The Real Deal New York

SHoP’s Vishaan Chakrabarti bemoans aging NYC infrastructure

April 09, 2015 04:45PM
By Tess Hofmann

Rendering of the Domino Sugar Refinery development and Vishaan Chakrabarti

Rendering of the Domino Sugar Refinery development and Vishaan Chakrabarti

UPDATED, April 10, 10:28 a.m.: New York City is facing a crisis of shoddy infrastructure, and figuring out how to deal with is imperative to the city’s continued growth, according to Vishaan Chakrabarti, whose firm SHoP Architects is designing the Domino Sugar Factory redevelopment for Two Trees Management.

Open House New York hosted the discussion Wednesday evening at Scholastic Auditorium in Soho. After taking the audience through his inspirations for the design of Domino — Jane Jacobs’ four city planning principles and the Brooklyn Army Terminal were among his influences — Chakrabarti responded to a question about whether he is optimistic about New York City’s future.

“We are way behind the curve,” Chakrabarti said. When one of the city’s major rail tunnels —  there are only two leading to Penn Station — goes down for repairs, Chakrabarti warned, “then you’re going to have a lot of fun in this city.”

While some may want to lay blame on the mayor or the federal government, “it’s our fault as a collective,” he said. “No one wants higher taxes. No one wants higher metrocard fares… Politicians don’t feel sufficient pressure from the body politic.”

On the subject of affordable housing, Chakrabarti said that while he sees some good things percolating, he is concerned that in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s ambitious housing plans, design may be an afterthought.

Apartments are not “widgets,” he said.

Even in the luxury sector, Chakrabarti sees design quality suffering on some projects, particularly those lining the East River in Brooklyn. He asked the audience to question “this idea that you’re going to see this monotonous drumbeat up and down the East River.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story referenced car tunnels rather than rail tunnels.