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It’s sometimes hard to stay positive about development in New York when Frank Lloyd Wright buildings can disappear in the blink of an eye and everything seems to be turning into condos. However, it’s not all bad news, and 2013 had plenty of optimistic progress in architecture and urban design.
Expansion of the Queens Museum
After breaking ground in April of 2011 on a $68 million expansion project designed by Grimshaw Architects, the Queens Museum opened its newly redesigned self this November with about twice as much space. Now the museum in Flushing Meadows has 105,000 square feet and a bold new entrance on Grand Central Parkway that leaves its former diminutive side entrance in its shadow. It all has the potential to make the museum an even greater art presence for the surrounding community, and command more attention from the rest of the city.
Green Roofs on the Rise
This concrete city can use every scrap of grass it can get, so it’s encouraging to see so many new developments draped in green. The Bushwick Inlet Park opened its second phase in Williamsburg with a new structure designed by Kiss + Cathcart housing community spaces and park offices, all below a sloping green roof dashed with walkways. It joins the similarly minded new Brooklyn Botanic Garden Visitor Center that opened in May 2012 with a rolling green roof over its glassy building.
New Ways to Ride: Citi Bikes and Green Taxis
Two initiatives made it easier to get around the city. Citi Bikes debuted in May with 330 stations, and as New York Magazine cited in their annual “Reasons to Love New York,” 95,197 have reportedly signed up for the bike sharing service. The “Boro Taxis” also arrived with 1,000 released to the streets as of November and another 6,000 licenses planned to be made available next June. The apple green taxis aren’t supposed to pick up fares in Manhattan anywhere below 110th on the west side and then 96th on the east, and are intended to increase outer borough taxi service, great news for anyone who has been caught in a deluge while visiting an outer borough art opening or stayed out too late at some weird art rave in Bushwick.
The Waterfronts Are Getting Greener
The first phase of Brooklyn Bridge Park opened in 2010, but the 85 acre park that winds over 1.3 miles of the Brooklyn shoreline is still expanding. This March the Squibb Park and Bridge increased access to the former industrial area and construction started this fall on the old Tobacco Warehouse which has been a brick skeleton (and Smorgasburg home this summer) and will be transformed into a new home for St. Ann’s Warehouse. More adaptive reuse plans are underway for the Empire Stores nearby. Meanwhile, up in Hunter’s Point in Queens, a formerly abandoned industrial area opened this August as Hunter’s Point South. The park reclaims the former wetlands in a 10 acre park with an alluring oval design and stunning skyline views to gaze at while wandering.
The Return of Olmsted & Vaux in Prospect Park
While new parks were opening, others were returning to their roots. Prospect Park is finally unveiling its Lakeside project. The $74 million, 26-acre project includes the restoration of an Olmsted and Vaux-designed vista that was wrecked by Wollman Rink, and adding a new ice skating rink opening this December 20 designed by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, keeping both the recreation and bringing back some of the stately 19th century beauty of the Brooklyn park.
Beaches Recover in Style
Following Hurricane Sandy, 2013 was a year of major rebuilding for the NYC waterfront. The beaches were particularly beat up, but have gracefully returned with new storm resistant modular beach pavilions designed by Garrison Architects, and a new optimistic graphic identity designed by Paula Scher. The VW Dome 2 also took up residency as part of the MoMA PS1 EXPO 1: New York, with the geodesic dome at the Rockaways serving as a community center for a community that was reassembling after the storm.
A 19th-Century Building Is Saved by Transportation
The 1889 Corbin Building at Broadway and John Street in Lower Manhattan once seemed doomed, but in a rare case of development protecting history it’s been restored instead. This is thanks to the Fulton Street Transit Center, the MTA’s ambitious $1.3 billion new center that stretches below, and the once derelict 19th century building will now be an entrance to the center when it opens next year.
Folk Art Museum Saved, for Now
After major outcry from architects and the public, MoMA’s plan to tear down the Folk Art Museum designed by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien were halted. Now Diller Scofidio + Renfro are taking over, although its fate still remains in limbo, but at least the barely-used fortress-like museum is getting another chance.
TWA Flight Center Finally Gets a Purpose
After many attempts of trying to bring it back to life, the 1962 Eero Saarinen-designed TWA Flight Center is getting a new life with Balazs Properties turning it into a Standard hotel. Sure, it’s not ideal — the dream would be to leave the mid-century beauty as it is, but at least this keeps it from the fate of its neighbor the Pan Am Worldport that was demolished this year.
David Zwirner Adds an Elegant Chelsea Space
David Zwirner opened a new five-story exhibition space at 537 West 20th Street in Chelsea this February, giving a refined take on new white-walls space with 30,000 square feet. And if no commercial gallery space will do it for you no matter how fine the facade, it’s also the first of them to get LEED certification.
Two of the Best Buildings Became Centenarians
And finally, while all this development gives encouragement for the always-transforming city, it’s great to see two of its icons age with dignity. Both the “Cathedral of Commerce” Woolworth Building that opened on April 24, 1913 and Grand Central Terminal celebrated their 100th years.