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Macro-lots An amalgamated housing strategy for an incremental densification in East New York

author

Camiel Van Noten

promotors

Tom Thys Ward Verbakel readers

Jan Mannaerts Richard Plunz Michael Ryckewaert


© Copyright by K.U.Leuven Without written permission of the promoters and the authors it is forbidden to reproduce or adapt in any form or by any means any part of this publication. Requests for obtaining the right to reproduce or utilize parts of this publication should be addressed to K.U.Leuven, Faculty of Engineering – Kasteelpark Arenberg 1, B-3001 Heverlee (België). Telefoon +3216-32 13 50 & Fax. +32-16-32 19 88. A written permission of the promotor is also required to use the methods, products, schematics and programs described in this work for industrial or commercial use, and for submitting this publication in scientific contests. All images in this booklet are, unless credits are given, made or drawn by the authors (Studio Brooklyn).


Macro-lots An amalgamated housing strategy for an incremental densification in East New York


Thesis presented to obtain the degree of Master of engineering: architecture 2011-2012


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS This graduation project would not have been possible without the support of many people. I would like thank Tom Thys and Ward Verbakel for their invaluable devotion and unlimited ambition. For their precious time and inspiring insights, I thank Jan Mannaerts, Richard Plunz and Michael Ryckewaert. I am grateful to my friends and fellow students for their support and commitment to the studio. Finally, I wish to express my love and gratitude to my beloved parents; for their understanding, financial support and endless love, through the duration of my studies. Camiel Van Noten


ABSTRACT

Macro-Lots examines strategic mutations of existing lot divisions in

order to create a new housing condition, based on collective ownership. This thesis focuses on the northern region of East New York: an orthogonal landscape, characterized by its low density and state of incompleteness. Located at the edge of the city and inhabited by a socially disadvantaged class, these types of urban fabric symbolize the social inequality as a result from the uneven development inherent to neoliberal urbanisation. The most recent foreclosure crisis has proven that the current parcelization structure is not viable anymore. The system of private ownership of land led to high personal independency of European immigrants one hundred years ago, but now has become a major source of social and economic inequality. Therefore, the concept of a macro-lot derives from the idea that a new parcelization structure, consisting of larger ‘amalgamated’ lots, enables a new housing condition based on collective instead of private ownership. This graduation project consists of two main parts: ‘expose’ contains a historic analysis and a delineation of today’s problems and aims to identify and explain the major forces at work in East New York’s urban context. ‘Propose’ consists both of a proposed strategy, focussing on the macro-lot’s financial structure and organization, as well as an architectural design, resulting from the implementation of the strategy on an existing location.


1. SITE ANALYSIS

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introduction to east new york’s fabric the eucledian landscape a patchwork of lots photo essay

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2. A CRITICAL HISTORY OF HOUSING

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the village of new lots the birth of east new york ownership, a path to a stable community the decades of urban decay the lapse of homeownership reintroducing homeownership

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3. CURRENT ISSUES

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foreclose on banks, not on people an urban fabric under pressure affordability homeownership

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4. MACRO-LOT

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macro-lot utopia design intent financial structure sampling

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5. ARCHITECTURE OF A MACRO-LOT

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design concepts circulation typology 1 typology 2 typology 3 daycare

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6. EPILOGUE

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28 30 32 34 36

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72 74 80 84 90


1. SITE ANALYSIS This thesis investigates different strategies for dealing with the urban fabric of East New York: an endless succession of building blocks, equally divided into narrow, yet deep, lots. By regarding the fabric in its mere physical appearance, this chapter serves as a first introduction. The following pages contain an overview of the different structural elements (grid-block-lot), inherent to East New York. The urban fabric is the site.


INTRODUCTION TO EAST NEW YORK’S FABRIC To the east and north, East New York is bordered by the borough of Queens. An elevated subway separates East New York from Brownsville to the West. To the south, the region is adjacent to Jamaica Bay, which is connected with the Lower New York Bay through the Rockaway inlet. As mentioned in the site analysis, East New York is characterized by a morphological gradient running along the north-south axis. In the region south of Linden Avenue, the orthogonal grid gradually dissolves into Jamaica Bay’s landscape and a larger grain is introduced, including public housing towers, big retail stores and industrial buildings. This thesis, however, focuses on the northern region of East New York, historically known as the village of New Lotts: a predominantly residential area, consisting of low-rise, mostly detached houses, placed in an euclidean grid: the urban fabric of East New York.

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SITE ANALYSIS

East New York, located at the east of the borough of Brooklyn, in relation to it’s wider context. By drawing East New York’s built fabric, the morphological gradient becomes apparent. The focus area of this thesis (marked in red) is located at the northern section of the urban fabric of East New York. Compared to its surroundings, the area’s state of incompleteness is immediately noticeable.


2 km

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This mental map represents the neighborhood of East New York after just a few weeks of research. By drawing this by heart, an inevitable abstraction occurs, creating a summarization that shows only the main elements.

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SITE ANALYSIS


Queens

Atlantic Ave

Queens

Brownsville

Linden Blvd

Y EWA

GAT

Jamaica Bay

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72m

72m 66m

56m 275m

66m

191m

218m CROWN HEIGHTS

THE EUCLEDIAN LANDSCAPE

BROWNSVILLE

131m

157m

PROSPECT HEIGHTS

NEHEMIAH

EAST NEW YORK

Although, at first sight, the

endless succession of building blocks may appear monotonous and isotropic, the study area has some unique characteristics that distinguish it from other regions in Brooklyn.

An East New York building block compared in terms of density and size with other typical building blocks in Brooklyn.

The northern region of East New York is diverse in terms of land-use. Manufacturing initially located along Atlantic Avenue, has gradually expanded throughout the urban fabric and resulted in the presence of local, and often

A schematic representation of the northern region of East New York: a predominantly residential area with a clear parcelization structure, randomly scattered informal manufacturing and public transportation cutting through the fabric.

informal, manufacturing interwoven with the residential tissue. Because of the recent threats to local manufacturing caused by zoning policies, this combination is exceptional in Brooklyn. In terms of density, the study area has not been developed to its maximum potential. Almost 80% of the study area is underbuilt according to the current zoning regulations. The study area is well connected to the rest of Brooklyn, because of its proximity to Broadway Junction, where five subway lines intersect. Taking into account PlaNYC 20301, a plan which promotes densification in proximity to public transportation, the connectivity is an important asset for the study area.

