Interviews

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Features, Interviews, People, Policy

Michael Hiller is a zoning and land-use attorney who has represented community groups in seemingly impossible quests for about 20 years. His high-profile cases have often been against the Landmarks Preservation Commission, notably Tribeca’s iconic Clock Tower Building and new construction along historic Gansevoort Street, both of which are pending appeal by the defendants.

As one legal observer commented, “He has become an expert in the nuances of the Landmarks Law from a legal perspective. In court, he is very talented on his feet before a very hot bench, before judges who ask a lot of tough questions.” His successes have won him designation as a Super Lawyer every year since 2009 as well as the 2017 Grassroots Award from the Historic Districts Council. 6sqft recently visited Michael at his office to learn more about his work.

Ahead, hear from Michael and learn more about his current cases

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Features, Interviews, real estate trends

SpareRoom, Breaking Ground, NYC homelessness

Over the past few years, New York City’s homeless crisis has gotten worse. A recent study reported a 39 percent increase in homelessness over 2016, making last year the highest homeless population since the survey began in 2005. While the city scrambles to address the rising population, a roommate company and nonprofit housing organization recently teamed up to help lessen the burden of New Yorkers who find themselves unable to afford housing.

Despite operating on opposite ends of the housing market, roommate matching site SpareRoom partnered with Breaking Ground, the largest provider of supportive housing in NYC, this November. The partnership was suggested by the public after SpareRoom launched Live Rent Free, a contest where the company pays one roommate’s monthly rent and one person’s entire rent for a whole year. (It was inspired by founder Rupert Hunt’s New York roommate search, in which he found two roomies to share his West Village loft for $1 a month.) The resulting partnership–which is running in tandem with the Live Rent Free contest–matches the monthly prize amount dollar-for-dollar with an in-kind donation to Breaking Ground to fund their Transitional Housing program. So far, SpareRoom has donated $3,314.

With 6sqft, Matt Hutchinson, Director at SpareRoom, explained why the company felt motivated to address homelessness and its future plans to engage with Breaking Ground. Brenda Rosen, President and CEO of Breaking Ground, also explains how the organization’s Transition Housing program works, and why the homelessness crisis is something all New Yorkers–regardless of what they pay in rent–should be aware of.

Continue reading for the Q&A

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Design, Features, Interviews, People

Background: “Christmas Dinner” by Kim Radovich Interiors and Bernhardt, photo by Alan Barry. Photo of Iris Dankner by Richard Lewin.

Step into the Upper East Side’s Academy Mansion until December 6th and you’ll find a festive wonderland of interior design known as Holiday House NYC. The interior design show house is an undeniable display of top design talent, but what’s perhaps less obvious is that the word “holiday” here has a much deeper meaning.

Interior designer and Holiday House founder Iris Dankner is a 20-year breast cancer survivor. After her experience, she feels that every day is a holiday and a chance to celebrate life. With that outlook and the realization that there were no initiatives in the design industry to benefit breast cancer–a disease that impacts more than 250,000 women and 2,000 men in the U.S. each year–Iris started Holiday House a decade ago, asking each designer to draw inspiration for their room from a “holiday” or special moment in life. Now in its 10th year, Holiday House has launched its inaugural London outpost and released a coffee table book, and it’s continuing its partnership with The Breast Cancer Research Foundation, to which it’s already donated more than $1 million.

6sqft recently visited Holiday House and talked with Iris about 10 years of Holiday House, her personal inspirations, and why “women supporting women is such a powerful tool.”

Hear from Iris ahead

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Architecture, Features, Interviews, People

In architect Morris Adjmi’s new book, “A Grid and a Conversation,” he describes his ongoing conversation between context and design. On any project, Adjmi balances three dichotomies: standing out while fitting in, respecting history while not being frozen in time, and creating “ambient” architecture while gaining popularity. 6sqft sat down with Adjmi to find out more about his work philosophy, art exhibits, love of Shaker design, and awesome opening night parties with custom-made drinks.

