I AM OHNY

I AM OHNY is a campaign we began in late 2011 to highlight and celebrate Open House New York’s diverse community of supporters. Marilynn Davis is a partner at K2S Advisors, and previously served as Chief Financial Officer for the New York City Housing Authority and the Assistant Secretary for Administration of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.  Marilynn was recently elected to serve on OHNY’s Governing Board. We are excited to welcome her aboard!

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What do you love most about New York City?
Of course, anybody would have to say that the energy in New York is special and quite unique. I think that this stems from not only the great diversity in the city—along so many dimensions—but also from the fact that we actually interact with each other constantly within a footprint that’s really quite compact for the size of the population, so everybody has to brush up against each other on some level–through work, food, culture and leisure activities or on the subway. There’s no escape. So, for most of us, it leads to a certain amount of tolerance, stemming from a broadening—however subliminal—of everyone’s perspective and worldview. And, at its best, it enables one to engage in intellectual and public discourse at a very high level about things that concern us as a society. That conversation extends to education and attentiveness around our built environment.

What is your favorite building and/or neighborhood in the city?
Cass Gilbert’s Brooklyn Army Terminal knocked my socks off the first time I saw it. I had the great pleasure of experiencing it at night, at a social event, so there was an al fresco dinner on one of its plazas, followed by a party inside the terminal itself. I’d never seen anything like it, and it was magical.

I grew up in Detroit during what was still its heyday, so I was imbued with the idea of the power of big industry being projected through its factories. However, I’d never seen any that were as elegantly configured as the Brooklyn Army Terminal, with the exception of those that were captured by Diego Rivera in his masterpiece, the “Detroit Industry” frescoes, that he did for the Detroit Institute of Arts. So I could imagine the Terminal during its peak years of use, when it was buzzing with workers amidst the ballet of the activity on the docks, the trains, the delivery of products by the overhead cranes to their respective levels, all in that cavernous space! Pretty amazing, and it expanded my partiality to modernist gems like the Seagram Building.

What was your most memorable OHNY experience?

I went on an OHNY cruise along the Hudson a couple of summers ago, where there were architectural and naval historians on board to tell us about the history of port development on both the NYC and the New Jersey sides and inform us about some architectural gems that are the more anonymous fixtures of the New York City skyline.  And we were able to really appreciate the vast expanse of Riverside Park on the Upper West Side, and learn the history of Robert Moses’ vision for the area. The cruise went as far north as the George Washington Bridge, which I came to regard for the first time as a real beauty, perhaps on par with the Brooklyn Bridge, something that’s very hard to appreciate when you’re stuck in traffic on it!

If OHNY could grant you an all-access pass to any place in the city, where would you go and why?
There are two spots, the first of which would require some fairy wings. The Angel Orensanz Foundation is in the oldest synagogue building in New York and, until recently, it was open to the public for special events, which is how I experienced it. It was at night and the lighting created quite an ethereal atmosphere, but it was clear that the building was very fragile and, since then, it’s been closed. I’d love to be able to float through the space and really explore its altar and balcony, to the rafters and beyond.

The second place would require time travel: I wish I’d been able to experience the Alhambra Ballroom in Harlem during the Jazz Age when artists like Bessie, Billie, and Cab set it on fire with their music! I’ve seen photographs of the space when it was originally built, as a vaudeville venue, and it was a real beauty through many iterations of use. It fell into disrepair, closed and, in this century, was reopened as a facility for multiple uses, including a banquet hall and bowling alley. I’d love to have been able to see the space as it was originally built and explore all its nooks and crannies.

OHNY is important to New York City because…
The built environment that envelops us, irrespective of the use or the budget for any particular part of it, has the ability to inspire or diminish our collective spirit. It’s important that the citizens who inhabit it have an opportunity to appreciate its history and promise. Welcoming forums like OHNY—outside of those that have traditionally been pitched to professionals—are important to this education and to the encouragement of the expanded perspective and awareness that characterize New Yorkers.

Help us continue to connect people and the spaces that make our city.
Join OHNY as a Member
Gift an OHNY Membership
Support OHNY with a donation

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.

I AM OHNY is a campaign we began in late 2011 to highlight and celebrate Open House New York’s diverse community of supporters. Ben Helmer is one of our go-to volunteer photographers, both for our year-round programs and for tours during OHNY Weekend. He moved to the city several years ago, having grown up in the Mid-Hudson Valley, and has been volunteering with OHNY since 2009.

“I never had any interest in being a city person,” Ben admits. “But after transferring here for work, I began a photography project and for 700 days straight, I photographed the people and neighborhoods. I got to know the city better than many of my native friends. Today, the diversity of a subway car feels like home. I’m pretty sure I’m here for life.”

