Designing The Nation’s Greenest Skyscraper, Plus: Melody Maker : Russ Barenberg ’72 Is Back On The Scene, Full-Court Press : Slam Dunks And Fouls On The Nba Beat, Right-Hand Man : Rich Baum ’91 Walks Albany’s Corridors Of Power
DESIGNING THE NATION'S GREENEST SKYSCRAPER
bob fox spent a lot of time outdoors as a kid. He lived on a farm, and without a TV on the premises, he created his own entertainment. "I had a dog and walked in the woods, biked to a friend's; we'd go swimming in the creek and look at what lives in it," says Fox '63, BArch '65. "I was closer to nature than a lot of people are today." Meanwhile his father, a mechanical engineer, cultivated his son's nascent interest in how things work.
Fast-forward a half-century. From an eco-renovated office complete with rooftop butterfly garden in Manhattan's historic Ladies' Mile shopping district, Fox has built a name as one of the nation's top green architects. A member of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's sustainability advisory board and founding chairman of the U.S. Green Building Council's New York chapter, Fox made Forbes magazine's 2007 architectural tastemakers list for his ambitious, eco-friendly designs. Next year, he'll cement that reputation with the completion of One Bryant Park—the Durst Organization's $1.3 billion, 2.2 million-square-foot skyscraper at the corner of Sixth Avenue and 42nd Street in midtown Manhattan. Slated to capture the title of largest green office tower in the country, the soaring, fifty-five-story structure will also be the second tallest building in New York City.
Getting to this point has meant turning conventional architecture on its head—redefining the architect's relationship to the engineers and contractors who shepherd a building from concept to completion. "The typical architect designs a building and hands it to an engineer and says, 'Make it warm in winter and cool in summer,' and a whole lot gets bolted on," says Fox, who also designed the solar-powered Condé Nast building at 4 Times Square, winner of the Association of Energy Engineers' 1995 Project of the Year award. "My attitude was, how do we work with them?"
At One Bryant Park, slated to house Bank of America's headquarters and data center, among other tenants, such an integrated approach has yielded a natural-gas-powered co-generation plant in the basement that creates electricity and captures waste heat to warm interior spaces; air-conditioning boosted with ice made overnight when electrical demand drops; and innovative shading incorporated into the structure's gleaming glass curtain wall without obscuring the view. Waterless urinals and a rainwater collection system for toilets will reduce the building's water consumption to about half of code, while underfloor air systems will provide personalized heating and cooling at every workspace. Additional green touches include contracts mandating 90 percent capture of recyclable construction materials and concrete reinforced with blast furnace slag, a waste product of coal power plants. Interior features—including extensive natural light, recycled carpets, and bamboo flooring—will highlight the tower's eco-appeal. "The state of the art in this industry is that to achieve better outcomes, the design process has to be holistic and integrated," says Scott Frank '87, MS '93, a founding member of the New York State Green Building Council and a partner at Jaros Baum & Bolles, the engineering firm collaborating with Cook+Fox on One Bryant Park. "We took a little more time so we could pause at every decision juncture, step back and ask, 'What could we do differently? What haven't we thought of? What other directions could we take?' "
Going green has a reputation for being costly, but the integrated approach at One Bryant Park has also saved money by optimizing systems and reducing long-term operating expenses. Bank of America anticipates additional savings through higher productivity and lower absenteeism, thanks to increased worker satisfaction. Yet Fox sees more than money in the balance. "What does it cost not to build green?" he muses. "Why would one want to build a building that consumes more electricity and water than it should, that includes materials that are harmful to people's health? Why would you want to?"
RUSS BARENBERG '72 IS BACK ON THE SCENE
for even accomplished professional musicians, financial uncertainty is a fact of life. Consider Russ Barenberg '72: After launching his career as a guitarist-composer while still an undergraduate, he went on to play in several notable bands, make a series of well-received recordings, and write instructional books like How to Play Blue-grass Guitar. But in 1986, when he moved to Nashville to pursue work as a studio musician, he found that family concerns were pushing him toward the proverbial "day job."
"I had two young kids, and I wasn't sure that the studio scene was right for me," says Barenberg, "so I decided I would make money in a different way." Saturn, the car company, was building a plant in nearby Spring Hill, Tennessee, and they were hiring training developers. "I showed them my English degree from Cornell and my guitar-instruction books," he says, "and they hired me."
