After Move NY Comes Slow NY

More images for Slow NY

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My New York Times Op-Ed: “There Are Better Ways to Get Around Town”

New York City Streets for People After the Congestion Zone
May 15, 2018 (link)

Jane Jacobs Square, New York, New York. © Massengale & Co LLC, watercolor by Gabrielle Stroik Johnson. Before & After: Looking south on Bleecker Street from the intersection of Bleecker and West 10th Streets.

The debate continues over how to make New York City’s streets less crowded, safer and better for people as well as cars. Some, like Gov. Andrew Cuomo, call for congestion pricing in Manhattan, although so far the New York State Legislature has not allowed that. Mayor Bill de Blasio and groups such as Transportation Alternatives promote Vision Zero, aiming for zero traffic deaths in New York City by 2024.

It’s worth looking at European cities, which have led the movement to make city streets that are as good for public life as they are for driving. In recent months, I’ve visited four of the cities with the most innovative street designs: London, Stockholm, Amsterdam and Copenhagen. Continue reading

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Posted in -, Architecture, Beauty, Bicycle, Current, New York, News & Reviews, Pedestrian, Quote of the Day, Slow Streets, Street Design, Urbanism, Walkability | 2 Comments

“John Massengale — the man who taught me everything I know about architecture” — Tom Wolfe

TOM WOLFE died last week. Here’s a story about a kind thing he did for me over 25 years ago.

I was in the lobby at the Newington-Cropsey Foundation, where I had been invited to speak at an architecture conference. The keynote speakers were Tom Wolfe and James Howard Kunstler, but Jim had to cancel, and he recommended that they invite me to speak in his place.

When I got there, it was clear that they were wary. I was young, they didn’t know me, and this was a big day for them.

I was standing at the registration desk, feeling awkward, when Tom Wolfe walked in.

“Hi Tom,” I said, “Do you remember me?”

“JOHN MASSENGALE,” he said, in a large stage voice, “the man who taught me everything I know about architecture.”

The backstory, after the jump. Continue reading

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“Take Your Amnesia Pills, John”

A LONG TIME AGO, I turned on “All Things Considered” just in time to hear someone talking about suburban sprawl. He spoke for about a minute, succinctly saying things I was thinking about but had not said as well or concisely.

“We have been speaking with James Howard Kunstler, who lives in Saratoga Springs, New York,” the announcer said, and I called information to get his phone number (which shows how long ago this was).

I called him. He answered, and I started to introduce myself.

“Take your amnesia pills, John,” he said. “You’re in the book.”

He had interviewed me a year or two earlier for The Geography of Nowhere, but I had forgotten.

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The 21st Century Is The New Sixties

When I was high school student – a Washington march against the Vietnam War in October 1967.


Civil Rights Act & Inner City Riots > #BlackLivesMatter

Civil Rights Act & Feminism > #MeToo

Student Marches Against Vietnam > #MarchForOurLives

Medicare > Obamacare

Immigration Act < #Dreamers


Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, 1961
Rachel Carson, The Silent Spring, 1962
Betty Friedan, Feminine Mystique, 1963
Malcolm X & Alex Haley, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, 1965
Stewart Brand, The Whole Earth Catalog, 1968 Continue reading

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Posted in -, Architecture, Beauty, Bicycle, Classical, Craft, Culture, Current, Good Kind, Historic Preservation, Local, New York, Pedestrian, Street Design, Urbanism, Walkability | Tagged | 1 Comment

NYC Needs You

New York City’s Historic Districts and Landmarks Are Under Siege

1963: American writer Jane Jacobs (L) and architect Philip Johnson (R) stand with picketing crowds outside Pennsylvania Station to protest the building’s demolition;

Have you noticed how many ideas and movements from the 1960s are back in a big way? Feminism. The civil rights movement. Streets for People, which was the title of a book Bernard Rudofsky wrote in 1969. New York’s own Jane Jacobs wrote The Death and Life of Great American Cities in 1961 and protested the demolition of Penn Station in 1963. In 1965, New York City passed its historic Landmarks Preservation Act and created the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Continue reading

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The Way We Live Now

“I am the least racist person you will ever meet.”

“No one respects women more than me. No one reads the Bible more than me.”

“There’s nobody that’s done so much for equality as I have.”

“There’s nobody who feels more strongly about women’s health issues.”

“Nobody knows more about taxes than me, maybe in the history of the world.” Continue reading

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What a difference a day makes

The view from our apartment Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

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Live from Riverside Drive

WE SAW HIM around 10 am, seemingly waiting out the snowstorm. Around 12:15, when there was a break in the snow, he spotted lunch flying by and took off in pursuit.

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Traditional & Neo-Traditional

What’s the difference between traditional and neo-traditional design? Probably not what you think. More on traditional and neo-traditional design after the photos.


Mazda Miata, in British Racing Green.


Lotus Elan

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Introduction to the 1st Annual Jane Jacobs Award at the Met Housing Council

Jane Jacobs wrote 12 wide-ranging, brilliant books. In them she wove together ideas about cities, city life, politics, economics, and social and cultural issues, so it’s hard to succinctly summarize her contributions to tonight’s topic of affordable housing in New York City. The most directly relevant writing was in her first book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, which came from her experience of living in Greenwich Village. As you can see on YouTube, President Obama agrees that was “the most important book ever written on cities.”

