OHNY Executive Director Gregory Wessner, far left, testifies in the New York City Council chambers on December 1st, 2016.

Yesterday, Open House New York’s Executive Director, Gregory Wessner, testified at the New York City Council Committee on Parks and Recreation’s hearing on increasing public access to NYC Department of Parks and Recreation properties that are currently inaccessible to the public. Led by Councilman Mark Levine, the chair of the Committee on Parks, the hearing began with testimony from our friends at the Parks Department, who cited their long partnership with OHNY as evidence of their ongoing efforts to provide access to off-limits buildings like the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial and the Little Red Lighthouse, when possible.

In addition to those two important landmarks, Councilman Levine and his colleagues on the Committee on Parks spoke passionately in support of providing access to everything from the Washington Square Arch and the New York State Pavilion to Hart and North Brother Islands. Once the hearing was opened up to testimony from the public, Wessner joined the Regional Plan Association’s Moses Gates, a dedicated advocate for increased public access to important sites around the city, on the first panel.

“We get information about our civic life second and third hand,” Wessner noted during his testimony, “and I think we are beginning to realize how that lack of direct experience–with one another and with the places where we live–can lead to an eroding of the public sphere. I am not so naïve to think that simply letting people climb the Washington Square Arch or visiting Hart Island will reinvigorate citizenship, but I do think that the degree to which the city makes itself open and accessible to its citizens communicates a great deal about this city’s values. And there is no more tangible expression of a welcoming city than the simple act of opening a door.”

“I ask of the city as a whole,” Gates said, in his testimony, “that this becomes a value—when we renovate or build things, that the public should be able to access these places, and that this is as much a consideration as stability or safety.”

Wessner and Gates were followed by dozens of advocates for public access, and public space in general. Many longtime friends of OHNY were on hand to speak in support of the value of direct experience of place, including the Trust for Public Land, Untapped Cities, NYC H2O, the Historic Districts Council, WHEDco, and the Municipal Art Society. It was inspiring afternoon; public support for access was clear, with so many people in attendance that the hearing was moved from its originally scheduled venue, the Committee Room, into the full Council Chambers. Testimony went on for several hours, and presented a wide range of viewpoints on why access is so important to New York City’s civic life.

All of us at Open House New York thank Councilman Levine and the Committee on Parks and Recreation for holding this hearing, and for giving us the opportunity to speak about the work that we do, and the impact that we believe it has on New Yorkers from all walks of life. It is wonderful to see public access championed and spoken of as a civic value in no less important a venue than the City Council Chambers. We will continue our work to increase access, wherever and whenever possible, and look forward to opening more and more of the city each year.

Click here to read the full text of Gregory Wessner’s remarks to the New York City Council Committee on Parks and Recreation on December 1st, 2016. [PDF]

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Tens of thousands of New Yorkers — along with visitors from across the country and around the world — came together this year for the 2016 Open House New York Weekend, crisscrossing the five boroughs in celebration of this extraordinary city and its architecture. From sunrise on Ellis Island to sunset at Hamilton Grange and Grant’s Tomb, from the basement of Google to the roof of Westbeth, this year’s Weekend gave visitors unparalleled access to the city, deepening our understanding of the complexities of design, construction, and preservation, and providing a visceral reminder of how thoughtful design can immeasurably enrich our day-to-day lives.

Our deepest thanks to all of you who made it possible: all of our sponsors, without whose support there would be no OHNY Weekend; our site hosts, intrepid individuals and organizations who opened their doors to welcome the public into their spaces; the record-breaking 1,400 volunteers who helped manage crowds with kindness and grace; and the tens of thousands of visitors who imbue this event with boundless energy and enthusiasm. It is truly a privilege to collaborate with all of you on this incredible festival. Click below to view some of our favorite highlights.

 

VIEW 2016 WEEKEND HIGHLIGHTS

 

Photo: Empire Stores by David Hogarty

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Who doesn’t love a good sneak peek? On Thursday, October 13, Open House New York and A/D/O invite you to preview the in-progress design center at the 2016 Open House New York Weekend Launch Party before it opens to the public later this year. Currently under construction, A/D/O is designed by nARCHITECTS and located in a 23,000 square-foot former warehouse in Greenpoint, at 29 Norman Avenue.

“Great design thrives in dynamic spaces,” says Nate Pinsley, Managing Director of A/D/O. “We set out to create an ideal environment for creative output – both through our physical space and through programming that prompts designers to explore new paths.”

Built for designers and open to all, A/D/O will offer resources and programs to advance the work of creative professionals, while creating opportunities for the broader public to engage with design thinking.

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At the core of A/D/O’s program is a design lab that will explore the present and future role of design in urban life, as well as state-of-the-art workspace for a variety of design practices including industrial and product design, textile design, and architecture. Members will have access to digital fabrication and prototyping tools, as well as workshops. In addition, A/D/O will be home to Urban-X, an accelerator program by MINI and HAX for startups that that investigate solutions to improve urban life.

