Thursday, December 29, 2005

Demolition II


Open Windows: another building on the site in the process of becoming a threat to public safety.





An earlier post suggested that some of the buildings that will soon be demolished by Forest City Ratner may in fact be in relatively good repair. While some of them look fine from the outside, apparently we have to accept the developers’ statement - that their engineering report requires that the buildings be demolished immediately since they pose a threat to public safety - since no independent engineer is permitted to see the interiors.

Severe structural damage is said to have been caused by recent water infiltration. This is relatively unusual in New York; there are several well-known buildings in all neighborhoods that have stood empty for decades, and have managed to maintain their structural integrity. Property owners know that severe structural damage caused by water infiltration is an indication of willful neglect. While due process, as required by the State’s Environmental Impact Statement process, mandates that no work be done on the project during the impact assessment phase, work required for public safety trumps due process. So the forces of nature have been enlisted to expedite work on the project and push along the project’s schedule. The fact that these buildings have been allowed to deteriorate to the point of requiring demolition is a matter of expediency for the developer.

So where is the public input process in all of this? Isn’t it conceivable that a possible mitigation action, coming out of the Environment Impact Statement process, could be to explore ways to integrate the project into the surrounding neighborhoods? Couldn’t one strategy to do this be to maintain some of the existing character and scale of the significant buildings on the site, and adaptively reuse them in the project? Causing the buildings on the site to be demolished limits the options available to the design team. What’s the point of public input if there are no options to the developers’ first plans?

1 Comments:

Anonymous t said...

Adaptive reuse is not only important for maintaining the existing character of a neighborhood, but a potentially inspiring and challenging design problem for a design team that is up to the task. The dynamic tension that is the result of new forms fusing with old could be fantastic.

The intent is not to integrate the old for some nostalgic longing for the past, but to recognize that there is something fundamentally fantastic about these old structures. Removing these buildings from the neighborhood is not just an erasure of memories and histories, but a loss in our current contemporary urban experience.

Through out New York City and many other cities around the world, designers are facing similar challenges. There are a few (Tate Modern in London comes to mind) but not enough models that illuminate the potential of adaptive reuse. The Atlantic Yards site is a playground of incredible textures, colors, patterns - a cacophony of inspirations to draw from.

I ask the design team and the developers to meet this challenge of integrating old and new. The result, if done well, will be truly unique and a model for others.

4:13 PM  

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