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.
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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
6sqft’s series “Where I Work” takes us into the studios, offices, and off-beat workspaces of New Yorkers across the city. In this installment, we take a tour of the Bed-Stuy urban farm Square Roots. Want to see your business featured here? 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
Developers are increasingly using art as a way to turn their buildings into more than just stacks of expensive apartments. Many see adding sculptures or installations as ways to activate a place, making it an integral part of the urban experience. But while most are eager to jump on the biggest names in the business, there are others that prefer to look locally for talent, using art as an opportunity to invest in the community in which they are building. One such company is Two Trees Management, which believes that “developers and property-owners must play a fundamental role in cultivating livable streetscapes.” To that end, Two Trees sponsors local creatives to work with them on their buildings, and for one of their most transformative Brooklyn projects, 300 Ashland, they commissioned local artist, designer and product inventor, Adam Frank (who lives less than two miles from the building) to install a stunning, large-scale, mirrored artwork, called LUCID.
Ahead, CityRealty speaks to Frank about his dreamy, out-of-the-box creation, and Lisa Kim, Two Tree’s Cultural Affairs Director, about the company’s community-driven approach to art and real estate.
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Developer and architect Daniel Kohs isn’t one of New York’s heavyweight developers. He’s not one to pursue glossy, big-ticket skyscrapers containing thousands of square feet of ubiquitous space. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just that there’s a lot to be gained from “transformation.” Best yet, preserving the integrity and culture of existing structures, even if they’re humble in size and utility, can be just as profitable. The Danville House at 178 East 94th Street is a product of such transformation. The once-humble garage building has just finished its conversion into an eight-story mansion on a tree-lined side-street in the Upper East Side. Now on the market for $18 million, the single-family abode holds 9,500 square feet of living space finished in a magnificent prewar aesthetic.
Recently, CityRealty had a chance to sit down with Daniel Kohs to learn more about this one-of-a-kind home and the inspiration behind his tasteful addition to Carnegie Hill.
READ THE INTERVIEW WITH DANIEL ON CITYREALTY…
There are a number of towers on the rise poised to change the New York City skyline, but few are anticipated to have an impact as significant as One Vanderbilt. Developed by SL Green and designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF), the glassy supertall will extend an incredible 1,401 feet into the clouds to become the city’s third tallest tower (following One World Trade Center and the in-progress Central Park Tower) while also bringing a staggering 1.7 million square feet of office space to Midtown Manhattan. But beyond its height and girth, this massive development is expected to elevate its surroundings a profound way. Indeed, the enshadowed “iconic but aging” district surrounding Grand Central, long-deprived of public space and life beyond weary commuters, will be turned into a verdant block dedicated to all New Yorkers.
6sqft’s interview with the architects this way
Jeff Simpson, the CEO of Greystone Development, is due to celebrate his ten year anniversary with the company this February. In his decade with the real estate firm, founded in 1992, he has overseen Greystone’s reemergence into the New York market by tapping into emerging neighborhoods around the city. Before he joined Greystone, Simpson worked with the Equity Office Properties team, helping reposition a number of their New York City office buildings, and oversaw over $100 million of redevelopment projects for Jones Lang LaSalle.
Simpson has more or less done it all when it comes to real estate, holding roles in investment, construction, engineering and management across all sectors of the market. At Greystone, he oversees the firm’s development team, managing new acquisitions as well as design, construction, sale and leasing. CityRealty spoke with Simpson on how the company has distinguished itself as a New York developer since it ramped up its investments in 2012, taking on projects in City Island, Brooklyn and Harlem. He also filled us in on new projects the company will debut next year—and the one development that’s most meaningful to him.
READ THE INTERVIEW AT CITYREALTY…