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SITE ANALYSIS

1

PlaNYC is an effort released by New York City Mayor Bloomberg in 2007 to prepare the city for one million more residents.


liberty steel inc

15


A PATCHWORK OF LOTS Each building block is parcelized into narrow, yet deep, lots. The top image shows an impression of a longitudinal section through an East New York building block. The second image illustrates a transverse section. The detached house is the most common typology in the northern region of East New York. The dwelling is placed against one side of the lot boundary, making room for a narrow passage to go to the backyard. A fenced front yard creates the transition between the sidewalk and the entrance of the dwelling. In the case of rowhouses, the narrow passage is omitted and the width of the lot becomes slightly smaller.

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SITE ANALYSIS

A simple plan to illustrate the basic layout and dimensions of a lot with a detached dwelling, the most common typology in the northern region of East New York.


7-11m

2.5m

4m

backyard

1.2m

passage

sidewalk

frontyard

8m

18m - 22m

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PHOTO ESSAY

The following pages contain

some pictures taken during our visit to East New York. The left image shows a detached house with a front porch. The narrow passage between the houses leads directly to the back yard. When walking along the streets of East New York, the large trees inside the building blocks are clearly visible. The right image shows a variation on the rowhouse typology. It should be noted that the study area is predominantly lowrise: 80% of the buildings are less than three stories

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SITE ANALYSIS


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Although the exact same typology is often used several times in a row, the streetscape still appears diverse. A wide variety of sidings and cornices are placed as second layer against the facades and decorate the houses. The righthand picture shows the presence of often ‘zone-alien’ manufacturing in the midst of a residential area. Most of the uses are automotive-related, and scattered throughout the study area. This mixeduse manufacturing/residential is valuable, due to continuous conversion of manufacturing-zoned land to higher uses.

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SITE ANALYSIS


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East New York is a diverse but economically disadvantaged region and can be best described as an ‘arrival city’. Once an enclave for working class Italian, Jewish, and other European immigrants, East New York is now a predominately African American with a significant Puerto Rican and Dominican population as well. The foreign born population still plays a significant role in East New York. The number of immigrant households accounts for nearly one third of the total population.

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SITE ANALYSIS


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2. A CRITICAL HISTORY OF HOUSING IN EAST NEW YORK Since a macro-lot strategy aims to intervene in the existing parcelization structure and socioeconomic organization, an in depth understanding of East New York’s history is crucial. However instead of reciting facts, this chapter tries to identify the underlying mechanisms by analysing the diverse agencies in operation as well as the power structures which determine the built environment and its social composition.


18th century THE VILLAGE OF NEW LOTS

The first major event in East

New York’s history was the settlement by the Dutch in 1690. Under the

Drawing of a farmhouse along New Lotts Ave., based on an old picture.

name New Lotts of Flatbush, the area was developed into ten farms owned by different families. There is a clear link between Brooklyn’s topography and the geographic origin of New Lotts. The village of New Lotts came into existence as a crossroad town. A pass in the chain of hills allowed a few 18th century roads to cross the topography of the island, including the so-called ferry road from Brooklyn to Jamaica, which was called “Jamaica Pass”, now known as Broadway Junction. In the 18th century, New Lotts was a part

Map based on the NewYork Bay, Harbor and environs by the U.S. Coast Survey Depot, published in 1845.

study area

main roads main roads

farm

farms

of a comprehensive system of a number of farming villages. These farming

wetlands wetlands

villages, like Flatbush, Canarsie and Bedford were connected by roads which

forest forest

more or less followed the topography. Along these roads more farms developed, resulting in an interconnected farming network.

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HISTORICAL ANALYSIS

fields

fields


2 km

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THE BIRTH OF EAST NEW YORK

A second major event

was the arrival of Colonel John R. Pitkin. Arriving in New Lotts in 1835, with money and ambition, he envisioned an urbanized future for New Lotts. On the rural land, he built factories, homes and schools. To make clear what he had in mind, he named his new settlement East New York. Throughout the nineteenth century, North America was one of the destinations for the largest international migration in human history. Between 1800 and the First World War, about 50 million Europeans left the continent permanently for a new home. During this period of transatlantic migration, East New York was mainly inhabited by German working class immigrants. To cope with this growth, East New York’s grid was plotted out stretching from the Long Island Railroad to New Lots Avenue. The euclidean grid mercilessly conquered the former agricultural landscape, without taking into account the topography, the waterways and the tangled roads of historic villages. The idea of the grid was always implemented in exactly the same way: explicit, without any exceptions or refinements. The 19th century grid

1830s Conceptual drawing of the status quo of the mid 19th century: the first grid next to the 18th century landscape, and manufacturing along the Long Island Railroad. Map based on the NewYork Bay, Harbor and environs by the U.S. Coast Survey Depot, published in 1885 and the map of New York, Brooklyn and viciny by area & G.W. & study C.B. Colton Co, published in 1885

study main area roads

railroad farm railroads

is a direct translation of an artificial concept, planned in anticipation for yet

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nonexistent clients. The building blocks, equally divided into lots, liberated

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East New York from its physical underlayer and became the foundation for the 19th century urban growth.

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HISTORICAL ANALYSIS

fields

fields


2 km

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OWNERSHIP, A PATH TO A STABLE COMMUNITY With the installation of five electrified subway and trolley lines in the beginning of the 20th century, a demographic boom began. To fulfill the great demand for new housing, many new-law tenements1 were built in East New York. More Italians, Russians, Poles and Jewish people arrived, filling in the cheap tenements or, more importantly, buying newly plotted and inexpensive lots. By the great depression of the 1930s, East New York was completely built up. East New York, along other ‘pre-WWI arrival cities’, had proven to be successful in transforming a group of European immigrants into a stable, blue-collar middle class. The most important feature that made East New York a successful arrival city in the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century, was the scale of homeownership among the newly arrived poor. The land had been

1930s 1

New law tenements were required to include a large courtyard which consumed more space than the usual airshaft. Illustration of East New York as a succesfull arrival city, inhabited by a stable middle class community of European immigrants. Map based on the Williams Map of Brooklyn, by Williams map and guide & Co, publishedstudy in 1922. area

trolley trolley line line subway subway

subdivided by speculators, like, in the case of East New York, Colonel John

elevated elevatedsubway line

R. Pitkin, who had bought plots of farmland and sold divided lots cheaply.

railwayrailroad

It was the landownership that offered a clear path to social stability and to middle class vitality.

