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/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.”

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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.

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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.

Extending The Bridge at the Partners in Caring Awards Gala

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ESKW/A team members mingle before the evening’s program begins.

On June 6, The Bridge held its 2018 Partners in Caring Awards Gala. In celebrating the organization’s work, two individuals were honored with awards, and funds were raised to bring help, hope, and opportunity to thousands of New Yorkers.

Cynthia C. Wainright, president of The Bridge’s board of directors, opened with remarks noting the agency’s 64 years of service. Currently, it houses 1,385 individuals from vulnerable populations in 24 buildings, two shelters, and over 500 apartments throughout the five boroughs.

“And next month, we will open a 66-unit residence on Maple Street in Brooklyn, which will support another 50 adults with serious mental illness and provide 16 affordable housing units for families,” Wainright added.

Wainright was referring to our East New York Avenue project with The Bridge. “No pressure,” one of our team members teased the project manager. The building is rapidly nearing completion.

An incredibly moving video showed Bridge clients living in their spaces and participating in programming that includes art therapy, horticulture therapy, and Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) sessions. Residents marveled at how now they simply feel free and safe in their new homes. A service staff member encouraged them that this is not their last step either, as many clients have transitioned through Bridge shelters and programs to permanent housing. The video closed with the poem “Myself” by Edgar Guest.

“The stories were tear-jerking,” said Sunčića Jašarović, one of our architectural designers. “What a wonderful organization.”

After the video, a client named Gregory spoke about his success story. Having spent 15 years with The Bridge, he has earned his GED, begun a career in maintenance at Bellevue Hospital, and become a U.S. Citizen.

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Mike Ong, project manager on East New York Avenue (somewhat seen behind him).

“I try to achieve in life,” Gregory said. “If I didn’t believe in achieving, I wouldn’t have come this far.”

The Curtis Berger Award was given to Gary Hattem, an advisor to nonprofit organizations. His work with banks, trusts, and foundations has helped make The Bridge’s work possible.

“Society has experienced a loss of social cohesion and what holds us together, but The Bridge brings everyone together in a common cause, in a feeling of unity and purpose,” Hattem said. “Everyone has a place in New York City. Everyone has an opportunity.”

The Partner in Caring Inspiration Award went to Leslie Jamison, an author, instructor at Columbia, and graduate of Harvard as well as the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her writing details her own battles with addiction and her journey to recovery. Guests received a hardcover of her most recent work, The Recovering. (And a tote bag. And a potted plant centerpiece, if they desired.)

“I found kindred spirits in the people who work at The Bridge,” Jamison said. “When I was fighting my addiction, I had access to all the resources—good doctors and therapists, a recovery community, supportive friends and family—that could help me recover. But many of The Bridge’s clients don’t have these resources available to them. The Bridge gives them access to all kinds of support they wouldn’t otherwise have.”

The night was an awe-inspiring celebration of the work the agency, architects, developers, and other groups have done—and a dynamic urge for the work to continue.

“The most important part of our work is that we are making it possible for people living in shelters, on the street, or in psychiatric hospitals to move into safe and affordable housing—fully furnished and equipped—so they can get their lives back on track. It’s a very tangible impact,” Carole Gordon, senior vice president for housing development at The Bridge, told us after the event. “The gala brought together people from so many walks of life. Hopefully they left with a good feeling and want to continue to support us in whatever way they can.”

If the donation thermometer is any indicator (it surpassed the $20,000 goal within minutes and was still rising as we left), then these efforts are sure to continue. And if this photo booth flip book is another indicator, then it’s a safe bet that people walked away with good feelings too.

ICL salutes Peter Campanelli

Group Photo at ICL's Gala

Photo Credit: Ben Asen Photography, h/t Melissa Fisher

The Institute for Community Living (ICL) celebrated its 27th anniversary last week at the Ritz Carlton in lower Manhattan. The event was made bittersweet by the departure of Peter Campanelli, ICL’s founder who is retiring after 27 years of service to teach at NYU. This not-for-profit organization, a longtime client of ESKW/A, provides social, medical, and affordable housing services for individuals with mental illness and developmental disabilities – an often overlooked population in New York City.

ESKW/A has built several projects that are tailored to the special needs of ICL, such as space for support services, group activities, rehabilitation, and job search assistance; these projects include Lewis Avenue, Lawton Avenue, Stepping Stone, and Milestone I + II, as well ICL’s Corporate Offices. We are proud to partner with this organization that does so much for this underserved population of our city.