While writing training programs for assembly-line workers, Barenberg continued to play around town. He had the good fortune, he says, to land some "cream of the crop gigs," including sideman work with Irish singer Maura O'Connell and a trio with dobro player Jerry Douglas and bassist Edgar Meyer, with whom he recorded the CD Skip, Hop & Wobble in 1993. Barenberg had made three solo albums earlier in his career—the last was Moving Pictures on Rounder Records in 1988—but he put his solo career on the shelf while working for the car company. That changed last year.
"Things just worked out for me to make a return to music," he says."Making the new album was primary." That CD, When at Last, was released in June by Compass Records, a Nashville label that is home to host of accomplished folk, jazz, and acoustic-music artists. The album's eleven instrumental compositions feature Barenberg's fluid, melodic guitar and mandolin playing in settings that draw on both traditional and contemporary influences. "Traditional is just something that was contemporary in the past," says Barenberg."Things always evolve. Anyone who's a musician learns from what's been done before and is influenced by what they hear now—and what you get is what comes out."
Barenberg began to play guitar as a teenager growing up in suburban Philadelphia, where he learned "folk music and bluegrass and flatpicking and all those related things" and studied with guitar teacher Alan Miller. At Cornell, he met Alan's brother, John Miller '73, and banjo player Pete Wernick, who was working on his doctorate; they formed a band called Country Cooking that recorded two albums. Barenberg stayed with Country Cooking for two years after graduating and lived in Ithaca until 1977.
After a brief experiment with electric guitar, he moved to New York City and returned to his acoustic roots with the blue-grass group Heartland, which backed him on his 1980 solo debut, Cowboy Calypso. Following his relocation to Boston, Barenberg taught guitar and continued to work in a variety of settings, including the band Fiddle Fever (whose recording of "Ashokan Farewell" became the theme of Ken Burns's documentary The Civil War) and a blue-grass/jazz outfit called Laughing Hands. Then he packed up and headed south, to the place known as Music City.
Nashville is chock full of great players, and even skillful musicians can find it tough to make their mark there. But Barenberg quickly earned a reputation for both his chops and his thoughtful approach. "He's a wonderful fellow," says Edgar Meyer, "and his desire to investigate multiple levels of inquiry is something that really resonates with me. For instance, Russ loved the violin so much that he spent years working on it and learned how to play a Handel sonata—not with the intention of becoming a violinist but just because it was something that interested him. And it's that type of curiosity and determination that informs his guitar playing."
Fellow bassist Dave Pomeroy concurs, saying, "Russ is one of my all-time favorite guitarists, both to listen to and—better yet—to play with. His innovative phrasing and resonant tone really opened the door for expanding the vocabulary of the acoustic guitar." (That "resonant tone," Barenberg notes, is abetted by some carefully selected instruments, including Gibson J-45 guitars from the Forties as well as an inexpensive Olympia guitar that "just sounds good.")
As both a writer and player, Barenberg keeps the focus on melody—and the critics have noticed. Jon Weisberger of the Nashville Scene heaped praise on When at Last, calling it "a sweet, satisfying collection that pushes melody, lyricism, and groove over gee-whiz licks." Barenberg is quietly pleased by such characterizations, saying that one of the joys of being free from his day job is that he can now spend more time searching for compositional ideas. "I really do enjoy discovering melodies," he says. "It's like stumbling upon a jewel or a nugget of gold in the street—'Wow! There it is.' Writing good tunes is very satisfying."
A Living Sermon
FRANK RHODES SAYS A PRESIDENT'S WORK IS NEVER DONE
in his book Leaders in the Labyrinth (Praeger, July 2007), Stephen Nelson examines the role of college presidents—how they set a tone for their campuses, cope with political correctness, and deal with ideological battles, among other challenges. One of his primary sources is President Emeritus Frank H. T. Rhodes, who led Cornell from 1977 to 1995. As Nelson writes:
Frank Rhodes's simple judgment is that presidents need to have at the heart of their leadership an integrated sense of the fundamental principles of the university. Such a core understanding and the clear communication of it will not inoculate presidents against criticism and complaint. Inevitably there is a diversity of reactions to any president and to the directions a president aspires to take with regard to an institution, and the consequences will include dissent, dislike, and resistance. To a large extent, presidents are on a scaffold constructed of regular and continual judgments by their constituents. However, a failure to hold fast to the fundamental values of the academy in the conduct of their office—decisions, philosophy, and choices about the use of the pulpit itself—will rebound negatively on presidents, even drawing criticism from those who might otherwise support them.
