2019年11月7日 星期四

N.Y. Today: An Architectural Gem, but Flawed

What you need to know for Thursday.

When an Architectural Gem Is Not Accessible to All

By Aaron Randle

It's Thursday.

Weather: Don't be fooled by a partly sunny morning — it'll probably be raining during your commute home. High in the upper 50s.

Alternate-side parking: In effect until Monday (Veterans Day).

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Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

When the $41.5 million Hunters Point Library opened along the East River in Queens in September, it was praised as a marvel.

But now the narrative around the architectural gem is morphing amid growing concerns about the building's accessibility.

New York's new masterpiece

In a review, The Times called the library "one of the finest public buildings New York has produced this century."

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Michael Kimmelman, architecture critic for the Times, noted its avant-garde construction, warm interiors and spectacular views, and declared the library "an instant boon and a locus of neighborhood pride."

Design disappointments

Activists, parents and disabled New Yorkers, however, said the library is also an expensive emblem of an all-too-common problem in the city: the lack of accessibility.

As my colleague Sharon Otterman reported, the design element that distinguishes the library — cascading indoor terraces connected by stairs — cannot be reached by people who cannot climb to them.

There are other problems.

The staircase and bleacher seating areas in the children's section have been roped off because parents voiced concerns that their height might pose risks for small children.

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There is only one elevator, often creating bottlenecks, Ms. Otterman wrote. The area for parking strollers is too small and too narrow, which can result in hectic congestion.

"It's chaos," one parent said during the library's 10:30 a.m. toddler story time.

Lack of accessibility is a persistent issue in New York, especially for the city's subway system.

A senior partner at the firm that designed the building called the accessibility problem a "small wrinkle in an incredibly successful project," and said the firm has begun brainstorming ways to address the issues, which may include retrofitting the library.

Activists found that reaction lukewarm and dismissive.

"To me, that is the response of somebody who never had the experience of going somewhere and not being able to fully participate," said Christine Yearwood, founder of the disability rights group Up-Stand. "Part of what universal design is about is allowing everyone to independently enjoy spaces."

What can be done?

The architects might want to look to the "Being Human" exhibition at the Wellcome Collection museum in London, hailed by some as the most accessible museum space in Britain, if not the world.

Floors are painted to help the visually impaired. Benches in front of screens are slightly off-center so wheelchair users can have a perfect view. Attention is paid to the size of display labels and to the height that photos are hung on the walls.

"If you look in most museums, you'd think disabled people didn't exist," said one curator. "But they're the world's biggest minority."

FROM THE TIMES

Explore news from New York and around the region

The Mini Crossword: Here is today's puzzle.

What we're reading

A hotel on Billionaire's Row is looking to lure the superrich with its new $50,000-a-night suite. [WSJ]

After decades at Pier 76 on the West Side waterfront, the Police Department's tow pound — where vehicles end up for parking violations — may be moving. [The City]

Even though Barneys is closing, Freds, its famous restaurant, will stay open. [Eater]

Coming up today

Take the whole family gardening at Kids Bulb Planting Day at Washington Square Park in Manhattan. 3:30 p.m. [Free with R.S.V.P.]

Head to Pride Night Out for an evening of L.G.B.T.Q. youth films at the Free Synagogue of Flushing in Queens. 6:30 p.m. [$10; $5 for students]

Take the Fall Foliage Tour at the Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden on Staten Island. 1 p.m. [$10]

— Julia Carmel

Events are subject to change, so double-check before heading out. For more events, see the going-out guides from The Times's culture pages.

And finally: The police commissioner's new job

Police Commissioner James P. O'Neill's next post will be with the credit card company Visa, as its senior vice president and global head of physical security.

The announcement was made on Tuesday, one day after Mr. O'Neill's resignation from the city's police force.

Mr. O'Neill, who had led the Police Department since 2016, is leaving as the murder rate in New York is at lows not seen since the 1950s. Succeeding him will be Dermot F. Shea, the current chief of detectives.

At Visa, Mr. O'Neill will be responsible for developing the company's global physical and personal security protocol in more than 200 countries.

"It's a great company, great culture, I look forward to it," Mr. O'Neill said at his final news conference yesterday. "I'm definitely going to miss my time as police commissioner of the greatest police department in the world."

Visa is headquartered in San Francisco, but Mr. O'Neill says he will continue to call New York home. "I'm a New Yorker," he said. "There's going to be a lot of traveling."

It's Thursday — don't you resign just yet.

Metropolitan Diary: Attention is paid

Dear Diary:

I was on the No. 4 one evening when a young woman entered the car, crying in loud and convulsive sobs.

Other passengers, obviously uncomfortable, looked away. I respect others' privacy, but after a stop or two, I felt I had to do something.

I walked over to the woman and asked if she would like me to sit next to her.

She nodded.

I settled into the seat, and then waited a while.

"It looks like you've had a pretty bad day," I said.

It was as if my words had unlocked a dam that was ready to burst. The woman began to spill forth a story of unrequited love.

I didn't say much beyond the occasional "uh-huh." She had my attention, and that was what mattered.

As her tale wound down, she asked if I could do something for her.

I had no idea what she might want, but I said yes.

"Could you give me a hug?" she asked.

Really? A hug from a stranger? Well, O.K.

Wrapping my arms around her, I could feel her emotional upheaval subside.

My stop was coming up. Breaking away, I asked if I could buy her a cup of tea.

No, she said, she was good. And she did seem changed. She looked O.K.

— Marcy K. Krever

New York Today is published weekdays around 6 a.m. You can also find it at nytoday.com.

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