THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD
Poor Williamsburg. It’s now suffering a terrible fate known to but a handful of pert prom queens and high school football hunks—it is not only possible to be popular, but to be too popular.
While many of the newcomers who have recently washed up on Williamsburg’s luxury condo-strewn shores are no doubt aware that the neighborhood is “changing” and that that change is part of what makes it attractive to so many new, well-heeled residents—would they have been able to buy artisanal chutney there back in 2005?—they’re apparently more than a little uncomfortable with the fact that it continues to, well, change. At least, they hate the construction, according to DNAinfo.
New York apartments are notorious for being about as big as a shoe box, but those were typically 19th century tenements. Today, the Bloomberg administration brought tiny apartments into the 21 century with My Micro NY, the winning entry in a competition launched last July to create a miniature housing model for the city.
Currently, it is illegal to build a new apartment smaller than 450 square feet, but the new program seeks comfortable, attractive housing units between 250 and 375 square feet. The city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development received 33 different entries for the project, which will be built on a city-owned site in Murray Hill.
One of the big debates that has been raging around the rezoning of Midtown East is how it might impact development already underway around the city, much of it funded in part by the public sector, and thus taxpayers. Should these projects fail, Joe Public could lose out on his investment.
The World Trade Center and Hudson Yards have been two focal points, but Manhattan West, which broke ground yesterday, ought to be considered, too. While the project’s backers bragged at the groundbreaking about building without public subsidy, they are still competing for the same anchor tenants as their rivals further east. Furthermore, the $2 billion the city contributed to the construction of the 7 train nearby is to be paid back through property taxes on the new projects. No new development, no bond proceeds, big trouble for the city.
Still, Mayor Bloomberg is standing by the decision to fast-track the Midtown rezoning and ensure it gets completed this year.
For the second time in as many months, Mayor Michael Bloomberg trekked out the Far West Side for a groundbreaking on a major new development built over a set of railroad tracks. While Brookfield’s Manhattan West is not quite as big as The Related Company’s Hudson Yards, in its size and scale and heft and sheer exclamation of the arrival of this once derelict corner of the city, the project measures up pound for pound. Some 5.4 million square feet of offices and housing and shopping on not much more than one city block.
“With today’s groundbreaking, we’re taking a major step forward in the transformation and rebirth of the Far West Side of Manhattan,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said from the podium at the corner of 33rd Street and Ninth Avenue.
Back in September, The Observer wondered just how many luxury towers could possibly pop up on 57th Street, following the announcement of 107 West 57th Street. This was in addition to Gary Barnett’s One57, CIM and Harry Macklowe’s 432 Park and Mr. Barnett’s 225 West 57th Street, which is poised to become the city’s tallest tower at 1,550 feet. And all the way down at the Hudson, there is of course Bjarke Ingels and Durst Fetner’s pyramid apartments.
Now, the shiny strip has a new eastern redoubt. The Observer has learned that a long-planned 57-story tower at 250 East 57th Street, on the corner of Second Avenue, is set to rise this year. Demolition already began on the old high school on the 63,000-square-foot lot in November, the same month World Wide Group, the project’s developer, filed new construction documents for the contorted tower designed by Roger Duffy, the art-loving visionary at SOM who designed the equally daring Toren condo tower in Downtown Brooklyn,
on the waterfront
How would you like to wake up to views of the Manhattan Bridge and Lower Manhattan beyond, a lavish waterfront park right outside? That is the vision Brooklyn Bridge Park is hoping will entice developers into the newest private development within the libertarian park. Today, the park released a request for proposals for a development at the nexus of John and Pearl streets in Dumbo. The project calls for no more than 130 residential units in a 101,000-square foot development that can rise no higher than 13 stories.
“The addition of the residential development at the John Street site represents a critical element of our park maintenance plan,” Regina Myer, president of Brooklyn Bridge Park, said in a statement. “This development will not only benefit the DUMBO community, it will further activate the northern end of the park.”
No sooner did Extell Development file permits for a new 1,550-foot residential tower on the corner of 57th Street and Broadway then scaffolding started to go up around one of the final properties comprising Gary Barnett’s little west side assemblage that will be home to the city’s tallest tower. On Friday morning, The Observer happened to be out for a stroll on the crosstown boulevard when we noticed construction workers assembling a sidewalk shed, the first sign of construction commencement.
A source close to Extell confirms that demolition will soon begin on 1780 Broadway, a 12-story building that was once home to BF Goodrich. At the time, this corner of Gotham was known as Automobile Row during the Gilded Age. Because of an agreement with the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, the facade of 1780 Broadway must be retained as part of any new building, so this will presumably be a careful deconstruction.
on the waterfront
While the Bloomberg administration has largely come in for praise for its Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts, questions remain over whether City Hall made things worse by encouraging waterfront development. The Independent Budget Office certainly believes so in a critical analysis it has issued looking at the seemingly hypocritical policy initiatives Mayor Bloomberg had championed.
On the one hand, the city had taken pains to reduce its carbon footprint as it acknowledges the dangers posed by rising sea levels and superstorms. At the same time, the administration continues to encourage new residential and commercial projects in the very areas it is wringing its hands over.
Peer under the tent flap of our splendid new civic order, and you’re guaranteed to see a disturbing sight: all the same failed policies of the past, lovingly preserved in formaldehyde.
That’s what I got from Amy Nicholson’s thoroughly enjoyable, thoroughly enraging new documentary, Zipper: Coney Island’s Last Wild Ride, which won a special jury prize last week at DOC NYC, New York’s Documentary Film Festival and is currently making the festival rounds. Ms. Nicholson was generous enough to open her film with a quote from me about the destruction of the old Coney, though I have no other association with the production.
What she and I do share is a deep resentment over what has been done to this iconic New York neighborhood under the guise of “improving” it.
How many more lives will be lost and how much damage will it take for us to realize that Sandy was part of a continuing menacing pattern of extreme weather events that are here to stay? In 2005 it was Katrina, last year Irene and now Sandy. But around the world, extreme weather has crippled nations and destroyed property since 2000. You may think this has been going on forever, since the time of Noah, but this destruction has been escalating, with more damage every year than any similar span in recorded history.
Insurance losses in the U.S. averaged $9 billion in the 1980s. Katrina alone cost nearly $100 billion, with an average of nearly $40 billion a year in the 2000s. If we include Japan, the destruction to the globe in the last couple of years is unparalleled. Is this global warming or something else? No matter what the cause, there is a clear pattern of severe weather causing catastrophic human losses. This pattern, according to the National Research Council, is going to continue. We have to do more than hope it won’t happen here (wherever here is). The data indicates that a disaster is coming to you, or near you, in the near future, if you live in an urbanized coastal area. More than 60 percent of all Americans do.
So, what to do?