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Columbia Spectator Staff

For Harlem's Community Board 9, a competition to redesign an abandoned marine transfer station on 135th Street could be a viable first step to revitalizing the Harlem waterfront. The Emerging New York Architects' annual design competition, open to college students and architects who have been licensed for fewer than 10 years, launched in October and announced its winning proposals last month. The contest was designed to be purely aesthetic—there is no developer and no funds to realize any of the proposals. But CB9 members are calling it a potential economic jumpstart for the neighborhood. CB9 chair Rev. Georgiette Morgan-Thomas said that turning the marine transfer station into an active public place is one project she would like to see receive funding from Columbia's Community Benefits Agreement, which is meant to invest $76 million in Harlem over the next 15 years. Javier Carcamo, a member of CB9 and ENYA, has proposed that the two groups collaborate in order to generate attention around the marine transfer station site, which has been vacant since 1999, which Carcamo hopes will lead to securing funding for some of the proposals. "We picked this site because it's slated for development, but there isn't a plan for the site," Carcamo said. "We don't know if it'll be redeveloped in the next five or 10 years. The ultimate goal is to create buzz around this project and have someone who wants to work on it soon." The contest winners include a transforming greenhouse, a riverbank entertainment venue, and a self-sustaining complex with towers for vertical farming. Before any work can begin, the structural weaknesses of the station must be surveyed. A survey from the Economic Development Corporation listed two of the three piers that the station stands on in fair condition and one in poor condition. "It would be so expensive to redevelop," Carcamo said. "Just fixing the pier is going to cost many billions of dollars." "It would be difficult for someone to redevelop it, because there's no foot traffic, just construction. I don't think anything will happen at least until the first phase of the Columbia expansion," he added, referring to the Manhattanville campus that will eventually stretch from 125th to 133rd streets. The first buildings to be completed on the in-construction campus will open in 2016. The grand prize-winning proposal, "Sym'bio'pia," designed by Ting Chin and Yan Wang of New York City's Linearscape Architecture, focuses on ways to farm locally—often a difficult prospect in Manhattan, where space is scarce and transport is difficult. Linearscape's solution is hydroponic farming, or farming without soil. The firm's proposal revolves around five towers, all supporting gardens, that use both composted plants and recycled water to provide power for the structure. "The project has a lot to do with symbiotic relationships, such as between provision of food and public amenities," Chin said. "We wanted to make the entire facility public amenities. The idea was to avoid having to farm on large tracts of land outside the city, so food can be grown hydroponically and year-round." Another winning proposal would create a "transforming greenhouse," in the words of architect Rafael Luna of Boston-based firm PRAUD. It would "create rain when dry, sun when it's dark, a lit space at night, and foggy space when it's sunny," he said. "During winter, the building closes up and becomes a greenhouse, and in the summer, it becomes open space," Luna said. "The experience of farming also becomes a touristic and learning experience." The student prize was awarded to Daniel Mowery, a student at the University of Virginia School of Architecture. Mowery's proposal, titled "Stairway to Harlem," adapts to the isolated position of the marine transfer station, which Mowery described as "very claustrophobic." Mowery said that his proposal would connect the station, which is located on the river, to Riverbank State Park, located just north of the marine transfer station above the West Side Highway. "The idea is to keep the park system on the edge, but have a really good place to have performances or a place for a market to expand out, or to watch a movie at night," Mowery said. On Monday, the top proposals will be exhibited for local residents to pick their favorites at 7 p.m. at Dorothy Day Apartments on Riverside Drive. jillian.kumagai@columbiaspectator.com

marine transfer station Community Board 9
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