Noting the daily claims and nature of the office, Rhodes asserts, "I don't think the presidential pulpit is confined to great speeches on great occasions. I think everything, every single thing you do, is a pulpit." The relentless public visibility lends to an almost pastoral role, and to Rhodes the presidential pulpit "is a living sermon." He ticks off a bill of particulars: "The way you answer the phone, the way you greet a janitor, the way you talk to a student walking across a quad, the way you interact at an alumni reunion, the way you deal with the mayor of a city where you live or with the governor of the state in which you're situated. Every single thing you do—and the way you teach a class—is a statement, is a sermon, not because you have anything great to offer as an individual but just because of the office."
CORNELL ALUMNI FEDERATION GRANT PROGRAM CELEBRATES TENTH ANNIVERSARY
alumni who carry a Cornell Visa get a credit card emblazoned with a beautiful photo of the campus—and thanks to royalties and transaction fees, the Cornell Alumni Federation (CAF) gets revenue that has allowed it to offer more than 200 grants benefiting students and graduates alike. Now marking its tenth anniversary, the Visa program has generated nearly a half-million dollars that has been passed on as grants that aim to build membership in regional Cornell clubs, develop alumni leadership, attract prospective students, and raise the University's profile. The grants, says CAF board member Nancy Dreier '86, "have funded events and programs representative of the diversity of Cornell."
The Visa program has also funded more than 150 Federation scholarships that have been awarded to undergraduates with financial need. Program royalties have supported the CAF Speaker Series and regional volunteer leadership conferences; funded a special subscription program for inactive alumni that encouraged them to become readers of Cornell Alumni Magazine; subsidized expenses for undergraduate class officers to attend the annual Cornell Association of Class Officers (CACO) Mid-Winter Meeting; and underwritten all-alumni events with Cornell's presidents in more than thirty cities.
Grant awards are made twice a year via a competitive application process, with $50,000 disbursed annually. Recipient projects reflect a wide variety of interests: a book club at the Cornell Alumni Association of Minnesota; the creation of a "Reunion 2000 Millennium Box" by CACO; a Homecoming celebration on Long Island; a young alumnae event in Chicago; and a freshman send-off at the Cornell Club of Singapore. Says alumni-elected trustee Jeff Berg '79, ME '80, MBA '81: "The Federation Grant Program allows Cornell alumni organizations to dream big and create a new and different type of alumni event or program that they couldn't imagine financing on their own."
To learn more about the Cornell University Visa card and the Federation Grant Program, visit www.alumni.cornell.edu .
SLAM DUNKS AND FOULS ON THE NBA BEAT
Liz robbins '92 isn't likely to receive a holiday card from long-time basketball coach Larry Brown. Two years ago, as the NBA beat writer for the New York Times, Robbins broke a big story during the playoffs: while Brown was coaching the Detroit Pistons, he was in talks with the Cleveland Cavaliers about taking a job as team president. The next morning, Brown made his displeasure known. "That girl," he announced, as he stepped off the team bus and spotted her among a gaggle of reporters, "is an evil, evil woman."
There are many who disagree. Robbins says she has a good working relationship with "probably three-fourths of the coaches in the league." She chats about Cornell with Bryan Colangelo '87, general manager of the Toronto Raptors. She occasionally speaks Italian with Kobe Bryant (he spent much of his childhood in Italy; she studied Jewish history of the Italian Renaissance on the Hill). Former Times sports editor Neil Amdur, who hired her seven years ago, gushes that Robbins is "the embodiment of the modern American woman—smart, independent, motivated, athletic, committed to her craft, and, above all, a team player."