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HISTORICAL ANALYSIS

wetlands wetlands


2 km

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THE DECADES OF URBAN DECAY

After World War II,

two new waves of migration arrived. The post-slavery exodus, known as the Great Migration, sent millions of southern rural ex-slaves in an optimistic search for economic prosperity in the cities. Equally impoverished Puerto Ricans were displaced from Puerto Rico because of a vast increase of unemployment, and found their way to the north American cities. In the same period, heavy manufactures started moving to cheaper locations outside the city. The resulting relocation of employment outside the city was, together with the mobility due to the new highways, one of the main

1960s Conceptual drawing of the 1960s status quo: the white middle class and the local business moved away and the physical conditions rapidly deteriorated. Map based on the 1960s public housing study area map by the NYCHA.

reasons for the so-called White Flight: white collar workers began to move

railway railway

to suburban areas in proximity to the relocated factories, while African

public publichousing housing 1950- -1970 1970 1950

Americans and Puerto Ricans arrived in East New York, in search for cheap housing. This resulted in a radical racial shift in the population of East New York, from 85 percent white in 1960 to 80 percent African American and Puerto Rican by 1966 .

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HISTORICAL ANALYSIS

BeltParkway Parkway Belt wetlands wetlands


2 km

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ia

bank

regi

ng

urb

lini

sub

red

blockbuster

$

hip owners $$ $$

exploited renters

THE LAPSE OF HOMEOWNERSHIP

As the new mi­grants

Scheme illustrating the blockbusting mechanism, resulting in a sudden lapse of homeownership.

began to move into tenements, the banks redlined the area. As a result, tenement landlords could neither refinance nor sell their buildings to legitimate buyers. Many started to milk their buildings, harassing their white tenants out in order to get rent increases from the ‘house-hungry’ African Americans

1

Atlantic Ave. in the 1960s - a decade marked by a swift demographic transformation.

2

When mostly European immigrants arrived at East New York in the beginning of the 20th century, they were able to cheaply buy a piece of land. In only 30 years East New York became a stable middle class community.

3

The sudden racial shift had a tremendous impact on East New York’s housing policy. Racism, redlining and cutbacks on services resulted in a quick deterioration.

and Puerto Ricans. They then cut back on services to their minority tenants, as a result of which, physical conditions rapidly deteriorated. White owners of the individual lots in and around the tenement area were frightened and alarmed. This was the perfect setup for blockbusters, who descended on the area like a plague. Work­ing on the fears and prejudices of white owners, they offered quick cash, sufficient for a down payment on a house in a “safer” area. In a very short period, almost all the properties were owned by indifferent real estate brokers and speculators, who did not live in East New York. Their racist policies and unrestrained exploitation of African Americans and Puerto Ricans took away any possibility of social advancement of the East New York community and resulted in a quick deterioration of the neighborhood and residential instability.

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HISTORICAL ANALYSIS


1

2

3

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REINTRODUCING HOMEOWNERSHIP

In the 1980s,

New York City launched an unprecedented initiative to rebuild the housing stock that had been devastated in the urban crisis of the 1970s. However, due to the shift towards neoliberalism, the city no longer aimed anymore to construct affordable housing itself. Instead it encouraged non-profit organizations or private developers to construct affordable housing with subsidies and low-interest loans. This change in policy was expressed by the Community Reinvestment Act, which provided an incentive for financial institutions to provide mortgage loans in low- and moderate- income communities. The neoliberal housing policy is thus characterized by fewer governmental control and the resulting privatization of the provision of affordable housing. Most of the rebuilding efforts in East New York have focused on rental housing, but a few programs provided homeownership – one of those is called Nehemiah. The Nehemiah Program has played a major role in the resurgence of East New York through its extensive efforts to build homes for low income families to purchase. Since the 1980s, the Nehemiah program has been responsible for building over 2900 single family homes, which

1980s Scheme illustrating the neoliberal housing policy and its dependency on the private sector and the financial institutions. Map illustrating the neglect of the northern region of East New York in terms of housing redevelopment.

Nehemiah railway

accounts for nearly one fourth of all owner-occupied homes in East New

public housing 1950 - 1980

York. Typically, the Nehemiah Program built projects consist of about 500

Belt Parkway

units, each on large tracts of donated city-owned land. Generally, the units are quite modest, built in identical block-long rows of single-family homes.

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HISTORICAL ANALYSIS

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2 km

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3. CURRENT ISSUES When compared to Brooklyn, East New York is characterized by its distinct demographic characteristics. Having to deal with serious socioeconomic issues, East New York symbolizes social inequality as a result from uneven development inherent to neoliberal urbanisation. This recently became apparent by the 2007 housing crisis, that has hit East New York particularly hard. This chapter will discuss the foreclosure crisis and how it affects East New York, and continues with other problems related to housing, such as absentee landlordship and rent affordability.


This map of the five boroughs shows the relation of foreclosure rate to the percentage of non-white population.

FORECLOSE ON BANKS, NOT ON PEOPLE

Since the change in the housing policy in the 1980s banks no longer shunned segregated minorities and let them buy a house more easily by offering them a below-

The drawing illustrates the impact of a foreclosure rate of 16% on a community. Foreclosures often appear in clusters, which magnifies the impact.

market interest rate. Due to these measures, the homeownership of black families in Brooklyn almost doubled in the 1990s. However, these mortgage loans were often subprime1. Profit-driven real estate brokers issued mortgage loans too easily, causing a rapid increasing real estate value and creating a speculative housing bubble. In 2007, the housing bubble exploded, causing a severe real estate value decrease and the consequential foreclosures2. The northern region of East New York was especially hit hard by the foreclosure

1

A mortgage loan that holders cannot fulfil.

