By: Ethan Geringer-Sameth, Gotham Gazette, May 15, 2019
A central theme of the panel discussion, hosted by the Urban Land Institute in midtown Manhattan, was the balance the city must strike between articulating and acting on its long-term need for growth and the experiences of people immediately impacted by development.
How the dynamics of those relationships played out in the lifecycle of the Amazon deal was the source of regret and reflection amongst the panel participants, all of whom presented views in support of the tech giant’s migration to New York.
Entitled “Does Amazon Signal the End of a Pro-Growth Political Climate in NYC?,” the discussion occurred before an audience of many urbanists, developers, and architects; and featured James Patchett, president and CEO of the city’s Economic Development Corporation; Carl Weisbrod, former chair of the City Planning Commission; Vishaan Chakrabarti, an architect who oversaw the Manhattan office of the Department of City Planning in the early 2000s; and Kathryn Wylde, president and CEO of the Partnership for New York City, who served as moderator.
The conversation had an air of familiarity — the result, for the most part, of decades working at the center of New York City development efforts. While all four participants agreed that continued growth is a necessity and the Amazon campus was a lost opportunity, there were nuanced opinions on whether growth is inevitable in a city as big and diverse as New York, and what the political climate has to do with it.
As they agreed on the need for growth, the panelists also agreed populist opposition to economic development projects around the city has shown that the city needs to do a better job communicating the benefits of those projects to the city as a whole.
“We do have a process problem,” Chakrabarti said. “Process is important and I think that people needed to feel like things weren’t happening in some backroom deal.”
Shortly before Amazon announced its plan to move to Queens last November, Crain’s reported that the state intended to circumvent the city’s land use review process, which gives deference to local City Council members and incorporates a lengthy public process. Days later, Amazon announced it would come to New York, triggering a backlash to the project, expressed largely by a core of progressive politicians and advocates expressing a range of criticisms about Amazon as a company, as well as the deal and the process that led to it.
“I think it’s less what we — we meaning the city and state governments — did wrong than the times that we are in, in New York,” said Weisbrod, who after decades mostly in city government is now a consultant. “And I do think we all know we’re in a period, on one hand, of extraordinary success in New York, and at the same time that success has created a lot of anxiety among a lot of people.”
Patchett, who was intimately involved in wooing Amazon to the city, expanded on the idea of an emerging psychology of anxiety around growth as opposed to stagnation, remarking that the city is experiencing “a moment in time when we’re having a lot of growth — we’re not in a recession. So it feels like what we have today, we don’t need to be as worried about what we might have tomorrow.”
“We have a youngish population who has experienced brutal housing prices and a congested subway system, who really have no memory or inkling of a time when this city was against the ropes,” added Chakrabarti, who helped lead post-9/11 economic recovery efforts, a bit later in the program. “And it’s really hard to explain to people that that could and will happen again, probably at some point for some shock we don’t know about sitting here today, and that those 25,000 jobs and the multiplier effects it would have had would help insulate us against that future shock.”
For Weisbrod, who has been a fixture in New York City urban development projects since the 1970s, this represents a “fundamental change” in the conversation. “We’ve always been a city that has, irrespective of political ideology, sort of implicitly if not explicitly recognized that we have to grow, not only for growth’s sake, but because we are a city that provides more in the way of social benefits to our residents than any other city in the country.”
Because of the particularities of New York City — it’s incorporation of five counties rather than being a part of a single one, its commitment to providing broad social services, and the lack of federal contributions to the tax base — “we are increasingly dependent on our own ability to generate revenue,” Weisbrod added.
Another shift in the public dialogue, revealed by opposition to Amazon moving to a so-called outer borough, has to do with location.
“For 50 years at least…the city has had an economic development strategy of diversifying and dispersing jobs outside of the Manhattan core,” said Weisbrod. “And the irony is that this resistance to 25,000 jobs, however narrow-minded that resistance was, is the kind of resistance that took place because this was an effort to further the city’s economic development policy, not simply in terms of tech, but also in terms of geography.”
Wylde challenged the panel to consider whether the problem had as much to do with the city’s approach to the deal — especially its ability to engage with community stakeholders — as the evening’s conversation suggested.
“Do we really think that this would have happened if it wasn’t the biggest corporation, run by the richest man in the world, after the 2018 primary election?” she asked, with apparent reference to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s upset victory over Joe Crowley in last year’s congressional primary, representing a Queens and Bronx district.
For Chakrabarti, it is a combination of the political moment’s hostility toward “big corporate” and local anxieties Weisbrod referred to. “It’s really hard to extricate that because people were taking advantage of those anxieties in order to make their political point,” he said.
