In By the City / For the City many residents spoke up for the need to beautify New York through color, light, and other non-traditional (read: not-a-sculpture-in-a-plaza) public art. One resident wants people to find new ways to add beautiful color to their neighborhoods.Leni in the West Village hopes that strategically located vacant lots could be filled with light. Laura simply wishes that art could be freely exhibited, so that the city could be “full of life and expressive of the people using such spaces.” Together, these ideas provoke the consideration of new and inventive ways of incorporating art into the cityscape.
The Storefront for Art and Architecture’s latest exhibit, Painting Urbanism, showcases the favela paintings with which the artistic duo Haas&Hahn has blanketed slums of Rio de Janeiro over the last several years, transforming dense blight into beauty. The exhibit hopes to inspire a similar color-intervention in New York City. Creative lighting is growing in popularity as an effective art form in both large and small-scale installations. Nuit Blanche New York is having an October showcase called Bring to Light, and longer lasting installations have popped up in parks around the city. Physically unobtrusive as well as being relatively cheap to install and maintain, light is an ideal artistic medium for the city. Art in Odd Places functions on an even more ad-hoc scale, promoting small installations, performances, and a variety of un-categorizable artwork in places where they are perhaps most unlikely to exist. Art can adapt to any environment, complementing or contrasting spaces which otherwise would not have caught the attention of passersby.
Some of the most prominent examples are publicly funded. The NYC DOT recently held a design competition for a temporary re-think of Times Square while a more permanent re-design for the pedestrian plaza there is being developed by IfUD Fellow Craig Dykers’ firm, Snøhetta. The winning design, “Cool Water, Hot Island” by artist Molly Dilworth, involved painting the street with a splashy sequence of blues. This project not only adds beauty and color in an unexpected place but has a utilitarian function too: separating pedestrian from transportation space. Another initiative spearheaded by the city is Arts for Transit, an MTA program that funds projects that create links to neighborhoods with art that echoes the architectural history and design context of the individual stations. The art makes use of non-traditional spaces like subway station walls, gates, windscreens, as well as ad space in the trains and buses themselves, resulting in projects like the bronze statues that inhabit the 14th Street ACE station.
Public Art runs the gamut of scale, and the opportunities for implementation are endless. One resident wants to see the passage along 138th Street under the Grand Concourse in the Bronx made more open, inviting, and colorful. Cat in Bushwick wishes the Unisphere base was painted with Murals by local artists so it wasn’t just a massive aqua blue circle. Finding clever places to add art to the cityscape is both a creative and practical challenge, but the result can be the creation of a meaningful place where there wasn’t one before.
Want to take on the challenge of adding art to New York City? Click here to register for the By the City / For the City design competition today! Entries are due by midnight (EST) on Sunday, July 31st, 2011. We can’t wait to see what you come up with!
In 1998, Mayor Giuliani proposed a $1.2 billion package that would build an airtrain to JFK and extend a subway line to La Guardia. The airtrain surived; the N line connection to La Guardia was scrapped. By 2003 the project had been shelved: short on funds, the city succumbed to “Not Above My Backyard” opposition from residents and local political leaders who organized to block elevated track construction. Even those residents, however, acknowledge that better access to the airport should be one of the top priorities in transportation planning. Tali in Astoria shared her idea for addressing this issue through By the City / For the City: a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line between Manhattan and La Guardia.
New York is projected to add another million residents by 2030, straining an already overworked and overcrowded public transportation system. While some subway extensions are in the works, the MTA’s limited capital resources will likely prevent them from keeping pace with passenger demand. BRT provides a proven option that can be quickly implemented with lower capital costs and integrated into an already existing network: our streets. There are no tunnels to be dug, no track to be laid. With dedicated transit lanes, green-light traffic priority and off-board fare payment, these express buses can maintain a fast and steady rate of transportation and represent a very viable alternative to trains.
The BRT transportation system was conceived in Curitibia, Brazil. In response to burgeoning population growth, Jamie Lerner and a team from the Universidade Federal do Paraná developed the Trinary Road System, which placed adjacent express bus-only lanes between those for regular traffic. The Rede Integrada de Transporte opened in 1974, and BRT was quickly replicated and implemented in cities all across the Americas. In Curitibia 75% of the population uses the system to commute to work.
