Background image via Andrew Malone/Flickr
When it comes to the Chelsea Hotel, Ed Hamilton has seen it all. He and his wife moved to the iconic property in 1995, living among artists and musicians in a 220-square-foot, single-room-occupancy unit. The storied, artistic community nurtured inside the hotel came to an end a decade ago when the building sold for the first time and evictions followed. Since then, the property has traded hands a number of times with talks of boutique hotel development, luxury condos, or some combination of the two. Hamilton started tracking the saga at his blog Living With Legends and published a book, “Legends of the Chelsea Hotel,” in 2007.
After the book’s success, Hamilton wrote a short story collection titled “The Chintz Age: Stories of Love and Loss for a new New York.” Each piece offers a different take on New York’s “hyper gentrification,” as he calls it: a mother unable to afford her lofty East Village apartment, giving it up to a daughter she shares a strained relationship with; a book store owner who confronts his failed writing career as a landlord forces him out of now highly valuable commercial space.
Ultimately, many of the stories were inspired by the characters he met inside the Chelsea Hotel. And his tales offer a new perspective on a changing city, one that focuses on “the personal, day-to-day struggles about the people who are trying to hang onto their place in New York.” With 6sqft, he shares what it’s like writing in the under-construction Chelsea Hotel, what the Chintz Age title means, and the unchanged spots of the city he still treasures.
Since its founding in 1990, COOKFOX Architects has become one of the most recognized names in New York City real estate. In the firm’s early days, founding partner Rick Cook found a niche in historically-sensitive building design, looking for opportunities to “[fill] in the missing voids of the streetscape,” as he put it. After teaming up with Bob Fox in 2003, the pair worked to establish COOKFOX as an expert in both contextual and sustainable development. They designed the first LEED Platinum skyscraper in New York City with the Durst family, the Bank of America Tower, then took on a number of projects with the goal of designing healthier workplaces. The firm also got attention for its work in landmarks districts, winning AIA-New York State awards for its mixed-use development at 401 West 14th Street (better known as the Apple store) and its revamp of the the Stephen Sondheim Theatre. (The firm also made it the first LEED-certified theater in the city.)
6sqft’s conversation with Rick fox here
“Where did lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) history happen in New York City? In what buildings did influential LGBT activists and artists live and work, and on what streets did groups demonstrate for their equal rights?” These are the questions that the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project is answering through a first-of-its-kind initiative to document historic and cultural sites associated with the LGBT community in the five boroughs. Through a map-based online archive, based on 25 years of research of advocacy, the group hopes to make “invisible history visible” by exploring sites related to everything from theater and art to social activism and health.
To mark Pride Month, 6sqft recently talked with the Historic Sites Project’s directors–architectural historian and preservation professor at Columbia Andrew S. Dolkart; historic preservation consultant Ken Lustbader; and former senior historian at the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission Jay Shockley–along with their project manager, preservationist Amanda Davis, about the roots of the initiative, LGBT history in NYC, and the future of gay advocacy.
Read the interview here
Since Thomas Kosbau began working for a New York consultancy firm running its sustainable development group, in 2008, much has changed in the city’s attitude toward green design. Kosbau has gone from “selling” the idea of LEED certification to building developers, to designing some of the most innovative sustainable projects in New York to meet demand. He founded his firm, ORE Design, in 2010. Soon after, he picked up two big commissions that went on to embody the firm’s priority toward projects that marry great design alongside sustainability. At one commission, the Dekalb Market, ORE transformed 86 salvaged shipping containers into an incubator farm, community kitchen, event space, community garden, 14 restaurants and 82 retail spaces. At another, Riverpark Farm, he worked with Riverpark restaurant owners Tom Colicchio, Sisha Ortuzar and Jeffrey Zurofsky to build a temporary farm at a stalled development site to provide their kitchen with fresh produce.
From there, ORE has tackled everything from the outdoor dining area at the popular Brooklyn restaurant Pok Pok to the combination of two Madison Avenue studios. Last November, ORE launched designs for miniature indoor growhouses at the Brooklyn headquarters of Square Roots, an urban farming accelerator.
ORE’s latest project
134 years ago, the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge transformed the Brooklyn waterfront, not to mention the entire borough, by providing direct access into Kings County from Lower Manhattan. The opening only boosted Brooklyn’s burgeoning waterfront, which became a bustling shipping hub for the New York Dock Company by the early 1900s. Business boomed for several decades until changes in the industry pushed the shipping industry from Brooklyn to New Jersey. And after the late 1950s, when many of the warehouses were demolished to make way for construction of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, the waterfront fell into severe decline.
