Construction Begins on New York to New Jersey Tunnel

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Construction Begins on NY-NJ Tunnel

Construction recently began on an $8.7 billion New York to New Jersey tunnel, the largest U.S. transportation project that is expected to double the number of rail commuters traveling between New Jersey and Manhattan.

The new tunnel will add two more rail lines and will help to speed up the work commute by increasing the number or NJ Transit passenger trains under the river during peak rush hour from 23 to 48. In some cases, traveling time will be cut down by 15 minutes each way because commuters will no longer have to switch trains to reach Manhattan.

Peter Rogoff, chief of the Federal Transit Administration said that the federal government’s $3 billion contribution to the project is the largest ever by his agency and that the tunnel will shorten rail trips in New York City and northern New Jersey, which have some of the nation’s longest commutes.

The new tunnel is estimated to create 6,000 construction jobs and 45,000 permanent jobs upon completion. The project is expected to be completed in 2017.

This story originally appeared in Engineering News-Record.

Upper West Side Mandell School Expands, Goes Green

Construction on Mandell School’s 50,000-sq-ft build out and 10,000-sq-ft learning center is scheduled for March 2010. (Rendering courtesy of Rubenstein Associates, Inc. Public Relations.)

Mandell School on the Upper West Side is set to expand into a new state-of-the-art green facility at 795 Columbus Avenue, a 15-story apartment building that is part of Columbus Square, a retail and residential community currently under development between 97th and 100th Streets.

New York City based Aragon Construction and JRS Architect, P.C. will be in charge of the school’s 50,000-sq-ft build-out that will make up the building’s entire second floor as well as half of both the first floor and basement constructing features such as a black box theatre for students to stage their own drama productions and a 20-ft-long digital screen that will display student artwork on the first floor.

In the long term, Mandell School hopes to be LEED certified, therefore, numerous sustainable materials are being utilized in construction such as rubber flooring, high-efficiency lighting using digital photo sensors and dimmers, and a living wall that will be completely covered in vegetation. An 8,000-sq-ft outdoor terrace is also being built for the children with a modular design in order to create a green roof garden.

Currently, Mandell School has three locations including west 94th, 95th, and 96th Streets and accommodates 300 children, from a two’s program up to the 2nd grade but once the new facility is complete, total capacity will grow to 650 with a program that reaches the 8th grade.

Aragon and JRS Architect, P.C. have also been contracted to build a 10,000-sq-ft learning center for Mandell in another Columbus Square residential building featuring an early childhood library and a media learning station.

Work on the school’s expansion and learning center is scheduled for March 2010, once construction is complete on the two buildings with a goal of having a complete school punch list for the beginning of the September 2010 school year.

Empire Merchants North Headquarters Seeks LEED Certification

When completed, Empire Merchants North will have 35,000 sq ft of offi ce space and 220,000 sq ft of warehouse space and will accommodate a potential 130,000 sq ft warehouse expansion. (Rendering courtesy of KSS Architects.)

A new 250,000-sq-ft state-of-the-art corporate headquarters and distribution center for Empire Merchants North, a New York based wine and spirits distributor is being designed by KSS Architects of Albany, New York and strives to achieve LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council upon completion.

The $27.5 million project is being built in the town of Coxsackie by project team KSS Architects along with BBL Construction, also based in Albany who while working on an aggressive schedule, secured approvals from the township planning board in less than two months and seeks to be the first LEEDcertified building in Greene County, New York where the town is located by including sustainable features including construction materials with a high percentage of recycled content such as steel and concrete, and materials that are manufactured within a 500-mile radius of the project.

The building will also use 25 percent less energy due to energy-efficient design features such as increased building insulation as well as highly efficient toilet fixtures that will save an estimated 140,000 gallons of water per year. The site landscaping will further reduce water usage because it requires no irrigation beyond rainwater.

Also featured is a white roof to minimize heat island effect, the reinforcement of the roof structure to allow for the potential installation of solar panels in the future, an energy efficient conveyor system, a logistics program to reduce trucking fuel consumption, battery charging stations for warehouse equipment and the elimination of any truck idling at the loading dock. Hybrid vehicles and carpools will be given preferred parking spaces to encourage fuel-efficient transportation practices.

“This project works to be green in every respect,” said Edmund Klimek, partner at KSS Architects. “We designed the building to be environmentally sensitive and worked closely with Greene County representatives to create an architecture that fits well with its environment, using stonework and material that is found locally.”

