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November 3, 2008

Lessons of
Battery Park City


The architect who was involved with the master design of Battery Park City almost three decades ago has come around full circle—and is now behind the design of the last two buildings to go up in the planned community. We visited Stan Eckstut, a principal in Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn Architects, in his downtown Sixth Avenue office to find out more about the new residential towers and the lessons he’s learned over the years.


Developer Milstein Properties recently broke ground on Sites 23 and 24, the last buildings to be erected in Battery Park City. The towers, jointly designed by EE&K and Costas, Kondylis & Partners, are fraternal twins and will rise 22 and 32 stories, respectively. Stan, who holds a model of the buildings, tells us they have a unique mixed-use component: They’re joined below grade by a community center conceived and owned by the Battery Park City Authority, which includes a swimming pool, gym and theater. The masonry and glass design (below) is also intended to integrate into the existing community, even a Little League field to the east, as well as to maximize residential views.


How to integrate large-scale design into existing cities is a lesson Stan learned from Battery Park City. 1979 was a culmination of 15 years of failed starts for the community, and interest was due on the state-guaranteed bonds that paid for the landfill. He became part of the team that produced a consensus vision; he says the secret was designing it to be part and parcel of Lower Manhattan and NYC by taking a more evolutionary design approach. The nixed plans made it look more like “outer space”—there was even one that imagined the Gateway Center superblock constructed 10 times over (sounds like the setting of a bad sci-fi movie). “You have to integrate the new with what’s around it and build for 100 years,” he says. “Emphasize the streets and the parks, because buildings come and go… we do places, not projects.” He’s since applied these principles to other EE&K projects like Arverne-by-the-Sea in the Rockaways; Paseo Colorado in Pasadena, Calif.; and Gateway Center in LA.


Another lesson he learned is how to make waterfront developments into popular attractions. Battery Park City’s landfill and seawalls had already been built before Stan stepped in; they did not adequately anticipate maritime vessels, a feature that distinguishes all great waterfronts of the world, he said. He wants to make sure these mistakes are not repeated in the design of D.C.’s Southwest Waterfront and Buffalo’s Downtown waterfront, in both of which EE&K is currently involved. In his spare time, he enjoys riding horses every weekend upstate in Warwick—he says hunter pace, a form of competition, is perfect in fall weather. No, he does not know Cushman’s Suzy Reingold, also a horse enthusiast about whom we’ve written, so perhaps a trip to our archive, then an introduction to Suzy, are in order.

Arent Fox
Leo A Daly
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