Suburban Dreams

National
Thursday, July 9, 2009
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Little boxes on the hillside..

Little boxes on the hillside..

In the wake of the sub-prime mortgage meltdown, global warming, rising energy costs, and constant gridlock, you’d think the model of Suburbia isn’t faring to well. Well, you’re not alone.   Dwell and Inhabitat are sponsoring a competition called Reburbia, dedicated to re-envisioning the suburbs. They’re asking entrants to design “future-proof” spaces, from small scale retrofits to large-scale restorations, to replace current types and systems like McMansions, cul-de sacs, big box stores, strip malls and car-centric communities. Ideas, they suggest, could come in the form of bicycle transportation hubs, energy generating freeway paving systems, and new housing prototypes (including a “McMansion farm rehab”, whatever that is). Enter here. And hurry, because entries are due on August 1! Winners will be announced on August 19 (Grand prize: $1,000).

TMI Too Late

East, East Coast
Thursday, July 9, 2009
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Earlier today, the Municipal Art Society posted an incredibly informative presentation that the group gave at the recent City Council hearings on the Bloomberg administration’s plans for rezoning Coney Island. The presentation, which can be found above, pretty succinctly explains what’s wrong with the city’s plan, why it won’t work, and alternatives–proposed, of course, by MAS–that could be undertaken. So why has this presentation surfaced so late in the process, when it will have little, if any impact on the rezoning? Read More

Heritage On Hold… Again

West
Thursday, July 9, 2009
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Preservation groups hope a revised ordinance will prevent the destruction of historic icons like the Ambassador Hotel

For the second time LA’s City Planning Commission has put off a vote on proposed changes to LA’s Cultural Heritage Ordinance. Among other things, the changes would grant the LA Cultural Heritage Commission the authority to bar demolition of designated monuments—rather than just delay them, as is now the case. The last delay came on June 11. This time the sticking point was an attempt to limit changes to the interiors of landmarked houses, which made some houseowners very unhappy. The next vote will come at a planning meeting in September, so stay tuned..again.

Walk Jane Jacobs Way

East, East Coast
Thursday, July 9, 2009
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555 Hudson Street

555 Hudson Street (Courtesy naparstek.com)

In her 1961 book, “The Death and Life of Great American Cities,” Jane Jacobs documented and analyzed the urban street life visible outside her home in Greenwich Village, revolutionizing the way people and planners think about cities, urban planning, and development. In honor of her legacy, the preservation group which she helped found, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP), initiated a proposal for the street in front of her former home at 555 Hudson Street between Perry and West 11th Streets to be renamed “Jane Jacobs Way.” Read More

Eavesdrop NY 12

Eavesdroplet
Thursday, July 9, 2009
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The Four Seasons celebrates its 50th. Can you spot Phyllis? (Hint: Shes in Canada.) (Courtesy PaperMag.com)

The Four Seasons celebrates its 50th. Can you spot Phyllis? (Hint: She's in Canada.) (Courtesy PaperMag.com)

No Room at the In Place?
Eavesdrop was thrilled by a friend’s “plus one” at the June 11 gala celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Four Seasons restaurant in the Seagram Building. We all know Mies and Philip’s icon, so we’ll skip the background and move on to name-dropping. The 800-person guest list was so diverse we concluded that it must have been gleaned from the reservations book. Read More

Fire On The Mountain

West
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
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It’s not every day that a scary fire burns within a few miles of a major cultural institution. Well in LA it sort of is, but that’s beside the point. A recent drive on the 405 Freeway revealed to us what all the news reports are saying: There is a biggish blaze burning just one hill over from the Getty Center on LA’s west side. The smoke is thick and brown, and on first look bulged out at the top, not unlike a mushroom cloud. Yikes. Helicopters are running regular passes over the thing, which is spreading in thin lines along the mountains facing the Getty, moving southward down the Sepulveda Pass. But fortunately it appears that firefighters have it under control (in California terms a 10-acre fire is only a mini conflagration), despite a forced evacuation of the Getty and nearby Mount St. Mary’s College. Stay tuned… We hope we don’t have to see if all that marble and granite will hold up to a good ol’ California disaster. And for now, the biggest concern of drivers on the 405 is the threat of imminent traffic. Now that’s scary.

