1921 Cortelyou Road and Baptist Church of the Redeemer in the NYT

Today, 1921 Cortelyou Road and Baptist Church of the Redeemer was mentioned in The New York Times in a story about the development of faith-based sites.

In increasingly challenging times for houses of worship, it’s important that the development market reacts sensitively and respectfully. We are proud that our Cortelyou Road / Baptist Church of the Redeemer project is doing just this. The church is expressed physically, distinctly, and honorably, while the housing above provides for the city’s underserved population. We are thankful that this development is welcomed in Flatbush.

To learn more about this project’s intricate history and how it came to life, see our post from March 2019.

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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.

Honor and Hope at the HSU Gala

This year’s Homeless Services United (HSU) Gala marked a record fundraising effort for HSU, and our very own Andrew Knox was among the event’s honorees. The April 18 event was held in Manhattan’s Prince George Ballroom, and its theme of “Elevating Voices, Driving Our Vision” echoed throughout the speeches of the three honorees.

IMG_1631As a result of the city’s Turning the Tide Against Homelessness plan, evictions are down 37% since 2013 and over 100,000 people have been able to overcome their housing crises and obtain or retain permanent housing, Trapani said. Since Commissioner Steven Banks took over the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) in 2014, roughly 40 new shelters have been set up, with 180 haphazard, sub-standard sites shutting down.

Events like the HSU Gala ensure that nonprofits can continue their work of providing a continuum of services, quality programming, and coordinated care to those affected by the homelessness crisis.

Accepting the Sr. Barbara Lenniger Legacy Award, founding HSU Board Member Colleen Jackson said the night’s theme of “Elevating Voices” was why organizations like HSU exist. “We’ve tried to give people and organizations large and small a voice to demand an end to destructive and cruel city policies,” she said, noting her work as the former Executive Director and CEO of West End Residences, with whom we’ve worked on two True Colors Residence projects.

 

Jody Rudin, COO of Project Renewal, introduced Andrew, explaining a bit about his first career choice. “Andrew was once an aspiring actor, but he said his character was usually shot by the second act—thankfully for us,” she said. “Because he’s gone on to have a string of blockbuster successes as an architect. Thank you for spending your second act with us.

“This isn’t a little gold man, but it is our version of the Oscars,” Rudin added, bringing Andrew to the stage where images of his ESKW/Architects work were projected above.

In his speech, Andrew illustrated architecture’s role in addressing the homelessness crisis. “I take great pleasure in working with clients to learn what makes an optimal layout of a dorm room, so that there are always two paths to the bathroom and two paths to the front door so residents living there never feel trapped. I take great pleasure in being told by a resident during a walkthrough how happy they are to have a washer and dryer in their dorm so they can step away for a minute and not be worried that their favorite jeans are going to disappear. I take great interest to learn from a resident that the bang of the entrance door every 30 minutes during nightly check-ins triggers their memories of being at Rikers, and so the next time, we’re going to ask our clients to go that extra mile and put in door closers that go click rather than spring hinges that go slam.”

 

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He also brought up a memory from school that has continually inspired his work. “Never underestimate the impact of a teacher. As an undergraduate student at Penn, I used to give my landscape architect professor grief for using examples of her work from private estates. At one point, she sort of burst out at me in anger, or I guess irritation, I should say. ‘The trouble with bright students like you is that you talk this progressive talk in school, and then when you graduate, you move to Texas and build McMansions for millionaires.’ That sunk in, and 30 years ago when I came to this city, I decided to try to honor that challenge.”

Andrew’s speech was a tough act to follow, but the evening’s third honoree, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., naturally did an excellent job. “It sounds like you’ve been practicing that Academy Award speech, Andrew,” he joked.

 

“Tonight has an important theme of elevating voices, but we also need to open our hearts,” he continued. “You can’t go to church and say you’re your brother’s keeper and then go to a community board and say you don’t want shelters or affordable housing in your neighborhood. I want to still offer this city’s hope and opportunity to everyone.”

The night’s truly awe-inspiring speeches (excepting the unofficial roasts of Andrew) will continue to inform and motivate our work. Thanks again to HSU for allowing us to be a part of it all.

 

MHANY and Friends Celebrate 1921 Cortelyou Road

By Kimberly Murphy, AIA, Partner

This week, ESKW/Architects was honored to attend long-time client MHANY Management’s annual benefit in support of their mission of developing affordable housing for low- and moderate-income New York families. This year, MHANY’s event celebrated the innovative development partnership at 1921 Cortelyou Road. In addition to the wonderful company, there was great music, bowling, and plenty of tasty food.