During a question-and-answer session, one audience member disagreed with the thrust of the conversation. The spectator told the panel, “I’m a little disturbed by the attitude that I hear from the EDC and also the Mayor that the primary problems involved in this were around communication, Amazon not being willing to work with the city, the national climate, and not really lending a lot of credence to people’s opposition, that either for a large number of people this would negatively impact their lives or at very least they have very few mechanisms for pushing back at the way the city is transforming around them.”
According to Patchett, of the EDC, two-thirds of New Yorkers thought the Amazon deal would be good for the city, including more than 70 percent of Queens residents. “But that is not to undermine the very legitimate concerns that people had about this case” and about growth in general, he told the audience. “That’s not just a feeling, that’s a reality for a lot of people.”
But for the panel of city planners and economic development experts with pro-growth lenses, the look back at the Amazon deal was more of a post-mortem than an assessment of local concerns.
“I sort of have a sense like I’m at a memorial service here,” Weisbrod said at the outset.
ULI NY names winners at Annual Awards for Excellence in Development; Silverstein wins Visionary leadership in land use award
By: New York Real Estate Journal, April 16, 2019
Manhattan, NY — On April 4th, the Urban Land Institute New York (ULI New York) named the winners of its Annual Awards for Excellence in Development, which honors exceptional development projects that exemplify ULI New York’s mission and values. Development teams receiving this award must demonstrate innovation, responsible land use, and beneficial community impact. ULI New York presented awards to nine development teams for their groundbreaking work across the city at the organization’s annual gala at 583 Park Ave.
ULI New York also honored Larry Silverstein, chairman of Silverstein Properties, with the organization’s first-ever Visionary Leadership in Land Use Award, recognizing Silverstein’s impact in the region and industry, as well as his representation of ULI’s values
The award recognizes a leader within N.Y.’s real estate community whose body of work exemplifies the mission and values of ULI, and who has had a transformational impact on the region and the industry. Individuals must also have demonstrated an enduring commitment—through civic engagement—to industry associations, causes and initiatives.
The winners included:
- Excellence in Market-Rate Housing Development: Denizen Bushwick, Brooklyn (All Year Management.)
- Excellence in Affordable Housing Development:Landing Rd., Bronx (Bowery Residents’ Committee.)
- Excellence in Repositioning or Redevelopment: 70 Pine St., New York (Rose Associates and DTH Capital.)
- Excellence in Mixed-Use Development:Essex Crossing, Phase 1 (Delancey Street Associates; a JV of L+M Development Partners, Taconic Investment Partners, BFC Partners, the Prusik Group, and the Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group. Public Sector Partner – New York City Economic Development Corp.)
- Excellence in Institutional Development: Columbia University New Manhattanville Campus – Phase 1 (Columbia University.)
- Excellence in Civic Development:WTC Cortlandt St. Station, 1 Line (MTA Capital Construction and New York City Transit.)
- Excellence in Office Development:3 World Trade Center (Silverstein Properties.)
- Excellence in Industrial Development: Building 77, Brooklyn (Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corp. and NYC.)
- Excellence in Hotel Development: citizenM New York Bowery Hotel (citizenM.)
The Urban Land Institute New York honored the Lower East Side development team for excellence in mixed-use development Thursday evening.
By: Sydney Pereira, Patch Staff, Apr 5, 2019
The Essex Crossing sites sat vacant since the late 1960s after walk-up tenement buildings were demolished, displacing more than 1,800 families, the New York Times reported in 2017. Decades of debate left the lots empty or filled with parking spaces.
Now, the entire complex will include 1,079 units, more than half set aside for below-market-rate apartments, developed by Delancey Street Associates — a partnership between L+M Development Partners, Taconic Investment Partners, BFC Partners, the Prusick Group and Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group. Some 350,000 square feet of office space is expected too.
The first phase of Essex Crossing, which won the development award Thursday, includes various apartment buildings and retail space. One is a14-story condo building at 242 Broome St. that is expected to include a bowling alley and International Center of Photography museum and school. The Rollins, at 145 Clinton St. just south of Broome St., is a 15-story 211-unit mixed-income building with a Target and Trader Joe’s on the ground floor.
At 125 Delancey, a 26-story building dubbed The Essex — the development’s tallest — has nearly 200 mixed-income apartments and will be home to the new Essex Market, which will take over the ground flood and below ground beneath the base of three Essex Crossing buildings. The first portion of the market is expected to open this spring.
Another building with below market rate senior housing at 175 Delancey St. — where GrandLo Cafe and an NYU Langone ambulatory care center are located — is also a part of the development’s first phase.
