Saturday, November 16, 2013
New York, New England, New Marlborough
ONE of the many great things about New York City is that it's easy to get from New York to many great places. We tend to head northeast to New England.
The Berkshire mountains in Western Massachusetts are distinctly not in New York, even though many New Yorkers visit the Berkshires. There are many beautiful ways to drive there, none of which require getting on an interstate highway. You can make the trip in 2 hours, or you can make it take all day. There are also trains to Dutchess County, New York, and people are working on a reviving the old rail line, which still has daily freight trains.I've been to old Marlborough in olde England, too. It's in our new Street Design book.
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
#Bloomberg Administration London Envy Softens—City Planning Withdraws East Midtown Upzoning
"Key members of the Council said on Tuesday that the proposal — to rezone a 73-block area into a district of sleek glass towers that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said would make New York competitive with London and other world-class cities—" New York Times: End of Proposal to Raise Skyline on the East Side
The Shard—Europe's Tallest Building—pointed to by Bloomberg Administration officials as the type of building New York needs.
Friday, November 08, 2013
East Midtown Upzoning—My Community Board Testimony
The New York CIty Council's vote on Mayor Bloomberg's proposed upzoning for East Midtown will probably be taken on November 13th or 14th. To download the text of my testimony to Community Board 5, click here. If you have any influence on the New York City Council, please help slow down this hurried, lame-duck plan.East Midtown editorial in the New York Post. He supported the upzoning on the basis of job creation, as though a Class A skyscraper on the East Side would produce more jobs than a Class A skyscraper on the West Side. New York City will fill a finite number of these towers, so every one of them built on the East Side means one less will be built on the West Side. It's one of those zero-sum games that we keep hearing is so rare.
Of course, there is the issue of where people want to be (known in real estate as Location, Location, Location). In the early 20th century, Commodore Vanderbilt's New York Central Railroad teamed up with other developers to build Terminal City, a great work that established what is now Midtown. Built above and around Grand Central Terminal's rail yards, Terminal City expressed New Yorkers' beliefs that New York was surpassing, not just rivaling, the most important European cities. They did such a good job, that that is where large corporations in Manhattan want to be today.
In the early 21st century, the Related Companies are building the Hudson Yards development above Penn Station's yards. Because of the skill of Terminal City's builders and architects, other developers would rather build in Midtown than around Hudson Yards, which is still unbuilt—therefore no one knows how appealing it will be. But we should wait to see how that experiment plays out before we let the mega-towers into Midtown, because Hudson Yards is state-of-the-art 2013 development. If the principles don't create a desirable corporate location there, they won't work well in Midtown either.
Andrés Duany calls a lot of today's work "parasitic." Built with ideas and principles that don't create good places, the new buildings depend on sites embedded in old urbanism to wrap themselves in a mantel of desirability created by the surroundings—parasitic. But they also weaken the host. Let's see how the West Side's mega-tower experiment plays out before we give them prime sites in Midtown.
I'm not saying that Hudson Yards won't be a place where corporations want to be. Theare are many good designers involved at Hudson Yards, and the area around the Highline in Chelsea is a good example of recent work creating a new desirable place (for expensive apartments in that case). On the other hand, the British graffiti artist Banksy is right that after all the attention, time and money that went into the World Trade Center, what we are left with is boring architecture and urbanism (and the developer is having a hard time filling his large office towers).
PPS: I also voted for Mayor Bloomberg three times, and in many ways he was a very good mayor. But like many New Yorkers, I've been turned off by the way that in his final year in office he's ratcheted up his support of policies that help the rich get richer, while others suffer. Mayor-elect DeBlasio called this side of the Bloomberg administration "A Tale of Two Cities" and made that his campaign's motto. As a result, 73% of the city voted for DeBlasio, including me. There's no question that this was a repdudiation of Mayor Bloomberg—too bad.
Friday, November 01, 2013
Citi Bike: We love you, but...
Reports that the parent company of Citi Bike is having major financial problems may explain all the glitches in the New York system, which mainly come from insufficient resources to redistribute and fix the bikes. Through the miracle of Twitter, I connected with a reporter who is writing about this, and sent her the following notes:
I've used bike share in London, Barcelona, Madison, Boston, Fort Worth, Salt Lake, DC, Miami, West Palm Beach and perhaps other places I don't remember. I have never seen the redistribution problems I see here. In London, you frequently see flatbed trucks driving around the city redistributing bikes. In New York, I've seen one small van, once.
I regularly try to use the station at 57th Street and Broadway. My success rate finding a working bike there in the morning is perhaps 10%. At my office, the three nearest stations are at Mercer and Bleecker, in front of the Puck Building, and next to the Lafayette Café, on Great Jones Street. It is quite common to find that all three are full in the morning, and the stations at Mercer and Bleecker can be full at other times too.
Yesterday I waited 5 to 10 minutes for someone to show up at the station on 44th Street at Fifth Avenue so I could return a bike. In front of Eataly at Madision Square is often full. Etc., etc. etc. I have never had either of these problems—full stations and empty stations—in other cities.
There is a dock at Mercer and Bleecker that has been broken for at least 3 weeks (and I know about lifting the bike when the dock doesn't work). The stations I use where there are no working bikes always have multiple broken stations or broken bikes locked in the stations.
Lots of the bikes have trouble with second gear (you fix that by gently nudging the shifter). Some have brake problems. Many have seat adjustment problems: either the tightener doesn't work, or the seat can't be moved. This all speaks of insufficient allocation of resources to keep the system working well. Because the bikes are all in a database, the redistribution of bikes is actually quite easy, if there were trucks and manpower to do it.
Friday, October 25, 2013
Arc et Senans
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
On the Second Anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, the face of Global Capitalism, brought to you by the Sheik of Dubai, Chinese Communism, Starchitects, and the billionaires who broke the world economy in 2008
Sunday, September 15, 2013
Quote of the Day
This book could change the way people see the streets in their towns and cities. And it could help those towns and cities make streets for people, rather than their cars.