Out of town

I'm out of town this week and will be next week, so postings will be light if at all. But I leave you with this thought...

I'm on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, and we started talking about all the waterfront development that's going on here. One small aspect of the development is all the new blacktop that's being laid in around the shore and marshland. There's an old fire safety clause that says that any new development must have a 50 feet black-top driveway entrance that will permit fire fighting vehicles to turn into.

Fire safety makes sense. However, black-top doesn't seem to be an improvement over smashed clam shells, the traditional road surface on the Eastern Shore. Clam shells are semi-permeable, are a reusable materials (washed up and discarded from the clamming factories), and someone added, are like having the road lit at night because they reflect headlights more softly than blacktops. I never knew.


Street vendor fun!

Really old school roasted potato vendor - potatos are a great snack actually, especially on a cold winter day. From the NYPL Digital Gallery

I know this is notice way in advance, but this sounds like one of the most fun events of the year - the Second Annual Vendy Awards!

The tickets have gone up, but it's really an improvement over last year's $35 admission fee and having to pay for all your food. This year's $50 price includes an open bar and all you can eat. You can nominate vendors and reserve your spot online.

The Vendy Awards is a fundraising event for the Street Vendor Project, an initiative run by Urban Justice. Come out, eat, drink and be merry!

This makes me think about all the food items I wish were available more often. One improvement I noticed is that the vendor in front of the Union Square movie theaters (south side) has added grilled corn to her repertoire! Why hasn't this caught on with other vendors, especially those with a charcoal grill. Throw on some mayo, cheese, hot pepper and lime and you've got that great corn that everyone crowds Cafe Habana for. She's the only vendor I've noticed downtown with grilled corn.

Another vending item I've missed are morning tamales. I'd so much rather a tamale with my coffee than a boring muffin.

And in Chinatown, there's no reason you couldn't sell roasted chestnuts alongside roasted nuts and Chinese cake balls.

When: Sunday, October 22nd from 6 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Where: St. Marks Church-in-the-Bowery, Second Avenue and East 10th Street
Price: $50 to be a regular guest, or $100 for a VIP ticket.


Last days

For those of you who know me through PPS, my last day there is this coming Friday. I hope to have news soon of what will come next. Anyhow, Bird to the North will definitely be up and running regardless, as this has been much more fun and interactive than I ever thought it would be.

If you know good business-minded people who are passionate about public spaces, the job description is here.

Livable army posts

No dodging it, there are major flaps about US foreign policy and how it not so indirectly support decisions that we make as a society of individual consumers.

However, if there are to be army bases housing thousands of personnel and families, then they should be built thoughtfully. Upstate New York, where I'm from, has a legacy of abandoned military bases and the slow seeping loss of life inevitably sets in when they do close down. Now, what if military bases and on-post housing were very livable?

Fort Belvoir in Fairfax, Virginia has embarked on a livable communities initiative, a 50-year public-private partnership to apply New Urbanist thinking to army housing. There are special considerations given the specific characteristics - physical and emotional - of military jobs, but I thought this was definitely a step in the right direction for all these people and their families. The new Starbucks is very popular and see the courtyard for yourself.

Thanks Peter!


A happy story

Image from one of my favorite fun sites, Flip Flop Flyin'

The other morning, we took Cybill out for a walk and ran some errands. On the way home, Cybill, distracted by the barking from another little dog, stepped on my sandal and the strap broke.

So there I was, blocks away from home, with a broken sandal. The man walking the little dog started telling us a story about how the same thing happened to him at the airport and how disgusting it was to have to walk around on his barefeet. As he took out his keys - it turned out that my sandal broke in front of his house - it dawned on him that maybe I wouldn't like to walk around in my barefeet either. Especially on New York City streets. I couldn't have agreed more.

He offered me a pair of flipflops so I could get home. I gratefully accepted. We went home and I quickly put two doggy biscuits into an envelope with a thank you card. We went back to his house and I popped the flipflops through the mail slot with the card. A karmaloop completed.

I suppose if this happened in the parking lot of some shopping center in the suburbs, I would have had to drive home with my barefeet...which isn't so bad either. But I love that living here means that an unfortunate accident led to a happy chance meeting with a neighbor.


Healthcare by design

Business Week writes about how hospital design saves lives.

I've always been curious about how health care centers are set up. Whenever I've gone - at least to the older public hospitals - they seem like one of the least effective uses of space. I've long held onto a dream to start a group that it would focus on making waiting rooms, lobbies and nurses' stations more personable and humane. But of course, it would be great if the entire healthcare facility was personable and humane.

