Proposals

Justice for All

Proposal ▻ Work Force (2018)
The community-focused approach of coworking can benefit justice design for a better inmate, visitor, and neighborhood experience.
By Gretchen Dykstra The heart of Manhattan was reborn when the Times Square Business Improvement District (BID) was established in 1992, led by Gretchen Dykstra. Dykstra went on to serve as Commissioner of Consumer Affairs under Mayor Bloomberg, and was the Founding President of the National 9/11 Memorial Foundation. Today, she lives in the Hudson More
By Carter Strickland Improved water quality paved the way for the redevelopment of New York City’s waterfront from manufacturing to residential and park uses. But combined sewer overflows remained a vexing problem—exacerbated by a century of development and increased rainfall during to climate change. Carter Strickland worked on the problem as Deputy Commissioner and then More
By Theodore Liebman Theodore Liebman, FAIA, has devoted his career to examining the impacts of development on people and the environment, with an eye to improving cities and shaping future settlements. Now a Principal with Perkins Eastman, an Adjunct Professor at NYU, and Board Member with the Consortium for Sustainable Urbanization, Liebman casts his mind More
By John Raskin John Raskin had a ringside view when legislative efforts to secure transit revenues through East River and Harlem bridge tolls were defeated in Albany in 2009, when John was serving as Chief of Staff to State Senator Daniel Squadron. Since 2011, Raskin has applied his previous experience in community organizing to transit More
By Margaret Tobin A decades-long impasse over the development of the west side waterfront ended in the summer of 1993 when Margaret Tobin, Tom Fox, and councilman Tom Duane cut open a chainlink fence at Pier 62—returning a small piece of the waterfront to the public realm. Tobin served as the Executive Vice President and More
By Sam Schwartz Samuel I. Schwartz came to be known as “Gridlock Sam” while serving as NYC Traffic Commissioner. Since then Schwartz has continued to apply himself to the city’s transportation challenges; first at the Department of Transportation (DOT), and later at the eponymous firm he founded in 1995. In the early 1990s, Schwartz outlined More
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to maintenance and no design is maintenance-free. New York City’s DOT is pursuing a multipronged approach to find long-term solutions for maintenance in all neighborhoods–not just those with resources.

Not a Park!

Proposal ▻ Maintaining (2017)
In expanding our notion of a neighborhood park, we can invite others in and foster a spirit of shared responsibility.
Arterials such as FDR Drive and the Sheridan Expressway are long overdue for a 21st-century transformation, which calls for equally innovative approaches to infrastructure design and public finance.
The current Parks Commissioner describes parks as critical infrastructure. Private funds aren’t used to build or maintain infrastructure projects such as roads, sewers, water supply, or marine transfer stations—so why should we rely on private dollars to maintain parks?
By leveraging public-private partnerships and sharing maintenance responsibilities between advertisers and retail lessees, we can deliver modern transit hubs that combine transportation and retail.
In neighborhoods with fewer resources, the BID model can be unpacked and adapted—sharing its functions among community organizations, government, and other supportive partners.
Partnership is possible—and importantly, fruitful—between residents, community organizations, and BIDs. If we want Myrtle Avenue to be the anchor for a healthy, thriving neighborhood, we know that intentional partnership is essential to achieve it.
To maintain a common ground between Gowanus veterans and newcomers, we must rehabilitate the public spaces that connect the dots between the old and the new.
Instituting a citywide stewardship strategy for resiliency infrastructure— a Conservancy 2.0—will help deliver resilient open space projects to the physically and economically vulnerable areas that need them the most.
Business Improvement Districts often act as vital points of contact for communities. Local Development Corporations could be established to supplement BIDs, marshaling services that directly address neighborhood needs.
City governments should advocate for nighttime cultural and commercial spaces by actively managing the urban night through regulation, design and infrastructure.
By combining a new approach to vertical manufacturing and integrating valuable public space and amenities, multi-modal transit and streetscapes, the Brooklyn Navy Yard is positioned to become a new model of urban industrial campus.
Our historic subway stations are our most used public spaces in the city. We should partner with the private sector to give our stations the innovation and investment they need to thrive.

