Down to (vendy) business

A message from Sean Basinski, Director of the Street Vendor Project:

A couple weeks ago at a holiday party, I heard someone describe the Street Vendor Project as "that group who puts on the Vendy Awards."

I was impressed that he knew about our big yearly event, which continues to thrive and grow. But I was frustrated that the Vendys had again overshadowed the work we do at SVP every day, organizing and advocating for hundreds of vendors who will never receive an award but deserve our recognition and assistance just the same.

One of those vendors is Mohammed Ullah, and immigrant from Bangladesh who sells roasted peanuts near Times Square. With no vending permits available, Mohammed can´t open his own business - the cart he works belongs to his boss, who pays him $60 to $70 a day. He lives in a small apartment in Brooklyn with his family.
Read more about Mohammed and a request for micro-lending.


Another one

Am finding endless awesomeness this week (in spite of the wack).
Yay for Candy Chang. Her projects are amazing and the process really illuminating...connecting a design product to advocacy. Yay! Thanks Urban Omnibus for pointing her out again.

(I'm a softy for the Street Vendor Project too. This year's at the Queens Museum was worth the trek.)


Scattered Light

ASDF designed six posters.
One poster will be released a month.
Each poster has a photo by David Horvitz on one side and a text on the other. Together, the photo and text present various themes relating to the concept of space/place/surroundings.

Each poster release serves as an open call for photographic responses. The response should be based on the poster's text and image, along with an “Assignment”. The “Assignment” is announced with the poster release / open call. These open calls are open to everyone who wishes to participate.

Assignment 1

WTF - Copenhagen Climate Talks

Read this last night, listened to this just now (check back tomorrow for today's program). Speechless.

Opening up process with open (specific) data

I visited DC a couple weeks ago and hung out with my close friend/doppelganger who works at the National Democratic Institute (NDI). She seems to have no end of interesting projects, but one of her latest, mapping voter data from Afghanistan's November 7 elections, in partnership with DevelopmentSeed, is really amazing. You can play around with some of the results at Afghanistanelectiondata.org.

The issues barring democratic civic engagement in Afghanistan are obviously different than the ones that we face in the US. I think the lesson here is that you have to identify data collection/visualization with a heavy dose of political strategy that's connected to influencing the change you want to see. She and I bandied this around a bit; she's a master at political strategy and can talk you through/out of anything you might think is a brilliant idea (<3 her!)

OK, duh I know, but how many times has data been collected/analyzed/visualized to look cool but still doesn't seem to say very much or remains disconnected to advocating for change? For example, I'm looking at the viability of inserting health impact assessments (HIA) into the planning process for local development projects. Yes, conceptually it totally makes sense. But when you drill down, identifying the most valuable public health indicators becomes really hard. Plus, what difference would a HIA make in NYC's ULURP or CEQR process without advocating for changes in those outdated processes as well?

It doesn't matter how big or small the project is; identifying the specific data needed to create the change in the specific political/cultural context is absolutely necessary. Sometimes simple is good, or the best. Getting to simple specifics is the hardest part of the thought process.

(Whoo-hoo, congrats cc!)


Green It Yourself

My partner in the Grand Army Plaza design competition, Lori Gibbs, and the talented Atom Cianfarani, just finished another project that promotes local sustainability - a DIY workshop book on green roofs, part of their Green It Yourself series. They break down the process and language of this kind of project and give you lots of pointers on what is absolutely necessary and what can be more flexible as you design your greenroof. The greenroof workbook is available now; they'll sell green roof supplies on the same site soon. Congrats!


Kickstart Window Farms

A note from Window Farms:

We are making a big leap and turning The Windowfarms Project into a NON-PROFIT WEB STARTUP dedicated to grassroots R&D on food growing in apartments! We are writing to all of you to ask for your support during our online fund-raising drive. We have until 2pm EST on Jan 4th, 2010 to raise $25K, and we're more than half way there -- please contribute!

Britta Riley started The Windowfarms Project as a grassroots way to start to address issues concerning our food system, and to give ordinary people a way of participating in the "green revolution." Over the last year, through an organized online collaboration of regular folks, we "Windowfarmers" have designed a system for growing nutritious veggies in the windows of homes in a way that looks like an elegant garden/fountain. We have given away the plans and shown anyone how to make them out of cheap, easily accessible and recycled materials. Windowfarmers are continuously testing new techniques and sharing results online to make Windowfarms more efficient, more productive, more nutritious, quieter, prettier, and more tasty.

The project has been exceedingly popular (worldwide, even!)-- so much so that it has grown past Britta's capacity to manage it and financially support the work to be done. It needs to become an organization and have its own patrons until the grants we have applied for (surely!) roll in late next year. Together with Maya Nayak, Britta is attempting to turn it into a nonprofit dedicated to the open research and development of Windowfarms for our homes! We are applying for 501(c)(3) status, and have a 3 member Board.


"Monkeying around" with what you've got...

...it might lead to something good!

The night I was over at Eyebeam working on the Buckminster Fuller competition with some cool folks from the New Amsterdam Bike Slam, I was psyched to get a mini-tour from Britta Riley about her hydroponic window farming system, designed specifically for urban dwellers who have no access to dirt or horizontal space but may have a window available. You can read an interview with her here; I love that she says "monkey around" a couple of times. A Window Farms kit is in the works, I think.


NYC BigApps

Kinda love this competition and the many applications that came out of it. As with many of these types of things, you can see the high potential of pairing technology, information and space; but you also experience many limitations of existing data and our definitions of space. The decisions that get made along the way - whether because of individual biases, data restrictions, existing systems, etc - do have a big influence on what can be served up.

(Course I'm always behind on this stuff...this isn't news.)


Bikes in Buildings

The look of pure glee! This guy, the official photographer of T.A.'s Bikes in Buildings event at WTC 7 last night, won the raffle and took off down the hall on his new bike. The security guys didn't even give him a second glance: another definition of bikes in buildings.



via Pruned

My head is filled with process these days; a part of the practice of urban planning that is somewhat opaque and difficult to show others. So I was keen to find out about this Watersquares project (pdf) in Rotterdam; a cool example of how something moves from:

problem --> design concept --> research and dev --> urban planning --> urban policy

The problem of stormwater management and an overtaxed sewage system led to a potential design solution that was then prototyped and developed, put through the applied planning wringer, and emerged as viable urban policy for the City of Rotterdam. And, to make it completely accessible to those who never come in contact with the wonkiness of "urban stormwater management" it looks like a graphic novel is coming out to explain how it works. The work is by Florian Boer and Marco Vermeulen (friend of yours v?) This project sounds awesome.


Office of Urban Affairs

Fascinating story about the Office of Urban Affairs's agenda by WNYC's Andrea Bernstein.


Defining blight?

How do big organizations who can issue bonds to fund development projects on land that is seized through eminent domain define "blight"?

Hopefully this Columbia University court decision will make more people question the certitude of these projects.


Hard at work

Bedford Avenue is one of the longest streets in New York City, running nearly the full length of Brooklyn. It's a vital corridor that handles a lot of traffic of all kinds (many many peds, bikes, cars, buses, and trucks) and is truly representative of the different neighborhoods through which it travels.

So it was particularly saddening to see this happening, this morning...

It's pretty clear once you get past Flushing where the bike icons have been removed that, as a cyclist, you are not welcome here. So sad, I love Bedford Avenue for its vibrancy, especially in this part of the city. It's hard to be made unwelcome in a neighborhood you like.

(Thanks CS for the images!)