Plan Floated to Span East River with Arch Containing Thousands of Apartments and New Transit Portal
A view (looking northward, along the FDR Drive) lends perspective on what will, if built, be the largest building in the world in terms of interior square feet of space.
To those who claim that the age of monumental public works and historic pieces of civic infrastructure has ended in New York, Scott Baker has a succinct answer: “Not if I have anything to say about it.”
Mr. Baker is the brains and the propulsive force behind an audacious new proposal to span the East River with a hybrid structure that would be part building, part bridge, and part mass transit conveyance, connecting the Dumbo/Vinegar Hill section of Brooklyn to the Manhattan neighborhood of Two Bridges.
Mr. Baker calls his plan, “RiverArch,” and describes it as, “a way to transform the skyline and the City with a structure like no other in the world, while also housing thousands of people and generating hundreds of millions of dollars per year in new tax revenue.”
An auto-didactic polymath who managed information technology at New York University for many years, Mr. Baker says his initial inspiration came from a childhood visit to Gateway Arch, the 630-foot monument that overlooks the Mississippi River at St. Louis, Missouri. “I always wondered whether people could live inside an arch,” he recalls.
It turns out that they can. In the Middle Ages, building homes, places of business, and nearly every other kind of structure onto bridges was quite common, with the most famous extant examples being the Ponte Vecchio, in Florence, Italy; and the Krämerbrücke, in the German city of Erfurt. Although rarely built in modern times, more than a dozen such structures still exist.
And architects have begun to flirt with similar forms in recent years, such as the Two Trees development currently under construction in Williamsburg, which features multiple conjoined towers (with many floors of apartments located on sky bridges between the buildings) and the Sheraton Huzhou Hot Spring Resort in China, which has been nicknamed the “Horseshoe Hotel,” a reference to its torus-shaped geometrical form.
But none of these precedents, historical or modern, even remotely approaches the scale of RiverArch. At 96 stories, its height of 1,000 feet would not be especially noteworthy by the standards of New York’s skyline. At 25 million square feet (including public space and roads), however, it would be the largest building in the world by floor area. Viewed as a bridge, it would be 30 percent taller than the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, and among the tallest anywhere in the world.
This vantage, from just above water level, offers a sense of scale for the structure that is planned to include more than 7,500 apartments and nearly one million square feet of commercial space.
Mr. Baker points out that these dimensions are relatively modest in at least one context: “This is the narrowest point in the East River,” he notes, “which is why two bridges were built there. Erecting a similar building anywhere else on the waterfront would require a structure between 200 and 300 stories tall.” He adds that his proposed location is propitious in another way. “This is the only place anywhere on the waterfront where large lots are available on both sides of the river.”
The legendary architect Daniel Burnham, who (in addition to designing the Flatiron Building) laid out master plans for Chicago and Washington, D.C., once said of visionary projects, “if one has capital and a well-considered plan, the thing does itself.” What Burnham didn’t have to reckon with was the regulatory regime that came to govern large construction proposals decades after he died in 1912. (History does not record anybody having ever uttered the phrase, “environmental impact statement,” during Burnham’s lifetime.) Mr. Baker has amassed a minutely detailed, 67-page plan. But capital, in the form of an estimated $20.4-billion budget, will have to await a green light from the phalanx of government agencies (ranging from City to State to federal jurisdiction) that have authority over everything from navigable waterways and the flight paths of aircraft, to building heights and the migration routes of protected species of fish.
“If this doesn’t get built, if will be because of the difficulty and complexity of obtaining permissions, not for lack of investment,” Mr. Baker says, adding that his zoning lawyer predicts that such an undertaking would require a special amendment to the City’s zoning laws, which do not contemplate the possibility of an inhabited archway over a major river. “We’re facing a Catch-22, because developers are ready to commit money, but only after we get approval from regulators. And governmental officials keep asking us where the money is going to come from.”
Once official approval and investor capital are lined up, the results could yield substantial benefits for the City as a whole, Mr. Baker argues. These would include more than 7,500 new apartments (ranging from studios to nine-bedroom units), with 30 percent of them set aside as permanently affordable dwellings. “We would also have nearly one million square feet of commercial space within the structure, housing 50 businesses, plus a new, 900-student school, and possibly a hotel — with a restaurant and observation deck — at the summit of the arch,” he says. Other amenities featured in Mr. Baker’s plan include health clinics, a gym with a half-mile circular running track, and two glass-bottomed pools.
