The Omnibus Roundup – construction, demolition, a Brooklyn Greenway and cities from space

Cities at Night

U.S. Northeast. Screen grab from NASA’s “world tour” of cities at night.

This week brought news from both the Brooklyn waterfront and the NASA space shuttle, and talk of both construction and demolition.

An agreement has been reached between the Port Authority, New York City and State officials and WTC developer Larry Silverstein that will allow further development of the World Trade Center site after a year and a half of financial negotiations. The deal allows for construction of Towers 3 and 4 to move forward, but the fate of Tower 2 is still up in the air (the site will be built up to ground level until the economic climate improves). Nothing is final yet: Silverstein will need to rustle up private funding and tenants for Tower 3 in order to access the hundreds of millions of dollars of public financial assistance being offered. Beyond that, the agreement itself isn’t even finalized yet — the Port Authority board won’t review the proposal for final approval for another 4 months.

Flavorwire and Gothamist both have documentation of the demolition of old Yankee Stadium’s Gate 2. Fans are mourning its destruction, though neighborhood residents might be pleased to see activity on the site. The parks and public ballfields promised to local residents can’t be developed until the old stadium has been cleared away, a process that was supposed to be complete by the time the new stadium opened last year.

The Department of Transportation has announced that it will take over the community-initiated plan for a 14-mile Brooklyn waterfront greenway. $16 million in funds have been earmarked for the project, which will run from Greenpoint to Sunset Park. DOT has scheduled planning workshops throughout April, and according to the Daily News, DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan has said that she hopes to have “at least a bare-bones version of the route in place within three years or so.”

You know we love maps. Now NASA has allowed us to view our cities in a new way, visualizing their boundaries using the simplest of methods: lights at night. Thanks to astronaut Don Pettit and his experimentation with a barn-door tracker camera mount, NASA has been able to compile precise, detailed images of cities around the world illuminated after dark. Yes, the photographs are visually stunning, but they also tell us stories about our urban environments. As this article on NASA’s Earth Observatory explains, these images can be used to analyze the effect of urbanization on Earth’s ecosystems, to study lighting use (Japanese cities tend to glow a cool blue-green due to the use of light green mercury vapor lamps, though newer developments by Tokyo Bay are characterized by orange sodium vapor lamps), and to illustrate street grid and infrastructure patterns that suggest cultural influences of how similar areas have grown. “At night, city lights present the space observer spectacular evidence of our existence, our distribution, and our ability to change our environment.” And with new housing in cities outpacing that of suburbs (according to a new EPA report), imagine how this images will change over time. Read the article and watch the video. (via The Map Room)

Cities at Night - Tokyo

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.


Leni Schwendinger April 3, 2010

Light from space… when these images were first publicized a few years ago they were commandeered by Dark Skies Association to prove that lighting was bad and energy saving was the most important priority. In other words, rather than appreciating the breath-taking beauty of the photos and the depth of information that they convey about our society the photos were used as condemnation of light in cities.

It is gratifying to see NASA focusing on communication of urban-related analysis. One of the authors of this article, William L. Stephanov worked on an Urban Environmental Monitoring Project at ASU and co-authored “Applied Remote Sensing for Urban Planning, Governance and Sustainability”.

What is missed by the article is the connection betwen city regulations, lighting design and market economy.. which are the causes of the features they call out; Las Vegas colors, Tokyo lamp types, etc.

I look forward to connecting with the authors, learning more and the opportunity to apply the research to my theories on public lighting.

Cassim, thanks so much for your broad view of urbanism and its articles – and sharing them with your readers.