Prioritizing Health & Wellness During the COVID-19 Crisis

IMG_0749Given the times, ESKW/Architects has been doing our best to stay healthy physically and mentally while working from home. Starting last month, we’ve been sending weekly office-wide emails with tips for remaining active and stable, and individual team members have been leading other initiatives virtually. These are some strategies that are working for us, so please let us know in the comments what’s been working for you!

Our first email reminded staff of the 20-20-20 Exercise to reduce eye strain, which recommends taking a break from the screen every 20 minutes and focusing on something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. A similar rule of thumb is B-B-B for Blink, Breathe, Break.

The weekly emails have also included links to the Headspace mindfulness meditation app, as well as apps that currently include free workouts like Nike, Core, and Carrot. One email offered tips for staying connected with friends and family with virtual dinner dates, game nights, and book clubs–and even suggested going low-tech and sending a handwritten letter or postcard!

Everyday on our #health-wellness Slack channel, Architect Daniel Horn has been reminding us to practice 10 minutes of mindfulness meditation at 2:50 as part of an effort led by at250.org that encourages everyone to stop and take a deep breath together, because stress can lower immune response and social distancing can increase feelings of isolation.

“I actually heard about @2:50 from my fiancée,” Daniel said. “But to our surprise the first time we watched it, our friend Arthur Grau from MIT was the one running them! It’s a very small world.”

In lieu of starting a new #achesandpains channel, one team member asked the #health-wellness forum for tips to ease lumbar strain and lower back pain now that he’s not at his normal workstation. Put a foam roller or rolled-up towel behind your back if you’re suffering yourself, or try standing at a counter for some portion of the day.

 

Our #lunch Slack channel was always somewhat active, but it is now more so as the team has been sharing recipes and plate pictures. We’re definitely starting to see more fruits, vegetables, and quinoa, as people have been seizing the opportunity to cook more and eat healthier instead of eating out.

Associate Janine Sutton Golub first started sharing shots of her plates while working from home as another way to stay connected. “As we’re pulled out of our normal routines, keeping some routine, even if it’s different, is very important,” Janine said. “I hadn’t made myself lunch in a while. I do miss our office’s neighborhood lunch options, but this is a new kind of fun.”

By far the most fun, relaxing, and engaging endeavor has been Thursday Yoga-Inspired Breaks led by Associate Fialka Semenuik. She had spearheaded similar in-office sessions in the past, which everyone loved, so now she’s taken our practice virtual. Lion’s mouths, downward dogs, and cat-cows–oh my!

Fialka has completed a 200-hour yoga teacher training course after first approaching a vinyasa flow practice as a way to manage stress and exercise more.

“I distinctly remember how good I felt after the first class. I began focusing on whole-body wellness and wanted to share the benefits with others, and that’s how it first came to the office,” Fialka said. “Now, thanks to the partners’ concern for everyone’s health and welfare both physically and mentally, we had the idea to put together health tips to share. I just hope my contribution has been valuable. More importantly, I hope to remind us of the inseparable mind-body connection and to find that one deep, full breath for the day.”

This has been a trying time for us New Yorkers and for the rest of the nation, but we’re doing our best to stay healthy, and we hope all of you are too. Be well and stay strong!

ESKW/Architects Announces an Associate

IMG_5861 (002)ESKW/Architects is proud to announce that Janine Sutton Golub has been named Associate in the firm. We are honored by her dedication to our clients, our projects, and the culture of our office, which wouldn’t exist without her.

Janine first joined ESKW/A in 2004 after her undergraduate program at Columbia when we were an office of merely eight people. Three years later, she “left” to attend grad school at the UPenn School of Design rejoining the office at breaks and summers. In the fall of 2012, she then departed again to Boston to be with her now-husband at grad school, but always saving a place for ESKW/A in her heart! She returned to us in April 2016 and has been here ever since.

