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Posts Tagged ‘New York’

BY JARED BREY

Buffalo plans the country’s biggest environmental impact bond to fund green infrastructure.

FROM THE AUGUST 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

In 2018, the City of Buffalo, New York, cut the ribbon on Jesse Clipper Square, a small park named for the first Black soldier from Buffalo to die in World War I. The square, originally dedicated in the 1930s, was designed by John Edmonston Brent, one of Buffalo’s first Black architects. Today it sits in the median of William Street, a wide arterial street connecting downtown Buffalo to the neighborhood of Willert Park. As part of a broader greening of William Street, the park was expanded and planted with new trees and a rain garden. According to the Buffalo Sewer Authority, the project helps prevent some 284,000 gallons of water from entering the city’s combined sewer system during typical rain storms.

Green infrastructure projects like the William Street overhaul—small-scale interventions designed to manage stormwater on public streets, parking lots, and rooftops—are the bread and butter of the Buffalo Sewer Authority’s Rain Check program, a $380 million commitment that originated in a 2014 consent agreement between the city and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reduce combined sewer overflows (CSOs) and improve water quality. Under the terms of its Long Term Control Plan, Buffalo committed to spending $93 million on green infrastructure to manage stormwater on at least 1,315 impervious acres. In the first phase of the plan, Rain Check 1.0, which began in 2015, the sewer authority focused on public projects that could be carried out relatively easily, according to documents. But Rain Check 2.0, announced last spring, is going for tougher targets, mostly on private property.

To help push the project along, Buffalo’s Mayor, Byron Brown, announced in February that the city would issue a $30 million environmental impact bond (EIB) to help fund a grant program that will encourage private landowners to install green infrastructure. Environmental impact bonds are a kind of municipal borrowing that links bond investors’ returns to the performance of the projects funded by the bond. One of the first EIBs in the United States was issued in 2016 by DC Water, Washington, D.C.’s water authority, to help fund green infrastructure related to its own agreement with the EPA (see “The River Beneath the River,” LAM, November 2018). Since then, more cities have begun experimenting with the bonds, including Atlanta, New Orleans, and Baltimore. In many cases, new funds for green infrastructure equates to more work for landscape architects. (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

Hunter’s Point South in Queens, New York. Copyright Jonnu Singleton, courtesy SWA/Balsley and Weiss/Manfredi.

A Waterfront Alliance report wades into how waterfront access is a crucible for public health and a measure of inequality.

 

Despite alighting across the two rivers and an ocean, only 37 percent of New York and New Jersey’s waterfronts are open to the public, and only 9 percent of waterfronts in the poorest areas are accessible. The Waterfront Alliance’s new report “Waterfront Access for All: Breaking Down Social and Physical Barriers to the Waterfront” shines a light on this pervasive inequality. The report (available here) covers both policy and design interventions that can address this chasm. Those are now more urgent as the nation grapples with the twin crises of COVID-19, which has made outdoor landscapes vital places for safe refuge, and racial inequality, which is easily read through access to public waterfronts. The report focuses on New York and New Jersey and includes input from more than 60 organizations. The Alliance partnered with the New York –New Jersey Harbor & Estuary Program to convene the task force that assembled the report. Intended to influence the public and city agencies, the report aims to inform the New York City Department of City Planning’s Comprehensive Waterfront Plan, and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s rule making process.

“We’re trying to help the public, designers, and government agencies to reimagine what connections to the water can look like,” says Sarah Dougherty, the program manager at the Waterfront Alliance, a nonprofit advocacy group that a works toward creating healthy, resilient, and equitably accessible waterfronts. (more…)

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BY JONATHAN LERNER

Cornell students bring visions for climate adaptation down to the Hudson shore.

FROM THE MAY 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

The Hudson River is tidal, gaining a mean elevation of only two feet for 150-plus miles inland from the Atlantic. It is flanked, almost without interruption, by bluffs and cliffs. Most communities along it have only a slender strip of land at river level. Historically, industries and infrastructure were sited below, with more salubrious parts of towns built up the slopes. Most industry is gone. Communities want to reinvent their riverfronts, which means contending with the tides and storms of a changing climate. They’re getting help from Josh Cerra, ASLA, the director of graduate studies in the Department of Landscape Architecture at Cornell University. With collaboration from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Hudson River Estuary Program, he has been bringing community-based “Climate-Adaptive Design” studios to Hudson River towns.