Path Future

East, East Coast
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
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Warp speed. Next stop, the 21st Century! (Courtesy dandeluca, flickr)

Warp speed. Next stop, the 21st Century! (Courtesy dandeluca, flickr)

The Path Train has finally entered the 21st Century. Yesterday, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced a number of new additions that have rocketed the rail line out of its luddite solar system and into a whole new constellation of technology. The Path now boasts new, up-to-date rail cars, an upgraded website (be sure to watch the video), and… drum roll… a Twitter page! Next time you have to ride out to Jersey you can forget the hair gel and gold chains and instead grab your favorite PDA and put on those glow-in-the-dark Ray Bans. The future is now.

Inlet Assumed

East, East Coast
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
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The actual Bushwick Inlet on the day of the groundbreaking of Bushwick Inlet Park (Courtesy Victoria Monjo).

The actual Bushwick Inlet on the day of the groundbreaking of Bushwick Inlet Park. (Courtesy Victoria Monjo)

Yesterday, in a quiet ceremony attended by Mayor Bloomberg, the city broke ground on the first phase of Bushwick Inlet Park. Situated between North 9th and 10th streets along the Williamsburg waterfront, this initial stage of construction will comprise a synthetic turf athletic playing field. Turns out I was also on the Williamsburg waterfront at the time, on a tour of that neighborhood with photographer and AN Editorial Intern Victoria Monjo, capturing images for our forthcoming developers issue (see last year’s here). One of the images we captured was of Bushwick Inlet itself, which sits three or four blocks to the north of where the festivities were taking place. Eventually, park construction will extend all the way to this placid cove, where, according to the Parks Department’s initial plan, there will be a beach, planted terraces, and a performance garden, whatever that is. See the view from Kent Avenue after the jump. Read More

Everybody Wants a Bailout

East, East Coast
Monday, July 6, 2009
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Money pits.

Money pits: World Trade Center and Atlantic Yards.

With the news today, reported by The Observer, that Larry Silverstein has begun legal proceedings against the Port Authority to end the gridlock at Ground Zero, as well as the developments two weeks prior at Atlantic Yards, it seems obvious to us what’s going on here. Having witnessed the financial titans across town receive hundreds of billions of dollars in bailout money, these developers now want theirs. Granted, so did Larry Flint and the porn industry, but the comparison bears consideration. Read More

Still Waiting

West
Monday, July 6, 2009
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Back on April 19 LA County Auditor-Controller Wendy Watanabe told the Los Angeles Times that she was investigating the January 16 firing of former LA County Planning Chief Bruce McClendon. McClendon  told the Times that he was probably fired for protecting his staff from the efforts of County Supervisors’ aides to influence zoning and development decisions in the county. Watanabe  told the Times that the results of that investigation would be released “in the coming weeks.” Well it’s now been almost three months and the results of that investigation are apparently still not available. So what’s the wait? A call to Watanabe’s office referred us to her web site, where we found no documents relating to the investigation. So until then, we’re just left to wonder what’s going on…

Prospecting for Landmarks

East, East Coast
Thursday, July 2, 2009
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Last week, Prospect Height’s became the city’s newest landmark district. At 850-odd buildings, it is the largest district to be created since the Upper West Side Historic District was created in 1990. Clearly, a lot of work went into the three-year effort championed by locals and the Municipal Art Society and driven largely by the nearby Atlantic Yards project and the undue development it spurred on one of Brooklyn’s last unprotected brownstone neighborhoods. To highlight just how hard it is, but also what a triumph, MAS put together this thoughtful little video. Hopefully it will inspire you to do something civic minded as well on this patriotic weekend or beyond.

Eminent Decision at Coney?

East, East Coast
Thursday, July 2, 2009
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How much longer will Coney Island lay in ruin? (TheMikeD/Flickr)

How much longer will Coney Island lay in ruin? (TheMikeD/Flickr)

When the City Planning Commission barely altered the city’s plans–plans that remain diametrically opposed to those of chief landholder Joe Sitt–we couldn’t help but wonder whether the Bloomberg administration would some how grossly undermine its plan, or let it fall on the sword at the City Council, at least part of which is firmly under the sway of Sitt. Thus far, the Bloomberg administration has yet to allow a single one of its nearly 100 rezoning fail at the council, often crafting 11th hour deals. Would, could things be different this time? Read More

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