ESKWA Senior Staff 2020

Janine said she’s a boomerang, but we like to think of her more as a didgeridoo (wind instrument indigenous to northern Australia), because she’s here to stay, and that’s music to our ears. Her professional favorites with ESKW/A include the award-winning Bronx Zoo Eco-Restroom, the Bronx Community Charter School, and our current new school at PS108 in the Bronx. Whether in the design phase, detailing, or construction administration, Janine brings great interpersonal skills to successfully manage all the moving parts of projects. She serves as the BIM Office Manager, offering technology expertise and developing standards for the office. Janine is a longtime member of the office book club and often treats the office to homemade baked goods. (See the blog post about our Pi Day celebration!)

Outside of the office, she loves water sports, biking, and running, especially while chasing around her adorable youngsters Ella and Dean (a third is on the way this summer!). We’re proud to welcome Janine’s positive, hard-working spirit to the leadership of the firm.

At the same time as this promotion, we also announced three team members as Senior Project Managers! See that news here.

ESKW/Architects Promotes three to Senior Project Manager

ESKW/Architects is proud to announce that Moses Ragasa, Ruth Dresdner, and Jon Mark Bagnall have been promoted to Senior Project Managers in the firm. Combined they bring decades of experience, and their office leadership and mentorship of staff contribute to the teaching environment that sets ESKW/A apart from other firms.

ESKWA Senior Staff 2020

 

Moses_Ragasa_IMG_8902-revisedMoses Ragasa

Moses says it’s been too long to remember when he first started at ESKW/A, but our records confirm it was April 2005. Although the office was a lot smaller and the projects perhaps simpler, the culture and overall goals of the work were very much the same.

Moses highlighted Reaching New Heights Residence & The Apartments at Landing Road, The Emerson and The Old School, and Denton Green as major accomplishments during his time here. Although not one to gravitate to the spotlight, Moses doesn’t shy away from complicated construction issues or challenges. Dramatically sloped sites with pile foundations, block and plank towers on a steel base, historic SHPO renovations, and tenant-in-place upgrades are all project conditions that Moses handles with his trademark calm demeanor.

As our in-house Information Technology coordinator, Moses makes sure our systems stay up and running, reminding us all to save batteries and turn off the wireless mouse and keyboards. He’s a conservationist at heart and we thank him for that!

At office get-togethers, Moses can be spotted talking comic books with fellow superhero nerd aficionado Randy Wood over a craft beer. If you need pop culture references, he’s your guy. And please don’t spoil an episode for him, or you could get the cold shoulder. “I accidentally spoiled a Walking Dead episode 2 years ago, and I don’t think he’s ever forgiven me,” affirms Kimberly Murphy. Moses keeps things simple and direct, (“I’m boring and cheap,” he explained), so we’re very happy his deadpan humor and methodical work style are a part of our leadership.

 

Ruth_Dresdner_IMG_8952-reivsed 2Ruth Dresdner, AIA

Ruth has been with ESKW/A for almost three years, although it feels like she’s always been one of us. She admired our cofounder Judith Edelman’s work on behalf of women in architecture from afar and was also familiar with our New Settlement Community Campus project in the Bronx. So, when she wanted to try something new and different in her career, she came here. “I look for work with redeeming social value for the public,” she said.

With ESKW/A, Ruth is the Project Manager for Bedford Green House I for Project Renewal, School Street in Yonkers for SVWSJMC, NIHOP Multi-Sites for MHANY, and a large-scale cultural facility in Hell’s Kitchen for CHDC. To say she has been kept busy is an understatement. Her clear leadership and teaching style have encouraged and elevated her teams. She’s a true teacher by nature; she even stays connected to academics by teaching an architecture course at Bard High School Early College.

On weekends, Ruth does “what everyone does—[her] laundry,” but her favorite things to do are reading and traveling. The farthest she’s been is Uzbekistan and China (Siberia is next on her list!), and she’s also visited her son thrice in Switzerland where he’s studying computer science. Her daughter runs a hydroponic greenhouse in Industry City and has gotten the whole family into sustainability. Last year Ruth recommended The Leopard, an Italian novel, for our book club, and she brings a sharp, discerning wit to the office. We’re delighted to have her as part of the firm’s leadership.