As for Brown's team, the Pistons were none to happy with Robbins's story, which began a sequence of events that eventually resulted in his ill-fated hiring by the New York Knicks (he was fired after a year). But at least the famously nomadic coach's hyperbole was a reaction to Robbins's work, rather than her gender—a far cry from her first job at Florida's St. Petersburg Times, where she covered sports while "dealing with high school coaches who didn't think that women should be doing what I was doing."
' That girl,' Larry Brown, coach of the Detroit Pistons, said of reporter Liz Robbins, 'is an evil, evil woman.'
Although she has experienced a couple of locker-room run-ins with misogynistic athletes—a New York Knick purposely flashing her, an Atlanta Brave telling her, "Honey, you don't belong in here"—she generally considers the women-in-sportswriting issue to be a thing of the past. Indeed, fifteen years after her start in the business, she says, "I certainly notice a difference. I think athletes generally accept that women are going to be reporters. Even the less enlightened ones are coming around."
Robbins briefly entertained thoughts of graduate school, but there was an air of inevitability to her career path. A four-sport athlete at her Philadelphia high school, she played two years of lacrosse at Cornell before opting for the Daily Sun over daily practices. "My coach also chose it for me," Robbins quips. "I was on the bench quite a bit." Robbins rose to assistant sports editor, then interned for a summer at the Boston Globe, where she was part of a team that compiled an award-winning series on racism and the Red Sox. One of Robbins's jobs: roam around a packed Fenway Park and record how many African Americans were in attendance (she counted seventy-one). Following graduation, a scholarship from the Association for Women in Sports Media earned her a summer gig at the Washington Post, which led to her job in Florida. In 1994, Robbins began a five-year stint at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, where she rose through the ranks and covered big stories like the World Series and the Olympics. In March 2000, she was hired by the Times, her first assignment being the NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments.
Although Robbins's byline has topped stories about everything from the Indy 500 and U.S. Open tennis to the Stanley Cup finals and the Athens Olympics, the NBA has been her primary beat since October 2004. It can be exhilarating (she ranks Lebron James's forty-eight-point playoff performance last season as one of her most memorable experiences) and occasionally troubling (she covered the early days of the recent referee betting scandal, which she says "calls into question the legitimacy of the league"). And it's always exhausting. During the NBA playoffs, Robbins—who has won three in-house Publisher's Awards from the Times—has been known to spend fifty of sixty days on the road. "She works as hard on a 600-word story as a 6,000-word one," says colleague Joe Drape. "Liz is intensely curious about things beyond sports, and it informs her perspective. She's not going to just talk to [Phoenix Suns point guard] Steve Nash about how he runs the team. She's going to ask what book he's reading and how that influences him as an athlete."
In part because of that curiosity, Robbins has decided to write her own book— about the New York City Marathon. After covering her eleventh straight U.S. Open in early September, she took a temporary leave of absence from the Times to write a narrative of race day through the eyes of a half-dozen runners, from professionals to disabled athletes. "I have a lot of friends who don't like sports," says Robbins, "and I tell them, 'I don't write about sports. I write about people.' "
RICH BAUM '91 WALKS ALBANY'S CORRIDORS OF POWER
It was a tough summer for Rich Baum. In the wake of a scandal in which senior staff to New York Governor Eliot Spitzer were accused of trying to influence a State Police investigation to embarrass a political rival, Baum saw himself pilloried in the press. Although he hasn't been demoted or legally charged with any wrongdoing—and Spitzer expressed faith in him throughout the debacle—some pundits called for his resignation as the governor's chief adviser. But as this issue went to press, he was still on the job.
CAM: As the secretary to the governor, you're Eliot Spitzer's top adviser and defacto chief of staff. Does that make you one of the most powerful guys in New York?
RB: The governor's not someone who wants to be managed, so it's not accurate to say I'm the gatekeeper; he's way too active to be sitting around waiting for me to decide who he's going to meet with. It's more collaborative, in terms of deciding what the priorities are.
CAM: What do you do on a typical day?
RB: I spend a lot of time with the governor, working through his priorities and making sure they're effectuated when he leaves the room. I also work with the director of operations, who runs the government day-to-day. And the derivative of those two would be general strategy for how the government should be run.
CAM: Are you ever off duty?
RB: There's never a down period. It's an intense job—a lot of issues come at you quickly. It's interesting work, exciting work, but at times very challenging.