Twenty finalists were nominated in December for developments including public, private, and nonprofit projects from across the state. Development and land use professionals selected the winners.
“In order to encourage even more investment in sustainable development, it’s critical that we recognize the efforts of those who are leading the way,” the institute’s chairman, Steven Kohn of Cushman & Wakefield, said in a statement.
By: Anthony Paletta, Urban Land Magazine, March 14, 2019
The conversion to primarily open-office floor plans over the past decade is now reaching adolescence, and like many revolutions has created problems as well as possibilities, panelists said at a ULI New York event in February. Industry experts from three tech companies that want to attract the best talent available described what they are seeing in the marketplace based on their considerable and far-flung office experiences.
Tom Vecchione, principal and design director at Gensler, cited a recent Harvard Business School study that showed a decline in both interpersonal interaction and productivity in open office settings. Open floor plans initially seemed like “the natural environment” for the focus of tech companies on “agility, flexibility, innovation,” he said.
“Have we lost aspects of focus, accountability, hierarchy that might still be relevant?” Vecchione asked. He compared this reconsideration of open offices to the response to postwar suburbanization, saying, “Fifty years later we’re stepping back and saying, well, maybe those weren’t all the right things that we did.”
The participants were not remotely ready to write off the open office, but they did stress that it is a model that requires care and innovation in application.
Brett Hautop, senior director of global design and build at LinkedIn, said his organization has found patterns prompting reconsideration of the use of space in its own offices. Allocations of space at LinkedIn were heavily skewed, he said, with open space greatly outweighing closed space.
“But then if you look at desk utilization rates in open spaces, it’s lower than anticipated; and utilization rates in closed rooms are really high,” he said.
A return to older models is not the solution, he said. “For us, there’s no solution involved in which everybody gets their own closed space, because we’re trying to create a dynamic environment that has a culture that people want to be a part of, that has energy. Our solution is to offer a variety of choices of workspaces on demand, such as soundproof telephone booths, four-person meeting rooms, or open collaborative spaces.”
One tweak to the open-office model emulates spaces that are open and yet suppress noise and distraction: libraries.
“One of the big things we’ve been adding everywhere is library spaces,” said Hautop. “It’s basically another place to work, but there’s no talking. It’s super simple and basic, and it’s what many people say they want. Libraries as a counterpoint to the open office, that percentage of space is increasing.”
Paul Darrah, director of real estate for Google in New York City, also sees no signs that open office space is being abandoned. However, he does see a need to think closely and continuously about the configuration of that space.
Darrah cited a Desk First initiative, which is an opportunity to continually innovate the workplace. “We take a floor at a time and we iterate the design, so each year we expand and develop another floor and we tweak and refine the design.
“Each iteration we learn something new,” he said, comparing the approach to the rings of a tree, providing the ability to gauge when a configuration was put into place and the results it produced. A recurrent prime consideration is where employees are most productive—a desk, a meeting room, or some other space altogether.”
Darrah stressed the importance of the “neighborhood” in the workplace and that it be a comprehensible and effective size.
“The sea of white sadness—which is the perpetual view of the open office plan—doesn’t work,” he said. “So, neighborhoods are now 40 to 60 people. We are breaking them up with space that enables you to see a collab room, know that it’s empty, find your colleague, and sit down to have a five-minute meeting, without having to book the room.”
Just as in residential development, there is no ideal neighborhood size, so the quest to tweak these environments is ongoing. Office space is “no different than a city street,” Darrah said. “Retail is either successful or not successful, and the street changes on a cycle. If we notice that space isn’t getting leveraged or utilized, we need to revisit what was the goal, what was the purpose, and reshape it so it does work. So that’s how we’ve evolving space.”
Against the Tide
Elizabeth Haight, vice president of Mathworks, says her organization is going against the tide in offering an old-fashioned amenity—a closed office for all employees. “Everybody gets an office, they’re all the same size, so it’s easy to manage the space,” she said. “Once it’s built, it’s built. I can move anybody anywhere without any retrofitting.”
But the company’s buildings are not cloisters: they offer a variety of amenity spaces, and all offices have glass fronts. “There are a variety of spaces people can work in, but we do find almost the opposite of that—everybody’s in their office,” she said. She emphasized the utility of this model for the kind of work that Mathworks employees are doing, which requires solitary concentration. “We hire knowledge workers we feel really need to get into the flow to develop this product,” she said.
This is not merely a formula for work; it is also a great recruiting tool, Haight said. “Staff feel valued,” she said. “You come in, you get an office.”