By the way, her last book, written in 2004 and called Dark Ages Ahead, predicted the possibility of a President like our President Elect. [PS*]

Jacobs wrote about affordable housing in Death and Life in a chapter she called, “The need for aged buildings.” Good cities need old buildings, she said. That’s because the cost of new construction requires landlords to charge high rents to cover their costs, rents that only wealthy tenants and the most profitable businesses can afford.

Demonstrators protest charges against activist & author Jane Jacobs (not pictured), New York, New York, May 8, 1968. The then 51-year-old Jacobs had been arrested and charged with inciting riot at a protest of the propsed Lower Manhattan Expressway.
Demonstrators protest charges against activist & author Jane Jacobs (not pictured), New York, New York, May 8, 1968. The then 51-year-old Jacobs had been arrested and charged with inciting a riot at a protest of the proposed Lower Manhattan Expressway.

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Streets for People




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The Best Building At Columbia

I.N. Phelps Stokes, St. Paul’s Chapel, Columbia University, 1903-07.

THIS IS a difficult building to photograph, and a Northern Italian Renaissanc church with a loosely Byzantine interior wouldn’t normally be my favorite. But it is so well done. The perfect proportions, the details in the entrance in antis, the powerful interior space in the Latin Cross under the dome, the Guastavino vaults and light iron details…all work together so well, convincing anyone with eyes that this is a great building. If you find yourself in the neighborhood, take a look.

1996-chancel Continue reading

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There once was a tree on Nantucket
(street design humor)


There once was a tree on Nantucket,
With none of its roots in a bucket,
“That can’t be,”
Said the state DOT,
But no car has ever yet struck it.

After the jump, another Nantucket Elm Continue reading

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Occupy Broad Street

Today is the fifth Anniversary of Occupy Wall Street. For some thoughts about that, click here.

Broad Street

THE BROAD crossroads where Wall Street and Broad Street come together is a beautiful space, fully the equal of medieval European plazas. Today, post-911, it’s closed to almost all traffic, because the New York Stock Exchange sits at the southwest corner of the intersection. A few weeks ago, it was the symbolic center of the NYC DOT’s Shared Streets Lower Manhattan, when one Saturday afternoon 60 blocks were designated “shared spaces,” where “Pedestrians, cyclists, and motor vehicles will share the historic streets of Lower Manhattan and motorists [were] encouraged to drive 5 mph.”

When Americans talk about shared space, someone will often say, “We’re not Amsterdam.” Well, parts of Nieuw Amsterdam / New York City make a good place to start shared space experiments. Eighty per cent of Manhattan residents don’t own a car, and only twenty per cent of Manhattan workers commute to work by private car. Then add the fact that many streets in the Financial District have restricted access: some streets are only open to residents or workers employed on the street; while other streets have tank barricades and are only open to emergency and delivery vehicles.

In the real Amsterdam, 85% of the streets today have s speed limit of 30 kilometers per hour (18.6 mph), and the other 15% have a top speed of 50 kph (31 mph). On the slower streets, pedestrian and cyclist have as much right to the street as cars and trucks, and may be anywhere on the street at any time. All of the detritus of traffic engineering—bold stripes and arrows painted on the pavement, large signs, colored bus lanes, and the like—is missing, and at the intersections, there are no stop lights, stop signs, yield signs, or crosswalks. Motor vehicles must be driven at a speed that successfully allows cars and trucks to stop for pedestrians and cyclists in the intersection.

That is “Shared Space.” That is the spirit behind the experiment the DOT tried out on Saturday, August 13, and what it hopes to try again in the future. I hope they will and therefore I make Broad Street my Street of the Day. Some of the my notes on that continue below. Continue reading

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Occupy Wall Street, Main Street, Broad Street

LIKE MOST NEW YORKERS, I was happy to see Occupy Wall Street arise.* We need more of that spirit in the neighborhood and preservation battles against the Lords of Real Estate that are welling up all across the city.

When I wrote Occupy Main Street for the Berkshire Record, I didn’t  realize that the Record had already published a piece with the same name, at the time of Occupy Wall Street. And in Dallas, Texas, Reoccupy Main Street focused on the battle between Big Box retailers and local stores and commerce. That’s a natural issue in the home of the Berkshare and the Schumacher Institute for a New Economics.

Even though it talks about the intersection of Broad and Wall Streets, my post Occupy Broad Street is not about the 1% versus the 99%. But Broad Street in New York City and Main Street in Great Barrington share a common issue, which is how we reclaim the street for everyone, after giving it to the car the last 50 to 100 years.

Reclaiming Broad Street includes taking the streets around Broad and Wall, many of which are still dominated by cars, and occupying them for people.

Occupy Broad Street
Occupy Main Street

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The Good Kind: Notre Dame du Haut (Ronchamp)

Le Corbusier, Notre Dame du Haut, Ronchamp, France, 1954.

NOTRE DAME DU HAUT is a work of beauty and genius. To fully appreciate that you must visit the pilgrimage chapel in the northeast corner of France. Le Corbusier put aside his machine aesthetic and principles of mechanical standardization and embraced the genius loci of the remote hilltop. Inside and out, Notre Dame du Haut stirs the soul. Continue reading

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