An Eyesore Growns in Brooklyn
November 17th, 2010

Barclays Center may never host an NBA champion but it already has a distinction: novelist and urban expert James Howard Kunstler has named it the eyesore of the month (for October; sorry we caught up with this a bit late).

In his “award proclamation” — under a pretty scary picture of the future home of the Nets — Kunstler writes, “This basketball arena, designed to look like a Little Debbie Peanut Butter and Coconut Snack Cake, was designed by Ellerbe Becket and SHoP Architects. But the cherry-on-top of the whole deal is the so-called “plaza” in the foreground — a leftover triangular scrap of undevelopable real estate that [developer Bruce] Ratner threw to the people of Brooklyn as a bone to dogs. Lovely spot, huh, sandwiched, as it is, between about eleven lanes of traffic.”

By on November 17, 2010, 7:28 pm
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End of an Era (UPDATE)
May 14th, 2010

NBC announced today that it had canceled Law and Order — the city’s longest running primetime series.

Photo (cc) Det.Logan

Here is Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s statement on the show’s cancellation:

Over the last 20 years, Law & Order became a New York City institution. It began filming in the City at a time when few series did, and it helped pave the way for the more than 150 television shows based here today, including the Law & Order spinoff Special Victims Unit, which will continue. Law & Order not only broke the record for New York Citys longest-running primetime series, it set the record for the longest-running crime series in the nation, collecting numerous Emmy awards along the way. It also helped launch the careers of thousands of talented actors and featured many memorable performances although my cameos are not among them. Were grateful to Dick Wolf for choosing New York City as its location for all of these years, and for helping showcase the Citys depth and versatility as a setting and all of the advantages of filming here.

UPDATE: We just checked in with Julianne Cho of the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting, who said every season of Law and Order contributed $79 million to New York City’s economy. It ran here in New York for two decades. The show employed more than 4,000 people, Cho said.

By on May 14, 2010, 1:53 pm
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Signature Theatre Finds a Home
December 22nd, 2009


After years of struggling to get on stage somewhere near Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan, the Signature Theatre Company has found a home in Hell’s Kitchen just mere blocks from Broadway, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and members of the company announced this morning.

On the still-cement ground floor of a building under construction on 10th Avenue, stars (yes, Maggie Gyllenhaal was spotted!) officials and theater-lovers gathered to unveil the company’s new address — to be known as the Signature Center. The theater, which will have an interior designed by the architect Frank Gehry, will be just one part of the building developed by the Related Companies. The entire 59-story structure will also include a 800 new housing units, 160 of which will are for low-income families, and it comes with a $800 price tag.

The company’s space will be comprised of three distinct theaters, rehearsal studios, a cafe, bookstore and administrative offices.

Following September 11, 2001, the company planned to relocate to a Gehry-designed building in Lower Manhattan at the site of the Ground Zero reconstruction. They were slated to also share the space with the Joyce Theater. But in 2007, the company accepted an offer to relocate — with the city’s help — because the shared space proposal proved to be cost prohibitive.

The city is contributing $25 million to the theater’s construction.

Today, donning a hard hat and nearly drowned out by the sounds of construction workers hammering and drilling overhead, Bloomberg dipped his hands in cement to solidify the announcement. And then the crowd applauded (though there was no standing ovation).

“Theater makers leave only three things behind: legends, play scripts and from time to time, when the economy’s good, landlords get it, when the mayor and City Council support it, buildings,” said Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Tony Kushner, whose works will comprise the company’s 2010-11 season.

The theater is slated to open in 2012.

By on December 22, 2009, 2:15 pm
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Envisioning a New Sidewalk Shed
October 21st, 2009

The city-sponsored design competition to improve the ubiquitous royal blue sidewalk shed has been narrowed down to three finalists out of 164 submissions. Jurists in the urbanSHED competition selected the Tripod MOD(ule), urbanCLOUD, and the Urban Umbrella. Click here to see a slide show.

“The winning solutions and the honorable mentions focus attention on how our streetscape can be improved by attention to the basics of architecture: light, air, materials, structure and form,” said Rick Bell, Executive Director of AIANY, which also sponsored the competition.

The jury made its decision based on the shed’s impacts on pedestrians’ experience, the use of both natural and electric light, and improvements to structural components.

The finalists will receive $5,000 to further develop their designs, and the ultimate winner will get $10,000. The Alliance for Downtown New York, another sponsor, will build a prototype of the winner’s design in lower Manhattan.