Thank you, Ben, for volunteering your time and talent to help us document our programming so beautifully!

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What do you love most about New York City?
The people. I live in Queens, and the range of food, culture, dialects: they’re all tied to people. In the suburbs, the ratio of people is very limited. The diversity that is there is so small, you’re just not that exposed to it. For the past several years, I’ve been talking to and photographing strangers. I’ve talked to all sorts of people, from everywhere: rockstars, architects, Sandy relief workers, homeless people, first generation mothers; I even met a former bodyguard for Norigea. Most people I meet have amazing perspectives, and are way more approachable than an outsider would think. It’s not a huge stretch to say that people are New York’s greatest achievement.

What is your favorite building and/or neighborhood in the city?
My two favorite bridges are the Hell Gate Bridge in Queens, and the Manhattan Bridge. Of the latter, I love the bases of the two towers, below the main span of the bridge. As for the Hell Gate, it’s so different from the suspension bridges, and (to my knowledge), it’s the only bridge in New York to be copied elsewhere. Also, the view of Manhattan, just east of the Hell Gate, has got to be of the most beautiful in the city.

What was your most memorable OHNY experience?
I took some of the best photos I’ve shot for OHNY on a hardhat tour of the Spring Street Sanitation Garage this past Weekend. Being on a hardhat tour is exciting, and I love the level of excitement everyone experiences on such tours. Normally, if you pointed out a sanitation truck garage to me, I would likely keep walking. Seeing the innovation coming out of a normally unpopular public work was really inspiring. We’re talking roof gardens, beautiful architecture, and not only consideration for the neighborhood, but improvements that actually make the lives of city workers better.

If OHNY could grant you an all-access pass to any place in the city, where would you go, and why?
I’ve been dying to get into the Second Avenue Subway or the East Side Access tunnels. Last fall, the Transit Museum did an exhibit of photos of the tunnels by a Japanese photographer. They were incredible, and it’s a dream of mine to see them for myself. Really, I want to document the workers in those unfinished tunnels. It’s a once in a lifetime chance to witness history. Barring that, access to any subway tunnels off-limits to the public would be incredible. City Hall station is also on my radar.

OHNY is important to New York City because…
Architecture is pointless without people. We need every chance we can get to share New York with the people it was built for. Few organizations enable that like OHNY.

Help us continue to connect people and the spaces that make our city.
Join OHNY as a Member
Gift an OHNY Membership
Support OHNY with a donation

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.

I AM OHNY is a campaign we began in late 2011 to highlight and celebrate Open House New York’s diverse community of supporters.

Pia Yasay is one of the thirty District Coordinators who volunteer their entire weekend every year during OHNY Weekend to make sure that everything runs smoothly for visitors, volunteers, and site and tour sponsors.  Pia became a DC in 2013, returning again in 2014 to coordinate West Midtown. “At the time, I was working in the same office as the OHNY staff–so I am pretty sure that had a lot to do with it!” she recalls. [OHNY shared space with Jaklitsch / Gardner Architects until 2013 before moving into our own space.] “It seemed like it would be a great fit, and the experience has been very enjoyable.”

Thank you, Pia, for giving so much of your time to make OHNY Weekend such a fantastic event!

Pia

What do you love most about New York City?
The people. Their diversity and energy drives and shapes this city, and New York just wouldn’t be what it is without them. I feel that the diversity of the people translates directly into how diverse the neighborhoods and places are here in New York.

What is your favorite building and/or neighborhood in the city?
The Guggenheim. I think I was 12 the first time I visited. Back then I didn’t know anything about the museum, about architecture—I hadn’t even heard of Frank Lloyd Wright! It was so different from any place I’d been, and I could feel that it was someplace special. I suppose that was my first experience with architecture that really stuck with me. Now, every time I visit I make it a point to stand in the center of the rotunda and take a moment to look around.

What was your most memorable OHNY experience?
One of my favorite OHNY sites is Eero Sarrinen’s TWA Flight Center. I am glad I had the chance to see it before it gets turned into a hotel. Another favorite tour was Grand Central Terminal, where I was able to look down from the fifth floor catwalk.

If OHNY could grant you an all-access pass to any place in the city, where would you go, and why?
I’d want to see the construction site of the Hudson Yards development. The project will completely transform Manhattan’s west side and the infrastructure that is being built and implemented for that project is extensive. It will be like a mini-city within Manhattan that is seemingly semi-autonomous, with its own power grid and a system of pneumatic tubes that will collect trash below street level.  I think those systems are pretty impressive, and haven’t been done in New York before, or at least not at this scale. It would be cool to see those inner workings before they’re hidden away.