Hautop noted that LinkedIn projects rely on constantly shifting teams, with the number of employees working on a given project changing as projects progress and are completed. A rigid environment would destroy interactivity. “When we have a hundred people and give them each a desk, it doesn’t matter how hard we try—the first person and the 100th person never really have an ability to easily interact with each other because there is too much distance between them.”
The challenge sometimes is to create an environment that is flexible without feeling impersonal, he said. We have open seating, he noted, but teams that are working together have designated neighborhoods.
“We aim to create an environment where everyone can be together with unassigned seats, yet they don’t feel like they’re on someone else’s territory, invading, when they decide on a place to put down their laptop. We try to make sure to give people choices in workspaces. There’s always a place for them to go that helps them complete their task at that moment. It’s a good balance, but it’s not always easy and there are sometimes problems.”
Early experiments with unassigned seating have not been immediately successful. He noted that allowing completely mobile desk arrangements sometimes resulted in chaos resembling an architecture school studio, and in other cases some spaces once arranged, remained static for the life of the space, in spite of the built-in mobility of the desks.
Subtler changes can be essential, Hautop said.
“We have furniture that’s swapped out and changed between floors; we have local artist programs where we rotate the art between floors—just things to make people who are in the space feel like there’s some sort of new energy or something new to look at, something new to talk about,” he said.
The company has also enabled easy rearrangement of items on walls with movable panels and Z clips in many offices to allow teams to create their own identity in their space and to bring utility to whatever activity is taking place there.
Other principles of the open office remain highly prized. Hautop noted that the quest continues for floor-to-floor heights of 15 to 16 feet (4.6 to 4.9 m) in urban spaces and a constant interest in creating simple and scrutable stairway connections in tall buildings to knit a workplace together without recourse to elevators.
Maximizing Use of Space
Panelists noted that for suburban employees, going out for lunch can turn into a multiple-hour distraction, making provision of cafeterias and amenities vital for keeping them in the office. But they have begun to wonder what to do with those spaces outside of mealtimes, when they often grow desolate.
Darrah returned to the theme of the effective use of space. “How do we take and leverage those spaces? Because they are excellent spaces,” he said. Several panelists cited the importance of programming and ensuring that company leaders make clear the importance of using that space by using it themselves. The spaces themselves become a useful tool for drawing others into the office, whether it is located in an isolated suburban campus or an urban office building.
It is one step in what should remain an omnidirectional search for ideas, Darrah said. “We need to look outside of corporate real estate for the next inspiration,” he said. “What are universities doing to create compelling workspaces? What are hotels doing? What are other inspirations?”
Retrofitting Aging Offices
Many older traditional office buildings are available but are difficult to configure for contemporary sensibilities, panelists noted, yet the constant tweaking espoused by tech employers has proved influential.
Darrah said other employers are taking note of Google’s experiments. “Every single developer in New York is visiting Silicon Valley to look at what Google and others have created to understand what they need to do to make their buildings more compelling for tech. It’s the open plan, as well as variable space with room for concentration and quiet that has become the new norm,” he said. “The landlords are getting smarter now about placemaking.”
The effort by employers to gauge and maximize productivity can involve a variety of metrics, but in the age of employee mobility and relatively liberal work-from-home policies, one very practical test is simply where employees choose to be.
“I don’t know how you measure productivity, but we certainly can measure employee happiness and well-being, and that then enables attraction and retention of talent,” Hautop said.
Darrah offered a similar view. “Believe it or not, people want to come into work,” he said. “We think it’s because they like the places we’ve created for them to work and connect with colleagues.”
By: Queens Chronicle, January 10, 2019
Contest winners will be announced in April
The home of the US Open has been nominated in the Urban Land Institute New York’s Fourth Annual Excellence in Development Awards.
The United States Tennis Association’s Billie Jean King National Tennis Center is in the Excellence in Civic Development category, which has only one other nominee: the World Trade Center Cortlandt Street subway station in Manhattan.
Twenty finalists were selected for all of the categories out of almost 50 entries. The winners will be announced on April 4 at the Awards for Excellence Gala at 583 Park Ave. in Manhattan.
“Our 2019 finalists represent projects that are transforming New York in incredible ways and were designed to ensure positive impacts that will be felt for generations to come,” ULI NY Chairman Steven Kohn said in a prepared statement.
The institute’s website where the nominations are listed cites the USTA’s implementation of its transformative “Vision Plan” for the campus in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, a nine-year project. According to ULI NY, the USTA is 85 percent done with the plan.
