The Omnibus Roundup – Waste to Energy, MyBlock Underground, Parking Apps, Driving Tax Breaks and Bedrock Myths

This week in the Omnibus Roundup: Bloomberg’s plans for Wi-Fi and waste-to-energy; MyBlockNYC and Undercity team up; the DOT wants to help you find a parking spot; meanwhile, Congress incentivizes driving to work over taking public transportation; a skyscraper economist debunks NYC bedrock myths; The City Dark screens at IFC; and 007 Urban Songline plays at Storefront.

In addition to the familiar Mayoral priorities reported in last week’s Omnibus Roundup (the economic potential of building projects, more jabs at the teachers union, etc.), Bloomberg’s speech last week also mentioned some tech initiatives, including partnering “with AT&T to bring Wi-Fi service to a dozen city parks – so even if you’re enjoying a beautiful day, you can still work or study or play ‘Words with Friends.’” And, as Next American City highlights, he also spoke about new sources of renewable energy, claiming New York City will “become one of the first cities in the country to turn wastewater into renewable energy and we’ll explore the possibility of cleanly converting trash into renewable energy.” Read the full text of the address at

Undercity on MyBlockNYC

Undercity on MyBlockNYC

Before the holidays, we spoke with Alex Kalman and Alex Rickard about their video hosting site MyBlockNYC. Now they’re teaming up with Gothamist to bring viewers an exclusive glimpse at the world below ground with the series “Undercity.” The makers of the Undercity films, Steve Duncan and filmmaker Andrew Wonder, have been taking viewers on adventures into the unknown underground world of New York City, and now those adventures will be geographically located, visually correlating the world beneath our streets with the city above. Check out the series at MyBlockNYC and the coverage at Gothamist.

This week the DOT started testing sensors in 177 parking spaces on both sides of 187th Street in the Belmont neighborhood of the Bronx. The sensors send information to a smart phone app that tells the user when fewer than two or more than four spaces are available on a given block. So instead of circling the block, searching for the right spot, a driver will know their chances of getting a spot and head towards a block with available space. The app will purportedly save drivers from endless frustration, alleviate traffic in shopping areas and help relieve “pollution associated with those people who are cruising around looking for parking,” according to Janette Sadik-Khan of the DOT. The sensors, bright yellow and about the same diameter as a hockey puck, are being tested over the next three months for how they withstand the weather and street sweepers of New York City streets. If they last the testing period, the city will launch a free app for drivers to try. Read the coverage at the Daily News.

Manhattan Skyline | Photo by flickr user Marcin Wichary

For the past two years, commuters taking public transportation and those driving private vehicles have been granted the same pre-tax benefit of up to $230 per month. But starting this year, thanks to Congress, all pre-tax benefits are no longer equal: drivers can now set aside as much as $240 pre-tax per month for commuting costs, while the benefit for commuters taking public transportation has dropped to $125. The change means non-drivers will pay up to $550 more in taxes each year. Read more of the coverage at GOOD or in an editorial from The New York Times.

The heights of New York City skyscrapers have long been thought to correspond to the depth of the bedrock beneath them. Conventional wisdom has held that the peaks of the Manhattan skyline, Downtown and Midtown, were situated atop the island’s most solid foundation, and that building high on the spaces in between was too difficult, and thus costly, to be worth the effort. Not so, according to “skyscraper economist” Jason Barr. Taking 173 core samples from the Battery to Central Park South, the study shows no correlation between the likelihood of skyscraper construction and bedrock depth. Read more from Matt Chaban at the Observer.


Stargazing in Times Square | Courtesy of Ian Cheney

Stargazing in Times Square | Courtesy of Ian Cheney

Last year we spoke to Ian Cheney about The City Dark, his documentary about the loss of the stars in the night sky to light pollution. The documentary takes a winding journey through the unforeseen repercussions of losing the stars, from Maine and back again. Now, The City Dark is showing at the IFC Center for one week only. More information and show times here.

How can a space become a musical instrument? And how would one play such an instrument? Answer these questions and many more by visiting 007 Urban Songline at the Storefront for Art and Architecture, a project by Allard van Hoorn that turns Storefront’s iconic façade into an interactive and responsive acoustic device through a network of strings activated by vistors’ bodily movements. Through February 18th, you can play the building yourself, listen to performances the artist has recorded in and with the space, or take part in a series of discussions and events on the relationship between space, sound, tension and materiality. Once you’ve added to the cacophony (or symphony) of New York City, or partaken in the playing of a space, you can revisit Storefront at 5pm to hear the daily concert of the song of the day. You can find more information about the installation here, and prepare for your visit with the “Instructions for 007 Urban Songline” 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.