2

The legal process by which an owner’s right to a property is terminated, usually due to default.

crisis: its foreclosure rate of 16.8% in 2010 was three times higher than the rest of the borough.

“To walk the streets of

Brownsville and East New York, Brooklyn, is

to see neighborhoods ravaged by foreclosure, homes boarded up and

” - Michael Powell, New York Times,

400K

40K

05 March 2010

13K

marshals’ notices taped to doors.

foreclosed property

median household yearly income > 60% non

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median sin(multiple) gle family home value

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rate: a direct result of the privatization and the increased dependency on

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The top map shows the undeniable relation between race and foreclosure

white median yearly rent

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CURRENT ISSUES

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introduced in the 1980s.

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the financial sector, which are both inherent to the neoliberal housing policy,

foreclosure(s)

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liberty steel inc

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“Members of the Occupy Wall Street movement took over a foreclosed home in East New York, Brooklyn, on Tuesday with plans to make it habitable for a needy family. With a soggy cluster of balloons floating beside him, a shaggy-haired demonstrator kept watch on Wednesday inside the front gate of a dilapidated two-story home in East New York, Brooklyn. The residential block was mostly empty, except for a police car idling at the curb. [...] The goal was to restore the home to a suitable condition so that a needy family could move in. On Wednesday, the reality of the task was clear: the ceiling was covered in mold, the carpets were mildewed, walls were partially knocked down, and there were a pile of sleeping bags and a beer bottle on the floor. And so the work began.�

The frustration caused by foreclosure and racial inequality was demonstrated very recently by the Occupy Wall Street organizers who participated in a collaborative takeover to re-occupy a vacant foreclosed home in East New York for a foreclosed family (portrayed in the picture on p.38).

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CURRENT ISSUES

A excerpt from an article on the protests against foreclosures in East New York. Written by Victor Blue, New York Times, 07 December 2011


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12.7%

16.2%

11.4%

24.6%

3.9%

3.4%

23.2%

AN URBAN FABRIC UNDER PRESSURE

Due to its turbulent history, characterized by swift transformations, East New York is ethnically diverse. In 2010, its ethnic composition was 49% African American and 37% Hispanic. Whites represent less than 5% of the population. The number of immigrant households accounts for more than 30% of the total population. As shown in the image above, East New York’s household composition is

An overview of the percentual share of different household compositions in East New York. The angle of the arrows indicate a decrease or increase in the last decade.

unique. Most striking is the high presence of single mothers, who account for almost one fourth of East New York’s families. Also remarkable is the growing number of elderly. ‘Traditional’ households only represent 16%, therefore the adaption of East New York’s housing stock to it’s unusual familial composition, forms one of the major challenges for the region.

Top image: A local resident showed us around and took us to the roof of a 22-storey public housing project, to get an overview of East New York. below image: 85% of East Brooklyn’s population is working class. This picture of workers taking a break is taken at East New York’s industrial business district, adjacent to the study area.

Another demographic trend is the movement of African Americans and Hispanics from the centre of Brooklyn towards the outskirts of Brooklyn in the East. They are ‘pushed away’ by increased rents, due to gentrification and replaced by a wealthier class. At a larger scale, the population of immigrants in New York is expected to continue to grow. According to a 2009 study1, the United State will require 35 million more workers than its working-age population can provide by 2030. This shortage is caused by nationwide shrinking family sizes and a fast aging population. Due to these phenomena, the fabric of East New York will either have to expand or become denser. Since the study area is characterized by a state of incompleteness and a high rate of vacancy, it represents an opportunity for future redevelopment.

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CURRENT ISSUES

1

A study by the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business.


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AFFORDABILITY

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In a region where almost 40% of the population

lives below the poverty threshold1, housing affordability is a critical issue. Due This graph shows the evolution in time of the 3 main influences on affordability: household income, rental prices and home value.

to displacement of the poor towards the outskirts of Brooklyn the median household income for East New York, dropped 14% in the last 20 years. Even though stagnated in the last decade, East New York’s median household income only amounts to half of New York City’s average. Despite the efforts of the government for rent stabilization, the rental prices continue to increase. In 1990 the monthly rent was $772 per month. By now the median gross rent is $864: an increase of 11%. Even though the burst of the real estate bubble caused a decrease in home

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increase again.

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values, they are still higher than in 2003 and they’re expected to start to This of course has an enormous impact on affordability. A study by the 350K 350K

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American Community Survey in 2008 showed that more than 45% of the 300K 300K

East New York households spend more than 35% or more of their household 11K 11K 10K 10K

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CURRENT ISSUES

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adds up to 65%.

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income to rent. For families with a mortgage for their home this percentage

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The poverty threshold is calculated each year by the U.S. Census Bureau. The number depends on age, size of the household and the amount of children under 18 years.

median household medianmedian household yearlyhousehold income median yearly re median yearlyyearly re median medianmedian yearly rentrentsingle fam mediamedian nmedian single famihome ly homesingle value fam value recession recession recession recession median household yearly income


HOMEOWNERSHIP

Opportunities for homeownership are an

important asset for a community. Homeowners tend to take better care of their homes and are more involved in local organizations, because of their financial stake. Furthermore, homeownership often results in upward social mobility and will increase the region’s economic independency. However, the sudden lapse of homeownership, due to the socio-economic transformation of East New York in the 1960s, still has its influences today. The current housing stock exists for a large part of former single family dwellings, which currently are divided into multiple rentable units. Since landowners often do not live in East New York, the study area has to deal with a high rate of absentee ownership. The current parcelization structure, based on private ownership of land, is not adapted to the uses of the dwellings, which are inhabited by multiple families. This typological disuse often results in an underused backyard.

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4. MACRO-LOT Although many of the current issues, such as affordability, typological disuse, and the rate of foreclosure have a socio-economic origin, they are all inherently connected to East New York’s parcelization structure. The macro-lot strategy questions the American dream of

private

landownership, and proposes an alternative on the current lot-division. This chapter introduces the basic concepts of a macro-lot and ends with a proposed financial structure.


