openhousenewyork is thrilled to announce Brendan Crain will join as Program Director beginning in January 2014. Brendan is a writer and urbanist who comes to OHNY from Project for Public Spaces. Prior to PPS he was Program Coordinator at the Institute for Urban Design, where he helped organize Urban Design Week in 2011 and the crowdsourced design competition By the City / For the City. Brendan’s writing on urbanism has appeared in Architect, Dwell, MAS Context, and Next American City, among others. We are excited to have Brendan join us and look forward to an expanded schedule of year-round programs in 2014!
Program Director, openhousenewyork
Lives in Astoria
OHNY in 2014
Are you a native New Yorker? If not, when and why did you move here?
I moved here about 4 years ago to take a job with the Institute for Urban Design. I had always wanted to move here but told myself that I wouldn’t until my thirties because I knew once I moved here, I would never want to live somewhere else.
What do you find most inspiring about New York City?
I like to walk around a lot and of all the places that I’ve been, New York is the most engaging and diverse environment for that. Especially my own borough, Queens–every neighborhood is uniquely its own place. Within the span of a one-hour walk you can experience dozens of completely different physical environments. And the social environments of those neighborhoods reflect that diversity too. New York is the kind of city that inspires you to keep going out and exploring it further.
What is your favorite place/neighborhood in the city?
I love my neighborhood, Astoria. When I moved to New York I had to move very quickly and stayed with a friend who was living there, and when it came time to find my own place there was no question that I would stay in the neighborhood. There’s something incredible about its local economy. There is very little chain store activity and there are these great commercial streets that all have their own feel–Broadway, 30th Avenue, Steinway Street. I go to each one for different reasons. And then as you get closer to the East River, the context changes even more; there are lots of older industrial buildings; it’s a mix of working factories and newer arts and cultural uses. It’s a really fantastically diverse place, both in terms of the physical environment and the people who live there.
What is a memorable building that you have had access to?
The Woolworth Building, which OHNY has opened many times over the years. It’s a place that I had seen when I was young, and then to have access to it after it had been closed to the public felt very special. It’s really fantastic and inspiring because the story of how Woolworth conceived of and financed that project really shows how architecture reflects society’s values. It was such an important building for its time and you can sense how much that building meant.
If OHNY could grant you an all-access pass to any place in the city, where would you go?
The New York State Pavilion in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Hands down. I’m worried that it won’t be around for long; it looks increasingly likely it will be torn down. It’s such a kooky thing and such a symbol of Queens. Every time I walk by it, it is just so arresting that I can’t help but want to go inside it.
OHNY is important to New York City because…
I think for every obvious place that you see and say, I have to get in there–the Second Avenue Subway Tunnel or the Chrysler Building or New York State Pavilion–there are hundreds of spaces that aren’t so obvious from the outside. OHNY gives people a chance to explore those places that they didn’t even know existed or to learn surprising things about places that they think know well. And New Yorkers love to know their city in a way that I think is very unique to this town. New Yorkers love New York in a really distinct and strong way. And OHNY makes a social activity out of it, allowing us to explore the city and learn about it together.
From the Annual OHNY Weekend to its year-round public programs, OHNY offers you opportunities to see the city like you’ve never seen it. With your support, OHNY can continue to open the city to tens of thousands of people throughout the five boroughs, tying us closer to the places, people and stories that make New York the most extraordinary city in the world. Together, we are OHNY.