The Omnibus Roundup – Skyscraper Sway, Railway and Rooftop Energy, Criminal Charges and Urban Planning Songs

First up, if you’re curious about the potential acceleration of the top floors of your building (and, I mean, who isn’t?) then you must check out Wired‘s equation to calculate the natural sway of a skyscraper. Just because.

RENEWABLE ENERGY: Railways and Rooftops
Technology never ceases to amaze. Inhabitat reports on Israeli company Innowattech’s new project to harvest energy from train traffic on the country’s rail lines. Innowattech will line tracks with piezoelectric pads that convert stress and pressure into usable energy, and then hook it in to the power grid. A prototype of the system installed last year was able to generate enough electricity to power railroad signs and lights, with energy to spare. The potential of piezoelectricity is something Urban Omnibus devotees will remember from Fluxxlab’s Revolution Door, a prototype that turned the human pressure of pushing a revolving door into enough power to light up an office building’s lobby.

Brooklyn Army Terminal

Proposed solar array on the rood of the Brooklyn Army Terminal | Image: NYCEDC

On the local scene – the City plans to deck out the Brooklyn Army Terminal with photovoltaic solar panels. Dubbed the “Smart Grid Demonstration Project,” the panel array will be the largest solar collector in the city and generate at least 600,000 kilowatts of energy annually – enough to power 120 homes (or 2% of the terminal’s energy consumption). The plan is a collaboration between the New York City Economic Development Corporation and Con Edison, who are using $4.5 million of their American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds. Once up and running, the BAT will be used to collect data on storage capacity and management of solar panels, and the EDC says its predicted success will lead to the installation of solar arrays in more locations, and perhaps the continued alliance of public and private money in the Bloomberg administration’s Green Economy Plan.

PUBLIC SPACE: What’s It Good For, Again?
Have an opinion about public space? Weigh in on the latest installment of the Glass House conversations. Deborah Marton of the Design Trust for Public Space asks, “How can public spaces be designed to help individuals become more active participants – socially, economically, intellectually, physically – in the life of their communities?” As New York’s public spaces become increasingly designed, densified and arguably fetishized, a frank conversation about why public space matters is valuable. The Glass House conversations take a weekly design topic and invite commentary before closing the discussion and choosing a “final word,” so go put in your two cents before this questions closes, tonight at 8pm.

Outside the City Council Transportation Committee Hearing | via

Outside the City Council Transportation Committee Hearing | via

It seems not a week can pass without mention of Janette Sadik-Khan. Yesterday, the City Council Transportation Committee drew quite a crowd at a hearing on New York City bike policy. According to Streetsblog, the line to testify was out the door, reflecting the vested public interest in bicycling politics. The committee, like the public, seemed divided, debating the balance of new bike lanes with vehicle traffic. Committee Chair James Vacca said, “Too many people are starting to get the impression that bike policy is about getting them to give up their cars,” and questioned commuters’ use of bike lanes, while other members requested more lanes for their districts. City Council member and cyclist Daniel Garodnick advocated safety and education like the “Don’t be a Jerk” campaign covered in our Roundup two weeks ago. For more on the meeting, see Streetsblog’s summary of the key points.

CRIMINAL CHARGES: Raw Sewage and Restaurant Grease
The City is trying to put its foot down to reverse the dire situation of Brooklyn waterways. The Department of Environmental Protection has charged four individuals and four business for polluting Sheepshead Bay with raw sewage and restaurant grease. The New York Times‘ “Green” blog quotes DEP commissioner Cas Holloway’s statement, “Today’s arrests send a strong message to property owners who would turn a blind eye to water pollution, or delay fixing a problem: Take responsibility and act now.”

As cultural commentators prepare their end of the year lists (best movies, books, songs, etc), Planetizen has complied its top ten urban planning songs. This may not be the soundtrack to a holiday dance party, but it does sample the eclectic mix of artists inspired by city spaces. Our additions, “Cities” by the Talking Heads (the list quotes David Byrne saying, “if somebody could write a song about [city planning] I’d have to stand up and cheer for them,”) and this years New York anthem, “Empire State of Mind.” After all, isn’t every urbanist’s dream to wander “streets that make you feel brand new?”


The Roundup keeps you up to date with topics we’ve featured and other things we think are worth knowing about.

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