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In 2008, the Donnell Library Center on West 43rd Street was sold to a hotel developer and closed. This week, after much delay, the New York Public Library (NYPL) released plans for the new library designed by TEN Arquitectos, including wide bleacher steps that open up the ground floor entrance to the two subterranean floors of the library, set to be completed in 2015. Architect Enrique Norten describes the design of the branch as a shift away from an exclusive focus on housing books and towards providing space for congregation and digital access. The unveiling comes in the midst of continued debate over plans by the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) to sell two branches to developers who would replace them with new library facilities nested within large new developments on the sites, a model similar to the the Donnell branch’s sale. Opponents point to the reduced size and long delays of the Donnell replacement as a cautionary tale. At the BPL’s main branch in Grand Army Plaza, the shift from book storage to digital access manifests itself in the new Shelby White and Leon Levy Information Commons, which provides space for laptop users, classroom and meeting rooms, and a digital studio with green screen, microphone and video equipment, open to anyone with a library card. According to Linda E. Johnson, the president of the Brooklyn Public Library, “The business of being a public library is much more complicated today than it was when it was conceived… We’re still trying to level the playing field. It’s just not about books as much as it is about access to the Internet.”
HIGH RISES AND GREEN SPACE FOR GREENPOINT
The rezoning of the Williamsburg-Greenpoint waterfront in 2005, which paved the way for high-rise development on the formerly industrial shores of the East River, came with promises from the City to expand parkland in the North Brooklyn neighborhoods. Eight years later, the proposed Box Street Park and expansion of Newtown Barge Park are finally back on the agenda in connection with two new large private developments. In the first, a residential tower at 77 Commercial Street, developers purchased $8 million in air rights from an adjacent MTA parking lot. The money will be used to turn the parking lot into a new Box Street Park. The second deal is part of the renewed plan for the 22-acre Greenpoint Landing project that would add ten high-rise towers and a school to the neighborhood. Both projects will likely enter the public review process this summer.
NEW LAB AT THE BROOKLYN NAVY YARD
The newest addition to the industrial ecosystem at the Brooklyn Navy Yard was unveiled this week. The “beta space” of the New Lab, a manufacturing cooperative to be housed in a redeveloped shipbuilding facility set to be completed in 18 months, will operate in a neighboring building for the time being. The larger facility will house a full metal shop, a wood shop, and 3-D printers for making and honing prototypes of new products meant to provide the tools to support a new sprout of manufacturing already happening in the borough and become what Sarah Krasley of FastCompany calls “a non-denominational MIT Media Lab, where cross-pollination between green manufacturing startups, R&D teams, academia, designers, technologists, and digital fabricators will run rampant.”
DECODING UTILITY MARKERS
New Yorkers tend to view construction projects, be they marked by a traffic cone-rimmed hole in the middle of 2nd Avenue or the scaffolding surrounding another glassy tower, as part of the native environment. With so much of the city’s infrastructure running beneath our feet, how this construction manages — for the most part — to avoid rupturing a gas main or snipping a fiberoptic cable is critical to the smooth functioning of the city. Check out the Smithsonian’s peek into the coding of infrastructural graffiti tagged to our streets and sidewalks andlearn another language with which to read the city. For more on the city’s subterranean infrastructure check out our feature on the city’s fiberoptic systems, “Pulses of Light Beneath the Streets,” and our interview with urban explorer Steve Duncan.
Starting today and running through May 21st, the City is hosting NYCxDESIGN, an inaugural showcase of design with exhibitions, installations, trade shows, talks, launches and open studios. The festival features architecture and urban design, product design, graphic design, fashion, and furniture-making and initially grew out of a 2011 report by the Center for Urban Future (CUF), “Growth by Design,” exploring how the City could better support its design sector, which we discussed with researcher David Giles. CUF is now calling on the City to go further, suggesting eight ways to grow New York’s design sector beyond the festival in the city with the more designers than anywhere in the nation.
CRICKET AT HOME IN THE BRONX
With a burgeoning South Asian population, demand for proper cricket facilities in the Bronx has grown. Responding to local desires, the Parks Department recently completed a renovation of a former parade ground in Van Cortland Park, creating ten new cricket fields for local leagues. An example of how a neighborhood’s built environment reflects its demographic makeup — and when they change, they change together — the new fields give the Bronx a city-leading 18 dedicated cricket pitches.
POST SANDY INITIATIVE
With the City’s proposal for federal Sandy relief spending approved, a coalition of planning and design groups — spearheaded by the city’s chapter of the American Institute of Architects — released a report detailing recommendations for making the city more resilient in the face of future disasters. The strategies featured in the report cover changes to zoning and building codes, communication channels when the lights go out, and urban waterfront management. The exhibition Future of the City presents designs of potential resiliency projects and will be open at the Center for Architecture through June 29th and a symposium featuring a panel on the initiative is scheduled for tomorrow, May 11, at 1:00pm.
EVENTS and STUFF TO DO
RED, YELLOW, AND BLUE
Vibrant and wavy walls molded from 1.4 million feet of recycled lobster rope, 3,000 gallons of paint, and 9,000 hours of labor is the latest public art piece commissioned by Mad. Sq. Art, the contemporary art program of the Madison Square Park Conservancy. The work, by Brooklyn-based artist Orly Genger and entitled Red, Yellow, and Blue, will be in place through September 8th. “It’s for the people. It’s meant to be touched and used and sat on. The interactivity with the public, that is what she wants,” say Debbie Landau, president of the Conservancy. Happy interacting!
THE AMAZING BRONX RIVER FLOTILLA
Join the Bronx River Alliance for a 5k canoe race, free community paddling, and guided tours of the estuary to celebrate the newest park on the Bronx River Greenway, Starlight Park, tomorrow from 11am to 4pm. For more on the revitalization efforts along the Bronx River, read our conversation with Amanda Schachter and Alexander Levi, principals of SLO Architecture, who have worked alongside the Alliance to help the surrounding community access the banks of the Bronx.
NEWTOWN CREEK ALLIANCE TOURS
Newtown Creek Alliance, a community-based organization dedicated to revitalizing, restoring, and revealing the industrial waterway separating Brooklyn and Queens, announced its summer slate of tours by foot, canoe, and water taxi on topics ranging from the Creek’s history and working waterfront to Creek ecology and pollution. Head out on the first tour of the season, “Parks and Petroleum,” this Sunday.
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.