The Omnibus Roundup – water, cow tunnels, neighborhoods and parks parks parks

Photo by Flickr user foxypar4

In this week’s feature, Kate Zidar focused on the importance of designing for stormwater management. Careful consideration of the use, management and conservation of our water resources is a topic being discussed both locally and globally. The Urban Land Institute has released a new publication, Infrastructure 2010: An Investment Imperative, the fourth in a series analyzing infrastructure needs in the US. This issue spotlights water infrastructure and the urgent need to tame our nation’s “water profligacy,” upgrade our physical infrastructure, attend to contamination threats, and implement the kinds of stormwater conservation plans discussed by Zidar. Meanwhile TreeHugger has posted an interview with Robert Glennon, author of Unquenchable: America’s Water Crisis and What To Do About It, about mismanagement of our water supply on both a local and global scale, and Boing Boing has a Q&A with The Pacific Institute’s Peter Gleick about water scarcity and efficiency.

Nicola Twilley, familiar to Omnibus readers from our Food and the Shape of Cities interview, has an entertaining and interesting article on Edible Geography about forgotten underground cow tunnels on the west side of Manhattan. Built as transportation passageways to get cows to the slaughterhouses in the meatpacking district, these tunnels aren’t just a glimpse into the history of a neighborhood. Twilley also explores how their existence can be seen as evidence of larger systems at play in cities: “it shows clearly how food designs the city, carving out routes and reshaping urban infrastructure in response to changes in technology, economics, and volume.” And if you’ve every wondered what the ideal design of a cow tunnel might be, be sure to read through to the end, where she quotes autistic savant Temple Grandin’s explanation of what makes a tunnel appealing to a cow. According to Gothamist, there’s a chance these tunnels might be added to the National Register of Historic Places – stay tuned, they’re checking in for an update and promise to keep readers posted.

Speaking of subterranean tunnels, The Brooklyn Eagle has a piece on secret emergency exits from the subway system, including one that leads up to a false front brownstone in Brooklyn Heights.

Next week is Earth Day, which marks the 3rd anniversary of Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC 2030, a 25-year plan for making “a greener, greater New York City.” Over at Gotham Gazette, Tom Angotti identifies what he sees as the plan’s central flaw: “PlaNYC2030 left out any role for the city’s hundreds of neighborhoods, 59 community boards, and the countless civic, community and environmental groups that care about the future of the city. It was a top-down plan, conceived at City Hall with minimal input, and it was never approved as an official plan.” It’s time, he says, to remedy this problem: involve the neighborhoods and allow the ambitious ideas that inspired the plan to reach their full potential.

Four Freedoms

FDR Four Freedoms Park, sketch by Louis I. Kahn via

In parks news: a quiet groundbreaking recently took place for the FDR Four Freedoms Park on the southernmost tip of Roosevelt Island. The memorial park was designed by Louis I. Kahn in 1974, just before his death, but was shelved in 1975 for financial reasons.

With much more fanfare came the announcement of the Governors Island Park master plan. As we mentioned in our earlier coverage of the design’s release, City Room opened its email inbox to its readers to submit ideas for how they thought the land should be used. The results are in and ideas range from zoos to prisons to casinos to doing nothing at all.

Street vendor lovers should take note of new proposed rules that would limit the number of artists who can sell their printed text or visual work in public parks, a move that would, according to the city, free up space for parkgoers, or, according to some vendors, infringe on their First Amendment rights. A public hearing is scheduled for next week and artists’ groups have already promised protests and lawsuits if the regulations pass.

And if you find yourself in Thomas Jefferson Park tomorrow, keep your eye out for the official unveiling of the Parks Department’s new mascot: Pearl the Squirrel.

Don’t forget — today is the last day to mail in your census form. New York still has a long way to go. Send ’em in!


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.