 

Jon_Mark_Bagnall_IMG_8963-revisedJon Mark Bagnall

Jon Mark joined ESKW/A in 2016, returning to his roots in architecture with a social mission after a brief sojourn in the hospitality sector. While the remit of restaurant and resort design may seem worlds apart from public schools and affordable housing, the purpose of the architecture—“to enrich the joy and drama of living” as a favorite quotation from Craig Ellwood states—remains the same.

“The functional and protective nature of our designs are non-negotiable,” Jon Mark said. As the leader of our Codes Working Group, he stresses the importance of applying not only the letter, but also the intent of the law to each unique design situation. But the real and most satisfying challenge for Jon Mark lies in creating architecture that is not merely a response to the special needs of a user group, but is meant to inspire them as an individual person.

Jon Mark is the Project Manager for our largest mixed use project to date: Archer Green for OMNI Development, located in the Jamaica neighborhood of Queens. Comprising nearly 400 affordable apartment units, retail space, and community uses in two towers totaling over half a million square feet, he said it has been particularly rewarding to see the building grow skyward.

On the festive side of work, Jon Mark contributed Swedish meatballs for the Thanksgiving Potluck and has paired wine for everything from chimichurri at our summer barbecue to aged Gouda at the office happy hours. His spare time is happiest spent building a house (whether his or anyone else’s), messing about in his sailboat (docked either in his yard or on the water), and learning yet another chord on his guitar, hoping to one day string them together into a recognizable melody.

We’re happy to welcome Jon Mark’s enthusiastic spirit and conscientious work ethic to ESKW/A’s leadership!

At the same time as these promotions, we also announced Janine Sutton Golub as Associate! See that news here.

ESKW/A and 1070 Myrtle Avenue at the SARA National Design Awards

1070 Myrtle Avenue recently received a Society of American Registered Architects (SARA) National Design Award of Honor at the organization’s annual conference in Chicago. ESKW/Architect’s Project manager Fialka Semenuik, AIA, Associate, was in attendance to accept!

SARA presented 80 architectural design awards to professionals and students from across the U.S. The event entailed a cocktail reception and 90-minute presentation during which 47 Honor, 22 Merit, and 11 Excellence designations were awarded. Representatives from each winning project were then welcomed onstage to give remarks.

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Credit: Michael Courier Photography

Fialka took the stage to accept on behalf of ESKW/A and the entire project team. She was presented the award certificate by SARA Committee Chair and President Elect Dennis Dong, AIA, FARA, CSI; Jury Moderator David Stofcik, AIA, ARA, ULI, NCARB, Executive Architect of Master Planning and Urban Design Studio at Walt Disney Imagineering; and Juror Suzanne Musho, AIA, ARA, NCARB, Vice President of Zubatkin Owner Representation. This year’s other distinguished jurors included Brian Lee, FAIA, ARA, LEED AP BD+C, Partner at SOM Chicago; Carol Ross Barney, FAIA, Hon. ASLA, ARA, Design Principal of Ross Barney Architects, Inc.; Juan Gabriel Moreno, AIA, ARA, President of Juan Gabriel Moreno Architects (JGMA); and Mark Nagis, AIA, ARA, LEED AP, Director at SOM Chicago.

“It was a night to celebrate with architects and students from across the country—one of those special occasions to be recognized by our peers,” Fialka said. “For that I am indebted to the rest of the project team at ESKW/A (Annie Kountz and Andrew Knox, Partner-in-Charge); grateful to our client, the Institute for Community Living, for allowing us to play a part in their mission; and grateful to Michael Borruto General Contractor, especially Mike Berg for taking such care in the execution of the building.”

michaelcourier-saras-national-design-awards-110119-408

Credit: Michael Courier Photography

1070 Myrtle Avenue provides 40 studio and two-bedroom apartments in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, to serve clients whose ability to live independently assists in their mental health goals, including young adults transferring out of the foster care system. The economic construction system of pre-cast concrete plank and load-bearing CMU is enhanced by creative detailing of the concrete brick units at corners and the cornice. The street façade is broken into smaller massing and articulated through two concrete brick colors.

