NYC Civic Center Charrette

Plan, Design, Image and Imagine a Green Gotham

The development of a multimedia plan for the future of lower Manhattan’s landscape with innovative, visionary and practical approaches to streets, sidewalks, public spaces, parks, and outdoor recreation in a livable city.

A “charrette” is an informal panel of designers who meet to sketch plans and drawings with certain design requirements and goals.

Goals of the NYC Civic Center Charrette

- Envision new approaches to pedestrian and transportation uses of the dense urban landscape in lower Manhattan. Initiate new designs for streets and sidewalks, public plazas, parks and outdoor recreation spaces that appeal to the 21st century population’s needs, and that make use of 21st century materials and means of construction, or are purely visionary paper architecture. This open space initiative is local, and there are also global ramifications for innovative solutions towards a more livable city.
- Bring attention to the several hundred thousand daily residents’, businesses’ and visitors’ desperate need for bike lanes, open space, parkland, and recreation and green space in lower Manhattan – with a proactive strategy.
- Locate available sites in NYC’s civic center for City Hall Park, Northeast Lawn Renovation Plan potential public access, parks, outdoor recreation and pedestrian transportation and initiate the development of these spaces.

Project Plan

1. Research and development: acquire photos, plans, other green space proposals; design website, graphics, publicity; assemble team, co-hosts, proposal, fundraising
2. Plan Archeology of the Commons: City Hall Park Dig Report
3. Archeology of the Commons: City Hall Park Dig Report event
4. University Course Collaborations: Design and architecture students study Charrette sites and parameters in class, and produce designs as class assignments
5. Plan events Tour and Charrette
6. Urban Landscape Assessment Tour event (on bikes, roller blades, Dig unearthed thousands of items, Razors and walking) of potential sites, for students, Charrette participants, community and general public. With media documentation
7. Day-long NYC Civic Center Charrette event with media documentation
- Morning – students present assignments, with residents’ and professionals’ comments
- Afternoon – working luncheon and design session; includes panel of nationally-recognized distinguished lower Manhattan architects, designers, visionaries, artists who sketch ideas, with active input from representative non-professional community residents
8. Plans are fine tuned and finalized
9. Expert Respondents prepare notes for oral and web presentation
10. Charrette panel’s sketches and other multi media prepared for publication and web posting
11. Publication and distribution of print and DVD; launch website and post all media on Internet
12. Press release and plan NYC Civic Center Charrette Exhibition and Exhibition Opening Event including Respondents’ presentations (New Amsterdam Library? Pace University? Tweed Building? 1?WTC? Store window? Museum of City of NY)
13. Exhibition Opening Event and NYC Civic Center Charrette Exhibition.
14. Evaluation
15. Close Project

Proposed Charrette Civic Center area of focus

• South of Reade Street continuing to Wagner Place
• West of Pearl Street
• North of Ann Street continuing to Fulton Street
• East of West Broadway

Charrette sites (identified as of 8/11/11)

1. Elk Street Parking Lot including Elk Street
2. City Hall Park Northeast Lawn
3. City Hall Park Northeast Plaza
4. Brooklyn Banks (under Brooklyn Bridge)
5. Asphalt field, Wagner Place
6. Innovative bike lanes for better cross-island bike transportation
7. Rooftop parks and recreation areas
8. Green traffic triangles and small plots to provide a connecting greenway… “String of pearls”...north to Collect Pond Park and Chinatown, south to WTC plaza, east and west to the rivers
9. We invite you to suggest sites for green and recreational development

Basis for this Project

In 1995 there were 14,000 residents south of Chambers Street; a recent report counts 60,000! The Department of City Planning recommends 1.5 acres of open space per 1000 residents. That converts to adding 70 acres of open space in lower Manhattan due the new residents. In this fastest growing residential neighborhood in NYC, the construction of office and residential buildings is visibly astounding with several new 70-story towers now open or planned, dozens of 5-story buildings topped with 5 more stories, and every parking lot replaced by a skyscraper. When the new 1 World Trade Center Tower opens there will be 100,000 additional employees, hundreds of truck deliveries, and tens of thousands of visitors to the WTC Memorials daily! At the same time, we are losing all of our open space, even parking lots. Much downtown public space has been restricted or made off limits since 9/11. City planning must account for the rapid development of the formerly business district into a mixed-use neighborhood with a large and burgeoning residential population. Time is running out for the opportunity to find any open space at all in our neighborhood!?

