Lower East Side

Building Community : Congrats to our friends and neighbor Earth Matter by Paul Castrucci

This week our friends and neighbor Earth Matter just celebrated 10 million pounds of food scraps. Paul Castrucci Architect is a proud supporter of this mile stone as well as a daily composting via Earth Matter. Join us and start composting today!

Press Bowery Boogie : Stairway to Nowhere: The Final Days of the Original ABC No Rio on Rivington Street by Paul Castrucci

Posted on: April 13th, 2017 at 5:00 am by Elie

Demolition of a half-block of Rivington Street is full speed ahead, and with it, the destruction of the both the old ABC No Rio headquarters and the former Streit’s Matzo factory. For the last several weeks, the buildings comprising 148-156 Rivington have been decimated in dramatic fashion. A combination of Bobcats, backhoes, and handtools.

It’s a sad spring for this corner, as more than one hundred years of history is now a pile of rubble and dust.

As previously reported, ABC No Rio is currently hosting programs in exile while its new “passive house” at 156 Rivington Street is under construction. The state-of-the-art facility – designed by local architect Paul Castrucci – will eventually boast larger exhibition and performance spaces (doubling the size), in addition to a green roof and second-floor terrace. The solar-equipped building will also have an elevator and carry the organization’s zine library, computer lab, print shop, dark room, and kitchen.

ABC No Rio purchased 156 Rivington Street from the city In 2006 for one dollar. Since then, the organization has raised more than $8 million in both private donations and city grants. Plans for the 9,000 square-foot, Leed-certified structure are eight years in the making.

What remains is a stairway to nowhere.

Press Bowery Boogie : Demolition of ABC No Rio’s Former HQ Commences on Rivington Street by Paul Castrucci

Posted on: March 8th, 2017 at 5:00 am by Elie

The proverbial wrecking ball is busy around the Lower East Side these days. It’s tough to keep up. Over on Rivington Street, half the block is currently amidst demolition. First, the Streit’s Matzo Factory. Now, on the occasion of its centennial, the tenement that formerly housed ABC No Rio is receiving the same treatment.

The city finally issued demolition permits last week, some eight months after first approving the paperwork. And despite the lack of netting and ironwork attached to the century-old building, workers have already begun dismantling 156 Rivington Street. In fact, it appears that the roof is already gone. The above photo shows the wrecking crew on the top floor with daylight visible.

One resident across the street is keeping tabs, and noted the brief reprieve during yesterday’s rains. “Thankfully it’s rainy, which keeps the dust down,” the tipster told us. “On dry days it has been flying around like crazy. And the rest of the time, the whole block smells like mold.”

As previously reported, ABC No Rio is currently hosting programs in exile while its new “passive house” at 156 Rivington Street is under construction. The state-of-the-art facility – designed by local architect Paul Castrucci – will eventually boast larger exhibition and performance spaces (doubling the size), in addition to a green roof and second-floor terrace. The solar-equipped building will also have an elevator and carry the organization’s zine library, computer lab, print shop, dark room, and kitchen.

ABC No Rio purchased 156 Rivington Street from the city In 2006 for one dollar. Since then, the arts hub has raised $1.6 million in private donations, plus an additional $6.45 million in grants through City Council members, the former Manhattan Borough president Scott M. Stringer and the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs. Plans for the 9,000 square-foot, Leed-certified structure are nearly eight years in the making.

However, the punk institution hit a snag at the end of last year. Director Steven Englander revealed that construction bids for the eco-friendly “passive house” replacement came in much higher than anticipated and that ABC No Rio needs financial assistance. In the meantime, there’s an ongoing drive to help raise the necessary funds.

As you may recall, in 2014 we moved our project over to the City’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC). Given some of our project’s unique aspects, city officials felt that EDC would be a better fit as they allow for greater flexibility in project management and administration.

We put the project out to bid and, unfortunately, the bids came back a lot higher than our available funding. While we’re disappointed, we’re not giving up hope and continue to explore our options for raising more money and getting our dream building up and running. Remember, ABC No Rio originated from a creative action by artists who never dreamed that breaking into a building to protest the city’s real estate policies would lead to a community arts center where many several thousands of artists, activists and others have been able to connect and learn. We’ve survived years of eviction attempts and gentrification. When the city first told us that if we raised the money to develop the site, they’d give us our home, many thought that this was an impossible task. But we did it – and in 2006, the City signed over the deed.

