When it comes to making the most out of city space we’ve all heard and witnessed the old adage “If you can’t build out, build up.” But what about building down?
The Design Trust for Public Space, a non-profit organization that promotes innovative public spaces such as the High Line, has recently announced the launch of a new project titled Under the Elevated: Reclaiming Space, Connecting Communities. In collaboration with the NYC Department of Transportation (DOT), the Design Trust has just named a team of five fellows that aims to transform the 100 million square feet of dark, dingy, and neglected space that currently exists beneath New York City’s elevated train and highway infrastructure into functional, vibrant, and inviting public spaces.
It’s finally here! Well, in a few more excruciating days, New Yorkers will be able to hop on a bright blue City Bike and cruise through the city (or at least those 12,000 or so founding members, the rest of us will have to wait one more week). While some locals haven’t taken to the alien bike docking stations popping up on city streets quite yet, it appears that the vast majority of the city is ready to roll. With the docking stations in place, crews are now distributing bikes. According to a tweet from the NYC DOT this afternoon, some 850 bikes have already been docked around the city, and Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and a few of the bike share team took the opportunity to pose on some of the bikes today. The official opening day is May 27.
New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT) Commissioner Janette Sadik-Kahn unveiled Blotto today, a temporary installation by Atlanta/New York City-based artist John Morse meant to raise awareness about the dangers of drinking and driving. The artwork, which was inspired by ink-blot tests and depicts two cars crashing into a martini glass, has been placed in more than 100 phone kiosks in locations in Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx with high concentrations of drunk driving collisions. The installation is part of NYC DOT’s ongoing campaign to curb instances of driving while intoxicated, which has contributed to at least 46 deaths in New York City streets and led to more than 19,000 arrests in the past two years alone. “We’re using creative imagery to help motorists recognize there is no room for interpretation when it comes to drinking and driving,” said commissioner Sadik-Kahn in a statement. “Drunken driving is reckless driving and when motorists raise a glass, it’s the lives of other New Yorkers they have in their hands.” The installation will be on view until June 17. AN publisher Diana Darling lost her sister, Teresa Wallace (age 36), nephew, Rhea Wallace (age 6), and niece, Kenzi Wallace (age 3 months), when they were killed by a drunk driver in July 1996 in Dallas, Texas. Ms. Darling supports Mothers Against Drunk Driving and any other initiative that seeks to stop drunk drivers.
New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT) confirmed today what many had feared: flooding damage from Hurricane Sandy has indeed delayed New York’s beleaguered Citi Bike bike share system. As AN noted last month, electrical components of the Citibike docking stations were damaged while in storage in the Brooklyn Navy Yard along the East River. The initial rollout, now scheduled for May 2013, will include at least 5,500 bikes and 293 stations in Manhattan and Brooklyn, later expanding to 7,000 bikes by the end of 2013. The final goal is to have 10,000 bikes and 600 stations across the city.
If you ride your bike along Flushing Avenue in Brooklyn on your way to or from Williamsburg, you may have noticed a splash of color along the bike lane’s barrier. Similarly, the Flushing Bay Promenade in Queens got some color recently in efforts to bring art to the public. The New York City Department of Transportation, New York Cares and the Community Affairs Unit organized the event in collaboration with two Brooklyn-based artists Deanna Lee and Kara Lynch.
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!
As we all know, Jane Jacobs was a visionary urban activist and author, whose 1961 publication of The Death and Life of Great American Cities had a tremendous impact on how we think about cities and urban planning today. She challenged prevailing assumptions in urban planning at a time when slum-clearing was the norm and emphasized the intricacies and sensitivities of an urban fabric. In 2007, the year after Jacobs died, the Rockefeller Foundation launched the Jane Jacobs Medal, an annual award given to those who stand by Jacobs’ principles and whose “creative uses of the urban environment” renders New York City “more diverse, dynamic and equitable.”
Mayor Bloomberg’s vision for a pedestrian-friendly Times Square is about to be written in stone. On September 27, Snøhetta gave Community Board 5 a preview of things to come at the Crossroads of the World, and they look a lot more permanent than lawn chairs and painted pavements. Principal Craig Dykers presented designs for dark and darker pavers that largely eliminate any bias for an automotive Broadway, stepping the plaza streetscape up to sidewalk grade and adding elongated benches to indicate long-gone traffic patterns. In homage to New York noir, the designers have also embedded nickel-sized reflectors adding a hard bit of glitz to the dark stones that will not compete with the glam above.
According to an email from Seth Solomonow, Press Secretary at the NYC Department of Transportation: “This long-planned redesign will restore the aging utilities below the street, which itself hasn’t been rebuilt in more than 50 years and still has trolley tracks beneath the asphalt. On the surface, this simple, flexible design will clear obstructions and support the growing number of programs occurring in Times Square, which more than 350,000 people visit every day.”
Could 2011 be the year of the pedestrian in New York? Under the guidance of DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, NYC sidewalks will continue their slow march into the street next year as the city launches a major expansion of its “pop-up café” pilot program across its five boroughs.
The first pop-up café tested out in Lower Manhattan this year proved successful enough that Sadik-Khan has expanded the program, planning for up to 12 sidewalk extensions.