Reveal Penn Palimpsest

Proposal ▻ Onward (2016)
Penn Station is a symbol of our city, yet now stands a neglected opportunity. It should be a shared civic space for us all!

Grow the Green Line

Proposal ▻ Onward (2016)
We no longer need Broadway as a street. We should transform it into a linear park—a Green Line running through midtown Manhattan.
The Brooklyn neighborhood of Red Hook is notoriously difficult to access via public transit. Let’s explore new digital approaches to make the area’s transportation options visible to those who need them.

Revive Harlem Lane

Proposal ▻ Onward (2016)
St. Nicholas Avenue today is a largely unnecessary traffic corridor. Imagine it as a 3/4-mile long park running through Upper Manhattan: Harlem Lane reborn.
The Broadway Malls could become a significant green corridor, integrating cutting-edge technology to provide a safe route for pedestrians, cyclists, and local wildlife.

Plant the FOREX

Proposal ▻ Onward (2016)
Let’s expand the idea of the ‘street tree’ into a ‘street of trees’ to create a forest expressway.
The Brooklyn Strand should be a new gateway to the borough, connecting the waterfront with a series of parks, plazas, and greenways that will animate the thriving heart of Downtown Brooklyn!

Revamp the L Train

Proposal ▻ Onward (2016)
The L shutdown is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to upgrade one of our busiest subway lines to meet the needs of the future. We should invest in our stations today.
Queens is New York City’s fastest growing borough, but it lacks the infrastructure it needs. We must support Queens’ expansion with smart, sustainable transportation.

Ring Around the Harbor

Proposal ▻ Onward (2016)
We are just a few miles away from becoming the most bike-friendly region in the country. Let’s get there by completing a continuous route around New York Harbor!
New York City must strengthen our existing transit system beyond the Manhattan core to catalyze the untapped potential for development in underserved neighborhoods. We should invest in new, next-generation, elevated transit—the Halo Line—to serve all New Yorkers and build a strong future.

Reform the Curb

Proposal ▻ Onward (2016)
New York City is one of the most pedestrian-dense cities in the world, yet approximately 80% of our public space—our streets—is designed for automobiles. We must reform our curbside parking policies to create a more livable city.
The MTA is preparing to replace the MetroCard with a new mobile- and smartcard-based system. Now imagine it could be used for any transportation option, anywhere in the region—even driverless cars.
Freight is a planning afterthought, leaving our streets clogged with heavy vehicles. Why not consolidate deliveries at a neighborhood level to free up some space?

Deliver Goods By Subway

Proposal ▻ Onward (2016)
New York City can become environmentally self-sufficient if we repurpose and rebalance city streets and use the subway to deliver goods across the five boroughs.
As electric cars and the sharing economy become increasingly widespread, we have an opportunity to create a comprehensive mobility concept for New York City.

Recycle and Reclaim

Proposal ▻ Maintaining (2017)
With the introduction of automated vehicles on the horizon, we have the chance to reclaim our roadways—unlocking space for green corridors, neighborhood connections, and new development.