“The centerpiece of the master plan is the construction of two new stadiums — Louis Armstrong Stadium and Grandstand Stadium — and the installation of a retractable roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium,” the institute’s website says.
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Matrix Global Logistics Park in Bloomfield is a finalist in the Urban Land Institute New York’s 4th Annual Awards for Excellence in Development.
The Cranbury, N.J.-based developer Matrix Development Group is developing four logistics warehouses on 200 acres of industrially zoned land on the West Shore.
The statewide competition recognizes excellence in various areas of real estate development, including planning, design, market success and impact on the community.
“Our 2019 finalists represent projects that are transforming New York in incredible ways and were designed to ensure positive impacts that will be felt for generations to come,” said Steven A. Kohn, chairman of the Urban Land Institute New York and vice chairman and president, Cushman & Wakefield Equity, Debt & Structured Finance, in a press release.
“They also reflect the economic growth we have seen in technology, housing, and the industrial sector and are examples of how responsible land use methods can and should be integrated within developments across all industry sectors,” he added.
The finalists were picked from dozens of submissions, and the winners will be announced in April 2019.
The Urban Land Institute’s statewide competition recognizes developers and projects that honor responsible land use and development practices.
By: Andrea Leonhardt, BKReader, January 3, 2019
The annual Excellence in Development Awards is a statewide competition that honors New York’s real estate leaders who demonstrate a strong commitment to responsible planning, design, sustainability and resilience, market success and community impact. Awards categories include market-rate and affordable housing, office, mixed-use, institutional, civic space, repositioning or redevelopment, hotel and retail.
This year, four Brooklyn developers and development projects are among the 20 finalists, including All Year Management’s Denizen Bushwick, Two Tree Management’s 325 Kent Avenue and Kushner Companies’ Dumbo Heights.
“Our 2019 finalists represent projects that are transforming New York in incredible ways and were designed to ensure positive impacts that will be felt for generations to come,” said Steven A. Kohn, chairman of ULI NY. “They also reflect the economic growth we have seen in technology, housing and the industrial sector, and are examples of how responsible land use methods can and should be integrated within developments across all industry sectors.”
The Navy Yard’s Building 77 is nominated for Excellence in Industrial Development.
“As the centerpiece of Yard’s expansion, Building 77 shows that urban manufacturing can still thrive in American cities,” ULI stated.Built in 1942, the 966,000-square-foot complex originally served as a storage facility during World War II for the Navy. BNYDC took the underutilized storage facility and re-envisioned it as a model of modern urban manufacturing with a ground-floor food hub that today serves as a gateway to the Yard for the local community. The mixed-use industrial building provides affordable space for local manufacturers and is estimated to generate more than 3,000 jobs, with many hires coming from the low-income housing nearby.
In the category Excellence in Housing Development – Market-Rate Housing, All Year Management’s Denizen Bushwick development is competing against 325 Kent Avenue of Two Tree Management.
Situated on the former site of Brooklyn’s Rheingold Brewery, All Year Management transformed the area into Denizen Bushwick, a 1,000,000-square-foot residential development that offers 911 rental units of studios, one- and two-bedroom apartments, 20 percent of which are affordable. A city within city, the development includes a 17,850-square-foot courtyard and communal spaces open to the neighborhood with a public park and promenade, an on-site beer brewery, a community chef’s kitchen, rooftop gardens, a dog park, a cafe with co-working space and an art gallery.
Located at the former Domino Sugar Factory site, the 16-feet tall 325 Kent houses 522 units, 104 of which are affordable. The development comes with ample outdoor space, including a 7,000-square-foot roof deck overlooking the Williamsburg Bridge, Brooklyn and Manhattan. The building also includes a health club, a residents’ lounge with panoramic views of the city, chef’s kitchen for catering, as well as storefronts to support local and independent retailers.
Dumbo Heights is competing in the category Excellence in Office Development. The former Jehovah’s Witnesses’ headquarters was purchased in 2013 by Kushner Companies and converted into a 1.3 million-square-foot manufacturing, office and retail complex that allows employees to work, eat and play in the heart of the Brooklyn Tech Triangle. Through a partnership with the NYDOT, the project also successfully orchestrated traffic-calming measures on Sands Street, which is slated to become a pedestrianized plaza with outdoor seating and landscaping, and open-air food and beverage outposts.
The awards jury, consisting of New York developers, architects, urban planners, construction managers, lenders and investors, will analyze each finalist’s project to determine how well it exemplifies the awards criteria and the principles of ULI to promote responsible land use and the creation of sustainable communities. For a complete list of all contestants, go here.
The winners will be announced at the Awards for Excellence Gala on Thursday, April 4.