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Redevelopment of Staten Island's Farm Colony Moves Forward

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The abandoned New York City Farm Colony on Staten Island is one step closer to being brought back to life. Last Tuesday, the Landmarks Preservation Commission unanimously backed a proposal to transform the 45-acre campus that was once a poor farm into 350 units of senior housing plus some retail. Called Landmark Colony, the development will bring life back to a crumbling site that has sat vacant for more than four decades.

The project is being developed by NFC Associates in cooperation with the New York City Economic Development Corporation. Architects Pablo E. Vengoechea and Timothy G. Boyland of Vengoechea + Boyland Architecture delivered Tuesday's presentation, which was a response to the commissioners' concerns at the hearing on September 30. The new presentation contained more detailed renderings and drawings and some changes. Vengoechea said the changes created more "stylistic unity" and Boyland referred to the master plan as the "next reality" for the site.

The most notable change was the clubhouse building (one of the biggest points of contention last time), which has been significantly redesigned. The arched entryway has been replaced with a square one, and the water table has been raised to allow more places to use salvaged stone in the construction. The cupola has been replaced with a smaller chimney, which is now surrounded by two small skylights. Vengoechea said the new design "refers more directly to the dining hall."

Another change includes the fact that the pillars that mark the entrance to the Potter's Field will remain, and Vengoechea said that a photographer will be hired to better document all of the existing structures as they are today before any construction commences.

The commissioners were eager to endorse this project. "I'm a fan," chair Meenakshi Srinivasan said. She said that after the previous presentation, she wondered how the different parts fit together, but the new presentation helped her to understand and it now "feels like a complex and a campus." Commissioner Adi Shamir-Baron, who still wished more of the ruins could be stabilized, called it "terrific." Of the green space—designed by Nancy Owens of Nancy Owens Studio and which the public will be allowed to visit—she said it's "in a city, but remains bucolic." Commissioner Diana Chapin said the developer was faced with a "difficult situation" and she "hope[s] that they succeed." Commissioner Frederick Bland, who first visited the site 29 years ago, referred to the developer as a "rescuer." He called the plan "rich and meaningful" and "breathtaking and positive."

Commissioner Michael Goldblum, who was hardly about to try and put the kaibosh on the proposal, did have some concerns. He thought the site plan was "developed and formal" and said it was kind of sad that more of the farm history wasn't recalled in the design. He said there were an "awful lot of slight gestures" that didn't quite hit the mark. Of biggest concern were the flats buildings, which he called too "generic," particularly in their color scheme. Other commissioners, including chair Srinivasan, agreed. So, the design of the flats buildings will be tweaked at the staff level and if any major changes arise, those will return to the commissioners.

—Evan Bindelglass is a local freelance journalist, photographer, cinephile, and foodie. You can e-mail him, follow him on Twitter @evabin, or check out his personal blog.
· All New York City Farm Colony coverage [Curbed]
· All Landmarks Preservation coverage [Curbed]