New Yorkers today are living through a new kind of Brooklyn waterfront boom, heralded by the Brooklyn Bridge Park. Ideas to transform the abandoned, run-down waterfront into a park seemed like a pipe dream when the idea was floated in the 1980s, but years of dedication by the local community and politicians turned the vision into reality. Today, the park is considered one of the best in the city.
continue reading here
Joan Geismar boasts a job that’ll make any urban explorer jealous. For the past 32 years, she’s operated her own business as an archaeological consultant, digging underneath the streets of New York City to find what historical remnants remain. Her career kicked off in 1982, with the major discovery of an 18th-century merchant ship at a construction site near the South Street Seaport. (The land is now home to the 30-story tower 175 Water Street.) Other discoveries include digging up intact remnants of wooden water pipes, components of the city’s first water system, at Coenties Slip Park; studying the long-defunct burial ground at the Brooklyn Navy Yard; and working alongside the renovation in Washington Square Park, in which she made a major revelation about the former Potter’s Field there.
With 6sqft, she discusses what it felt like unearthing a ship in Lower Manhattan, the curious headstone she found underneath Washington Square Park, and what people’s trash can tell us about New York history.
The full interview ahead
Ben Shaoul founded Magnum Real Estate Group in 1999, focused on renovating small, rundown rental apartments. After growing its portfolio extensively over the past five years to includeretail properties, condos, and even a dormitory, the firm is now one of the city’s leading ground-up development companies. Their impressive portfolio includes 389 East 89th Street on the Upper East Side, 100 Avenue A in the East Village, and 100 Barclay in Tribeca, as well as their latest development that’s on the rise at 196 Orchard Street on the Lower East Side. Adjacent to the famed Katz’s Delicatessen, the building will ultimately top out at 11 stories tall and host 94 condos when it’s completed next year. CityRealty recently caught up with Shaoul to discuss the project, its design, and the ever-evolving Lower East Side.
READ THE INTERVIEW WITH BEN ON CITYREALTY…
The Brooklyn Home Company (THBCo) is a family-run cooperative of artists and builders that develop unique residential spaces in booming Brooklyn. Best described as white and wood but never cookie cutter, their work is always light and airy, and blend modern style with historic elements. It’s this signature style that’s made THBCo a favorite amongst both renovators and Pinterest enthusiasts alike.
But what inspires their designs and how do they decide where to develop projects? Ahead, 6sqft speaks to THBCo’s co-founder and Head of Operations, Bill Caleo, about the business. Find out how this family-run establishment firmly roots itself in working with local makers, how they’ve grown their business model to include sustainability, and why they always add a custom piece of art to all their homes.
our interview with bill here
Paula Scher is one of the most recognizable names in the design world, considered legendary in the industry for creating the identities of major New York institutions. Scher moved to New York in the 1970s to begin her design career and got her start in the music industry. As art director for CBS, she designed around 150 albums a year and produced numerous ads and posters. Her record covers include everything from the Rolling Stones’ Still Life to Leonard Bernstein’s Stravinky, four of which were recognized with Grammy nominations. As a record designer, Scher was credited with reviving historical typefaces and design styles—and typefaces still play heavily in her work today.
Scher left Atlantic Records to begin her own design firm in 1982, and in 1991 she joined her current firm, Pentagram, as the company’s first female principal. Although Pentagram is an international design company, its New York office is behind the identities of some of the city’s most beloved establishments. It was at Pentagram Scher established her reputation as a New York designer who created unique, lasting identities.
more with Paula Scher here
In our series 6sqft Studio Visits, we take you behind the scenes of the city’s up-and-coming and top designers, artists, and entrepreneurs to give you a peek into the minds, and spaces, of NYC’s creative force. In this installment we take a tour of the Bed-Stuy urban farm Square Roots. Want to see your studio featured here, or want to nominate a friend? Get in touch!
In a Bed-Stuy parking lot, across from the Marcy Houses (you’ll know this as Jay-Z’s childhood home) and behind the hulking Pfizer Building, is an urban farming accelerator that’s collectively producing the equivalent of a 20-acre farm. An assuming eye may see merely a collection of 10 shipping containers, but inside each of these is a hydroponic, climate-controlled farm growing GMO-free, spray-free, greens–“real food,” as Square Roots calls it. The incubator opened just this past November, a response by co-founders Kimbal Musk (Yes, Elon‘s brother) and Tobias Peggs against the industrial food system as a way to bring local food to urban settings. Each vertical farm is run by its own entrepreneur who runs his or her own sustainable business, selling directly to consumers. 6sqft recently visited Square Roots, went inside entrepreneur Paul Philpott‘s farm, and chatted with Tobias about the evolution of the company, its larger goals, and how food culture is changing.
Take a tour of Square Roots and get the full story from Tobias