So, far from giving up hope, we’ll keep exploring what we need to make our new home happen. We are working with EDC staff and the construction management firm they hired to determine how to best move forward with our available funds given the current challenging market and environment for construction costs.

Link to original post

Press Bowery Boogie : ABC No Rio’s Passive House Replacement Potentially Delayed Due to Overall Lack of Funding by Paul Castrucci

Posted on: January 4th, 2017 at 5:00 am by Elie

Punk haven ABC No Rio is taking baby steps toward demolition and rebuilding of their new Rivington Street facility.

The city gave its initial nod back in July, then two months later, water, electric, and sewage utility lines were each severed. The remainder of demolition awaits the official go-ahead, though, and is expected to commence in “early 2017.”

Meanwhile, director Steven Englander continues to solicit funds, and recently provided a more transparent update on progress. Namely, that construction bids for the eco-friendly “passive house” replacement came in much higher than anticipated and that ABC No Rio doesn’t have enough coin in its coffers…

As you may recall, in 2014 we moved our project over to the City’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC). Given some of our project’s unique aspects, city officials felt that EDC would be a better fit as they allow for greater flexibility in project management and administration.

We put the project out to bid and, unfortunately, the bids came back a lot higher than our available funding. While we’re disappointed, we’re not giving up hope and continue to explore our options for raising more money and getting our dream building up and running. Remember, ABC No Rio originated from a creative action by artists who never dreamed that breaking into a building to protest the city’s real estate policies would lead to a community arts center where many several thousands of artists, activists and others have been able to connect and learn. We’ve survived years of eviction attempts and gentrification. When the city first told us that if we raised the money to develop the site, they’d give us our home, many thought that this was an impossible task. But we did it – and in 2006, the City signed over the deed.

So, far from giving up hope, we’ll keep exploring what we need to make our new home happen. We are working with EDC staff and the construction management firm they hired to determine how to best move forward with our available funds given the current challenging market and environment for construction costs.

So, those punk shows will continue in exile for the duration.

As previously reported, the reincarnated ABC No Rio at 156 Rivington Street will eventually boast larger exhibition and performance spaces (doubling the size), in addition to a green roof and second-floor terrace. The solar-equipped building will also have an elevator and carry the organization’s zine library, computer lab, print shop, dark room, and kitchen.

ABC NO RIO Moving forward with programs in "exile" : next phase in construction by Paul Castrucci

ABC No Rio is embarking on a new phase. The summer of 2016 became a pivoting moment as programming at the Rivington Street space shifted to alternative locations and the staff prepares for demolition and new construction.

ABC No Rio's events, programs and the essence of community that it brings about continue "in exile".  In this transitional period, creates an opportunity for a renewed focus towards collaborative work that brings them back to their roots. ABC No Rio was founded as a project of the 1970s artist group called Collaborative Projects.  The spirit of collaboration will enable people to continue sharing resources and ideas in this atmosphere of change and mutual support.

The construction phase highlights the importance of the city's artist-run community spaces. The programming work ABC No Rio engages and the design work Paul Castrucci Architect are doing helps to strengthen progressive communities in response to the recent elections.  ABC No Rio has been responding to the times we live in since the space was founded 36 years ago.  The lost felt of not being able to operate in their space, to express themselves as they once did and nourish their creative environment has created momentum for ABC No Rio to take the spirit of creating community to other sister institutions.

Before leaving the building, ABC No Rio celebrated their 36 anniversary in their "old home". In June, they presented two final exhibitions: InFinite Futures and The Past Will be Present. Infinite Futures involved eighteen artists with a historical connection to No Rio. Each artist was invited to create installations imaging the site in five, fifty or five hundred years in the future. The Past Will Be Present included four photographers who documented the spaces and textures of No Rio's building and the people working within it.

The last month in the space had a series of sold out weekly hardcore/punk matinees. Punks of different generations danced, sang and cried together as they bid farewell to the tenement where they came of age and found their political and creative voices.  The last COMA improv session in their "old home" was an extended evening of short sets both inside and out, involving almost fifty musicians playing solo, in duets and in ensemble. ABC No Rio's programs "will be - and are - continuing in exile". For example, the hardcore/punk matinees continue at "Do It Yourself" venues in other boroughs. The zine library moved to another local and historical community space, Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center. The visual art program will be hosted in various galleries around the city. This movement creates opportunity for ABC No Rio to work closely with other artist groups/collectives. Their collaboration with Flux Factory, an artist-run residency space in Queens, cultivates a spirit co-operation over competition and becomes an exploration of mutual aid.