Also a leisure destination, A/D/O will include public venues for meeting and relaxing, including a design library, design store, exhibition space, and a Nordic-rooted restaurant, bar, and café by Fredrik Berselius and Claus Meyer. At the center of the space will be the “periscope,” a 16-foot skylight outfitted with massive mirrors that reflect and remix view of A/D/O’s surroundings with the buildings inner goings-on to create interplays of new and old, outside and inside, and work and play.

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The principle of remixing is a guiding theme at A/D/O, reflecting its role as a site that actively encourages the cross-pollination of creative ideas. For example, its exterior remixes its existing brick into configurations that nARCHITECTS calls “reconstituted graffiti,” reincorporating the colorful remnants of murals from over the years. This idea was featured on the cover of this year’s event guide.

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The 2016 OHNY Weekend Launch Party will be a chance for guests to preview one of Brooklyn’s most exciting new social hubs, before it opens to the public. Kick off your OHNY Weekend like a true urban explorer, partying on an active construction site!

Visitors will also be invited to get a personalized Weekend itinerary at the OHNY Weekend Concierge Desk; take a selfie with the 2016 OHNY Weekend Neon Sign, fabricated by Lite Brite Neon Studio and featured on the cover of this year’s event guide; and check out the OHNY Weekend Media Board, a folding timber billboard designed and fabricated by graduate students at the Princeton University School of Architecture; and help kick off the 14th Annual Open House New York Weekend.

Click here to learn more about the Launch Party and purchase tickets today!

Open House New York gratefully acknowledges the support of A/D/O for co-hosting this year’s Launch Party.

 

Image credits: A/D/O and Periscope courtesy of A/D/O. Cover image by Christopher Payne.

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Yesterday was the annual ritual known as Reservation Day for Open House New York Weekend. It is an intense day for everyone who participates and, regardless of how successful you might have been in getting the tours you wanted, a day that generates a range of emotions that run from exhilaration through to frustration and anger. Underlying it all is confusion and disbelief–there is no way, we hear over and over, that an architecture festival could generate so much activity. But as inconceivable as this may seem, it does. It is with tongue only slightly in cheek that we like to say that what Adele is to concerts or Hamilton is to Broadway musicals, OHNY Weekend is to buildings.

I’ll skip the superlatives because I think the numbers tell a powerful enough story. By 5:00 pm yesterday, 11,222 Advance Reservations had been made; 10,000 of those were booked in the first sixty minutes after reservations opened at 11 am. According to Google Analytics, we had upwards of 37,000 users on our web site yesterday, who viewed more than 340,000 pages. If it seemed like all of the tours sold out immediately, it is because in large part they did. Not because they were presold or–to refute one of our favorite conspiracy theories–because scalper bots bought them all; it is because there were literally tens of thousands of people competing for what is ultimately a limited number of tickets. To put yesterday’s unprecedented reservation tally in some historical context, on the comparable day last year, we processed 7,000 reservations, which was itself a record-breaker.

We know that these numbers will not diminish the disappointment of not getting the tour(s) you wanted. To say that those of us at OHNY are conflicted about the issue of reservations is an understatement. In an ideal world, there would be no reservations at all and every site would be Open Access. But the reality is that there are sites, often for reasons of security or space, that need to limit the number of visitors. If we did not have the option of Advance Reservations, it is not a question that these sites would have to decline to participate. For now, we stand on the belief that limited access is better than none at all. But please know that we read and take to heart all of your comments, and are always considering ways to make improvements.

But I also want to stress that to focus only on the Advance Reservation sites–or worse, to boycott the Weekend altogether because a specific tour was no longer available–is to miss the whole point of Open House New York Weekend. Nearly 150 buildings will be Open Access this OHNY Weekend, meaning you do not need a reservation at all. This is a list that includes some of the most beautiful, inspiring, and iconic spaces in New York, from Stanford White’s stunning Gould Memorial Library to the Brooklyn Army Terminal to City Hall.

To help you make connections to this incredible trove of sites, for the first time ever, we have posted on each sold out Advance Reservation site’s page at least one suggestion for an Open Access alternative, sites that are similar in design or program for which you need absolutely no reservations! Wanted to go Google? Try the Made in NY Media Center by IFP. Missed out on Newtown Creek? Check out the Sunset Park Material Recovery Facility. Visit the pages of all the Advance Reservation tours you hoped for and there will be an Open Access alternative that you can visit instead, no reservation necessary.

Whatever else there is to say about yesterday, we still stand in awe of what this intense activity reveals about the extraordinary depth of interest and passion that so many people have for this city. It is a testament to what a powerful idea OHNY Weekend is: that for one weekend a year, doors are opened and access is granted to places and spaces that are otherwise off limits to us. OHNY Weekend reminds us that this city that we live in together is our single most important shared resource, and its buildings and public spaces and infrastructure are fundamental to shaping the nature and quality of the lives we live.

Thank you for your ongoing support of Open House New York and we hope you have a wonderful OHNY Weekend!

Gregory Wessner
Executive Director

Registration for sites that require Advance Reservations is now open. You can find the full list of sites on our website by clicking here. If the site you were hoping to score tickets for is sold out, we encourage you to visit the Plan Your Weekend page to check out the listings for Open Access sites—the majority of sites that participate in OHNY Weekend do not require reservations at all!