Reimagining Rikers Island Is a Defining Moment for New York City

The Regional Plan Association suggests that the city use Rikers Island to house environmentally friendly energy and industrial complexes, as well as educational and recreational spaces. Rendering courtesy of Regional Plan Association  “An airport extension would be a pragmatic, neutral solution that would assist many people traveling in and out of the city,” said the professor, who is also principal of New York City–based studioStigsgaard. A public institution, such as a museum and park, could also be a positive replacement, Stigsgaard suggested. “A museum could display the historic traumas and inform [visitors] about the island’s long history of human rights violations. I think it would draw a lot of visitors and hopefully put the city in a more responsible light when it comes to racial inequality.” Outside the classroom, architects pull from professional experience. “When New York announced it was closing Rikers, the first thing I wondered was what was going to be done with all that land,” said Ben Massey, principal of Benjamin Massey Architecture + Design. “This could be one of the last large urban planning opportunities in New York City.” Massey, who practices in New York and New Orleans, draws inspiration from the batture in a post–Hurricane Katrina landscape. “We can dismantle, remediate, and relocate portions of Rikers to create new waterfront parks along the East River,” Massey suggested, adding that this would help treat the dangerous methane levels plaguing the island. “These parks could double as flood resiliency projects with levees and storm water retention features,” Massey said. This approach could protect coastal areas of the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island susceptible to river flooding, as well as providing riverfront community parks in underserved neighborhoods. Frank Greene, vice president and justice lead at STV, echoed Massey’s environmental approach. Greene referenced the demolition of Boston’s 19th-century Deer Island Prison, which was replaced with a new water treatment plant that cleaned up Boston Harbor. “The same story could be told of New York, where Rikers Island represents a valuable key to unlocking the potential of neighboring communities and improving social and environmental justice for New Yorkers,” Greene said. The crucially located land could replace antiquated water treatment and peak power facilities along the East River, Greene continued. “Losing these plants will unlock the potential for the next wave of equitable and sustainable development for the South Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn waterfronts, reducing air and water pollution.” Regional Plan Association, a nonprofit planning agency that provides policy initiatives and recommends infrastructure investments to the city, suggests that Rikers Island house environmentally friendly energy and industrial complexes, as well as educational and recreational spaces. These would include a composting center, a wastewater treatment plant, and a waste-to-energy facility, as well as job training facilities, a public greenway, and a memorial to Rikers’ notorious past.

Amazon Unveils Nature-Infused HQ2 Design That Includes “The Helix”

Amazon dropped big announcements this week. In the span of 24 hours, its CEO, Jeff Bezos, revealed he’ll be stepping down from his role later this year. Then the corporate giant unveiled its plan for its second headquarters to be built in Arlington, Virginia, just outside Washington, DC. The 2.8 million-square-foot HQ2, PenPlace, will transform Arlington’s skyline. Designed by global architecture firm NBBJ, who led the design of Amazon’s Seattle headquarters, PenPlace is the next step of Amazon’s expansion. Amazon tasked the firm with blending singular architectural and ecological elements to create a sustainable, healthy environment for Amazon employees and the local community. “Increasingly, we see leading companies invest in these [energy] strategies,” NBBJ’s lead architect on the project, Dale Alberda, told Architectural Digest. PenPlace will feature an all-electric central heating and cooling system that will run on 100% renewable energy from a southern Virginia solar farm. It will also seek LEED Platinum certification. According to the lead architect, the design of the new building was inspired by the natural world, where double-helix geometry exists in various forms. Of the three planned office towers, the most notable is PenPlace’s centerpiece structure, which resembles its namesake. A double helix swirling skyward, The Helix interweaves manicured gardens and native plants and trees. “It draws its formal inspiration directly from the natural world, where the double helix geometry can be found in many forms, including plants, seashells, DNA strands, and even our galaxy,” Alberda said. In addition to 2.5 acres of open public space, an amphitheater for outdoor concerts and movie screenings, and a forest grove, PenPlace will offer street-facing retail and restaurant options, as well as dog parks, day care facilities, and spaces for food trucks. At the base of the building, a host of new restaurants and retail spaces will open, adding more jobs to the area and spurring more economic growth. With its new Arlington headquarters, Amazon plans to create 25,000 jobs and invest $2.5 billion in the southern city over the next decade. The PenPlace project broke ground in early 2020 and is slated for completion in 2025.  “When the public health situation improves and as regulations allow, we will continue to see value in bringing our employees together in a physical space to cross-pollinate ideas and foster collaboration. With our hiring and construction on pace, we’re ready for the next chapter,” Amazon said in a statement. Amazon selected Arlington for HQ2 in 2018. NBBJ, opening its 12th location in Washington, DC, will be close by to supervise the project.

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