The Omnibus Roundup – Jurisdictional Nightmares, Kickstarter Urbanism, Sharing City Data, Voting for Preservation, MovementTalks and Jane Walks

“The jurisdictional boundaries of our municipalities are basically relics of history that bear almost no current relationship to how the economy or the environment actually operates. As a result, our crazy-quilt system of local government is seriously outmoded in most of America.” And so, Kaid Benfield takes a look at “The Limits of Metropolitan Planning Organizations” for The Atlantic Cities. Today’s cities are polycentric city-regions, where flows of people and money increasingly defy municipal borders. But planning efforts that respond to these interrelationships often seem doomed from the start. When issues of regional import cross through multiple communities, they also cross through the paths of multiple sets of interests that don’t necessarily align with one another or with what’s best for the region as a whole. And the regional planning groups that develop more holistic plans often lack the authority to implement, enforce or necessarily fund their recommendations. Read more about these “jurisdictional and administrative nightmares” in Benfield’s article here, and then read his follow-up piece in which he takes a look at two initiatives, one in Georgia and one in California, that are trying a new regional planning approach.

Preservation efforts across New York City will become $3 million richer this year thanks to a partnership between American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Each year, Partners in Preservation selects historic and cultural monuments from a pool of applicants in a major U.S. city and asks the public to vote on which of the finalists should receive funding. This year, they have selected forty sites in New York City, ranging from the Lower East Side Tenement Museum to the Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center to the 1964 World’s Fair Rocket Thrower. The four sites with the most votes will receive full funding, and an advisory committee will decide how to distribute the remaining money. To garner support, this weekend each site will open its doors to visitors for tours and special events, and Untapped New York is profiling all forty sites between now and when voting closes on May 21st. To learn more about the sites, visit them this weekend during a five-borough open house this weekend, or check in with Untapped New York, which is posting profiles of all forty finalists while voting is open. Check out the nominees and place your votes, once per day through May 21st, at

Kickstarter can be a great tool for designers to get their ideas off the ground, but what are its implications for urbanism? This week on Design Observer, Alexandra Lange takes on Kickstarter Urbanism. The problems inherent to using Kickstarter to fund urbanistic projects, according to Lange, are those that make it such a valuable tool to designers of objects: its universal accessibility, its lack of a physical focal point and the direct connection between the “artist” and the person funding the project. With major urban innovations there are major jurisdictional and bureaucratic hurdles to get past, none of which makes for a good money raising pitch that can be put into a pithy video to headline a Kickstarter campaign. That may be true, Nate Berg then countered in a piece on The Atlantic Cities, but there are some similar websites that can make small but valuable contributions to the development of local planning projects, such as ioby and Brickstarter.


Rooftops are a refuge for the urban dweller. They are above the din, closer to the sun, and away from the crowds — though not quite out of sight. In his new book Up on the Roof: New York’s Hidden Skyline Spaces, Alex MacLean shows a previously privileged view of “greenhouses, graffiti, topiary, trees, swimming pools, sculpture, lawn chairs, chaises longues, picnic tables, paving stones, cocktail bars, solar panels or a Sopwith Camel.” MacLean’s photographs paint a picture of an unfamiliar New York, one with a seemingly underutilized resource. “Cumulatively, his pictures of New York illustrate a city that has intuitively understood for a long time the value of a ‘green roof,’ and seems poised to exploit the potential.” Read more about his work in The New York Times.

The Bloomberg administration has made much of it’s commitment to harness the potential of technology and data for the broader good, hosting hackathons, competitions and workshops to create apps that make the city more navigable and comfortable and its government more transparent. But New York City isn’t the only place that’s been seizing the opportunities afforded them by new technologies, and though many cities share common problems, opportunities are scarce for developers to coordinate their efforts. As a result, similar apps are created by different developers for different cities, which is a waste of brain power and time, according to the “G7,” an informal group of CIOs from seven major American cities who are working to improve opportunities for sharing ideas. The group is launching a unified database “that will house standardized data from member cities — Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Seattle — making it easier for them to share applications,” and plan to host events focused on shared problems and shared results. Read more about the project on Governing (via Planetizen).



The Frieze Art Fair has taken over Randall’s Island for the fair’s U.S. debut, housed in a 250,000 square foot temporary structure designed by SO-IL architects on Randall’s Island (read ArtInfo’s interview with SO-IL about their design here). For this weekend, the fair brings to New York 180 of the leading galleries from around the world to showcase contemporary work by living artists, and presents Frieze Projects, a program of eight commissioned site-specific works, this year by John Ahearn, Uri Aran, Latifa Echakhch, Joel Kyack, Rick Moody, Virginia Overton, Tim Rollins and K.O.S. and Ulla von Brandenburg; Frieze Sounds, a series of audio commissions, produced in association with BMW (since no cultural event/urban intervention in New York is complete without the sponsorship of a German car company); and Frieze Talks, a daily program of lectures, debates and discussions. Frieze New York runs from May 4-7. Tickets must be purchased ahead of time. More information and tickets available here.

Begging the question, “what is the impact of crying out for nature through dance as a visceral, political and an essential response to the contemporary world?”  MovementTalks looks at the ways in which dance as an art form engages space and nature, bringing people together and raising consciousness about global issues such as the safety and availability of drinking water. Join somatic practitioner and educator Martha Eddy; Charles McKinney, the principal urban designer for the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation; Mary Rohe; Andrea Haenggi and Natasha Alhadeff-Jones. Friday, May 11, 8pm, Buttenweiser Hall, 92nd Street Y, Lexington Avenue at 92nd Street. More information and tickets available here.

Keep your fingers crossed for better weather — this weekend the Municipal Art Society has more than 70 walks and bike rides scheduled for its annual Jane’s Walk NYC. Jane’s Walk is an international program that celebrates the neighborhoods that make up a city, created to commemorate the life and legacy of Jane Jacobs. No registration is required, so check out the many options available on the MAS website and put your walking shoes on!


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.