Roundup — High Bridge Groundbreaking, Cleaning up the Gowanus, Slower Subways, Sunlit Buildings, Sandy Updates, Birders, Cinebeasts and Landmarkss

The City broke ground last Friday on a $61 million renovation of the city’s oldest standing bridge. The High Bridge was constructed in 1848 as part of the city’s first aqueduct, and has been closed to the public for 40 years. The restored bridge will feature pedestrian and bicycle paths spanning the Harlem River, linking the Highbridge neighborhood of the Bronx with Highbridge Park in Washington Heights. Read more about recent improvements to Highbridge Park in this UO interview with Design Workshop Director Alfred Zollinger. Learn more about the High Bridge in the PBS Thirteen mini-documentary embedded above.

Nearly three years after designating the Gowanus Canal as a Superfund site, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released details of how it plans to clean up the toxic waterway. The Architect’s Newspaper summarizes the strategy, which includes plans to remove and cap toxic sediment from the canal floor while pursuing measures to stop combined sewer overflow (CSO) from re-contaminating the canal in the future. Cleanup will cost an estimate $500 million, and will be paid for by the City and a group of companies responsible for much of the environmental damage in the past. The public can comment on the plan online or at two public meetings on January 23 and 24th.

The westward march of midtown Manhattan continued Tuesday as Brookfield broke ground on Manhattan West. The five-acre site lies just west of Penn Station and what will someday be Moynihan Station, and just east of the massive Husdon Yards development, all of which adds up to what Mayor Bloomberg calls the “rebirth of the Far West Side of Manhattan.” Manhattan West will sit above the rail yards serving Penn Station, on a platform that will be built with minimal disturbance to ongoing train operations. The video above, released by Brookfield, demonstrates how they plan to build an entire block of new urban fabric directly on top of crucial transportation infrastructure.

Following two separate incidents of subway riders being pushed in front of oncoming trains, Transit Workers Union Local 100 has advised its subway operators to slow their approach into stations and submitted a proposal to the MTA with various safety recommendations. As both the MTA and transit advocates have noted, such a slowdown could have major implications for the efficiency of subway travel. Business Insider reports that a 2007 deal could have installed platform doors across the system at no cost to the MTA, a safety measure employed by many international subway systems that the MTA estimates would cost $1 billion to deploy. They are again reportedly under consideration for the L train.

In 2009, a large portion of Times Square was closed to vehicular traffic in a low-cost, temporary experiment to improve traffic flow and increase public space. By late 2011, the experiment was considered a success and architectural firm Snøhetta was tasked with making the changes permanent. Last week, the Design Commission approved Snøhetta’s redesign, which includes landscaping, street repair, and upgraded security measures. The project is now scheduled for completion in 2016.

Former Boy's High School, within the proposed historic district | Image via Ken Ficara

Former Boy’s High School, within the proposed historic district | Image via Ken Ficara

Historic districts are created to preserve areas with a unique built character, but they often have side effects in the communities they seek to protect. In Brooklyn’s historically African- and Carribean-American Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, a historic district has been proposed to protect the area’s blocks of brownstones bookended by turreted churches and schools. Some residents are wary of the rising property values, regulatory burdens, and increased outside interest likely to accompany such a designation. “What needs to be preserved are the people of Bedford-Stuyvesant,” a resident of the district asserted at a hearing. “I’d hate to see us become a Harlem, where the jewel has been extracted.”

Green Light New York, a non-profit formed by Mayor Bloomberg to support implementation of the City’s Greener, Greater Buildings Plan, released a report Tuesday detailing a path towards increased use of daylighting controls in commercial buildings. The report estimates that strategic retrofitting of office buildings with daylighting controls, which help light interiors and regulate temperatures by controlling and manipulating sunlight, could save $70 million in energy costs annually across the city. And with the Lighting Upgrade Law requiring commercial buildings of a certain size to modernize lighting systems by 2025, now seems to be an opportune time to implement more efficient systems. These potential benefits — as well as some acknowledged challenges, such as cost, a lack of post-installation operational analysis, and concerns over training tenants and facility managers — were explored in an event launching the report, recapped here by the green buildings NYC blog.

MoMA and MoMA PS1 announced Party Wall by CODA as the winner of their 14th annual Young Architects Program. Installation of the project, a towering, porous structure made from recycled wood hung on a steel frame, the lower portions of which can be detached to form stages and seating areas among a series of pools fed by the structure, will take place in late June.

On Tuesday the House passed a $50.7 billion Sandy aid bill, the subject of much debate and acrimony after a previous version was initially shelved on January 1st. The bill, which approves $17 billion for immediate disaster relief and $33.7 billion for long-term reconstruction efforts, brings the total Sandy-related aid for distribution from federal coffers to $60.4 billion, over $20 billion less than the estimated need for recovery. It does provide a substantial amount to restore and improve transit, but is also fueling the continued debate around what exactly should be rebuilt. House Republicans largely voted against the measure, concerned about how the aid would affect budget deficits. With climate-change driven disasters like Sandy set to become a more common occurrence, calls to rethink federal government planning for disaster aid are coming forward.

Meanwhile, the city has begun to tear down an estimated 300 homes in storm-affected areas deemed beyond repair. Despite extensive flooding during the storm, a real estate report showed a 9% increase in commercial leasing in downtown Manhattan in the fourth quarter of 2012. Developers and building managers are also beginning to adapt to a new reality of sea level rise and stronger storms as they begin to implement changes to existing structures and new development after learning lessons from the storm.




If winter has you running exclusively between the subway and heated indoor spaces, remind yourself of the natural infrastructure that exists within our concrete metropolis with Birders: The Central Park Effecta film about the hidden stars of our urban environment, playing from January 18th through the 24th at Cinema Village.

Cinebeasts, a film collective that organizes screenings in unexpected spaces around the city (regular UO readers may recall their 2011 walking tour / guerilla-style screening Gowanderlust!), is currently accepting submissions for Subway Series, an eight-week film series about New York’s subway to be “busked” along its platforms in March and April, as well as above ground in theaters across the city. The deadline for entries is February 15th.

The Landmarks of New York, an exhibit of ninety photographs of the city’s historic structures is on view at the New York Historical Society through February 18th. The collection provides a look into the history of New York, from Dutch settlement to the global city we know today.


The Roundup keeps you up to date with topics we’ve featured and other things we think are worth knowing about.

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


cleaning services kent April 15, 2013

Wow, this is a major engineering challenge, best of luck. Thank you for the interesting video. One interesting piece of bridge related trivia- did you know that in the late 1960’s the entire of London Bridge, in London, was deconstructed piece by piece and moved to Lake havasu city, where it is now the star attraction.