Creston Avenue Gets Diggy with It

By Ruth Dresdner, AIA, LEED AP, and Marcella Yee, AIA

ESKWA Creston Avenue construction

Hollister Construction

At first glance it may look like a corner of Dante’s inferno—but this is, in fact, our construction team, hard at work at 2865 Creston Avenue in the Bronx.

They drill, excavate, clear rock, and pour concrete. At right, they are forming what will become the bottom of an elevator pit.

They’ve been working nights to make up for time lost to an unusually harsh winter (but this is a dedicated bunch, and we worked through it—proof below).

 

ESKWA Creston Ave siteESKWA Creston Ave rockESKWA Creston Ave

When completed, the building will sit directly adjacent to the neighboring bedrock (see below right). The team is taking great pains to keep the awesome rock outcropping. The rock, like much of NYC’s bedrock, is gneiss (pronounced ‘nice’). On this site, rock hardness ranges from NYC bedrock classification 1B (medium hard rock) to weathered portions classified as 1D (soft rock). Hardness is a crucial attribute of rock because a building foundation can be supported on hard rock, while soft rock may not have the capacity to take the load. Also, when excavating rock, the softer it is, the faster it goes.

Bedrock at this site is mapped as the Proterozoic-Eon Fordham Gneiss, which is typically a banded gneiss to schistose gneiss with pegmatite intrusions. During the Pleistocene epoch, a series of glaciers advanced and retreated across the New York City area, initially scouring soils down to the bedrock. In the Bronx, bedrock is often exposed at the ground surface or covered with a thin layer of glacial soil such as glacial till or outwash sand. Since the retreat of the last glacier, roughly 20,000 years ago, exposed and near-surface bedrock has been subjected to weathering, particularly along joints and foliations in the rock. (Information in the preceding paragraph came from Geotechnical Report dated 12/17/2015 by Mueser Rutledge Consulting Engineers.)

At the other end of the site, a gabion wall is rising. It is made of steel wire baskets filled with pieces of rock excavated on site. Not only is it beautiful (at least in our opinion), but it is made of natural material, and by using what was already onsite, less material will be carted away, and less has to be trucked in. When finished, the gabion wall will be a 20-foot high retaining wall at the rear yard of the building.

ESKWA Creston Avenue gabion wall

Creston Avenue gabion wall

Stay tuned for more updates!

ESKWA Marcella and Ruth

Marcella and Ruth

Ruth Dresdner, AIA, LEED AP, has been an architect at ESKW/A for almost a year and has taken on two of our largest new housing construction projects. She is project manager on both 2865 Creston Avenue for Project Renewal, and the School Street Residences in Yonkers for St. Joseph’s Community Medical Centers.

Marcella Yee, AIA, has been with ESKW/A since 2014 and has been a lead team member on the Creston project since the design phase. She was an instrumental architectural team member on the successful RFP for Archer Green with particular focus on façade development and detailing during design and construction documents. She is also project manager on shelter renovation projects for BRC.

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1561 Walton is Ready for Residents

If you’ve walked through the western Bronx recently, you may have noticed a newcomer on the skyline: the 11-story, 60-unit subsidized housing building at 1561 Walton Avenue recently achieved substantial completion. Residents have begun to move in, just in time to burrow in for what’s already proving to be a snowy winter season.

The new building is the latest addition to Settlement Housing Fund’s longstanding mission of providing quality permanent housing for mixed income and formerly homeless families.

1561 Walton’s construction milestone keyed a mention from New York Yimby, as well, which can be read here.

Big Week at ESKW/A

It’s been a busy week here at ESKW/A, as two of our current projects celebrated important milestones in their construction.

Landing Road_from hill

On Tuesday, we broke ground on 233 Landing Road, an innovative project for the Bowery Residents’ Committee which will be the first of its kind to blend affordable housing and a shelter.  The hybrid model is being developed under Mayor de Blasio’s HomeStretch initiative to provide permanent housing for very low-income New Yorkers.  Team members Kimberly Murphy, Moses Ragasa, Melissa Rousse, and Martin Galindez are looking forward to this exciting next stage of the project.

You can read more about the ceremony and the upcoming project in this article covering the event from the Observer.

True Colors Opening ESKW

As Landing Road began, close by in the Bronx another new building was coming to completion.  The True Colors Bronx residence, a West End Residences project, celebrated its official opening with modest fanfare.

