Hans Maarten Wikkerink-Master of Architecture-Marcy Houses

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ARCYHOUSE

MARCY HOUSES A CASE STUDY OF SOCIAL HOUSING IN NEW YORK CITY Hans Maarten Wikkerink


MARCY HOUSES | A CASE STUDY OF SOCIAL HOUSING IN NEW YORK CITY

ABOUT for Ilya and Suzanne by Hans Maarten Wikkerink hmwikkerink@gmail.com www.hmwikkerink.com August 2016 Exam committee: Laurens Jan ten Kate (mentor) Gus Tielens Marcel van der Lubbe Elsbeth Falk Machiel Spaan Very special thanks to: Suzanne, Joop&Dinie, Franky

MARCY HOUSES A CASE STUDY OF SOCIAL HOUSING IN NEW YORK CITY Hans Maarten Wikkerink page | 2

Thank you! (in no particular order): Laurens Jan ten Kate, Gus Tielens, Marcel van der Lubbe, Elsbeth Falk, Machiel Spaan, Joke(!)&Cees, Nellleke&Frans, Janneke, Sanne&Wessel, Loek&Anjelene, Tessa, Jascha, Ian Hays, Mary Schafrath, Bas Bolier, Willemijn Schut, Rob Hootsmans, Felix Claus, Jeroen Geurst, Angela O’Byrne


MARCY HOUSES | A CASE STUDY OF SOCIAL HOUSING IN NEW YORK CITY

CONTENT Preface 6 Social housing in NYC

7

Marcy Houses 13 Masterplan 23 Building 27 Literature 62

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MARCY HOUSES | A CASE STUDY OF SOCIAL HOUSING IN NEW YORK CITY

I believe in architecture as a necessity, not merely as a luxury. I believe in the task of densifying our cities, to reduce the pressure on THEIR surrounding open landscape and to help prevent urban sprawl. I believe in the strength of aN historical layered city. I believe in the task of building socially and culturally diverse and inclusive cities: cities that respect their built heritage, but strive to make a place for everyone. I believe in the power of architecture to help TO achieve this.

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MARCY HOUSES | A CASE STUDY OF SOCIAL HOUSING IN NEW YORK CITY

preface Recent history has seen a gradual shift in thinking about urbanity. The first half of the 20th century was dominated by a distinct belief that the city, and urbanity in general, was a bad phenomenon. The existing city was to be replaced with a healthier model of living. This approach was characterized by a top-down attitude of ‘knowing’, and one can argue that Robert Moses and his influence on New York City was a product of this school of thought. An opposite school of thought, represented by e.g. Jane Jacobs, held an insistent plea for bottom-up, small-scale community-driven revitalization. Jacobs argued quite the opposite from the abovementioned Modernist view, namely that the city is good. Neighborhoods shouldn’t be recklessly demolished and replaced with utopian schemes. Her envisioned attitude was one of a shift to ‘doubting’.

In the project presented here, my point of departure is a rather radical version of ‘not knowing’ whereby I resist demolition: Even very poorly designed architecture or buildings that were built without any sort of design can lead to satisfying urban environments simply by adding historical layers to the neighborhood. In that sense I do follow Jane Jacobs’ ideas. The role of city government is to support initiatives that arise from the communities itself. As such, I also reject a top-down vision where architects and urbanists program the city.

With one clear exception: Architects and urban planners can play a role in preventing that the poorest people from a city are being pushed to the outskirts. This phenomenon is widely observed and can be seen as one possible negative side effect of gentrification. It is a theme that is dominating the housing discourse in the The most recent grand shift in thinking city where I live: New York. about the context of the city constitutes the adoption of the conviction that one cannot predict how a city develops, i.e. a shift towards the ‘not knowing’. This school of thought has developed alongside the growing realization that the suburb, or urban sprawl, is an unsustainable mode of living in light of growing environmental challenges. As a result, existing cities will have to be densified, preferably without neglecting the urban fabric that is already in place. These theories about urbanity have in common with the Jacobsian view that they show a shift from a top-down mentality to pleas for smaller scale interventions in the existing urban fabric. I adopt the latter view in favor of densifying the existing urban fabric as a means to maintain and support cities are efficient mechanisms and attractive living environments.

