These architects designed the most new dev in NYC this year

By square footage; Handel was No. 1; Adamson No. 2 with a single project

From left: Adamson Associates' Alan Tearle, Handel Architects' Gary Handel, Aufgang Architects' Ariel Aufgang (Credit: Getty Images, iStock, Adamson, Aufgang)
From left: Adamson Associates' Alan Tearle, Handel Architects' Gary Handel, Aufgang Architects' Ariel Aufgang (Credit: Getty Images, iStock, Adamson, Aufgang)

UPDATED, Jan. 3, 2020 1:52 p.m.: It’s been a busy year for projects in the outer boroughs, and some architects have been especially active.

In fact, the architectural firms designing the most new development in the city this year had projects in all five boroughs, with more than half outside of Manhattan.

Their work included an office building for Disney, a Staten Island warehouse for Amazon and a new high-rise in Midtown East for New York luxury housing stalwart Zeckendorf Development.

TRD ranked architecture firms based on the square footage of their ground-up projects initiated this year. For this ranking, TRD went by the architect of record listed on new building permit applications pre-filed in 2019. (The design architect may be different from the firms listed on documents filed with the city Department of Buildings.)

Here they are:

1. Handel Architects | 8 projects | 3,320,968 square feet

Handel Architects is making its mark in Long Island City with two mixed-use developments from Gotham Organization and Riseboro Community Partnership — one of which would be the tallest on the Queens waterfront.

The design includes 700,000 square feet, with 9,000 square feet of commercial space and 19,000 square feet of community space, according to most recent filings. It would stand 57 stories tall with 692 residential units.

Gary Handel founded the New York City-based firm in 1994. This year, it completed the mixed-use development The Essex. The 20-story building is part of Essex Crossing, a $1.5 billion megaproject that spans three Lower East Side blocks from L+M Development Partners, BFC Partners, Taconic Investment Partners, Prusik Group and Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group.

2. Adamson Associates |1 project | 1,871,767 square feet

Toronto-based Adamson Associates Architects, which has offices in New York, Los Angeles and London, filed plans for just one project in New York City this year: JPMorgan Chase’s new headquarters.

But the design for the 70-story supertall, on the site of the bank’s old building, was enough to catapult Adamson Associates into second place.

The original plan’s 7,000 square feet of external enclosed public space proved insufficient. Despite the bank’s previous arguments that setting aside more public space was impossible because of the underlying train shed, Adamson Associates added 3,000 square feet of public space to the design.

The City Council approved the plans in May.

3. Aufgang Architects | 14 projects | 1,638,262 square feet

This powerhouse firm has made the top half this list for three years running. Aufgang filed plans mostly for projects in the Bronx and Queens this year, but there may be changes at one of its Manhattan developments. For developers Maddd Equities and Joy Construction, Aufgang had planned a 30-story, 544,000-square-foot project with 611 residential units and about 62,000 square feet of commercial space at 3875 Ninth Avenue in Inwood.

Now the developers say they might axe that plan for affordable and low- or middle-income units, which depended on a 2018 rezoning, in favor of an as-of-right industrial project, in light of a Manhattan judge overturning the rezoning this month.

Ariel Aufgang is the principal at Aufgang Architects, founded in 1971 and based in Suffern.

4. SLCE Architects | 10 projects | 1,287,649 square feet

The prolific New York-based firm slipped to fourth this year after garnering the top position in 2018. The firm, founded in 1941, has had a hand in designing more New York City projects than any other, according to its website. SLCE previously topped a TRD ranking of companies designing the most square footage of new buildings in the five boroughs between Jan. 1, 2012, and Jan. 31, 2018.

SLCE, which designed Billionaire’s Row tower One57 for Extell at 157 West 57th Street and Harry Macklowe’s 432 Park Avenue, is also doing Zeckendorf Development’s newest high-rise. Arthur Zeckendorf III filed plans for the building at 115 East 55th Street, just southeast of Central Park between Park and Lexington avenues. The 18-story, 62-unit residential building will include a gym and rooftop terrace.

5. Ismael Leyva Architects | 6 projects | 1,061,555 square feet

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Ismael Leyva was born and studied architecture in Veracruz, Mexico, before coming to the U.S. His firm has designed more than 70 buildings in the city — 20 of them just for Related Companies, Crain’s reported.

In March, Leyva’s firm was tapped by developer Lalezarian Properties to design a 45-story, 260-unit mixed-use tower at 606 West 30th Street. The 545-foot mixed-use property would have 193,000 square feet of residential space and 14,000 square feet of commercial space.

6. Hill West Architects | 6 projects | 1,024,456 square feet

Hill West Architects nabbed sixth place thanks in part to two large projects in the outer boroughs.

Hill West — formerly Goldstein, Hill & West — is designing a 398,000-square-foot project at 54 Crown Street in Crown Heights, one block from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. The building would stand 17 stories and 175 feet tall and include 569 residential units.

In Jamaica, Queens, Hill West is designing a tower developed by Shorewood Real Estate Group. The project at 92-25 160th Street, which takes advantage of the Opportunity Zone tax benefit, will include co-working space as well as a game room, yoga room, dog wash, and lounges with views of Jamaica Bay.

7. Skidmore, Owings and Merrill | 3 projects | 994,002 square feet

One large project accounted for the well-known firm’s rise to seventh place.

In August, entertainment giant Disney filed plans for an office building at 310 Hudson Street in Hudson Square. The commercial development will span about 851,000 square feet with east and west towers — more than 10 times larger than Skidmore, Owings and Merrill’s next biggest design this year. The structure will stand 19 stories and 281 feet tall.

Disney acquired the development site, which is comprised of five parcels, including an eight-story building that stands at 304 Hudson Street, from Trinity Church for $650 million in 2018.

8. Ford and Associates Architects | 1 project | 975,000 square feet

With its design for a massive warehouse on Staten Island, Ford and Associates Architects vaulted into the top 10.

Matrix Development Group filed plans in April for a 955,000-square-foot storage facility on Staten Island designed by Ford. It is part of a 3.5 million-square-foot logistics development where Amazon used 975,000 square feet to build its first distribution center in New York City.

9. S9 Architecture | 3 projects | 845,127 square feet

L+M filed plans in February for a 23-story, 542-unit mixed-use building in the South Bronx designed by S9 Architecture. The project — part of L+M’s and Type A Projects’ massive Bronx Point development — would span more than 550,000 square feet, split between roughly 424,000 square feet of residential, 73,000 of commercial and 60,000 of community space. The development will include a multiplex theater, an educational space, a food and beverage hall and the Universal Hip-Hop Museum.

The museum won big last week when Governor Andrew Cuomo announced it would get $3.75 million in Regional Economic Development Council grants.

10. Fischer Makooi Architects | 10 projects | 790,083 square feet

The firm, whose namesake Karl Fischer died in March, surged from the 14th most active in 2017 to No. 10 this year.

While the New York Post once called Fischer “New York City’s most loathed architect” for designs that critics said sacrificed aesthetics for efficiency and savings, the firm has consistently been a favorite with developers, especially with the Orthodox Jewish community. This year the firm, run by principal Fariba Makooi, designed projects in Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Bronx.

According to plans filed by the Rabsky Group in November, Fischer Makooi will design a 50-unit mixed-use project at 269 Wallabout Street in Williamsburg.

It will stand eight stories and 90 feet tall and include residential, commercial and community space totaling about 159,000 square feet.

Update: This story has been updated to include that Fariba Makooi is the principal of Fischer Makooi Architects.