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6 crucial ways New York City’s landscape will change in 2020

What to expect from New York’s transit, parks, megaprojects, and more this year

Max Touhey | www.metouhey.com

Not a year goes by in New York City without huge shifts in the built environment, and 2019 was no different. Eero Saarinen’s glorious, once inaccessible terminal reopened to the public as the picture-perfect TWA Hotel. MoMA returned with 40,000 additional square feet to display its world-class collection. The City Council passed both a Green New Deal and legislation that will change how New Yorkers engage with their streets. And it got a lot less expensive to apply for a new apartment.

But the year had its drawbacks: A spate of cyclist and pedestrian fatalities lurched the city into some form of action. Rents reached new, astronomic highs. And two of the city’s flashiest architectural openings proved to be major fails.

Now, with 2019 behind us, it’s time to look toward what 2020 will bring to New York. Although many of the projects cited below will be ongoing after this year, over the next 12 months, they will begin to affect the ways we live in, move through, and experience our city—hopefully for the better.


Megaprojects

The debut of Hudson Yards brought the opening of The Shops and Restaurants and Vessel in March, The Shed in April, and early 2019 closings at Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Rockwell Group’s residential tower at 15 Hudson Yards. The year ahead will be punctuated with more openings and closings.

Edge, the 1,131-foot-tall viewing platform at 30 Hudson Yards, will open on March 11. (Tickets for the sky-high attraction are already up for grabs, with ample availability on opening day and beyond.) Ninety percent of the commercial office space in the works has been leased, and the only office building in the project’s first phase that still has space up for grabs is 50 Hudson Yards, one of three buildings where Facebook inked a deal earlier this year.

Across the street, a new Whole Foods will open at Five Manhattan West in the spring, and the megaproject’s two-acre public plaza between One and Two Manhattan West is expected to open in the later half of the year.

Max Touhey | www.metouhey.com

This year will bring a flurry of activity to Essex Crossing: The project’s second building dedicated to senior affordable housing, 140 Essex Street, will open to tenants in late January. The 26-story mixed-use building at 180 Broome Street, known as The Artisan, will launch its affordable housing lottery in January, followed by the building’s market-rate leasing launch in May; move-ins will start in June. Broome Street Gardens, a 9,000-square-foot indoor public park above the Market Line, will also debut in June. Around the corner at 242 Broome Street, the International Center of Photography will open its new flagship location in January. And down the street, the 83 condos of 202 Broome Street will come to market in the spring.

World Trade Center developer Silverstein Properties is mum on what 2020 might bring to the 16-acre campus—2 and 5 World Trade Center remain undeveloped—but work presses on at The Perelman, the performing arts center so named for its benefactor, the billionaire Ronald O. Perelman. This year will see the rise of the steel framing for the performing arts center’s theater, and the completion of the REX-designed building’s structural steel. The center’s first performance is slated to take place in 2021, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

The city’s plan to deck over 180 acres of rail yard that bisect parts of Long Island City and Sunnyside to create Sunnyside Yard made strides in 2019, as Practice for Architecture and Urbanism plugged away on its master plan for the site. The city is still holding public meetings to gather input on the development (which will be a whopping six and a half times the size of Hudson Yards.) Winter 2020 should bring that master plan to the public, a full year later than it was originally set to debut.

Another ambitious development plan in Queens will gain momentum in the new year. At Willets Point, the city will continue working on environmental remediation efforts and infrastructure improvements in preparation for the development’s first phase, which will bring 1,100 units of affordable housing, retail, and a school to six acres in the shadow of Citi Field. The exact fate of the remaining 17 acres is still up in the air, though two proposals have risen to the top: The first would bring a development to the site with mixed-income housing, community space, public open space, retail, and parking. The second would see the build-out of a soccer stadium with seating for 25,000, mixed-income housing, parking, community space, and public open space.

The Domino Sugar Refinery building.
Max Touhey

Two Trees’ takeover of the Williamsburg waterfront will carry on into the new year, with the continued redevelopment of the former Domino Sugar Refinery site and an exploratory phase for the recently announced River Street. At Domino, 2020 will bring move-ins to the 24-story commercial building called Ten Grand Street, and will also see outposts of Roberta’s and Other Half Brewing Co. open at One South First.

Development pushes on at Pacific Park, the 22-acre project formerly known as Atlantic Yards. There won’t be any major openings in the new year, but expect work to continue on the development’s 810-unit rental at 18 Sixth Avenue, and on the mixed-income residential building at 662 Pacific Street. Developer TF Cornerstone will break ground on two residential projects at 595 and 615 Dean Street that will bring 800 apartments, 72,000 feet of open space, and an outpost of Chelsea Piers to the neighborhood. And, looking ahead, major project developer Greenland Forest City Partners will work on plans to platform over the LIRR train yard, paving the way for the development of three additional buildings at the site.

