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Urban Landscape Designers are Busier Than Ever

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Inside the Interior Foliage Design greenhouse

Since 1733, when Bowling Green was established “for the beauty and ornament of the said street as well as for the of the inhabitants of this city,” greenery has been appreciated for its immediate and long term benefits to New York City’s residents and properties. Street landscaping, according to a comprehensive Department of Transportation design manual, decreases energy costs, subdues street noise (“providing health and psychological benefits”), attracts customers to nearby businesses and increases property values.

This is not news, of course, yet these days developers, building owners and tenants have renewed interest in landscape design.

“We are very proud of our landscaped roofs at 250 Hudson Street and Symphony House (235 West 56th Street), as well as our straight, extensive green roof systems at 255 Greenwich Street,” said John Resnick, on trend to say the least. Landscape architects, designers and gardeners are bustling with requests for green roofs and rooftop gardens, green walls and vertical gardens, terraces, sidewalks, atriums, lobbies and every other imaginable space.

“Landlords realize this is attractive,” said Stuart Schechter, the owner of Interior Foliage Design, recalling the creation of the plant-filled 277 Park Avenue atrium in the early 1980s. “Plants and flowers are part of marketing. Outdoor spaces can reflect what’s inside.”

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The Family Business: NYC Water Towers

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From most everywhere in New York City an upward tilt of the head offers an appealing view, a sight you cannot replicate anywhere else. Not the skyscrapers and spires—even though, yes, they are standouts indeed—but something more uniquely New York City: rooftop water towers.

Their likenesses and silhouettes appear in countless works of art and the towers themselves—also called tanks—have even served as canvases, too (check out The Water Tank Project, a global clean water awareness campaign supported by more than a dozen members of the real estate industry). That said, visual stimulation is just a byproduct when it comes to these structures so vital to New York City life.

“A lot of people think they are out of service or abandoned, but they serve a vital need,” said Henry Rosenwach, the 26-year-old scion of the Rosenwach family whose name is synonymous with this New York phenomenon. “Until water is gone people don’t care. It’s such a simple thing.”

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Say Grace: Gabriel Kreuther at the Grace Building

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42nd Street Entrance

This June, the Grace Building (1114 Avenue of the Americas), designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in the early ’70s, welcomed what many consider the most ambitious new restaurant in the city: Gabriel Kreuther, which is named for its chef. Ambitious here means fine dining, a category all but forgotten in today’s comfort-cheap food frenzy. And all it took to remember was a group of out-of-town private investors represented by Eben Dorros, president of a Jackson Hole, Wyo.-based bakery with a location in Chicago.

Mr. Dorros, who holds both a masters in music and film composition and a MBA in music business from NYU, said he and his partners set out to create something special in New York. “Gabriel’s style is unique in of itself, so the concept was simple: share Gabriel with the world and not under the umbrella of another concept.”

Mr. Kreuther came to New York City in 1997. He worked his way from sous chef at La Caravelle to chef de cuisine at Jean-Georges before taking the executive chef role at The Modern, the position he’s most known and lauded for. Fans will recognize Alsatian themes in the new restaurant’s menu. Think French and expect sauerkraut and tarte flambee.

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Rickshaws, Ridesharing and the Return of the Trolley!

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NYC Transit Museum image

Established infrastructure—buses, subways—moves pretty much everyone around this city. Accordingly, big investments in transportation, like the $300 million, 14-mile, Woodhaven and Cross Bay Boulevard north-south bus route, are important. But the city and its residents have long known less traditional, more nimble, gap-filling services are important too, especially as jobs and residences expand to transportation deserts. The last mile, that too-long walk to the closest station, is a problem that could be solved with a variety of alternatives.

The city, according to a staffer, is open to many of them. Slamming the proverbial doors inhibits growth. The money, literally, is in the creation of trips and economic activity that would not happen otherwise. Extra capacity and extra seats are great, but imagine a Soundview, Bronx resident who can work in south Brooklyn and enjoy Rockaway Beach because of a ferry priced like other Metropolitan Transportation Authority alternatives ($2.75). This winter the city issued a request for proposals for a manager of a five-borough ferry system. Expected annual ridership of 4.6 million isn’t quite 2014’s weekday subway transportation of 5.6 million people, but it’s a significant fraction nonetheless. People gotta move.