“We can achieve this with no displacement of current residents or existing residential buildings,” Mr. Baker says, “and no loss of parkland or other public space. Just the opposite: we plan to add more than 300,000 square feet of parks, public spaces and bike lanes.”
An aerial view of the proposed RiverArch structure, looking south, with the Brooklyn Bridge in the background and the Manhattan Bridge partially obscured by the building.
“We can also enhance local transportation infrastructure, with a new stop on the F train, by connecting to the Rutgers Street Tunnel, which runs beneath our proposed site, as well as new ferry docks,” he says. “But the most important transit aspect will be the bi-Borough Elevator Transportation System, which we call ‘BETs.'” Mr. Baker explains that this system will consist of multiple giant elevator cars (each holding 50 people) mounted along the underside of RiverArch, which will track along its surface (rotating as they traverse the curve of the structure, to keep the floors horizontal and passengers vertical) and move more than five million passengers per year between Brooklyn and Manhattan.
In environmental terms, the plan would aim for carbon-neutral status by drawing power from wind and water turbines, solar cells, geothermal wells, and interior dams that would capture the power of gravity as waste water flows downward from the upper section of the arch. RiverArch’s output of waste would be managed with a “trash delivery system” that would convey garbage directly to Department of Sanitation barges, rather than clogging local streets with trucks. “Another benefit is that construction of footings for the structure on both sides of the East River would also facilitate the creation of 20-foot sea walls,” he says, which would contribute to local measures designed to fight climate change and future extreme-weather events.
“I see this as being as much a form of activism as it is a development proposal,” Mr. Baker reflects. “It makes sense in terms of housing policy, environmental policy, and budget policy.” He projects that RiverArch could be built for $877 per square foot, and would come in at approximately 20 percent less than the overall cost of Hudson Yards (budgeted at $25 billion), which is now nearing completion on the West Side of Midtown, but would return $28 billion to investors. “For now,” he says, “we’re trying to raise about $5 million in venture capital, to cover start-up costs. But the return on that investment could be more than ten dollars to one for our initial investors.” He also estimates that the project would generate $340 million in new annual tax revenue, along with 23,000 construction jobs, and more than 2,000 permanent new jobs after construction was finished.
The construction challenges would be considerable, but would be mitigated by the waterfront location, Mr. Baker says. “The structure could be assembled like Lego blocks, in prefabricated 200-foot sections, brought in via barge. So there would be no traffic impact for local communities on either side of the river.”
In terms of next steps, Mr. Baker foresees community outreach, “because we need to get local reaction, while also informing people about what we hope to accomplish. At the same time, as we raise funds, we will prepare for the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, which governs large projects like this one.” He envisions the timeline as needing, “a bit more than two years to build public support and line up official permission, while we also raise the bulk of the money needed to begin construction. After that, the building could top out between three and five years after breaking ground, and be fully open within seven years.”
The spirit of Mr. Baker’s vision is perhaps evoked by the insight for which Burnham is remembered best: “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency. Let your watchword be order and your beacon beauty.”
Today’s sunset, earliest of the year, down to the second, is at 4:28:30pm. Sunset time is seconds later beginning tomorrow, until it is nearly one minute later, 4:29:27 on December 15. Afternoons will be noticeably lighter by month’s end. Sunrise today, 7:08:02, is 12 minutes earlier than the latest sunrise, 7:20:13 on January 6.
By week’s end, Jupiter is going bye-bye and Venus is closing in on Saturn. (The blue 10 degree scale is about the width of your fist at arm’s length.)
By about 5pm tonight, planet Venus’ light appears as the Evening Star in the afterglow of sunset above the southwestern horizon. Also following in the path of the Sun, planet Jupiter, below and to the right of Venus, is dimmer and closer to the Sun. Binoculars will help locate Jupiter before it sets at 5:29pm today; it will soon disappear from view. Saturn, dim compared to Venus, is a few degrees above Venus today and closest to the Evening Star tomorrow and Wednesday. Going forward, Venus climbs higher above the skyline and Saturn loses altitude. Venus sets at 6:31pm this evening; Saturn at 6:46pm.
December’s Full Cold Moon reaches full phase at 12:12am EST on the 12th.
Rising and setting times for horizon views follow. Plan to meet the round moon glistening with reflected sunlight when it rises at 4:18pm on Wednesday the 11th, sets at 7:26am on the 12th, and rises again that evening at 5:04pm. Find a location with unobstructed visibility to both the east and west to enjoy the thrill of observing sunrise opposite moonset and moonrise opposite sunset.
