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September 2015
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November 2015

A Portrait of the Artists Documenting WTC’s Progress

Wtc4-44
Photo by Chris Sorenson

Before this past June, Conrad Stojak’s workspace was a friend’s garage in Queens.

Today, the Jackson Heights-based artist, who is turning old parking meters into sculptures, works from the 67th floor of 4 World Trade Center. He likes water, so he chose the southwest corner—the one that offers unparalleled, unobstructed views of both Upper New York Bay and the Hudson River. It’s the ultimate studio, courtesy of Silverstein Properties.

Courtesy, as in gratis.

Long attached to the belief that art brings vitality, excitement and dimension to any landscape, after 9/11 Silverstein head Larry Silverstein invited artists to work in vacant spaces around the World Trade Center site. And, why not? The empty, unfinished floors look a little like a Soho artists loft in the sky. The space is divided up fairly loosely, with some artists taking a city view—others opting for the Battery. (One artist has an entire floor all to himself.) And these artists have been squatting in these WTC studios for more than a decade.

Documentation of the reconstruction was all Mr. Silverstein asked in return.

“It’s something that’s important to them, but also important to us,” Mr. Silverstein told Commercial Observer. “This is really a little way of producing a running documentation of what transpires daily, weekly, monthly, in a way people can understand and appreciate for generations to come. To keep a document is enormously important to us. They’ve done it so well.”

Read complete story on CommercialObserver.com: A Portrait of the Artists Documenting WTC’s Progress


New Landscaped Roof Spaces Encourage Residents to Stay Awhile

“You would think New York City is the worst place for a garden, but being on a roof here is priceless,” said François Bléhaut, project manager at Gunn Landscape Architecture. “If you work in, say, Midtown, it’s really magical to be able to see the sky. It’s really unique to have space above your head. It’s more magical than anywhere else because of the contrast.”

The same can be said of all things trees, shrubs, grass and flowers in an urban environment.

“This is actually something that has science behind it,” said Gwenn Fried, manager of Horticultural Therapy Services at NYU Langone’s Rusk Rehabilitation. That’s the use of plants and things in nature as a modality to effect change in a person. Plants, Ms. Fried said, are non-judgmental, intellectually and sensorially stimulating and normalizing. At one of the service locations, the Hospital for Joint Diseases, a terrace garden is currently in construction, to supplement the treatment that includes workshops and trips to nearby parks.  

Landscaped terraces, rooftops and other outdoor spaces have been all the rage in New York City for years, and demand shows no sign of ceasing, according to real estate brokers and designers.

Read complete story on Observer.com: On Top of the World: New Landscaped Roof Spaces That Encourage Residents to Stay Awhile


Alfa Development’s Michael Namer On History, Architecture and Sustainability

IMG_4205Many artists conceal changes to their work. Process is not always appreciated, and can be misconstrued as flaw. The appearance of an early layer—whether imperfectly erased or deliberate—is called pentimento (see Hellman, Lillian) and some artists hate it. Others revel in the study of development, the steps taken from beginning to end. Michael Namer, the chief executive officer and founder of Alfa Development Group, is among the latter.

Istanbul-born, Havana-escaped, Los Angeles-raised, New York-formed, the 61-year-old West Village resident is today, in his words, a painter by avocation, a developer-builder by vocation. Each layer of his life, his work, his building is as integral as the next.

We’re sitting in a muted model guest room on the seventh floor of the HGU New York, formerly known as the Grand Union Hotel. At 34 East 32nd Street in Manhattan, which should be ready for guests sometime in 2016. Earthy grays, blues and khakis inside deliberately negate the flashing brightness of the city. Mr. Namer, in navy sports coat and tie, stretches his khaki-clad legs, flashing the bright orange soles of his brown suede wingtips.

With seemingly little effort he’s inserted himself in every aspect of his current project. He draws himself in, deriving pleasure from everyone and everything around. On the 10th floor, the top, he found newspapers stuffed into the plaster spread during the 1915 expansion of the 1905 original building. Slowly, he extracted the pages from the wall.

“I’ll show you downstairs,” he said, delighted, describing Vanderbilt headlines and local postcards and art that will fill the 40,000-square-foot hotel, reminding or teaching guests that this place, like the city around it, is rich with history, culture and life. Mr. Namer hopes guests of the hotel and the not-yet-named, recognizable-chef-headed restaurant will be aware of their surroundings. This is New York and nowhere else.

Read complete story on CommercialObserver.com: The Namer of the Game


In Hamilton Heights, A Townhome Reflects the Neighborhood’s History

IMG_4077“Hamilton Grange is destined to be a first-class and exclusive residence quarter,” predicted The Real Estate Record and Guide in September 1890.

Hamilton Heights, the northern Manhattan neighborhood referenced above, was named for founding father and Broadway star Alexander Hamilton, who acquired 32 acres there by 1800. The area remained relatively rural (mansions and farms plus the Croton Water Aqueduct construction) until the 1880s, when the Eighth and Tenth Avenue streetcar lines were extended. Rapid transit inspired residential growth, primarily led by William H. De Forest, a silk importer turned developer turned mental patient.

It was thought that this picturesque area would mimic the East Side, where rows of townhouses reigned, space was running out and land values were high. Tenth Avenue was renamed Amsterdam in 1890 to encourage the uptick. And a subway stop at 145th was in the works.

Mr. De Forest had acquired most of Mr. Hamilton’s land (roughly W. 141st to W. 149th Streets, west of Convent Avenue) and more, divided it into hundreds of lots, and sold or developed them with his son. In 1886, pre-city zoning, he created a 20-year deed restricting new construction to “brick or stone dwellings at least two stories in height.”

That was code for private residences, which was code for unrelated people living under one roof is vulgar, something other ethnicities and races might do. There were limitations on use, too, a condition of sales that were not uncommon throughout the city: no stables, no factories, no bawdy houses and so forth. No manure in my backyard.

Read complete story on Observer.com: In Hamilton Heights, A Townhome Reflects the Neighborhood’s History