Image: Satellite view of ABC No Rio and Paul A. Castrucci Architect headquarters. One minute walk and neighborhood. 

Image: Satellite view of ABC No Rio and Paul A. Castrucci Architect headquarters. One minute walk and neighborhood. 

Paul A. Castrucci Architect and ABC No Rio anticipate demolition plans to be approved soon and to begin in early 2017. The journey so far has not been without challenging moments for both the firm and ABC No Rio.  The city gave ABC No Rio the opportunity to raise the money to develop the site and with a supportive community response the city signed over the deed in 2006.  In 2014, ABC No Rio moved the project over to the City's Economic Development Corporation. The city realized that greater flexibility in project management and administration was better suited to fit the unique aspects of this construction. In 2016, they received an additional $750,000 from the Mayor and the Department of Cultural Affairs. The bids came back a lot higher than available funding. Most recently, asbestos was found on the roof. 

Current circumstances test the artist run space and remind its community of ABC No Rio's origins. The ABC No Rio artist community was culled from a creative action by local artists who never dreamed that breaking into the building to protest the city's real estate policies would lead to this moment.  During the course of transforming the space and creating community ABC No Rio has overcome years of eviction attempts and the gentrification moment. 

Support and donations remain important in the next phase of construction.

ABC No Rio is a 501(c)(3) organization. Contributions to ABC No Rio are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. Consult your tax advisor with any tax-related queries.

                        Thank you for your support

                       Thank you for your support

Press in The Lo-Down : Carmen Pabon Garden Opens on Avenue C, Ending 17-Year-Long Ordeal by Paul Castrucci

Paul A. Castrucci Architect was hired to design the community garden. The firm has a history of working with community groups. As well as helping developers create projects that are sustainable and community oriented. 

After waiting for 17 years, the Lower East Side got a treasured community garden back yesterday, and a controversial developer gained a little bit of local good will.

Community leaders, including City Council member Rosie Mendez, dedicated Carmen Pabon del Amanecer Garden on Avenue C in a late afternoon ribbon cutting. The occasion marked the end of one of the neighborhood’s longest running battles.

Back in 1999, developer Donald Capoccia of BFC Partners bulldozed several lots between East 7th and 8th streets to create Eastville Gardens. The mixed income project (including 20% affordable housing) spelled the demise of Esperanza Garden. In an editorial at the time, the New York Times criticized the Giuliani administration’s decision to hand the city-owned property over to a private developer. “No city ownership right can quite absolve the mayor and his administration of insensitivity in their handling of community gardens,” wrote the Times. “A patch of green or a plot of flowers can often do more for a neighborhood than new apartments and retail establishments.”  Capoccia’s reputation took a beating locally during weeks of protest. Ill will towards him has persisted all of these years.

But a lot has changed in almost two decades. In her remarks yesterday, Council member Mendez went out of her way to praise Capoccia and BFC Partners, saying, “It really was working with him that we got a board together, got the board incorporated. They’re providing a trust fund for this place.” [Mendez also thanked her predecessor, Margarita Lopez, who negotiated the original agreement to restore the garden.]

Before the ribbon cutting, Capoccia made brief remarks, telling community activists gathered in the newly opened space, “It’s really the beginning of my rehabilitation” in the neighborhood. Capoccia said he’s now an, “embracer of community gardens.”

Another developer, Ron Moelis of L+M Development Partners, was also present at yesterday’s event. His firm recently purchased Eastville Gardens. L+M and BFC Partners make up two out of three developers of Essex Crossing, the large mixed-use project being built on the former Seward Park urban renewal site. So their profiles in the neighborhood continue to grow.

Pabon was on hand for the ceremony. Thirty years ago, she established the original garden, creating a vibrant community space and a refuge for the struggling Lower East Side community, including many homeless people. There’s a plaque outside the garden that refers to Pabon as “The Mother of Loisaida.” Mendez called her, “a true fighter, a true Lower East Side hero.” Link to original article

The Lower East Side Biography Project told Pabon’s story a few years ago:

Press Bowery Boogie : ABC No Rio Demolition Approved by the City Yesterday by Paul Castrucci

Posted on: July 27th, 2016 at 9:15 am by Elie

It’s another historic moment for ABC No Rio, currently in exile as it awaits its future. The city issued permits yesterday for the full demolition of the four-story tenement building at 156 Rivington Street, easily one of the last vestiges of Lower East Side punk.