“The Jury noted that the spaces feel fresh and hipster-ish … and that interior corridor spaces are resolved quite nicely with a lot of moves made in a cost-effective way,” the award presenters said.

While in Chicago, Fialka found some time to take in the city’s architecture and attended several of the conference’s sessions. Highlights included tours of WJE’s Janney Technical Center (state-of-the-art construction materials testing & research facility) and three recently completed Chicago Public Library branches designed by SOM Chicago.

myrtle for sara

Credit: David Sundberg / Esto

In related good news, we recently learned that 1070 Myrtle Avenue has also won an AIA New York State Design Award. Stay tuned for a recap of our experience at their awards luncheon in White Plains early next month!

Gala Extravaganza 2019

The Bridge (3)

ESKW/Architects’ Randy Wood, Michael Ong, and Sunčica Jašarović at The Bridge’s Partners in Caring Awards Gala.

ESKW/Architects was pleased to attend several benefits the first week of June 2019, in support of the nonprofit organizations we’ve worked with for many years.

BRC

On June 3, the Bowery Residents’ Committee (BRC) held its annual The Way Home Gala to raise funding for its over 30 programs that help clients achieve their goals of managing mental illness, overcoming addiction, obtaining employment, and finding a place to call home. Over the last year, BRC has served 8,656 people, fielded 12,511 calls on its Homeless Helpline, and seen 5,386 clients successfully complete a program. We’re proud that Reaching New Heights Residence and The Apartments at Landing Road is a place they’re proud to call home.

The event honored Linda Gibbs, Partner at Bloomberg Associates and former NYC Deputy Mayor of Health and Human Services, where she spearheaded major initiatives on poverty alleviation, juvenile justice reform, and obesity reduction. During her tenure from 2005-2013, NYC was the only top-20 city in the U.S. whose poverty rate did not increase while the national average rose 28%. Before that, she served as Commissioner of NYC Department of Homeless Services.

The benefit raised over $1 million and featured a performance from Broadway star Desi Oakley.

The Bridge

The following day on June 4, The Bridge celebrated its 65th anniversary at the Partners in Caring Awards Gala, where they honored Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr.; Jonathan D. Resnick, a developer of affordable and supportive housing; and Dynamic Air Conditioning Company as a corporate partner.

The night’s program included a video package about clients and partners, as well as a speech from client Charles De San Pedro, Jr., who is now pursuing social service work after his own struggles living on the street. “Homelessness has really taught me to appreciate what I have,” he said.

The powerful story was a highlight of the night and nearly tear-inducing, said one of our team members who attended. “Those stories are always a great reminder of why we’re doing this work,” Sunčica Jašarović added. Last winter, ESKW/A celebrated the ribbon-cutting of East New York Avenue with The Bridge, and currently 3500 Park Avenue is under construction.

Project Renewal

Also on June 4, Project Renewal held its 2019 Benefit + Auction, which honored Jonathan F.P. Rose of Jonathan Rose Companies, a mission-focused real estate development, planning, and investment firm.

Table centerpieces featured lively plants reminiscent of green roofs in a nod to the development of Bedford Green House, which topped out earlier this year in March.

“Bedford Green House’s design was inspired by the idea of biophilia, that there’s an innate emotional affiliation between human beings and other living organisms,” Rose said. “Deeply integrating housing and nature, in the project’s front yard there will be a colorful community with jungle gyms, musical instruments, and water fountains, all of which will be accessible to both families that live there and the community. In the rear yard, there will be a beautiful landscaped area with space for yoga and exercise classes. And the pièce de résistance of this project, and the real vision of Project Renewal, is a rooftop greenhouse, which will be filled with nutritious produce, an innovative vertical farming system, and it will also raise fish, providing a whole symbiotic ecosystem.”