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The Secrets of Getting Your First Bar or Restaurant Space in Manhattan

Wassail owners Benjamin Sandler and Jennifer Lim
(Photo: Arman Dzidzovic/Commercial Observer)

When Ben Sandler and Jennifer Lim began seeking space for their second venture, Wassail, a bar devoted to cider, they considered Hell’s Kitchen, Flatiron, West Village, the Bowery and the Lower East Side. This was last spring, though the couple (in business and life) had cider in mind for years. The Queens Kickshaw, their bustling coffee/grilled cheese/craft beer spot in Astoria, opened in 2011 with three ciders on offer. As the fermented fruit drink surged in availability and popularity, their list of ciders grew and then cider propelled every vacation, every trip and everywhere they went for any reason.

An early but unrealized courtship with an interested investor ignited the dream of operating in Manhattan. At the end of 2013, Ms. Lim and Mr. Sandler partnered with Sabine Hrechdakian, one of the organizers of Cider Week NY. And the hunt for real estate across the East River was on.

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When Larry Met Bjarke…

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Bjarke Ingels and Larry Silverstein at 7 WTC

“It’s like in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy,” said Bjarke Ingels, scrolling through images of gorgeous, multi-masted wooden sailboats on his phone, about to agree with Larry Silverstein who’d just extolled the fjords of Norway.

“Come here,” said Mr. Silverstein, gently interrupting, reaching out his arm, guiding Mr. Ingels away from the reception area and into his office at 7 World Trade Center.

“Can we come?” asked those who remained: a reporter, a photographer and two publicists (one each for Messers. Silverstein and Ingels).

“No,” said Mr. Silverstein. This was to be a private moment for the city’s newest power couple: developer and architect, honeymooning after their engagement was announced.

Last week BIG, the Bjarke Ingels Group, a New York-based design firm birthed in Copenhagen, unveiled its design for a (probably) 80-story, 1,340-foot building at 200 Greenwich Street, the fourth and final skyscraper at the 16-acre World Trade Center site. That’s 2 World Trade Center, the one that was maybe to open in 2016, the one where construction was halted at street level in 2010. The Liberty Bonds and insurance money funding 3 and 4 World Trade Center was not enough for building 2, too. It’s also the one that was originally designed by Lord Norman Foster in 2005.

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Rent Is For Suckers! Restaurateurs are Buying Instead of Renting

28 Seventh Ave South, from an old Elliman listing

When chef Galen Zamarra, his business partner Eric Blinderman and their eight other investors opened Mas (farmhouse) at 39 Downing Street in 2004 they held a 10-year lease with no renewal option. And that was fine.

“Ten years seems like the end of time when you’re 24,” said Mr. Blinderman, referring to the then-age of many of the owners. “But in the course of a business it’s a blink of an eye.”

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2,000 Pound Aerial Art Looms Over Boston

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courtesy of Shawmut Design and Construction

Boston-based sculptor Janet Echelman, recipient of the 2014 Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award in Visual Arts, was selected from a pool of 97 artists to create an installation for her hometown. On display from May to October 2015 in the city's Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway park, “As If It Were Already Here” is a 2,000-pound, half-acre-sized aerial sculpture made of hand-sliced rope and more than half a million knots.

And all it took to install was one 190-ton crane, five 60-ton cranes and 50 people at a time for 20 hours.

Read complete storyand see excellent mini slideshow and installation time-lapse video at InteriorDesign.netJanet Echelman's Massive Aerial Art Looms Over Boston

NYC and Landlords are Going Green

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Spring at The New York Botanical Garden

The word “green” means different things to different people. For many developers and building owners, it’s what fills their pockets. But if you’re an environmentalist, it means something else entirely. However, sustainability is now officially poised to affect everyone in real estate. Last September Mayor Bill de Blasio committed New York City to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050. That means it’s time for the industry to reconsider their favorite color.

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The Ever Changing Face of Times Square

image from the clock approached midnight on Dec. 31, 1903, a tradition was born: a New Year’s Eve bash at the intersection of Seventh Avenue, Broadway and 42nd Street, then known as Longacre Square.

The year 1904 began with fireworks from the roof of the in-construction new headquarters of The New York Times: 1475 Broadway (the first ball drop was 1907/1908). At the time, the 25-story 1475 Broadway was among the tallest in the city, and the world. A few months later the city renamed the intersection and the soon-to-open subway station below for the building (and business) above: Times Square.

“This is the Great White Way, theatrical center of America and wonder of the out-of-towner. Here midnight streets are more brilliant than noon, their crowds on ordinary evenings exceeding those of large town carnivals,” reads The WPA Guide to New York City, in 1939.

Last month the city announced a record 56.4 million visitors in 2014.

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