Author Archives: Mariya Chernaya

New Amsterdam Market: reviving New York’s public market

For over 300 years, the South Street neighborhood served as a thriving food market where farmers and locals crossed paths to exchange a rich variety of goods. In the 1640s, Peck’s Slip hosted Peck’s Market, where George Washington purchased his food. Burling Slip served as a destination for tropical fruit. Then, for over 180 years, from 1822 to 2005, South Street was the site of the venerable Fulton Fish Market–one of the great outdoor public markets of the 19th century. It had 88 butcher stalls, a coffee seller, a tripe seller, produce stalls, and fish stalls. The Fish Mongers later moved to a separate home, in an adjacent space across the street. Over time, the market faded away, but the fish market stayed. When the Fulton Fish Market moved to Hunts Point, in the Bronx, it left its old residence at the New Market Building and Tin Building vacant.

Photo: Fulton Fish Market

In 2005, city planner Robert LaValva founded the New Amsterdam Market in the hopes of reviving the public market tradition that has endured for generations on South Street. The market began as a one-day event and has grown since then to become a regular event. LaValva noted that he drew his inspiration from London’s historic public market, Borough Market. If London had a great public market, then New York, as one of the world’s greatest cities, deserved a public market as well to draw locals and tourists alike.

New Amsterdam Market, whose name reflects New York’s Dutch heritage, has several goals in sight. On the one hand, the market brings together local butchers, bakers, sandwich makers, cheesemongers, fishmongers, farmers, foragers, and picklers in a celebration of New York’s and the region’s culinary commerce. It is a locavore’s food fantasy. Here you will find Salt Pond oysters from Rhode Island, lobster rolls from Maine, and hard-boiled eggs and pickled celery from Queen’s farm. And unlike a traditional farmers market, NAM features artisanal food that you would be hard-pressed to find elsewhere, including nectarine-shiso sorbet and barley honey lollipops.

But NAM is more than merely a place to buy and sell food. The market also serves as an economic incubator for small businesses and as a vibrant public space, reminiscent of the Greek agorae. As LaValva said, “it’s meant to be a place to gather and talk and socialize.” The NAM is New York’s agorae and considering the historical context of the area, it is appropriate that the NAM is recreated on the site of where the public market in New York City was born.

The New York City Department of City Planning and the Economic Development Corporation have big plans for the East Side waterfront. Several projects are already underway. LaValva believes that the New Amsterdam Market can play a pivotal role in the development and revitalization happening along the East River waterfront.

New Amsterdam Market runs every Sunday from May to December. The market is currently located in the parking lot in front of the Fulton Fish Market’s New Market Building. You can find more information about the market here.


A tribute to Andrew H. Green: New York’s forgotten visionary

Robert Moses, Fiorello LaGuardia, and Franklin Roosevelt are well recognized in New York City for their accomplishments. Moses has a state park, LaGuardia an airport, and Roosevelt a Drive, an island, and a recently unveiled memorial.

Andrew Haswell Green, whose contributions to New York City are no less extensive or remarkable, seems to have been lost amid the obscurity of a forgotten history.

Andrew H. Green. Photo: Gotham Gazette

Professor Ken Jackson of Columbia, editor of the Encyclopedia of New York City, calls Andrew H. Green “arguably the most important leader in Gotham’s long history.” Green was a key figure in the creation of Central Park: he led the State Commission charged with building Central Park, and managed to secure the adoption of the Greensward plan (Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux’s plan for Central Park).

Central Park was just one of Green’s many accomplishments. He also founded the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Museum of Natural History, the New York Public Library, and the Bronx Zoo, creating the outline of New York’s cultural landscape. He added Riverside, Morningside, and Fort Washington Parks to the map. In 1871, Green was appointed to the position of City Comptroller, where he played a significant role in relieving the city of the “Tweed Ring” – the corrupt group, led by William Tweed, that controlled and bankrupted the city’s treasury. Green was able to restore the city’s financial health following the crisis, and he saved City Hall from demolition.

Most importantly, Green successfully lobbied for the consolidation of the five boroughs. In 1898, New York was consolidated into one city, earning Green the nickname the “Father of greater New York.” The consolidation of the five boroughs encouraged the construction of the subway, which in turn spurred the growth of the outer boroughs.

Despite Green’s rich legacy, the only visible remnant of his handprint on the city is a stone bench in Central Park. A portrait of Green also hangs in City Hall, but it’s in an area closed off to the public.