The current parcelization structure is not adapted to the current uses of the dwellings, which are inhabited by multiple families.


MACRO-LOT UTOPIA: The system of private ownership of land that led to high personal independency one hundred years ago, now has become a major source of social and economic inequality. The concept of a macro-lot derives from the idea that a new parcelization structure, consisting of larger lots, enables a new housing condition based on collective instead of private ownership.

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MACRO-LOT


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New Lotts

a macro-lot

MACRO-LOT

Although many of the current issues, such as affordability, typological disuse, and foreclosure have a socio-economic origin, they are all inherently connected to the parcelization structure of East New York. Therefore, a macro-lot proposes both a physical concept of combining multiple lots to enable new housing conditions, and a socio-economic strategy, which strives for affordable homeownership as a collective interest.

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MACRO-LOT


AMALGAMATED, [uh-mal-guh-meyt], verb, a·mal·ga·mat·ed, a·mal·ga·mat·ing:

the process

of uniting multiple entities into one whole. A macro-lot arises by combining multiple portions of or complete lots together. Local homeowners, who encounter financial difficulties, can decide to join the macro-lot. Absent landowners can increase profit by selling a portion of land to the macro-lot.

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HOUSING STRATEGY A macro-lot will provide new housing units adapted to East New York’s diverse household compositions. Furthermore, the new context, obtained by omitting the parcel boundaries, enables different typologies as a alternative on the existing housing stock. As an answer to the current housing issues, the main goal of a macro-lot is the provision of affordable homeownership. The division of land- and homeownership, based on community land trust ideas, is the fundamental principle of the financial structure of a macro-lot.

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MACRO-LOT


INCREMENTAL DENSIFICATION

Taking the aspect of time into account, a macro lot is designed as a gradual strategy and is not to be built in one instance. In an initial phase a macrolot can consist of just two combined lots. Over time other lots can completely or partially join. As a macro-lot grows extra housing units can be added, resulting in a gradual densification.

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ORGANIZATION

The concept of a macro-lot implies both a physical aspect of one large lot, consisting of several combined lots, as well as an organizational aspect. The righthand drawing illustrates how the design intents are translated into a financial scheme showing the different processes and stakeholders of a macro-lot project. BOARD The board represents the macro-lot’s decision-making body, consisting of the homeowners, municipal officials and local funders. The board collectively owns the land of the macro-lot as a land trust1, manages the funding and plans the construction of new houses. FUNDING Regardless of ideals, money is critical for a macro-lot to function. The macrolot will have revenues from the sale of dwellings. However in an initial stage, the macro-lot will have to raise funding to buy land and to construct new units. With affordable homeownership as collective interest for a community, the macro-lot relies on local community strengthening organizations who offer low-interest loans, such as the Community Preservation Corporation2 and East Brooklyn Congregations3. LAND ACQUISITION The first task of a macro-lot is the acquisition of land. The macro-lot can buy complete lots or portions of a lot. A vacant lot can be bought from a private owner at competitive prices or from the HPD4, which owns the largest part of unbuilt land in East New York. Another way to acquire a complete lot is to allow a foreclosed property to enter the macro-lot. In this case the macrolot buys both the complete lot and the foreclosed dwelling from a financial institution. Absent landowners, driven by profit, can sell a portion of their property to the macro-lot. In some cases the narrow passage between the detached houses must be bought, in order to secure the accessibility of the macro-lot.

1

The concept of a land trust originated in the 1970s. A land trust is a nonprofit corporation which acquires and manages land on behalf of the residents.

2

The Community Preservation Corporation, founded in 1972, helps developers finance and build affordable housing in order to strengthen communities.

3

The East Brooklyn Congregations is an example of congregation-based organization, serving several neighborhoods in New York City. EBC is best known for founding Nehemiah Homes and building 2,100 houses that low-income families could afford to buy.

4

The New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development is the mayoral agency of New York City responsible for developing and maintaining the city’s stock of affordable housing.

CONSTRUCTION The macro-lot will use the funding to construct new affordable housing units, in collaboration with a local contractor. The planning and the choice of typology is made by the board. HOMEBUYING PROCESS Any building already located on the macro-lot or later constructed is sold to an individual homeowner. However, the macro-lot will maintain ownership of the land, which is conveyed to individual homeowners through long-term ground leases. By doing so the land will be taken away from the real estate market and long term affordability will be ensured.

56

MACRO-LOT


HOMEBUYING PROCESS

ION TRUCT CONS local contractor board

PAR TIC IP

homeowners & municipality

FUNDIN G

ION AT

EBC CPC HPD

OTS

MA

A ALG

AM

D LAN

e

sag

ION

IT UIS

C

AQ

L TED

ide

div

as +p

ide

div

hpd

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a vac

lot

ose

ecl

for

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per

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U.S. BANK

57


Dividing (Apportioning) & Merging Lots Builders, Developers, Architects, Engineers, and Property Owners may request permission from both Finance and the Department of Buildings to split one parcel of land into two or more parcels. This is known as apportionment.

You can also join two or more

parcels into one large parcel, known as a merger. Many tax and zoning regulations determine if the request will be approved or denied.

The Finance Tax Map Office

is responsible for processing these requests.

- NYC Department of Finance

Regardless of ideals, money is critical for a macro-lot to function. The righthand image is a possible loan application for the aqcuisition of land and the construction of new units, directed to the Community Preservation Corporation.

58

MACRO-LOT


59


k enc

He

nd

rix

St

Sch

.

Ave

SAMPLING

Isometring drawing that illustrates the current situation.

In the next chapter the strategy will be applied to an

existing sample of the urban fabric of East New York. The sample of six lots wide is located between Hendrix St. and Schenck Ave. The chosen

1

The Greater Refuge Ministries church is located next to two vacant lots, located at Hendrix St.

2

A picture of some detached houses located a Schenk Ave. Notice the pair of shoes hanging on the powerline.

sample represents the urban tissue of the study area and contains a variety of conditions. Both detached houses, along Schenk Ave., and common rowhouses, along Hendrix St. are present in the sample. The Greater Refugee Church is located next to two vacant lots. Furthermore, the sample is well connected, due to the proximity of subway line 3, which leads directly to Broadway Junction, where 5 subway lines intersect.

