The Omnibus Roundup – Yards groundbreaking, Brooklyn Bridge Park, the census, and LEGOs

Yesterday’s protest of the Atlantic Yards groundbreaking seems to have received almost as much media attention as the groundbreaking itself – one eye-witness estimated the press-to-protester ratio outside Freddy’s bar as nearly 1 to 1. And we admit, we were so taken with the bobbleheaded masks that we failed to assess what this groundbreaking actually means in the context of a project where the meaning of each projected dollar or job is hotly contested. Thankfully, Atlantic Yards Report, as always, presents a measured and comprehensive account of the events that took place yesterday both inside and outside the tent.

This week brought news that the city is taking the reins of the Brooklyn Bridge Park project from the state after years of struggles and delays while the two sides attempted to partner on the development. The city is now considering ways to bring new funding streams in — including an idea to bring a Floating Pool back for permanent installation.

The New York Times opened its “Taking Questions” series to inquiries about the Gowanus Canal’s designation as a Superfund site. Answering is Jack S. Nyman, the director of the Steven L. Newman Real Estate Institute at Baruch College, CUNY, who initiated a study in 2009, to be released next month, entitled “Reconsidering Gowanus — Opportunities for the Sustainable Transformation of an Industrial Neighborhood.” Questions are closed, but the three part post of Nyman’s answers is worth a read.

The New York Times reports that the city has finally agreed to a settlement with workers whose health was damaged while cleaning up the wreckage of the World Trade Center after September 11th.  The survivors will be allowed access to a $23.4 million insurance account. The decision comes as a relief for many, but for others it was too little, too late.  One of the main witnesses is already dead from cancer tied to the toxic fumes at the site.

On Tuesday, NYCDOT submitted two projects to provide safer bike and pedestrian connections on the Manhattan side of the Williamsburg Bridge. The proposals include the addition of new curbside bike routes that circumnavigate around the treacherous Delancey Street, and a raised, planted center median on Bowery between Canal and Division Streets, which would alleviate the congestion of the highly trafficked highway while providing safer crossways to pedestrians. Both proposals were approved by the CB3 committee.

As you’ve probably noticed from the ads littering the landscape of the New York streets, the census season is upon us.  This season is not quite like the others, though — this decade’s census is largely being promoted by local governments instead of the feds. As Governing magazine notes, this sets up a new dynamic and new incentive to stand up and be counted.  Local municipalities stand to gain thousands of dollars in federal funding for each additional person counted.  To paraphrase a recent Prince Street subway ad, the census will deliver better healthcare, better education and even better transportation to New Yorkers.  The census is still hiring and pay starts at $18.75/hr for census taker.  Count and be counted.

One city who the census surely has not benefitted is Detroit. Having lost 50% of its population over the past half century, what to do with the sagging city has been a hot topic of debate lately. Since Detroit became the poster child for post-industrial American city, seeing its population drop from a peak of 2 million to about 900,000 today, no one has known quite what to do with the blocks of valueless houses and factories. An article in Fortune explores a new proposal that calls for letting the city go to seed — literally.  Money manager John Hantz wants to turn broad swaths of suburban neighborhoods into the largest urban farm in the United States and possibly in the world.

At the VOLTA art fair last weekend, artist Jan Vormann showed New Yorkers how to patch up our city’s cracks. With LEGOs. Check out INHABITAT’s slideshow of his charming installations throughout the city.

Jan Vormann

Image via Inhabitat

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

The views expressed here are those of the authors only and do not reflect the position of The Architectural League of New York.