Until the wrecking crew is mobilized, however, ABC No Rio remains a ghost town. Its entryway a shrine to the past, while a single inscription is seemingly contradiction in terms – “Fuck nostalgia, the future is unwritten.”

Brochures touting the new eco-friendly facility are also scattered around the padlocked door. Each illustrates, in greater detail, how the replacement space will be divided once fully constructed. Below is a snapshot.

As you can see, the reincarnated ABC No Rio will have an elevator and boast larger exhibition and performance spaces (doubling the size), in addition to a green roof and second-floor terrace. The solar-equipped building will also carry the organization’s zine library, computer lab, print shop, dark room, and kitchen.

But will it retain that same punk rock spirit, or become a diluted version of its former self?

ABC No Rio purchased 156 Rivington Street from the city In 2006 the for one dollar. Since then, the arts hub has raised $1.6 million in private donations, plus an additional $6.45 million in grants through City Council members, the former Manhattan Borough president Scott M. Stringer and the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs. Plans for the 9,000 square-foot, Leed-certified “passive house” are more than seven years in the making.

The institution remains in exile for the duration, hosting shows at various third-party locations (mainly in Brooklyn). Temporary offices were set up around the corner in the Clemente Soto Velez Center.

Meanwhile, the Streit’s Matzo Factory buildings on its flank are likewise coming down. Expect ABC No Rio to follow closely.

Link to original post

Press Bowery Boogie : With Demolition Looming, Final Shows at Exiting ABC No Rio Announced by Paul Castrucci

Posted on: June 8th, 2016 at 5:13 am by Elie

Lower East Side punk haven, ABC No Rio, just released its final slate of programming in their longtime Rivington Street location. The announcement comes as the arts organization prepares to demolish the current building at 156 Rivington Street, and replace with a new energy-efficient “passive house.”

The takedown and subsequent reconstruction – which should begin by end of June – will force ABC No Rio into exile for the duration. However, there still aren’t any demolition permits on file with the Department of Buildings.

This replacement is more than seven years in the making. Challenges and roadblocks abounded. Plans all along called for a 9,000 square-foot, Leed-certified “passive house” that boasts exhibition and performance spaces, in addition to a green roof and second-floor terrace. Yet, the project progressed sluggishly through a quagmire of bureaucracy and administrative red tape.

ABC No Rio purchased 156 Rivington Street from the city In 2006 the for a dollar. Since then, the arts hub has raised $1.6 million in private donations, plus an additional $6.45 million in grants through City Council members, the former Manhattan Borough president Scott M. Stringer and the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs.

After the concurrent final shows – “InFinite Futures” and “The Past will be Present” – in comes the wrecking ball. “ABC No Rio will then vacate the building in advance of demolition and the subsequent construction of a new facility on its site,” Director Steve Englander noted in a public statement.

From the mailbag:

For Infinite Futures artists with an historical connection to ABC No Rio, from founders to current members of No Rio’s Visual Arts Collective, were invited to create installations throughout the building that imagine the site in five, fifty or five hundred years in the future.

Participating artists include Kevin Caplicki with Alexander Drywall, Peter Cramer + Jack Waters, Barrie Cline with Paul Vance, Jody Culkin + Christy Rupp, Mike Estabrook, Fly, Brian George + Kelly Savage, Julie Hair with Douglas Landau, Takashi Horisaki, Becky Howland, Vandana Jain, Mac McGill, Max Schumann, Noah Scalin, Amy Westpfahl, and Zero Boy.

The gallery will include work by four photographers for The Past Will Be Present. Jade Doskow, Vikki Law and Chris Villafuerte will show work that examines the textures of No Rio’s building on Rivington Street. Margarida Correia will present a series of portraits of ABC No Rio volunteers.

Link to original post

Press in The New York Times : Umbrella House: East Village Co-op Run by Former Squatters by Paul Castrucci

By COLIN MOYNIHAN JULY 17, 2015

Umbrella House has come a long way from the late 1980s, when a handful of squatters broke into what was then an abandoned city-owned tenement house and claimed it as their home. Today, most of the early homesteaders remain and the building has been converted into a co-op that operates like many others, though with a more utopian and collectivist ethos.

