February 26, 2019

New York City: Your Best Ever Advice and Recommendations

Two Vancouver urbanistas – Michael Gordon and Gordon Price – have decided to celebrate their birthdays in New York City.  Help us out.

  • What off-the-beaten-tourist-tracks should we hike?  (And remember, we’ve seen a lot of NYC.)
  • What’s new in the boroughs?  Even Jersey.
  • Shows, performances, galleries, museums?  (Middle of March through April.)
  • Restaurants, of course.  (Food carts too.)
  • Your favourite book about, set in or metaphorically referencing the Apple.  (Video series, movies or print articles included.  Even policy reports.)

Are you in New York?  Would you like to meet?  Would you buy us a beer or a cupcake with a candle?

And yes, of course we’ll use Citibike.





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This is a shot I took on my New York trip in August (see Urbanist Abroad) that I selected to illustrate a special feature of the city. (Nope, not the Citibikes nor the bike lane.)

This is the unit block of East 2nd Street, in a neighbourhood that doesn’t seem to have its own name yet; it could be one of six. Maybe the realtors have decided by now; I couldn’t really say.

But I could tell you the name of the tree just behind the white SUV (it’s a Japanese Pagoda), its ID No. (377062), its diameter (18″), and the value of its benefits to the city ($245.90).  That’s US$, folks.

I know all that because of this:

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I’m off again — another trip (ah, the retired life). This time to New York.

I’ve been visiting the city since the mid-1970s (quite a different scene back then), and watched the city change.

Conclusion: NYC has become an ‘historic’ city, reflecting in its architecture the power and wealth of the 20th century, just as Florence did in the 16th century, as Amsterdam did in the 17th, London in the 18th, Paris in the 19th.

But there’s always something new. On top of the must-visit list is Hudson Yards — and in particular the public-art centrepiece, The Vessel, pictured above. (It’s not open yet, but should be near completion).

What else should be on my list of must-sees? Knowledgeable PT readers no doubt have suggestions, including the offbeat and out-of-the-way — beyond Manhattan. Food recommendations always appreciated too.

Add them in the Comments. You can also follow me on my new, personal Instagram account @GordonPriceYVR, with summaries provided on this blog periodically.

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Trust New York City to lead the way. In this post from the David Bowie retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum has used its starpower to transform the Broadway-Lafayette subway station in an ode to Bowiedom.
There are also  five different transit MetroCards that have been Bowie branded, and those have been released in a limited edition of 250,000 not consecutively but randomly. The  Broadway-Lafayette subway station’s walls are full of photos of Bowie’s remarkable performances, images and life. And here’s the coolest part, this subway station was the one closest to Bowie’s New York City home. You have until May to see this unique collaboration of images that have been curated with the co-sponsorship of Spotify. Spotify is also introducing the “David Bowie Stories” series, looking at the musical icon’s life, tales and essays in concert with photos and videos from the David Bowie Archive. This subway artshow/branding has been an effective blend of pop culture history and art. Here is an opportunity for other  transit systems pick up the idea of crossmarketing cultural events and exhibitions, making art in transit more accessible to all.
Below is a six-minute YouTube video of a transit walk through the Bowiefied Subway Station.


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As describes it there is a push for “supertalls” in New York City, those buildings that exceed the 984 foot height limit. As they note “These soaring towers aren’t always popular—many have actively fought against the buildings sprouting along 57th Street and Central Park South, worried that they’ll cause shadowing over the storied park—but it’s hard to argue against their status as marvels of engineering.”

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This proposal for New York City isn’t likely to be passed, but it raises the question: What should be the surcharge for ride-hailing services to use public infrastructure and to control congestion?
From the New York Times:

With Uber and Lyft cars taking over Manhattan streets, a state task force has proposed a surcharge of $2 to $5 on rides in for-hire vehicles as part of a broader congestion pricing plan to keep traffic moving and raise money to shore up public transit.

