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.

Historic East Village Synagogue Preserved by Jody Kriss and ERP

Jody Kriss and East River Partners have been quite active in NYC development. While their usual focus is on revitalizing the city’s beloved brownstones and preserving the Big Apple’s aging properties and energizing them with modern touches, the latest project is truly one-of-a-kind. The developers are working in the Lower East Side restoring the last remaining synagogue in a one-time Jewish shtetl.

Saving the East Village Synagogue

Before Jody Kriss and East River Partners came upon the Adas Yisroel Anshe Mezritch Synagogue, it was a far cry from its original luster. Founded by Polish settlers in 1910, the synagogue fell into disrepair over the years and was slated for demolition in 2012. Somehow, the building and its occupants muddled through, though the brickwork was left crumbling and the once stately building exposed to the elements due to broken windows. When the locks broke as well, worshippers put their faith in a higher power, and secured the doors with rope. Then, Rabbi Pesach Ackerman and Jody Kriss worked together to come up with a very unconventional plan.

Jody Kriss and East River Partners’ 415 East 6th Street

The building at 415 East 6th Street needed a lot of help to be restored. As a landmarked structure, it required an experienced and knowledgeable team to handle the renovations, while preserving the historical integrity. With numerous successful condo developments throughout NYC under their belts, Jody Kriss and East River Partners stepped forward to create a one-of-a-kind development. The synagogue remains intact for its small base of worshippers, who will have full access to its amenities on the lower floor. Moreover, Kriss and his team have pledged to provide the funds to cover maintenance on the shul for a full 200 years following the renovation, allowing its iconic stained-glass windows with the Star of David to shine like a beacon on 6th street for generations to come.

Three Luxury Condos Top The Building

Though the main floor will remain a place of worship, the upper floors were converted to condos with all the lavish amenities people have come to expect from a Jody Kriss and East River Partners project. This enables the synagogue to be restored, and provides much-needed housing in the East Village. The second and third floor each host a two-bedroom unit of about 1900 square feet, while the uppermost two floors make up a three-bedroom duplex penthouse, and spans more than 2,500 square feet. The building boasts electronic keypads and video intercoms, as well as high-end appliances. The floors are of oak, with marble donning the bathroom floors, walls, and counters. The kitchens are designed with a chef in mind, featuring thoughtful touches like custom-cabinetry. Residents are also treated to all the area has to offer, such as shopping, cultural activities, and dining.

Downtown Magazine recently interviewed Jody Kriss, and spoke a bit about the East 6th Street preservation, as well as what’s happening with East River Partners and developments across NYC. While there is a lot happening in Manhattan and Brooklyn, and the group has numerous successful projects completed, Kriss can’t pick a single achievement that he’s most proud of. “Creating terrific homes for folks to live in and enjoy,” he explained. “That’s the joy of doing what we do.” If the 6th  Street synagogue revitalization is any indication of things to come, it’s clear his list of achievements to choose from will only grow larger.

3 Outstanding Brooklyn Neighborhoods Chosen By Jody Kriss

Brooklyn is arguably the most charming of the five boroughs in NYC. It’s close enough to Manhattan for easy commutes, but it allows for a slower-paced lifestyle. It’s comprised of more than 30 neighborhoods, each one offering something a little different. When Jody Kriss and East River Partners set out to restore and renovate some of Brooklyn’s historic homes, they largely focused on a few of the borough’s most outstanding neighborhoods. If you’re considering a move, these are 3 outstanding Brooklyn neighborhoods chosen by Jody Kriss:

1. Park Slope

For several decades, Park Slope has been earning a reputation for quality, though nowadays it tends to draw young professionals who want a family-oriented neighborhood to raise their kids in. It’s a very picturesque area, with Prospect Park’s lush greenery providing a safe and inviting place for gatherings. It is one of the very few places in all of NYC that offers a small-town feeling. There’s even a year-round farmer’s market just off of Prospect Park. Park Slope is also home to two prestigious schools, Public School 321 and a private institution, the Berkeley Carroll School. Many iconic brownstones, such as the ones that Jody Kriss and East River Partners worked on, line the avenues. Park Slope has historically been one of the more expensive neighborhoods in Brooklyn to move into. The latest market trends from Trulia indicate that the median sales price sits at about $1.2 million, whereas Brooklyn, as a whole, is closer to $700,000.

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2. Carroll Gardens

Near Brooklyn’s central-west waterfront sits Carroll Gardens. Due to its proximity to Boerum Hill and Cobble Hill, locals often throw all three together and call them “BoCoCa.” It has become a hotspot for urban professionals, though people who move there tend to put down roots. One local resident told the New York Times that it’s the kind of place where strangers will invite you in when they see you out for a walk. Generally, it’s a simple offer of coffee or a pastry, but, “Sometimes they would invite us to dinner,” he added. Public School 58 and the New Horizons School are also performing fairly well, with both earning an “A” on recent progress reports. As with Park Slope, brownstones are a popular draw, though Trulia reports that the median home price now sits slightly above Park Slope, at about $1.3 million.

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3. Fort Greene

Fort Greene is often recognized for its brownstones as well, though newer developments include mixed-use towers. During the 1950s and 1960s, the area was largely populated by artists and musicians, though few of the original inhabitants remain today. According to the New York Times, around 85% of the homes have changed hands since 1985. The housing crisis caused a large number of foreclosures and, as the area improved, many others left for less-expensive areas. Fort Greene is often thought of as an up-and-coming neighborhood, as it has come a very long way in recent years, though it still holds a lot of its ethnic and cultural roots. Residents take advantage of the sprawling Fort Greene Park, and  enjoy an eclectic mix of shops and restaurants, though fresh additions, like the Polonsky Shakespeare Center, are providing more refined alternatives. The schools are still developing somewhat, with the Academy of Arts and Letters on Adelphi Street earning a “B” on its latest progress report. According to Trulia, the median price for a home is about $1.24 million, though it’s likely to increase as more developments are made.

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It’s fairly easy to see that, although there are some dips and rises, these three neighborhoods are following the housing trends seen across all of Brooklyn. The hard work that developers like Jody Kriss and East River Partners have put in have helped increase housing stock, but the areas remain in high demand. Now is a great time to get into the neighborhoods, though experts expect market trends to continue, which means it will only become more difficult to grab a property.