The Omnibus Roundup – Earth Day, Derailed Rail, Blue Urbanism and Neighborhood Names

It’s Earth Day! First up, take a look at this series of maps and graphics from that shows the extent of our impact on our land and in our oceans as a result of population density, land transformation, accessibility, electric-power infrastructure, commercial fishing, cargo shipping and more.

A new benchmarking law will take effect on May 1st. According to The Architect’s Newspaper, owners of buildings over 50,000 square feet will be required to report water and energy use through the EPA’s Portfolio Manager Tool; non-compliant owners will get hit with fines. The data submitted will lead to an efficiency grade that tenants — or potential buyers — will be able to check on the Department of Buildings website. The hope is that as owners and tenants begin to understand how their buildings are performing, the market will shift toward efficiency, helping reach broader, zero-emission goals.

2009 Vision for High-Speed Rail via

2009 Vision for High-Speed Rail via

Last weekend marked the official elimination of the original $2.5 Billion set aside for high speed rail. Transportation on the whole was damaged by the cuts — as President Obama said at a DNC event last week, budget cuts do not just fail to include high-speed rail, but is “a vision that says we can’t afford to rebuild our roads and our bridges.” See more on the cuts to transportation in Infrastructurist’s coverage of the news or read a detailed report on the budgetary amendments in this House Appropriations Committee summary PDF.


“More than half of the U.S. population lives in coastal counties adjacent to the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, the Gulf of Mexico and Great Lakes.” Blue Urbanism begs the planning and design world to think about this fact, and see cities through the lens of the open water. As our planet gets bluer, cities are noticing. Traditional borders are moving and port cities are looking at the oceans a new ways. Beyond monitoring water quality or noticing the loss of marine biodiversity, coastal cities across the world are redeveloping plans to include sustainable waterfronts. The Cape Cod Planning Commission recently expanded an Ocean Management Planning District, including a half million acres of open ocean, to evaluate the scale, location and efficacy of offshore wind turbines. New York City just released the Comprehensive Waterfront Plan to increase use of waterways. Rotterdam is practically designing their city around the water. Read more on the growth of Blue Urbanism in Design Observer’s fascinating piece on this growing movement.

Sick of hearing neighborhood names like SoBro, ProCro or SoHa — or trying to figure out where they are? The New York Times City Room blog recently reported that Brooklyn Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries is reeling about the realty practice of renaming NYC neighborhoods to feign desirability. Jeffries wants to introduce a new bill that would require a series of approvals for neighborhood renaming from the City Council, the mayor and community boards. “It’s the Wild West in New York City right now,” he said. “Brokers are allowed to essentially pull names out of thin air in order to rebrand a neighborhood and have the effect of raising rents or home prices.”

A report by the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program and the Pratt Center for Community Development, “The Federal Role in Supporting Urban Manufacturing,” points to the changing geography of our nation’s production sector and how federal and municipal government should work to support its growth and development. The report highlights the need for smaller urban manufacturer support. To take a closer look at the recommendations see Pratt Center’s coverage, download the full report or download the case studies. In 2009, Adam Friedman, Director of the Pratt Center, gave Omnibus readers a primer on the importance of manufacturing to New York. Check it out here.

The Skyscraper as Citizen: A Lecture by Henry N. Cobb. Center for Architecture is hosting an event to discuss “Reflections on the Public Life of Private Buildings,” with special attention to Boston’s John Hancock Tower. Monday, April 25, 6-8 PM, Monday, April 25th.

MAS Walking Tour: Rethinking the Sheridan: From Bronx River to Hunts Point Explore the impact of the Sheridan Expressway on the neighborhoods that border it from a pedestrian vantage point, Saturday, April 23, 11:00 a.m. Register here.

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.