Marvel Architects: from rowhouses to the Governors Island Ferry Terminal

Today I was interested in seeing some photos of the State Street townhouses that Marvel Architects designed for Downtown Brooklyn. They are a beautiful reinterpretation of the traditional Brooklyn rowhouse, and could help inspire a new wave of rowhouse construction in that borough. On Staten Island, rowhouses have been constructed in increasing numbers in recent years in more densely urbanized areas like St. George. Unfortunately, they are invariably ugly, cheap and badly designed. In St. George a few hideous rowhouses are sprouting up in various patches of cleared land and there is the potential for many more. Here is an image of some recently built rowhouses. They are awkwardly placed, at odds with the hillside they occupy, with high, narrow stoops that look haphazard and unfriendly. Their style seems to be dictated by what is cheapest rather than what is uplifting and appropriate. Their appearance is saved only by the greenery that mercifully obscures their facades. Marvel, where are you?

townhouse

Compare these to the rowhouses going up in Brooklyn.

While there, I came upon renderings of the Battery Maritime Building (Governors Island Ferry Terminal) project underway now. The renderings are still mysteriously void of detail, and look like ghostly wrappings more than actual architecture, but perhaps that is the aesthetic goal.

The BMB on the Marvel website.

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What’s going on atop the Governors Island Ferry Terminal?

NYC - Battery: Battery Maritime Building

NYC – Battery: Battery Maritime Building (Photo credit: wallyg)

Nothing piques the curiosity like a secret, and that goes for whatever is happening on the roof of the beautiful old Beaux Arts building that is our neighbor when docking in Manhattan. Right next to the Staten Island Ferry Terminal (Whitehall Street Terminal), is the ornate Battery Maritime Building, known to most people as the Governors Island Ferry Terminal. Lately there has been an awful lot of activity on the roof, the old rooftop addition has been demolished and now scaffolding has gone up for new construction. But just try and find some real information about what is going on and you will be faced with a kind of omertà. So you have to follow the crumbs. The most logical website to look on for information is probably the NYCEDC site. There one finds a press release that describes an elaborate plan to open up the second floor Great Hall as a specialty foods marketplace and education center, and to build a boutique hotel on the roof. However, the press release is from 2007! Which will leave you wondering how much these plans have been changed and “value engineered” (read cheapened) over the past six years.

There is a new article on the Governors Island Alliance site, which mentions the Dermot Corporation and the “Poulakakos Family” as the contractors charged with developing the interior, but does not mention any of the other players in the 2007 article. The Dermot website has a couple of vague looking renderings from a distance, and mentions Ismael Leyva Architects. It does mention a “public” Great Hall and a 67 room hotel, so those seem to still be on track. At the Ismael Leyva site I found a couple more renderings of what is presently being constructed on the roof there. They show bland looking blank walls facing all four directions, like a privacy fence made entirely of glass or metal. It might be presumed that these well known and undeniably competent architects are planning something that will not compete with the historic facade, but there is no way of knowing for sure about this, since the website does not give any detail at all about the ongoing project. The Poulakakos Family is another enigma, and a google search brings up the fact that they run several Downtown establishments. There is a NYTimes article about their involvement in the Pier A renovation, just up the shoreline from the Battery Maritime Building and that it is (surprise, surprise) shrouded in secrecy!

No press releases, no clear renderings, no community review, no timetable or estimated completion date… What Is Going On?