Excerpted from the article in Green Building and Design Magazine:
REVITALIZING EXISTING NEIGHBORHOODS
NEW YORK CITY, NY, USA New York City, the great metropolis, is rarely considered a place where you would go to connect with nature, but the inclusion of open space for all new developments has been a mandate—the first of its kind in the country—going back to the early 1970s. Today the trend is to go much further in converting and integrating cityscape with natural settings and parks. GBDM reached out to hMa Founding Partner Victoria Meyers to discuss her firm's involvement in changing attitudes toward urban design in the United States and elsewhere.
In 2000, New York design firm hanrahan Meyers Architects (hMa) were hired as the master plan architects for Battery Park City Authority's North Neighborhood, an example of the redevelopment of existing urban sites. When completed in 2012, the neighbor-hood will include a total of 5 million square feet of sustainable community, 11 residential and public buildings, 4 major parks, and the renowned Stuyvesant High School. Nearly all of the construction and all of the landscaping will be under hMa's purview and meet LEED-certification standards. Each building aligns urban blocks at the 11th and 14th floors, and high-rise towers are placed up to the 25th and 32nd floors in a complex pattern of offsetting angles to open up view corridors and bring light and air into the parks below.
Battery Park City North Neighborhood : isometric showing green roofs and parks. Post: Victoria Meyers architect
The new neighborhood departs in many ways from the original concept—begun 45 years ago when the city first conceived of turning the Hudson River tidal-estuary shipping piers, at the southwest tip of Lower Manhattan, into a 92- acre planned community. "There was a general excitement then of advancing technology," says hMa founder and principal Victoria Meyers. "You had the World's Fair in 1964 with the machines of the future. The out-of-doors was not part of that vision. When the original Battery Park development started, it was based on some very vague ideas of urbanism, and that was a pot of not fully digested concepts. It was a time when people were still trying to figure out if trees were a good thing in the city or not. Was it better to have trees because they made things look good? Or mow them down so you could keep a better surveillance on crime?"
DWiP: view of north courtyard. DWi-P is scheduled to open in September 2012. Post: Victoria Meyers architect
Meyers credits the leadership of the former president and CEO of Battery Park City (now the COO of New York Authority), Timothy Carey, for the solid vision of North Neighborhood when her firm was hired in 1997. (And, naturally, once Carey joined the New York Authority, sustainable design went to the top of its priorities, Meyers says.) "Prior to coming to Battery Park City, Tim Carey singlehandedly created Energy Star," she notes of his impressively green legacy. "He called every manufacturer of appliances to Albany and said he would award whichever company could create an Energy Star appliance that would cost the same as regular appliances the biggest single contract in the country for affordable housing—and it happened." The politics of America's biggest city notwithstand-ing (though New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is continuing Carey's allegiance to green design), there are many approaches to making things stick. Connecting to nature can come from different perspectives. "Tim Carey, with Governor Pataki, forged a powerful com-mon bond on the importance of nature in urban environments," Meyers says. "Their political base