The Omnibus Roundup – Cornell Tech, Four Freedoms, Gowanus Robots, Yankee Parking, Conflux, Ferry Networks, and Contested Territories

Cornell University Roosevelt Island Tech Campus Rendering | © Kilograph | Photo via archdaily

It’s been a big week for Roosevelt Island. First, Cornell University unveiled its plans for Cornell NYC Tech, the future science and technology campus that will transform 12.5 acres at the southern end of the island into a haven for techies, innovators and entrepreneurs. Campus master planners Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and architect Thom Mayne of Morphosis, responsible for the design of the first major academic building, have moved away from traditional university campus design and instead have channeled the spirit of West Coast tech giant campuses (read: Google, Facebook) where playful, flexible spaces are intended to fuel creativity and productivity. Buildings will line a central pedestrian road being called the “Tech Walk;” co-location facilities will serve as on-campus business incubators; and the skyline will be manicured to carve out visual corridors affording views of New York’s important landmarks, such as the Empire State Building. The first phase of development, to be completed by 2017, includes a dormitory tower, a hotel conference center, and Thom Mayne’s academic center, which promises to be New York City’s first net-zero building, meaning it will produce as much energy as it consumes.

The release of these plans marks the beginning of the public review process for the project, which Cornell hopes will break ground in 2014 (the full development will not be complete until 2037). While Cornell will use private developers, the City (in line with the Bloomberg administration’s Applied Sciences NYC initiative to boost New York City’s economic growth by nurturing engineering and applied sciences) has pledged $100 million towards the development of infrastructure on Roosevelt Island, and has provided 10 acres of land for the project. And the influx of students, educators and science and tech professionals will surely spark new development on Roosevelt Island beyond campus borders. But the question remains, as posed by Alexandra Lange in her piece for The New Yorker: “Will this new campus be part of the city, an island destination, a model green neighborhood? Or, will this be Silicon Valley East, where commercial and educational buildings that appear transparent retreat behind an invisible security curtain?” For more reactions to the new plans for Cornell NYC Tech, see The New York Observer, New York magazine, and The New York Times.

FDR’s Four Freedoms | Image by Paul Warchol / Courtesy FDR Four Freedoms Park

Also on Roosevelt Island this week was the dedication ceremony for Four Freedoms Park, the Louis I. Kahn-designed memorial to Franklin Delano Roosevelt that has been 40 years in the making. Tom Brokaw presided over the event, at which former President Bill Clinton, Mayor Bloomberg, and Governor Cuomo also spoke about Roosevelt’s life and work, from New York State Senator, to New York State Governor, to President of the United States during the Great Depression and World War II. Mayor Bloomberg referred to the future Roosevelt Island Cornell campus, saying, “FDR understood that science could be harnessed not only to win the war, but to achieve our true objective: securing the Four Freedoms everywhere in the world. This park and this monument will provide a serene, inspiring place for a new generation of citizens and scientists.” Governor Cuomo announced that the site would become the 214th New York State park, and said the space was “a tribute to Louis Kahn and his vision; that he could design a memorial, it could lay dormant for years and years, and be picked up and be just as vital and current as the day he drew it.” President Clinton, who also opened the FDR Memorial in Washington D.C. in 1997, said “Perhaps, ironically, it is altogether fitting that this day was delayed until a time when we knew we could never take the four freedoms for granted.” The park opens to the public on October 24th.

In conjunction with the opening, several events are taking place throughout the city. The Center For Architecture, in collaboration with Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park, is holding an exhibition on the project; the show opens today, October 19th. Lori Bookstein Fine Art is presenting Louis I. Kahn: In The Park, an exhibition of 15 drawings, paintings, and watercolors of landscapes, on view through November 10th. Alan G. Brake from The Architect’s Newspaper interviewed Four Freedoms lighting designer Linnaea Tillett on the daunting task of lighting a departed master’s work. Head to the Four Freedoms Park website for beautiful photographs and more information on the landmark project.

