Tuesday, November 22, 2011

200 East 79th, Foundation In Progress, Cetra Ruddy Remains Architect

I've had several emails regarding 200 East 79th Street, an 85'x100' lot that was cleared in 2009 and subsequently joined the long list of developments that sat dormant as a vacant lot. The site, owned by the Wilf family of Minnesota Vikings and Skyline Development fame, was revitalized this summer and is now back on track. Pictured above you can see that the cellar(s) have been dug, and the retaining wall and foundation are under way.

According to DOB records the site will rise 19 stories, 210 feet and will contain just under 140,000 square feet of residential space and just over 6000sf of retail space. While there was word originally that it was going to be a rental building, the last I heard (as of a couple of months ago) is that it will rise as a condo. Again, according to city records, 57 units are planned. Do the math and we are looking at an average apartment size of over 2000sf. While these plans can be amended, at current, several floors will contain just 2 apartments sharing a floor plate of 8500sf. Big! Permit details also reveal a storage room and bike room in the cellar as well as common tenant facilities on the 2nd floor. Finally, Cetra/Ruddy remains the architect as was originally planned. There are no renderings yet available, but the original plan was not another ubiquitous sheet of glass, but more traditional architecture. I hope that holds true. Will update as more details dictate.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

New New School Building Reaches Ground Level

The massive modernist construction project for the New School at 14th Street and Fifth Avenue is now at ground level, if not higher in spots. After what seemed like an eternity to dig through bedrock into what will probably be the 2nd sub-basement, the site seems to have picked up momentum with cement concrete and re-bar rising. The final creation at 16 stories and 365,000sf looks like The Pompidou covered in stick em' and hit by a lumber yard. I'm not saying that is necessarily a bad thing, rendering vs. reality is a tricky game. The building is expected to open in 2 years time.

Occupiers At New School Get Smart, Move Indoors!

On Thursday afternoon thousands of protesters massed on the North end of Union Square Park, primarily students. The "National Day of Action" by Occupy wall Street was in full swing. After the Union Square Rally, the plan was to march to the next rally at Foley Square downtown. The marchers, if the hundreds of police present were any indication, were clearly expected to go the same way most of the came, down Broadway. However, the police were clearly caught off guard as the marchers decided to march across 16th Street to Fifth Avenue and then South for a reason that soon became clear to me. Aside from the freedom of movement and temporary lack of control by the police, a hundred or so of the crowd knew exactly where they were heading- to occupy the 2nd floor of the New School Building on 14th Street and Fifth Avenue. And there they continue to occupy at this hour.

I was in the area this afternoon (11/19), and according to the two university security guards posted at the door there are still 50 or so holding down the fort. From the outside, the occupation is apparent with various signs and banners somewhat ironically draped over the large signs for TD Bank that "occupy" the space below. Security at the building would not let me in and told me that they, themselves are not permitted by the university to enter the student center. After speaking with one occupier I was asked to wait for a guy named Clark. Clark informed me that there would be no comments to the media and no media access until the decision on how to handle the media was voted on at a General Assembly meeting. On the way out, a few occupiers opened up just a tad more and pointed me to their website, allcitystudentoccupation.com.

This is not the first time that the new school has been occupied, actually the fourth in recent years. The New York Times details the recent history of occupation and points out that the current school leadership is even more liberal and welcoming that previous leaders like former senator Bob Kerrey who had similar protesters arrested. One thing is for sure, these protesters are thinking! It sure is easier to occupy a building than a park this time of year!

A. Fine Blog Now Easier To Access On Mobile

I have been doing a little housekeeping as I prepare to continue the ramp up. I am happy to announce that the blog is now mobile-friendly. I know, it's about time! Access is the same, just punch in afineblog.com into your iPhone, Blackberry, Droid, what have you and enjoy the easy, quick loading experience!

Also, since spam comments have become prolific, regrettably, comments are now fully moderated and will require my approval. I want everyone to know that this is strictly about spam. There will be zero censorship as has been my policy since day one. Comments both positive and negative are always welcome so long as they are not threatening or obscene to other commenters or your friendly blogger!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Zuccotti Park Officially Converted To OCW Shanty Town

I've been making occasional visits to Zucotti Park to check on the evolution of the Occupy Wall Street movement, but my most recent visit yesterday (Nov. 3rd) really tested my sympathies.

There has been an evolution and it is not a pretty one. The big difference is that a few weeks back the crowds were impressive, idealistic and energized. Occupying wasn't easy. People were sleeping in the open air, crawling under tarps during downpours, doing their best to stay warm, and such incovenience only further convinced us of their conviction and resolve. But something has happened along the way, and one of the most dramatic changes is visual. Where a few weeks ago the park was packed with people, it is now packed with tents. So many tents in fact that better than 80 percent of the park is covered with them jammed side by side. The effect is that rather than seeing a sea of protesters, you see a hodge podge of beat-up tents. It no longer looks like a protest, but more like a shanty town. Since there is little room for people, while appearing crowded, the crowds are far less. And, the crowd is changing.

When I visited a few weeks ago, the crowd was far more diverse, and dare I say, sane. Now it is as if the crowd has been boiled down, reduced, and there are now far fewer bright eyed, idealistic college kids and far more crazy uncle charlie types. It had been a few weeks and I was skeptical of publications like the NY Post who I was afraid had the political persuasion and incentive to cast the crew of OCW as increasingly derelict. I hate to say it, but they have many points.

It looks like the crowd can be broken down into three groups:

-young people who think it is really cool to trip on acid (or some modern day equivalent), play drums and camp in the middle of Lower Manhattan,

-homeless and mentally unstable people who see the appeal of free food and enjoy the communal feeling of being with their own, and finally,

-the true idealists who believe in the cause and are doing their very best trying to promote and spread the message that income inequality and social injustice can no longer be tolerated.

You have to feel for the last group. I think most people can empathise to some degree with what they are fighting for. Unfortunately for them, this is New York City, and if you offer free food, eventually you will end up with plenty of rats.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Fulton Street Transit Center Open....Partially!

At first glance from Fulton Street it looks like a twisted, chaotic hunk of steel. And it is. The Fulton Street Transit Center, the on again/off again $1.4 Billion project to simplify the connections between the 2,3,4,5,N,R,J,Z,A,C and E trains, is finally open! I am not saying complete by any means, that is "expected" by 2014, and as everyone familiar with the history of such projects in the city knows, it will almost certainly be later, if it happens at all. However, as of a few days ago, you can actually access 8 of the trains from an entrance underneath the behemoth of a construction site overhead. The entrance is on Broadway between Fulton and John and it brings you into the actual Transit Center while it is being built around you. Can't wait until they let the light in and finally get this thing finished.
MTA Transit Center Updates (MTA)