Andrew H. Green’s memorial bench in Central Park.      Photo: Gotham Gazette

Michael Miscione, Manhattan’s borough historian, has long fought to garner greater recognition f0r Green, whom he calls “a forgotten visionary.” In 2003, Miscione proposed two name changes to honor Green. The first was to rename Washington Bridge, a little-known bridge spanning the Harlem River, connecting Manhattan to the Bronx. (The bridge was actually conceived by Green.) The other proposal was to rename the Tweed Courthouse (now home to the Department of Education).

A Park for Andrew H. Green: Tribute at Risk

Several years ago, the Department of Parks and Recreation agreed to build a park in memory of Andrew H. Green. The 1.3-acre waterfront park would be located on a tiny sliver of land between F.D.R. Drive and the East River, from 60th to 63rd Streets. The City Council approved the project in 2006, and the first construction phase of the park broke ground in 2008. The first phase of the park is complete, and features a dog run, drinking fountain, chess tables, and plantings, including trees and shrubs.

A rendering of Andrew Haswell Green Park. Photo:

The park was scheduled to be completed by 2012, but progress has been halted due to unforeseen circumstances. Last June, the Parks Department began an engineering study for the second phase of the park and discovered that the pilings supporting the park were slowly being eaten away by marine borers – underwater organisms that feed on wood. Now, the Parks Department says that $15 million is needed for repairs. Otherwise Andrew H. Green Park risks falling into the East River.

Andrew H. Green park is one piece of the larger East Midtown Waterfront Project, which would provide waterfront access along the East River, between East 38th and 60th Streets. The East Midtown Waterfront Project is one of several planned projects for the East Side Waterfront. The NY Times created a comprehensive map of the projects currently in progress. When all of the projects are complete, there will be a nearly continuous greenway running along the East Side, south all the way to Battery Park. If Andrew H. Green Park fails, the link in the greenway would be broken.


Explore the East River Blueway Plan on City Atlas to learn more about the plans for the East Side Waterfront.

MAS Summit 2012: imagine a donut above Grand Central, and Park Ave with a park in the middle

Last month, the Municipal Art Society held its third annual summit on the theme of Density, Development, and Diversity. For two intense, jam-packed days, designers, planners, architects, and politicans spoke and presented grand visions for the city. Among them were the redesign of Grand Central Terminal and the creation of a Park Avenue Promenade.

Re-Imagining Grand Central Terminal

To celebrate Grand Central’s 100th birthday, the Municipal Art Society challenged three architecture firms, Skidmore Ownings and Merrill (SOM), WXY Architecture & Urban Design, and Foster & Partners, to present their visions for the future of Grand Central Terminal. The design challenge coincides with a rezoning proposal by the Bloomberg Administration, known as Midtown East, which would make it easier to demolish aging buildings, and allow for new, high-rise development in the area around Grand Central Terminal.

SOM’s proposal incorporated the most dramatic visual element, an imagined circular pedestrian observation deck hanging above Grand Central between two towers, or as New York magazine architecture critic Justin Davidson referred to it, “a flying donut.” The plan also calls for an intricate layering of public space, which would exist above and below ground, and would be connected through multiple city blocks. This new network of space would be privately funded but under public ownership (Privately Funded Public Spaces)- a restructuring of Privately Owned Public Spaces (POPS).

Top:  SOM’s Vision for Grand Central 

Bottom: Foster & Partner’s Vision for Grand Central 

Foster & Partner’s, perhaps the most minimalist of the three proposals, called for many small interventions to the terminal, focusing on redesigning public space, rather than the building, thus reflecting the words of MAS President Vin Cipolla who argued that “the public experience must be at the center of the conversation – not the size of buildings.” The plan proposes the creation of new civic spaces, open visible entrances to the station, reconfiguring streets as shared vehicle/pedestrian routes, and fully pedestrianizing Vanderbilt Avenue.

