Next Wednesday, in celebration of our nation’s birth, instead of publishing our regular weekly feature, we’ll be honoring the timeless urban tradition of fire escape barbecues, rooftop parties and the particular kind of urban observation only visible by the light of fireworks. The Macy’s fireworks display are on the Hudson again this year (sorry east siders, Brooklyn and Queens), and New York Magazine has put together a handy guide to the best viewing locations.
Residents of Eastern Brooklyn, along with NYC DOT and community organizations such as the Brownsville Partnership and Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation, gathered last week near Jamaica Avenue to see how the neighborhoods in the area could benefit from improved cycle infrastructure and conditions. The Department of Health was also involved, as department research has observed areas with poor street design correlate to residents with lower physical activity and greater health problems. With this in mind, DOT has identified two main routes, one north-south on Mother Gaston Boulevard and the other east-west on Pitkin Avenue, that would serve as the first step in a longer-term plan to construct more lanes, sharrows and racks in East New York, and also to foster better relations between cyclists and their pedestrian, motorist and law enforcement counterparts.
LOVE NOT WAR
The Bedford-Union Armory in Crown Heights joins the ranks of now defunct and vacant National Guard facilities (like the Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx) seeking proposals for robust and imaginative reuse of the space. In a report conducted by graduate students in NYU Wagner’s Capstone program for the office of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, the massive building has been reimagined as a “multipurpose community recreation center, or an events and entertainment venue.” Plans were also included for constructing apartment buildings on the parking facility to generate revenue, as well as additional interim uses for markets and public functions. The report indicates it would use the redevelopment of the Park Slope Armory as a model for the Bedford-Union structure.
London’s first aerial tramway opens this week! Spanning 1 kilometer from the North Woolwich Peninsula to Royals Victoria Dock, the cable car is supported 90 meters above the ground by sculptural towers that offer views of the London skyline. With the ability to carry around 2,500 passengers per hour in each direction, the hope is that the system will help to alleviate some of the traffic congestion near the Thames caused by the Olympic games. The river crossing takes just five minutes and costs as little as £3.20 – cyclists can even bring their bikes onboard to cut travel times after the ride. This project reminded us of Steven Dale’s proposal for a cable car system connecting Brooklyn and Manhattan to Newark airport. Given that the London tramway can transport the equivalent number of passengers as 50 city buses in the same timeframe, perhaps transit planning options off the road and into the skies are worth another look.
Orchard Beach and its iconic pavilion, whose social and architectural history Deborah Wye shared with UO readers last year, has recently seen a flurry of rehabilitation projects after more than 40 years of coastline erosion and cultural decay. Last winter, the city replaced all of the manmade beach’s sand. Officials are expecting good turnout for the upcoming summer season, a reported average of 40,000 visitors each afternoon. Urbahn Architects, along with the Parks Department and the Landmarks Preservation Commission, is now conducting a pre-scoping study for the future of the Aymar Embury-designed bathhouse and promenade, constructed in 1936. The concrete bathhouse is a neoclassical two-story curving structure, colonnaded and detailed with blue terracotta tiling. Due to a phenomenon known as alkali-silica reaction, or “cement cancer,” the buildings foundation has slowly been eaten away to its current crumbling state. The project’s potential for future development is another reminder (along with the newly restored McCarren Park Pool) of Robert Moses’ lasting influence on the city.
EVENTS and TO DOs
Speaking of public works designed to beat the heat, this week all 64 of the city’s public pools open, including the former crown jewel of the eleven Moses-LaGuardia municipal pools, McCarren Park. Newly restored and reopened Thursday after three decades of disuse (and a brief revival as a concert venue), McCarren Pool has become the premiere spot in the city to take a dip during the summer heat. Mayor Bloomberg was on hand to inaugurate a prime example of PlaNYC and the Parks Department’s revamp of the city’s public bathing natatoriums. With room for 1,500 bathers, the line was already down the block by noon, even with Bloomberg’s continued mispronunciation of McCarren. The bathhouses have also been kept intact, transformed into recreation and fitness facilities. Pools are open from 11am to 7pm each day, with cleaning between 3 and 4pm.
WALKING, TALKING AND POETRY IN ROCKEFELLER PARK
“We’re Floating” is an interactive walk lead by Jon Cotner, an artist and poet who “revives the ancient, endangered practices of walking and talking” and who walked and talked his way through Fort Greene Park with Urban Omnibus last summer. Over the next two weeks, Cotner will lead “dialogues” with the work of Japanese poet Matsuo Basho “mapped onto the landscape and put into play, bringing everyone closer to this floating world.” The landscape, in this case, is Rockefeller Park in Battery Park City. The event is co-sponsored by Poets House and put on as part of the River to River Festival. Walks start at 4pm, 5pm, 6pm and 7pm on July 7th and July 14th.
BRING TO LIGHT: WATERFRONT EDITION
Fireworks, of course, are not the only way to light up the night sky artfully. Bring to Light: Nuit Blanche New York, a free nighttime showcase of light, sound, and projection installations, will come to New York for the third year this fall. In preparation for the main event, which will take place on Saturday, October 6th in Greenpoint, organizers are seeking proposals for “site-specific installations and performances that transform streets, parks, piers and industrial spaces on the New York waterfront.” Submit your ideas for video/film projections, installations, interactive environments, sound and A/V performance, and mobile applications by July 13th. Read the complete Request for Proposals here, and check out a video of last year’s festival below.
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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.