In the Rezone
Back in 2007, in order to win his vote for Columbia’s contentious Manhattanville rezoning, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer got the city to agree to rezone the blocks north of the new 17-acre campus as well, a stanch against over development. Today, the borough president gets to vote on the rezoning he requested for West Harlem, and he is touting it as a triumph of community planning.
“This rezoning reflects the input of thousands of stakeholders in West Harlem and five years of work toward crafting a community-based planning consensus that could be a model for the rest of our City,” Mr. Stringer said in an email. “It is a promise kept to the residents of West Harlem—and a proud moment for all who are involved.”
Like many parts of the city, the zoning has not been updated since 1961. The Department of City Planning has created, through a multi-year consultation with the community, a contextual zoning package that will largely maintain the same density of development in the neighborhood while imposing new height limits and street wall requirements to ensure that sliver buildings and other uncharacteristic buildings cannot be built.
Yesterday we reported that Columbia University has won LEED ND Platinum for its Manhattanville campus, in recognition for the sustainability goals the school has set out for its new 17-acre campus off 125th Street. A big part of that is the fancy green buildings the school will be building on the site, the first of which is the Jerome L. Greene Science Center (dubbed the Mind-Brain Institute) designed by Pritzker Prize winner and Times HQ architect Renzo Piano, who also helped created the LEED-certified master plan. The project is slowly taking shape in Harlem, but Columbia provided us with this cool video that shows the building coming together in all of one minute, 17 seconds.
With the exception of a deadly construction accident in March, things have been fairly quiet on the western front of Harlem. Starting nearly a decade ago, Manhattanville became one of the most hotly contested corners of the city, as Columbia University first worked to have the neighborhood rezoned for a new 17-acre campus, approved in 2007, followed by the state leading an eminent domain case on the school’s behalf to repossess the land of two local business owners, which culminated in 2010. (Since then, the city’s focus has shifted south, to another university-led redevelopment.)
All the while, Columbia has gone about the work of creating the most environmentally progressive neighborhood in the entire five boroughs, all from whole cloth.
Last week, the U.S. Green Building Council awarded Columbia’s new campus with LEED ND Platinum, the highest rating in the council’s new-ish neighborhood development program. It is only the fifth project in the state to earn such recognition, and the first to achieve LEED ND Platinum. The designation means that the project has embraced the goals of accessibility, density, design and environmental efficiency, creating a model for future development.
“We like to think of it as a three-legged stool: environment, economy, equity,” Jason Hercules, director of the LEED ND program, told The Observer. “Manhattanville excelled in all three.”
Blame it on the builders.
Breeze International, the firm demolishing a Manhattanville building for Columbia that collapsed yesterday and claimed one life, just released a statement addressing the cause of the accident. The firm’s investigation found that an unusual construction configuration appears to be the reason the building was destabilized and collapsed.
Because the structural beam the demo crew severed was not properly connected to the rest of the structure, when it was cut, everything else came down around it. Breeze points to a lack of construction drawings from when the building was built between eight and 10 decades ago as to why the unusual connection was not initially recognized.
Following today’s warehouse collapse in Manhattanville that killed a construction worker, Columbia University released a statement expressing its sympathies for the family.
“First and foremost, our hearts go out to the family, friends and co-workers of the construction worker who was killed in this tragic incident, and our thoughts remain with the two other workers who were injured this morning and their loved ones,” the university said in a brief statement.
The building was being taken down to make way for a public plaza that is part of the university’s second phase, which remains years away. The scheduling of the construction work was not immediately clear—why demolish now to leave vacant for later.
Now Now Neighbors
The new Columbia campus in Manhattanville has had its share of problems from community protests to eminent domain lawsuits. Now comes the worst incident yet, as a building being demolished by the university collapsed today, trapping three construction workers inside, according to DNAinfo, one of whom died shortly after being pulled from the rubble.
Vincent Morgan is not happy with the West Harlem Local Development Corporation, which is the organization created to allocate $100 million contributed by Columbia University as part of its Manhattanville expansion plan.
“Over the past couple of years, we weren’t very clear, or at least I wasn’t very clear, as to how [it] was going to respond to determining how to best allocate those resources,” Mr. Morgan told The Observer last week. “Flash forward almost two years later … we’re at a point where we aren’t even anywhere closer to the answers.”
Mr. Morgan, a Democrat running for Congress in the 15th District, which encompasses Harlem and several other neighborhoods in the northernmost reaches of the Upper West Side, has been quite vocal about his concerns with the West Harlem LDC. He told us he first became aware of the West Harlem LDC about five years ago when he was asked, as a graduate of the university, to testify at public hearings about the expansion process. He has remained involved in the expansion ever since through work in local community organizations, and now, as a candidate.
Works In Progress
On a gray Friday in January, a largely empty church on 121st Street and Broadway was immaculate in the way of a rarely used living room. Even on a slushy winter morning, Corpus Christi’s floors gleamed.
At noon sharp, in the rectory next door, the Rev. Raymond Rafferty, the church’s pastor, leaned forward, checked his Read More
Universities are poised to overtake the church as the city’s biggest private landlord, The Observer‘s Laura Kusisto reports in this week’s print edition.
While we were tracking down the juicy details for the story, Columbia shared some eye-popping new renderings of the new Jerome L. Greene Science Center at the school’s Manhattanville campus–part of Read More
Chalk another one up for Diller Scofidio + Renfro.
Just a week after the firm unveiled its new designs for the Broad Foundation in LA, Columbia has just announced that the university has selected DS+R to design two new buildings at its new 17-acre Manhattanville campus. Both buildings will be an outpost of the Read More