The Omnibus Roundup: Borough Tales, Foodprint Toronto, community garden and park politics, Broadway and natural navigation

Brooklyn Bridge 1898

Brooklyn Bridge, 1898

Every borough has its own fabled histories, idiosyncratic residents and constantly negotiated neighborhoods. This summer, WNYC is running Borough Tales, a series that explores the legends and quirks of each borough and invites listeners to ask questions of some passionate borough historians. Last week, Queens Borough Historian Jack Eichenbaum spoke about the significance of neighborhoods and the changing patterns of immigration in Queens. This week Brooklyn Borough Historian Ron Schweiger chose his favorite era in Brooklyn history and spoke about being a life long Brooklynite, a Dodgers (and now Cyclones) fan, and the creation of the Coney Island Hot Dog, the nation’s first fast food.

Speaking of food, a reminder for our Toronto readers that Foodprint Toronto, the second in a series of international conversations about food and cities organized by Nicola Twilley and Sarah Rich, is taking place tomorrow, July 31. Twilley and Rich spoke with us earlier this year about food systems and their impact on the city, in anticipation of their inaugural Foodprint event here in New York (and stay tuned for a follow-up piece from Twilley next month). This time around Pruned has interviewed the pair about the Toronto event and how they’ll be picking up where they left off in New York City.

One of many points of intersection between food and cities is, of course, community gardens, some of which provide the land required for urban farming. Community gardeners in New York have relied for some time on an agreement between the City and the State Attorney General’s office that helps to protect community gardens from purchase and development. Way back in January 2009, we learned more about this from Holly Leicht, who was involved in litigation leading to the original agreement, while we were investigating urban agriculture in East New York. This agreement is set to expire in September. Make your opinions known by writing in to either the Department of Parks & Recreation (read their rules in this PDF) or the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (read their rules in this PDF) by August 10th. Read more about this on Treehugger.

Clearly, open space of all stripes requires politics and planning, in New York as elsewhere. Peter Harnik, director of the Center for City Park Excellence at the Trust for Public Land, has written a book on the subject entitled Urban Green: Innovative Parks for Resurgent Cities, in which he shares case studies from Atlanta to Chicago to Pittsburgh. Read Anne Schwartz’s informative review of the book on Gotham Gazette.

For a different kind of public space, Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta is among those firms selected to design permanent public places along the newly pedestrianized sections of Broadway. Famed Marxist urbanist David Harvey may think that reclaiming the avenue for foot traffic is just a part of the process of turning “the whole damn place into a suburb,” but we are looking forward to the designs. Other firms in the project team include WxY architecture + urban design, Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects, BILLINGS JACKSON DESIGN, Leni Schwendinger Light Projects LTD, Pure + Applied, Weidlinger, Buro Happold, BEXEL, Wesler Cohen, and Ducibella Venter and Santore.

Another kind of street life, including “beautifully bleak” images of “New York City’s ventilation towers, highway underpasses, demolition sites and dumps”, has found itself epicted in the canvasses of Rackstraw Downes since the 1960s. Right now, the American landscapes of the British-born artist are on display in three exhibitions, “Rackstraw Downes: Onsite Paintings, 1972-2008,” at the Parrish Art Museum in Southampton, N.Y., “Rackstraw Downes: Under the Westside Highway,” at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, in Ridgefield, Connecticut; and “Rackstraw Downes: A Selection of Drawings 1980 to 2010” at the Betty Cunningham gallery in Chelsea.

If Downes’ urban landscapes inspire you to don your safari hat and binoculars for that epic urban hike this weekend, leave your GPS enabled device at home and use the very satisfying techniques of natural navigation. For tips on how, check out this New York Times infographic.

In other news, the director of design documentaries Helvetica, which explores typography through the eponymous and iconic typeface, and Objectified, which explores the world of producct and industrial design, has set his sights on urban design for the third movie in the series: Urbanized. The MTA has released its preliminary budget for 2011, confirming rumors of fare and bridge toll hikes as well as eliminating the one-day and 14-day unlimited MetroCards. The New York taxi fleet looks beyond the era of the iconic Ford Crown Vics. The Landmarks Preservation Commission is set to deny landmark status to the potential site of downtown Mosque, clearing the way for construction of the controversial religious center to go forward, notwithstanding the Mosque-exclusion zone guidelines advanced by the likes of Newt Gingrich. And last but not least, and not a moment too soon, Mayor Bloomberg’s bed bug advisory task force releases its recommendations, including that the mayor appoint a bed bug czar to tackle high-stakes pest control.

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