When completed, the new facility will have 35,000 sq ft of office space and 220,000 sq ft of warehouse space and will accommodate a potential 130,000 sq ft warehouse expansion.

Empire Merchants North corporate headquarters and distribution center broke ground this past March and is expected to be completed in December 2009.

Skanska Starts UN Headquarters Remodeling Phase

Skanska USA Building, selected by the United Nations in July 2007 to serve as construction manager for the UN’s Capital Master Plan, is set to start another phase for renovation and upgrading of the international agency’s headquarters in New York City.

The current phase includes the renovation of the basement and the completion of a temporary conference facility in the North Lawn Conference Building, and temporary office premises in which Skanska was awarded a new contract of approximately $261 million.

The project will be performed on a phased basis through 2013 and will total approximately $1 billion upon completion. To date, including the current contract, $520 million of the total contract amount has been used and included in the order bookings.

Nation’s Greenest Residential Development Planned

The Albanese Organization of Garden City, New York has recently announced that its latest green residential development, The Visionaire, has received LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, marking it as the greenest residential condominium in the United States and the only LEED Platinum condominium on the east coast.

Located in Manhattan’s Battery Park City, The Visionaire offers energy savings of more than 40 percent and captured all 10 of the energy LEED optimization credits available by featuring a high-efficiency air filtration system that conditions, filters and supplies fresh air to each home, a water treatment system that recycles water and provides make-up water for HVAC system cooling tower.

The 35-story curved-glass-façade development was designed by Pelli ClarkePelli Architects of New Haven, Connecticut and contains 247 homes that each include Forest Stewardship Council certified wood flooring which promotes forest re-growth, renewable bamboo cabinetry, Energy Star appliances, environmentally safe paints, adhesives and sealants. Additional sustainable elements include a rooftop garden, building-integrated solar panels and a central heating and cooling system powered by natural gas.

“With the Visionaire, the Albanese Organization has exceeded expectations and set a new standard for green development in Battery Park City, New York and the entire country,” said James F. Gill, chairman of Battery Park City Authority.

In addition to The Visionaire, The Albanese Organization also completed two other Battery Park City developments including the first green residential building in North America, The Solaire, in 2003 and America’s first LEED Platinum residential high-rise, The Versidian, in 2006.

Hudson Scenic Studio Expansion Moves Forward

The Board of Yonkers Industrial Development Agency recently passed a resolution to move forward with a public hearing and to negotiate an economic development package for the renovation of Hudson Scenic Studio, an award-winning national production and scenic fabrication firm that has served Broadway and the professional entertainment industry for nearly three decades.

Hudson Scenic Studio which is currently located at 130 Fernbrook Street in Yonkers has proposed a major renovation of 78 Fernbrook to accommodate manufacturing and warehouse facility. This $2,660,000 project will entail the renovation of an existing 50,000-sq-ft structure commonly known as the former Tyco Building creating 25 new construction jobs and 15 new permanent jobs while retaining 135 full time jobs.

“No sector of our economy is immune to the current recession, so it is imperative that Yonkers and the IDA use every resource available not only to bring new businesses to the city, but to make sure we maintain and grow the ones we have,” said Mayor Philip Amicone, chairman of the Yonkers IDA.

Inducements from the IDA for Hudson Scenic Studio to expand its operations could include a bond issuance, a sales and use tax exemption for materials and equipment used in construction as well as a structured property tax agreement. After a public hearing, the IDA will vote on a final development agreement.

“Passing this resolution is a critically important step in moving this project forward,” stated Ellen Lynch, president and CEO of the Yonkers IDA.

NYCEDC Sells Property to Support Expansion

New York City Economic Development Corporation recently announced that it has sold a 10,000-sq-ft piece of city-owned land to Comfort Bedding, a mattress manufacturer based in Brownsville, Brooklyn in order to help the company construct a 10,000-sq-ft industrial building to expand its operations.

Currently, Comfort Bedding occupies an approximately 21,000-sq-ft manufacturing facility and 7,500 sq ft of outdoor storage space near the newly acquired site located at 117-121 Liberty Avenue in Brownsville and as a result of the $1.7 million expansion project, it will add 15 employees to its 50.

In June 2006, NYCEDC issued a request for proposals to redevelop the site, encourage the development of quality space in New York City for industrial firms, and enable the enhancement and growth of the city’s industrial community. The property is part of the Brownsville II Industrial Urban Renewal Plan and is in the East New York Industrial Business Zone, which has created and retained 650 jobs and leveraged $25 million in private investment since its inception.