The Winter Solstice occurs at 11:19pm EST on Saturday, December 21. Observe sunrise at its furthest south of east location for the year and sunset furthest south of west. Appreciate the Sun’s short arc above the horizon. Savor daylight – 9 hours and 16 minutes – and the longest night of the year, close to 15 hours of darkness.
Be vigilant about protecting the night from light pollution. Switch off lights between uses. Shade windows. Prevent light trespass.
Pondering Whether $300 Million and 16.5 Feet of Protection Will Matter
85 Broad Street parking garage after Sandy
At the October 29 meeting of the Battery Park City Authority board, Catherine McVay Hughes raised a potentially troubling question. As BPCA management reviewed plans to spend some $300 million on resiliency measures designed to protect the community against future sea-level rise, extreme-weather events, and climate change, she questioned one of the key assumptions upon which these plans are predicated.
“I think a lot of folks are looking at the depth-to-design elevation flood line,” Ms. McVay Hughes began. “And there was a report that was recently issued… [in which] this technical expert suggested that the 16.5 feet needs to be raised another two to three feet. So I just wanted to make sure that what the Battery Park City will be planning to do will be adequate, as well.”
The metric to which Ms. McVay Hughes was referring comes from the lower end of the mid-range of predicted coastal flood heights for Lower Manhattan by the 2080s. A 2014 report by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, entitled “Climate Change in New York State,” noted that middle range for such predictions at the Battery was 16.5 to 18.3 feet. (The lowest bracket was 16.1 feet or less, while the most extreme scenarios ranged up to 19.9 feet.)
Click to watch Pioneer
How a Nazi Sympathizer’s Tribeca Garage Could Become a Luxe Mansion
The builder’s plans call for a 17,000-square-foot private home that will contain four bedrooms, ten bathrooms, a multi-car garage, and a basement-level indoor basketball court, as well as outdoor patio above street level.
Community Board 1 is pushing back, in unusually emphatic terms, against a builder’s plans for a new mansion in Tribeca. The property in question is located at 11 Hubert Street, near the corner of Collister Street.
The existing structure at 11 Hubert Street has a tangled pedigree. It was built in 1946 by Dietrich Wortman, who was born in Leipzig, Germany, in 1884, and emigrated to the United States, where he studied architecture at Columbia University.
Today in History
Smallpox, a rectangular shaped double-stranded DNA pathogen, is spread by inhalation.
480 – Odoacer, first King of Italy, occupies Dalmatia. He later establishes his political power with the co-operation of the Roman Senate.
536 – Gothic War: The Byzantine general Belisarius enters Rome unopposed; the Gothic garrison flee the capital.
1793 – New York City’s first daily newspaper, the American Minerva, is established by Noah Webster.
1856 – The Iranian city of Bushehr surrenders to occupying British forces.
1905 – In France, the law separating church and state is passed.
1917 – World War I: Field Marshal Allenby captures Jerusalem, Palestine.
1935 – Walter Liggett, American newspaper editor and muckraker, is killed in a gangland murder.
1935 – The Downtown Athletic Club Trophy, later renamed the Heisman Trophy, is awarded for the first time. The winner is halfback Jay Berwanger of the University of Chicago.
1946 – The “Subsequent Nuremberg trials” begin with the “Doctors’ trial”, prosecuting physicians and officers alleged to be involved in Nazi human experimentation and mass murder under the guise of euthanasia.
1953 – Red Scare: General Electric announces that all communist employees will be discharged from the company.
1968 – Douglas Engelbart gave what became known as “The Mother of All Demos”, publicly debuting the computer mouse, hypertext, and the bit-mapped graphical user interface using the oN-Line System (NLS).
1979 – The eradication of the smallpox virus is certified, making smallpox the first of only two diseases that have been driven to extinction (rinderpest in 2011 being the other).
