That would be completely awesome. *If it's an office building, it would definitely be a 1,000-footer.

    For heaven's sake, for once can we just bypass the NIMBYs and build the dang thing?

    I wonder how a NIMBY would define the "character" of their neighborhood in order to use as a defense against building anything new? *Probably a lot of broad generalizations and flowery words.
    I would think that you'd need to need to find an excuse other than losing your precious views of the river. *It's also funny that a lot of people continue to fall for the old (read: completely anachronistic) "light and air" argument, which became obsolete with the invention of electric lighting and HVAC systems. *And you need to sell the historic character of your neighborhood, if there is any to sell. *But in the case that there is no [good] history, you just make it up.

  15. #15

    Default Con Ed site on the East River

    I wonder where the NIMBY's got that rendering. *The only images of the site that I've seen show a bunch of really slender towers, including one that vaguely resembles a coke bottle. *Maybe they've since been revised. *Anyway, it looks really exagerated to me. *Those buildings have the large floorplates of commercial office buildings (just compare them to the slender residential towers nearby), but I was under the impression that a large portion of the project is housing.

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