By on October 21, 2009, 6:13 pm
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Urban Grime as History
October 21st, 2009

Incorporating the aesthetics of the natural reclamation of urban abandonment was part of the intent of the High Line park that snakes its way above the streets of the Meat Packing district. But street art wasn’t considered an essential element of that urban fabric, and graffiti that once adorned the walls along the park was replaced by the city with a solid slate of gray. But the actions have a number of people up in arms, calling it the destruction of history. And some are particularly worried about the “Revs” and “Cost” piece further down the line that remains for the time being. It’s not just graffiti, however. Metal sculptures that were once welded to a rusting cavernous area — now flooded with blue light — have also gone missing. Meanwhile, the city has made steps toward acquiring the High Line past 30th Street.

By on October 21, 2009, 6:13 pm
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Art at City Hall Angers Avella
July 9th, 2009


Include councilmember and mayoral candidate Tony Avella in the list of City Hall goers that find the new public art installation unsightly.

The police vestibules were converted to red and white, faux brick shacks about two weeks ago as part of a public art installation. I know that at least one officer, who is charged with keeping guard at City Hall’s gate, isn’t pleased with the renovation, saying he was “embarrassed” to be in there.

But what is one person’s embarrassment, is someone else’s masterpiece.

Avella sent over this letter to the editor, in full after the jump, citing his displeasure and urging other New Yorkers to write to the mayor to tell him to take them down.

Here is the letter:
Read the rest of this entry »

By on July 9, 2009, 12:53 pm
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After Gehry
June 5th, 2009

So what effect will Bruce Ratner’s decision to drop Frank Gehry’s much-touted design for the basketball arena mean to the future of Atlantic Yards? For one thing, the massive complex when — or more accurately if — built will have little resemblance to the glossy original plans.

The switch to a more conventional arena designed by Ellerbe Becket could save $200 million, a key consideration at a time when money for real estate projects is tight. And, the Times reported, Ratner has to act quickly. He has to start building the home for the Nets by the end of the year, according to Charles Bagli’s article, or face losing his right to use tax-exempt financing.

In the bid to save money, “Gehry’s swooping glass and metal designs have been swapped for a more traditional brick faade … that is not unlike Ellerbe Becket’s Conseco Fieldhouse, home to the Indianapolis Pacers,” The Architects Newspaper observed. (For reviews and pictures of Ellerbe Becket’s previous work, see Atlantic Yards Report, which last week anticipated the firm’s taking over the Nets arena.)
Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 5, 2009, 11:45 am
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New York Media Arts Map
February 2nd, 2009

To help media artists, funders, exhibitors and others find each other, the state and two non profit organization created an interactive map that organizes media arts groups by location. Users can hover over a borough or county in the state, and a list of the organizations pops up. Organizations can also be viewed by category, such as policy and advocacy, sponsorship or grantmaking. The New York Media Arts Map was launched in December by American Documentary, the Experimental Television Center and the Electronic Media and Film Program of the New York State Council for the Arts.

By on February 2, 2009, 11:36 am
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What If Your Office was a Park?
January 9th, 2009

Technology has enabled workers to collaborate from the far corners of the earth, but face-to-face collaboration is still a necessity. So how can we best facilitate that, and make the experience as welcoming as possible?

That’s the idea behind Breakout!, the upcoming “festival of mobile co-working.”

Breakout!, which is planned for the fall, intends to explore that question through a two-week festival of outdoor co-working environments in public places throughout the streets of New York. (The co-working movement is an informal meeting of freelancers who come together to collaborate on new ideas.) It will be part of an exhibition by the Architectural League of New York that will explore the integration of technology into the urban fabric.

According to their online manifesto-of-sorts, the goal is, “to provoke discussion about how urban designers, architects, freelancers and businesspeople can create public spaces that re-integrate the commercial life of knowledge-based cities into public spaces.”

The exhibits – which will be “injecting lightweight versions of essential office infrastructure into urban public spaces” – will offer a combination of three elements: online social networking tools, a set of processes and skills to get people collaborating, and “temporary and mobile infrastructure,” such as new types of portable desks and chairs.

Breakout! doesn’t necessarily see this as a new idea. “If we look back at the city before the office building, the streets were the site of every kind of economic activity,” the online presentation posits. “In the New York of 1900, almost every kind of activity took place in the streets.”

By on January 9, 2009, 4:02 am
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Landmark Problems
December 1st, 2008

Looking for an upside to the recession? (No snide comments abut hedge fund managers, please.) The current downturn could be good for the city’s architectural heritage, according to Julia Vitullo-Martin, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute (and
to Gotham Gazette). “The pause in New York City’s building boom … gives everyone a chance to think,” she wrote in the Post over the weekend. “This is the time to think about the importance of old buildings in New York’s urban fabric – and how to preserve those worth keeping.” (An accompanying slide show describes 10 endangered buildings.)