Two megaprojects coming to the Bronx will hit major construction milestones this year. The first phase of Bankside Bronx, the seven-building project rising on either side of the Third Avenue Bridge along the Harlem River, will top out toward the end of the year. The phase includes 450 apartments on the north side of the bridge. The second phase, which is expected to begin construction this spring, will bring 849 rentals, parking, and community space to a piece of land south of the bridge. Bronx Point, the affordable residential development coming to a riverfront parcel just south of Mill Pond Park, is expected to break ground this summer.

Transit

In April, New York became the first major U.S. city to adopt congestion pricing, which will levy a fee on vehicles entering Manhattan below 60th Street between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. The groundbreaking program won’t officially go into effect until 2021, but this year will bring many of the logistics behind the plan into focus; think fee structure and tolling infrastructure, both of which have yet to be unveiled.

The de Blasio administration announced its Green Wave plan in July, six months into one of the deadliest years for New York cyclists in recent memory. The $58.4 million safety plan calls for 30 miles of protected bike lane to be built annually through 2023, among a flurry of other policy and infrastructure changes. A 2019 pilot of progressive signal timing that discourages car speeding along streets with bike routes will be rolled out in 2020 on Clinton Street in Brooklyn, Prince Street in Manhattan, and 43rd Avenue in Queens.

This year will also bring new bike lane connections along Central Park West from West 77th Street to West 110th Street, as well as in Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens; on Staten Island, links to the new Goethals Bridge bike and pedestrian path will also debut. And Citi Bike announced in July that it would significantly ramp up its presence in the far corners of the outer boroughs in years to come; in 2020, that means an expansion into the South Bronx and Harlem.

A section of highway with cars.
The Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.
Max Touhey

The plan of action that will bring crucial fixes to the deteriorating Brooklyn-Queens Expressway will begin to take shape in 2020. The expert panel of architects, engineers, urbanists, and civic leaders convened by Mayor Bill de Blasio in August and chaired by New York Building Congress President Carlo Scissura is at work on a set of recommendations for the fixes that will be issued in early January.

New York City Transit president Andy Byford’s Fast Forward plan that was announced in 2018 prioritized bus route redesigns for every borough, and that work will continue in the new year. After rolling out new networks on Staten Island (2018) and the Bronx (2019), the redesign of Brooklyn and Queens’ bus routes will continue into 2020. There’s no word yet on when Manhattan will get its day, but expect it to be within the next couple of years.

OMNY, the MTA’s new fare payment system, will be in every subway station by year’s end if everything goes according to plan. The agency piloted the tap-and-go system along the 4 and 5 lines between Atlantic Avenue-Barclay’s Center and Grand Central Terminal throughout 2019, and has since expanded the system that will replace the MetroCard by 2023 to many stops along 23 lines. The MTA will continue to bring OMNY to stations throughout the year, with the aim of introducing an in-system payment card (like the London Underground’s Oyster card) in 2021.

Governor Andrew Cuomo started 2019 off with a bang when he called off the much-dreaded L train shutdown, but that course correction has proven successful, so far. In September the MTA announced that the L train tunnel rehab is going so well that it’s expected to end ahead of schedule. Work on the heavily-trafficked L train was originally scheduled to wrap up in late July 2020, at the earliest, but now it’s poised to wrap up around May.

A skyscraper under construction that is surrounded by other buildings.
One Vanderbilt.
Max Touhey

Skyline

The race to the clouds that gripped developers in post-recession New York has slowed to a crawl after a few hyperactive years. The year behind us saw the topping-out of a big-ticket projects like Central Park Tower, 111 West 57th Street, and One Vanderbilt.

The latter of those towers will officially open to tenants in August, three months ahead of schedule and $100 million under budget. The $220 million in upgrades that developer SL Green brought to Grand Central Terminal in exchange for the office tower’s mammoth height will be completed this year, too. A new transit hall will link the train depot to the Long Island Rail Road, and a new 14,000-square-foot pedestrian plaza will debut on Vanderbilt Avenue between East 42nd and 43rd streets by year’s end.

On the Lower East Side, the trio of waterfront developments that have collectively become known as the Two Bridges towers will head back to court this year, though it’s unclear exactly when. The projects’ developers have appealed Judge Arthur Engorson’s August 2 ruling, which found that the projects must pass through the city’s land use review process in order to bring 2.5 million square feet of new development to the Two Bridges enclave. As it’s written, the area’s zoning code doesn’t call for a land use review. Some say that the developers are harnessing a loophole borne out of idealistic 20th-century city planning by attempting to construct their projects without the review.

The first phase of Downtown Brooklyn’s dual-tower development collectively known as 80 Flatbush will kick off in the spring with work on 100 Flatbush, the project’s smaller, 38-story all-electric tower. The phase will also include the project’s two public schools built to passive house standards, a new elementary school and a new facility for the Khalil Gibran International Academy, whose adjacent former building will be converted into a cultural facility. The schools are expected to open by 2022.

