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Thread: Turning Lower Manhattan Into Parkland

  1. #46
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Zippy --
    Thanks for that link (though you're right: much like liberty plaza that thread is a lonely and inactive place).
    BTW - Your pics are fantastic...
    And thanks much for all your input.

  2. #47
    The Dude Abides
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    Making the Brutal F.D.R. Unsentimentally Humane

    By NICOLAI OUROUSSOFF

    Published: June 28, 2005

    Few people reminisce longingly about the New York waterfront of the 1970's, with its decrepit piers, graffiti-covered warehouses and tetchy drag queens. But you can say this for it: it had a gritty integrity. The typical riverfront developments of today, with their traditional lampposts and quaint park benches, drip with nostalgia for a city that never was. They have all the charm of an open-air suburban mall.

    The master plan for an East River esplanade, which was unveiled last month by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, is a welcome reprieve from that New York cliché. Covering a two-mile stretch of waterfront from Battery Park to East River Park in Lower Manhattan, the project will transform a series of abandoned piers and derelict corners beneath the Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive into a vibrant urban panorama without sacrificing the rough edges.

    But the master plan is more than a blunt criticism of misplaced sentimentality. Even as it celebrates the city's underbelly, it weaves it into the surrounding neighborhoods with remarkable sensitivity. The plan shows how a series of small interventions, when thoughtfully conceived, can have a more meaningful impact on daily life than an unwieldy urban development scheme.

    Although it is still in the earliest stages of design, city officials hope to complete the esplanade within three to five years. (The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation has allotted $150 million toward the project, which has a relatively modest projected cost of $200 million.) Aspects of the plan still must be approved by a number of city, state and federal agencies.Commissioned by the city's Department of City Planning and the Economic Development Corporation, the design sprang from a collaboration among architectural generations: Gregg Pasquarelli of SHoP Architects, based here, the Richard Rogers Partnership in London and the landscape architect Ken Smith. Mr. Rogers, the co-designer of the Pompidou Center (1977) in Paris, is best known for creating a high-tech Pop Art aesthetic whose roots lie in the progressive values of the 1960's. Mr. Pasquarelli, 40, who like many in his generation, is warier of Modernism's mission, is less a social rebel than an astute social observer.

    Both find beauty in the large-scale public works projects that were a prominent feature of the 20th-century American landscape. Originally conceived in the late 1930's by Robert Moses, the city's imperious planner, the F.D.R. Drive - then called East River Drive - is usually considered an example of the brutal approach for which Moses later became infamous. It slices callously through the city, cutting a series of East Side neighborhoods off from the waterfront. The area underneath, which still sometimes reeks of rotting fish - a memory of the former fish markets - exudes a seedy noir spirit.

    Mr. Pasquarelli and Mr. Rogers do not moralize about that past. Initially they considered lowering parts of the elevated freeway to ground level, but the cost was prohibitive. Eventually the team decided that the F.D.R.'s aggressive form could be used to imbue the site with energy. To that end, the crude steel I-beams that support the freeway would be clad in contoured metal or concrete panels. Bands of fluorescent light strips, vaguely reminiscent of a Dan Flavin light installation, extend along the freeway's underside, their arrangement echoing the cars flowing by above.

    Such artistic touches would mesh well with an elaborate system of landscaped berms and shelters to be scattered along the two-mile waterfront. Planted with colorful shrubs and wild grasses, the berms rise right out of the pavement's surface. A series of glass pavilions would be scattered underneath the freeway; they may house restaurants, flower shops or some kind of public services.

    Most of these architectural components are place markers; they have yet to be fully designed. Even so the idea is to create a seamless, contemplative environment along the waterfront that embraces both the fine-grained scale of the surrounding communities and the monumental scale of the freeway. In doing so, the architects shrug off the conflict between Modernists and historicists that absurdly still defines so many urban planning debates in New York.