A series on the Landmarks Preservation Commission by Robin Pogrebin in the Times, though, casts doubt about whether the administration has any inclination to seize the moment. Read the rest of this entry »

By on December 1, 2008, 5:40 pm
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Graffiti as Devil on the Shoulder
November 26th, 2008

Keeping quality-of-life crimes in check is viewed by many as a means of sandbagging against the possibility of a crime wave resulting from the economic downturn.

Julia Vitullo-Martin told AMNY last week that the city needs to keep cracking down on such offenses. “Our sidewalks are mess, streets are a mess, theres dirt all over the place, quality-of-life offenses are clearly going up, theres graffiti all over the place, theres awful acid vandalism that one sees increasingly in the subway,” she cautioned.

But the theory that petty crime leads to more serious crime, referred to as the “Broken Windows” theory, had never been scientifically tested – until now.

A study published in the online journal Science found that people will indeed commit crimes if they see that others have gotten away with something.

In a series of experiments that played out over two years, Kees Keizer, a professor at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, created environments in public places to test the theory.

In one experiment, Kees and his colleagues painted graffiti in an alleyway used to park bicycles. He then attached fliers for a nonexistent sporting event to the bikes and observed how many people littered the fliers. He also observed how many people littered the fliers when the alleyway was clean.

The result? Nearly 70 percent of those observed littered when the walls had graffiti (which was painted sloppy so that it wouldn’t be mistaken as art). But when the walls were clean, only a third littered.

Pictures of the experiment are posted on the Not Rocket Science blog.

But zero-tolerance polices used to keep such quality-of-life crimes in check can be counterproductive, Keizer warns, because people view it as a declaration of war.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on November 26, 2008, 2:34 pm
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Money in the Mist
October 22nd, 2008

Love it or loathe it, Olafur Eliasson’s New York City Waterfalls apparently provided a boost to the city in these tough economic times. According to a report issued by the city yesterday, the controversial art installation generated $69 million for the city economy.

Seems a lot for a project that, as Daily Intel put it, “Mostly just made you go, ‘Oh yeah, the waterfalls,’ when you happened to pass by a spot where you could see them.”

So how did they come up with that figure?
Read the rest of this entry »

By on October 22, 2008, 1:39 pm
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Mail Order Homes
August 8th, 2008

Although there’s no word on the exhibition of the winners from the Office of Emergency Management’s post-disaster housing design competition, the Museum of Modern Art has got its own display of pre-fabricated housing on display in their Home Delivery exhibit. One of the homes, the System3, was erected at the exhibition site in six and a half hours. Another building, designed specifically for New Orleans, is estimated to cost just $40,000 apiece if produced in large quantities. Each of the five buildings, on view in the museum’s adjacent vacant lot, has its own journal on the exhibit’s Web site.

Scribe Media video via Inhabitat.

By on August 8, 2008, 4:22 pm
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'Emotionalizing' Global Warming
July 24th, 2008

Turning off the lights in office buildings after hours might seem like an obvious way to save energy and cut back on carbon emissions. But one creative team has another idea – leave some of them on.

JWT New York, an ad team, has proposed leaving all of the lights on at night on the eighth floor of every building on Park Ave. “If both the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets melt, sea levels will rise 80 feet, or, in city terms, eight stories,” the group said in its proposal. The idea, which they dub “The Datum Line,” was the winner of the “Concepts” category of I.D. Magazine’s Annual Design Review. (Via Razor Apple)

The design review also featured the West 8th Street Subway Station Facade in Coney Island as a winner in their “Environments” category. Submissions to the review will be on exhibition at The New School through September.

By on July 24, 2008, 4:59 pm
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311 Gets Dance Therapy
July 7th, 2008

At noon and 1:30 p.m. today uninitiated passersby might have been startled by the group of red and black-clad dancers jumping off the Municipal Building columns and silently strutting and sashaying in the outdoor lunch hangout at 1 Centre Street. Risa Jaroslow’s “311” is a dance for Sitelines, part of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s series of site-specific performances — this one supposed to highlight city engagement.

It turned out to be equal parts modern dance and old-fashioned public forum. Alberto Dennis, the dancer-MC, brought out a microphone and started asking the crowd questions: “How do you feel about municipal government today?” “I don’t really have an answer to that,” a young woman says. Turns out she’s from the Virgin Islands. Another man answers, “I probably shouldn’t say, given that I work in it.”

Dennis moves onto other questions: “What changes would you like to see in the city?” One man, votes for same-sex marriage rights. “Who knows what would happen if there were more Republicans in the New York State Senate?” Another woman gave an impromptu PSA about giving up a subway seat to the elderly or pregnant. “That would be nice. And also — well, what about that 2nd Avenue train line? There’s been so many MTA fare hikes, but I’m not seeing a show of what I’m paying for.”