1996 – Gwen Jacob is acquitted of committing an indecent act, giving women the right to be topfree in Ontario, Canada. Births
1447 – Chenghua Emperor of China (d. 1487)
1608 – John Milton, English poet and philosopher (d. 1674)
1779 – Tabitha Babbitt, American tool maker and inventor (d. 1853)
1883 – Joseph Pilates, German-American fitness expert, developed Pilates (d. 1967)
1886 – Clarence Birdseye, American businessman, founded Birds Eye (d. 1956)
1898 – Emmett Kelly, American clown and actor (d. 1979)
1930 – Buck Henry, American actor, director, and screenwriter
1934 – Judi Dench, English actress
1942 – Joe McGinniss, American journalist and author (d. 2014)
1953 – John Malkovich, American actor and producer Deaths
1165 – Malcolm IV of Scotland (b. 1141)
1437 – Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor (b. 1368)
1798 – Johann Reinhold Forster, German pastor, botanist, and ornithologist (b. 1729)
1982 – Leon Jaworski, American lawyer and politician (b. 1905)
1991 – Berenice Abbott, American photographer (b. 1898)
Putting the Art Back into an Artifact
A Living Remnant of a Vibrant Culture Comes to Battery Place
Written in 1878, “The Sorceress,” is one of the earliest works of Yiddish theater and the first formal theatrical production presented in America by the legendary Boris Thomashefsky, who emigrated to the United States in 1881, two years before the thriving Yiddish theater industry was banned in his native Imperial Russia.
He went on to found, almost singlehandedly, what became a vibrant genre in American theater — productions catering to Jewish immigrants from all the countries in the diaspora, presented in the one language they all spoke: Yiddish.
Explore Southwestern pottery from our collection and learn about making different forms of pottery. Examine and experiment with shape, form, and function as you create your own storage vessel out of clay. One Bowling Green.
Cruise Ships in New York Harbor
Arrivals & Departures
Friday, December 13
Inbound 9:15 am; outbound 3:30 pm; Port Canaveral, FL/Bahamas
Many ships pass Lower Manhattan on their way to and from the Midtown Passenger Ship Terminal. Others may be seen on their way to or from piers in Brooklyn and Bayonne. Stated times, when appropriate, are for passing the Colgate clock in Jersey City, New Jersey, and are based on sighting histories, published schedules and intuition. They are also subject to tides, fog, winds, freak waves, hurricanes and the whims of upper management.
Click to watch the November 12 sun set over the harbor.
Gotham Girls Winter Futsal League & Formativo Training
Gotham Girls F.C. – the only NYC all-girls soccer club is running our Winter Futsal League for girls ages 7 to 16.
(Our foundational development soccer – Formativo – is available for girls ages 7-10).
Our dedicated coaches ref the fun, active 50-minute 4v4 indoor futsal games, and provide coaching to develop girls foot skills and knowledge.
Games are on Saturdays or Sundays (depending on age)
Highly Regarded Local Arts Education Group Stays the Course
Drum lesson at Church Street School
To stroll in Tribeca in 2019 is to apprehend what is happening throughout Lower Manhattan. Buildings – along with their occupants and uses – are in perpetual flux. Amid this tumult is a symbol of local continuity: the Church Street School for Music and Art.
Recently, the Broadsheet asked Dr. Ecklund-Flores, who has been the sole proprietor of CSS for many years, to reflect on the move north and the challenges faced in relocating to a new neighborhood. To read more…
CB1 to Consider Cutbacks in Number of Stops on Free Bus Service
Map of the Downtown Connection free shuttle bus route.
Tonight (Tuesday, December 3) the Transportation Committee of Community Board 1 (CB1) will hear a presentation from the Downtown Alliance about planned cutbacks to the number of stops on its free Downtown Connection shuttle bus.
The plans include the elimination of six stops within Battery Park City.
Cantonese/Mandarin-speaking and Excellent Cook for Battery Park City.
SEEKING FREE-LANCE PUBLIC RELATIONS PROFESSIONAL OR SMALL PR FIRM
Work with well-reviewed author of five E-books, developing and implementing outreach strategies. Includes writing, placement, research, new outlets and on-line advertising. Savvy social media skills a must. Downtown location.
A Convenient Connection to the Airport Visible from Lower Manhattan Rooftops May Be Less Than Ten Years Away
Seen from Newark Airport, the spires of Lower Manhattan appear almost close enough to touch. But antiquated transportation infrastructure makes the trip to Lower Manhattan, in some cases, longer than the flights from which travelers arriving at the airport have just disembarked.
The Regional Plan Association (RPA) recently partnered with the Downtown-Lower Manhattan Association (DLMA) to build support for a proposed rail connection between Lower Manhattan and Newark Airport. A report the two organizations produced together, “Taking the PATH to Newark Airport,” summarizes the potential and the prospects for such a link, which local leaders have long pushed for.
Community-Focused Cultural Center Faces Uncertain Future, as Tourism Magnet Thrives
The 9/11 Tribute Museum, at 88 Greenwich Street, which is endangered by skyrocketing property values in Lower Manhattan.