Cyndi Lauper, an outspoken advocate for homeless LGBT rights, was in exuberant attendance, as were representatives from the owner’s representative, Artemis Development, and the general contractor, DP Group.

Project Architect Kimberly Murphy and team architect Marcella Yee were happy to attend the celebration for a project of which ESKW/A is very proud.

Read more about the event as it was covered by Bronx News 12 here.

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.

A Visit to True Colors

Recently a few members of our office took advantage of an opportunity to visit one of our projects currently under construction, True Colors Housing in the Bronx.  Project Architect Kimberly Murphy took us through the building’s shell and answered the group’s questions on everything from fireproofing at bathtubs to the tricks of maintaining continuous insulation.  We then capped off the visit by heading to the rooftop to admire the 360 view.

Designing Actively

ESKW/A is very proud to see our collaborative project with Dattner Architects, the New Settlement Community Center, featured on the Center for Active Design’s website as a case study of architecture designed with the intention of actively engaging its occupants both physically and intellectually.

Check out the feature here!

Also, we encourage you to follow NSCC on Facebook to see how fully they use the center and school for their many community programs including swimming, yoga, dance, and more.

Shelter Skelter: A Presentation by Bronx High School Students on Homelessness in NYC

ESKW_Shelter Skelter

Marcella, Martin, and Melissa of ESKW/A

Our recently completed 4380 Bronx Boulevard along with current shelter projects at 233 Landing Road, 2570 Fulton, 91 Pitt, 149 W 132, and 8 E 3rd Street, have us thinking about the public perception of shelters and the homeless.  Last Wednesday several of us from ESKW/A trouped up to the Bronx Museum to attend and show support for a student presentation on the culmination of a summer spent investigating the ins and outs of the shelter system in NYC.  CUP, the Center for Urban Pedagogy, and the College Now program of Hostos Community College brought in teaching artist Patrick Rowe to work with the teens throughout the project and teach them to funnel their newfound knowledge into a visual form (poster shown below).

The students conducted numerous interviews with city council members, the NYC Department of Homeless Services, community board members, and individuals directly associated with local shelters.  They also visited a non-profit shelter as well as Picture the Homeless and garnered a better understanding of the system as seen from the inside.

In the resultant presentation, the class was careful to show both sides of the arguments for and against the types and locations of shelters.  Many members of the audience were surprised to learn that shelters are not evenly distributed over the boroughs but rather are quite concentrated in the Bronx.

“We like to keep families applying to shelters close to their support systems, their children’s school, and to their last known address,” said Lisa Black of the NYC Department of Homeless Services.  Even with the large number of shelters within the borough, however, they fill up and people can sometimes be relocated across the city.  As one student explained, “Let’s say you’re from here [the Bronx], but let’s say all the shelters in the Bronx are full—then they will end up moving to the next closest shelters, which could be in Brooklyn or could be far away, like Staten Island.  From that standpoint, you’re taking me away from my home, from people I grew up with, where I’m very comfortable.”

ESKW Shelter Skelter

The Shelter Skelter poster

No discussion of the shelter system can go without touching on the concept of NIMBY, and the class addressed this as well.  In his interview with the students, Sam Miller of Picture the Homeless explained, “The Bronx is one of the areas that sends the most families into the shelter system.  Many times when communities in the Bronx oppose a shelter, they’re opposed to their own neighbors who’ve been driven out by rising rents.”

It was gratifying to hear that on an individual level many of the students felt that their eyes had been opened and their assumptions challenged.  As one teen told the audience:

“We were asked the question, ‘Who do you think these people are?  Where do you think they come from?’ and unfortunately I had a very low opinion of them.  To be honest, the only homeless people I saw were basically crazy people, drunks, drug addicts, people that didn’t really cause me to think about this issue.  But as the program went on and as we did our visits, and especially when we went to meet some people from Picture the Homeless, they opened my eyes.  Talking to one of the men there taught me through the way that he spoke that not all homeless people are drug addicts, etc.  I hope one day to be as smart as him.”

Her sentiment was common amongst her classmates, many of whom echoed the assertion that their preconceived notions about the system and especially the shelter inhabitants had been turned around.  These students will undoubtedly continue to spread their new knowledge within their neighborhoods, raising awareness and altering the prejudices of those around them.  The presentation focused on a serious problem faced by our community, but thanks to the students’ enthusiasm the tone of the evening was distinctly hopeful.