With only 75 weeks left in New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration, cyclists the city over will inevitably be concerned about the next mayor’s stance on bike lanes and street designs lest initiatives put in place under Bloomberg fall from grace. One need only to recall Marty Markowitz’s parodic tricycle stunts poking fun at bike lanes or former NYC DOT commissioner Iris Weinshall’s efforts to remove a protected bike lane from Brooklyn’s Prospect Park West to realize that the concern is not unfounded.
At yesterday’s regularly-scheduled City Planning review session, former Bogotá Parks Commissioner Gil Penalosa was invited to give a pep talk, placing a particular emphasis on bike lanes. He warned an audience filled with commissioners and planning staff that as the weeks wind down before the mayor leaves office, they’d better get cracking at PR and permanence: the public needs to become even more familiar with the bike network and the infrastructure needs to become permanent—and striped bike lanes won’t cut it!
Seems the bad news is about to get worse for Jamestown Properties. The developer’s plans to add 330,000 square feet to New York’s Chelsea Market met with resistance from the Community Board 4 and Borough President Scott Stringer, both of whom gave conditional nays to the proposal designed by Studios Architecture. Now with City Planning’s public hearing set for this Wednesday, Commissioner Amanda Burden has clearly indicated that she is not pleased with the an addition proposed to hover over the High Line along Tenth Avenue. “I remain concerned about the massing and how it effects the High Line experience,” Burden said a pre-hearing review session today.
The two additions to the market include 90,000 square feet addition on Ninth Avenue and a 240,000 square foot addition along Tenth Avenue. As much of the building’s mid-block remains excluded from Jamestown’s plan, it seems likely that area will come in to play. “They do have a whole block,” the commissioner said.
One of Jane Jacobs’ most valuable contributions to the understanding of cities was her faith in the wisdom of the urban dweller. She argued that the physical city—and any approach to city planning—could not be separated from the wisdom of each individual inhabitant, “People who know well such animated city streets will know how it is. I am afraid people who do not will always have it a little wrong in their heads, like the old prints of rhinoceroses made from travelers’ descriptions of rhinoceroses.” The complication arising from Jacobs’ argument is simple though difficult to solve; how can we plan a city when planning is one part abstraction and abstraction removes us from Jacobs’ precious “real life” mentality?
A step towards solving this contradiction is sfbetterstreets.org, a website launched last week by the City of San Francisco. Developed by the San Francisco Planning Department in conjunction with other city agencies, the website is part of the city’s larger, “Better Streets” initiative. The legislative concept, described in San Francisco’s Better Streets Plan, is to create streets “designed and built to strike a balance between all users regardless of physical abilities or mode of travel… maximizing features for the comfort, usability, and aesthetics of people walking.”
Despite a very public effort by the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) to stop City Council’s landmarks subcommittee from approving Downtown Brooklyn’s skyscraper district, the measure passed, paving the way for a full Council vote on February 1. As the proposed district always had full support of Council Member Stephen Levin and Borough President Marty Markowitz, it wasn’t likely that REBNY’s shot across the bow would make much of a difference. But it may point to a more assertive stance by the group which has been decrying layers of regulations from Lanmarks and ULURP.
“Clockwork City” is the fantastical vision of animator Roy Prol calling for a city of rotating rings that change the notion of getting around in large city. As the video (after the jump) notes, the 3,000 meter diameter “Clockwork City” won’t need cars or even transit since work and home are a mere minutes away, anywhere in the city. The city itself is in effect one large form of public transportation. To get to work, the video notes, “Just wait at home until you see your workplace closer.”
Four concentric rings each 280 meters wide housing offices, residential, industrial, and agricultural/energy zones are traversed by smaller cogs joining them together. Boldly proclaiming “endless movement” complete with the prospect of an ever-changing skyline, it’s unclear how such a “Clockwork City” could be built or sustained. What are your thoughts? (Via Digital Urban.)
Flummoxed Lenox. Inspired by a Gothamist post about hidden rooms in the Frick, Mark Lamster digs a bit deeper and shares his knowledge of the site when it was occupied by the old Lenox Library. “…sober, imposing, and correct, much like the man who designed it, Richard Morris Hunt,” he says of the old edifice, before delving into the curious history of the Hunt memorial across the street.
Boulevard Blues. Brownstoner is still hammering away at a bleak streetscape along 4th Avenue in Brooklyn, where first floors of the new residential buildings leave a lot to be desired. The site reports that City Planning may be looking at measures to fix mistakes from 2003 upzoning and bring more life onto the street. While they’re at it, perhaps they can tap the DOT to add some green to the median.
House vs. Home. A kinder and gentler Peter Eisenman emerged from nearly 20 years of Jungian analysis, the architect tells The Washington Post. Far from the heady world of theory (“I was a cerebral cat”), Eisenman returns to the world of bricks and mortar. The change helps him expound on the differences between a house and home.
Tick Tock. The clock is ticking for the Brooklyn Bridge Park to make a decision on how to pay for maintaining the park, reports Crains. “If we don’t have a financial model, we won’t be able to proceed with construction,” BBP President Regina Myer tells the paper.
A group of Midtown residents and concerned citizens, many from the West 54th/55th Street Block Association, have been the leading opponents of Jean Nouvel’s MoMA tower. They have been very vocal during hearings at Landmarks and, just a few weeks ago, City Planning Commission. Now, The Coalition for Responsible Midtown Development, as the group is calling itself, have launched a website, no2moma.com. There, they succinctly recast their previous opposition to the project–light & shadows, traffic & congestion, out-sized & ugly–as well as presenting a six minute documentary that makes the group’s best case yet. Our favorite part is the clip above, where the Nouvel tower rises, Frankenstein-like, from “a lot no bigger than a McDonald’s drive-thru.” The full video is after the jump, but, given statements made by some commissioners during a meeting Monday, all this flash and frustration may be too little too late. Read More