Nature & Public Spaces
September 24, 2018

Every Street Tree in New York

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 Curbed.com 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 Curbed.com 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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From Park People.ca and Ken Greenberg  comes the video by Garrick Mason  “Something New from Something Old”  describing some unique and some familiar concepts in making great public spaces. Using conversations with urbanists in New York City and in Toronto, the film explores how low density streets can give up much space for the car, but space for humans walking and biking is still a street fight. Opportunities for more green space has come with the “glacial recedence of industrial uses that have revealed new opportunities. Eric Landau with the Brooklyn Trust describes how the area under DUMBO (Down under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) has been transformed from industrial to park space. With ten per cent of the area being developed to cover the operational and maintenance costs of the new Brooklyn Park, former five acre industrial docking piers have been transformed into park experiences, each with their own unique purpose and use.
Opening up with music that was first performed by singers on New York City’s Highline, the film discusses the importance of public/private financing, noting that redeveloping green space as amenities creates real estate value for surrounding properties.
As the film maker observes: ” I decided to ask experts, designers, and planners involved in some of the highest profile conversion projects in Toronto and New York City about the rationale behind these conversions, the challenges involved in designing under such novel constraints, and the difficult issues — like funding, accessibility, benefit sharing — that come with them. Their answers were both fascinating and encouraging, pointing to a world in which the development of cities will have more to do with gracefully evolving in place than with spreading outwards to infinity. ”
You can watch the video on Vimeo by clicking on the  blue tab on the “Sorry” link below.
 

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In cities where there is a shortage of housing and people are living in unorthodox dwellings, how do you carry out a census count? The New York Times reports on  the challenges of ensuring that every person is accounted for in the census, which is used as the base for planning and funding cities. Federal resources are tied to the census which is done every ten years, with the next in 2020. In New York City planning department staff have already spent fifteen months reviewing addresses, finding 439,000 that the federal Census Bureau had missed, representing 13 per cent of the housing stock. These units were in illegal basement, attic, and garages, “revealed by extra door bells and mailboxes.”
Disasters and construction need to be factored in, especially with Houston’s displacement of people with Hurricane Harvey and the thousands of new built units and addresses that will be constructed in New York City in the next two years.How much federal money is tied to the decennial census?  In San Jose California as many as 70,000 residents were not counted, resulting in $20 million dollars annually  not being allocated federally for the city.
This spring, volunteers will use a texting app the city tested in December to identify these and similar units for inclusion in the Census Bureau’s master list. The app will not be available to building code enforcement or to officials for immigration enforcement.  “A nonprofit founded by the former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, Cities of Service, is hoping to spread the tool to other cities that will be receiving their address databases from the census in the coming weeks.
People forget it is an enumeration of the population, but it’s an enumeration of the population in housing units and in group-quarters facilities,” said Joe Salvo, the director of the New York City planning department’s population division. “Essentially, everyone needs to be put down on a map. Everybody needs a recognized address.”
You can find out more how federal funding is allocated through the ten-year census count at this Brookings Institute website.

 
 

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