“This project is a testament to the strength and promise of New York City’s manufacturers,” said NYCEDC President Seth W. Pinsky. “Ensuring that New York City’s manufacturing community retains its vitality is a central theme of Mayor Bloomberg’s Five Borough Economic Opportunity Plan.”

Village Green Targets LEED Gold Certification

Village Green is one of only two condominium sites in the East Village that is moving ahead at this time designed with sustainable approaches to energy efficiency. (Rendering courtesy of Harriet Weintraub Public Relations.)

311 E11: Village Green, designed by Michael and Izak Namer of New York City in order to define environmentally responsible 21st century living is currently under construction in the East Village, and targeting LEED Gold certification.

Plans for this project were designed many years ago but developer Michael Namer resurrected them insisting on converting all of the building specifications and systems to use renewable and green technology and was able to accomplish this for 20-30% less than it would have cost to build from the original plans. As a result, 311 E11: Village Green is one of only two condominium sites in the East Village that is moving ahead at this time designed with sustainable approaches to energy efficiency.

The Namers are supporting wind power to generate sustainable and renewable electricity and are installing water-conserving fixtures throughout. A green roof will be installed to provide natural insulation and to reduce the “heat island effect,” and special drains will recover rainwater to reduce potable water required to irrigate gardens in the building. 311 E11: Village Green will also include low emissions paints, sealants, coolants, and coating as well as recycling center in the kitchens, lighting controls and biothermal air conditioning and heating for the lobby and wellness center. The building’s homes range from approximately 730 sq ft to 2,000 sq ft all designed with various fresh air options to appeal to an environmentally-conscious consumer.

Construction on 311 E11: Village Green began in May 2008 and occupancy is slated for early 2010.

Work to Begin on Long-Delayed Louis Kahn Park

The Four Freedoms Park was designed specifically for the Roosevelt Island site by architect Louis I. Kahn to honor President Roosevelt. (Photo courtesy of Rubenstein Associates, Inc. Public Relations)

After decades of false starts, one of architect Louis Kahn’s final works, a 4.5-acre park in New York City to honor President Franklin D. Roosevelt, is scheduled to break ground in mid-August on the synergistically named Roosevelt Island, in the East River.

The nine-member board of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC), which is the public authority that runs the island, voted 7 to 1 in favor of the proposal, with one member not present.

The $45 million project, to be called Four Freedoms Park, after a well-known Roosevelt speech, has secured the entire $14.7 million in public and private money it needs for the first phase of construction, says Gina Pollara, who is supervising the project on behalf of the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute (FERI), the sponsor.

Plus, the park, which will be located on the island’s southern tip, across from the United Nations, has secured two-dozen necessary approvals from 18 city, state and federal agencies. “I’m thrilled,” says Pollara, who trained as an architect. “We’re definitely moving forward.”

Roosevelt Island is located between Brooklyn and Queens, in the shadow of the Queensboro – or 59th St – Bridge.

The park’s dart-shaped design, which Kahn created in 1974, features stone-paved promenades that edge a sloping lawn, which is fringed with allees of linden trees. At the tip will sit a 3,600-square-foot enclosure ringed with 28 tall granite blocks inscribed with snippets of the “Four Freedoms” speech, which Roosevelt gave to Congress in 1941 extolling the freedoms of speech and religion, and from want and fear.

Though some steps in the enclosure will give way to wheelchair-friendly ramps, to bring the park up to snuff with modern codes, the end result would be remarkably similar to Kahn’s original, says Paul Broches, AIA, a principal at Mitchell/Giurgola Architects, the lead architect.

“We wanted to retain as literally as possible everything in that design,” says Broches, who drafted the original construction documents in 1975. The project was scuttled in the 1970s due to funding woes; a revival of the scheme in the 1990s encountered political resistance.

The first phase entails construction of the enclosure at the tip, and the adjoining sculpture court. Phases two and three, which still await funding, call for work on the east and west sides of the park, landscaping, and construction of the large granite sections, according to Pollara.

When the park is completed, it will earn a pair of firsts. It would be Kahn’s premier project in New York City, in a state with just two of them: Temple Beth El, in Chappaqua, and First Unitarian Church, in Rochester.

It will also be the first Roosevelt memorial in the president’s native New York State, which would please Kahn, who designed housing projects in Philadelphia during the Depression through Roosevelt-created jobs programs, says Sue Ann Kahn, his daughter.

