Jody Kriss Blog: 4 Historic NYC Destinations to Add to Your Bucket List

Jody Kriss of East River Partners is passionate about preserving historic buildings across New York City. His latest projects include renovations on some wonderful structures in the Big Apple, including the Adas Yisroel Anshe Mezritch Synagogue at 415 East 6th Street. Although the Jody Kriss Blog typically covers New York City real estate news, projects East River Partners is completing, as well as happenings around the city, this blog pays homage to some of the area’s most cherished historic buildings that are still in service. If you haven’t already visited these four destinations, they deserve a spot on your bucket list.

1. Fraunces Tavern

Situated at 54 Pearl Street in Manhattan, the Fraunces Tavern is the oldest restaurant in the city. The building, itself dates back to 1719, and was originally intended to be a private residence for a wealthy merchant by the name of Stephen Delancey. Samuel Fraunces, an innkeeper, purchased the home in 1762 and converted it into a tavern, which he named Queen’s Head. Sons of Liberty and George Washington are said to have been regulars back in the day. The place is rich with history, and not only serves meals befitting of the colonial era, but it also hosts a museum.

2. The Lyceum Theater

There are actually two theaters that were completed in 1903 and are still in operation, but the New Amsterdam Theatre came in slightly after the Lyceum Theatre.  Producer David Frohman had an apartment built atop 149 W. 45th Street in Manhattan, which allowed him to watch his wife, actress Margaret Illington, on stage with ease. Judy Holiday was also catapulted to fame at the Lyceum while playing Billie Dawn in “Born Yesterday,” the theater’s longest-running show.

3. The New York Historical Society Museum

The New York Historical Society is the oldest museum in all of New York, founded in 1804. However its early days were difficult. The museum moved around a lot and even had to mortgage some of its books to make ends meet in the early 1800s. In 1902, construction on its eighth home at 170 Central Park West in Manhattan began and it opened on that site in 1908. Today, it hosts over 1.6 million pieces and has one of the greatest collections around.

4. Old Quaker Meeting House

The synagogue that Jody Kriss and East River Partners restored  was built in 1910, and certainly qualifies for historic status, but it’s nowhere near the oldest place of worship in the region. That title belongs to the Old Quaker Meeting House at 137-16 Northern Boulevard in Flushing, Queens. It was opened in 1694 and has been in use for its intended purpose ever since, except for a brief period of time during the Revolutionary War when the British occupied the structure.

New York City is packed with amazing architecture that showcases just how far the entire country has come. Visiting these places is like stepping into a doorway to the past- an experience everyone should have at least once.

From the Jody Kriss Blog: Review of the WTC Transportation Hub

With many successful development projects across NYC, Jody Kriss is no stranger to the city’s stunning architecture. Though Jody Kriss and East River Partners tend to focus on honoring the design of historic structures, their developments have one major thing in common with the new WTC Transportation Hub; mindfulness of modern elegance and opulence. But, did Santiago Calatrava’s Oculus deliver on expectations?

The Oculus Strayed from its Original Design

Calatrava, a seasoned architect from Spain, has a fantastic track record when it comes to designing transportation-related structures all over the globe. For many, rebuilding the WTC area has been a spiritual and emotional experience, and Calatrava intended to honor this with his initial concepts. Originally, the structure resembled a dove being released from a child’s hand and was expected to cost about $2.2 billion to create. Commissioned by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, with input from the local police force and various other entities, Calatrava’s initial designs were repeatedly altered to address “security issues.” Back in 2005, Chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Anthony R. Coscia explained that the changes “were all done in a way that stayed faithful to the original vision,” but even then, New York Times reporter David W. Dunlap wasn’t buying it. “It may now evoke a slender stegosaurus more than it does a bird,” he wrote, and based on reactions from visitors to the completed structure, it seems he was spot on with his assessment.

Visitors are Divided on Opinion

The total building costs came to about $4 billion, which New York Times reporter Michael Kimmelman estimates is about twice the amount it took to see Grand Central Station come to fruition, when adjusting for inflation. He refers to Calatrava as a “one-trick pony,” and goes on to say “the Oculus reveals itself all at once from awkward, tongue-shaped balconies,” and adds “The trip downstairs becomes a letdown.” From bad to worse, he picks apart the Oculus, “In its scale, monotony of materials and color, preening formalism and disregard for the gritty urban fabric, the hub is the sort of object-building that might seem at home on the Washington Mall.”

