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Carter's View

The five entities competing to redevelop the West Side midtown rail yards of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority that straddle 11th Avenue between 30th and 33rd Streets made presentations last night of their plans at a standing-room only public meeting in the historic basement auditorium of Cooper Union.

The presentations each lasted about 20 minutes and were followed by a panel discussion with architects from each venture.

Extell Development was represented by architect Steven Holl.

Brookfield Properties Developer LLC was represented by a member of the architectural firm of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.

TS West Side Holding LLC, a venture of Tishman Speyer and Morgan Stanley was presented by a member of Helmut Jahn's staff from the architectural firm of Murphy/Jahn of Chicago.

A joint venture of The Durst Organization Inc. of Vornado Realty Trust was represented by Daniel J. Kaplan of FXFowle.

The Related Companies was presented by Eugene Kohn of Kohn Pedersen Fox, Bernardo Fort-Brescia of Arquitectonica, and Robert A. M. Stern.

The meeting was sponsored by several leading civic organizations including the Architectural League of New York, the Municipal Art Society, the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects and the Regional Plan Association.

Rosalie Ginevro of the Architectural League of New York moderated the meeting. She noted that the MTA will be evaluating the proposals on how much revenue they will give it and how little disruption they will cause its rail yards and she said she and organizations sponsoring the meeting hoped that the authority will not overlook the importance of urban design.

The proposals will be evaluated by the MTA staff and the Hudson Yards Development Corporation, then reviewed by a selection committee and then go to the MTA board in the first quarter of next year.

The presentations included a lot of material not seen at an exhibition in the storefront on the northwest corner of 43rd Street and Vanderbilt Avenue that has been scheduled to close yesterday but has been extended an extra week. Two high-rise residential towers designed by Robert A. M. Stern for the Related entry, for example, resemble his design for the taller of the two towers at 15 Central Park West that is nearing completion. That project also hopes to include a "people-mover" that would extend the planned extension of the 7 subway to both the Moynihan Station and the Javits Convention Center.

Steven Holl showed his design of about 20 years ago for putting residential buildings atop the High Line, which has since been saved and is being converted into an elevated urban park. Holl told the meeting that his plan for "Sunslice" residential towers in the Extell plan may include other architects and he noted that his three-legged superskyscraper in that plan is a design that provides added security features although he did not mention that building's huge angled observatory that sits atop the three "legs."

The tall office towers at the eastern end of the Tishman Speyer plan by Helmut Jahn will each have one facade canted in different directions from its pair as was made clear by a cut-away diagram.

The Brookfield plan includes buildings by many different architects including SHoP Architects and Diller Scofidio + Renfro. A two-tower scheme by the latter features an enclosed running track in the sky between the two towers at the western end of the side.

The Durst/Vornado plan includes a very dramatic kunsthalle that extends from 10th to 11th Avenues on the south side of the side and its central park is crisscrossed by elevated walkways.

It was clear from the presentations that there are substantial differences between the proposals in terms of architectural quality, siting and mix of uses.
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Architecture Critic Carter Horsley Since 1997, Carter B. Horsley has been the editorial director of CityRealty. He began his journalistic career at The New York Times in 1961 where he spent 26 years as a reporter specializing in real estate & architectural news. In 1987, he became the architecture critic and real estate editor of The New York Post.
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