The Omnibus Roundup – Earth Day, urban mobility, murals, billboards and subway etiquette

Yesterday was Earth day. It was also the three-year anniversary of Mayor Bloomberg’s announcement of PlaNYC 2030. Financial and political obstacles have impeded progress on many of the 2009 goals — of the 127 initiatives proposed on Earth Day 2008, only 51 have been entirely completed. Some see this as a “failed dream.” Others consider the shortfalls acceptable in light of all that has been accomplished so far. Meanwhile, Gotham Gazette cautions us against all the political rhetoric, arguing that the implementation of the plan’s “transit-oriented development” is actually increasing New Yorkers’ reliance on cars. But things can’t be all bad — Fast Company has included New York, and its urban farms in particular, in its list of 12 cities across the nation enacting the best ideas for the cities of the future.

In this week’s feature, Vishaan Chakrabarti discusses Curitiba’s Bus Rapid Transit system, pioneered by architect-mayor Jaime Lerner. Curitiba’s transformation is a direct precedent for transportation innovation in Ahmedabad, India, which Meena Kadri chronicles in Places. Kadri quotes planner Shivanand Swamy, who led the research team behind Ahmedabad’s BRT system, as noting that “dedicated lanes are the key to making a bus system smooth and speedy — a real alternative to private vehicles.” Our own transit planners agree: the Department of Transportation is moving ahead with a plan to add pedestrian plazas, reduce private vehicle traffic, and improve bus efficiency (using dedicated lanes) across 34th Street. Besides, according to New York Magazine’s Intelligencer, transportation reform is the key to a lasting legacy: let Bloomberg take over the MTA and find out if they’re right.

Subway etiquette posters

Subway etiquette posters by Jason Shelowitz

Taking over the MTA in a different manner is the “Metropolitan Etiquette Authority.” The MEA is the invention of Jason Shelowitz who is waging a public art campaign about public etiquette on the subway. Posing as official MTA notices, his posters request better etiquette under the categories of nail clipping, noise pollution, physical contact, hygiene, and more. In New York Magazine’s brief interview with Shelowitz, the artist explains that while the signs may be illegally posted, at least he is using removable double-sized tape so that they remain impermanent and leave no residue behind.

Speaking of public art, this week Shepard Fairey completed his new mural on Houston and Bowery. Wooster Collective caught Fairey on site as he continued working and interviewed him about the mural, his upcoming show at Deitch Projects, and why New York is the best place in the world for street art. Flavorwire features a different kind of street art in “Up There,” Stella Artois’ charming short film on the art of hand-painted billboards in an era of printed vinyl ads (embedded above).

Atlantic Yards opponents are feeling conflicted this week as Daniel Goldstein, founder and now-former-spokesperson of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, agreed to sell his apartment to Forest City Ratner for $3 million. City Room reports that with Daniel Goldstein’s agreement to sell his condo in Prospect heights, the “last man standing in front of the Atlantic Yards bulldozer has stepped aside.” This a few days after another headlining hold-out, Freddy’s Bar and Backroom, announced plans to close up their Dean St. digs and move to a new location.

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.