Event: Via Verde Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony
Location: Via Verde, 700 Brook Avenue, Bronx, NY, 06.18.12
Speakers: Shaun Donovan, United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development; Michael R. Bloomberg, Mayor, City of New York; Jonathan F.P. Rose, President, Jonathan Rose Companies; Adam Weinstein, President, Phipps Houses; Frank Bisignano, Chief Administrative Officer and Mortgage Banking CEO, JPMorgan Chase; Congressman Jose E. Serrano; Darryl C. Towns, Commissioner and CEO, NYS Homes and Community Renewal; Bronx Borough President Rubin Diaz, Jr.; Council Member Maria del Carmen Arroyo; Rick Bell, FAIA, Executive Director, AIA New York
These remarks were delivered at the closing of Via Verde’s Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony, 06.18.12.
New housing that New Yorkers can afford has often seemed to be an unrealizable dream. Today marks the opening of Via Verde, a truly remarkable and innovative mixed-income development.
The American Institute of Architects New York Chapter is happy to have had a role in initiating the project, along with the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development and the New Housing New York Steering Committee – led by Lance Jay Brown, FAIA, with Mark Ginsberg, FAIA, both here today – which challenged the design team to create an exemplary model that would create new and replicable standards for green affordable housing design.
Two extraordinary firms, Dattner Architects and Grimshaw Architects, represented today by Richard Dattner, FAIA, Bill Stein, FAIA, Adam Watson, AIA, and Venesa Alicea, AIA, along with Vincent Chang, AIA, Andrew Whalley, AIA, and Robert Garneau, AIA, combined to win the contest. They joined with Jonathan Rose Companies and Phipps Houses to get it built. It was important to all that the new housing create opportunities for a healthier way of life.
The complex, one of the first to follow the recently published NYC Active Design Guidelines, allows for more physical mobility. Stair use is encouraged by making the stairways attractive and easy to find. Windows in the interior stairways help, as do the bright paint colors. Stairs also head up from the courtyard to the lush terraced vegetable gardens, planted by GROW NYC – with special thanks to Gerard Lordahl. These culminate in the health club level where another design might have put a penthouse apartment. Solar panels and other common-sense environmental features, such as ceiling fans, also lower energy use and carbon footprint. Apartments benefit from cross-ventilation, so that air conditioning use will be less necessary.
For those who have seen the cycle of disinvestment and destruction in the South Bronx, the building of housing on what had been an overgrown, polluted, and seemingly unbuildable site seems almost miraculous. Turning the rubble-strewn lot into the Via Verde, shows that a “green way” exists not only when market forces align, but when there is a spirit of design creativity joined to community demand.
Today we come together to celebrate Via Verde’s opening. Let us all agree, going forward, that the creation of beautiful, healthy, and affordable housing is an absolute priority. Viva verde!
Rick Bell, FAIA, is the Executive Director of AIA New York.