    That schism dates from the 1960's, when the activist Jane Jacobs challenged Moses' megalomaniacal plans, but it has little relevance today. For architects like Mr. Pasquarelli, the suburban promise embodied in Moses' freeway and park projects represent, for better or worse, a part of our collective memory. Their task, as they see it, is to salvage the corners of unexpected beauty from those childhood landscapes and give them new meaning. It is an approach that is far more relevant to contemporary life than Jacobs's - and every bit as humane. The outcome in the waterfront master plan is a project that craftily weaves together a remarkable range of scales. To offer relief from the uniformity of the esplanade, for example, the architects have suggested transforming a number of piers into more eco-friendly structures, sprinkled with public gardens. The surface of one of the piers peels up as it projects out toward the water, forming a viewing platform as well as allowing light to flow down to the water's surface.

    Conceived as little oases, the piers relate to a grander, and still incomplete, vision: the plans for the greening of the waterfront across the river in Brooklyn and on Governors Island just to the south. Extending like fingers out into the river, they help weave these disparate vistas into a cohesive whole.

    That same surgical approach is used to stitch the project into the surrounding communities. An abandoned median strip running down Allen Street from the East Village to the foot of the Manhattan Bridge would be transformed into a narrow park. Set diagonally to the bridge, it is gently sloped, so that it seems to accelerate as it approaches the waterfront, creating a wonderful forced perspective that pulls the neighborhood down toward the esplanade. Other interventions are more sedate: a sequence of reflecting pools along Peck Street are meant to conjure the street's past as a boat slip.

    SHoP and Rogers have yet to sign a contract with the city to complete the final design. In theory, they could be dropped in favor of another architectural firm. But even at this early stage, the esplanade is one of the few current projects to give voice to a young generation of architects intent on redefining our vision of the contemporary Metropolis.

    Along with the High Line - which transforms a section of gritty elevated tracks in downtown into a public garden - it represents a clear and much-needed break from the quaint Jane Jacobs-inspired vision of New York that is threatening to transform Manhattan into a theme park version of itself, a place virtually devoid of urban tension. It proves that there are still some in the city who are culturally daring, even if their numbers at times seem to be dwindling.











    Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

  3. #48
    The Dude Abides
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    Quote Originally Posted by NY Times
    Even so the idea is to create a seamless, contemplative environment along the waterfront that embraces both the fine-grained scale of the surrounding communities and the monumental scale of the freeway. In doing so, the architects shrug off the conflict between Modernists and historicists that absurdly still defines so many urban planning debates in New York.
    A very astute observation, I think. This kind of architectural fusion is what we need to see more of in New York. Besides the High Line, this is the park project I'm most excited about.

  4. #49
    Moderator NYatKNIGHT's Avatar
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    So am I, though I need to see it to believe it.

  5. #50
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    Quote Originally Posted by NYatKNIGHT
    So am I, though I need to see it to believe it.
    Ditto here. This is like "Downtown Parkland V7.0"

  6. #51

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    Quote Originally Posted by pianoman11686
    Making the Brutal F.D.R. Unsentimentally Humane

    By NICOLAI OUROUSSOFF

    Published: June 28, 2005

    ...
    That schism dates from the 1960's, when the activist Jane Jacobs challenged Moses' megalomaniacal plans, but it has little relevance today. ... It is an approach that is far more relevant to contemporary life than Jacobs's - and every bit as humane.
    ...
    Along with the High Line - which transforms a section of gritty elevated tracks in downtown into a public garden - it represents a clear and much-needed break from the quaint Jane Jacobs-inspired vision of New York that is threatening to transform Manhattan into a theme park version of itself, a place virtually devoid of urban tension. ...

    Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

    It's a good plan, but Ouroussoff, in critiquing it, seems to have confused the planning philosophy of Jane Jacobs with that of Jackie O. Jacobs never advocated for extreme levels of historic preservation, nor for new architecture that mimics the old, nor for the suburbanization of New York. Her philosophy was closer to the opposite. (Indeed, if anyone has advocated that philosophy, it is Ouroussoff himself, who wrote favorably of the very suburban West Street tunnel scheme.) In all fairness, however, a busy guy like Ourousoff can't be expected to read through a long book like "The Death and Life of Great American Cities."

