We celebrated with Kimberly’s French silk, Sunčića’s lemon meringue, and Janine’s bluebarb! We couldn’t decide on a winner so next year we might just have to have a pie-eating contest instead.
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.
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.
From everyone at ESKW/Architects, here’s to a buoyant and bountiful 2019!
Here are a few highlights from the close of 2018:
Reaching New Heights Wins at the New York Housing Conference
The 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
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 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!)
Almost 50 third through fifth graders from PS11 joined 14 architect and designer volunteers on Saturday, November 10, for Architecture Day. The subject of this session’s study was the students’ own playground and garden.
The students were divided into seven groups based on assignment:
- Existing building analysis and facade redesign
- Outdoor classroom design
- Animal holding
- Kitchen/café/food prep
- Play structure
To begin, students gathered for an inspirational slideshow, or “precedent studies” as architects call them, to see examples of each area. They reacted strongly to the images, both positively and negatively! Students then spent some time outside thinking about which area they wanted for their component.
Each team then met and discussed the best location for their particular assignment within the 150-by-130-foot project site, and one delegate from each team gathered to “master plan” the garden. To develop consensus on the location for each component, the teams went to work—right after a lunch of pizza, fruit, and salad.
After each team’s individual elements were completed, they brought all pieces together into the composite site model. Marveling at the detail and imagination put into each area, students watched each other present and followed up with questions.
At the end of the session, they left with a goodie bag full of paints, pencils, and a pencil case, compliments of Blick Art Materials. The completed 5-by-6-foot model will be on display at PS11 for all students to see.
Thank you to PS11 for hosting us, and a big shoutout to the event’s generous sponsors: the Society for Clinton Hill, Blick Art Materials, and the PS11 PTA!
Ismene 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.
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.
As per tradition here at ESKW/Architects, we like to bid farewell to summer with a season-ending soiree in the great outdoors—of central Brooklyn! Carlos prepared his skirt steak and chimichurri; Randy grilled chicken, salmon, burgers, dogs, and more; Sunčića brought four types of homemade ice cream; Lauretta made five salads(!); Michael Walch treated us with his famous guacamole; JonMark carefully curated the wine selection; and Kimberly mixed specialty cocktails with the help of Sunčića’s backyard-grown basil and jalapenos + Chris’s hand-squeezed lime juice. Little ones, partners, former employees and even pets got in on the fun. It was awesome to get the whole gang together for a celebration. From us and ours to you and yours, here’s to a happy autumn in New York!