2006_06_11_map.jpg As World Cup fever slowly infects its way across the five boroughs (we can't be the only ones who've found ourselves standing for hours in bodegas staring at soccer matches when we've already bought the beer we came for) the city has announced its own new competition, and we're pretty pumped for it, too! Using one of the few remaining large vacant properties in the city's portfolio, the Bloomberg administration and an architects' group are announcing today "a competition to pick an architect and a developer to build an apartment complex on vacant city-owned land in the South Bronx." (specifically on Brook Avenue and East 156th)

The criteria to be used by the jury of architects, developers and city officials that will select the winning plan will put a premium on design quality, affordability and factors like energy efficiency and the use of renewable resources. Then the city will give the winning team the site, a 40,000-square-foot former railyard, for about a dollar a lot for the two lots involved.

"We want to create an exemplary model that could not just put in place the best standards of design being used elsewhere but could actually create new standards for design going forward," said Shaun Donovan, commissioner of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development, who was himself trained as an architect.

We think this is a great idea and wish the competition the best. The city has only a few of these vacant properties left and is in an excellent and rare position to think about and influence the future of affordable housing. As architect Karen Kubey put it to the Gray Lady "We're saying that good design shouldn't be just for rich people but for everyone. What can we do to make design affordable and sustainable?"