On a recent afternoon Parker Pracjek, a college administrator and adjunct professor who has lived in Umbrella House for a decade, was on the roof, discussing the building’s newest undertaking: an 820-square-foot vegetable garden tended by volunteers. The garden provides fresh produce and herbs for the 32 or so inhabitants of the 18 apartments, as well as a respite from some of the rigors of city life.

“After a morning spent in a piece of nature, I just might be able to face the concrete and the throngs of people below,” Ms. Pracjek said. “We don’t always think about the grounding or sanity that comes from picking one’s own meal from a garden.”

Thirteen years ago, the City of New York ended years of conflict with the squatters of the East Village by agreeing to give them 11 buildings they had taken over. The deal included Umbrella House, so named by residents who imagined it might function as a central hub for housing activists.

Since the transfer, hundreds of squatters in various buildings have gradually made the transition from outlaw homesteaders to shareholders in strictly regulated co-ops that are subject to rules limiting both the income of buyers and the profit that sellers can earn.

Like residents of any co-op, those living in Umbrella House, at 21-23 Avenue C, between East Second and East Third Streets, have elected board members to preside over meetings, arrange the rental of commercial storefronts and review applications from potential purchasers. But at Umbrella House, which is still occupied by people who believe firmly that housing should not be defined by profit, each of those tasks is handled differently from how it might be in a more conventional co-op building.

There is, for instance, the way that new residents are selected.

From Park Avenue to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, co-op board interviews are feared ordeals in which prospective buyers are grilled about employment, investments and sometimes even where a candidate’s child goes to kindergarten. These boards typically hand down decisions by fiat with little in the way of transparency. And the prospect of appearing before them can inspire such dread that some real estate brokers instruct aspiring buyers before an interview the same way that a trial lawyer might prepare a witness for cross-examination.

At Umbrella House, on the other hand, there has never been a sale involving a broker. Potential residents are chosen from a list of friends, longtime Lower East Side dwellers or people whose lives and interests have overlapped somehow with those of existing shareholders. In many ways, candidates are vetted by Umbrella House just as carefully as they would be by other co-ops, but interviews are likely to focus more on community organizing than a credit score. All residents may play a role in meeting candidates and participating in a weighted vote, choosing up to five people in order of preference. The one with the highest vote total is then selected.

As part of the legalization arrangement, the deed to Umbrella House was transferred from the city for a dollar.  The building is now operated as a limited equity co-op and in accordance with Housing Development Fund Corporation rules, residents said. An agreement with the city specifies that buyers can earn no more than 120 percent of the median area income, which translates to about $72,000 for a single person and about $93,000 for a family of three.

There is a 10 percent flip tax on sales, and prices are capped but rise incrementally each year. Maintenance fees also rise annually, by 2 percent. These days, a two-bedroom apartment at Umbrella House goes for $161,000 with a monthly maintenance fee of $550. The building has three studios, four one-bedrooms, nine two-bedrooms and two three-bedrooms.

Steven Ashmore, an artist who was among those who used sledgehammers to enter the building in 1988, said that keeping Umbrella House affordable as the neighborhood grows ever more expensive was more important than selling for market-rate prices.

“We earned it, but it was also a gift,” Mr. Ashmore said of the building while sitting in his sixth-floor apartment. “Without the premise that this was about something bigger than us, the deal with the city probably wouldn’t have happened and probably shouldn’t have happened.”

Although the cost of living in Umbrella House is significantly lower than in many other East Village co-ops, not everyone would be a good fit there. The building still has a strong activist tilt and some familiarity with that world is valued. Shareholders see the building as a community and decisions are made using a system called “consensus minus one,” which strives for near unanimity. If only a single person objects to an initiative that otherwise has support, it may still go forward. But if two object, the idea is tabled.

In 2002, the City of New York gave possession of Umbrella House to the Urban Homesteaders Assistance Board, a nonprofit organization that served as a transitional owner.  Umbrella House members became shareholders, receiving the deed to the building in 2010 after performing required repairs

The building sold its first apartment that year to Miguel Valderrama, an immigrant from Colombia who works as a freelance lighting rigger for theatrical productions and concerts, and who paid $45,000 for a 300-square-foot studio. Before buying, Mr. Valderrama had been a roommate of a longtime resident and had participated in building tasks like shoveling snow and removing debris from the basement.  Three other apartments have turned over since then.

Mr. Valderrama said that having an affordable apartment allowed him to pursue work that he cared about, adding that he valued the democratic way the building is run.

