St. Lucy’s Housing

ESKW/A traveled up to 103rd Street recently to snap some photos of our work on St. Lucy’s Housing, a pair of apartment buildings in East Harlem that provides 100 units for seniors and families.  Our team renovated the shared backyard landscape, corridors, cellars, community rooms + kitchens, as well as providing upgrades to the elevators, heating, and roofing systems.  We were pleased to have the opportunity to spruce up the shared backyard space for the residents, especially with the warm weather in full swing.  With the organic curves to the paths in plan and a natural aesthetic of concrete and wood, we’re proud of the results.


Ocean Wonders: Sharks! Gets Topped Out

Two weeks ago, a number of us from ESKW/A took the opportunity to visit the Ocean Wonders: Sharks! construction site at the Wildlife Conservation Society‘s New York Aquarium to celebrate the official topping out of the new building.

We gathered alongside dozens of workers from various trades for words of gratitude and encouragement from Jon Forrest Dohlin, WCS Vice President and Director of the New York Aquarium, and Sue Chin, WCS Vice President of Planning and Design and Chief Architect.  We then turned our attention to the highest point of the new building (over the sea of hard hats) for the raising of the American flag, symbolizing the ‘topping out’ of the project.  Everyone gladly dove in to the catered lunch, posed for press photos, mingled, and enjoyed the summer weather and astounding view.

The concrete structure is rapidly taking form both inside and out, and those of us who do not attend weekly meetings enjoyed a tour through the burgeoning exhibition space with Ildar Istarki, project engineer with Turner Construction Company. ESKW/A architectural team members Cary, Michael, Fialka, Carlos, and Martin are palpably excited to see their work become a reality – and next summer is sure to bring even more excitement to Ocean Wonders: Sharks! as the interior is fleshed out and the custom acrylic tanks that hold a combined 500,000 gallons of salt water become home to sharks, sea turtles, sting rays, and innumerable schools of fish.

The event was covered by the New York Daily News and noted in the Brooklyn Eagle.  A video of the ceremony can be seen on the Wildlife Conservation Society’s YouTube channel.

True Colors Bronx – Update

Project Architect & Associate Kimberly Murphy shared this photo update of the rear yard landscaping of the new True Colors apartment building, which is currently under construction in the Bronx.  The outdoor area is shaping up very nicely – we can already envision its future use as a great space in which the True Colors residents can hang out and relax.True Colors_ESKW Backyard 1

True Colors_ESKW Backyard render

Landscape design for True Colors Bronx is by Billie Cohen, LTD.

Designing Actively

Spring is here, and as we emerge from our winter hiding places, a lot of us are turning our attention to cultivating a more active lifestyle.

In light of that shift in attitude, it felt very appropriate to attend and participate in the AIANY’s 10th annual Fit City. The event provided a full day’s worth of presentations and panel discussions with architects, planners, designers, developers, government officials, community advocates, and public health professionals, all centered around one common goal:

How can we work together to create a built environment that keeps us healthy?

ESKW/A was happy to share our experience designing the New Settlement Community Campus (with Dattner Architects), which has recently been honored with an Excellence Award from the Center for Active Design.  Kimberly Murphy took part in the panel on Designing for Health in Affordable Housing to discuss how the Community Campus has been a life-changing boon for the residents of a largely low-income neighborhood of the Bronx.

Later that day, Amanda Sengstacken and Melissa Rouse of ESKW/A joined Kimberly along with Bill Stein and David Levine from Dattner Architects to accept the award which was hosted at the Steelcase showroom in Columbus Circle. Other honored projects were presented and the event was a great opportunity to visit with colleagues doing good work across the country. We enjoyed visiting with fellow panelist Bill Sabattini of Dekker/Perich/Sabatini Architects whose Casitas de Colores creates a community in downtown Albuquerque, NM, with an abundance of active living opportunities. We agree with Bill; active design isn’t rocket science, it’s just good practice.

We also appreciated the planning and design work that went into SWA Group’s Guthrie Green project in Tulsa, OK. We can relate to principal Elizabeth Shreeve’s appreciation for working with clients whose mission is truly inspired.

We thank Carol, Jack, and Megan from SHF and New Settlement for envisioning and now facilitating NSCC whose life post-occupancy is exceeding all expectations.  A good time was had by all, and we look forward to future active design opportunities.

New on Our Website: the Neighborhood Housing Services of Jamaica

We recently added one of our projects to the “Current” portion of our website: The Neighborhood Housing Services of Jamaica will be adding some much needed space to their Homeownership Center in Jamaica, NY, to better accommodate their ever-expanding home offices and community program facilities.  NHSJ is a multi-service counseling agency that has built its reputation in community development, and we are pleased to add them to our list of nonprofit clients who are dedicated to serving the NYC community.

While the design is still in progress, we are happy to share the current images of this small but complex project.  Check back for further development.



Kudos for 4380 Bronx Blvd and New Settlement Community Campus

We are very pleased to announce two new awards:

4380 Bronx Blvd., our renovation of a warehouse into a men’s shelter for Project Renewal, has been awarded a Silver Medal of Honor from the Society Of American Registered Architects.