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MARCY HOUSES | A CASE STUDY OF SOCIAL HOUSING IN NEW YORK CITY

social housing in New york city At first glance, New York City in the past 15 years is a pretty picture of a dynamic city in the post 9/11 world. Along the riverbanks, vast industrial complexes are being converted into highrise residential areas. The urban neighborhoods just behind them follow the same pattern. The previous mayor’s administration rezoned 37 percent of the city and claimed credit for creating opportunities for high-density growth along subway corridors while preserving low-density neighborhoods. Critics argued that this simply cleared the way for gentrification and that the city fell behind on building affordable housing for lower-income New Yorkers. If anything is typical for the demographics of New York City, it is its character of enclaves. Ethnic groups, but often also social economic homogeneous groups, are concentrated in adjacent neighborhoods. While higher level demographic data show a diverse, vibrant melting pot, small scale New York City is relatively segregated. This seems to work just fine in most neighborhoods.

the 334 neighborhoods are older than 30 years and are in need extensive maintenance or renovation. NYCHA keeps developing new buildings in addition to its minimal efforts in maintenance, but it does not demolish entire neighborhoods to make space for its utopian schemes anymore. Recent proposals and plans consist of adding to the existing developments with infill. In most cases they give up a small parking lot or they annex an adjacent empty building lot. It shows that NYCHA endorses the need for densification of its current developments or at least finds it economically viable. However, while it is widely recognized that the ‘projects’ suffer from a lack of density, diversity, and integration with surrounding neighborhoods, most proposals are non-descript to say the least and it is not at all clear that they will manage to play an active role in improving the areas.

Unfortunately this is not the case for the poorest New Yorkers. Since the 1930’s, these have been housed in large-scale housing developments popularly referred to as ‘projects’. New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) builds, maintains and assigns these houses. The fact that they have a wait list of over 200,000 families is an indication for its continuing relevance. Over 400,000 people live in these subsidized houses, divided over 334 developments. The majority of these neighborhoods are based on the Towers in the Green scheme. They breathe modernism and a top-down urban design mentality. Many of the Projects are aging: 261 of

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MARCY HOUSES | A CASE STUDY OF SOCIAL HOUSING IN NEW YORK CITY

PROBLEM page | 9


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MARCY HOUSES | A CASE STUDY OF SOCIAL HOUSING IN NEW YORK CITY

problem 1: waiting lisT 258,880 families

ARE WAITLISTED for social housing in NYC

175,817 families

live in social housing in NYC

problem 2: financial gap 1 unit costS

$20,958

annually to operate and maintain

the average annual rent for 1 unit is $5,700 (27% of cost) page | 11


MARCY HOUSES | A CASE STUDY OF SOCIAL HOUSING IN NEW YORK CITY

problem 3: disintegration

Marcy houses are socially and spatially disintegrated

an ‘island for the poor’

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marcy houses The Marcy Houses in the neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn are a representative example of a housing ‘project’. Modernism and the International Style permeate the buildings with their signifying architecture of cross-shaped towers in the green. The character of the Marcy Houses as well as their problems are layered. They are situated in a beautiful area of central Brooklyn and they are is surrounded by picturesque neighborhoods where a happy middle class finds identity.

ments. It seems as if the want to scream `I am cheaply built’. The windows are small and the buildings lack balconies, terraces, or other outdoor spaces.

To the north of the Marcy Houses, South Williamsburg is a neighborhood of Hasidic Jews. It is a slightly introverted neighborhood in a typical 19th century urban fabric with no problematic reputation. To the south and the east of the Marcy Houses, a mix of townhouses and rowhouses can be found. Signs of gentrification are visible in this “Harlem of Brooklyn”, but no disruption or threat to the original population is experienced so far. To the west, there’s a mix of warehouses, manufacturing buildings and residential buildings, characteristic of many areas in Brooklyn. Marcy Houses’ reputation, and the ‘Projects’ reputation in general, is bad. People often refer to them as a collection of households with a lot of social problems. Maps and infographics show an above-average crime rate, especially compared to the directly surrounding neighborhood. There is no visible upward mobility since all the dwelling units are identical and it is not possible to move on to a better apartment within the neighborhood itself. Furthermore, the neighborhood is completely monofunctional. Nowhere there’s activity to be found: There are no shops, no offices or workshops. The buildings miss detail, let alone orna-

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AMBITION ambition 1: densification