62

MACRO-LOT


1

2

63


5. ARCHITECTURE OF A MACRO-LOT The architectural design of a macro-lot resulted from an extensive investigation of different scales and dimensions and a search for the balance between privacy and collectivity. The final result explores the limits of maximal density, without compromising on quality of space. This chapter clarifies the different design concepts and covers all the aspects inherent to a macro-lot.


65


2012

66

ARCHITECTURE OF A MACRO-LOT


2030

5

20

67


1

Schenck Ave.

1

2

1

2

1 33

1

2

2

3

x

x

Hendrix St.

DESIGN CONCEPTS

Even though the idea of a macro-lot is based on collectivity, it should also be tolerant to individuality, without polarizing the two into different opposites. Therefore the design of a macrolot starts with a clear definition of different spaces: public circulation space, the collective garden and the private garden. Each type of open space is linked to a specific typology. Typology 1 is always connected to a private garden. Typology 2 has a workspace on the ground floor, that serves as an activator for the circulation space. Typology 3 contains compact studios, but is linked to a large collective garden. Where the macrolot meets the street, a more public function, such as a day-care community center, youth house or public playground (marked by ‘x’) is included. The right page illustrates the design concept of the typologies. A distinction is made between ‘infrastructure’ and infill. By defining a clear set of design parameters, such as front doors, stairs and fixed furniture, the architectural language is brought back to its bare essentials. A typology and its corresponding outdoor space is approached as the organization of how the typology is used, instead as an architectural object.

68

ARCHITECTURE OF A MACRO-LOT

The implementation of the different typologies in the macro-lot. Each typology corresponds with a different open space. The rotation of the numbers indicating the typologies corresponds with the orientation of the typology as shown on the right page. Overview of the three typologies. To illustrate the flexibility only the ‘infrastructure’ is shown, the inner walls and furniture are infill.


MICRO-UNIT APARTMENT 3

8 units of 16m² collective ground floor shared stairway collective garden/shared terrace

SIMPLEX WORK/LIVE 2

2 units of 35m² workspace on ground floor exterior stairs and front door public square + roofgarden

1

SINGLE FAMILY HOME 1 unit of 48m² front yard own front door private garden

3

roof

1

2

2

0

1

1

0

0

69


Vivis. Senteri ptelistime nes cat.

Castem.

Mulicaectuam

auci inte ciam inatiam quonsus, criam ne nihilii ssendiem terfena tuisquitil hos huiure re, coentes abut audefesciam derfit finte, tus, demplinequid nos, mente ma, firtis, tem iam locum untempesime

nondacchuius

inari, nequer iacrestro inarit;

70

ARCHITECTURE OF A MACRO-LOT


71


5

15

CIRCULATION

Some of the narrow passages between de detached houses serve as entrance to the macro-lot. This results in a narrow circulation network entangled between the houses of the macro-lot. When walking in between the fences along the narrow path, one experiences an alternating sequence of open and closed spaces. The fences along the route vary in height, resulting in different visual relations, as shown on the righthand images. In some cases a pedestrian can catch a glimpse inside a private garden, in other cases the gardens remain hidden. The black dotted line on the top map shows the field of view, when walking inside the macro-lot. At some points the narrow path widens to create small outdoor spaces, which are activated by the shared offices of typology 2. As mentioned earlier, the macro-lot searches a balance between private and collective ownership. This is reflected in the use of greenery along the route. To avoid undefined open space, all the greenery clearly belongs to a certain typology. For example the front garden of the single family typology lies along the public route, but is maintained by the homeowner. In other cases the narrow path will be activated by large overhanging trees.

72

ARCHITECTURE OF A MACRO-LOT

circulation space front yard overhanging tree field of view


Small gates make backyards directly accessible from the circulation route. Pedestrians walk by the front gardens of typology 1.

Although passengers cannot look over the fence, the large overhanging trees show the presence of the collective garden.

73


5

TYPOLOGY 1 is a two storey single family house and is always linked to a private garden. The 50m² house includes a ground level living area, orientated towards the garden. Storage space is provided underneath the stairs, leading to the two bedrooms and bathroom. The front door, accessible by small steps, is adjacent to the circulation path. To add greenery to the public route, front yards are placed next to the front door. Although living space is orientated towards the garden, a kitchen window overlooks the circulation path. Typology 1 is characterized by its close relation to the opposite preexisting house. The former deep lot is divided into two smaller gardens. A hedge separates the two gardens, allowing the gardens to be perceived as one green element.

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ARCHITECTURE OF A MACRO-LOT

15

Ground floor plan of a proposed macro-lot, with types 1 and the corresponding private gardens marked in red. Detailed plans of typology 1 and a cross section, illustrating the relation with the preexisting dwellings.


1

0

2

5

0

2

preexisting dwelling

5

typology 1

2 75


This house in Howard Beach, a wealthy community near East New York, served as inspiration for typology 1. Even though the front garden is adjacent to the street, it still clearly belongs to the house.


77


View on people walking along another entrance of the macro-lot.

Although a preexisting house sells a portion of its lot, it does not necessarily join the macro-lot.

The single family house is elevated 0.6 m from the ground and is completely oriented toward the garden.

A low hedge divides the former lot into two smaller garden.

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ARCHITECTURE OF A MACRO-LOT


BEFORE

Each studio of 16 m² has one large window overlooking the trees.

The outlay of the buildings in a macro-lot has to be adapted to the preexisting green structure inside the building block.

The collective garden contains a paved area which is linked to a polyvalent space with a kitchen. It can be used as a cafe or as a place to cook and eat outside.

AFTER The large trees inside a macrolot block the view to opposite houses.

A collective garden is only possible if the preexisting houses adjacent to the garden agree to join the macro-lot. To contrast with the patchwork of rectangular private gardens; the collective garden is designed as a raw landscape.