  7. #52

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    I don't know very much about Jacobs other than that her views on urban planning were conservative relative to Moses, in that the traditional city block was supreme over new projects (ie. superblocks, highways cutting through neighborhoods like the Cross Bronx Expressway). I'm not sure how she would feel about projects like the Highline or this proposed transformation of the FDR, but she is actually still alive today, so someone could find out if they were able to reach her.

  8. #53

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    Jane Jacobs lives in Toronto these days, and has generally declined to comment on NY planning issues, although during a recent book tour, she did make some general (negative) comments about the plans for the WTC Site and the West Side Stadium.

    In any event, Ourossoff's point cannot be rebutted, because his article is too inane to contain an actual point. He just flings around Jacobs' name, attaching it willy-nilly to ideas he does not like (historic preservation, retro architecture, etc.) but which aren't really big parts of Jacobs' planning philosophy. It is impossible to engage in a serious discussion with this kind of imposter. What exactly is he saying Jane Jacobs would advocate for the high line or the East River, and how is that different than what is currently being advocated? Reading Ourossoff's article answers none of this.

  9. #54
    Moderator NYatKNIGHT's Avatar
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    The new Wall Street Triangle park is complete, except there is no fountain as was proposed. That area has been paved for some reason - like the fountain has been nixed, or will be constructed sometime in the future. The fountain was under construction at one point. I wonder what's the deal. Anyone?

  10. #55

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    The fountain that will sit at its northeast corner is the last remaining piece and should be installed later in 2005.

  11. #56

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    doesanyone have any pics of thev newly renovated battery bosque?

  12. #57

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    A tale of 3 plazas

    By Olga Mantilla with Josh Rogers


    Downtown Express photos by Elisabeth Robert
    Most of the new plaza at Coenties Slip is used by a restaurant, left. Wall Street Park, right.



    There is little room for open space in the Financial District’s East Side, so two years ago, when the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. and the Parks Dept. announced plans to build or renovate 13 Downtown parks with $25 million, officials turned their attention to three small plazas on the east side.

    The three have all recently opened. Visitors had almost universal praise for two of them, Wall Street Park and Old Slip, but the reviews were mixed at the third because a restaurant uses most the plaza for an outdoor cafe.

    “This is a park?” asked Frances, a confused visitor to Coenties Slip, who declined to give her last name. “I thought it was just an extension of this deli.”

    Adrian Benepe, the city’s Parks Commissioner, said that Coenties would be a place “where we will transform a closed roadbed into a permanent public space,” in a 2004 column he wrote for Downtown Express.

    Carli Smith, a spokesperson for Benepe, said Parks entered into an agreement with the Downtown Alliance to maintain the space. The Alliance, which runs the area’s business improvement district, awarded a contract for a plaza cafe to Zigolini’s, the restaurant-deli adjacent to the plaza.

    The Alliance’s Valerie Lewis said Ziglioni’s was the only one to bid on the contract. She said without the cafe there would be no money to maintain the plaza.



    Old Slip plaza

    “The [L.M.D.C.] money was for building, it was not for maintaining,” said Lewis. “The Parks’ goal was to find someone to maintain the parks. And they selected the Alliance to maintain Coenties Slip,” adding it “is a great arrangement that works to provide public space that otherwise would not be maintained… “There are people eating, enjoying and sitting down. It’s a much-needed amenity for the people Downtown who need this public space. [It’s] a success.”

    She said Zigolini’s owner, Jason Francisco, pays the Alliance $15,000 per year for about about 900 square feet of a 1,500 square-foot park. She said all of the money is used to maintain Coenties. Smith at Parks’ said the Alliance pays the city five percent of the rent, which goes into the general revenue stream.