“Your voice counts for something here,” he said. “We’re making decisions together.”

The very first squatters to occupy Umbrella House, a tenement built around 1900, were convinced that the city was warehousing empty buildings while private landlords profited. There were few places more hospitable to that perspective than the East Village, which seemed to be a province in perpetual revolt.

Mr. Ashmore and his comrades smashed through a cinderblock-filled window at Umbrella House just a few months after the Tompkins Square melee pitted raucous protesters objecting to a curfew in the park against hundreds of police officers, including some who covered their badge numbers while beating people with batons.

Back then, entire blocks east of the park consisted mainly of rubble and empty, decaying tenements that had fallen into city receivership because of unpaid water bills or taxes. It was a forbidding landscape where drug users lined up on sidewalks to buy heroin and buildings sometimes caught fire and burned all night, dotting the horizon with fingers of flame. But where many people saw blight, the squatters saw opportunity.

In 1988, the roof of Umbrella House was punctured by holes, giving another meaning to the name squatters had bestowed upon the building. Few windows had glass panes and rain and wind whipped through the halls. Entire flights of stairs in the walk-up building had been shattered and the squatters moved between floors on fire escapes.

Over the years the building’s inhabitants slowly made repairs. They rebuilt staircases, installed joists salvaged from other buildings and fixed a drain line so that they could have running water, work that drew support from some of their neighbors.

But they also had detractors. Proponents of gentrification, developers and people running nonprofit housing organizations that vied for control of city-owned buildings saw squatters as raffish obstacles. To city officials they were little more than criminal trespassers. Community board meetings occasionally became unruly as squatters confronted critics. And the police sometimes cleared out buildings by force. One particularly memorable episode came in 1995 when phalanxes of officers equipped with helmets, shields and an armored vehicle ousted squatters from two tenements on East 13th Street.

Umbrella House’s closest call came a year or so after the squatters moved in, when a tenement house next door collapsed and police officers evacuated nearby buildings. About half a dozen people barricaded themselves inside Umbrella House, fearing that if they left they would never be allowed back. At one point a metal claw attached to a mobile excavator that was being used to take down the collapsed building knocked into the side of Umbrella House. Those inside stood on fire escapes and draped banners across the front of the building in an effort to prevent further damage.

“It was a standoff,” said Lawrence Van Abbema, an artist and Umbrella House resident who took part in the demonstration. “In the end, they went back to demolition, but used a guy with a crowbar instead of that machine.”

Toward the end of the 1990s, city officials began exploring ways to make peace with the squatters. As part of the resulting arrangement, the century-old tenements they occupied had to be brought up to code. At Umbrella House, that involved masonry work, roof repairs and the installation of a heating system, among other things, said Tauno Biltsted, who has served as the building’s president and has lived in the East Village since he was a teenager.

Residents financed the repairs with weatherization grants and an $800,000 loan from the National Cooperative Bank, Mr. Biltsted said, adding that the building is paying back that loan at the rate of about $5,000 per month, with an additional $2,000 a month going into escrow accounts to establish two reserve funds and a fund for major repairs.

Umbrella House residents had already done extensive work on individual apartments before the agreement with the city and during the conversion phase. People put up sheet rock on their walls and were expected to complete their own bathrooms and kitchens.  Most did so, Mr. Biltsted said, adding that the building helped in some instances.

Over the years Umbrella House has lost cherished gathering space. The empty lot next door that was home to a garden is now the site of a six-story building with duplex apartments. For years, two ground-floor common areas were used for art shows and performances by squatter bands with names like Hooverville. But to keep maintenance low, Umbrella House decided in 2007 to turn those spaces into commercial storefronts and began looking for local businesses to move in rather than outsiders that might pay more. The tenants, both already established on the block, are a barbershop, which pays $5,000 a month, and a Spanish-language financial services store, which pays $2,000.

The surrender of the common areas is part of what made the roof garden a popular project. In 2012, residents voted to spend about $150,000 to create a garden area built upon 14-by-6-inch steel beams and topped by a mixture of gravel and soil. Their aim was to create a source of vegetables while stepping outside of the normal channels of food production and commerce.

The first planting was this spring and so far the garden has produced zucchini, tomatoes, okra, broccoli, spinach, beets, peas, eggplant, lettuce and Swiss chard, among other vegetables. A chalkboard on the ground floor lists what is ripe for the picking. And Ms. Pracjek, a trained herbalist, has formed what she calls the Umbrella House Apothecary,  sharing extracts she has made of hyssop and calendula from the roof garden.