Park Avenue Promenade

Alongside the new visions for Grand Central, Vishaan Chakrabarti, Director of the Center for Urban Real Estate at Columbia University and partner at SHoP Architects, presented another radical idea — to build a pedestrian promenade down the middle of Park Avenue. The idea is to double the width of the Park Avenue median, which would create space for a 12- to 15-foot-wide pathway stretching 11 blocks, from 46th to 57th Streets. To make this happen, Mr. Chakrabarti proposes removing one lane of traffic in each direction, which certainly will not occur without some opposition. (Park Avenue currently has three lanes and a parking lane on each side, eight lanes for cars in total.) To ensure that traffic flows smoothly, left-turn lanes would be provided, and north-south crosswalk signals would be installed. The changes to the traffic conditions would still need to be evaluated by the Department of Transportation, but Mr. Chakrabarti thinks it’s doable.

The pedestrian promenade would rejuvenate the street in profound ways; it would draw locals and tourists alike seeking a place to stroll, relax, people watch, read, and admire the architecture of Park Avenue. As New York Observer calls it, it would be the Upper East Side’s High Line, complete with benches, sculptures, and food stands. Few New Yorkers may be aware that Park Avenue was originally designed to have a park running down its spine. A black-and-white photograph, taken in the 1920s of ladies and gentleman relaxing on benches in the center of Park Avenue Mall, attests to the glamour of the bygone days of Park Avenue.

Top: A High Line for the East Side 

Bottom: Original Design of Park Avenue 









New Developments on Roosevelt Island

A Memorial to FDR

Roosevelt Island, the thin sliver of land lying along the East River, nestled between Manhattan and Queens, has big plans in sight. On October 24, Four Freedoms Park, a memorial honoring Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was unveiled to the public. The four-acre park, located at the southern tip of the island, honors the 32nd U.S. president and his Four Freedoms speech. The speech, delivered in 1941, calls for four human freedoms: freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. Visionary architect Louis Kahn conceived the memorial four decades ago. Despite numerous other development proposals for the island, Kahn’s plans survived and were realized.

Michael Kimmelman, a columnist for the NY Times, provides a poetic homage to the park. “It gives New York nothing less than a new spiritual heart. That’s to say it creates an exalted, austere public space, at once like the prow of a ship and a retreat for meditation.”

Monumental Stair and lawn

Sculpture of FDR

The memorial welcomes visitors with a grand, 100-foot-wide staircase pointing toward the tip of the island. Above the staircase, a lawn unrolls like a carpet, flanked on both sides by littleleaf linden trees. At the heart of the memorial is an open granite enclosure, what Kahn calls a “room,” with a Bronze statue of Roosevelt’s bust resting inside a stone niche. The Four Freedoms speech is carved on the back of the niche.

The United Nation’s headquarters lies a mere 300-yards away, which is fitting, considering that Roosevelt helped form the United Nations and that the UN charter incorporates the words of the Four Freedoms Speech.

See the Four Freedoms Park website for more information about the memorial and for directions on how to visit.

In conjunction with the opening of the memorial, the Center for Architecture is holding an exhibition on the project till December 1, 2012.


A Future Cornell Tech Campus


A rendering of the planned campus from air. 

Adding to the spectacle of the memorial, the Cornell University graduate school for technology has plans to open a 12.5-acre campus along the southern end of Roosevelt Island. The master plan for the new tech center, designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, calls for an energy-efficient academic neighborhood, composed of zero-emissions buildings with rooftops covered in solar panels.

The Cornell NYC Tech campus is being developed in partnership with the Technion- Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, although Cornell will be responsible for construction. Cornell has already unveiled its plans to the public, marking the start of the seven-month Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), which begins with public comment and review. The university hopes to break ground in 2014. The full development is expected to occur over two phases; the first phase is projected to be completed in 2017 and the second phase in 2037.

To learn more about the Cornell NYC Tech campus, see the New York Observer, the New Yorker, and New York Magazine.



Planning the future of NYC: sea gates and visions of LoLo

Ever since Hurricane Sandy touched ground on the East Coast, phrases like climate change, flooding, and flood protection have expanded exponentially in terms of media attention. Perhaps the biggest question on everyone’s mind is how to prepare for the next storm. Vishaan Chakrabarti, the director of Columbia’s Center for Urban Real Estate and former director of the Department of City Planning’s Manhattan Office, has several ideas to share.

One proposal is to adopt the Rotterdam model. In the 1990s, Rotterdam erected giant sea gates, twice the size of the Eiffel Tower, at the mouth of the Rhine as a defense mechanism against storm surges. City Atlas published a piece last week about the financial viability of sea gates, specifically those built based on the Rotterdam model. Sea gates allow ships to pass easily while they are open; the gates remain closed during a storm surge, preventing flooding along streets, tunnels, and in people’s living rooms. Chakrabarti thinks NYC could use a few sea gates, particularly at the Verrazano Bridge, near Perth Amboy, and near the Hell’s Gate bridge.