    In the 1990s, the Alliance suggested closing part of Coenties for a temporary plaza, which the Alliance financed.

    The permanent triangular plaza, funded mostly by the L.M.D.C., cost $925,000 and Parks and the Alliance are seeking funding for a water feature that will grace the center of space.

    Naomi, who works across the street from Coenties, said the restaurant has too much space. “They put a few benches, but they’re just on the side. They should have put more in, instead of these restaurant tables. I don’t like it.”

    Francisco’s contract with Downtown Alliance requires him to set out tables and chairs for the public, “not just for my customers,” during restaurant hours. The public tables have no tablecloth or umbrella, but several plaza visitors said they thought they were for the restaurant.

    Norma Castro, who was visiting the plaza thought “it’s a double-edge sword. It’s sad that the core of the space is used by the restaurant. On the other hand, we need more outdoor seating for the business people in the area to go.”

    She said the maintenance money is well spent. “They keep it clean,” she said. “They put nice benches. I don’t mind sitting here.”

    Wall Street Park and Old Slip visitors were overwhelmingly positive about the new spaces.

    Old Slip, a $1.5 million plaza, fronts the Police Museum on the corner of Water and Old Slip. Gloria Rodriguez, a Bronx resident, noted that, “without the construction, it’s pretty quiet. I enjoy the limited time I’m here,” she said as she waited for a friend.

    “I like shade and I like the flowers,” Pam Graham, a program analyst from Brooklyn said under cool shade of the Wall Street Park trees. “Not unless you go to actual parks, the shade and flowers are not the norm.”

    The verdant space of Wall Street Park, a plaza with an inimitable view of Trinity church to the west, is a $3.1 million project that drew contributions from the Deusche Bank and the L.M.D.C. Split in two parts between South and Front Street, the park introduced greenery to the industrial streets, Graham said. “There were no trees or flowers here [before].”

    “I come here to get out of the office,” Isabel Mejia, a Brooklyn resident said as the drilling and welding of construction echoed half a block away from her bench in Wall Street Park. “It’s comfortable, and peaceful. It’s a quiet space among these busy streets,”

    “You have to walk quite a distance to find a place like this,” Upper East Sider Angela Ottomanelli remarked. “The more green space, the better.”

    Downtown Express is published by
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    Downtown Express | 487 Greenwich St., Suite 6A | New York, NY 10013

    Phone: 212.242.6162 | Fax: 212.229.2970
    Email: news@downtownexpress.com

  13. #58
    Forum Veteran krulltime's Avatar
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    Grand plans for East River waterfront


    JUSTIN DAVIDSON
    STAFF WRITER

    September 5, 2005


    To walk the East River waterfront from the Battery to the Williamsburg Bridge is to pick one's way through a derelict but magical terrain of heart-swelling views, parking lots, red-brick memories of New York City's stevedore past and stretches of cracked asphalt slick with fish slime.

    But if Amanda Burden, the persuasively enthusiastic commissioner of city planning, is to be believed, this two-mile strip will soon be transformed into a glimmering, romantic esplanade. Financial barons will sit on benches and do lunchtime deals by cell phone. Residents of Chinatown will hold martial arts classes and painting exhibits in well-lit glass pavilions tucked under the FDR Drive. The waterfront will throb once again, with leisure instead of labor.

    "The most important thing is to give people access to the river," said Burden, standing under the elevated highway that cuts between the river and the cliff-like housing projects of the Lower East Side. She surveyed a triple barrier of chain-link fence, parked trucks and a carpeting of litter. "Right now, they can't get there."

    And when they can, what will they find? A rarefied team of architects that includes the British Lord Richard Rogers, the New York-based firm SHoP and the landscape designer Ken Smith has furnished the city with some specific, if preliminary, visions. The underside of the FDR Drive will be metal-clad and exuberantly lit, to make it rather more like a gleaming canopy and less like a grimly functional overpass.