“My father was supported by the W.P.A.,” Kahn says. “I remember listening to reports of Roosevelt’s death on the radio during dinner.”

However historic, the design has opponents on Roosevelt Island, which is home to about 12,000 people, for its use of $8.5 million in public funds. Others have argued that the park’s trees would block front-and-center views of the United Nations’s Secretariat building. Indeed, in a local online survey conducted in April, 29 respondents said they didn’t like Kahn’s design, as compared with 22 who did, with 15 undecided.

Other complaints came from the Roosevelt Island Disabled Association, an 80-member, 24-year-old group that represents the island’s sizeable handicapped population. It wanted FERI to add a likeness of Roosevelt in a wheelchair, in addition to the bronze head currently slated to be there, to help foster a role model for disabled children, says Jim Bates, the groups’ treasurer.

“Roosevelt’s disability gave him a better understanding of freedom,” Bates says. “His wheelchair gave him freedom of movement.”

This report originally appeared in Architectural Record.

Brooklyn Arts District Plods Ahead

Despite delays and the cancellation of high-profile plans, the BAM Cultural District in downtown Brooklyn is slowly but surely moving forward. Envisioned as a hub of artistic activity clustered around the existing Brooklyn Academy of Music, four projects are scheduled to break ground later this year.

The district was originally organized around a master plan completed in the year 2000 by Diller Scofidio + Renfro and the Office for Metropolitan Architecture, and included an Enrique Norten-designed glass library shaped like a boat prow, and a new theater by Frank Gehry and Hugh Hardy of the New York-based H3 Hardy Collaboration. Those plans changed significantly over time due to a lack of funds, changing players, and shifting ideas for the site.

More modest interventions are now taking shape and were revealed in late March at a presentation hosted by the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, which is involved in the redevelopment effort. All of these projects “are far enough along in the pipeline” that they are not affected by the economic downturn, according to Katie Dixon, the partnership’s director of planning and development for arts and culture.

Two significant projects, both designed by Hardy, are expected to break ground later this year. One is the renovation of a former Salvation Army building at 321 Ashland Place into the 263-seat BAM Community and Education Theater, or Fisher Building; the project is part of a $300 million expansion plan. The other project is a new $59 million, 299-seat venue for the Theater for a New Audience. This latter facility was the project that Hardy originally designed with Gehry, but the site has since changed, and Gehry is no longer involved.

In addition to these new performing arts venues, New York-based Leeser Architecture is overseeing a renovation of the 1919 neoclassical Strand Theatre building at 647 Fulton Street, which currently houses the nonprofit Urban Glass and the arts and media organization BRIC. Working with a budget of $17.3 million, Thomas Leeser says he intends to create a new “urban lobby” for the building by pushing parts of the façade back from the street and adding expanses of glass, in addition to reorganizing the interior space to better serve its occupants.

In regards to keeping costs down, Leeser says “you don’t redo the entire façade, just the pieces that you need. Everything that you can reuse, you reuse.” Anticipating that he will soon receive all necessary approvals from the city, Leeser expects construction will begin this fall and take up to two years to complete.

The overall scheme for the district is about more than spruced-up buildings. Landscape architect Ken Smith has designed streetscape improvements for sections of Lafayette Avenue and Ashland Place running through the site. The plan includes a custom paving pattern that evokes manhole rings, as well as black powder-coated cobra-head streetlamps installed closely together, all on one side of the street to create a canopy of sorts. They are low-cost moves that “will create a place,” explains Smith, noting that the first phase of construction should begin within the next year.

While these projects are moving forward, it’s a different story for two other big projects proposed for the district—the mixed-use Brooklyn Arts Tower by StudioMDA with Behnisch Architects, and a new mixed-use facility containing housing, retail, and cultural spaceby Enrique Norten with development firm Two Trees Management. “They are our most challenging projects,” admits Dixon. “There’s not very much to talk about at this point. The city is still trying to figure out what they can do.”

This report originally appeared in Architectural Record.

Groundbreaking at Cornell Could Mark the End of 12-Year Saga

For more than a decade, Cornell University has grappled with its plan to construct a new facility for its College of Architecture, Art and Planning. On June 8, however, a backhoe began digging up dirt at the building’s proposed site—the north edge of the Arts Quad—perhaps marking the end of an epic drama that has involved a large cast of characters, a global financial crisis, and the looming threat of academic decertification.

