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A blog from CityRealty (Links below will take you to the 6sqft site)

Denizen Bushwick, 54 Noll Street

Between Stanwix Street & Evergreen Avenue

82
Carter Horsley
Review by Carter Horsley
Carter Horsley Carter B. Horsley, a former journalist for The New York Times, The International Herald Tribune and The New York Post. Mr. Horsley is also the editorial director of CityRealty.com.
 

Developed in 2018 by the Read Property Group, Princeton Holdings, All Year Management and the Rabsky Group, the project is 20 percent "affordable."  It was designed by ODA Architecture, which is headed by Eran Chen, and whose other important projects in the city include the three-tower development at 420 Kent Avenue in Brooklyn just south of the Williamsburg Bridge, the faceted glass mid-rise building at 10 Jay Street just to the north of the Manhattan Bridge in Brooklyn, 10 Montieth Street in Williamsburg, 2222 Jackson Avenue in Long Island City, and 15 Union Square West and 100 Norfolk Street in Manhattan.

Bottom Line

This large, sprawling, two-block development in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn is distinguished by its diagonal bracing, unusual massing, many different façades, very large amenity package, and its public spaces.

Description

From the outside, this development is distinguished by its bold diagonal bracing and inset courtyard entrances. 

Once inside its courtyards, the development is a spectacular and intriguing urban experience of varied landscaping, different façade treatments and unusual, multi-story art treatments.

 

Amenities

The building has an attended lobby, a roof deck, a fitness center, a bicycle room, a library, a children's playroom, mini golf, rock climbing, zen gardens, private art studios and beer and wine breweries, a common dining room, pet services, on-site parking, a screening room, landscaped courtyards, art works, and a game room.

Apartments

Apartments are offered in three styles: 

"With a feeling that's off-the-shelf industrial, Metro is playful and stylish, with details that reflect the area's gritty vibe." 

"Cool and classic, the Modern homes are inspired by a kit of parts, with framed mod touches that allude to funky styles of the recent past." 

"With raw, artsy details such as wood millwork, metallic surfaces and an easel in every home, the Maker units reflect Bushwick's handcrafted vibe." 

Apartment 832 is a two-bedroom unit with 969 square feet with a 14-foot-wide living from and a 10-foot-long kitchen. 

Apartment 514 is a two-bedroom unit with 928 square feet and a 26-foot-long living room. 

Apartment 205 is a two-bedroom unit with 912 square feet with a 13-foot-long living room and an 8-foot-long open kitchen. 

Apartment 217 is a two-bedroom unit with 791 square feet with a 12-foot-wide living room.

History

In his August 8. 2016 article, Justin Davidson, the superb architecture critic of New York magazine wrote that "Eran Chen, the Israeli-born founder of the architecture firm ODA, has sugarplum visions for this desolate stretch: nearly 1,000 apartments and a million square feet that would slip affably into a neighborhood that, despite its real estate hotness and brand name cool, remains tenaciously poor.  Longtime residents and their new neighborhoods would mingle in the woodworking shop and photo lab and hang their creations side by side in the community art gallery. A microbrewery would open up onsite, making reference to the past while providing local jobs and drinks...

"To accommodate this genial fantasy....Chen has designed the future 123 Melrose Street as a pair of E-shaped buildings that reach out to each other across a linked set of parklets filled with ferns and cherries and cafe tables.  The idea is to use the two-block site to break down the Brooklyn grid and make it seem less implacably rational. Instead of enclosing a single courtyard or wrapping a park around a set of towers, ODA interlaces private structure with public space.  A long eight-story perimeter rises to nine at one corner, like a stumpy watchtower. Balconies and hallways look out over inner courts Stores face both out the street and in to the compound. Sky bridges connect rooftops, where residents can grow their own produce on their upstairs farm.

"To the passerby, the Rheingold site looks like that urban rarity, a lean slate, but in fact every long-fallow acres in the city is a battleground, especially in a neighborhood where crime, rents and construction are all disconcertingly high.

"In 2013, the site’s then-owner, Read Property Group, seemed to understand that, even if not a single stoop gets demolished and not a single resident displaced, an affluent influx will rattle longtime residents. In exchange for the city’s converting the site from industrial to residential use, Read offered written assurances that the company would make 30 percent of the apartments affordable and kick in more than $1 million for local parks, tenant protection, social services, and computer labs. Diana Reyna, the councilmember at the time, supported the rezoning, and the City Council passed it. A few months later, Read sold off the property in chunks, and its promises turned out not to be binding on the buyers, including All Year. The community had to start negotiations all over again with new owners and virtually no leverage left.

"Still, it’s worked out pretty well so far. Before walking away, Read donated a parcel of land to a nonprofit affordable-housing developer. More recently, All Year’s head, Yoel Goldman, has said he would make 20 percent of the new complex affordable. (Unfortunately, “affordable” is a vague term that can actually mean very expensive by the standards of Bushwick’s low-income residents.) In Chen’s telling, the project provides the community activists with everything they have asked for and more: inexpensive apartments, open space, and an invitation to use (at least some of) the new goodies.

"Chen hopes that arrangement of alleys, arches, and enclosures will recall what marketing materials describe as a 'European village,' a disastrously tone-deaf phrase. 'To say that you’re going to put a European village in the middle of an impoverished community that’s mostly black and Latino, what are you implying?' asks Stephanie Cancel, an organizer at the advocacy group Churches United for Fair Housing. 'We know exactly what’s happening: It’s gentrification.' That it is, and in truth the architect and developer might have invoked other models, though none likely to placate suspicious longtime Bushwickers.

