Tuesday, September 21, 2010

One Big Hole For Whole Foods At 250 East 57th Street

It seems like just yesterday that a ground-breaking was being held for the enormous project at 250 East 57th Street. The project is a public/private partnership (with World-Wide Group) which will eventually total a mind blowing 1,000,000 square feet. Phase 1, which will house 2100 students in two brand news schools and a much awaited Whole Foods Market, is well underway. In just a few short months the massive foundation spanning the block between 57th and 56th Streets and hundred of feet wide is nearly finished. Eventually, when complete (estimated 2012), the adjoining high school will be demolished to make way for a 59 story tower that will house 350 residential units as well as an abundance of additional retail/commercial space.
250 East 57th Street (World-Wide Group)
All Things 250 East 57th Street (Curbed)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Thank You, Ralph! Truly Magnificent New Structure On East 72nd Is A Gift To New York!

I can't tell you how many times I have marveled at prewar architecture and remarked "they don't make them like they used to"; or wondered why someone won't just spend the extra money and replicate the best architecture of our city. Thanks to Ralph Lauren, I will have to rephrase both questions into "why can't they do what Ralph did on East 72nd Street"?

What Ralph did was to build what I consider one of the most gorgeous structures built in NYC in a lifetime! At the corner of 72nd Street and Madison, the veil is off, and what replaced essentially 2 story tax payer is now a gorgeous Beaux Arts mansion. It is a sight to behold! The mansion is both masculine and graceful. The exterior is all limestone, and according to a contractor from the good old USA. I could go on about the exceptional details from the balustrades, corbels, and wrought iron finishes, but pictures are worth thousands of words. Two words come to mind for Ralph Lauren- thank you!

Ralph's new women's and home store is expected to open in this new building mid-October.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

That Was Quick! Union Square Bike And Pedestrian Makeover Nearly Complete!

(l) looking west on 17th, (r) north side of 17th, also looking west.

(l) looking north up Bway from 17th, (r) tables on plaza at Union Square Park.

It was just a few days ago that plants were being unloaded from trucks and outlines were being drawn for a future bike lane and pedestrian/loitering space. A few days later and voila, consider the job virtually done!

On Lower Fifth: New School Still Coming Down, 61 Fifth Gets Foundation

The New, New School

On close inspection, the demo of the New School on the lot between 13th and 14th on Fifth Avenue looks like it may be reusing the five stories of steel framework and moving up from there. Not the case. Workers are shoring up nearby buildings which is why the old building is coming down in a slow, methodical fashion.
New School Funky Fresh Renderings (AFB 3/10)

61 Fifth Avenue

(l) foundation of 61 Fifth, (r) rendering, Alta Indelman via Curbed

The former Schrafft's Ice Cream Parlor site on the southeast corner of 13th and Fifth is also active. Rebar from the foundation is emerging above the fence line, so looks like the impressive 10 story project is well on its way.
Former Schrafft's Building Set For Demo (AFB 9/09)
More renderings, etc...from my friends at Curbed

What A Relief! Union Square Park Restrooms To Open Tomorrow!

It is finally happening, a what a relief!

The Union Square Park bathrooms are set to open to the public either late this afternoon, or tomorrow the latest. The public facilities will feature Men's and Women's facilities that open to the plaza and a family bath accessible only to the playground. The structure designed by Architect Research Office reuses the Ashlar wall that was pre-existing at the park and uses translucent eco-resin (to help light the facilities) on the upper half of the wall and steel grill overlays to keep people from smashing it up. The handicapped accessible doors are made of and framed with an unknown yet sleek wood substance and it appears that subway tiles are incorporated as the tile of choice in the interiors (I will get pics of the interiors as soon as I can).