79


5

TYPOLOGY 2 includes two simplex apartments and a public function on the ground floor, which is linked to a broadening in the narrow circulation route. The implementation of the ground floor function is not static and can vary over time. This proposal includes two shared offices, an extension of the preexisting church, and a multipurpose space with a kitchen. The latter is an exception, since it’s not connected to the public route, and will be explained more detailed later. The kitchen divides the simplex apartment into a sleeping and a living area. Because of the strategic placement of the kitchen, the sleeping area can later on be divided into two separate bedrooms or a bedroom combined with a study room. Residents of the simplex apartments each have their own front door, accessible by an external staircase. The generously proportioned structure doubles up as a terrace. Finally, the exterior staircase leads to a roof garden, which can be used by the two families.

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ARCHITECTURE OF A MACRO-LOT

15

Ground floor plan of a proposed macro-lot, with types 2 and the corresponding small outdoor spaces marked in red. Detailed plans of typology 2. Unlike the fixed elements, the infill is flexible and illustrated by a dotted line.


2

5

2

5

0

1

0

1

2

roof

2

roof

2

5

81


This image gives an impression of typology 2 and the associated collective open space. The right side of the image shows the square between the Greater Refugee Ministries church and a macro-lot’s building. The exterior staircase doubles up as a terrace and leads to the roof garden. The ground level is used as an extension of the church, where meetings can be held. The three typologies are mostly designed in terms of dimensions and organization of functions. Therefore the architectural appearance is additional. Since the new dwellings will be built by a local contractor, buildings have a vernacular appearance.

82

ARCHITECTURE OF A MACRO-LOT


83


5

TYPOLOGY 3 Unlike the previous typologies, the 16 m² studios of this four storey housing block, do not have their own front door. Instead the studios are accessible by a collective ground level and a shared internal staircase. The studios are reduced to the bare essentials and are intended for one or two person households. The eight studios in a housing block are linked by shared spaces, such as the collective garden, the roof terrace and the shared ground floors where function, such as a bike storage, cafe, and laundry room are located. The three new blocks and the five preexisting houses are connected by the walled collective garden. The garden is organized into three sections: a circulation zone adjacent to the entrances of the three new blocks, a paved area connected to the shared cafe, and a buffer zone along the preexisting dwellings.

84

ARCHITECTURE OF A MACRO-LOT

15


0

1

2

3

2

5

85


The collective garden is designed in contrast to the patchwork of private gardens. The garden is a landscape, characterized by subtle height differences, large trees and meandering paths. The image shows the paved area adjacent to the little cafe. Since the 16 m² studios do not have a private exterior space, the cafe can be used to eat outside or to meet with friends.

86

ARCHITECTURE OF A MACRO-LOT


87


The entrances of the 3 buildings in the collective garden are arranged around this part of the garden.

The micro-unit apartment contains 8 small units of 16m². The ground floor with a slightly increased storey height is designed as a collective living space. There’s also a terrace which can be used by all the residents.

88

ARCHITECTURE OF A MACRO-LOT

The preexisting houses, which are adjacent to the collective garden, also become part of the macro-lot.


BEFORE

AFTER

A view along the narrow circulation path. The path is designed as an alternation between open and closed. Sometimes people get a glimpse of what’s behind the fence, other times only the large overhanging trees are visible.

The ground floor of typology 2 always contains a public function. In this case it is designed as extension of the church, and can be used to hold meetings.

The Greater Refugee Ministries church. Note that a new entrance is made, towards the square.

The square in between typology 2 and the church can be used after ceremonies. It is accessible for all the residents of the macro-lot.

89


5

DAYCARE As mentioned earlier, the two vacant lots next to church will serve as a starting point of the macro-lot. This design proposes an extension of the preexisting church and a daycare. The daycare responds to the high number of single mother families, who represent almost 30% of East New York’s households. Due to the new context, created by the macro-lot, a public function can have a more nuanced relation with its surroundings. Since the daycare also foresees an entree in the back, the daycare’s playground, can be used after hours by the local residents of the macro-lot. The main entrance of the daycare, however, is located at the street. The daycare is rather small and contains a sleeping area, two classrooms, a playground and a small garden.

90

ARCHITECTURE OF A MACRO-LOT

15


2

5

91

0


Although a macro-lot unfolds itself inside a building block, it will clearly manifest itself in the streetscape. Pedestrians may catch a glimpse of the colorful buildings inside the building block. The sequence of narrow entrances not only marks the presence of a macrolot, but also accommodates the gradient from public to collective.

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ARCHITECTURE OF A MACRO-LOT


93


6. EPILOGUE Since a macro-lot essentially can be founded by any group of people, the strategy might have diverse means of existence. Can a macro-lot be set up by a group of artists, in collaboration with contemporary architects, instead of local contractors? What is the relevance of a macrolot, approached only as a densification process, without its social ambition? This chapter serves as a critical reflection on the macro-lot strategy and on how it can be applied.


EPILOGUE

This sketch of the Belgian artist Magritte perfectly summarizes my final thoughts after writing this thesis. The work is entitled ‘l’invention de la collectivité’, which translates to ‘the invention of collectivity’. The sketch shows collectivity as the idea of one individual, by which the artist makes a critical remark, concerning socialist ideas of the 1940s. The same remark applies to the idea of a macro-lot. The architectural design of a macro-lot started with an investigation of different scales and dimensions, and a search for a balance between density and quality of spaces. The final outcome illustrates my vision on what can be done inside a macro-lot. However, application of the strategy by other architects and planners, can result in different outcomes. As mentioned in the chapter introduction, the question of the limits of a macro-lot arises: Can a macro-lot be founded by a group of artists in collaboration with high-end architects? What is the relevance of a macro-lot without its social ambition? And can a macro-lot be proposed as a mere densification strategy? However, more than an architectural design, the concept of a macro-lot primarily represents a socio-economic reorganization. A macro-lot arises from a group of people who believe they are stronger together than alone. By definition, a macro-lot cannot be imposed on people, since it is set up, maintained and expanded by its residents. Therefore a macro-lot cannot be imagined by one person in front of a laptop. The involvement and the informing of the inhabitants of East New York is the most important ingredient for the success of a macro-lot.