860 new social units help clear the waiting list

1714 families live in the marcy houses

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ambition 2: diversification 600 new market rate units and

commercial spaces fund the new social units and reduce required federal subsidies for existing stock

market rate units reduce financial gap with 40%

(The net annual profit per market rate unit IS $26,000 ,the net loss per social unit IS $15,000) page | 15


MARCY HOUSES | A CASE STUDY OF SOCIAL HOUSING IN NEW YORK CITY

ambition 3: integration

INTEGRATE BY DRAWING new

connections

to the surrounding neighborhood

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MARCY HOUSES | A CASE STUDY OF SOCIAL HOUSING IN NEW YORK CITY

ambition 3: integration

integrate by

densifyING

and

diversifyING the building stock

integrate in A

historical and spatial context

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MARCY HOUSES | A CASE STUDY OF SOCIAL HOUSING IN NEW YORK CITY

new city blocks are either strongly densified or they get high quality green public space

a rational grid of 20x20 feet is superimposed and serves as a guidance for all new build volumes

The hisToricAL street grid is reintroduced to make new connections tHrough the neighborhood

The existing building stock remains untouched except for a some minor strategic demolishment

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MARCY HOUSES | A CASE STUDY OF SOCIAL HOUSING IN NEW YORK CITY

masterplan In the urban design for the Marcy Houses, I re-introduce the grid, but with a smaller pixel size. This grid radically departs from the existing footprints of the Marcy Houses. This will change the meaning of the buildings and public spaces. It offers opportunities for further optimization, like diversification of the subregions and drawing new connections throughout the area, with new users and means of transportation. It will make the Marcy Projects more lively and assures a better integration with the surrounding city. The new urban blocks can be filled in thematically. Where the existing Marcy Projects are bipolar i.e., a parkcity without real quality green, we can now make a clear choice per urban block: densification or greening. The different subregions are now diversified and offer users an opportunity to orient themselves. The current landscaping and urban planning in the Marcy houses will disappear: fences, curvy pathways, the poor pieces of

greenery, and the concrete entry plazas will be replaced by a subtle designed Brooklyn street grid. For the design of the subregions, I adopt a Romantic approach: free association and citing from the historical, but also literal, context of the Marcy Houses. The historical layers of the area are made experiential by salvaging and optimizing large sections of the currently existing buildings. The users and their experiences in every microclimate of the urban plan are the central focus, not an urban or architectonic concept. The new grid automatically provides the omnidirectional buildings with new fronts and backs. This offers the opportunity to design a new street-sidewalk-entrances sequence. Some of the buildings will get individualized front yards or nice stoops. There is enough inspiration in the surrounding city to arrive at a user-friendly and attractive street design.

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MARCY HOUSES | A CASE STUDY OF SOCIAL HOUSING IN NEW YORK CITY

building As mentioned, NYCHA, and with it the City of New York, has a problem. There is 1.5 time more social housing needed than currently available. It has to be funded in a different way than traditionally done, because federal funding cannot satisfy the necessary quantity and quality. For this I am adding another 25% of marketrate apartments and commercial spaceds. With this formal goal of a 1.75 times densification, this project will also be a search for what is justified: Does an architect need to program this actively or is a more modest role warranted, where the architect is a facilitator? Is it time for utopian schemes or are smaller-scale interventions better for the Marcy Projects?

urban grounds are used more efficiently and the neighborhood may become more lively and livable. The existing buildings are not sacred but they are the starting point of design: My point of departure is to oppose demolition where possible: Design research should reveal the qualities of the existing buildings, and these qualities should be a part of the new proposals

To meet the need for diversification of the neighborhood, I strive towards a typological mix, both in terms of apartment typology as well as functionality. In addition, the visual monotony of the neighborhood is interrupted via a mix of facade design: Buildings should be unique and identifiable. The Marcy Projects should be proud like New York City, showing off their resilience, as well as their richness in diversity and history. There is a need to design in the most efficient way because the apartments need to be affordable. This should never, however, be at the expense of excellent spatial quality of the homes. Luckily, NYCHA owns the Projects’ grounds, making a more creative approach possible, where the affordable apartments are in part paid for by more high income units and commercial functionality. As such, diversification becomes not only desirable from a socio-economic perspective, but also from a purely economical and affordability standpoint. In addition, as already said above, the scarce

