This roadway in New York City’s Washington Heights is being replaced by a pedestrian plaza with playfully meandering paving
New York City recently broke ground on a 14,000-square-foot public plaza in Washington Heights with a very wavy paving design. The Plaza de Las Americas is intended to reference town squares found in the Caribbean, Central and South America. It was designed for the city by the RBA Group, a landscape architecture and engineering consulting firm.
For the past five years under the leadership of Janette Sadik-Khan, the New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) has re-appropriated underused street space as public plazas for pedestrians. The Bloomberg Administration–initiated projects have been well received in neighborhoods like Herald Square and Tribeca; however, some of the less affluent neighborhoods who would like to have a plaza have been hindered by the cost. Each plaza is sponsored by local businesses and fundraising for construction and regular maintenance can seem a daunting task. Until now.
In Brooklyn, a new temporary public artwork brings the asphalt plane of 4th Avenue to a playful, three-dimensional life. On the avenue’s concrete median between 3rd and 4th streets, the New York City Department of Transportation’s Urban Art Program has chosen work by artist Emily Weiskopf for its latest public art installation.
Unparallel Way is a 120-feet-long sculpture comprised of two parallel aluminum strips in the same bright yellow as the double traffic lines guiding vehicles driving on adjacent roads. In a clever distortion of those painted stripes, Weiskopf’s parallel lines sweep from the ground at irregular heights, creating parabolic curves that rarely match.
Since the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE) was constructed nearly 70 years ago, the inelegant thruway has callously split apart neighborhoods, leaving beneath it deserted stretches, visually unappealing and often vulnerable to crime. DNA Info reported that Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership is trying to revive one such blighted area in the Wallabout district of Clinton Hill. The strip right at Steuben Street and Park Avenue, which has been a site for dumping illegal trash, could soon host a farmer’s market, public art, dog run, and live music. The partnership is proposing a range of uses and looking to collaborate with local businesses—such as the creators of the now defunct DeKalb Market—to help bring activities and services to the area.
The effort to revamp the inhospitable corridor beneath the BQE has been part of an ongoing endeavor that has involved a number of organizations, spearheaded by the Myrtle Avenue Revitalization Project (MARP). MARP launched a planning initiative in 2009 utilizing experimental art collective, raumlaborberlin’s Spacebuster, and partnering with local institution Pratt Institute’s Planning Department to hold mini-visioning workshops. Later MARP partnered with Architecture for Humanity New York (AFHNY) to work on a 2-year planning effort called “Under the BQE” that helped to engage the community and re-imagine new uses for the spaces in addition to creating a plan to improve pedestrian and traffic safety.
First the partnership needs some funding to jump start any changes to the space. They are currently hoping to receive a NYCDOT Public Plaza grant. A wining application will be selected by January 2014.
We’ve been anxiously waiting for the city to drop off the planned 10,000 Citi Bikes—after all, there will be 82 bikes parked just outside AN’s HQ in Lower Manhattan!—as part of NYC’s bike share system originally slated to open this month. Our dreams of riding with the wind in our hair were crushed, or at least postponed, when system operator Alta began surreptitiously tweeting news of the delay: “Look for the launch in August.”
When the bike share system is complete, 10,000 bright-blue bicycles will be scattered throughout three boroughs, docked at 600 stations located in Manhattan, Long Island City, and a healthy chunk of Brooklyn from Downtown Brooklyn to Bed-Stuy and north through Greenpoint.
The bikes and stations are being assembled at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and with 20,000 tires to inflate, we’re willing to give them a little slack. In the meantime, check here for public demonstrations being staged around the city, where you might just land yourself a free helmet.
If all the world is a stage, according to Shakespeare, all the city is a kunsthalle in the eyes of the New York City Department of Transportation. Bogardus Plaza, a tiny pedestrian plaza carved out of a little-used block of Hudson Street in Lower Manhattan and named for architect James Bogardus, the inventor of the cast-iron building, just received a well-deserved facelift and has now been chosen to host a prototype art display case designed by Architecture Research Office (ARO).