On a recent Sunday afternoon, several Umbrella House residents gathered for a garden workday. Mr. Ashmore sprayed a mixture of baking soda, aspirin and other ingredients on tomato and zucchini leaves suffering from blight. Ms. Pracjek put some bamboo stakes in the ground to guide string bean stalks. Another resident, Geanme Marin, helped lug bags of organic soil.

Over the next few hours the group worked at various tasks. Mr. Biltsted and Mr. Valderrama measured an area next to the roof bulkhead, then went downstairs to cut lengths of cedar to build a compost bin that would go there. Upstairs the sun beat down and Ms. Pracjek offered fellow gardeners iced tea made with roof-grown chamomile and lemon balm.

Eventually, the day’s work was finished and those on the roof prepared to descend. Ms. Marin filled a basket with tomatoes, basil and broccoli, announcing as she walked downstairs, “Now I am ready to make dinner.”

A version of this article appears in print on July 19, 2015, on Page RE1 of the New York edition with the headline: An Unfolding Story

6sqft Press: ABC No Rio’s Graffiti-Covered Tenement Will Be Replaced with an Ultra-Modern “Passive House” by Paul Castrucci

POSTED ON MON, DECEMBER 1, 2014BY DIANE PHAM

abc-no-rio-lower-east-side-nyc.jpg

When ABC No Rio announced more than five years ago that they would be demolishing their building in favor of an updated facility, artists immediately began grieving over the impending loss of the cooperative’s hardcore punk roots. Not much movement was made after that—only word that the artists would be going green with their renovation—but lo and behold, a new rendering revealed by Bowery Boogie shows us what will soon replace the artists’ collective: a 9,000 square-foot, LEED-certified Passive House complete with exhibition and performance spaces, a green roof and a second floor terrace.

abc-no-rio-rendering.jpg

Though a design by architect Paul Castrucci has been secured, Bowery Boogie reports that the project has been locked in the construction bid phase for the last few years. Costs apparently came in much higher than anticipated, and though they received a discount on the purchase of the building–and $1.5 million in city funding in October–the collective is still short on the funds needed to make the project happen. As a result, the project will be put out for bids again in spring 2015, and if all goes as planned, work will begin shortly after.

ABC No Rio purchased the building from the city for $1 back in June of 2006 under the provision that it be renovated.

What do you think of the new design?

[Via Bowery Boogie]

Press New York Times : For an Architect and His Family,a Home and a Laboratory by Paul Castrucci

THE stacks of the Con Edison plant at 14th Street and Avenue C are just barely visible through the hedgerow of grasses and herbs that top the parapets of 179 Rivington Street on the Lower East Side. It's a view framed by serendipity, and it delights 179 Rivington's architect, Paul Castrucci, who built this tricolored, sawtooth-roofed, five-story building sheathed in zinc, brick and concrete as a laboratory of sustainable architecture and green-building practices.

It's a home laboratory, too: Mr. Castrucci, his wife, Marisa DeDominicis, and their three children live in the top two floors in a four-bedroom apartment that seems to float among the cornices of the Rivington Street tenements. The solar panels along the south-facing "teeth" of the roof draw enough power to make this family's Con Ed bill a wash each month; the garden in progress around the top floor absorbs storm water and forms a soft, green canopy that cools the roof a notch or two each summer; and the skylights and cantilevering aluminum windows draw air through and out of the space, like a natural (and free) air-conditioner.

"It's a bit of a way of life," said Mr. Castrucci, who made public-art pieces forged from iron before he made buildings. This bit of a way of life is an aesthetic, domestic and political mission that cloaks this family in community activism -- Ms. DeDominicis is a program coordinator at the Trust for Public Land -- and self-sufficiency.

"We're just your typical Lower East Side activist family," Ms. DeDominicis said half-jokingly the other day, tipping her new puppy, a winsome beagle-Jack Russell blend named Ginger, from her arms on to the concrete of Mr. Castrucci's ground-floor office. She went on to describe two decades of the grindingly hard work that has led her family to this corner lot, which was one of the last vacant lots in the area.

In the 1980's, Mr. Castrucci, now 46, was living in a storefront on Fourth Street between Avenues A and B. Madonna was said to have lived upstairs, though no one could remember seeing her. He made a gallery in the space with his brother Andrew, who is also an artist, called the A+P Gallery; their rent was $350 a month. He practiced architecture and made art -- muscular iron pieces he forged in the riot of vacant lots that peppered the East Village.

