The Omnibus Roundup – Revolutions, Roundabouts, Manifestos and Public Transportation

MTA remains reliable | image via
New York is among the top 15 metropolitan areas for transportation, according to an Infrastructurist article on a National Resources Defense Council study. Jersey City and New Haven also make it on the list, reflecting on the good performance of PATH and MetroNorth trains. Keep it up MTA!
And it’s a good thing we have public transport, because…
Apparently snobbery is up among cab drivers. The New York Times reports a 38% jump in cabs refusing requested destinations in the last half of 2010. Though it is illegal, cab drivers notoriously deny fares going outside Manhattan, particularly late at night (when a cab ride is most coveted) or to a destination were they are unlikely to pick up another passenger. The Bloomberg administration is responding with a proposed hike in fines for fare dodgers, from $200 to $500, and may revoke licenses for cabbies that commit three infractions within three years — an idea that’s been met with ire from drivers’ groups who say cabbies shouldn’t be punished for trying to preserve their profits. But for the sake of anyone trying to get from Manhattan to Bed-Stuy at 3am, let’s hope Taxi & Limousine Commission Chair David Yassky’s prognosis that “it is getting to be like the bad old days when taxis wouldn’t go to Brooklyn” won’t last.
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer calls out the Department of Buildings in a Gotham Gazette piece reacting to the deaths of two ironworkers this month. Stringer cites a history of deadly accidents in the department, as well as bureaucratic inefficiency and corruption. His solution? An independent review committee and reform that will modernize and streamline the department. The economic downturn could actually present an advantage — allowing time to enact improvements before the building market picks up.

Last week, as people began unpacking the greater significance of Egypt’s revolution, Vishaan Chakrabarti discussed the importance of  public space in facilitating, and impeding, civil discourse and dissent in his Country of Cities series on Urban Omnibus. This week, Jonathan Liu extrapolates lessons of Tahrir Square to an examination of the traffic circle as a literal public sphere in a Motherboard article “Roundabouts and Revolutions.” Both pieces offer nuanced insights to the criticality of planned spaces for the spontaneous public congress, a conversation which we hope continues.



There Will Be Blood | production still

There Will Be Blood | production still

In response to a January installment of Storefront for Art and Architecture’s Manifesto series, celebrating the publication of Pamphlet Architecture #30: Coupling, InfraNet lab has put together its own manifesto on infrastructural opportunism. Touching on topics discussed at the Storefront launch, InfraNet’s manifesto is a cursory collection of ideas already budding in architectural spheres, like the physicality of software or exploiting trashed materials, and a reminder to re-engage with concepts that have long piqued interest of designers, like systems networks and “architects as expert generalists.” Into this mix, InfraNet’s manifesto throws fresh takes on scale and the need to stay informed, grounding theories in examples that range from a man-made island in the Maldives to everyone’s favorite milkshake quote in There Will Be Blood.

There’s another book launch / Manifesto series tonight at Storefront. This one’s called EcoRedux: Design Remedies for an Ailing Planet, which promises to relate the cyclical nature of intellectual history to the ecological imperatives of the day, like, um, recycling.

BMW can’t seem to let a trend escape them. The car company has caught on to “urban exploration” in their recently established BMW i-ventures, a venture capital firm, that with $100 million in hand, will forge solutions in “sustainable mobility.” The first $5 of that $100 was allocated to a smartphone app first developed for the NYC BigApps competition. Called My CityWay, the application is a catch-all city guide that discovers location-based activities and local conveniences as the user, his smartphone and his BMW traverse the city.

Curious to see what else could have been installed in a Long Island City courtyard this summer? This week MoMA PS1 released the short list of entries that almost made the cut in their Young Architects Program (League Emerging Voice Interboro Partners won the competition with their “holding pattern” design). Among the finalists was Bronx-based firm FormlessFinder as well as MASS Design Group and IJP Corporation. Though MoMA has picked its winner, the range of  public reactions have prompted Archinect to host a People’s Choice Award on their site. The polls are open through March 11th for readers who wish to weigh 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.