But now a prominent transportation expert, Bruce Schaller, contends that those fees are simply too low to deter most passengers from calling cars, and in any case, would result in only a temporary reduction in congestion before being offset by the rapidly growing ride-hailing services.

In a new report on Wednesday, Mr. Schaller calls instead for charging all for-hire vehicles — including yellow taxis and Uber and Lyft cars — $50 per hour to drive in Midtown Manhattan during weekday business hours, and $20 per hour in Lower Manhattan, the Upper West Side and the Upper East Side. Mr. Schaller, a former city transportation official, said he based the fees on current parking garage prices in Manhattan.

“It takes high parking fees to really discourage people from driving into Manhattan,” said Mr. Schaller, who advised to the state task force. “Uber and Lyft and taxi passengers need the same price signals.”

The hourly fee would be passed along to passengers. By his calculation, the average fare for a ride that begins and ends in Midtown would more than double to $24 from $10. The average fare for rides from Midtown to other Manhattan neighborhoods, or vice versa, would increase to $28 from $14, he said.

It would also apply to vehicles even when they are not carrying passengers to discourage drivers from just circulating around Manhattan streets looking for business. Mr. Schaller said those fees would be billed to ride-hailing companies and taxi owners, who could pass that on to passengers through higher fares.

The result would be an immediate reduction in Midtown traffic since for-hire vehicles would make fewer trips, according to Mr. Schaller. He estimated that daily trips during the weekday would drop 11 percent to 64,000 from 72,000. He added that the top fee of $50 per hour would be charged in only a tiny fraction of the overall trips. …

Jon Orcutt, a spokesman for TransitCenter, a research and policy foundation, said that he supported Mr. Schaller’s approach of using an hourly fee rather than a per-ride fee to manage congestion “because I think we’re going to need tough measures to keep the streets moving.” He expressed doubt, though, that a $50 hourly fee would win approval from state officials, given that congestion pricing already faced significant hurdles in New York …

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Yes, carwalking is a  thing, and surprisingly became popular with Michael Hartmann in Munich Germany back in the 1980’s. He took this kind of thing seriously, climbing over hoods of cars that were in his way. Think back to the 1970’s and 1980’s, when motordom reigned supreme and everything was just a freeway ride away. Of course vehicles took advantage of their use of space and parked just about anywhere.
Besides Michael Hartmann other creative individuals have also carwalked, including the legendary Peatonito in Mexico City. Wearing a wrestler’s mask and superhero cape he “works tirelessly” through humour and other pedestrians to draw attention to cars that are in pedestrians’ way. This link from citylab shows Peatonito’s actions in New York City traffic a few years back.

And here is the link to Michael Hartmann’s Autoschreck video from 1993  describing why he carwalks. Has much changed in 25 years  in the relationship between pedestrians and vehicles in the pursuit of safe and equitable space?

And one more with Mission Impossible music, from Honduras, to complete the Friday file. This can also be viewed here.


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From planetary scientist Dr. Kat Volk comes this oldie but goodie Guardian article about a cyclist that was ticketed for-wait for it-not travelling in the bike lane. Casey Neistat was so incensed, he created a video that has not only gone viral, it has been called a “great piece of gonzo filmmaking”.
The backstory here is that the New York Police Department announced late last year that they were going to get tough on cyclists’ infractions of the law. And they meant it. First, there was the controversy of the ticket blitz in Central Park, where cops were on duty before dawn to nab bikers training on the park’s closed loop road. Eventually, after a strong pushback from park users and residents and the bike community, the cops backed off that policy and an uneasy truce reigns. But elsewhere, the new approach continues: according to the New York Post, the NYPD has handed out nearly 14,000 tickets so far this year, up nearly 50% on the same period last year.”
Meanwhile, Casey’s video has had over twenty million hits. And it still resonates today, as cyclists continue to have obstacles show up in bike lanes that really should not be there in the first place. Take a look.


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