ESKW/A’s Viewing Recommendations While WFH

In an effort to stay connected and invoke some watercooler chat in the virtual world, we’ve begun asking staff for a personal update and signoff at the end of our staff-wide Zoom meetings. Last week everyone told us what they had for breakfast (far too many of us are subsisting on coffee alone), and this week we asked for TV and movie suggestions (for nights and weekends, of course).

To keep things relevant for our professional network, we highlighted staff picks that fit into these categories: Design, Art, and “Given the Times”—but we had to include a few Guilty Pleasures at the end. Happy quarantining!

Design

Several staff cannot deny the architect within, even when at leisure, and indulged Netflix’s Grand Designs, now in its tenth season. This show “presents people who take self-building houses to a new level, following every step of their ambitious plans from beginning to end.” When one of us mentioned this show, somewhat ashamed, others unabashedly replied, “SO good!”

From another corner of the design world comes Amazon Prime Video’s Making the Cut, in which Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn challenge 12 established fashion designers to become the next global brand. Each week’s winning ensembles are available to buy on Amazon, which will hopefully inspire some business casual looks for our return to the office, since WFH robes and day-jamas will be unacceptable.

This last one may be a stretch, but for a more sinister and surreal show loosely involving design, HBO’s Westworld recently entered its third season. Someone had to architect and, like, 4D-print all those simulated realities, right? That show is confusing.

Art

On our #health-wellness Slack channel, folks had already mentioned that The Metropolitan Opera is streaming past performances, and some Broadway shows are also available on YouTube. Our office manager Lauretta watched “Take Me to the World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration” last week, which is more than the composer himself can say. Stephen went to bed early, because the program’s start was delayed due to technical difficulties.

Fialka, one of our associates, let us know that the Tribeca Film Festival (TFF) is streaming its 2020 features and short films for free from April 20 to May 1. Beginning May 29, TFF is also participating in We Are One: A Global Film Festival, “for 10 days of free entertainment and an opportunity to donate to the World Health Organization,” Fialka added.

Piggybacking off Parasite’s Oscar wins, a few of us have checked out Bong Joon-ho’s other films, including Okja and Snowpiercer (which will also soon be a TV show, but was a graphic novel first[!], as Partner and comic book-connoisseur Randy Wood was sure to remind us).

Given the Times

Science fiction reigns pertinent given the times. Jon Mark, one of our senior project managers, has leaned into the sci-fi/thriller genre, offering up 12 Monkeys for how its characters deal with a nascent plague that terminates most of the population (yikes). And still more of our staff has stayed with the post-apocalyptic survival vibe, taking in The Walking Dead and Z Nation.

For a lighter take on the times, another Lauretta selection is the Bill Murray classic Groundhog Day, if a lot of your days are starting to feel the same. Or to break the monotony and isolation, perhaps take some inspiration from Cast Away and paint a face on a ball. Tom Hanks survived that ordeal and COVID-19, just saying.

Guilty Pleasures, Sports Junkies, and For the Kids!

This last section is our catch-all, because we’d be remiss not to admit that some of us are binging “less heady” pieces like TLC’s 90 Day Fiancé, Bravo’s Real Housewives of various cities, and Netflix’s Too Hot to Handle.

If you’re fiending for sports, ESPN moved up the release of its 10-part Michael Jordan and Chicago Bulls documentary, The Last Dance, with new episodes coming out on Sunday nights through May 17. What time is it? “Game time, woo!” Sorry, actually 9 p.m. Eastern. Some of us are really missing some sports time.

To keep little ones occupied, a new dad in the office suggested “Miss Katie Sings” on YouTube, and Partner Kimberly Murphy recently introduced her kids to ‘80s comedies Overboard and Uncle Buck. They’ve since asked for more “oldies” (yikes again).

Let us know in the comments or on social media what you’ve been watching to pass the time, or if you’ve got any more classics for Kimberly’s kids!

High School Students Look Behind the Curtain at Cortelyou Road

image00033In lighter news, back in February before remote learning became the new normal, ESKW/Architects Senior Project Manager Ruth Dresdner took a group of her Bard High School Early College Manhattan students to our 1921 Cortelyou Road project as part of her seminar “Reading the Built Environment,” which teaches students to develop a critical approach for evaluating buildings and infrastructure. The partly sunny, not-too-cool day made for a fun experience of considering the construction industry along with its social value and environmental impact.