The event celebrated Project Renewal’s several workforce development programs, including the Next Step Internship and Culinary Arts Training programs. Diana Perez, a graduate of Next Step, told her story of overcoming addiction and homelessness to pursue a career as the director of a future Project Renewal program.

“When I went into rehab, I met a lot of good people that helped me stay on the right track, and I want to be that for other people,” she said. “I have big dreams of how I’d want to run something. I don’t know where I would be if it wasn’t for the Next Step program, because this is where I feel like I’m actually doing something that I love and I’m dedicated to. It’s honestly unbelievable that I’m here; three years ago, I would’ve never thought it was possible.”

Over 800 people attended the benefit, which raised over $1.6 million.

Settlement Housing Fund

Closing out the week on June 6 was SHF’s 2019 Annual Benefit commemorating its 50th anniversary with the theme: “Building Housing. Providing Opportunities. Improving Lives. Since 1969.” The event honored Alicia Glen, former Deputy Mayor of Housing and Economic Development for NYC; Anthony Richardson, Executive Vice President for Development of NYC Housing Development Corporation; and Charles S. Warren, Partner of Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP.

We are proud to be part of their vast development portfolio dating back to the 1980s. “It is beautiful that SHF is celebrating 50 years of service to New York. We’re proud to have worked with them for close to 40 of those,” said Kimberly Murphy, Partner. “A professional highlight for me definitely includes working with them on New Settlement Community Campus. We’re constantly impressed with their innovation in development and dedication to the end goal.”

Fundraising events are not only important for the organizations’ missions, but they are a wonderful opportunity to connect with our development community and celebrate the great work that our clients provide to our fellow New Yorkers. We’re proud to continue this work into next year and beyond.

Record-Setting Night for the Chinatown Health Clinic Foundation

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The Healthview project was featured prominently throughout the evening.

Thursday, May 9 marked the Chinatown Health Clinic Foundation (CHCF)’s 48th Annual Gala, and the event raised a record-setting amount of funds in support of the foundation’s mission to provide community-based healthcare services to underserved Asian Americans and other vulnerable populations. The gala honored Peggy Sheng, COO of the Coalition of Asian-American Independent Practice Association, and Yvonne Ghaw, a philanthropist and member of the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center (CBWCHC) Board of Directors.

ESKW/Architects helped sponsor the gala and are currently working with the CBWCHC on Healthview in Flushing, our fifth commission undertaken for the organization. We’re honored to continue our relationship with the CBWCHC, which began nearly 40 years ago when Harold and Judy Edelman first worked with the group to develop their initial clinics.

Several of our staff attended, and we were extremely proud to see the in-development Healthview project displayed in the program and slideshow. We were also delighted by the swag bag (which included ramen and fortune cookies!) and the always-impressive menu that featured spring rolls, dumplings, ribs, chicken, and lobster—as well as black mushrooms, lotus roots, and baby bok choy. 

This year was the first time the event used the “Text-to-Donate” feature, which raised over $25,000 on its own. The auction also raised a staggering amount as attendees bid on everything from jewelry to golf outings, spa visits, resort stays, and suite experiences at sporting events.

Early in the evening, the Master of Ceremonies greeted everyone with a joke: “This event always reminds me of my kids at the dinner table, because you don’t really listen and you’re only here for the food. However, unlike James Bond’s martini, I am unshaken and unstirred.” 

But to the contrary, we were honored to attend and to further our support of the Chinatown Health Clinic Foundation and Charles B. Wang Community Health Center—and we’re sure that the 900+ in attendance were too. Congratulations to the night’s honorees, and thank you to the CHCF and CBWCHC for a meaningful, inspiring, and amusing night!