The Omnibus Roundup — Flooded Subways, Before I Die, Legacy of Moses, SEED Awards, Pier 42 and Happy Thanksgiving!

Manhattan Flood Zones Under 4-Foot Sea Level Rise | LDEO & Civil Engineering, Columbia University | via

When Hurricane Irene was headed towards New York City, the MTA made the bold choice to shut down the entire subway system, anticipating widespread flooding of the tunnels which could cause significant damage to transit infrastructure. Though our subways escaped harm this time, the flood threat looks to be a harbinger of a future norm — unless we make some changes now. Last week, Columbia, CUNY and Cornell released Responding to Climate Change in New York State, a report commissioned by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). The document is the result of three years of study into the potential local impact of sea level rise, temperature fluctuation and precipitation increases on infrastructure, economy and public health. The report offers adaptation and preparation recommendations for policymakers, managers and researchers. (Read more in The New York Times.)

Meanwhile, Andrea Bernstein at Transportation Nation points us to Flooded Bus Barns and Buckled Rails, an August 2011 Federal Transit Administration (FTA) report addressing climate change adaptation needs specifically in the realm of public transportation. Bernstein talks with Columbia professor and transit and climate change expert Klaus Jacob, who has worked with the MTA to model some worrisome future scenarios, and MTA Climate Adaption Specialist Projjal Dutta, who is working to implement preventative strategies. Of course, the MTA’s financial woes are well known, and these are costly measures — but Irene’s threat demonstrated that the possible impacts of climate change are closer at hand than we like to believe, and if you think mitigation strategies are expensive, imagine what would happen if we do nothing. According to Jacob, recovering from a full flooding of the subway system could take as long as 29 days, a timespan that would affect economic activity in the city to the tune of $4 billion a day.

photo via

Candy Chang, public installation artist, designer, planner, TED Fellow, Omnibus contributor and part of the team that designed and our 50 Ideas for the New City posters, has taken her project Before I Die to cities around the world. The project presents a huge chalkboard, painted on a neglected or underutilized wall, repeatedly stenciled with the sentence “Before I die I want to _____”, entreating passersby to fill in the blanks. Chang’s intention is to help people remember what is important to them and, in some small way, to acquaint people with their too-anonymous neighbors. Over the past few weeks, the corner of Adams St. and Fulton Street Mall in Downtown Brooklyn has joined the ranks of New Orleans, Amsterdam, Querétaro, Lisbon, San Diego, Almaty, Ponta Delgada, Portsmouth as temporary home to Before I Die. From the looks of these photos from the Civic Center website (the design firm Chang started with James A. Reeves), Downtown Brooklynites aren’t short on hopes and dreams. Go check it out for yourself while you can and add your own aspirations to the jam-packed wall — the installation, on the construction boards of the future Brooklyn Shake Shack, will only be up through next Tuesday, November 29th.

© Bruce Davidson / Magnum Photos | via

For the past couple months, Slate has been presenting an incredible series of photographs from the collection of Magnum Photos. This week, we were treated to a series of the construction of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, a vital piece of transit infrastructure whose lasting impact on Staten Island, New York City and the metropolitan region we explored in the third of our City of Systems videos. These shots document the human side of that story, with poignant portraits of construction workers assembling the “142,000 miles of twisted wire… and 8,000,000 bolts and rivets” that made this engineering marvel possible.

The Verrazzano pictures don’t just chronicle workers toiling on a massive public works project, but testify to an era when infrastructure investment was a political priority. The bridge was one of the final achievements of Robert Moses, whose legacy has been picked over and argued since his less than ceremonious expulsion from power in 1968. Beyond his reputation as power greedy and insensitive to the needs of neighborhoods, no one disputes that he embodied an era of consistent investment in infrastructure on the part of American governments at all scales. The end of that era, argues Matt Chaban in the Observer, begs serious questions about our current political climate’s failure to produce civic works responsive to contemporary needs. He takes Governors Christie and Cuomo to task for what he perceives as short-sightedness, and he calls out other leaders across the country who have done what Moses once thought impossible: they have pulled up stakes on active projects, prioritizing short-term political gain over jobs creation, regional planning and national competitiveness.


SEED AWARDS: The Social, Economic, Environmental Design (SEED) Network, a group of individuals and organizations dedicated to building and supporting a culture of civic responsibility and engagement in the built environment and the public realm, has announced the second annual SEED Awards for Excellence in Public Interest Design. The awards aim to showcase and promote projects that help create socially, economically and environmentally healthy communities, judged according to SEED metrics. Submit a project for consideration before January 16, 2012. Six winners will receive a $1,000 cash prize and an all-expenses-paid trip to present at the Structures for Inclusion conference in March, an annual event dedicated to highlighting the social and economic impacts of design, and will be included in a documentary series by The UpTake. Deadline: January 16, 2012. Find more info here.

WHERE IS NEW YORK?: Last week, Senator Chuck Schumer and NY State Senator Daniel Squadron announced that $14 million had been secured for the redevelopment of Pier 42 into a public park. On Monday, Columbia University’s Urban Planning Program is hosting a panel discussion addressing questions of the future of Pier 42, the role of community plans in urban development and how to activate civic participation. The panel includes three of the authors of the 2009 community plan A People’s Plan for the East River Waterfront, Jason Cheng (CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities), Anne Frederick (Hester Street Collaborative) and Damaris Reyes (GOLES), moderated by Kaja Kuehl (GSAPP). Monday, November 28, 6:30pm. Wood Auditorium, Avery Hall, Columbia University GSAPP. Free and open to the public. Find more info here.

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1969 | via

The Omnibus is signing off until Monday. Have a wonderful holiday weekend!


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The views expressed here are those of the authors only and do not reflect the position of The Architectural League of New York.