The architect's website describes the final effect as "subdued and elegant". Well, it is only a bathroom, but it does look quite spiffy and the architect does seem to do a great job of blending old and new, so the facility does not look the slightest out of place.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Slow Death And Rebirth On Central Park South

220 CPS

(l) 220 CPS...nasty, (r) 220 CPS rear building terrace

Having had a client interested in an exceptionally priced park view apartment at 230 Central Park South recently, I have been compelled to get the latest on various developments in the area. 230 Sits right next to 220 CPS, a nearly abandoned rental building that has been cleared of most tenants with plans for a 41 (possibly 48) story new condo built by Clarett Group and Vornado Realty Trust and designed by SLCE architects. On inspecting the site last week, I counted what looked like at least 8 to 10 holdouts including one who is clearly having difficulty parting with a lush, south-facing terrace. I spoke with a building employee (who shall remain anonymous) and he confirmed that there were still holdouts and that 'they aren't going anywhere' and that the 'landlord has to settle with them to get them out'. Well, that really goes without saying, tenants have been in litigation since 2006, and although there have been hints that the developers are hitting the final stretch, a long stretch it is.

230 CPS

(l) Southmoor before reno (credit:Central-Park-Apartments.com), (r) rendering

(l) Westmoor now, (r) deco pattern

Two doors down at 230 CPS, aka The Southmoor House, is completing a face lift. The Art Deco building, built in 1937 has adopted a stripe pattern (the Kalahari it isn't) and a restored entrance.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Extell's "Monster Of Midtown" 155 W. 57th Threatens Ground Level

Photo Credit: Top L & R, Andrew Fine, Bottom L& R de Portzamparc (via Archpaper)

Shots taken this weekend reveal that Extell's future 73 story, 953 foot (1005ft by other sources) Park Hyatt Hotel and Condo (a.k.a. Carnegie 57) seems to be finally breaking ground level, at least on the East Side. The building, designed by Starchitect Christian de Portzamparc, will lay claim to the title of tallest residential tower in NYC. The project was supposed to break ground level earlier this summer, but it was reported that Extell was in talks with the investment arm of the Abu Dhabi government regarding funding. Extell contends that if it had to, it could finance the project on it's own, but that wasn't preferable. Given the lack of construction crane on site, perhaps those talks are ongoing. However, it does appear that some progress on the site has been made over the summer.
Extell Has French Kiss For de Portzamparc (Archpaper 6/2010)
Carnegie 57 Thread (Wired)
All Things Carnegie 57 (Curbed)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Harvest In The Square 8 Days Away, Discount For A. Fine Blog Readers!

Harvest in the Square is just 8 days away! Plans are well underway for another spectacular event when this fall, over 60 eateries - the largest number in the event's history - will exhibit some of their most celebrated dishes at the 15th Annual Harvest in the Square on Tuesday, September 21st in Union Square Park. This year's participants will present a mouth-watering array of food offerings, with some incorporating ingredients found at our very own Union Square Greenmarket, and others sharing new creations to be featured exclusively at this treasured celebration of community and cuisine.

Harvest in the Square is the Union Square Partnership's annual fundraiser and proceeds from past events have supported countless improvement projects in Union Square Park, including the installation of a new 15,000 sq. ft. playground; the rehabilitation of the Pavilion and the plazas surrounding the north side of the park; the creation of a new seating area in the center lawn; repairs to the park's dog run; and the planting of thousands of ornamental shrubs, perennials, annuals and bulbs to highlight just a few of our efforts.

I believe deeply in the work of the Union Square Partnership, a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization, and I urge you to support our vital work within the Union Square community. General Admission tickets for entry at 7:30 PM can be purchased via the event webpage at www.harvestinthesquare.org. Tickets are tax-deductible with the exception of $50 per ticket, and readers of A Fine Blog get $20 off when using the promo code "harvest." If you can't make it, consider making a donation to the organization - they do good work and it's 100% tax-deductable and will go a long way towards helping us to ensure we have the needed funds for next spring's efforts.

You won't go home disappointed or hungry.

Papaya King Reopens, Now With Breakfast Menu!

