As we get ready to tuck into our turkeys, and brace ourselves for what promises to be a particularly messy and grueling travel day, we wanted to sign off for the week with a Thanksgiving-inspired roundup of news, events, ideas, and suggestions.
HOLIDAY TO DO LIST
First off, if you’re looking forward to a holiday weekend of curling up and catching up on your reading, then check out this incredible resource. This curated reading list, released as part of the Architectural League’s long-term initiative The Five Thousand Pound Life, offers some of the best writing, thinking, news, and information about the science, ethics, economics, politics, and communication about climate change. And it provides great background to any conversations about how to shift to an economically and ecologically viable American future.
If you’re more the type to brave the wintry mix and join in a time-honored Turkey Day tradition, then you might be either amused or bemused to learn that the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has gone all social media on us, complete with a mobile app, Instagram feed, and more. As the experience of public assembly and pageantry is increasingly mediated by new technologies, we can’t help but imagine how the inflated giant Kermit the Frog would look through Google glass (that is, if the wind is tame enough to allow the floats to fly). It turns out, before the balloons were dominated by Disney characters and Marvel superheroes, the animals floating down 6th Avenue were just a little bit creepy.
TRANSITION: FROM TALKING TO DOING
While the rest of us have thoughts of holiday downtime and party-hopping, one group of New Yorkers will have its work cut out for it: Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio’s transition team, which includes prominent citizens from the spheres of labor, culture, technology, and real estate. Though, according to a release, the transition team members “are not seeking to serve in the administration itself,” the range of expertise and perspectives represented has many wondering what it signals in terms of policy priorities and appointments to city agencies. And there’s certainly no shortage of advocacy organizations and citizens eager to inform the development of the de Blasio administration’s policy platform. Last week, we listened in at the Talking Transition tent. As the second week of the pop-up town meeting — which had no official connection to the incoming administration — drew to a close, Mayor-elect de Blasio seemed ready to embrace the process:
One policy idea de Blasio has already floated is to tax the owners of vacant lots to incentivize their development. He first started looking into what would take to close the tax loophole as Public Advocate, eager to find ways to encourage or require landlords to build new housing on their vacant plots or sell out to those who will.
UNDER THE ELEVATED
The political sea change in New York is not the only project seeking to tap the creative thinking of a wide range of citizens. For the past few months, the Design Trust for Public Space has been soliciting ideas for Under the Elevated, a project that seeks to enliven the spaces quite literally overshadowed by New York’s elevated infrastructure. In his recent coverage of the project for Untapped Cities, Alexander McQuilkan looks at the precedents studied in New York and elsewhere, and learns from Design Trust fellow Chat Travieso that some of the best ideas for how to re-imagine these spaces come from children. Checking in on this project reminded us of two Urban Omnibus features from years past that looked at the history and potential future of elevated infrastructure in New York: this beautiful catalogue of photographs of the 3rd Avenue El in the 1950s, and this speculative proposal for the Culver Viaduct in Gowanus.
30 YEARS OF SUPERFUND
The Gowanus Canal has long captured our attention here at Omnibus HQ, because of the way it indexes Brooklyn’s industrial history, represents the complexity of environmental challenges, and reflects the tortuous recent history of the neighborhood’s redevelopment. This week, The New York Times looked back at the legacy of another canal in New York, the one that began the federal clean-up of extremely toxic sites — known as Superfund sites — 30 years ago. What lessons do the mixed results of the Love Canal clean-up bear for our own Superfund sites, the Gowanus Canal and the Newtown Creek canal.
JUST DON’T CALL IT CONGESTION PRICING
Sam Schwartz, New York City’s former traffic commissioner and the man credited with popularizing the term “gridlock,” has devised a new plan for tolling the bridges on the East River. This time around, the plan, produced by the advocacy group Move NY, hopes to attract more support from some of the lawmakers who voted against Bloomberg’s congestion pricing plan in 2008. Legislators in Westchester, Brooklyn, and Queens had been the most vociferous critics of the 2008 plan, claiming the idea of charging a flat $8 fee to vehicles traveling south of 60th Street in Manhattan during peak hours would disproportionately benefit wealthy Manhattanites at their constituents’ expense. The new plan responds to those concerns by proposing a dynamic pricing system on bridges and tunnels, some of which are currently free, and earmarking some of the funds raised for road repairs, whereas Bloomberg’s plan scheduled all the revenue collected for MTA capital improvements.
PUBLIC RADIO GEOGRAPHIES
If you do expect to be experiencing some vehicular congestion on the road this afternoon, but want to make sure you don’t miss out on the latest NPR news bulletin to calm your traffic-frayed nerves, check out this Public Radio Map of the US. Sure, you can figure out the local public radio station on any number of apps, but mapping the territorial reach of each station reveals an interesting geography of broadcast. Plus, put your smartphone away while driving!
Or if podcasts are your preferred way of taking in public radio, don’t miss the latest episode of This American Life about housing and, particularly, Fair Housing Laws. A lot of this story is based on the research and reporting of ProPublica’s Nikole Hannah-Jones. You can read Hannah Jones’ stories, research, and interviews on the Fair Housing laws here.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT ICE CUBE
And for all the attention Kanye is getting (positive and negative) from the design field after his impromptu speech at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, let’s not forget that he’s not the only hip-hop star with architectural opinions. In case you missed it last year, check out Ice Cube opining on LA’s freeways and the genius of Charles and Ray Eames: “They was doing mash-ups before mash-ups even existed.” Amen.
The Roundup keeps you up to date with topics we’ve featured and other things we think are worth knowing about. Formerly a weekly tradition published every Friday, we now bring you the roundup on an occasional basis.
The views expressed here are those of the authors only and do not reflect the position of The Architectural League of New York.