Every New Yorker deserves a moment of peace during every day. We live and work in NYC to get the most out of the Big Apple, and it can get damned stressful. So even a few breaths of peacefulness can make a big difference in a day’s normal rush. Some New Yorkers find peace of mind in a yoga class or a house of worship, in an art museum or concert hall, and many of us find our relief in the city’s parks. We get a lot more from our parks than fresh air, open sky, and recreation: Sometimes just observing a leaf blowing in the wind can bring instant relaxation and insight about natural life, a perfect moment.

Community participation in the 4 events – Archaeology of the Commons: the City Hall Park Dig, Urban Landscape Assessment Tour, NYC Civic Center Charrette, and Exhibition Opening – will be attracted through direct emails and free publicity in the Tribeca Trib, Downtown Express and Battery Park Broadsheet. This Charrette, in its preparation and the event itself, brings neighbors together to discuss and voice support for more green and recreation space in our neighborhood. Beginning with the development of this proposal, progress towards these goals has already been initiated with community activists, leaders, volunteers and professionals. The project also yields publicity to illustrate to decision makers our desperate need for these spaces, communicating in a positive way with practical plans for our neighborhood, and without having to resort to negative press and law suits to achieve our goals for remedying the anti-human urban landscape in lower Manhattan. Charette lower Manhattan and citywide resident, employee and business participants are drawn from Friends of City Hall Park other lower Manhattan civic organizations’ membership, and co-hosts' membership. The project and events bring together and form an affinity group of activists, civic-minded citizens and voters.

Skip Blumberg
Project Director Bio

Award-winning Producer/Director/Media Artist Skip Blumberg has produced TV shows, events, installations, performances and hundreds of cultural documentaries, performance, children’s television, educational development and fundraising videos. Blumberg has produced shows and segments for Great Performances, Sesame Street (150 shorts), National Geographic TV, and Between the Lions. His award-winning independent TV shows have been broadcast and cablecast around the world and have been screened internationally in festivals including in retrospectives at the Berlin and the Rotterdam Film Festivals. They are in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art and many other museums; His videos are posted on,, and many other websites, including a pirated posting of his In Motion with Michael Moschen, which has 700,000+ views. Many of his DVDs, including Nam June Paik: Lessons from the Video Master, are available for home and academic screening.

As a curator and event producer, Blumberg has staged many popular exhibitions and performances in lower Manhattan and around the world.

He is a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellow, a former MacDowell Colony fellow and has been a cultural envoy for the U.S. Department of State in Senegal, Slovakia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Blumberg was Artistic Director of’s Global Exchange; keynote speaker at the Louisiana Media Rendez-Vous and the Videomaker Expo; and Special Professor at Hostra University School of Communication 2008-2012.

Blumberg is a community activist and park volunteer, including President and founder of Friends of City Hall Park, a community volunteer organization. In addition to leveraging the $30 million renovation of NYC’s civic center in 1999, Blumberg spearheaded FCHP’s 5-year victorious campaign to reclaim public use of the park after it was closed on 9/11. Blumberg has produced many al fresco events in our city commons since FCHP’s founding in 1996.

As a resident of lower Manhattan on and off since 1969, Blumberg sees this quintessential urban environment from street level. He is a third generation New Yorker. Blumberg grew up as a neighborhood kid, with his family’s mid-twentieth century business on Canal Street.

Participating in Friends of City Hall Park, Blumberg has been active in advising and lobbying Community Board 1; City; State and Federal elected officials; NYC Departments; other city-wide civic organizations and community activists; and local media.

Broadening his geographic purview, Blumberg has now planned and directs this proposed neighborhood-wide open space initiative that has global ramifications for innovative solutions towards a more livable city.