CITIES GET THINGS DONE
President Bill Clinton’s rousing speech at the Democratic National Convention Wednesday night included a special shout-out to cities and mayors as exemplars of post-partisan collaboration in the name of “getting things done.” In particular, he cited Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s efforts to green Los Angeles and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s efforts to finance infrastructure. The urban scale of governance was also represented in passionate speeches by Mayor Cory Booker of Newark and Mayor Julian Castro of San Antonio. And while age, gender, and ethnicity seem to offer the polling demographics favored by the commentariat, the urban electorate of large cities and the issues on which it votes shouldn’t be taken for granted — especially in an election year when new voter identification laws in several states risk disenfranchising the urban poor, as Congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis reminded us in his speech last night. As one example, according the The Philadelphia Inquirer, more than 9% of Pennsylvania’s registered voters might be declared ineligible under the new rules, which require a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation-issued identity card for those without a drivers license. In Philadelphia, that figure doubles to a staggering 18%.
BROADACRE COMES TO GOTHAM
Frank Lloyd Wright (whom the American Institute of Architects named “the greatest American architect of all time” in 1991) might not have liked dense cities very much, but the Big Apple will soon be home to 23,000 of his drawings and 44,000 of his photographs, models, and manuscripts, thanks to an unusual partnership between Columbia University and the Museum of Modern Art, which will be taking over the collection from the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. While the Guggenheim Museum will remain the most public manifestation of his architectural work in New York, this enormous trove of material will enable future generations of scholars to trace his intellectual influence as well, exerted powerfully on American ideas of home, town, and city over the past hundred years.
TALKING TO PLANNERS WHO PLAN
Over the past six weeks, Bridget Moriarty has been interviewing several of her former colleagues at New York City’s Department of City Planning (DCP) for Next American City, and in so doing she provide an informative cross-section of the agency’s diverse projects and initiatives. The five part series began with a conversation with Jodi Bryon, who heads up the Housing, Economic, and Infrastructure Planning team at DCP, about the FRESH program, which provides zoning and tax incentives to increase access to fresh food markets in underserved New York neighborhoods. The second installment is a Q&A with Monika Jain, an urban designer with DCP’s zoning division, about Zone Green, which makes it easier for developers to add green features to new and existing buildings by removing impediments baked into zoning codes. The third focuses on Bedford Stuyvesant, currently undergoing its second rezoning in five years, according to Anna Slatinsky, who explains the thinking of DCP’s Brooklyn office about building heights, commercial corridors, and affordable housing. The fourth profiles both DCP’s Urban Design division and the division’s signature achievement, the Active Design Guidelines (click here for UO‘s coverage of the Guidelines’ launch back in 2010). Skye Duncan describes how this unique collaboration between multiple agencies considers “everything from land use planning — concentrating density around transit, so people have places to walk — to thinking about bicycle storage, to the way we use our streets and design them, to the scale of a staircase and how it’s designed and where it’s placed in a building.” The fifth and final interview is with Joel Alvarez of the agency’s Population Division, who details some significant demographic forecasts, including the expected increase in elderly New Yorkers and non-family households. He also introduces the re-release of the NYC Census FactFinder, which, depending on how you look at it, is either an incredibly useful research tool or an incredibly informative time-suck.
IF YOU BUILD IT…
On August 20th, the New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) closed Corona Plaza to vehicular traffic. In keeping with other street closures along Broadway and elsewhere in Manhattan, NYCDOT quickly filled Queens’ newest public square with folding chairs and planters. Residents from Corona and other nearby neighborhoods have flocked to the 13,000-square-foot public space. Along with local businesses, the Economic Development Corporation and others, the Queens Museum of Art (QMA) — a national model of museums leading innovative processes of community engagement — has been a partner in this effort, offering to program the space with cultural activities. And now QMA has commissioned a series of workshops (led by architect Quillian Riano and city planner Aurash Khawarzad) to encourage residents to participate in the long-term design, planning, and programming and “to exert ownership over public space to ensure its long-term functionality and importance within Corona.” Two weeks ago, Streetfilms documented the first days of the Plaza’s opening. The clip (embedded above) demonstrates how the neighborhood has energetically embraced the transformed space: without adequate funding for maintenance, residents have been pitching in to fold up chairs nightly. This weekend’s workshop will be held Saturday, September 8, from 1–6pm, at Immigrant Movement International, 108-59 Roosevelt Avenue at 111th Street.
DEMOCRACY, EQUITY, AND PUBLIC SPACE
“Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” The Occupy Wall Street movement and the eviction of protestors from Zuccotti Park and other public spaces around the country thrust these First Amendment rights into the center of a conversation about the role of the built environment in civic expression and democracy. In an effort to encourage the discussion and improve understanding of related issues of equity, access, and design, City College of New York’s School of Architecture, the Pratt Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment, New Village Press and Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility joined together to launch the initiative “Democracy, Equity, and Public Space.” The initiative involves a traveling exhibit, public forums, study groups, advocacy efforts, a website, and a publication. On Monday, the Center for Architecture will host a launch event for the exhibition and book, Beyond Zuccotti Park: Freedom of Assembly and the Occupation of Public Space, a compilation of writings from nearly 40 architects, planners, artists, social scientists, civil liberties experts and other thinkers. (You can read New York Times chief architecture critic Michael Kimmelman’s foreword here.) The event includes a panel discussion with Peter Marcuse, Sadra Shahab, and Nikki Stern, moderated by Ron Shiffman. Monday, September 10, 6pm, at the Center for Architecture (ticket info here). On September 16, the group will host its third symposium, “Freedom of Assembly: Public Space Today,” where “city officials, community groups, resource organizations, activists, lawyers, and designers … will focus on issues surrounding community access to public land, permitting, First Amendment rights, and publicly engaged design.” The symposium and public workshops will be free and open to the public.
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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.