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ISAAC BEGAT RAIN
Labor Day weekend: the symbolic winding-down of summer marked by last-minute vacation getaways, residents returning, tourists taking leave, and university freshmen arriving. This week also marks the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, a weather event that became national catastrophe when cascading failures of planning, infrastructure, political leadership and coordinated response exacerbated the destruction, crime and recriminations. It was the costliest natural disaster in US history, and also one of the deadliest. Hurricane Isaac, a storm that made landfall in the Gulf Tuesday night, is set to be the first major test of the “$14.5 billion, 133-mile ring of levees, flood walls, gates and pumps put in place after Hurricane Katrina by the Army Corps of Engineers, the agency that built the defenses that failed [New Orleans] catastrophically in 2005.”
Here in New York, it was just one year ago that we were preparing for Irene, a costly cyclone that saw grocery stores’ shelves emptied, public transport halted, mandatory evacuations issued, candles and flashlights readied. Although by the time it made landfall in Brooklyn its status was downgraded from hurricane to tropical storm, it caused the worst damage to New York by a hurricane since Agnes in 1972. It also made vivid the prospect of mass flooding, which may help explain the recent priority of green infrastructure projects in New York City, such as the East River Blueway Plan and the Two Bridges proposal, as well New York City’s own version of storm barriers.
UPPER WEST NILE
Of course, the Coming of the Flood is not the only plague to worry about, there are also pests: rodents, of course, and the bedbugs of the past few summers. The epidemiological concerns of our current season, however, focus on our airborne friend, the mosquito. This morning, the Health Department sprayed a large section of the Upper West Side — from West 58th to West 97th — with a pesticide intended to curb the spread of West Nile virus. So far this year, there have been eight reported cases of the most serious form of the disease, with four originating in Manhattan. As the number of mosquito pools identified as carrying the virus rise dramatically (there were 119 on Staten Island in July), the need for large-scale containment and prevention initiatives become more pressing matters.
THINK OUTSIDE THE BIN
A new MTA pilot program is being tested in eight subway stations, two in each borough the subway serves, that calls for the removal all trash bins from the stops for at least six months in an effort to reduce waste. It may seem paradoxical that fewer trash cans will lead to less trash, but the idea is that as a city we’ve reached a point where littering is so frowned upon that the MTA can rely on riders to dispose of their trash elsewhere; this means fewer garbage bags removed from the station, fewer rodents, and ultimately less total waste accumulation. One urbanist analogy that could help to explain this phenomenon is the highway paradox, whereby building more roads actually increases congestion, not reduces it. Apparently, officials have seen “noticeable” differences in the levels of cleanliness at the bin-less stations. Let’s see if it’s the same story half a year from now.
SHALE BE COMIN’ DOWN THE MOUNTAIN
In other hot-button public health news, Mayor Bloomberg has come out in favor of expanded natural gas drilling after a study was released by the administration that “found the metropolitan region’s natural gas system is operating near its limits” and in order to improve air quality “city buildings [are asked] to phase out heavy heating oil to reduce soot pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.” Governor Cuomo is expected to reach a decision on whether to allow for “shale gas drilling using hydraulic fracturing” — so-called “fracking” — after an environmental review is released by the State Department of Environmental Conservation later this year.
Dekalb Market will not be reopening at a new location beginning in October, reversing a promise the managing firm Urban Space NYC made to the markets vendors that it would relocate in time for the holiday shopping season. Back in June, Dekalb Market announced it would be leaving its current space by landlord’s request to make way for the long-planned City Point development. Apparently, the vendors have long held grievances against the owners and operators, including spotty electricity and weekend parties that barred customers who didn’t want to pay a cover charge. Urban Space they will continue to search for a new site while also moving ahead on their forthcoming Meatpacking District market.
EVENTS and TO DOs
WEST INDIANS’ EAST PARTY
If you’re sticking around this weekend, head over to Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn for the annual West Indian-American Day Carnival and Parade, expected to draw over two million people for the main event on Monday morning. Expect to hear calypso and reggae, sample traditional delicacies, and dance alongside colorful floats and elaborate costumes, representing the cultures of ” Trinidad… Jamaica, Haiti, Guyana, and everywhere in the Caribbean.” This year, one of the grand marshals is singer-activist Harry Belafonte, as well as City Council speaker Christine Quinn. The main parade begins Monday around 11 am, and proceeds from Utica Avenue along Eastern Parkway toward Grand Army Plaza.
LAND BEFORE TIME
The Municipal Art Society of New York is hosting a tour of Brooklyn Bridge Park this weekend, to be led by architectural historian and author Matt Postal. The tour will focus on the site’s history before its transformation into the park, especially “how multiple ferry lines, trolley routes, and freight facilities came together to shape the river’s edge, with stops to consider how the park’s design recalls the area’s history, as well as the architectural development of Fulton Street, the soon to be redeveloped Empire Stores, and the former Squibb Pharmaceutical plant.” Tickets can be purchased online here for $20. The tour takes place Saturday at 11 am, with meeting location to be provided after purchase.
The end of summer also signals the end of outdoor movie screenings, so make your last one count. Don’t miss the chance to watch The Muppets Take Manhattan, part of a High Line series of films that celebrates New York in the 1980s, “an era when the High Line was overtaken by nature, and hip-hop, shoulder pads, and graffiti could be found on every corner.” The screening will take place at the 14th Street Passage of the park next Thursday, September 6th at 7 pm. The program is free and open to visitors of all ages. No RSVP required.
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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.