BRAND NEW TRAM
After this morning’s F train delays, the reopening of the Roosevelt Island tram will come as even more of a relief to the island’s commuters. The iconic cherry-red tram will again grace Manhattan skies after a 9-month hiatus, during which it underwent $25 million in repairs and improvements. Riders will now enjoy faster, more frequent and calmer runs in cabins with larger windows and increased stability. The reopening is not just a boon for Roosevelt Islanders, the tram has captured the imagination of New Yorkers since it opened as a temporary service in 1989, and more recently has inspired proposals for cable-propelled mass transit on a large scale. Now, once again, for the price of a subway fare, you can get a spectacular view of the city on one of its quirkier public transportation options – without fear of getting stuck!
EAST RIVER FERRY
Streetsblog unpacks the planned East River ferry service discussed in a panel at Tuesday’s Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance conference (read our recap of the conference here). The service, slated to launch in the spring, will make stops in Hunters Point South, Greenpoint, North Williamsburg, South Williamsburg, Fulton Ferry, and Downtown and Midtown Manhattan, and will run every 20 minutes during peak hours. The project is privately run but publicly subsidized, meaning ferry service could cost the city (aka tax payers) $20 a head. Such is the cost, it seems, of trying to implement aquatic public transit, as the city maintains this is a pilot program as part of an ongoing feasibility study. Streetsblog cites New York/ New Jersey ferry service and the ferry line used to linked the city’s harbor parks as models of success, and one can conclude that should the new service work out it would fuse the practical and recreational potential of the ferry (much like the renowned Staten Island line).
WEEKSVILLE CULTURAL CENTER
This week, Fast Company took a look at the design for a new museum, community center and green space celebrating the country’s first free black community in Crown Heights. Pratt professor Jim Hurley discovered the three remaining homes from the Weeksville community in 1968 while surveying the area in a helicopter and began a project to restore and convert them into a cultural center. The houses were granted landmark status in 1971, and by 2005 all three houses were fully restored and opened to the public. The new building, designed by Caples Jefferson Architects (who were named to the League’s list of Emerging Voices in 1998) and slated for completion in 2012, will complete the campus of historic structures with a respectful, sleek and modern design benefitting from green construction and energy efficiency. Replete with a community garden, research center and library, the space will be an asset to the current neighborhood while honoring its past.
New Yorkers, infamous for their opinions, are losing their voice. The Times anticipates the Census Bureau’s announcement that New York State’s House of Representatives delegation will shrink to its smallest size since the Madison administration (though at that time the state population was under one million, making the representation greater). Westward and Southern migration have claimed one, if not two, of New York’s seats, prompting Governor-elect Cuomo to propose a non-partisan redistricting committee. While this could reshape the City’s political map, it’s unlikely. The loss will probably be felt upstate and perhaps in the suburbs, according to Queens College sociologist Andrew Beveridge.
STATE OF THE MTA
Benjamin Kabak of Second Avenue Sagas has posted a comprehensive four-part interview with MTA CEO and Chair Jay Walder probing the MTA’s financial state, labor relations, the status of the much discussed Second Avenue line, and the potential death of the MetroCard. Walder recounts the difficulties in finding funding for New York’s costly subway system and the unsurprising bureaucratic road blocks, like the $118 million in transit-intended tax dollars apparently misappropriated by the State. The MTA has also celebrated some successes, like adding 50 million new users in 15 years and raising the mean breakdown distance from 7,000 to 150,000 miles – improvements that take capital. Walder explains that our transportation system “is a huge system that in essence is composed of lots of unseen hidden infrastructure that’s depreciating and deteriorating all the time. We need to continue to invest in that.” So, what’s next in New York’s underground labyrinth? According to Walder, modern signal switches, the potential for hiked fares, and a swipeless fare payment a la London’s Oyster Card. Walder lays out a paradigm for the future of the subway in which the MTA is kinda like a stool. “The first leg of the stool is to show that you’re an efficient and effective provider of public transit and that you’re meeting people’s needs in doing that. The second leg of the stool is accept the fact fares are part of the picture and what you’re doing [sic], and the third leg of the stool is the fact that we will rely on public support to do this.” Is this the stool we are sitting on while we wait for the train? Hopefully not, but regardless, Second Avenue Saga gives a well developed view into the workings and difficulties of the MTA, essential for the well-informed complainer commuter.
“There is such a hunger for open spaces in New York. We want to sate it as much as possible,” says Department of Transportation commissioner Janette Sadik–Khan in an Esquire profile recently published as part of the feature “The Brightest: 16 Geniuses that Give us Hope.” The article paints Sadik–Khan as an anti-Moses of sorts, equally headstrong and savvy, but where the loved/maligned former planner imagined cars and highways, she imagines plazas and pedestrians. In last week’s roundup, you read about Sadik–Khan and the DOT’s role in the development of an NYC bike share, which is only one part of her program to increase usability in the city’s public spaces. Under her auspices, the DOT has shut down parts of Broadway to auto traffic and converted congested Times Square to a plaza, and done the same with sections of Herald and Madison Squares. The queen of the pop-up plaza has painted asphalt, imported cafe chairs and large planters and brought people to the streets around the city – something that will hopefully permeate other boroughs as it has Manhattan. Her agenda may radically differ from Moses but she is armed with the same vision and confidence, and, according to the article, plenty of facts to back her up.
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.