Brooklyn Atlantis I, via

On a grey, drizzly morning, a team of researchers and students from the Polytechnic Institute of New York University unleashed a solar-powered aquatic rover into the waters of the Gowanus Canal. The mission: collect a variety of measurements, such as the canal’s pH levels and salinity, using its many sensors and take photos with its underwater and above-water cameras. The $3000 robot, Brooklyn Atlantis I, is the first of several rovers the researchers hope to release to explore the murky Superfunded waters. The research team will continually update their findings online, with the hope that citizen scientists will contribute their own analyses and interpretations of the data and help monitor the canal’s cleanup. “From a science advancement point of view,” the Brooklyn Atlantis team explains, “a key advantage of engaging the public in citizen science projects is that such projects facilitate data collection and information sharing on a scale that would otherwise be impossible to achieve.” But, if further incentive is required, avid contributors will get the chance to control their own robot.

Yankee Stadium South Bronx Site, June 2006 | Photo by Flickr user Atomische/Tom Giebel

Bronx Parking Development Company, the company that owns the Yankee Stadium parking system, is nearly bankrupt, with only 42% of lots and garages full this past season and $237 million in default on tax-exempt bonds. In an attempt to help the ailing company, the Bloomberg administration tapped the Economic Development Corporation to broker a deal that would encourage the development of retail and affordable housing on some of the under-used lots. Those negotiations, according to an exclusive report by Daniel Beekman in The New York Daily News, have now been abandoned. With no deal in sight for the company or the extra asphalt, Streetsblog reminds us that the fiasco was preventable: warnings from community groups that the Yankee’s projections for parking space demand were excessive went unheeded.



The Conflux Festival comes back to New York City this weekend. This year’s annual festival for “contemporary psychogeography, the investigation of everyday urban life through emerging artistic, technological and social practice” is asking over 30 artists, urban adventurers, writers and planners ready to re-evaluate and re-invent how you experience transportation in the city. An indoor exhibition of workshops and artists talks — ranging from poetic to functional in character — paired with concurrent public space projects will shake up “the things that we have implicitly accepted into our daily commutes.” The festival, which is free and open to the public, will take place from October 20-21 at NYU’s Barney Building Gallery. Visit the Conflux website to read interviews with festival participants and to review the schedule of the one-of-a-kind events, like the seminar that will be conducted from the back of a limousine cruising through Lower Manhattan.

NY Waterway, August 2005 | Photo by Flickr user Smart Destinations

Before the subways, before the Holland Tunnel, before the George Washington Bridge, ferries were a crucial component of New York’s public transportation system. But as tunnels and bridges went up, ferry ridership went down and in 1967 the Staten Island Ferry became the city’s last and only operating ferry service. However, ferries are making a comeback, with privately-owned New York Waterway leading the way. Next Monday, Columbia’s GSAPP will host New York Waterway’s own Arthur Imperatore Jr. to talk about the history of New York City’s maritime public transport and “present a future vision for enhanced intermodal rail, bus, light rail, park-ride and ferry service for the future travel needs of this region.” The lecture will be held at Columbia University’s Butler Library at 6:30pm and is free and open to the public. Simply register at ahead of time.

Now on view at the Dorsky Gallery in Long Island City, an exhibition entitled Contested Territories features 14 artists from around the world whose work, according to curator Miguel Amado, reflects on the 21st century’s “state of permanent war” and its far reaching ramifications for urban space worldwide. The gallery is hosting a number of events in conjunction with the show, which will be on view through January 6th, 2013: A panel discussion on “Conflict and the Rebel City” on October 21st; an artist talk on “Urban Space and Representation of Culture” on November 11th; and “Politics and Cultural History” on the final day of the exhibit, January 6th. All events begin at 3pm. For more information and to RSVP for the events, visit


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The views expressed here are those of the authors only and do not reflect the position of The Architectural League of New York.