Hyped real estate

What greater sign of marketing hype is there than Jack Klugman signing copies of his new book at a luxury condo open house? Oh, Upper East Side - is it really that bad?

Check-in with Time Warner Center

Photo by Gotham Gazette

The NYTimes checks in with the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle and discovers mixed success. Time will tell.


New Urbanists plan for Hurricane Katrina

There will be an enormous charrette spearheaded by New Urbanist giants Andres Duany and John Norquist to re-build New Orleans and Louisiana on October 11-18.

With backing from Mississippi officials, the visiting experts--architects, urban planners, sociologists and engineers operating under the banner of the Chicago-based Congress for the New Urbanism--will look at redesigning everything from trailer homes to fast-food restaurants to casinos.
The designers will work practically for close to free, or for free.

Despite my misgivings about New Urbanism, particularly the white picket fences output, I think their design-driven process with all of its guidelines allows them to conceptualize and plan for new towns more easily than other anti-sprawl philosophies. True?


Going to the market

I don't usually post about what's going on at work, but this month's newsletter about public markets is one of the best ones we've churned out (and I had nothing to do with it). Markets, after all, are the "original human gathering place," and it is about time that they experienced a great revival. Don't miss the fun image gallery of markets past and present. I really like the 100 tips that were dispensed by David O'Neil, one of our public markets experts who was responsible for the revival of Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia. These tips could apply to other contexts, for example, to city managers' jobs. Anyone trying to put together an equation that produces economic, social and physical benefits for their cities would stand to learn from this.


A word on recent New York City developments

Yet another "bright lights, big city" rendering, this one of Coney Island.

With real estate development such a hot topic now, and so well covered by so many diverse outlets, it's clear that nearly everyone is interested in new built environment projects in our city.

Of course, I've been scanning all these articles and feeling a certain obligation to say something about them, but finding myself at a loss for words. I'm so, well, BORED, by the story that underlines everything: the Brooklyn Bridge Park, Columbus Circle, Washington Square Park, and Coney Island. All these projects seem to have the same story arc, one well-articulated by Nicholas Ouroussoff in this week's article about the Brooklyn Bridge Park. It's mostly about the tug-of-war between public (common good, community) and private (profit, developers). Reductionist? Perhaps. But what does one say?

It's not that I don't care about what gets built or how its done or anything like that, of course not. It's just that there seems to be little variation on the way things are done. After so many years of the same process creating so many similar impasses, it's feels crazy that so little has been done to improve the situation.

Where's our leadership for the space our city inhabits? We have leadership on social issues that shape our neighborhoods - homelessness, schools, small business entrepreneurship. How about some leadership specifically for our built environment? For a premiere city, it's such a shame that we have no public space vision, no collective idea on how we would want to see how city built. All our projects seem subject to the same conflicts, over and over again. It doesn't matter whether it's in the far-reaches of Brooklyn, or Long Island for that matter, or in the tony areas of Manhattan.

It's no wonder then that the New York Magazine writer entitled his article about Coney Island, "The Incredibly Bold, Audaciously Cheesy, Jaw-Droppingly Vegasified, Billion-Dollar Glam-Rock Makeover of Coney Island:
A first look at its not-preposterous future" or that master planning consultants resort to "Bright Lights, Big City" renderings. How else to spice up yet another story about something that now seems quite ho-hum.

A Vancouver - NYC comparison

Vancouver from the air

After thinking so much about urbanism in the Pacific Northwest and how it compares to New York, I was happy to see that ArchNewsNow published a well-articulated and thoughtful comparison on the very topic. No earthshattering conclusions, but several pragmatic observations.

This is for the urbanists

Me too, me too!

There's something very eery about New Urbanism (e.g., Truman Show?). I'm not offended by Jim Kunstler, in fact, I like that he's not afraid of being crude, but I think there definitely something to the the idea of Jane Jacobs getting usurped by all types, as proposed by this blogger in Greensboro, AL.

Listening to what someone is really saying is a dying art. Nearly everyone, from ego-architects to New Urbanists, say that their vision comes from Jane Jacobs and those who repudiate her also seem to misunderstand what she's saying.


A turn...

Everything seemed super frivolous against the backdrop of the ongoing aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, but the resignation of Michael Brown, director of FEMA is an indication to start hoping again.

[In the article, you'll see that Bush again defers to not having spoken to Brown or Chertoff when asked to comment..if only he would stand up for something at the time it happens!]


The weight of helplessness

I've wanted to say something about Katrina, and yet after spending hours over the last few days reading about it and committing several hours last night watching footage from New Orleans, I find myself at a loss for words. There are so many angles from which this disaster is a complete tragedy. Miss Representation expresses it eloquently. How can it be possible that we are rendered so helpless in this situation? And for now, all we can do is contribute in the small ways we can and hope that contribution materializes into tangible assistance to the people in New Orleans.