"Apartments, yards, stores, cafés, and art spaces, fused in a former industrial zone - various combinations of these ingredients are hardly new. Sunnyside Gardens, Stuyvesant Town, and Tudor City mixed middle-class housing and public greenery lifetimes ago. The Kulturbrauerei in Berlin transformed an abandoned brewery, all work yards and outbuildings, into a sprawling arts complex. In other parts of the country, a vaguely European, landscaped enclave where people live, shop, and eat out - CityPlace in West Palm Beach, for instance - falls under the Orwellian rubric lifestyle center. The scheme also evokes an urban college campus (like the similarly sized two-block rectangle around Columbia University’s Low Library) more than it does Zermatt. That’s not accidental, but it’s precisely why Chen believes that the project’s communitarian spirit makes financial sense.

“'The developer wants to rent close to 1,000 apartments at the highest rent he can get, many of them based on shares,' says Chen. 'People get smaller spaces of their own, but a lot of community space, which keeps the rent down per person but high per square foot. That would be super-attractive' - especially to recent college graduates who enjoy the upgrade on dorm life. That hardheaded business calculus jibes with the community’s desire not to be excluded. 'If you open your building up to the city and create opportunities by which the communities around and within it are invited, and you design a program to encourage gathering and positive activity, you’ve added something that doesn’t exist.'

"ODA has only been around since 2007, but already it’s peppered the city with buildings, ranging from leviathan-like to inconspicuous....The firm has a method rather than a style. Most architects interpret zoning regulations as an assembly manual, producing buildings that look almost exactly like the schematic diagrams provided by the city-planning department. Others try to convince city government that their designs deserve an exception to the rules. ODA takes a jujitsu approach to those constraints. Rather than accept the prescribed envelope, they slice it up, punch holes in it, shuffle pieces like Lego blocks, all in order to create more articulated, lively, and congenial buildings that are simultaneously contextual and assertive. ODA is good at eking every last scrap of square footage out of a lot, without cramming it all into a big dumb crate."

In an October 30, 2016 article, Mr. Chen observed that “The old formula for large residential projects was luxury by segregation” adding that such projects were "Dead-end boxes with amenities available only to the people living there."

"People today," he added, "are interested in buildings that are connected to their environment and neighborhoods.”

An August 8, 2016 at bedfordandbowery.com by Tara Yarlagadda provided the following commentary about the development:

"During a community mixer at 54 Noll Street last week, Bedford + Bowery toured the ground-floor facilities and saw adult swings cascading from the ceiling, backgammon tables, a communal kitchen counter with built-in beer taps, a co-working room with leafy green chairs, a common-area art gallery with an old-school typewriter, and wall paintings that included Rheingold beer in an homage to the site’s former occupants.

"Giant purple bunny-like sculptures dotted the inner courtyard and grounds, which included a waterfall and a zen garden. A pool is also forthcoming when completion of the second building, at 123 Melrose, brings the total number of units to 900 by the end of the year. The rentals will produce a million square feet of housing in Bushwick - 20 percent of which will be affordable - bisected by a nearly 18,000-square-foot park public park, which is expected to be completed by the spring of 2019. The development will also bring a grocery store to the neighborhood. Further perks include a library, private art studio, and a dog spa.

"Last week, the real party was on the rooftop, a vast space that included a hydroponic garden, a faux lawn area to walk pets, and mini-golf sets. Seated on one of the swinging, banana-yellow chairs were Carmine and J.D D’amore, bank managers who had recently moved into a $3,000 one-bedroom. Asked whether he was aware of their new building’s contentious history or potential impact on the neighboring community, Carmine D’amore said, “Not at all, really.”

"For those who could use a recap: Over the years, these twin developments on the former Rheingold site sparked a tug-of-war between developers and the local community, including numerous protests during the rezoning process in 2013 and again in 2015 regarding the number of affordable housing units allocated. Three developers, including Princeton Holdings and Read Property Group, All Year Management, and Rabsky Group - which also courted controversy over the rezoning of the Pfizer facility - all own various slices of the former Rheingold pie.

"Entities affiliated with the Denizen Bushwick are certainly targeting hipsters with disposable income. (The words “SCROLL TO LIVE A LIFE LESS BASIC” pop up on its colorful site.) But in the past six months, they’ve also made a concerted effort to reach out to the community, including local residents, businesses and artists. Primarily, the architect of the Denizen Bushwick, ODA New York, has set up a nonprofit, OPEN, as its public engagement arm to reach out to the local communities in Williamsburg and Bushwick. One of OPEN’s projects has been to work with local organizations like Art Bridge and the Bushwick Collective to find local artists to design and paint murals for the Denizen Bushwick. Beyond the scope of the Denizen Bushwick, OPEN also works with local community boards to determine how best to distribute funds to nonprofits who have applied to their grant program. OPEN hopes their efforts can spur other developers and architects to similarly include neighboring communities in their projects.

"One of those Denizen artists is Bushwick resident Rah Crawford, who created a vertical mural spanning six floors of the building. The mural is entitled “Somos Oro” or “We Are Golden” in Spanish (65% of Bushwick’s residents are Hispanic, per NYC’s 2015 Community Health Profiles). At night, the metallic gold of the mural took on almost effervescent glow, which illuminated the silhouettes of native Bushwick residents such as a mother pushing her baby in a stroller. Crawford created the mural with the intent of bringing the new tenants of this sprawling complex into closer proximity with their neighbors. He wanted to “include the silhouettes of the people in the community as opposed to making aesthetically beautiful art.”

"MySpace NYC, the leasing company for the Denizen Bushwick, also hosted the party to welcome local business owners and community residents to the building last week. In a press release for the party, where guests dined on free food and booze catered by local businesses like Momo Sushi Shack and Braven Brewery, MySpace NYC invited neighbors to experience this 'community within a community....' 

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