Scheduled to open in the fall of 2011, the Paul Milstein Hall, designed by the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), will contain studios for the architecture program, along with a 275-seat auditorium, space for juried critiques, and a gallery to be shared by all AAP departments. The two-story, 47,000 square foot building, whose design has faced a fair amount of opposition, survived the last stretch of the approval process with its Miesian box not only intact but extravagantly cantilevered.

The odyssey began in 1997, when the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) reprimanded the AAP for its insufficient and out-of-date facilities. The college—which offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in architecture, along with art and urban and regional planning—is spread among four buildings (Rand, Sibley, Tjaden, and the Foundry), none of which had been purpose-built for the architecture department.

The college promised to rectify the situation and commissioned Boston-based Schwartz/ Silver Architects to design a new arts library to make way for expanded architecture studios. The scheme was never approved. Next came proposals for new buildings by Steven Holl, and later, Barkow Leibinger—both of which hit roadblocks and were never realized.

OMA was hired in 2005 to devise a new plan. Rem Koolhaas proposed a rectangular box for an unoccupied area between Rand and Sibley Halls, thus connecting the two buildings. The glass and steel box would float above a domed crit space, and the northern edge of the building would reach across the street toward the historic Foundry, which houses sculpture studios. No architecture can please everybody, says Shohei Shigematsu, director of the OMA New York office, “but our original aim was really to create a place where the college can fulfill its ambition.”

The scheme triggered an avalanche of new preservation concerns and objections. In response, OMA scaled back the design, lessening the building’s visibility, and cantilevered the second floor, reducing its impact on the Foundry’s sight lines. More problems ensued. The city planning commission disputed the university’s right to build above the street. Meanwhile, the NAAB returned in 2008 to evaluate the undergraduate program and delivered a loud no-confidence vote on the facility’s lack of progress, granting a reduced accreditation period of three years. It also canceled a 2009 review of the school’s new master’s program. Then, last fall, the university’s endowment was hit by the collapsing banking system, and all capital projects were put on hold.

This spring, however, with the threat of another NAAB rebuke on the horizon, and with some financial stability returning, the university trustees at last relented, voting on May 23 to proceed with construction of Paul Milstein Hall (named after the major New York developer and philanthropist, whose children attended Cornell). “It would have been very easy for them to say we just can’t do this, the economy has hit us hard and we just have to wait,” says Kent Kleinman, dean of AAP. “Nobody would have blinked.”

But Cornell’s 138-year-old architecture school, whose undergraduate program is consistently rated among the top in the nation, might have lost its accreditation. The NAAB is scheduled to conduct its next on-site review in the spring of 2010, and if construction continues as planned, it should see the shell of a new studio building in place. “The [architecture] program is a gem in Cornell’s crown,” Kleinman says. “It has fabulous teachers and fabulous students. You can overcome bad facilities with that, but you can’t overcome them indefinitely.”

This report originally appeared in Architectural Record.

First Phase of Bushwick Inlet Park Breaks Ground

The first phase of the Bushwick Inlet Park located on Kent Avenue between North 9th and North 10th Streets in the Greenpoint and Williamsburg neighborhoods of Brooklyn recently broke ground.

This is the first section of the 28-acre Bushwick Inlet Park envisioned in the 2005 rezoning of Greenpoint and Williamsburg, and is part of Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to transform the city’s waterfront.

“Once completed, Bushwick Inlet Park, along with adjacent East River State Park and several public esplanades in residential developments to the south and north, will create contiguous open space along the shore for New Yorkers to enjoy,” stated the office of Mayor Bloomberg.

The first phase of the park will include the construction of a synthetic turf multipurpose field for soccer, football, lacrosse, field hockey, rugby, and ultimate frisbee from a former rental car storage lot that sits at the southern end of the planned park, adjacent to East River State Park. The park is comprised of six lots that are all mapped parkland, The field is being funded with $7.1 million from the city stretching from North 9th Street North 10th Street, between Kent Avenue and the East River and is expected to be completed in winter 2010.

The second phase of the park is being funded with $22.6 million from the city and will create public waterfront access, a playground, and a new sustainable building with community and Parks Department maintenance space.

The building will be located at North 9th Street and will feature a green roof with a shade structure composed of photovoltaic cells that will provide solar energy to power the building connecting to the soccer field area with a hilltop recreational space and playground. The building will apply for LEED Silver certification for its innovative sustainable design, and has received a 2008 Design Award from the Public Design Commission.

Construction on the park’s second phase is scheduled to begin early next year and is expected to be completed by summer 2010.


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