The 9/11 Tribute Museum, a highly regarded local cultural institution, is grappling with a precarious outlook, according to a story first published in Crain’s New York Business, which says that the space housing the facility, located at Greenwich and Rector Streets, may be sold out from under the organization by its landlord.
FiDi Renters Seek Recompense for Years of Rent Overcharges; Landlord Asks U.S. Supreme Court to Overrule Tenants’ Victory
A map, compiled by New York University’s Furman Center (which advances research and debate on housing, neighborhoods, and urban policy)illustrating the dozens of Lower Manhattan buildings — erstwhile office towers,converted to residential use — that have benefited from the 421-g program.
More Financial District tenants are going to court to demand restitution from years of illegally high rent, on the heels of a June ruling by New York State’s highest court, which found that as many as 5,000 Lower Manhattan apartments had been illegally deprived of rent stabilization benefits.
The first to file suit in the wake of this decision were Bruce Hackney and Timothy Smith, tenants at Ten Hanover Square, who brought their complaint in October.
At issue is the 421-g subsidy program, which was designed to encourage Downtown’s transformation into a residential district, by offering rich incentives (chiefly in the form of tax abatements) to developers who converted former office buildings — south of a line connecting Murray Street to City Hall and the Brooklyn Bridge — into apartment towers.
Decades of Savings Needed to Purchase on Lavish Lanes
A trio of new analyses points to the self-evident conclusion that Lower Manhattan is a mind-numbingly expensive place to reside.
Tribeca’s Murray Street was calculated to be the third-most expensive anywhere in the five boroughs, with a median sales price of $5.4 million, and a volume of sales in excess of $364 million. To read more…
Nadler Sponsors Legislation to Make Lower Manhattan Heliopolis No More
Congressman Jerry Nadler announces proposed legislation to ban non-essential helicopter flights from New York skies.
Support is building among decision-makers to heed a decade long call by Lower Manhattan community leaders to enact a comprehensive ban on non-essential helicopter flights in New York’s airspace.
Seaport Structure Reborn as Flood-Proof Food Emporia as Owner Celebrates with Support for Local Charity
The Tin Building as it will appear in 2021
The South Street Seaport’s historic Tin Building reached a milestone on Wednesday, when the last and highest structural beam was placed (after being ceremonially signed by dozens of well-wishers) within a reconstructed edifice, following an unprecedented, years-long effort to preserve it.
Schools Agency Begins Belated Outreach Effort to Former Lower Manhattan Students at Risk of 9/11 Illness
The City’s Department of Education is partnering with the United Federation of Teachers union for an unusual mission: tracking down former New York City public school students who were pupils at Lower Manhattan schools on September 11, 2001 (or in the months that followed) and informing them that their health may be at risk. The project will also seek to put these students in touch with the World Trade Center Health Program and the September 11th Victims Compensation Fund. To read more…
Things That Make You Go ‘Hmm…’
Lawsuit Over Similarity Between One World Trade and Architecture Student’s Design Moves Ahead
Jeehoon Park’s 1999 design for a skyscraper with eight sides that taper between a square base and a square roof.
One thing is reasonably certain: In 1999, Jeehoon Park, then a student at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s College of Architecture, created a design for a very tall building with a large square base tapering to a smaller square top. In Mr. Park’s vision, the square formed by the roof was rotated 45 degrees relative to the one at the ground level, so that the center-points on each side of the quadrilateral below corresponded to the corners of the one above, and vice versa. And instead of four vertical walls, the structure’s facade consisted of eight elongated triangles.
Amid a Booming Economy, Lower Manhattan Retail Space Languishes
Vacant storefronts dot Downtown
A new report from City Comptroller Scott Stringer finds that in one Lower Manhattan zip code — 10013, which covers parts of western Tribeca SoHo, and the Canal Street corridor in Chinatown — there are 319 empty retail spaces, comprising almost 300,000 square feet of unused property.
Death Came Calling at the Corner of Wall and Broad Streets, in Lower Manhattan’s First Major Terrorist Attack
In an instant, both wagon and horse were vaporized, and the closest automobile was tossed twenty feet in the air. Incredibly, the iconic bronze of George Washington surveys the devastation from the steps of the Sub-Treasury without so much as a scratch.
As the noon hour approached on a fall Thursday morning in 1920, a horse-drawn wagon slowly made its way west down Wall Street toward “the Corner,” the high-powered intersection of Wall and Broad. Its driver came to a gentle stop in front of the Assay Office, where stockpiles of gold and silver were stored and tested for purity. But theft was not his motive.