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EPILOGUE


97


REFERENCES 1. SITE ANALYSIS Lander, Brad, Does NYC industrial zoning policy preserve local manufacturing?, 2009, www,thirteen.org/uncertainindustry Floyd, Norris, “Manufacturing Is Surprising Bright Spot in U.S. Economy”, New York Times, Published: January 5, 2012 Pratt Center for Community Development, 2008, East Brooklyn Housing and Development study, http://prattcenter.net/eastbrooklyn-housing

2. A CRITICAL HISTORY OF HOUSING Tahl Kaminer, Miguel Robles-Duran and Heidi Sohn, Urban Asymmetries. Studies and projects on Neoliberal Urbanization, 010 Publishers, (Rotterdam, 2011) Jane Jacobs, “The Death and Life of Great American Cities,” Random House (New York, 1961) Walter Thabit, “How East New York became a ghetto,” New York University Press (New York, 2003) Doug Saunders, “Arrival City: How the largest migration in history is reshaping our world,” William Heinemann (London, 2010) G. Ellen, M. H. Schill, S. Susin, A. E. Schwartz, “Building Homes, Reviving Neighborhoods: Spillovers from subsidized Construction of Owner-Occupied Housing in New York City,” Journal of housing research, 2001 Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, “Housing Policy in NYC, A brief history,” 2006 Jason Long and Joseph Ferrie, “A Tale of Two Labor Markets: Intergenerational Occupational Mobility in Britain and the U.S. since 1850,” ed. National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, 2005 P. Kaseta, “Humble Beginnings”, originally published in the Bulletin of the Province of Saint Mary, Volume 22, Number 2, p. 36 published: February 1985 Hevesi, Dennis, “East New York: a Neighborhood Reborn,” New York Times, published: jun 10, 2001 Garcia, Catherine, 2008, Revisting the New Deal in Brooklyn, http://archives.jrn.columbia.edu/2009/thebrooklynink/multimedia/wpa-era-projects.html, last visited: 05/06/12

3. CURRENT ISSUES Stephen J. McGovern, Charles C. Euchner, “Urban Policy Reconsidered: Dialogues on the Problems and Prospects of American Cities,” Routledge (New York, 2003) Harvey, David, “Social Justice and the City,” Basil Blackwell (Oxford, 1988) Anderson, Michelle, Occupy Wall Street Re-Occupies Foreclosed Home in East New York: A Report From the Scene, 2011, http://blogs.villagevoice.com/runninscared/2011/12/occupy_wall_str_37.php, last visited: 05/06/2012 DiNapoli, Thomas, “Foreclosures in new York City,” office of the State Comptroller, 2011 Adalberto Aguirre, Jr., Volker Eick, and Ellen Reese, “Neoliberal Globalization, Urban Privatization, and Resistance,” Social Justice Vol. 33, No. 3, published 2006 Blond, Philip, “The failure of neo-liberalism,” New York Times, Published: Saturday, February 2, 2008 Wilson, Jim, “Foreclosures,” New York Times, Published: April 2, 2012 Institute for Children and Poverty, ‘pushed out’ the hidden costs of gentrification: displacement of the poor and homelessness,


2009 New York City Department of City Planning, “brooklyn community district 5,” 2001 Kiviat, Barbara, The case against homeownership, 2010, http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2013850-4,00. html, last visited: 05/06/12

4. MACRO-LOT NYC government, 2011, plaNYC 2030: housing and neighborhoods, www,nyc,gov/html/planyc2030 The Community Preservation Corporation, One-Stop Financing Solutions for Multifamily Housing Developers, 2012, http://www. communityp.com/about/about-us, last visited: 05/06/12 NYC Department of Housing Preservation & Development, Mission statement, 2009, http://www.nyc.gov/html/hpd/html/ about/about.shtml, last visited: 05/06/12 East Brooklyn Congregations, Our history, 2008, http://ebc-iaf.org/content/our-history, last visited: 05/06/12 NYC government, dividing & merging of lots, 2010, http://www.nyc.gov/html/dof/html/property/property_info_lots.shtml, last visited: 05/06/12 De Pauw, Geert, “Community Land Trusts: ei van columbus om wonen weer betaalbaar te maken?”, 2009 Swann, Roert, “Community Land Trusts: Is profiting on land a natural right?,” the threefold review, 1990

ADDITIONAL DATA www.nyc.gov, Table PL-P1 CD: Total Population, New York City Community Districts, 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000 and 2010 The U.S. CENSUS BUREAU, survey 1950-1980, Digitally transcribed by Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research. Edited, verified by Michael Haines. Compiled, edited and verified by Social Explorer, 2002, http://www.socialexplorer. com/pub/maps/map3.aspx?g=0&mapi=SE0012, last visited: 05/06/12 Data Corporation, New York City Department of Finance, Furman Center, Number of single family homes receiving a notice of foreclosure Action (Lis Pendens), 2011, from: http://datasearch.furmancenter.org/, last visited: 24/01/12

IMAGES Unless otherwise stated, the images belong to the author. p.8 - Microsoft, bing maps aerial, East New York, 2011, http://be.bing.com/maps/ p.34 top - unknown, East New York kids, East New York, 1923, http://ephemeralnewyork.wordpress.com/tag/east-new-york/ p.34 middle - Tony Davenport, Atlantic Avenue 1968, Atlantic Ave. East New York, 1968, http://www.tapeshare.com/Zone1. html p.34 below - Bernard Gotfryd, unknown, East New York, early 1970s, http://brooklynhistory.org/blog/author/pglowinski/ p.38 - Sam G Lewis, Occupy your home!, Bradford Ave., 2011, http://www.newbottomline.com/photos_from_occupy_our_ homes_december_6_2011_east_new_york p.42 both images - Jeff Smith, Occupy your home!, Bradford Ave., 2011, http://occupiedpressreview.blogspot.be/ p.62 top - Google inc., google streetview at Hendrix St. 774, ENY, from: maps.google.be p.62 bottom - Google inc., google streetview at Schenk Ave. 774, ENY, from: maps.google.be


Macro-lot  

an amalgameted housing strategy for an incremental densification in East New York, Brooklyn

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