The Omnibus Roundup – Holly Whyte Way, NYU Compromise, Upstate / Downstate, Infographic Central and This Side of Paradise

Courtesy NYC DOT

Since the 1980s, Midtowners in the know have avoided crowds and expedited trips between 57th and 51st Streets thanks to a string of privately-owned public spaces (POPS) partway between 6th and 7th Avenues. Now, the Department of Transportation wants to make that shortcut safer and easier to find. The proposed plan would bring stop signs, raised crosswalks and warning signs to the streets between these plazas and arcades, in an effort to facilitate pedestrian flow and prevent traffic accidents. The idea was first brought to the DOT by the Friends of Privately Owned Public Space (F-POPS), a group of architects, artists and community leaders dedicated to raising awareness about and improving New York City’s POPS, who last year christened the stretch “Holly Whyte Way” in honor of seminal urbanist William H. Whyte. The plan was unanimously approved by Community Board 5’s Transportation Committee this week, though concerns about parking and traffic disruptions were raised, and the full community board will vote on the idea on April 12. Read more about the proposal and the history of this pocket of the city — “6 1/2th Avenue,” as he calls it — from the Observer‘s Matt Chaban here, and more about CB 5’s first responses here.


Washington Square Village | from Flickr user Padraic.

NYU is in the midst of negotiating a 20-year expansion proposal they call NYU 2031, a plan that includes 2.5 million square feet of construction in Greenwich Village that is being fervently protested by much of the local community for what they see as its overwhelming scale and lack of public space. Last week, The New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman took a look at this ongoing struggle and suggested some compromises. Instead of their desired pair of crescent-shaped towers, the University should activate that space for the public as a park (they can keep the below-grade classrooms). In exchange, let NYU rebuild its gym, which Kimmelman says is “appalling” anyway. Allow NYU to build new dorms, but add an elementary school to the ground level. Whether the neighborhood would ever find any large-scale expansion plan agreeable, no matter how many parks are included, is uncertain. Read Kimmelman’s attempt to find middle ground here.

This week, the MTA received approval from the New York State Senate for the remaining three years of its five-year capital program, which means that the construction of the 2nd Avenue subway line, the East Side Access project and a number of small-scale maintenance and improvement projects will continue to be funded, though the agreement only came after some significant deal-making between certain State Senators, who were threatening a $770 million funding cut, and Governor Cuomo. The agreement is good news, but, as Benjamin Kabak points out, the negotiations should also serve as a troubling reminder of the MTA’s reliance on Albany and the many State legislators who have little to no interest in seeing “downstate” projects come to fruition without major tradeoffs (such as the “$232 million in state capital funds and $917 million in new Federal funds for a total of $1.2 billion in new spending to accelerate repair, replacement and improvement of deficient roads and bridges” that came with the funding of the MTA capital plan.) Read more of the coverage at Capital New York and Second Avenue Sagas.

Metro-North commuters, look up. Projected on the walls of Grand Central Terminal you can now see three short data visualization films created by David McCandless for the Financial Times, an installation to incorporate entertainment and education into the lives of commuters (and tourists). The animated infographics tell the stories of “The Global Economy,” including how much the dollar is worth and how much Americans work in comparison to other countries; “Recession and Recovery,” which suggests possible upsides of the recession; and “Money Talks,” which shows just how much cell phones are shaping our lives. Watch the videos and an interview with McCandless on FT‘s Graphic World 

New York City’s first crack at a grand democratic experiment in participatory budgeting is reaching its close. In four districts across the city, two in Brooklyn, one in Manhattan and one in Queens, council members gave their communities a chance to propose projects and voice opinion for what their neighborhoods need. Last fall, thousands of community members met to brainstorm ideas, out of which volunteer delegates developed twenty specific proposals. Now residents will vote to establish priorities, which council members will work to implement until they hit the budget of $1 million allocated to each district. Read more about the process at Gotham Gazette.


Andrew Freeman Home | via


In January, we looked at the unique history of the Andrew Freeman Home, a Grand Concourse mansion that once served as a retirement home for the formerly wealthy, in an interview with Manon Slome and Naomi Hersson-Ringskog of No Longer Empty as they prepared for an exhibition in the underutilized spaces of the Home. Next week, on Wednesday, April 4, that exhibition, titled This Side of Paradise, opens with a reception, series of performances and screenings, and a speakeasy after party. The show investigates issues of immigration, historical and cultural memory, transportation and what “paradise” means through the work of 32 local and international artists. Find more information about the exhibition, its opening, and a related series of programs here.

Parsons The New School for Design is serious about offering a wide range of ways to engage with the serious study of cities. Last year, we looked at their pioneering undergraduate degree in urban design, and now there are two masters degrees dedicated to urbanism: an MS in Design and Urban Ecologies and an MA in Theories of Urban Practice. In celebration of the launch of these two programs, the school has put together an impressive lecture series, “In the Urban Crisis,” featuring speakers whose research and practice agendas are as varied as the disciplines they represent. We’ve missed a few already, but there are some great events coming up in April.


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.


Georgia March 31, 2012

It is important to read the comments to Kimmelman’s article as they contain facts he did not include in “his compromise”. Significantly, the university’s proposal falls on land it does not own — land that is owned by the city, i.e. public land.