July 23, 2024


Amazing design, nonpareil

Big Ideas for Small Lots program mired in delays


“I understand that these things take time,” said Jeremiah Joseph, the founding principal of Anawan/101, one of the finalists along with the firm Kane AUD. A few weeks ago, Joseph and other finalists had a call with HPD officials to inquire about the delays. “We very much across the United States have a critical problem with housing prices and availability. We are ready to go when they are.”

The competition, called Big Ideas for Small Lots, focused on 113 W. 136th St. in Harlem, a weedy site between row houses with a width of 16 feet and 8 inches. Designers had to come up with different models for affordable housing there.

When officials choose a winner, its design will be replicated at 23 city-owned sites across New York. Tax breaks and other incentives would then be deployed to incentivize nonprofit developers to build housing based on the design.

A model for what could come may be found at 172 Putnam Ave. in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. On a lot whose width measures just over 13 feet is a new black-stucco-faced row house from the firm Only If. The house is actually the home of Only If’s principals, Adam Frampton and Karolina Czeczek, and was developed before the competition with the couple’s own funding. The two-bedroom, three-level house was completed last fall.

But Only If is also a finalist in Big Ideas for Small Lots, so the property is in a way a bid to show that the principals practice what they preach. “We hope the Mayor Adams administration prioritizes this small, challenging but potentially impactful initiative,” Frampton said.

The other finalists include firms OBJ and Palette Architecture. Michael Sorkin, a well-known designer, was the fifth finalist, but he died of Covid-19 in March 2020. Whether or not his firm will move forward is unclear. An email to his firm was not returned.

For its part, HPD has seen staffing levels hover well below 2019 figures, even as there remains a budget for hiring. In general, staffing in City Hall is down across the board, particularly in regards to those who oversee affordable housing, inspections and planning. A spokesman for HPD did not comment by press time.


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