ARTIST: Skip Blumberg
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.
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
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.
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 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
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.
Charrette 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’
memberships. The project and events bring together and form an affinity group of activists, civicminded
citizens and voters.
Skip Blumberg- President / Founder of Friends of City Hall Park; Event Producer and Filmmaker; Special
Professor, Hofstra University, School of Communication.
Technical / Design Director
Bill Bialosky, Chancellor, Downtown Soccer League; Bialosky+Partners Architects; AIA member.
Emeritus: Larry Bogdanow – Architect; Principal, Bogdanow Partners Architects
Additional technical and design support by participating architecture firms’ staffs, students and interns.
Advisors / Participants
William Menking – Editor-in-Chief, The Architects Newspaper;
Commissioner, U.S. Pavilion 2008 Venice Architectural Biennale; Juror, 2008
NYC AIA New Practices; Professor, Architecture, Urbanism and City Planning,
Michael Sorkin – Designer/Visionary; Distinguished Professor / Director,
Graduate Urban Design Program, CCNY.
Steve Badanes – Architect; Wright Professor, Architecture, University of
Washington. (Distance Mentor).
University Course Collaborators
Pratt University, Architecture, Urbanism and City Planning
CUNY, Graduate Urban Design Center
Advisors / Expert Respondents
Bob Townley – Director, Manhattan Youth; Member, Community Board 1
Henry Stern – Pundit, Blogger; Director, NY Civic; former Commissioner,
NYC Parks & Recreation
George Vellonakis – Park Designer, NYC Department of Parks and Recreation.
The Architect’s Newspaper
Friends of City Hall Park Campaign Continues
Our 3 campaigns were victorious: beginning in 1996 to clean up and beautify the then-shabby park; in 1999 for a total renovation; and then a 5-year campaign to reopen a major portion of our Park (that had been
alienated from public use since 9-11). www.youtube.com/watch?v=zhh72HS6SrI
But we compromised with a 2-acre security zone surrounding City Hall that was lost to public access. Then
we were stymied in our efforts to leverage the city to develop equal park acreage nearby in exchange, as well as other breached agreements by the Department of Parks and Recreation. On top of that a cross–Manhattan
bikeway has been imposed right through our park.
To remind DPR of their unrequited promises FCHP continues our campaign with a positive strategy: to produce this design charrette. This Charrette, in addition to a visionary planning inspiration, is an effort to affect real concrete change by gaining more green space in lower Manhattan, an improvement in the quality of life of hundreds of thousands of residents, employees, business owners, shoppers and visitors who pass through daily.
With publicity for the Urban Landscape Assessment Tour, the Dig Report, the Charrette, the Charrette
Exhibition and Opening, the print materials, website, installation, publicity event and an energetic
publicity campaign, we hope to bring attention to this urgent need with a positive and upbeat spirit.
The quality of ideas as manifested in student and professional drawings, the publicity in neighborhood
and citywide media, and the buzz created in the neighborhood with written feedback comments will
easily determine the benefit to the community. Of course, although it may take many years to be
realized, if the ultimate goal of creating new parkland is attained, it will be a substantive concrete
accomplishment directly improving the quality of life of millions of people into the future.
For additional information on the Charrette, download PDF here.
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 YouTube.com, MyHero.com, 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
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 MyHero.com’s Global Exchange; keynote
speaker at the Louisiana Media Rendez-Vous and the Videomaker Expo; and Special Professor at
Hofstra 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.