While speaking to the collected group, Executive Director Ismene Speliotis explained that while every development has its own interesting story, 1921 Cortelyou Road’s is especially remarkable. She invited some of the key players to share a bit of our own stories related to the project. The mini speeches were beautiful, and they inspired us as the architects to share a bit more here.

ESKW/A’s introduction to the Baptist Church of the Redeemer at 1921 Cortelyou Road was through a limited design competition in 2008. Our scheme was selected as the winning design (see below right), and our team was poised to bring a new church combined with affordable and supportive housing into reality. At the event this week, Reverend Sharon Williams shared her perspective from 2008: “A vision without action is an illusion.” Unfortunately, the development team at the time was unable to take solid action so the project paused.

So let’s back up. The phenomenon at work is this: Many churches around the city, and specifically Brooklyn (the “borough of churches”), own properties that need significant repair and maintenance. As congregations age, care of the facilities becomes challenging. With the real estate market being as competitive as it is in NYC, developers look for creative opportunities to purchase or partner with individuals or organizations such as churches that can benefit from a development team’s expertise. The concern in this scenario is to protect the church organization from predatory development. Enter non-profit organizations such as LISC NYC who assist in pairing developers, property owners, and attorneys who help protect the interests of the churches.

In the case of 1921 Cortelyou Road, the Baptist Church of the Redeemer needed a match. After making a connection with the Church through the success of the design competition, ESKW/A Partner Andrew Knox went to work to help find that match. He found it in Ismene and MHANY Management along with Brooklyn Community Services and Turning Point Brooklyn. The shared goals and personal chemistry among the groups and the Reverend was exactly what was needed to jump-start the project.

To say “the rest is history” is a bit simplistic for any development, but overly true for this project. MHANY and their team along with ESKW/A set out to do something special in the mixed use of residential and church uses. The intention was always for a successful partnership between the two and that each could support the other. The Church has a long history of community support and inter-faith advocacy, and they run a weekly soup kitchen program. When the Reverend learned more about the missions of Turning Point and Brooklyn Community Services and that theirs is the only NYC program dedicated to housing homeless young women between the ages of 18-24, she wanted to support even further. Out of her portion of the development funds, she decided to dedicate church space for Turning Point Brooklyn’s “We Care About You” Shower Program for the homeless. March is also Women’s History Month and this project was unusual for typical development in that a majority of the team members and leaders are women. Rev. Williams gathered them all for a photo at the groundbreaking.

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The project story is also one of preservation and history. The existing 1920s neo-Romanesque church building had been unused for many years. Its handsome exterior was past the point of repair; however, many interior elements were intact and could be salvaged for reuse.

The architectural team identified items, reviewed the proposal with the church, and documented pieces for careful salvage by Mega Contracting Group, the general contractor, and their demolition team. Pews were photographed, measured, and cataloged. Stained glass panels were documented, and designs prepared for new interior display. Hymn boards and other easily movable items were prepared for secure storage and reuse. To everyone’s great lamentation, it was not feasible to save everything; the brass pipe organ and 24-inch diameter, 30-foot tall granite columns couldn’t be salvaged.

The design process for the Baptist Church was immersive, pun intended. Architects attended Rev. Williams’ service and spent time learning about their full-immersion baptism ceremony, which is central to their doctrine. Understanding the procession of the service, and the needs for changing rooms and accommodations for all ages who come to be baptized, the architects sculpted the sanctuary accordingly. Sky lights and curved ceiling planes make the new sanctuary welcoming, calm, and modern, allowing the service to be the feature. Physical and virtual models were studied to ensure that daylight washed the sanctuary as intended.

The approximately 15,000 square feet of church space is separate from the housing with only utility service spaces being shared. The 76 housing units are an integrated mix of senior housing, affordable housing, and supportive housing with common spaces for programs and resident use including a community room, an activity room, laundry, and two rooftop terraces. The units are studio, one-, and two-bedroom units each with solid wood floors, solid wood kitchen millwork, and large windows.

The groundbreaking ceremony was held on October 30, 2018, and currently the project is under construction. The existing church has been demolished, the site has been excavated, and new foundations are in place. Early this spring, first floor planks will be set, and soon the corner of Ocean Avenue and Cortelyou Road will come to life as the nine-story building takes shape. And you can bet on the ribbon-cutting ceremony being one that shouldn’t be missed!

We’re excited to share more of the background and progress of this remarkable project, so stay tuned. Congratulations to MHANY Management for bringing us all together and making sure that this beautiful vision didn’t become an illusion.