If all goes according to plan, Papaya King -- the stalwart of East 86th Street since 1932 -- will reopen this morning after a painful 8 weeks of renovation. Painful? To this blogger, yes.
While newcomer Shake Shack is still lining them down the street, at least when it comes to dogs, Papaya King is the one to beat. Both the exterior and interior have been gutted and renovated, but aside from a slightly different counter arrangement and bigger doors on the east side, the only thing that seems to be different is the lack of patina (which is sure to return with the grilling of several thousand dogs).
Yet, there is something new - a breakfast menu! Why wait until lunch when you can have a dog and egg sandwich? Other, more traditional breakfast sandwiches are said to be in the offing as well. I am sure to be back with an update.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Park Place 9/10, A Photo Essay

Photos from this morning (9/10) at Park Place and West Broadway, last pic from the bar next to proposed Islamic Community Center (plenty of reporters refreshing there).

I will refrain from comment on the issue as all those outside of the fringe elements have good arguments and are entitled to their opinions. However, it is clear from those congregating that the fringe was very well represented. I think it would be preferable to reserve 9/11 for remembering and mourning the dead, commemorating the selfless heroism of the first responders, and to remember how we came together unified as a city and a country on that day.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Union Square Gets Even Greener, Safer Too

Top- Broadway 9/9/10, Bottom- 17th Street 9/9/10

They may not have gotten rid of the junkies that occupy the southeast corner of the park, nor the occasionally violent students, but crossing the street on the northwest corner has gotten much safer. Traffic east on 17th from Union Square West to Park Avenue has been eliminated and is currently being replaced by planters, a bike lane, and more of that tar/beige gravel that is becoming so popular along Broadway. Now, many have mixed emotions about all the pedestrian-ification (yeah, I know that's not a real word) of Broadway, but this particular move makes plenty of sense. I am not sure how many if any pedestrians have been killed crossing that corner, but I have seen more than my share of close calls (95 injuries have been reported on Broadway between 23rd and 17th between 2004 and 2008).
Union Square is also getting greener! Just when you thought the new north plaza with 21 new and healthy Japanese Pagoda trees was nice, now more plants, shrubs, and trees are being added in dozens of planters which will now occupy the south portion of 17th Street where car roamed just days ago. It may look a little odd right now, but I am sure we will get used to it.
Broadway Union Square Pedestrian Improvements Warning-PDF (NYC DOT via Union Square Partnership)
Pedestrian Plaza Is Planned For Union Square (NY Times 4/2010)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Now It Is Really Official! Fairway Coming To East 86th Street Spring 2011!

After my blog update yesterday, the PR rep for Fairway noticed the article and reached out. I am happy to relay that all issues regarding loading hours have been worked out and the lease has been signed! Fairway Market will be opening in the Spring of 2011 at the former Barnes and Noble site at 240 East 86th Street. The store itself (not including back office, storage etc.) will be approximately 45,000 square feet on two levels, rivaling the size of the West Side flagship store. The market will carry all of the same offerings that Fairway is famous for. The only exception is that this Fairway will not have a cafe. Ground-breaking should take place in about a month. Welcome Fairway! (Photo: NY Mag.com)

Monday, September 6, 2010

East 86th Street Fairway Update (Almost)

I've noticed an incredible number of people reaching the blog by way of searching for "Fairway Market East 86th Street". I think the message is clear that people are interested to know if it is going to happen and they clearly want it. I have reached out to both Fairway (no return calls) and to CB8 (which seems to be on summer hiatus). I do know that CB8 voted to give Fairway extended loading hours, an issue of contention, but I have no confirmation on their side. The most positive and recent info comes from a New York Times article from the middle of August. In it, partner in Fairway, Howard Glickberg, seemed pretty definitive about the East 86th Street location opening in about six months and mentioned that he was "excited about this." To date, I have seen no change to the location (the former Barnes and Noble on East 86th/2nd and 3rd), but I too will be excited if it does happen. Hope this helps.

