On Monday night, over 200 interested members of the community (as well as political figures such as New York State Senator Tom Duane) gathered at the Hudson Guild at an event sponsored by Community Board 4 and the Hudson Yards Community Advocacy Coalition that included presentations from the five developers who have submitted plans for the rail yards. After the presentations, attendees had the opportunity to break into small groups to discuss the plans and give their feedback in a formal way.
Photos of the event can be found here.
CB4 prepared a handy info sheet (PDF) comparing each plan by the numbers. A summary from the community discussion will be available soon.
The developers' presentations were short and business-like, as they labored mightily to conform to a time limit of ten minutes per proposal. That was still plenty of time for lots of shiny pictures (and in the case of the Durst/Vornado plan, a snappy video), as well as for some revealing rhetorical moments. A brief digest after the jump.
Extell presented first, starting by emphasizing (with a picture) that they are already a part of the neighborhood - their offices are located next door to the redevelopment site. "We've been dreaming about this for a long time," they said. The firm also strove to emphasize that their big idea - suspending a suspension-bridge-like truss above the railyards, instead of decking them over - would allow all of their buildings to have lobbies at-grade. Time was reserved for lots of pictures of their centerpiece, a "people-activated" park, which was variously compared to Madison Square (in terms of usage) and to Central Park (in the way in which it is development opportunity within Manhattan that would break the street grid).
Related was next, and from the outset they barraged the audience with a lot of numbers and statistics intended to emphasize their bona fides as a leader in affordable housing. The firm developed The Caledonia, on the High Line, and their presenter introduced it both as an example of the firm's ties to the community as well as to its commitment to the 80/20 market-rate/affordable housing development model. A running joke throughout the night involved architect's fondness for the term "iconic", with one presenter saying that he would only use it once - Related rose to the challenge by describing the bridge that would connect the (preserved) High Line to the Hudson River Park as "iconic."
Brookfield then took to the podium, with a joke about how the tight scheduling implied that CB4 should get into the speed dating business. The firm owns and operates the World Financial Center, and their presenter compared their intentions at this site to the success of that development. Since their proposal is clearly the one with the least in common with all others (especially in the sense of having essentially junked the planning guidelines set out by the Hudson Yards Development Corporation), the presentation featured a fair amount of justification for that decision, including the statement that reimposing the street grid to the site was "crucial to long-term success and value creation" at the site. Brookfield also took time to discuss the problems posed by developing a park and offices at a 30-foot grade removal from the surrounding neighborhoods, and argued against creating a "wind-tunnel" of a public park at the center of the site.
Next to bat was the Durst/Vornado squad, who boast the one plan that does not continue the High Line from 30th Street through the site. (Also, for what it's worth, it's the one plan to include a people-mover to the proposed Moynihan Station, to facilitate commutes that don't use the 7 train). The presenters spent a lot of time discussing their vaunted "Skyline," which they intend as a way of breaking up and creating "sanctuary space" within the large public park at the plan's core, as well as allowing movement to and between the buildings' above-grade lobbies. They also used the term "galleria" to refer to the large retail core at 10th Avenue, and did not mention their main tenant, Conde Nast, once.
The final group to present was the party from Tishman Speyer, the caretakers of Rockefeller Center. Their presenter was the only one to mention specifically that the renderings presented were probably unrepresentative of the archictecture that would ultimately transpire were their plan to be adopted. The developer also, for what it's worth, struck back at the "galleria" mentioned by the Durst/Vornado team by outlining proposals for street-fronting retail and specifically mentioning that the rail yards are "not a site for a mall." The team also compared various elements of its plan, specifically its "Forum" on the Eastern Rail Yards to a set of steps on the 11th Avenue Side of that zone, to the Sony Center in Berlin and the Spanish Steps in Rome, respectively.