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MARCY HOUSES | A CASE STUDY OF SOCIAL HOUSING IN NEW YORK CITY

IDEAL ORIENTATION FOR MAXIMIZING SUNLIGHT

THE SPATIAL QUALITY OF ADDING BUILDING VOLUMES WITH A MODERN FLOOR-CEILING HEIGHT

11 FEET FLOOR TO CEILING

MINIMAL BUT STRATEGIC DEMOLISHMENT

7 FEET FLOOR TO CEILING

20X20 FT SUPERIMPOSED GRID

BUILDING page | 29


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FIRST FLOOR NTS page | 32


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SECOND FLOOR NTS page | 33


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THIRD FLOOR NTS page | 34


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4TH FLOOR NTS page | 35


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5TH FLOOR NTS page | 36


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6TH FLOOR NTS page | 37


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7-10TH FLOORS NTS page | 38


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NORTH ELEVATION

EAST ELEVATION page | 40


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SOUTH ELEVATION

WEST ELEVATION page | 41


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MARCY HOUSES | A CASE STUDY OF SOCIAL HOUSING IN NEW YORK CITY

DETAILS 5.

1.

4. 6. 3.

2.

7.

8.

DIAGRAM SHOWING THE MAIN CONSTRUCTION COMPONENTS: 1. CONCRETE BEAMS AND COLUMNS 2. CONCRETE SYSTEM FLOOR 3. POORED IN PLACE TOP FLOOR 4. FLOOR FINISH 5. PREFABRICATED SANDWICH PANEL WITH BRICK VENEER 6. HIDDEN LEADERS 7. MASONRY 8. CONCRETE COVER FOR LEADERS page | 46


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CONSTRUCTION DETAIL page | 47


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APARTMENTS page | 58


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MARCY HOUSES | A CASE STUDY OF SOCIAL HOUSING IN NEW YORK CITY

APARTMENT TYPES 131 APARTMENTS (COMPARED TO 72 IN THE EXISTING SITUATION) AND COMMERCIAL SPACES MAKE UP FOR MORE THAN 1.75 DENSIFICATION.

COMMERCIAL SPACE

STANDARD APARTMENT (28)

SPLIT-LEVEL SPECIAL (25)

TRIPLEX LOFT (31)

CORNER L-SHAPED APARTMENT (7)

TOWER APARTMENT (21)

PENTHOUSE (14)

WORK/LIVE VILLA (1)

STUDIO APARTMENT (3)

GROUP APARTMENT (1)

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LIT E R A T U R E

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Architecture is no science, but these are some of the sources I’ve used. Attoe, Wayne, and Donn Logan. American Urban Architecture: Catalysts in the Design of Cities, Berkeley, 1989

Website Community Heritage Maps (http://www.communityheritagemaps. com)

Bloom, Nicholas Dagen, Affordable Housing in New York: The People, Places, and Policies That Transformed a City, Princeton, 2016

Website Department of City Planning New York City (http://www1.nyc.gov/ site/planning/index.page)

Bloom, Nicholas Dagen, Maintaining NYCHA: Debunking the Myth of Unmanageable High-Rise Public Housing, Urban Omnibus, 2015 Bloom, Nicholas Dagen, Public Housing That Worked. New York in the Twentieth Century, Philadelphia, 2009

Website New York City Housing Authority (http://www1.nyc.gov/site/nycha/index.page) Website Small Scale, Big Change, New Architectures of Social Engagement Museum of Modern Art New York (https:// www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2010/smallscalebigchange/)

Chakrabarti, Vishaan, A Country of Cities: A Manifesto for Urban America, New York, 2013 Hendriks, Peter, Rendabel sociaal bouwen blijft een droom, Follow the Money, 2013 Lasner, Matthew Gordon, The Case for Public Housing, The Nation, 2016 MacDonald, Elisabeth Suzanne, Enduring Complexity: A History of Brooklyn’s Parkways, Berkeley, 1999 New York City Housing Authority, PLANNYCHA: A Roadmap For Preservation, New York, 2011 Semuels, Alana, New York City’s Public-Housing Crisis, The Atlantic, 2015 Schwartz, Joel, The New York Approach Robert Moses, Urban Liberals, and Redevelopment of the Inner City, Columbus, 1993 Stern, Robert A.M., New York 1960: Architecture and Urbanism Between the Second World War and the Bicentennial, New York 1995 page | 63


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MARCY HOUSES A CASE STUDY OF SOCIAL HOUSING IN NEW YORK CITY Hans Maarten Wikkerink Academy of Architecture Amsterdam