"That was in the 80's, when everyone had a gallery," said Ms. DeDominicis, 42. "There were three on every block."

She had been living on 13th Street, in a 1910 tenement renovated by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and then, as so many buildings were in the 1970's, abandoned by its landlord.

Drawn to the unpainted canvas of the area, Ms. DeDominicis was one of a group of squatters and community gardeners who brought the building -- and the neighborhood -- back into the 20th century. (It is now a limited-equity co-op supported by the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board.)

Ms. DeDominicis threw herself into community life, running a grass-roots recycling program, working as an advocate for the elderly and then the homeless, learning carpentry skills at New York City Technical College and volunteering in community gardens -- "creating order," she said, "out of the chaos of our neighborhood."

She had a carpentry company, Women's Work, and returned to New York City Technical College to teach basic carpentry skills to women. She and Mr. Castrucci met one day as she was gardening in a vacant lot and he was blacksmithing next door. He moved into the 13th Street apartment with Ms. DeDominicis and her daughter Kali, now 15. Their son, Lucca, arrived 11 years ago; their daughter Selene is 9. (That garden has been bulldozed, and his old storefront is now a wine bar.)

Ms. DeDominicis was happy on 13th Street, proud of the work she and her neighbors had poured into the building and the street. But Mr. Castrucci wanted to build. Ten years ago, he bought a 25-by-100-foot lot on Fifth Street, between Avenues C and D, for $20,000 and the back taxes, an additional $60,000.

Within a year, it was revealed that the city had condemned the lot and planned its development as a public park, a rara avis for the area. The situation's denouement, in which the city paid Mr. Castrucci and Ms. DeDominicis $570,000, involved a nine-year legal battle and took care of their lawyer's fees and the purchase price of their 40-by-40-foot Rivington Street lot, which they bought at public auction for $380,000 in 2000.

It was one of the last lots auctioned in the area, before a suit by the Green Guerrillas, community garden activists, and the state attorney general's office stopped the process by which the city was selling off its vacant lots -- many of which had become public gardens -- in the last days of the Giuliani administration.

This lot, happily, was just a lot -- the former site of a pharmacy, with a pawn shop next door -- and with a special feature: it is at the corner of Rivington and Attorney Streets, and its neighbors across Attorney Street to the east and north are a public park and two low-rise public schools, offering a feast of light, air and views.

Mr. Castrucci had spent three years investigating properties at city auctions, captivated by the political theater of various groups, like the one that brought thousands of grasshoppers to an auction, shutting down the proceedings for an hour.

The Rivington Street lot, like so many owned by the city, seemed seriously underpriced in its auction estimate, Mr. Castrucci said, and when the bidding was done, it sold for three or four times the value the city had placed on it. Stunned by the bidding and worn out from nine years of wrangling to recoup his costs from the lot on Fifth Street, Mr. Castrucci was seriously shaken by the end of what turned out to be his final auction. "I could hardly sign my name," he said.

Mr. Castrucci's plan was to build a one-story structure, and maybe build another story each year, as funds allowed. Ms. DeDominicis urged him to be bold. A construction loan of about $1 million was a year in the making. Construction and the attendant research and experimentation -- trying to find the right green insulation (it's cellulose, and you blow it in wet), high-efficiency boilers and more -- took a year and a half.

The street floor holds Mr. Castrucci's architectural practice, an office so soaked in light his associates have taped their plans over the Attorney Street windows. "We're working on that," Mr. Castrucci said.

This building is a calling card for his modern architecture -- a clean, utilitarian form with a clear vision -- which he deploys in a number of community-based projects (limited equity co-ops, a community center nearby) as well as private and commercial work. The middle two floors have four apartments, the rent from which helps pay the mortgage.

In the hot sun one recent morning, 179 Rivington was an extraordinary sight: modern, graceful, perked with color. "I'm really in awe of my husband," Ms. DeDominicis said. "I would not be living here. I would not have had the same focus. So together we have arrived at this point."

Later that morning, two housedress-bedecked women, doubled over with age but grinning wildly -- and each half leaning on, half pushing her foldable shopping cart -- zigzagged past the corner.

"Hey," one of the women yelled. "That's a very beautiful building. Are there any cheap apartments?"

Link to original articel