“I wanted the students to understand that building a building is very complicated, and many people work on it,” Ruth said. “And they did.”

The project is an interesting mixed use of Housing and Assembly. The land was owned by the Baptist Church of the Redeemer, which then partnered with non-profit housing developer MHANY Management Inc. to re-develop the property to more fully serve the community and the congregation. This blend of development and innovation is not unique to New York City, but we certainly have a broad collection of development types, so for high school students to get an up-close look at one such project is definitely “learning outside of the classroom,” which we fully endorse. 

The tour began on the ground floor where students first saw the church portion of the project, including the entrance and open sanctuary space. From there, the group took the construction lift to the top floor of the residential portion, working their way down to see how the building comes together. Students saw everything from plumbing and insulation to flooring and finishes in the span of an hour.

“I have always had this rosy idea that constructing a building was a somewhat easy job,” wrote one student in their written report. “That image has drastically changed.”

“The absolute enormity of the task of balancing all these factors while still making the building economical is absurd,” wrote another, before describing an anecdote that involved a plumber having to move piping 4 inches to the right while on-site, so that it didn’t interfere with insulation being installed. “This to me signified the millions of assignments that architects are tasked with, and how simple it is to make one little mistake that could hypothetically ruin the building.” We assured him that with a great team like ours, it’s pretty rare that a building gets ruined. 

After students encountered the tangible materials and structures of the building process, they began thinking in more abstract social and environmental terms. On the 6th floor, the building’s continuous insulation and exterior wall system especially captured their interest. By the ground floor, they asked about who would actually be living in these units. One student wrote:

I was impressed that these small studios are offered to homeless women. One of the things that I noticed in each room is that they all had at least one large window. Having this large window highlights how much light is valued in this design. I was also thinking about how these big windows can personally affect its tenants. Knowing that some of its tenants are homeless women and having a non-profit apartment building means bringing in the less fortunate, I think having these huge windows allows them to feel like they are seen and acknowledged by the “outside.” These people might have been stuck in the dark due to several reasons, and giving them the chance to see more of the outside at night from the safety of their room is such a beautiful idea.

The tour concluded with each student receiving a swag bag from the project’s general contractor. The students were all smiles wearing Mega Contracting Group-branded hats, stuffing water bottles and other items into their bags. But their excitement belied the strenuous coursework each of them takes on.

Ruth explained that the school is very selective, only accepting about 1 in 15 applicants, and that by the time each student graduates, the accelerated curriculum has prepared them to pass the regents exam while also earning many an Associate’s Degree (or about two years of college credit). She got involved there because her son was one of the first to attend and graduate, and Ruth got to know the principal as a kind of architectural consultant advising on maintaining the school’s aging facility.

“At some point I pitched a class about these things, and they had me write and develop a syllabus,” she said. “Which took about two years!” And the level of thought Ruth put into the syllabus is rubbing off on her students, if this last excerpt is any indication:

As the tour continues, I have accepted the fact that the only Vitruvian principles for a perfect building that are valued in this project are Firmitas (Durability) and Utilitas (Convenience). This idea brings me back to our discussion in class about whether apartment buildings are beautiful. We argued that most buildings exist without Venustas (Beauty), and usually focus on the utility of stacking people on top of each other. However, as we continued to walk I remembered that Vitruvius defined Beauty as “appearance of the work is pleasing and in good taste.” I kept remembering the fact that homeless/unfortunate people will live here, and I smiled. Then, I turned to the large window again and had an even bigger smile on my face. I realized that the appearance of the work is more than pleasing because of who this hard work is for. I believe that this building is beautiful. Therefore, since it accomplished all the Vitruvian values such as Firmitas, Utilitas, and Venustas, I believe that this a perfect building.

We are honored and tend to agree with this student, but are mostly thrilled that a new generation of New Yorkers are thinking so deeply about their built environment. We’re also glad that the students had a chance to see the construction site before remote learning and social distancing became the norm. We wish them all well with the remainder of their school year and hope that their peek behind the “construction curtain” was a highlight of the semester.

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!

