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.
"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 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.
THE ARCHITECTURE CRITIC for New York magazine wrote about the work of Robert A.M. Stern in an article entitled Unfashionably Fashionable. I commented:
"There are two kinds of music," Duke Ellington famously said. "Good music, and the other kind."
When I had Bob Stern as a teacher, the architectural academy and the architectural establishment were equally open-minded. Bob Stern, Peter Eisenman, Léon Krier, Michael Graves, Richard Meier and many others formed a disparate and friendly group that agreed with Duke Ellington, accepting many things (and each other), as long as they were good.
Today, we have ideologues controlling much of "the discourse" in the academy and the establishment. In musical terms, they are saying that everyone must work in the tradition of Philip Glass: Classical music, Hip Hop, bebop, jazz, folk, rock, indie rock, pop...are all verboten. They're more close minded than the Tea Party.
Is this about to change? Things like the New York article or one in the magazine of the American Institute of Architects by Aaron Betsky in which Betsky calls the traditional work of former Stern employee Tom Kligerman "breathtaking in its sophistication and beauty," suggest that maybe they are. The magazine has probably never published Kligerman's work, and has certainly never praised it before.
Worth noting: like most people other than architects, the readers of New York are not ideological about traditional or modern design. You particularly see this in New York in the hangouts of the young and the hip, where you find traditional design, modern design, and places that comfortably combine both. Craftsmanship and natural materials, both conspicuously missing in the work of most Starchitects and New York's gleaming tall towers, have been strong trends for years.
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.
The Levittown of my youth, and of Volpe’s early years teaching there, was the quintessential American suburb before the rise of video games, cable TV, the Internet. It had no Main Street or downtown, no culture, not a single thing of visual interest. As a teenager, I spent summer nights coasting around on my bicycle with friends, often well past midnight, miles in every direction. We told ourselves we were looking to meet girls, but I think we were trying to get somewhere that didn’t look like everywhere else. We were not coming back to this town, any of us, once we left.
WHEN THE East Side IRT is running well, you can skip the number 6 downtown that pulls in just as you go through the turnstiles at 86th Street and go downstairs for a 4 or 5. Go to the back of the train, so you'll get a seat, and walk two cars down when you get out at Union Square.
When all is well, the number 6 that left before the one you passed up will pull in as you reach your boarding point,and when you get out at Bleecker Street or Astor Place your will be directly opposite the exit, with no steps wasted and no time lost waiting.
And when you thnk like this, you know you're a New Yorker.
THERE ARE sometimes so many delivery trucks, service trucks and limos parking in New York's bicycle lanes that it seems that way. And the NYPD is aggressive about ticketing cyclists (even hiding out of sight while watching the bike lanes) at the same time that one organization has worked out if a driver breaks the speed limit in Manhattan the odds are that he or she can go 37 years without getting a ticket.
This UPS truck could have parked in the spaces on the other side of the street, where there was actually a parked police car (blocked from view by the van). Any New Yorker knows that the New York City police are fast and efficient at giving expensive parking tickets that raise a lot of money. Car 54 Where Are You?
Start @ the Puck Building, up Lafayette, left on 9th St (Wanamaker Place), bear left @ 6th Ave onto Christopher (center lane, use the walk light), bear right @ 7th Ave onto West 4th, right on Bank, right on Waverly Place, left on 11th, left on Bleecker, return to Citibike @ Mercer & Bleecker.
Distance: 2.6 miles
Outside of architecture school graduates, art school grads, and Art Basel fans over 65 years old, very few people are ideological Modernists.
[MAYOR BLOOMBERG'S] legacy is one where only the voice of those with power matters, where someone like me starting out today has less of a chance than I once did to improve his/her life – Tony Glover
From the comments @ Poll Shows New Yorkers Are Deeply Conflicted Over Bloomberg’s Legacy
MAYOR BLOOMBERG calls New York City a "luxury product" worth paying for, according to the New York Times.
Also see Ginia Bellefante, A Mayor Who Puts Wall Street First, New York Times, August 16, 2013.
Like most fairy tales New York’s embrace of architecture has a dark side. If many of these shows pointed up our rich architectural past, they also served to remind us that the majority of today’s projects serve the interests of a small elite. And this trend is not likely to change any time soon. The slow death of the urban middle class, the rise of architecture as a marketing tool, the overweening influence of developers — all have helped to narrow architecture’s social reach just as it begins to recapture the public imagination. From this perspective the wave of gorgeous new buildings can be read as a mere cultural diversion.
To date, there is little sign that intelligent design will play a major role in any of those projects. On the contrary, every revision heightens our creeping awareness that when serious money is at stake, business will be as usual.
Nicolai Ouroussoff, "Manhattan’s Year of
Building Furiously," New York Times,
December 23, 2007
THIS MORNING was the third and final Summer Street of 2013, when the city closes Park Avenue and Lafayette Street from Park Avenue and 72nd Street to City Hall (a little under 5 miles). Since Citibike has the Maginot Bike Line at 59th Street, I picked up a Citibike at 58th Street and Broadway, rode through Central Park to 72nd Street and then to Park Avenue—the Park Drive and connection to Park Avenue were also closed.
There were lots of people out enjoying the streets, which look very different when you don't have to stay out of the roadbed. Since 80% of Manhattanites don't own cars (and a large percentage of Manhattan tourists don't rent cars), it would be great to have even more of these days.
Western society has accepted as unquestionable a technological imperative that is quite as arbitrary as the most primitive taboo: not merely the duty to foster invention and constantly to create technological novelties, but equally the duty to surrender to these novelties unconditionally, just because they are offered, without respect to their human consequences.
The most beautiful cities of the future will be inspired by today's most sustainable cities. And it does not mean that build up. Paris, London and Copenhagen are these cities. Of course, Manhattan is a shining example in terms of energy consumed, the presence of high buildings is beneficial. Many people go to work on foot, others use public transport. Few people own a car. But Copenhagen, Paris, Munich and Berlin are all cities in which to walk, they are durable and offer a high quality of urban life. You need a good mix of uses and buildings. Consider Copenhagen and Detroit, with a population and a similar climate: the second is three times higher population density than the other and yet it consumes ten times more energy, mainly because of gasoline. Under these conditions, I do not see how Paris would need skyscrapers.