Paul Goldberger of Vanity Fair provides a wholly different point of view, calling the Oculus “the exhilarating nave of a genuine people’s cathedral.” He believes that Calatrava’s design consists of “curving ribs of steel to make a space that is uplifting, full of light and movement, and capable of inspiring something that has been in particularly short supply at Ground Zero, which is hope.” It’s hard to believe that the two reporters are even discussing the same structure.

It seems as if Goldberger and Calatrava share the same sentiment: that this is a highly-unique and opulent structure, created expressly for the people of New York. Very few municipalities have invested in providing something so grand for average citizens. “This person who is coming to New York to work very hard, one day may be living in a very modest house and may also be working in a very modest job, but for me, this person is very important,” Calatrava explained in an interview with Architectural Digest. For him, the structure was about honoring hard-working people and showing them how important they are to the community, and inspiring hope with symbolism found throughout.

No matter where you stand on the matter, one thing is certain. The Oculus is a piece of art, open to interpretation and subjective to tastes. The debate over its beauty and message will linger on for generations.

Legislative Fail May Halt New Development Across NYC

Developers like Jody Kriss and East River Partners rely on certain legislative codes in order to keep up with demand and to make performing neighborhood renewals more affordable. One of the most-notable is referred to as the 421-a, which offers developers tax breaks for including affordable housing into their projects. Now that lawmakers have failed to renew the policy, developments all over NYC could come to a screeching halt. This isn’t just bad news for developers- it could cause serious issues for millions of people in a city that’s already strapped for general housing, let alone affordable housing.

The 421-a has Been in Effect Since the 1970s

The Pratt Center for Community Development explains that the 421-a was created in 1971 when more people started moving to the suburbs and residential construction stalled. Although the agency tried to claim that the incentive was unnecessary, as a low percentage of developers took advantage of it, their own document showed that an average of 530 new buildings were added every year in Brooklyn alone between 1985 and 2002. The actual number for all of NYC exceeds 4,000 building per year. The city is already facing a housing crisis. Imagine if those 68,906 total buildings didn’t exist because developers couldn’t afford to create them.

The 421-a Originally Expired in June, but was Extended Until January 15

Renewal of the legislation hinged on an agreement between the Building and Construction Trades Council and the Real Estate Board of New York. The Trades Council has been fighting aggressively for higher wages and bigger benefit packages for construction workers. When the two could not reach an agreement back in June, Governor Andrew Cuomo decided to give them until January 15, at which point the 421-a would be suspended until the matter was settled. No agreement was reached. DNA Info published some numbers crunched by the Independent Budget Office. If the Trades Council gets its way, construction costs will go up by about 13 percent, or $45,000 for each and every unit built. On a grander scale, this means that the 80,000 units that are part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s affordable housing plan will cost about $2.8 billion more to come to fruition.

Developers Scrambled to Qualify Before Time Ran Out

As the New York Law Journal points out, the loss of the 421-a doesn’t hurt anyone right now, but experts agree that future development around the city could seriously suffer in the long run. The Wall Street Journal tallied up all the permits that were applied for in the month preceding the anticipated loss of the incentive. Nearly 300 permits were issued, affecting 7,781 housing units. More than half, a whopping 59 percent, were for buildings in Brooklyn, and about one-quarter of them were from Queens. The uncertainty over the possibility of losing the 421-a led developers to have a record-breaking year for applications. While the previous chart-topping year was 2008, with 33,11 permits, 2014 blew it away with 56,248.

Jody Kriss and East River Partners tend to focus on restoring historic properties. Unexpected and luxurious touches are integrated into their projects, while maintaining the integrity of the architecture and honoring the neighborhood appeal. Because of the types of properties East River Partners is involved in, the loss of the 421-a will leave their ongoing work largely unaffected. However, Jody Kriss explained in a statement, “We are fortunate that our condo projects are largely unaffected by the expiration of the 421-a program. But the program is extremely important to the development community in the city and the uncertainty surrounding its extension has made it very difficult to build new homes since developers are operating in and uncertain regulatory environment”