Big small-minded news out of the fair — and currently frigid — isle of Manhattan today: A winning design has been selected in the Bloomberg administration’s search for innovative micro-dwellings boasting square footage so reduced that the waiving of certain zoning laws are required in their creation.
When launched this past July, the adAPT NYC pilot program attracted the attention of 33 development teams that each submitted proposals detailing their unique visions of sardine can-sized bliss. The competition — really, a request for proposals and not a proper contest — also managed to generate a whole bunch of national publicity. Smartly designed pint-sized apartment units have been sprouting up in cities across the country for a while now but when Michael Bloomberg gets involved it’s predictably a big, splashy to-do. Even my own mother in Tacoma, Wash. had something to say about adAPT NYC. “Aren’t apartments in New York small and expensive enough already?” she asked over the phone after reading about the initiative.
Don't I know it, Mom.
But here's the thing: New York City suffers from a dearth of affordable studio and one-bedroom rental apartments catering to the 1.8 million one- and two-person households living in the city. And as that population continues to expand, the available housing market continues to shrink dramatically. AdAPT NYC’s winning proposal, “My Micro NY,” aims to remedy this shortage through experimental living quarters that may be short on square footage — they’re between 250 and 370 square feet — but aren’t lacking in the livability department.
“My Micro NY” is the creation of NY-based nARCHITECTS, Monadnock Development LLC, and the Actors Fund Housing Development Corporation, a nonprofit that aims to develop supportive and affordable housing for the city’s performing arts community. The team’s winning design will eventually be realized (construction is slated to start by the end of this year) at a city-owned site in Manhattan’s Kips Bay neighborhood. In total, the development will consist of 55 modular micro-units fabricated off-site in the Brooklyn Navy Yards by modular builder Capsys and then snapped together and stacked, LEGO-style, in Kips Bay. The 10-story, grey brick structure will be Manhattan’s first modular multi-unit building — in terms of construction methods, it's not all that dissimilar from Bruce Ratner's prefab apartment tower across the East River that's been getting a ton of attention as of late.
As for the units themselves, they’re split into two distinct zones: the “canvas” zone is composed of a flexible living/dining/sleeping area that allows for “individual expression.” The “toolbox” zone contains a postage stamp-sized bathroom with shower, a closet, an overhead storage unit with built-in ladder, and a 70-cubic-foot kitchen with a full-height pull-out pantry and a, gasp, full-sized refrigerator. Feeling a touch bottled-up? Kind-of step outside of your micro-apartment in the sky and onto your own private Juliet balcony for a breath of fresh air.
Aside from square footage minimums and density, all aspects of the units will be fully up to snuff when it comes to current building code. If the exploratory “My Micro NY” development proves to be a success, there’s the potential for regulatory changes that would allow for smaller, more dense dwellings without the need for special, mayor-approved zoning waivers.
I should mention that the New York Times notes the aforementioned “linear storage lofts” are roomy enough to stash a surfboard. And there's indeed a green surfboard stashed into an overhead cubby depicted in an interior rendering of one of the units.
That’s fantastic ... if you live in Santa Barbara. I'm more curious about the bike storage situation. As it turns out, among the building’s many amenities — a rooftop garden, fitness room, café, communal lounges, etc. — there will indeed be on-site bike storage. This seems only appropriate because unless a bulk of the building’s future tenants work across the street at Bellevue Hospital or NYU Medical Center, they’ll probably need a bike. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in Kips Bay — home to, among other things, a pair of depressing brutalist I.M. Pei apartment towers and my dentist — and it’s a hike to the nearest train and a bit of a dead zone in terms of good dining options and diversions. A brand new Fairway Market on Second Ave., however, is definitely a bonus to living in the neighborhood.
In terms of pricing, only 40 percent of the “My Micro NY” units will be "affordable" with rents ranging from $914 to $1,873 a month. The rest will be market rate. I shudder to think what those to-be-announced price points will be and the effect that they'll have on the market. Considering the involvement of the AFHDC, I’m also curious as to if any kind of special treatment will be given to actors, entertainers, and other creative types. Although it boasts a huge population of medical professionals and students working in the area, Kips Bay doesn't strike me as the ideal locale for a successful-young-thesp-with-a-trust fund scurrying around town on auditions.
Here’s what Bloomberg had to say about the news in a rather epic press release:
New York’s ability to adapt with changing times is what made us the world’s greatest city — and it’s going to be what keeps us strong in the 21st Century. The growth rate for one- and two-person households greatly exceeds that of households with three or more people, and addressing that housing challenge requires us to think creatively and beyond our current regulations.
Our buildings should be built to meet the needs of New Yorkers, and as our population continues to grow and evolve, so must our housing stock. The Monadnock proposal is a fresh, innovative design that recognizes the changes in how we live as a society and presents a safe, reasonable housing option for those who want to call New York City home.
AdAPT NYC is part of Mayor Bloomberg's New Housing Marketplace Plan, a multi-billion dollar push to generate 165,000 additional affordable housing units across the five boroughs by the end of 2014. A nicely eclectic 12-member advisory board — artist/landscape architect Maya Lin, Danish starchitect Bjarke Ingels, High Line honcho Robert Hammond, fiercely annoying (but super-talented) fashion designer Christian Siriano, just to name a few — joined the City in reviewing the 33 micro-unit proposals.