The studio has obvious pedagogical value. Students learn site research and engagement skills, and to imbue design with climate science. Meanwhile, it lets Cerra pursue an interest in applied education and cross-disciplinary experiences. In developing their concepts, his students get “consultants”—other students, from Cornell’s Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering. To assess the studio’s benefits, Cerra is collaborating with a Cornell researcher who studies behaviors and conservation management. Their inquiries, he says, include “how working with engineers or other technical partners may enhance learning innovation” for landscape architects. And then there is the studio’s value to the towns, which are gifted with provocative visions for their futures. (more…)

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BY JONATHAN LERNER / PHOTOGRAPHY BY JIM WESTPHALEN

Wagner Hodgson’s assignment for a lakeside estate in Vermont required subtle deletions, essential corrections, and thematic consistency.

FROM THE FEBRUARY 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

The property is a stubby peninsula jutting west into Lake Champlain. The lake is nearly two miles wide here. Beyond it, in New York, the tiered peaks of the Adirondacks appear flattened and monochromatic, blurring as they recede into the distance. Given the setting, the place seems even more expansive than its 140 acres. But the grandeur is counterbalanced by the land’s gentleness—it has the unassertive quality characteristic of Vermont’s culture, if not of the state’s more typical mountainous terrain. From a country road, you turn onto a half-mile-long drive. The approach runs between meadows, where sheep from an adjacent farm are grazed, before entering a wood and then curving toward the house. From here, 30 feet below through the filter of trees, the lake gleams slate blue.

Bays scoop out the north and south shores of the peninsula, shaping it like an anvil; the west shore runs for 2,000-plus feet along the lake proper. The main house sits in neat, tree-dotted lawns near the anvil’s southern point. It’s grand in scale, and traditional though restrained in style. There’s a pool and pool house, and a carriage house that doubles as entertaining space. Both are well spaced from the house and each other and visually buffered, at least in summer, by planting areas: There’s a curve of river birches undergirded by Limelight hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’), Astilbe, and a mix of sage and grass varieties, and separately, a little grid of honey locusts. Farther away, past an intervening sweep of woods, a guesthouse overlooks the south bay. A quarter mile from that, above the north bay, sits a smaller second guesthouse. Near that structure, but also shielded by trees, there’s a reconstructed antique barn. Aside from a short steep drop down to the lake all around, the land has only soft contours. As a whole, of course, this estate is plenty splendid. But its buildings are scattered, and unostentatious. Sight lines are veiled by the skeins of trees. There is no hill to provide a commanding view of the place all at once. When you’re there, it feels understated and quiet.

The Burlington, Vermont, firm Wagner Hodgson was hired in 2014 to create a coherent master plan that would transform the abandoned farm property into a working estate. That required addressing woodland management, shoreline protection, field restoration for sheep husbandry, management of agricultural runoff, siting of outbuildings, and establishment of outdoor living spaces for the client family. The property had been neglected. Some fields had been in agricultural use, but wooded areas including the lakefront bluffs had become overgrown and thick with invasives. “Before, all the way up to the house, you couldn’t even tell there was a lake here,” says H. Keith Wagner, FASLA, who was the principal in charge on the project. “You couldn’t see the house either,” until you’d come right up to it. A big part of the job came down to editing. Wagner says, “It wasn’t only what you added; it was what you subtracted.” Thinning of trees along the bluff now allows views to the water as you get close. And selective removal neatly “opened up a shot,” as Wagner puts it, between remaining trees, to provide a 400-foot head-on prospect from the curve of the driveway right to the front of the house. You glimpse the building for a moment—it’s a stately one, well served by that long view—before passing back among trees that intermittently screen it, and finally arriving at the door.

Editing, of course, involves not only deletion but also elaboration and punctuation. (more…)

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BY SARAH COWLES

Designers find new ways to tell communities about climate change.

FROM THE DECEMBER 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

In the early 1920s, leaders of the Soviet Union had a communication problem: how to relay the abstract and complex communist ideology and economy to their scattered constituents across several nations, languages, and varying literacy levels. Enter the agit-train, a multimedia spectacle covered with constructivist supergraphics that drew crowds at every stop. The agit-trains carried agitprop (agitation propaganda) acting troupes, movie theaters, printing presses, pamphlets, and posters.

