The Omnibus Roundup – Digital Roadmap, Living Safely, Pentagram Parks, Lit-up Library and More

As the digital age descends on NYC, the Bloomberg administration has a plan. Rachel Sterne (the recently appointed 27-year old, first-ever, Chief Digital Officer of New York), recently unveiled the Roadmap for the Digital City, a plan that draws on a 90-day collection of dialogue between the tech community, citizens and the city. Providing a glimpse into some of the more interesting statistics on the state of connective access in NYC, the report documents who’s using the internet and how, across user backgrounds, income levels and age groups. Within the past decade, more people are using the internet, and user income and age gaps are closing:

Digital Roadmap - Demographic by income

Digital Roadmap - Visitors by Gender

There’s a large section on public input gathered from various ‘digital environments’ via, Meetups, By the City, online surveys at and more. The top identified needs gathered from such surveys are public wi-fi, internet access in more locations (even in the subway) and real-time public information.

Much of the report talks about all the great stuff the city is already doing — but here’s some of what we can expect from the city’s growing digital infrastructure in the years to come:

  • Better Access to the Internet: public computer centers with senior learning, underground subway wi-fi and cell service in six stations, improve computer access with hardware and internet to 72 of the highest-need middle schools in the city
  • Open Government: API-enabled Public Data and NYC Platform, an open government framework featuring Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) for City data, a hub for feedback from the developer community and an NYC App store
  • Engagement: Partnerships with social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Tumblr) to engage residents, digital 311, and a better

Read the full Roadmap for yourself here.

With New York City’s housing climate hitting new lows — last week’s tragic fire in Bushwick resulted in the deaths of two men living in an illegally-converted boarding house — the need to reevaluate legislation and enforcement around illegal subdivisions was made clear. Bolstered by surprising 2010 Census numbers which discounted predictions on Queens’ new residents (reporting that only 1,343 new people moved to Queens in a decade), illegal conversions housing new immigrants are being taken seriously by housing advocates and even City Hall. A recent analysis by the Citizens Housing & Planning Council (CHPC) found that “illegal housing types, subdivisions and sharing are so extensive in the city that it has become impossible to truly understand the population living behind our closed doors.” The Architectural League is working with CHPC on a multi-phase design study that will provoke innovative design thinking to promote a greater diversity of housing typologies in the city, given the mismatch between contemporary demographic reality and the kinds of dwellings that conform to New York’s complex housing code. Stay tuned for more on this collaboration in the weeks to come.

The issue was also addressed in the most recent version of PlaNYC, and re-evaluation of the topic is at the forefront of political conversation. NYU’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy released its quarterly report on the city’s state of housing — and trends look dreary for foreclosure and sales. Housing prices have dipped in all boroughs except Queens, and 40% of the city’s foreclosure notices are in Brooklyn, but have declined in every borough since 2010. See the full Furman Report and more on housing reform here.

NYC Parks New LogoNYC Parks Old Logo

New and Old Parks Department Logo | Images courtesy Pentagram

Paula Scher, of the design firm Pentagram, has teamed up with the NYC Parks Department to retool their iconic logo and identity, first introduced in 1934. The redesign will touch signage, wayfinding and environmental graphics for 1,700+ parks, playgrounds and other facilities. The design effort, spearheaded by Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, seeks to coordinate the visual identity of the Department of Parks and Recreation with high-profile projects like the High Line and Madison Square Park and to increase consistency across agency materials.

Although consistent with the original design of a leaf in a circle, the new logo has a modernized leaf, a thinner circle line, a brighter, lighter green and is set in the typeface Akkurat. Park signage has the most radical revamp, with modular pieces for future expansion and double sided signs. To read the full story, see Pentagram’s coverage.

NYC Parks New Signage | via Pentagram

New Parks Signage | Images courtesy Pentagram

If you caught last week’s UO feature on Stephen Mallon’s photography, including his series capturing the process of using retired New York City subway cars as man-made reefs, check out this New York Times slideshow from last week announcing the end of the decade-long program. Over 2,500 retired subway cars (toxic and valuable material removed) had met their fate in the Atlantic, off the coasts of Virginia, Maryland and Delaware, as permanent underwater homes for sea creatures. The program was discontinued this year, when the introduction of newer subway cars with more plastic parts and more complex stripping methods, rendered them unsuitable for oceanic disposal.


Paul LeClerc, the president of New York Public Library sought Parisian inspiration to light the renovated Fifth Avenue landmark library. François Jousse, Paris’ civic expert on building lighting and engineering, impressed the library with his practice of putting lights atop streetlights surrounding Paris’ most beautiful buildings, casting a magnificent glow onto the most ornate of facades. The library chose Claude R. Engle, a lighting consultant who has illuminated the World Trade Center, the Louvre and the Pompidou, to redo lighting on the beloved library. Marking its 100th birthday on May 23rd, the building will be drenched in glowing, white light to highlight the massive three-year restoration project.


Starting this weekend, there’s a new addition to the growingly popular flea market culture with foodies in mind. Smorgasburg, the new Brooklyn Flea Food Market, is a popular add-on to Williamsburg’s waterfront with 100+ food vendors, food organizations (SlowFood, Just Food, NYC Food Coalition) and NYS Greenmarket farmers to offer a retail market with fresh and prepared food, kitchenware and al fresco dining. Yum! Every Saturday. See the official site 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.