Parks

March 2020 marks 10 years of Brooklyn Bridge Park, but work is still ongoing at the multi-pier commons that has become one of Brooklyn’s most trafficked green spaces. Come summer, the park’s Pier 2 Uplands will debut with a 6,300-square-foot lawn and a water garden. Summer 2020 will also bring a new Squibb Bridge, designed by Arup. The former Squibb Bridge was demolished in October after mounting concerns about the bridge’s structural instability.

Hudson River Park, including Pier 55 ansd Gansevoort Peninsula.
Max Touhey

Hudson River Park will be rife with activity throughout the year. A new section of parkland at Tribeca’s Pier 26, designed by Olin Studios, will debut in the late summer with a tiered wetland tidal pool, wooden decking, and two junior-sized soccer fields. An undeveloped patch of land will begin its transformation into the Gansevoort Peninsula in late 2020, with a design by James Corner Field Operations. Meanwhile, work will continue on Pier 55—uh, Little Island—the undulating $250 million park designed by Thomas Heatherwick through to its spring 2021 opening. And lastly, construction will kick off by September on the $38 million revamp of Midtown’s Pier 97 into a two-acre recreation space designed by Melk with room for lounging, strolling, and playing.

Rezonings

The Department of City Planning’s proposed rezoning of an 80-block swath of Gowanus will continue to be deliberated throughout 2020. Community advocates and City Councilmembers Brad Lander and Stephen Levin are now awaiting the environmental impact statement—a crucial document that analyzes the potential impacts of a land use change—for the rezoning to move forward, but the uniform land use review procedure (ULURP) could kick off by next summer.

In November, the city issued its “Envision SoHo/NoHo” report, which will guide the proposed rezoning of two neighborhoods that have not seen a major land use shake-up since 1971. The document contains a bevy of recommendations, chief among them the legalization of additional ground-floor retail space and the promotion of affordable housing in the costly neighborhoods. Elected officials are now gathering community feedback through a series of meetings, the next of which will take place on January 8.

Industry City.
Max Touhey

In April, the city released its plan to bring below-market-rate housing, open space, and transit improvements to Bushwick. The rezoning proposal is in its fledgling stages, with area residents awaiting the environmental impact statement, covering everything from potential secondary displacement to construction emissions. Once the EIS is issued, the proposal will begin to wind its way through the ULURP process. Local leaders and elected officials, who released their own community-led Bushwick rezoning proposal, have expressed that if the city’s plan doesn’t meaningfully incorporate the community’s input, the rezoning will face a long uphill battle.

In Sunset Park, Industry City quietly launched its ULURP with an okay from the city in late October. The rezoning that its owners (Jamestown, Belvedere Capital, and Angelo, Gordon & Co.) are seeking would transform the 16-building waterfront complex from an industrial space into a mixed-use destination. But locals and elected officials have rallied against the plan as-is, citing fears of rising rents and the displacement of the largely working class, immigrant community surrounding the campus.

“I am prepared to vote ‘no’ because I do not believe starting ULURP today is enough time to craft a rezoning plan that protects and uplifts our most vulnerable neighbors,” Councilmember Carlos Menchaca said at the time of the review procedure’s launch, citing the review’s seven-month timeline. “Remember, we are contemplating an enormous rezoning because of one private developer’s interests, not because our neighborhood has called for it.” The review is due to wrap up near the end of May.

Resiliency

The historic Green New Deal that City Council voted into existence in April will begin to be implemented in 2020. Starting this year, owners of buildings of at least 25,000 square feet will have to submit an energy efficiency letter grade, provided by an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tool, and display that grade at the building’s entrance, or face fines. The letter grade is aimed at creating transparency in how certain buildings are affecting the environment. The package of bills, together called the Climate Mobilization Act, aims to reduce New York buildings’ greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent over the next decade.

East River Park in Manhattan.
Nathan Kensinger

The fiercely debated $1.45 billion East Side Coastal Resiliency Project will break ground in March as the city continues to hash out a variety of details, such as whether it will incorporate interim flood protection along a stretch of East River bank. The final flood protections are expected to be in place before hurricane season 2023.

The proposal as it stands will see the razing and rebuilding of East River Park at least eight feet higher to stave off storm surge and sea level rise. The proposal passed the City Council in mid November, but has been met by a legal challenge from a coalition of community groups who oppose the closure of park sections during construction. It’s unclear how the lawsuit will affect the project’s timeline.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is at work creating a series of levees, berms, and seawalls stretching some five miles along the South Shore of Staten Island that will serve to protect the area devastated by Hurricane Sandy from future storms. The seawall, a major component of the resiliency effort, will stretch about 4.5 miles between Fort Wadsworth and Oakwood Beach. The 20-foot wall will be topped by a boardwalk, but don’t expect to stroll the structure before 2022. The USACE estimates that construction will start on the first phase of the project in the fall, with the resiliency effort wrapping up completely in 2025.

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