The crowd, like most in New York, got fairly vocal. The only group that refused to answer any questions was a cluster of young, blue-oxford’d Department of Education consultants — they were too busy trying to look busy over the remnants of Subway sandwiches and salads. Maybe they just didn’t have much to say.

If you have something to air about 311, or general comments about city government, bring them to the next lunchtime dance performances continuing throughout this week.

By on July 7, 2008, 5:02 pm
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Hip Hop and Condoms
June 27th, 2008

Hip hop has been blamed for contributing to urban ills for years. It is said to promote violence, misogyny, and homophobia. And with songs like the late Old Dirty Bastard‘s ode to unprotected sex, one might also question its influence on safe sex.

As a push began this week to get every adult in the Bronx (hip hop’s birthplace) tested for HIV, and with a recent survey by the city on New Yorker’s sexual practices, the question might seem especially timely.

So, do b-boys, as hip hop’s participants are wont to be called, engage in risky behavior when it comes to sex? Not necessarily, a study published this month in the American Journal of Public Health has found.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 27, 2008, 11:40 am
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Waterfalls Flip the Switch
June 26th, 2008

Photo from nydiscovery via Creative Commons

Photo by nydiscovery and used via Creative Commons. It was taken on June 20.

On a soggy morning who would have thought the city needed even more water?

Well, we got just that.

This morning, Mayor Michael Bloomberg flipped the switch on the “New York City Waterfalls” — a public art exhibit, which was privately funded, designed by Olafur Eliasson. Cascading water can be found at four East River locations, from Governors Island to Pier 35 in Manhattan. They will be on display until Oct. 13.

Similar to “The Gates” project in Central Park, the waterfalls are likely to be a tourist trap for the next several months. The city has released a brochure on the best viewing spots, and is also suggesting a ride on the Staten Island Ferry or hopping on the Circle Line for a waterfalls tour.

By on June 26, 2008, 12:21 pm
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Illegal Advertisers Off the Hook?
June 20th, 2008

Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe drives around with bolt cutters to cut it down from park fences. Its appearance on construction scaffoldings throughout the city led to a billboard-sized controversy. And Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro once told the Staten Island Advance, “It’s like graffiti, almost. This is environmental graffiti.”

With all this opposition, is illegal advertising going to face one of those quality of life crackdowns that graffiti would face? Maybe somebody will amend the state bill that seeks to turn graffiti into a felony to include illegal advertisers?

Probably not.

In fact, the Anti-Advertising Agency points out that the Police Department’s vandal squad doesn’t even arrest such ad perps. Of the nearly 3,800 arrests they made in 2007, none of those arrests were for illegal advertising, the activist group points out. (Click here to see Graffitistat complaints broken down by borough.)

“Youd think assaulting journalists might be enough for the vandal squad to take notice, but not yet,” writes Steve Lambert, the group’s founder.

While some debate whether graffiti is an art or a crime, Gawker says being anti-advertising is just plain anti-American.

By on June 20, 2008, 2:03 pm
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Arts Education Debate Continues
March 21st, 2008

Two and a half years ago, Sharon Dunn, the newly installed head of arts education at the Department of Education, sat in front of the City Council unable to offer an idea of how many schools offer arts programs.

Earlier this month, the Bloomberg Administration caught up to speed and issued its first report card on the arts in schools. But the findings were not positive: Only four percent of elementary schools meet the state’s arts education requirements.

Arts advocates were quick to criticize the administration, according to the New York Times, and some even said that the $150,000 spent on the report could have been used for arts programs.

But at least one group now says that although the numbers are deplorable, “the Department of Education deserves credit for acknowledging this in its new report and has pledged to improve that performance.”
Read the rest of this entry »

By on March 21, 2008, 12:05 pm
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The Cattle Branding of Times Square
February 22nd, 2008

Karrie Jacobs wrote a decade ago that Times Square was the only place in New York to “explore the marriage of architecture and electronic technology, of form and image, that is emerging as the defining style of the early twenty-first century. But now, in Metropolis Magazine, she questions the relevance of “a district dedicated to overstimulation for overstimulations sake in todays environment.”

Times Square, she observes, “is now the epicenter of branding, its vitality dependent on the creative brio of the advertising industry. And branding, at this moment, is less a matter of originality and more a matter of claiming turf, whether that turf is a Times Square Jumbotron, a wee cell-phone screen, or the spot that blocks the paragraph youre trying to read on a Web site. Ive always loved Times Square, but Im sick to death of branding.”

Click here to read the article.

By on February 22, 2008, 11:48 am
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