Hear from Morris Adjmi himself

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Architecture, Art, Features, Interviews, Sunset Park, Where I Work

6sqft’s new series “Where I Work” takes us into the studios, offices, and off-beat workspaces of New Yorkers across the city. In this installment, we’re touring the Industry City space of Evergreene Architectural Arts, one of the nation’s foremost restoration and conservation firms. 

On Monday evening, the Historic Districts Council will present their 29th annual Landmarks Lion Award to Jeff Greene of EverGreene Architectural Arts, one of the nation’s foremost experts in specialty contracting for both traditional and new, innovative techniques for restoring and conserving murals, ornamental plaster, and decorative finishes. “Jeff has been pivotal in restoring some of New York City’s most beloved landmarks to their proper glory,” said HDC’s executive director Simeon Bankoff. And indeed, this is true; their commissions include the recent restoration of the New York Public Library’s Rose Reading Room, Brooklyn’s Loew’s Kings Theater, the Eldridge Street Synagogue, and the McKim, Mead and White-designed University Club, where the event will be held, and this only scratches the surface of their hundreds of projects throughout the country.

In anticipation of Jeff’s recognition, 6sqft was given a behind-the-scenes tour of EverGreene’s new office and studios in Industry City, where the firm’s master artisans were hard at work painting murals, casting plaster moldings, and researching the history of several upcoming projects. We also spoke with Jeff himself about what inspired him to get into the field (“I ate the crayons before marking the walls,” he says), how preservation has changed since he started the firm in 1978, and what some of his favorite projects have been.

Hear from Jeff and take a tour of EverGreene’s incredible space

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Architecture, Design, Features, Green Design, Interviews

Ada Tolla and Giuseppe Lignano

After completing architecture school at Universita’ di Napoli, Italy, Ada Tolla and Giuseppe Lignano fell in love with New York City, deciding in 1995 to establish an innovative firm in Manhattan called LOT-EK. Early experiments in the art world grew into a substantial architecture practice, but their philosophy has always been the same: Both Ada and Giuseppe are focused on a concept they call “up-cycling,” taking existing objects and elevating them through art, design, and architecture. The firm has done its most innovative work re-using shipping containers and received a wave of attention this year for a Brooklyn residential project that utilized 21 shipping containers in surprising, stunning ways.

The firm has just released its second monograph, LOT-EK: Objects and Operations, a photo-heavy showcase of dozens of projects the firm produced around the world over the past 15 years. “LOT-EK is a design practice that believes in being unoriginal, ugly, and cheap,” the book states. “Also in being revolutionary, gorgeous, and completely luxurious.” With 6sqft, co-founder Giuseppe Lignano talks about the early days of running a firm and waiting tables in 1990s New York, explains the firm’s philosophy behind sustainability and re-use, and discusses the inspiration behind their notable Williamsburg project.

This way for the interview

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Architecture, Features, Financial District, Interviews

This summer, the 9/11 Tribute Museum opened in a brand-new space at 92 Greenwich Street in the Financial District. The 36,000-square-foot gallery became the second iteration of the museum which originally occupied the former Liberty Deli from 2006 until earlier this year. While many are more likely to be familiar with the 9/11 Memorial Museum just a few blocks up the street, the Tribute Museum differs in that rather than focusing on the implications of the tragedy, documenting the events as they unfolded and examining its lasting impact, it assumes a more inspired take, dedicating its exhibits and installations to the stories of the survivors, first responders, relatives of victims, and others with close connections to the tragedy who found hope in the terror and stepped up to help their fellow New Yorkers.

Ahead, Lee Skolnick, principal of LHSA+DP and lead architect of the 9/11 Tribute Museum, speaks to 6sqft about the design and programming of this important institution, and how he hopes its message will inspire visitors to do good in their communities during these uncertain times.

read 6sqft’s interview with Skolnick here

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Chelsea, Features, gentrification, History, Hotels, Interviews

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.

Read more

Featured Story

Architecture, Features, Green Design, Interviews

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

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Features, History, Interviews, People

“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

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