The Real Deal New York

These architects dominate BK and Queens resi development

TRD ranks top firms for residential buildings since 2010

January 05, 2016 11:30AM
By Kathryn Brenzel

From left: 28-10 Jackson Avenue, 333 Schermerhorn Street, 1134 Fulton Street and 22-44 Jackson Avenue (inset from left: Joseph Coppola, Eran Chen Guy Geier and Karl Fischer)

From left: 28-10 Jackson Avenue, 333 Schermerhorn Street, 1134 Fulton Street and 22-44 Jackson Avenue (inset from left: Richard Dattner, Eran Chen Guy Geier and Karl Fischer)

The most active architect in Brooklyn also happens to be one of its most criticized.

Karl Fischer was the architect behind 44 new residential projects proposed from November 2010, making him the borough’s most prolific during that time period, according to an analysis by The Real Deal.

He also made the top 20 list for architects in Queens, with only 256 units across four projects. The ubiquity of his designs, in Brooklyn in particular, has drawn the ire of the real estate community over the last few years, the most extreme case being in 2011, when the New York Post referred to him as “New York’s most loathed architect.” He has been criticized for sacrificing aesthetics for the whims of developers, who are drawn by his ability to work quickly and inexpensively.

For his part, Fischer isn’t too bothered by the haters: He isn’t thrilled by the criticism, but he says it’s subjective.

“You look at negative criticism, and you try to learn from it and move on,” he said. “When I get the criticism, I look at the building, and I think, ‘Did I do the best I could do?’ and sometimes the answer is no, but most of the time the answer is yes.”

Brooklyn’s top residential architects

Architect ProjectsUnitsBiggest projectUnits
Karl Fischer Architect443,186902 Franklin Avenue 209
Dattner Architects202,629333 Schermerhorn Street 754
ODA New York81,59210 Montieth Street398
Handel Architects61,78233 Bond Street714
SLCE Architects
336 Flatbush Extension
Ismael Leyva Architects51,315325 Kent Avenue522
Aufgang Architects91,068810 Fulton Street 363
Issac & Stern Architects241,0411535 Bedford Avenue133
CetraRuddy Architecture497087 Commercial Street 296
Marvel Architects687937 Sixth Avenue323
Stephen B. Jacobs Group 47542 North Sixth Place554
FXFowle Architects2684590 Fulton Street 585
Perkins Eastman Architects367254 Noll Street403
Goldstein, Hill & West 3616363 Bond Street268
CookFox Architects2580535 Carlton298
M Architecture12496200 Linden Boulevard69
SHoP Architects1495340 Flatbush Extension 495
ND Architecture & Design 7468115 Stanwix Street130
Diego Aguilera Architects16447667 Myrtle Avenue 49
Think Architecture & Design 4438421 Kent Avenue216

He said the final design of a building is often dictated by the market, the developer and what marketing teams think will sell, which is why many of his earlier projects in the city were of the “modern” glassy ilk. He said people often don’t understand how a building has evolved.

“People look at a building as a finished product, and it’s easy to criticize,” he said.

In both Brooklyn and Queens, the project volume of the boroughs’ top architects predictably pales when compared to Manhattan. Fischer was the architect for 44 projects in Brooklyn that had a total of 3,186 units — the largest number of any architect involved in residential developments in the borough since 2010. Meanwhile, SLCE Architects was the most active architect in Manhattan during the same time frame with 6,646 units across 27 projects, though the firm often works in tandem with other architects.

Top residential architects in Queens

Architect ProjectsUnitsBiggest projectUnits
SLCE Architects53,985 29-19 41st Avenue 1,800
Goldstein, Hill & West Architects42,41128-10 Jackson Avenue1,789
HTO Architect21,16222-44 Jackson Avenue1,116
Angelo Ng & Anthony Ng Architects311,02631-19 37th Avenue96
Ismael Leyva Architects29601-50 50th Avenue635
FXFowle Architects2850147-30 Archer Avenue 580
Tan Architects2472951-35 Reeder Street115
My Architects1066988-08 Justice Avenue197
Gerald J. Caliendo 14656171-04 Baisley Boulevard139
Raymond Chan8530148-37 88th Avenue120
GF55 Partners5495 44-80 11th Street 165
Gerner Kronick + Valcarcel Archi 142830-17th 40th Avenue428
The Stephen B. Jacobs Group 141529-26 Northern Boulevard415
Margulies Hoelzi Architecture2362133-27 39th Avenue192
SHoP Architects23445-49 46th Avenue296
Aufgang Architects 330834-11 Beach Channel Drive159
Handel Architects230027-19 44th Drive165
T.F. Cusanelli & Filletti Arch 1429827-18 Hoyt Avenue34
Morali Architects4264144-74 Northern Boulevard120
Karl Fisher425641-21 28th Street139

SLCE was also the most prolific architect in Queens, working as the design architect or architect of record on five projects with a total of 3,985 units, according to TRD’s analysis. Goldstein, Hill & West, a firm based in Lower Manhattan, ranked second on the list in both Manhattan and Queens — and 15th in Brooklyn. In Queens, the firm was named on new-building plans as the architect or the architect of record for four projects with a total of 2,411 units. The firm’s top project is a mixed-use development planned by Tishman Speyer and H&R Real Estate Investment Trust for Long Island City, which consists of 1,789 rental units across three towers at 28-34 Jackson Avenue, 28-10 Jackson Avenue and 30-02 Queens Boulevard.

Stephen Hill, principal at GHW, said that the six-year-old firm primarily works in Manhattan, but that the lure of Long Island City as a cheaper residential alternative — with a quick commute to Midtown — has led the firm across the East River. Hill said that 15 to 20 percent of the firm’s work — in terms of units — is the product of collaborative work. In general, he expects more projects will be joint ventures in the vein of SLCE’s partnerships.

“As more starchitects get into residential work, they need to be paired with an architect that has done that work,” he said. “It’s definitely a growing segment of business.”

Fischer said that, as a rule, he doesn’t take on projects where his firm will only be the architect of record.

“What interests me in architecture is being able to create buildings from scratch,” he said. “You create something that is meant to be on the site.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the architect of 532 Neptune Avenue. S9 Architecture is designing the rental tower.