And New Settlement Community Campus has been named an Excellence Winner by the Center for Active Design.

The 2015 Center for Active Design Awards have already garnered media attention, with articles from the Architect’s Newspaper Blog, and Fast Company.

NYC Resiliency: Rebuild by Design

by Amanda Sengstacken

NYC resiliency

Discussion over an entry at Rebuild by Design, 2013

Since the devastation of October 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, enumerable concerned organizations, committees, and individuals of NYC have been toiling furiously towards a common goal.  The future of New York City’s waterfront urban design is a topic of both heated debate and intricate planning – not surprisingly, as the end result promises to be one of the largest and (however necessary and well-intentioned) most disruptive urban interventions in NYC’s recent history.

Over the past 2+ years, I’ve done what I could to stay informed of large developments in the process as it inches ever closer to reality.

By the summer of 2013, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the newly-minted Presidential Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force had collaborated to form Rebuild by Design.  This task force hosted a multi-stage design competition to reimagine NYC’s waterfront to be more resilient against the inevitable higher water levels and more impactful storms.  Out of 148 international applicants, 10 were selected and showcased to the public.

In June 2014, the HUD jury announced the 6 winning proposals and allocated $335 million to implementing part of one of the 6 designs: a portion of “the Big U,” a design submitted by the BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group) team.

Big U_Bjarke Ingels Team NYC Scope


BIG’s originally proposed scope is quite extensive, forming a large “U” shape (for which the project is undoubtedly named) enveloping lower Manhattan, and envisioning a comprehensive range of urban programming combined with complex flood-preventive engineering.

The proposal is as daunting as it is exciting – so the city is moving forward by taking small bites.

First on the fork: the slice of southeastern Manhattan between Montgomery Street and 23rd street.  On Thursday night, March 19th, I attended one of two Community Engagement Sessions for this massive urban design undertaking; dubbed the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project.  Presented by the NYC Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency along with the BIG team and LESReady!, the meetings are intended to involve the local neighborhoods in the development of a design that will directly affect them.  Thursday night’s meeting took place in Bard High School, nestled within the large NYCHA development that spans from below the aforementioned Montgomery Street up to East 13th Street.

In hopes of learning more about this area from the community that knows it best, the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency, the Department of Design & Construction, the Parks Department, and the BIG team set up a handful of large site maps and handed out sheets of colorful stickers.  Participants grouped together in front of the maps, discussing the different areas and quality of spaces, and applied the stickers that corresponded with their experiences: I love this area, My favorite waterfront view, I don’t go here, Noisy, etc. We were also handed maps and asked to sketch in our most frequent circulation routes.  Meanwhile, members of the Parks department, the mayor’s office, the BIG team, the landscape design team (Starr Whitehouse) and name-tag-sporting members of seemingly a dozen other groups milled about and engaged residents in discussion.

An explanation of the project’s history and current status followed, introduced by Daniel A. Zarrilli of the NYC Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency and presented by Jeremy Seigel, BIG project designer and a project director of the Rebuild by Design team.  Seigel explained the three types of intervention the team proposes to employ on a very basic level: the berm, the fixed wall, and the deployable wall.  He showed precedents of the aforementioned techniques from Amsterdam, Germany, and the UK, and emphasized that the design for NYC is currently very much liquid (so to speak).

BIG Team Public Workshop

A community meeting earlier this month

For now, essentially, the team is doing their homework.  They are investigating below ground conditions and site drainage, surveying the land, sending divers under the East River to assess the waterfront structures, and inspecting bridges.  The team is also analyzing the effect that a measure such as this will have on the surrounding neighborhoods – to ensure that protecting one area does not have adverse effects on another.

It’s a laborious and complex process, for which Rebuild by Design has slated 9 months of research and design development.

Though the design teams are based in NYC, they don’t profess to be experts on the idiosyncrasies of the neighborhoods whose waterfronts are slated for redesign.  Out of sensitivity to this fact, the teams have been hosting meetings such as Thursday’s in order to give the residents a voice from the early stages of the design process.  And while the meeting was well attended by such citizens as myself (a Brooklyn resident), one attendee expressed frustration at the lack of fellow NYCHA residents:

“I’m speaking more as someone who was born and raised in this community.  This is a wonderful meeting but I don’t see my community members represented here tonight.  And I cannot stress enough that you need to tell people because the waterfront is NYCHA right now.  I don’t see residents from NYCHA here, and that’s a concern for me.  Because something huge is about to happen in my community, and no one knows of it.”

Mr. Zarrilli responded in agreement and assured us all that the Mayor’s office et al. are doing all that they can to publicize the meetings.  As the coming months progress, residents, officials, and designers would undeniably benefit from collaborating with one another as much as possible.  Hopefully, the rumblings concerning the plans for this sliver of Manhattan will grow as the construction date moves closer.  It will be an exciting first step towards the necessary evolution of our dear city, and the design will be all the richer if the teams are successful in their goal of community involvement.