Today, leaders of coastal cities are facing an urgent communication issue: how to draw public attention to the looming threats of climate change and sea-level rise. Last winter, 10 teams in the San Francisco Bay area were selected to participate in the Resilient by Design Bay Area Challenge, “a yearlong collaborative design challenge bringing together local residents, public officials, and local, national, and international experts to develop innovative, community-based solutions that will strengthen our region’s resilience to sea-level rise, severe storms, flooding, and earthquakes.” Resilient by Design, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, built on the success of the Rebuild by Design initiative, which focused on the post-Hurricane Sandy landscape of New York and New Jersey. Each team was assigned to a swath of bay lands, where a confection of urbanization, predevelopment remnants, and infrastructure collide. A significant component of the initiative was public outreach, to address the issues germane to the most vulnerable communities that are already facing pressure from gentrification.

A significant, and perhaps unexpected, outcome within the Resilient by Design process was a revolution in public outreach, one that echoes Soviet agitprop methods. Three teams, Field Operations, Bionic, and HASSELL+, designed new physical devices, events, or spaces that kick-started public participation in the design process and informed residents on methods of climate change adaptation. Bionic and Field Operations wrapped vehicles with supergraphics to create a striking visual presence at community events, while the HASSELL+ team repurposed a former bank as an info shop. Their agitprop works were especially suited to the constraints of Instagram. The supergraphics make striking backgrounds for selfies, and all teams made liberal use of hashtags. These bold environments prompted action in real and virtual communities.

The Field Operations concept for urban resilience is simple: (more…)

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As part of an ongoing effort to make content more accessible, LAM will be making select stories available to readers in Spanish. For a full list of translated articles, please click here.

BY JARED BREY / PHOTOGRAPHY BY SAHAR COSTON-HARDY, AFFILIATE ASLA

FROM THE SEPTEMBER 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Darren Damone, ASLA, and Katharine Griffiths were standing on a boardwalk at Avalon Park & Preserve, in Stony Brook, New York, looking across the pond at a gang of cormorants loitering in the branches of a beech tree.

“They used to nest over here, and it was a disaster zone,” said Griffiths, the director of the preserve. “It used to smell like a bluefish factory. It was nasty. They did a lot of damage to the trees in this area.… That’s what happens. They strip the leaves to put in their nest, and then their guano is so acidic that it just burns everything. They’re kind of sloppy birds.”

It was a May morning, and the squealing songs of cardinals spilled out of the woods behind us. We took a curving path up a hill to a smaller pond, fed by what looked like an underground stream, and I asked, credulously, where the headwaters were.

“This is just recirculating,” Damone said, looking amused. “This is completely created.”

In 1996, before the preserve existed, Paul Simons, a local nature lover who liked to ride his bike on a path through the property, was struck by a car on Long Island and killed. In his honor, the Simons family created the Paul Simons Foundation, and bought the eight-acre property that would later become Avalon Park & Preserve. Griffiths was a friend of the Simons family and had just finished college in Ontario, studying political science and horticulture, and she moved to Stony Brook to lead the preserve. Creating the preserve was a way for the Simons family to grieve, she said, and it was meant to be a place that Paul would have wanted to be. Beyond that, she told me later, “We didn’t have a vision, really.”

So it turned to Andropogon, the Philadelphia-based landscape architecture firm, to create (more…)

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REVIEWED BY SARAH COWLES

FROM THE MARCH 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Street trees occupy a shifting and contested dimension of cities. Whereas trees in parks and private gardens in cities are afforded a measure of stability and protection, street trees are literally on the front lines of urbanism, absorbing the impacts of changes in policy on errant cars. Street trees are surrounded: hemmed in by architecture, tree grates, cages, with leaking gas conduits at their roots and power lines teasing their crowns, soaked by deicing salt on one side and dog urine on the other.

Although there are field guides to street trees and technical manuals for planting and soil specifications, there is no comprehensive look at the culture and politics of the urban forest. Seeing Trees by Sonja Dümpelmann fills this void and unearths a detailed and complex vein of urban history that (more…)

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