OHNY is important to New York City because…
…it provides an opportunity to discover a place or space that you might not have the chance to experience otherwise. It is valuable to me because a lot of the sites I’ve visited are on streets I’ve walked down many times before and in buildings I’ve never given a second thought, but OHNY gives me the chance to experience those unassuming places and uncover something new about New York.

 

Help us continue to connect people and the spaces that make our city.
Join OHNY as a Member
Gift an OHNY Membership
Support OHNY with a donation

 

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.

I AM OHNY is a campaign we began in late 2011 to highlight and celebrate Open House New York’s diverse community of supporters.

Architect Rob Rogers first experienced OHNY on a tour of the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant during OHNY Weekend, and remembers the experience very fondly: “It’s a fabulous piece of infrastructure, architecture, and civic work. I love to learn about how this city has grown, I can never get enough.”

“I was lucky, young, optimistic and naïve when I came to New York right out of college,” he recalls, “and all those are still true except the young part. I came here to work with I.M.Pei, which I did for six years before starting my own practice.” Today, Rob helms the award-winning Rogers Partners Architects, and sits on OHNY’s Governing Board.

Thank you, Rob, for everything that you do for OHNY!

Rob

What do you love most about New York City?
This is where stuff happens.

What is your favorite building and/or neighborhood in the city?
In the mid-1980’s I lived on a house boat at the 79th Street boat basin. Though I’ve now lived on land for decades since, that was still one of the most compelling bunch of neighbors one could imagine. No one locked their doors and we shared everything.

What was your most memorable OHNY experience?
My OHNY inaugural visit – to the Newtown Creek sewage plant. The operating engineer who led the tour was able to give us all the history of sewage and wastewater in the city. He was incredibly proud of his facility, bragged about its capacity and performance; I think the several young kids on the tour came away with ambitions to be waste management engineers!

If OHNY could grant you an all-access pass to any place in the city, where would you go, and why?
I would love an all tunnel pass. One that enabled visits inside the Holland Tunnel tubes, the path connections, the Brooklyn Battery, the train tunnels to Penn and Grand Central; then into the new water tunnel and MTA connections. That would be a fabulous day.

OHNY is important to New York City because…
It’s about access and information. I believe deeply in an informed citizenry – the more people know about how the city works and why, the better we’ll all be at making decisions and policy. And we’ll make a smarter city.

Help us continue to connect people and the spaces that make our city.
Join OHNY as a Member
Gift an OHNY Membership
Support OHNY with a donation

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.

I AM OHNY is a campaign we began in late 2011 to highlight and celebrate Open House New York’s diverse community of supporters. Miquela Craytor first got involved with OHNY while a grad student at the Pratt Institute in 2004, only the second year of OHNY Weekend’s existence. This year, in her role as the Director of NYC Industrial and Income Mobility and Vice President of the Center for Economic Transformation at New York City Economic Development Corporation, she has served as the lead partner on Making it Here, OHNY’s first-ever yearlong thematic series, which has explored how manufacturing occupies space in the city today.

Miquela describes her relationship to New York as being “Like [that of] many—it’s a love/hate thing.” Born and raised in Oregon on a five-acre farm, she moved to the city in the summer of 2000. “In many respects, I loved that environment,” Miquela says, “but felt the missing energy of people and urbanity. I came here recognizing that I would be trading the natural beauty of Oregon for the man-made beauty of NYC.” Thanks to Miquela and her team at NYCEDC for all that they’ve done to make Making it here such a rousing success!

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What do you love most about New York City?
I love the diversity: both in the people and the built environment. There is such a spectrum of buildings, people, histories. There are gems that you can come across in any random day. You cannot get that in suburbia.

What is your favorite building and/or neighborhood in the city?
My favorite neighborhood is Fort Green/Clinton Hill, in Brooklyn. Its diversity of building and people makes it really special to me.

What was your most memorable OHNY experience?
Hosting a tour in the South Bronx on a green roof, sharing the story of the community and a unique project with many individuals who had never ever imagined such a beautiful effort could be in a neighborhood not known for such positive stories. Helping this audience to understand the struggles of a community, and to understand the role that each of them can play in driving change to prevent poor planning. It was a unique opportunity to open peoples’ minds through the direct experience of space/place.

If OHNY could grant you an all-access pass to any place in the city, where would you go, and why?
I would go to the hidden parts of Grand Central Station—I’ve heard that you can go into the area above the main concourse.

OHNY is important to New York City because…
It connects New Yorkers to places and to each other in a most unique way that reminds us of the connections we all have through our built environment.

Help us continue to connect people and the spaces that make our city.
Join OHNY as a Member
Gift an OHNY Membership
Support OHNY with a donation

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.