Art Power beneath Urban Revitalization
In the revitalization of urban districts, the contribution from artists can never be ignored, and New York City serves as a good example. Starting with Greenwich Village—the birthplace of the Beat Movement and center of the Bohemian lifestyle—and moving to SoHo, the East Village, down to TriBeCa and to the outer boroughs (Williamsburg, DUMBO, Long Island City, among others), artists of all types and persuasions moved into these areas, seeking low rent and good space to work in. Over time, these down-and-out areas became vibrant and desirable neighborhoods.
While the artists are leading the urban development, what forces are leading them? Some common elements are evident: sufficient space (lofts, warehouses, factories) with low rent, convenient transit, and easy communication with their peers. Based on these elements, many areas in Long Island stand out as potential attraction for artists. Why not channel this art power to Long Island? Here, we put our ideas for Bethpage to the test:
Bethpage: 48 minutes from midtown Manhattan; 30 minutes from both the north and south shores of Long Island; part bedroom community, part local hamlet with a long history, part remnant of the first wave of suburban growth which left behind underutilized industrial space and increasing sprawl—in other words, a quintessential Long Island village. Our design aims at channeling the influence of world-class art activities from Manhattan to Bethpage through the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) system—establishing the second affiliated modern art institution for the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)—MoMA PS2.
In Bethpage, the spacious factories and warehouses provide artists the space that expensive Manhattan can no longer provide. Convenient transit offers frequent and easy connection with New York City. Artists would work, live, and socialize here, enlivening the existing space, and creating a closely bounded community that is less about the commute to New York City and more about truly living in the local. Art festivals of all kinds would be held regularly. Newly created pedestrian and bike paths would replace the ubiquitous car as another way to get around. Cooperation with MoMA would attract its visitors from outside and bring them to Bethpage via LIRR, allowing another art center to take shape.
Here we envision transit-oriented development (TOD) evolving into TAOD: Transit and Art Oriented Development. Artists repurpose the existing space, forming a tight and closely-bounded community like Westbeth Artists’ Housing, which makes possible dense and mixed-use development as well as affordable rental housing. Improved landscape and bike systems would help bring car usage down to a minimum, so “transfer” no longer stands for “Park-n-ride” but “Bike-n-ride” or “Walk-n-ride.”
The site will house six art galleries of various sizes, three sculpture mills, one press house, four visual arts hubs, a performing arts center, a children’s art center, as well as four sites for the Young Architects Program, like the one held annually at MoMA. In addition, series of supporting facilities would facilitate these anchor programs, including apartments, community centers, cafes, restaurants, hotels, and more.
Buildings are arranged into multiple courtyards that would become different small neighborhoods within the larger community. Pedestrian and bike paths radiating out into the neighborhoods can better merge this new community into existing ones.
Among the 156 areas of opportunity on Long Island, 84 are within the LIRR transit system, and thus similar to Bethpage. These 84 underused locations are 84 opportunities awaiting innovative efforts. These locations offer solutions to numerous space-constrained art museums/galleries/studios in Manhattan; these 84 spacious and efficiently connected spots could be the ideal place for expansion of existing arts institutions and businesses. Establishing Bethpage MoMA PS2 will let Long Island evolve as a Better Burb under the power of art.