Jersey Shore Meets The LIRR, As Drunks Are Segregated And Locked Up On LIRR Train

"Believe me, you will be thankful come Hampton Bays" answered the LIRR ticket taker when asked why the first two cars of the late Montauk-to-Jamaica train were locked and inaccessible to all stops prior to Hampton Bays. And man, was she right!
Prior to arriving in Hampton Bays, the conductor announced the first two cars of the train would be opening first, to accommodate a "special party". After the special "guests" had boarded, the remaining doors would open for passengers entering and leaving the train.
What was the controversy? What was this "special party" to board at Hampton Bays? Upon further inquiry, the engineers, conductor, and even a burly, plain-clothed LIRR employee (de facto bouncer, perhaps?) were more than willing to share. Hampton Bays is home to the "Boardy Barn", a legendary bar which caters to people barely of drinking age whose sole aim is to get drunk to excess. The bar is open only on Sundays from Memorial Day to Labor Day from 4:00 pm. to 8:00 pm. The train arrives in Hampton Bays at 8:28 pm -- just in time for the partyers to board. "They are animals" an engineer explained, "the entire train smells like vomit within five minutes". So, of course, I eagerly awaited the spectacle about to ensue.
A few minutes out of Hampton Bays, 5 LIRR employees gathered at the front of the 3rd car, in something that resembled a war footing. It was agreed that the biggest and strongest would defend the perimeter. One "collector" argued that he hadn't finished collecting fares. "You can get to it later, we have bigger issues to deal with right now" barked one who seemed to have either seniority or experience in the situation. As the train rolled up, it sounded as if we were approaching a chanting, singing, screeching mob. There they were: more than 150 obliterated youth that would give Snooki, Vinny, or "The Situation" a run for their money any day! Tank tops, hair gel (for both sexes), muscle flexing, and fist-pumping were the rules. So potentially dangerous were these drunks that they were given a full police escort onto the train and for the ride. Tickets were collected prior to boarding, because collection otherwise would be "impossible". LIRR officials herded the drunks into the first two cars while discreetly telling non-partyers to wait a few minutes. Later they would be admitted to the remaining cars behind the "special cars". The doors were intentionally locked between the second and third cars to make sure that there was no mixing with the revellers and the regular commuting public. The window into the second car was like the glass at a zoo. Seen through it was one of the first patrons who promptly attempted to sit but missed the seat entirely, cheesy, drunken makeout sessions, and of course those afflicted with sickness. On subsequent stops a few normal folk inadvertently boarded the alcohol-apartheid car and were found pressed upon the locked barrier, pleading for mercy like someone desperately in search of the last lifeboat on a sinking ship. A lifeline was granted at each stop by the conductor who would open the door for the sober, while any attempt at movement by the drunkards were thwarted at the door. The 3rd car was like a club for normal people and the conductor was the door man. Those who made it through had looks of relief and disbelief.
The party crowd made mass exits at Patchogue and Babylon; after Babylon, the first two cars were nearly empty. Arriving in Jamaica were only a few who had passed out on the ride, empty Bud Light pint cans and the like -- and naturally, no shortage of vomit. While the actions of LIRR personal may have been unorthodox, from a sane traveller's standpoint, their actions were borderline heroic. And yes, the ticket collector was right; I was indeed thankful!
(Photo credit: Big Dave's Pics/Picasa)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Earl Slams Georgica Beach, East Hampton

Top: Looking South, 2nd fr top: looking North, 3rd fr top: young folks with debris washed in, last: young lady chased by wave to parking lot (both the wave and girl made it to the lot).

East Hampton, NY/ Hurricane Earl may have fizzled thankfully, but not without taking a major toll on East End Beaches. These shots are from 3pm this afternoon, prior to high tide. Waves just offshore were breaking at heights of up to 15 feet, while directly on shore, surge and large waves were taking water up and over the beach, battering the dunes and landing in the parking lot. I'm not sure what the next 24 hours brings, but if you need to know just ask one of your friends with a $50 Million Dollar beachfront home, I'm sure they are keeping close track.