The ESKW/A Year in Review

It’s been a busy year for us at Edelman Sultan Knox Wood / Architects! We broke ground on several projects, celebrated some ribbon-cuttings, received a few awards, and added three new team members.

Here are a few highlights from the close of 2018:

Reaching New Heights Wins at the New York Housing Conference

IMG_9679The NYHC held its 45th Annual Awards Program in early December. Over 1,200 policymakers, developers, contractors, consultants, and architects gathered at the Sheraton Times Square to celebrate the event’s theme of “Building Momentum” and to highlight the progress of affordable housing development and preservation in New York. In its fourth year, the NYHC’s Community Impact Competition Gallery included 55 projects, and Reaching New Heights was the winner!

“The affordable and supportive housing work in New York City must be innovative in design and development,” ESKW/A Partner Kimberly Murphy said after the event. “We couldn’t be prouder to work with teams who are taking bold steps.”

Visit the NYHC’s event page for a full recap and more photos.

Reaching New Heights and 1561 Walton Avenue were also recognized by the Society of American Registered Architects National Design Awards 2018 in October.

 

Maple/East New York Residence’s Ribbon-Cutting

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The Bridge celebrated the opening of its newest residence on December 6 in Brooklyn. Over 50 people affiliated with the project gathered to hear remarks from Brett Hebner of the New York State Office of Mental Health, Blanca Ramirez of Hudson Housing Capital, Jennifer Trepinski of the Corporation for Supportive Housing, and a resident of the new building.

“With the development of the Maple/East New York Residence, we were able to offer many of our long-term residents who were ready to live more independently the opportunity to do so,” said Susan Wiviott, CEO of The Bridge. “The vacated units in Bridge-licensed buildings are now accepting new tenants from state psychiatric hospitals and shelters, a win for everyone. The Bridge residents were excited to take that step and make this state-of-the-art building a home.”

The Bridge_Ribbon-Cut_Crown Heights_12.06.18_Lo-Res_TinaBuckman_127The 66-unit building offers permanent supportive housing to 50 adults with serious mental illness who are ready to live in independent housing, and 16 low-income families and individuals selected through lottery. The Bridge provides on-site case management services and 24-hour front desk coverage at the facility, which includes a community room and kitchen, computer lab, laundry, and two outdoor recreation areas for gardening and socialization. The project also features solar panels and meets NYSERDA energy standards.

“How the design addresses and affects the safety and well-being of the building’s residents, along with the realities of building maintenance, are just as, if not more important than the building aesthetics. As architects we are constantly trying to find the right balance, and truly understanding the impacts of each design decision is an important step in practicing thoughtful design,” ESKW/A’s Michael Ong, who managed the project, said after the event. “To know that this building will be helping The Bridge with its mission of transitioning clients back into society makes all the late hours well worth it. Seeing the attendees and hearing all the positive feedback from the residents served as a reminder of why we do what we do, particularly in our office, and I’m honored and grateful to be a part of it. The Bridge is a passionate group that cares about its clients and is working hard to improve lives. I see our role and the building as just a means to that greater end.”

 

Seasonal Festivities in the Office

Later in December we continued the tradition of transforming our in-development projects into 3-D gingerbread models. While the buildings’ forms are true to design, when it came to finishes, we erred on the side of bold and delicious. When working with a palette of gum drops, licorice, and Lego-shaped SweeTarts, minimalism is not the goal.

We also held our annual gift drive and were able to donate lots of clothes, coats, shoes, books, and toys to New York City children in need. Office Manager Lauretta daCruz led the charge, enlisting several shoppers and wrappers from our team and lauding architects as “the best gift-wrappers” because of their spatial thinking (and perhaps also because there were heaps of presents to wrap).

There was plenty to be proud of in 2018, and we’re excited about a lot coming in the New Year. We’re wishing you a fun and successful 2019 too!

(P.S. Dean and his extended ESKW/A family thank all of our clients and collaborators for the treats we’ve been receiving. If it ever snows in Brooklyn this season, he’ll be dashing in his sleigh gift basket!)

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1921 Cortelyou Road Groundbreaking

IMG-0633Ismene Speliotis, Executive Director of Mutual Housing Association of New York (MHANY) Management, Inc., opened 1921 Cortelyou Road’s groundbreaking ceremony by welcoming the Baptist Church of the Redeemer’s Reverend Sharon Williams. “This is all possible because of her and her congregation,” Speliotis explained.

When completed, the nine-story structure will include a 14,700-square-foot church and provide 76 units of supportive housing. The two uses will operate autonomously with shared service spaces only. However, the supportive housing aspect of the project appealed to the Reverend and her congregation as the type of work they are happy to partner with.