Cap the Expressway

Proposal ▻ Maintaining (2017)
By capping two blocks of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway trench in Williamsburg, we can provide verdant open space for the neighborhood and build the better future the community envisions.
Our historic subway stations are our most used public spaces. Partnering with the private sector will give them the innovation and investment they need to thrive.
The Gowanus Field Station embodies hands-on learning: it is an outdoor classroom designed to also be a storm-water “eco-machine” that will host a green roof, sit next to a bioswale, capture rainwater for reuse, and use a vegetated rain garden to clean sink water before discharging to the canal.
The Urban Design Forum is the proud curatorial partner for the 2017 Times Square Valentine Heart Design competition, led by Times Square Arts. Designed by The Office for Creative Research, We Were Strangers Too, is a public data sculpture highlighting the role that immigrants have played in the founding, development and continued vibrancy of New York City.
Heart to Heart is a temporary public structure that symbolizes how New Yorkers depend on each other, especially at a moment where opening our hearts is more important than ever. It becomes not just a temporary sculpture but also a meaningful action that advocates for underfunded and vulnerable community organizations, affirming them as more permanent public fixtures.
Blind Love is a participatory art project inviting New Yorkers to write love letters to those people who remain in our nation's blind spots during the current era of mass incarceration.
Heartfelt is a participatory public art project which prompts two or more participants to put away their phones and hold hands to light up Times Square, the Heart of NYC.
In the name of love and immigrants and freedom of movement and right to assembly, this proposal aims to honor both Duffy and the contemporary vitality that this tiny piece of open space supports in the heart of Manhattan.
When we leave our "cell-fie," our self-reflective room, we find each other reflected together under the same canopy; at the center, under a heart shape void, we encounter one another.
Some of the greatest opportunities for new housing and development within a stone’s throw of Manhattan line the East River in Astoria and Long Island City. By creating a new light rail line in those neighborhoods, we could create an enormous opportunity for new investment.
How can we encourage manufacturing to take root in our city and thrive? Historically, factories provided stable jobs and built the urban economy. With the advent of containerization and the digital supply chain, factories left for cheaper land and labor in free trade zones with few human rights.
Given the tremendous contribution that landmarks make to New York City, we need a more effective program to allow property owners to use untapped development rights to obtain funds needed for maintenance. We propose amending the zoning text to allow non-profit landmarks to transfer their development rights anywhere within their community district, as-of-right, as long as the development rights can be used within existing building height and setback constraints.
There’s a tremendous need for more density in the city. Our population is growing, and we’re projected to reach 9 million in 2030. When the Zoning Resolution was passed in 1961, it estimated a full build-out of 12 million.
Imagine new uninterrupted connections across the river, linking major destinations across the five boroughs. First, we could extend the Roosevelt Island tram in both directions, creating a new link from Queens Plaza to Central Park.
In Williamsburg, there is a tremendous opportunity to cap the trench of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and build an open space amenity for the South Side Williamsburg community. This is not a tunnel and not a “Big Dig.” Instead, it is a thin deck capping the BQE that could benefit over 160,000 people in the surrounding neighborhood, which is a primarily low-income and Hispanic area.
In the same way that New York City dedicates itself to building its water and waste infrastructure, we must recognize the importance of food to our health, security, and economy.
We must recognize that the process of displacement and replacement now occurring citywide will not foster integrated and healthy communities, and we must explore new zoning mechanisms to reverse this pattern.

Let the Water In

Proposal ▻ Next New York (2013)
Water needs more space in the city. Over the past centuries, rivers, floodplains, and protective wetlands have been continually filled in or moved to make room for urban growth.

Dynamic Zoning

Proposal ▻ Next New York (2013)
The static nature of the zoning code can make it an ineffective tool in helping communities address changing needs and conditions in their neighborhoods. It’s time to create a more dynamic planning process that explicitly addresses community well-being, not just form.
The next mayor will need to move quickly, decisively, and transparently to face the pivotal issues left unaddressed over the last two decades. The ability to plan, prioritize, and apply capital infrastructure expenditures—subject to the participation of the public and consent by City Council—will be essential.
A new rail connection could run express from the tunnels at Penn Station or Grand Central Terminal, via the new East Side Access Tunnels, through Sunnyside Yards toward the Hell Gate Bridge along the same right-of-way.
Partially elevated and partially subsurface, the greenway would extend 3.5 miles from Rego Park to Ozone Park and would serve 140,000 residents within a ten-minute walking radius and an additional 250,000 people within a mile.
There are countless paved areas of our roadbed that are sitting idle, devoid of beauty and serving little purpose. By thoughtfully designing these spaces to mimic natural systems, Greenstreets require minimal care and have a low burden on our maintenance infrastructure.

