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Developers at PWC Forum Discuss NYC’s Transformation

Thu February 28, 2013 - Northeast Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

Lloyd Mulvey photo
(L-R) are Lois Weiss, New York Post; Laura Gray, NYCEDC; Melissa Pianko, Gotham Organization; Laura Rapaport, L & L Holding Co.; Faith Taylor, Wyndham Worldwide and Lenore Janis, PWC.
Lloyd Mulvey photo (L-R) are Lois Weiss, New York Post; Laura Gray, NYCEDC; Melissa Pianko, Gotham Organization; Laura Rapaport, L & L Holding Co.; Faith Taylor, Wyndham Worldwide and Lenore Janis, PWC.

Iconic buildings. Multiple green initiatives. Affordable housing. A major net-zero building. These were some of the projects explored by the speakers at Professional Women in Construction’s (PWC) latest Developers Forum organized and moderated by New York Post columnist Lois Weiss and hosted by PWC President Lenore Janis at the General Society in Manhattan.

Laura Rapaport, senior vice president of L & L Holding Company, discussed 425 Park, site of what will be the first full-block office building on Park Avenue in nearly 50 years. L & L held an international design competition for the project and Foster & Partners, led by Norman Foster, was selected to create an iconic three-tiered LEED building that will etch its presence along the Manhattan skyline. The global, sustainable tower will feature high ceilinged, column-free, glass-enclosed amenity spaces and unobstructed panoramic views of Central Park. L & L’s rebuild of 200 Fifth Avenue resulted in 11 design and construction awards and the first LEED certification granted to a landmark property.

Melissa Pianko, executive vice president of Gotham Organization, spoke of Gotham West, which will transform almost an entire Manhattan city block between West 44th and 45th streets and 10th and 11th avenues. A classically underutilized site including property condemned for redevelopment in 1970 will house a 32-story tower, approximately 1,240 rental units in four buildings and approximately 17,000 sq. ft. of retail. Gotham has been able to rezone the site by working closely with the city and community organizations. A new public school accommodating 630 students also is being built on the block.

“A collaborative working environment can be created when you commit to working together,” said Pianko.

Faith Taylor, senior vice president of sustainability and innovation of Wyndham Worldwide, spoke of the Wyndham Green program, which has ranked the company one of the top 100 greenest companies in America and number one for hotels and restaurants in Newsweek for the last two years. Wyndham has collaborated with Cornell University and other institutions such as World Travel and Tourism in implementing sustainability measures throughout all of their brands. Taylor noted a Ramada Hotel that became carbon neutral by using solar panels and energy efficient lighting. It is even selling energy back to the grid.

“We all have to reduce our carbon footprint — there is no Planet B. I’m on the side of innovative solutions,” said Taylor.

Laura Gray, vice president, capital program at the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), discussed the renovation of the historic Strand Theatre in the Downtown Brooklyn Cultural District, as well as the completion of the final phase of the High Line, where the city has invested $112M to turn an abandoned railroad track into an elevated park. Construction began in 2006; the park opened to the public in 2009. Gray also spoke of Hunter’s Point South in Queens, which is being transformed into 5,000 units of housing, at least 60 percent affordable, as well as a new school and open space.

Gray noted that the Applied Sciences NYC initiative launched in 2010 has resulted in partnerships with: Cornell University and The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology; a consortium of universities led by NYU; and Columbia’s Engineering school. The three campuses collectively will generate thousands of jobs and $30B in economic activity over the next 30 years.

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