    The strip of park will extend out onto reconfigured piers, including an undulating, multi-leveled boardwalk veiling the Sanitation Department's truck maintenance facility at Pier 35. The waterfront also will extend its fingers upland into the city with a series of landscaped medians and open plazas.

    Lubricating the transition from rosy vision to reality is a $150-million grant from the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., the agency that oversees the efforts to rebuild after 9/11. The waterfront is not part of the World Trade Center site, and its problems did not originate with terrorist attacks.

    But the framework of post-9/11 reconstruction provided the project with money, a rationale -- revitalizing lower Manhattan -- and a new sense of urgency. And, compared with the monstrous cost and difficulties of forcing towers, train stations, memorials and museums to bloom out of the bedrock of Ground Zero, beautifying the waterfront seems like a cheap and easy way to increase the area's allure, both for residents and corporate tenants.

    "In five or 10 years, lower Manhattan will be not only the emotional part of the city, but it will also be the place that everyone wants to be," says developer Frank Sciame.

    Sciame is backing that prediction with his own private projects. He has renovated a collection of 18th century buildings along Front Street and on Peck Slip, a square that is now filled with cars but that Burden and her staff at City Planning envision transforming into a green-fringed plaza around a reflecting pool.

    More audaciously, Sciame proposes to build 80 South Street, which is not so much a traditional luxury apartment tower as a concoction of stacked, off-kilter cubes -- vertical townhouses for the very rich. The architect is Santiago Calatrava, who designed the equally flamboyant World Trade Center PATH station now under construction.

    "Without the bold moves by the public sector at Ground Zero -- the Calatrava station and all the great buildings that will be there -- I would never have planned a building like 80 South Street," Sciame said.

    Recovering from catastrophe may be the latest impetus for rehabilitating the south-facing strip of Manhattan's shore, but the East River Esplanade is only the latest in a 40-year history of grand plans. Earlier proposals ranged from an FDR memorial by Louis Kahn to a housing complex for nearly 10,000 families, a Guggenheim Museum designed by Frank Gehry and a floating mountain bike playland. If the new plan is built, it will be because it is not some mountaintop visionary's idea, but the distillation of dozens of meetings with local community groups.

    "This plan shows that you don't necessarily need enormous pieces of architecture to make the East River a totally different place," said Raymond Gastil, director of city planning for Manhattan. "It's real, it's doable and it will change the city's edge."

    Two other developments might help nudge the plan toward realization. The first is the closing of the Fulton Fish Market, which will relieve the neighborhood of a good deal of truck traffic and some particularly overripe odors. The second is the takeover last November of the failing South Street Seaport mall on Pier 17 by General Growth.

    The Chicago-based real estate company also has the right to lease the empty fish market, and it has hired the architectural firm Beyer Blinder Belle to explore options for extending the mall into other buildings. The company's plans will have to mesh with those of the city.

    "Whatever General Growth wants to do, they'll have to come to us [for approvals], so we have a lot of leverage," said Michael Samuelian, who oversees all lower Manhattan projects at the Department of City Planning.

    Most large-scale public works projects in Manhattan have to wade through a quicksand of opposition; this one seems to be gliding on an air cushion of optimism. One point in the plan's favor is that its ambitions more or less match its resources. Still, one of its most ardent supporters, Carter Craft, director of the advocacy group Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, warned that the money could easily bleed away in half-measures.

    "You can spend $150 million really quick and not have a lot to show for it," he said. "The real challenge is to target that money specifically and strategically. Waterfront construction is second only to building a tunnel in terms of its expense, and when you're building in one of the oldest parts of Manhattan, there will be surprises down there."


    Copyright © 2005, Newsday, Inc.

  14. #59

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    Better than what's there now, but Bryant Park it ain't.

    The view from a taxi on the Drive is great. Will it be affected by high parapets?

  15. #60

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    Battery Bosque completed. Slide show at bottom of page.

    http://www.thebattery.org/rebuilding/completed.html#

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