Rendering of 321 East 96th Street via Perkins Eastman Architect
Located on Second Avenue between East 96th Street and East 97th Street, the Marx Brothers Playground boasts a jungle gym and ball fields spread out over 1.5 acres. The East Harlem green space, which first opened in 1947 on land formerly occupied by the car barn of the Second Avenue Railway, has found itself at the center of a debate between preservationists and developers. As the New York Times reported, park advocates and city officials disagree on whether the parcel is considered a park or a playground. If it’s a park, any plans to modify it require the approval from the State Legislature and the governor; playgrounds do not. While it seems irrelevant, the categorization of the land will determine whether a 68-story mixed-use tower will rise on its site, a project backed by city officials and affordable housing advocates.
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Looking to take advantage of the newly opened Second Avenue Subway stop at 96th Street, the New York City Educational Construction Fund and AvalonBay Communities are working their way through the city approval process to build a 1.14 million-square foot, full-block, mixed-use development in East Harlem. CityRealty tells us that the project located at 321 East 96th Street would hold two new school buildings for three different local schools, 20,000 square feet of retail space, a rebuilt playground, and a 68-story, 760-foot residential tower that would offer between 1,100 and 1,200 units and possibly become the city’s tallest building to contain affordable housing (roughly 330 below-market rate units).
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The former American Bible Society building (L); SOM’s new design for 1865 Broadway (R)
In the fall of 2015, the American Bible Society moved from their long-time home at Broadway and 61st Street to Philadelphia. Their Columbus Circle/Lincoln Center headquarters was built in 1965 by architects Roy O. Allen Jr. and Donald C. Smith of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, who created a 12-story Brutalist structure that was the first in the city constructed with load-bearing, pre-cast concrete exterior walls. But with the institution’s recent departure came the sale of the building at 1865 Broadway for $300 million to AvalonBay Communities. The developer returned to the original architectural firm to create a new condo-rental tower at the site, and CityRealty has now uncovered SOM‘s first official rendering of what will replace their former work, which, interestingly enough, harkens back to the Brutalist aesthetic.
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