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NYC Urban Planning in 2015: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

It's time to make up a bunch of awards and hand them out to the most deserving people, places and things in the real estate, architecture and neighborhood universes of New York City! Yep, it's time for the 12th Annual Curbed Awards! Up now: the best (and worst) urban planning moves of the year.

From park updates to new museums to subway delays, there was lots to talk about in the realm of New York City urban planning in 2015. Join us as we rehash some of the biggest city-changing events of the past 12 months, both good and bad.

Wait, This Is Really Happening?: The Lowline Lab
After years of planning, Kickstarter campaigns, and hype, the Lowline Lab—a science experiment-cum-park meant to simulate the environment of NYC's proposed first underground parkopened in a disused warehouse on the Lower East Side. And just as the public is getting a glimpse of what that space could look like, momentum is gaining for the conversion of its proposed home, an abandoned trolley stop below Delancey Street. The city released a Request for Expressions of Interest for the space in November, seeking "creative responses to activate the space"—whether that's the Lowline or something else.

Most Awaited Conversion (or, Please, Please Don't Mess This Up): The TWA Flight Center Hotel
The plans to convert Eero Saarinen's landmark TWA Terminal into a luxury hotel finally came to fruition: MCR Development released plans for a 505-room hotel that will be built adjacent to Saarinen's swooping building, thereby preserving the beloved mid-century icon. The developers have pledged to "return[] the landmark to its original glory"—fingers crossed that it actually ends up happening.

[Photo by Max Touhey for Curbed]
Most Anticipated Comeback: The Whitney
After vacating its longtime home on Madison Avenue, the Whitney finally moved into its Renzo Piano-designed digs overlooking the High Line in May. Though reviews on the building itself have been mixed—New York critic Justin Davidson compared it to a "prodigiously misassembled" piece of Ikea furniture—it's proved incredibly popular with visitors. Plus, the old Breuer Building will soon be home to a new branch of the Met that's focused on contemporary art, which is an exciting reuse of the space.

Most Beautiful Addition to a NYC Park, Non-Natural Edition: The Sea Glass Carousel
After more than 10 years and $16 million—half in public funds, half in private donations—luminescent fish have finally begun swimming round and round the SeaGlass Carousel, which opened over the summer in Battery Park. The nautilus-looking building of the carousel, conceived by WXY Architecture, houses 30 of Tsypin's glowing ocean creatures, some of which are 13.5 feet tall and 9.5 feet wide.

Most Beautiful Addition to a NYC Park, Natural Addition: Brooklyn Bridge Park's New Sections
From north to south, Brooklyn Bridge Park got the following new sections this year: John Street Park, an entirely new patch of green space that sits just above the Manhattan Bridge; Main Street Park, which was renovated from a smaller piece of land; and Pier 6, which has lovely new plantings.

Will Femia

Revenge of the Megaprojects:

5) City Point
Big things are happening for Downtown Brooklyn's neighborhood-transforming development: Its market-rate rentals hit the market and applications opened for the affordable ones, while Extell filed plans to bring the complex's final apartment tower to life. And residents of those buildings will have plenty of amenities to choose from: Trader Joe's will open its second Brooklyn outpost there, while Ample Hills Creamery and Katz's Deli are among the vendors who've signed on for the revamped DeKalb Food Hall.

4) Greenpoint Landing
More buildings, including two luxury high-rise rentals, were announced for the North Brooklyn megaproject, while three of its affordable buildings are on the rise. The housing lottery for one of those, 21 Commercial Street, officially opened this year, with apartments starting at $494 for the lucky few who'll occupy them.

3) Empire Outlets
Big things are happening on Staten Island: Construction finally began on the New York Wheel, the anchor of the Empire Outlets megaproject (which is now projected to bring in more tourist dollars than the Empire State Building). The mixed-use complex is also getting its own fancy food court, called MRKTPL.

2) Essex Crossing
The erstwhile Seward Park Urban Renewal Area, now known as Essex Crossing, unleashed a barrage of updates this year: the first renderings for some of the mega-development's buildings were revealed; NYU announced plans to add a medical center on the site; and the 150,000-square-foot market that will anchor part of the complex was unveiled. (Phew.)

1) Hudson Yards
A lot happened with the city's most prominent megaproject, including the fact that its first tall tower, 10 Hudson Yards, officially topped out. The 7 train extension to the neighborhood finally opened, as did Hudson Park, a new park within the megaproject; plus, its dining offerings got more robust, with Thomas Keller and Danny Meyer working on projects within the development. And the final piece of the real estate puzzle was put into place with the sale of a McDonald's on Tenth Avenue that will eventually become 50 Hudson Yards.

Max Touhey for Curbed

Yay, MTA!: The 7 Train Extension Finally Opens
It took what felt like forever, but the new 34th St–Hudson Yards station made its long-awaited debut in September, and the station is bright, roomy, and disorientingly clean (for now, anyway).

Boo, MTA!: The Second Avenue Subway May Be Delayed…Again
The MTA finally approved a capital plan in October, but with it came big cuts to the Second Avenue Subway—and, surprise surprise, the long-delayed project now may not open on time. (But you're not really surprised, are you?)

The Most Outrageous Thought Experiments: It's a toss-up between the pedestrian bridge connecting Lower Manhattan to Jersey City, or the proposal to turn a swath of Broadway between Columbus Circle and Union Square into a pedestrian-only public park (see above). Both are ridiculous ideas that we're not 100 percent sure we want to see happen, but the renderings sure are interesting.

The Nontroversy of the Year Award: The Battle Over Times Square's Pedestrian Plazas
Thanks to a successful bout of tabloid fear-mongering, the debate over the body-painted women (a.k.a. desnudas) who peddle for tips in Times Square's pedestrian plazas reached a fever pitch, with Mayor de Blasio and NYPD commish Bill Bratton calling for an overhaul of the spaces—initially, in the form of tearing them out altogether. Unsurprisingly, no one really liked that idea, and a proposal called "Times Square Commons" that suggested dividing the open spaces into different sections eventually gained traction. For now, the desnudas and Elmos and cartoon characters (oh my!) remain.

· Curbed Awards 2015 Archive [Curbed]