“I am honored that Reverend Williams and her congregation saw something in MHANY and selected us to help them transition a beautiful but outdated building into a beautiful and purposeful center of worship and center for community service and action,” Speliotis said. “I am honored that together the reverend and her congregation had the vision to embrace housing for a wide array of people including seniors, families, and young women who will be living on their own for the first time in their lives.”

When Rev. Williams took the microphone, she was poised to inspire the masses, albeit without a sermon. “You’re about to witness something you’ve never witnessed before, and you’ll never witness again,” she said. “A Baptist preacher is going to speak for less than 60 seconds.” She then told everyone to turn to their neighbor and repeat after her: “Neighbor … you are standing … on holy ground!”

Echoing her sentiment, Molly Park, Deputy Commissioner for Development of the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), told a story about a man who now lives in an HPD supportive housing building, having overcome 8 years of homelessness and “the worst period of his life.”

“Safe, affordable housing is the foundation of well-being of all kinds: physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual,” she explained.

1921 Groudbreaking-1

Credit: Vanessa Blake (an Opulent World/Summer Shower Production)

It was a beautiful, sunny morning. All the joy in the air reminded us of our commitment to the work we do together. Mega Contracting Group, the general contractor, set up a striking backdrop of excavator machinery to let everyone present know that we are ready for action!

“What started ten years ago as a vision has become evidence that gentrification is not the only thing going on in our neighborhood,” Rev. Williams said earlier in the day. “Love and determination are making a positive change here, and hopefully, more is to come.”

Thank you to MHANY, the Baptist Church of the Redeemer, HPD and the entire project team for an inspiring morning. We’re also hoping there are many more to come.

Ribbon Cutting, Revitalization, and Refreshments

September 20th marked the Ribbon Cutting of 1561 Walton Avenue and the renovation of the New Settlement Apartments. ESKW/A are the Architects for 1561 Walton Avenue, which is the latest project in our over 30-year working relationship with Settlement Housing Fund (SHF), which includes the nearby New Settlement Community Campus.

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Credit: Settlement Housing Fund and Joe Vericker / PhotoBureau Inc.

Alexa Sewell, President of SHF, welcomed a gathering of over 50 representatives including government officials, financial partners, developers, contractors, and—of course—architects. We are honored that she described 1561 Walton Avenue as a “gorgeous building,” which is SHF’s 18th to date.

“It takes a lot to make this happen: not only resources, but the values of fairness and justice, and multiple bright minds,” Sewell said. “This project represents former CEO Carol Lamberg and SHF’s huge commitment to the neighborhood, and we’ve remained steadfastly committed to it.”

But the real reason everyone was there, she added, is the residents, “who are ultimately the bedrock of this community.”

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Credit: Settlement Housing Fund and Joe Vericker / PhotoBureau Inc.

Sewell then welcomed up Joseph Ferdinand, who lives in the new building, to say a few words.

“I’m a perfectionist, but I don’t really believe in perfection. And I know that sounds crazy, but I’m being real,” Ferdinand said, before describing a rather perfect scenario enjoying his new apartment and performing all the seemingly simple tasks of upkeep and care within it, doing so with a notable sense of pride and responsibility.

Before Sewell invited RuthAnne Visnauskas, Commissioner/CEO of NYS Homes and Community Renewal, to the podium, she noted that it was RuthAnne’s birthday and led the room in a round of “Happy Birthday.”

“I couldn’t think of a better way to spend it than celebrating this project,” Visnauskas said, noting the holistic approach the Bronx community has taken to revitalization, including building a healthcare facility, arts center, and infrastructure. She also added that since 2001, Governor Cuomo and his office have helped finance 14,000 apartments, and last year the Bronx marked its lowest level of unemployment in 18 years at 4.8 percent, a direct result of these revitalization efforts.

The final speaker was Maria Torres-Springer, Commissioner of the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). She congratulated all the stakeholders and partners in attendance for working together.

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Credit: Settlement Housing Fund and Joe Vericker / PhotoBureau Inc.

“Projects like these aren’t a marathon or a sprint,” Torres-Springer said. “They’re a relay.”

And with that, attendees sprinted (read: walked briskly) to 1561 Walton Avenue’s ground-floor community room for refreshments. We were honored to be a part of the ceremony and the project—and are proud to continue the work of building affordable housing in New York City into the future. Thank you to SHF and the Briarwood Organization!

(Daughtry Carstarphen, our Project Manager on 1561 Walton Avenue, recently left ESKW/A to become VP for Capital Projects at BRC. We miss her around the office but were very happy that she was able to reunite for the celebration.)