Level the Tolls

Proposal ▻ Next New York (2013)
Robert Moses built the bridges and tunnels where we pay tolls today within the five boroughs. Nelson Rockefeller, as governor, created the MTA in 1965 and took the excess revenue to pay for transit shortfalls. There’s no other rhyme or reason for it.
When developing new parks and open spaces citywide, the City should explore the use of tax-increment financing (TIFs). TIFs set aside future increases in property taxes to subsidize development. The increase in property value is substantial--at Hudson River Park, the value of adjacent properties jumped over 100% from 2003-2007, 20% of which can be directly attributed to park development.
Municipal budget structures and political cycles favor new construction and inadequately fund park maintenance. Though a state of good repair may be less sexy than a ribbon-cutting, thriving open spaces provide long-term social benefits like community resilience and improved public health.
I propose that the city transfer development rights from Zone 1 Flood Zones to upland areas in order to finance a buyout of the city’s most vulnerable coastal areas. Governor Cuomo has proposed a buyout of some of these coastal zones, but there is no long-term mechanism to pay for it. This strategy could be used especially to transfer density from residential and industrial zones with low maximum FAR to upland sites.
Vacant buildings and storefronts are detrimental to the health and vibrancy of our city. Too often landlords do not take advantage of the incredible opportunity that their vacant spaces could provide to artists, entrepreneurs and small organizations. We need to begin harnessing the potential of underutilized space citywide.
Our overriding priority must be the public arena, the actual public space itself, the space we all own. And one department or commission should be responsible for its design, coordination and development. We need a Commissioner of the Public Realm, a Coordinator of the City Surface, a Director of Public Space!
The NYC Prevailing Wage for electricians, carpenters, plumbers, and laborers is double or triple the wage costs to employ these tradesmen in the greater metropolitan area. Quite simply, that increases the cost of producing affordable housing by up to 30%.
Typically, developers spend six months preparing responses to requests for proposals (RFPs). This has never been easy, but in recent years, the requirements have become extremely complex, arduous and expensive. Losing competitions is painful.
We have a serious shortfall in housing. Our total population is expected to rise by another million by 2030. The vacancy rate has stayed below 5% since it was first recorded in the 1960s. And half of New Yorkers pay more than 30% of their income on housing.
The landmarks system is broken. First, there is a serious lack of transparency surrounding landmark and historic district designations. Second, let’s stop pretending landmark designations are always used to protect our city’s cultural heritage.
While NYCHA is a great success — providing housing for 1 out of 13 New Yorkers — it is also struggling to remain solvent. The habitability of its buildings will soon be threatened if capital investments are not forthcoming.
Modular construction can transform how we build affordable and market-rate buildings with greater savings and a diminished impact on the community and the environment. At our first high-rise project at Atlantic Yards, we found that we can use a modern means of construction while embracing sustainability and delivering on world-class architecture.
Bike superhighways, or ‘bike rapid transit,’ present a welcome solution to speed long-haul bike journeys in New York City. Already emerging in other world-class cities, bike superhighways are wide, continuous protected bike lanes with prioritized, unbroken rights-of-way.
The New York City streetscape should be designed for increased and evolving modes of transit. Think of it as Complete Streets 2.0: car-free streets with linear parks, protected bike lanes, and mass transit.
Pennsylvania Station must grow its capacity to serve 110 million passengers entering New York City annually—more than the three major metro airports combined. A new Penn Station will renew the competitiveness of the New York region in the global economy.
Let’s push the extension of the 7 Line to Secaucus and bring the subway to New Jersey. The possibilities are extraordinary. And Hudson Yards could serve as a booming new cultural heart for the city.
The New York Triboro Overground is a regional express rail for the outer boroughs. The Overground would utilize the railbed of the existing New York Connecting Railroad, which carries limited freight traffic and connects Port Morris in the Bronx through Queens with Bay Ridge in Brooklyn.
We need a real regional rail system. All three commuter rail systems—Metro North, Long Island Rail Road, and New Jersey Transit—currently operate as separate entities.
We have a tremendous opportunity to achieve economic, social, and environmental sustainability by promoting the shift from ownership to membership models. Membership models enable people to share resources they might have previously had to own.

Floating Islands

Proposal ▻ Next New York (2013)
A network of artificial islands is a productive, attractive, and cost-effective approach to create ecological infrastructure and new public space. Just as the great Aztecs produced agriculture on floating chinampas, or Bangladesh created societies around floating gardens, or just as Thailand’s floating markets attract tourists and drive the local economy, floating islands could be the future of open space in New York City.