The Rotterdam Sea Gate in the closed position

Aside from sea gates, Chakrabarti proposes using landfill to connect Governors Island to Lower Manhattan – a proposal he calls “LoLo (an acronym for Lower Lower Manhattan). The concept is to use landfill to create a barrier peninsula in the harbor, and to replace the existing sea walls around Governor’s Island with marshy land, both of which are natural barriers against floodwater. City Atlas posted about this proposal almost a year ago, but the plan is now more relevant, popular, and necessary than ever in the wake of Sandy.

The storm has made it clear that the city needs to invest in a sustainable future, and not just as preparation for emergency circumstances. Rising tides as a result of climate change are quickly becoming a reality, one that every coastal area, our city perhaps foremost among them, will need to confront.

A proposed layout for “LoLo”

Photos: the New York Observer

Sandy firsthand: a snapshot of the storm from Marine Park, Brooklyn

The lights went out in my apartment in Marine Park on Monday evening. My grandmother, who lives in a high-rise on Neptune Avenue and West 5th Street, lost power and water Sunday evening. For the first two nights, I complained about the loss of power; it was not until Wednesday morning that the full scale of the hurricane unfolded itself to me. I learned that a girl I attended high school with had died in the hurricane – she was struck by a falling tree. I looked at photos of Breezy Point, Queens, where over a hundred homes were destroyed in a fire. The photos had an uncanny resemblance to Berlin after World War II.

That same Wednesday afternoon, my mother went to pick up my grandmother. Together, they walked down eighteen flights of steps with flashlights in hand. The drive there and back was a bit harrowing, as my mother recounted to me. Traffic lights were out along street corridors in Marine Park, including at major intersections like Flatbush Avenue and Avenue U.

For the past several days, I have watched through my bedroom window the endless stream of cars, standing for hours, bumper to bumper, along Avenue T, waiting to refill their gas tanks. This past Friday afternoon, I took a walk through the park and observed full-grown trees upturned at the roots and lying sideways, defeated by the hurricane. Luckily, power was restored to our home as of Friday night, but others have not been as fortunate.


What if you could give the city a ticket? The “City Ticket Kiosk” and 2 mobile apps offer the chance

A year ago, I attended an exhibition at MoMA called “Talk to Me: Design and the Communication between People and Objects.” One project in the exhibit, Mayo Nissen’s City Tickets, left an indelible mark on me. Mayo Nissen’s proposal was to readapt parking ticket machines to “City Tickets kiosks.” The City Tickets kiosks would allow citizens to report on urban problems–a pothole, graffiti, or an awkward junction, for instance–and to suggest local improvements: benches for sitting on, or perhaps a weekly market.

The way City Tickets kiosks would work is simple. The kiosks would generate short forms, printed as standard-format receipts. Each receipt would display a hyperlocal map on the reverse side, indicating the exact location of the problem, or suggestion. Perhaps the most elusive aspect of this design is that the kiosks would enable citizens to mail this information, free of charge, where it would be processed and routed to the correct department for an efficient response. The reports would then be entered into a public database, allowing citizens to track their reported problem or suggestion in the system, including the projected date of completion.

The rationale behind City Tickets is to create direct communication between local authorities and citizens, which is usually hindered by bureaucracy. While the City Tickets kiosk remains an unrealized idea, two mobile applications, SeeClickFix and Love Clean Streets, have been developed under the same premise. Applying a similar concept, these two mobile applications translate the physical infrastructure of the City Ticket Kiosk to a digital format.

The SeeClickFix application, available worldwide, allows citizens to report on urban problems to their local government via their mobile phone or the website. Citizens submit a description, image, and the exact location of the problem, and local authorities are responsible for responding to it. While the issue is in the process of being addressed, citizens can stay informed of its progress. An additional feature of the app is that it is predicated on community interaction–citizens can vote on, comment on, vote to fix, or update issues already reported by their neighbors.

Love Clean Streets, an application available to users in London, similarly allows users to report environmental crime issues via their mobile app, or the website. A short video advertising the app claims that citizens can report the issue in less than 40 seconds. The local authority is responsible for dealing with the report and the user can review the progress of it.