(Incidentally, I tried to find a good photo of an "exemplary facility" as cited by the Center for Health Design, but could not find a good one - or the photos were protected. I guess there is major competition out there for this work.)

Building recycle/re-use

There's a lot of demolition and construction around my neighborhood - in fact, in nearly every New York City neighborhood that I might spend some time in these days. There are huge dumpsters in front of these sites, to haul away unwanted materials.

But there are alternatives to the mega-waste. Two businesses, Build It Green and Green Worker Cooperatives, run re-use centers that act as a depository and a source for materials in New York City. (via City Limits).

I think that when most people think salvage, they think trendy antique-looking sinks and fixtures (as covered by design sources). But some of the most common pieces are in the most demand and could be re-used - doors, standard cabinets, etc. Furthermore, I see theaters and set builders a partner in this since there's a dumpster in front of the Bleecker Street theaters much of the time. But I also feel that something like that already exists for the theater community. Yes?


Humane public housing

An example of Chicago's new housing developments, Oakwood Shores

There's a brief article about Chicago's new public housing, which has replaced the notorious housing developments of yore. Instead of a isolating neighborhood with few amenities, the new housing developments feature amenities such as schools and a recreation center, the same high quality for its mixed-income units, and attention paid to how the development connects to the rest of the city. Of course, I would love to see this for my own eyes - a trip to Chicago has to be imminent.

It's clear that the project success is largely due to visionary leadership from a couple of places within the city government, from Mayor Daley and Terry Peterson, the chief executive of the Chicago Housing Authority. They're setting a great example for other cities to follow.



Brooklyn Museum fountain, image by Trevor Little, a NYC photo blogger

I'm heading out of town today, but caught a few pieces about places that I wanted to share.

The Economist briefs us on the newest form of suburban development in Britain - the dense, compact development.

Montpellier, France, launches in full its car-less city center, a long-planned and well-invested endeavor.

Adobe, one of greenest companies in the Silicon Valley, finds its alternative energy uses challenged during recent heat waves.

Public transit people go ga-ga for Toronto's York neighborhood's new transit system

Anthony Flint, the author of the new book This Land: The Battle Over Sprawl and the Future of America, weighs in on the challenges of massive urban capital improvement projects, focusing on recent news about the Big Dig.

Having heard about Columbia professor Lance Freeman's controversial and much needed studies on gentrification in New York City for five years running now, NPR has an interview in light of his new book, There Goes the 'Hood.

And finally, Wal-Mart pulls out of Germany and seems to question its ability to penetrate international markets.


Camping in the city, really, IN THE CITY!

I heard about the whole camping in Central Park thing last year and was mightily intrigued and pleased (because it's so great that people are organizing other people to do stuff like that in the city) and thanks to the self-introduction from The Vigorous North, a kind of new blogger who is an urban park ranger in physical life, now I have a first-hand account about it. Haven't you always wanted to know an urban park ranger? Go check it out!

No more than two??!

From joe's nyc

It's been too long. But this completely outraged me when I read it today:

On July 18, 2006 the New York City Police Department proposed changing City rules regarding parade permits. The changes will put bike rides, walks, jogs and other events under the Police Department's direct control and will greatly discourage walking and biking.

Under the NYPD's proposed rules:

* Any group of two (yes, 2) or more cyclists or pedestrians traveling down a public street, who violate any traffic law, rule or regulation can be arrested for parading without a permit;
* Every group of 20 or more cyclists must obtain a permit and approved route from the NYPD;
* Every group of 35 of more pedestrians must obtain a permit and approved route from the NYPD. Read about it from Transportation Alternatives here.
What I despise about this is the blatant preference for a certain kind of transportation over others when most people in the city do not have access to cars and must get together walking or biking. These are in fact not alternative modes of transportation - it's just transportation! (And what are they going to do with all the groups travelling together in mid-town? Arrest the tourists?)

It reminds me of a story a Doylestown, PA mom told me about the improvements in her town. Her teenage kids got arrested for congregating in groups of more than 2(!) on the sidewalk. They also get kicked out of the rocking chairs on the "public" porches at Starbucks. Her kids are well-mannered, though punk-looking kids. Apparently, as the town cleaned up and got more tony, the Police and Town Council started to implement increasingly draconian regulations governing the use of public space. Is this the direction we're heading for?