CAM: Your Blackberry gets a workout?
RB: All the time.
CAM: Any hobbies?
RB: [He laughs.] They're gone.
CAM: What do you do for fun?
RB: I spend time with my family. My wife, Terri Gerstein, and I have two boys, ages four and one.
CAM: You lived in Cornell's Telluride House, which is famous for its self-governance (and long meetings). Did that steer you toward politics?
RB: The self-governing aspect forces consideration of the democratic process. I think that leads a lot of people who live there into public service.
CAM: Was it good practice for running the state?
RB: I can't say that Telluride is the same as the New York State legislature, but it's true that the real skill is to understand the dynamic of each community and the forces at work in it.
CAM: What did you do after graduation? RB: I went back to Orange County, where I grew up. I worked with my uncle on his farm, ran for Orange County legislature, and won. At the time, the local Democratic party was somewhat defunct and I ran with a bunch of people who wanted to give it more of a voice in county government.
CAM: You were elected minority leader at twenty-four. Is that a record?
RB: I think so. I was in the legislature for four years, and I loved it. It was interesting, exciting, contentious. I don't want to say bitter, but it was a pretty tough environment, a lot of tough debates and tough votes.
CAM: How did you wind up running Spitzer's 1998 campaign for attorney general?
RB: He came through Orange County looking for support, and I was on the state Democratic committee. I liked him and decided to move to New York City and work for him. At first it was me and him and one or two others. I wasn't hired as campaign manager, but that's what I became.
CAM: That turned out to be the closest race in New York State history.
RB: He won by 25,000 votes after a bitter recount and hired me as chief of staff. I was there for seven years, then left to be senior advisor to the gubernatorial campaign.
CAM: Why do you think people have become so wary of government?
RB: The process has been somewhat overtaken by special interests and that has fostered disaffection and alienation. People feel like nothing matters—however they vote, it'll be the same interests at the table. But it's not that the public is disengaged from their own issues. People's lives are too hard for them to be disengaged from health care, education, and employment. The key is to break the cycle so they see that elections result in real change.
CAM: So how do you do that?
RB: It's tough. Governor Spitzer has achieved some major victories in changing both the tone and substance of New York State government—like health insurance for every child and a historic increase in education funding.
CAM: Is it tough to be a Democrat these days?
RB: It's upsetting, because I think from a lot of Democrats' perspectives the country's being run in the wrong direction. The only heartening thing is that a lot of America seems to have woken up. Almost no one's happy with the status quo, whether it's in New York State or the nation.
Kindness of Strangers
DOCUMENTARY HONORS AMERICAN QUAKE VICTIMS— AND THEIR IRANIAN RESCUERS
while on vacation in Bam, Iran, in 2003, Adele Freedman '86 and her fiancé, Tobb Dell'Oro '84, MS '85, MBA '86, were awakened by their hotel crashing down on top of them. The couple's tour guide managed to find them among the thousands buried by a massive earthquake and enlisted local residents to dig them out by hand. Dell'Oro eventually died from his injuries, but Freedman survived—and her rescue prompted a media frenzy.
In late October, a documentary about the attempt to save Dell'Oro and Freedman, as well as the earthquake's effect on the community, played at the United Nations Association Film Festival. Bam 6.6—named for the location and magnitude of the quake—was directed by Jahangir Golestan-Parast, an Iranian living in the United States. Rather than dwelling on the quake's devastation, Golestan-Parast saw the events as an opportunity to show the generosity of the Iranian people. "It is a portrait of my culture," he says, "and tells the story of an incredible man named Tobb Dell'Oro who wanted to travel and tell Americans how beautiful the Iranian people are."
Although Freedman resented the media's intrusiveness during her recovery, she says she agreed to appear in the film because she was so overwhelmed by the kindness of Iranians, both before and after the tragedy. "Most Americans see Iran only as part of the 'Axis of Evil' and that's just not the case," she says. "It's about a greater understanding, remembering the humanity of people." Freedman admits she has not seen the movie, which is dedicated to Dell'Oro's memory and has a planned DVD release in December. "The earthquake is still very fresh in my mind," she says. "But Tobb would have appreciated the film. He saw how attitudes changed after 9/11, and he felt he needed to combat that."