The real, and still untapped, potential of these two applications is impressive. They provide a new opportunity to mobilize vast numbers of citizens to become engaged in their local communities, thereby fostering a sense of empowerment among citizens. Furthermore, a transparent system that holds government accountable for their actions reaffirms citizens’ confidence in government. While still relatively new, the introduction of these two applications may be the start of a new movement in participatory urban planning.

Photos: Mayo Nissen 

Exploring Biophilic Cities

Rendering of Via Verde development in the Bronx: Jonathan Rose Companies

The terms, Biophilic Design and Biophilic Cities, are not yet ubiquitous within the sustainability conversation, but perhaps we should be paying more attention to them. Biophilia, a term coined by Harvard University myrmecologist and conservationist E.O. Wilson, describes the innate connection humans have to nature and other forms of life. There is a plethora of research to support this idea of nature as offering humans emotional and psychological benefits. Research has been shown that exposure to nature has the potential to reduce stress, aid in the recovery from illness, enhance cognitive skills and academic performance, and appease the effects of ADHD, autism, and other child illnesses.

Biophilic Design, as the term may suggest, seeks to integrate building design with natural features and qualities. This may include designing schools, homes, and apartments that offer abundant daylight, natural ventilation, plants and greenery. As a result, Biophilic Design differs greatly from green building, which extols the benefits of energy efficiency. The idea behind Biophilic Design is to think beyond nature’s functional benefits – green rooftops, wetlands for managing stormwater, and trees for mitigating air pollution- and to recognize the deeper qualities offered by nature.

The application of biophilic design to city planning offers much potential to the future of cities, particularly as the population of cities continues to escalate. There is no single answer to what a biophilic city might look like, except that it will force us to revaluate cities as places where nature meets urbanization. As the website on Biophilic cities reports:

Biophilic Cities are cities that contain abundant nature; they are cities that care about, seek to protect, restore and grow this nature, and that strive to foster deep connections and daily contact with the natural world.

To learn more about Biophilic Cities, see the website on Biophilic Cities or see the film Biophilic Design.

[Other resources on City Atlas that relate to biophilic design: our interviews with landscape architect Diana Balmori and ecologist Eric Sanderson, and new zoning that will spur biophilic development.]



Building study: 1929 landmark plus 46 stories of recycled steel = Norman Foster’s Hearst Building

Image: Foster+Partners

The Hearst Tower, designed by the acclaimed British architect, Norman Foster, is a fairly recent addition to the NYC skyline. If you are not yet familiar with Foster’s work, you may want to check out his other projects including the Reichstag in Berlin, housing the German Parliament; the Great Court at the British Museum in London; and the HSBC Main Building in Hong Kong. As you scroll through Foster’s expansive list of projects, you may notice a pattern beginning to emerge – glass, transparency, geometric shapes curving and twisting – all coalescing into Foster’s unique style of modernity.

In the design of the Hearst Tower, Foster merges the old and new, creating a distinctive 46-story gleaming glass tower atop the Hearst building’s original stone base. The original Hearst building, commissioned by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst and designed by Joseph Urban, is a six-story 1920s Art Deco building that served as the New York headquarters for the Hearst Corporation. From the façade of the building, sculptural figures representing various aspects of the Arts, Commerce, and Industry celebrate the dynamism of the city.

The Hearst building was reportedly landmarked in 1988, but the original building plans called for a tower above the structure. With approval to construct a tower above the Hearst building, Foster reconstructed the interior of the original building while maintaining the historic façade. The new interior greets the visitor with a dramatic six-story lobby and the sound of cascading water. The water feature is part of the “Ice Fall” installation, a waterfall that flows besides the escalators.

Right Image: Inhabitat   | left Image: Foster+Partners 


Beyond its aesthetic attributes, the Hearst Tower, constructed in 2006, is a model of sustainability. The building was the first skyscraper in NYC to receive the U.S. Green Buildings Councils Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Certification. The building was designed to consume 26 percent less energy than a traditional building. The rooftop features a rainwater collection system. Quite impressively, 90 percent of the steel used is recycled, and the tower’s exterior triangular frame further saves about 2,000 tons of steel.

The Hearst Tower is located at 300 West 57th Street, near Columbus Circle in Manhattan.

To learn more about Norman Foster, see the documentary: How much does your building weigh, Mr. Foster?