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 End of Summer Party 2018

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!

Summer Sun & Fun

Now that summer is officially over, we thought it was a good opportunity to share some of our out-of-office adventures from the season. After all, all work and no play makes for dull architects!

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Carlos spent time in his hometown of San Juan, Argentina. He lectured at the National University of San Juan’s architectural school; enjoyed an opera performance in the city’s brand new concert hall; visited a museum where the nation’s seventh president Domingo Faustino Sarmiento was born; and enjoyed good food and wine at the Graffigna-Yanzon vineyard in Valle de Pedernal about an hour south of the city.

Michael Walch and his partner spent most weekends at their house upstate in the Hudson Valley. Between hunting for and refinishing vintage furniture, painting, and gardening, they invited friends over to enjoy local food and wine.

Sunčića travelled to India for a college friend’s wedding. It was a bit of a “study in textures” as she experienced the detail of Mumbai’s airport, danced in sari fabrics, was decorated in henna for the wedding celebration, and caught glimpses of the broad variation of multi-family housing egress stair construction.

Ari used “Stone Age tech” while staying at his cottage in the woods. He built a new deck, added footings and framed the walls for a shed while taking care of some overdue structural improvements on the house. He also let out his inner lumberjack, felling trees and chopping firewood. Luckily, he found a little time to swim, fish, kayak, and take an occasional bike rides.

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Janine welcomed baby Dean with her husband Chris and daughter Ella. The newest member of the ESKW/A fam was born July 31, 2018, and measured 8 pounds, 15 ounces and 22.5 inches! The Golub crew visited the office, however Dean slept through most of it.

Chris cracked jokes at a wedding for an old buddy he’s known since middle school. The wedding was in Cincinnati, Ohio, where his mom grew up, so he got to see friends and family in a 2-for-1 travel special.

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Kimberly explored the woods with her family around her place upstate and finally succeeded in getting their dog to join them on the paddleboat.

Ruth canoed the “lovely Lake Sebago” at Harriman State Park. In the past, she explored the wilderness by canoeing lakes in the Adirondacks and Ontario with her family. Early this summer, she had a chance to see a late 19th-century atrium modeled after shopping arcades in Milano and Brussels. This one, alas, was in Cleveland,.

Jon Mark went up to Maine for some fresh air and canoeing of his own—and apparently prefers landscapes to selfies so we must trust this is really his vacation photo and not a stock photo titled “beautiful/peaceful lake.”

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It was a good summer for everyone, but of course, we also did a lot of work: breaking ground on 3500 Park Avenue, taking a tour of the Sharks! exhibit, and following the construction of the Bedford Green House. We closed out the summer in traditional ESKW/A style with an office party in Brooklyn at the end of September, so check back soon for a photo album of the season-ending soiree!

 

Office Field Trip to Sharks!

Last month our office toured the new Ocean Wonders: Sharks! exhibit at the New York Aquarium. Having served as Associate Architect and Architect of Record on this dynamic and highly technical project, we were very excited and proud to show-and-tell the exhibit with the entire office. See our photos below, and head to Coney Island while the weather is still nice and check it out for yourself.

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Happy 30th Anniversary, Randy!

On July 12, 2018, we celebrated Partner Randy Wood’s 30th anniversary with the firm. Staff, family, and friends toasted Randy’s career with champagne, wine, and craft beers. We enjoyed BBQ and listened to musical stylings curated by the guest of honor himself—while muted screenings of Randy’s favorite films (West Side Story, Blade Runner, Repo Man, Brazil, In Like Flint, Spirited Away, Gojira, and Thunderbirds Are Go) played in the background.

Randy started at The Edelman Partnership / Architects in 1988 and has worked on a wide variety of housing, community facilities, institutional, and most recently cultural and aquatics projects. From Two Bridges to True Colors; LaMama Theater to LaMattina Wildlife Center; and St. Marks to Sharks!, Randy has led the firm with a trademark combination of calm and humor.

We at ESKW / Architects (past and present staff alike!) thank Randy for his leadership—and even though he loves the Patriots and Red Sox, we appreciate his devotion to New York City architecture.

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From the early days…

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…to nowadays, the man wears many hats…

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… and a suit and tie when needed!

Here’s to 30 more years!