New York City is in the middle of Phase I of its Select Bus Service pilot program - routes are running on Fordham Road in the Bronx and on Manhattan’s First and Second Avenues; the Nostrand avenue line will open later this year. The MTA is already claiming that the East Side bus lines have sped up trips by 19%. Initially met with a little public resistance and confusion over new payment systems, the Select Bus Service is now poised to alleviate some of the burden on the city’s subway system. BRT is cost-effective, an environmental improvement over old bus systems, and unobtrusive to the neighborhoods through which it runs. Best of all, it offers a reasonable, feasible way to make new transit connections around the city.
Have a brilliant idea for implementing BRT in NYC? Click here to register for the By the City / For the City design competition today! Entries are due by midnight (EST) on Sunday, July 31st, 2011. We can’t wait to see what you come up with!
Queens is comprised of distinct neighborhoods that represent an eclectic history and diverse landscapes. Forest Hills, which boasts historic Tudor Architecture with an urban-suburban feel just 20 minutes from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan, is no exception. Two ideas submitted to By the City / For the City addressed major public spaces: one New Yorker wished that Station Square, on the south side of the LIRR tracks, was more of a neighborhood social space instead of a traffic circle, while local resident Erin proposed that Austin Street, to the north of the tracks, should be converted into a pedestrian mall.
The community of Forest Hills was first founded in 1906, before which the area was known as Whitepot. In 1909, Margaret Olivia Slocum Sage, who founded the Russell Sage Foundation, bought 142 acres of land from the Cord Meyer Development Company. Today, that site is home to Forest Hills Gardens, which was designed as a garden city by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. and architect Grosvenor Atterbury. At its heart is Station Square, a ring of unique, Tudor-style buildings connected by arched walkways that enclose a brick-paved square, which was constructed a village center in 1912. At the time of its creation, Forest Hills Gardens was considered the most enlightened and innovative of the newly emerging suburbs. It balanced architecture, streetscapes, public spaces, and greenery.
The gardens is a distinctive section of Forest Hills—with distinctively higher property values. On the other side of the tracks (literally), to the north, is the lively Austin Street, the main commercial corridor within the greater Forest Hills neighborhood. This section of the neighborhood, developed (starting in 1906) by Cord Meyer, features a more traditional street grid, with a mix of single-family homes and apartment blocks in various architectural styles. Austin Street’s bustling commercial district is connected to Station Square via an underpass beneath the LIRR tracks at Continental Avenue.
Although these two distinct areas of the Forest Hills neighborhood have different developmental histories, the ideas for increasing social space on either site of the tracks shared through By the City / For the City identify an opportunity to take advantage of the unique juncture between Station Square and Austin Street. Combined, these two spaces could provide a distinctive link between the two sides of the neighborhood while prioritizing pedestrians and social interaction.
Think you’re the designer who can stitch Station Square and Austin Street into a vibrant public space for Forest Hills? Click here to register for the By the City / For the City design competition today! Entries are due by midnight (EST) on Sunday, July 31st, 2011. We can’t wait to see what you come up with!
Over the past few weeks, with the deadline for the By the City / For the City design ideas competition drawing closer, we have been contacted by many planners, artists, and architects about entering, but for whom early July is a particularly busy time. As a result, we have decided to extend the deadline to July 31st to give everyone working on entries some breathing room!
Our goal in creating By the City / For the City is to reflect the incredible range of ideas, skills, and efforts that go into shaping public space, and so we will document it all in An Atlas of Possibility for the Future of New York, a book whose contents are being created by the hundreds of people who have participated in the process at each stage.
Ultimately, the decision to extend the competition deadline is rooted in our desire to give designers more time to visit the website, choose a challenge somewhere in the five boroughs that represents an opportunity where design could bring transformative change, and create a brief proposal that gives visual form to those ideas. All entries will be published in the Atlas and celebrated at the first-ever Urban Design Week festival in New York this September 15-20.
While the deadline has been extended, the IfUD strongly encourages designers and artists who plan to enter the competition to register by July 24th so that we can better plan for the printing of the Atlas in time for UDW. Anyone with questions about the competition can contact us at email@example.com. Good luck to all who enter!
One of the most ethnically, culturally and economically diverse areas in New York City, Brooklyn’s Flatbush neighborhood is truly worth exploring. Colonial Dutch settlers, rapid urbanization, and immigration are just some of the most influential factors that laid the foundation for this eclectic neighborhood. One By the City / For the City submitter wished that Flatbush had a green and social center, so that it can be “a green COMMUNITY,” opening up the opportunity for designers to think about adding yet another layer to this dynamic district.
At the height of its development, Flatbush was home to the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Lowe’s Kings movie palace, but around the 1970s, the Dodgers relocated to Los Angeles, and the movie theater closed down. Unfortunately, this led to the decay of the commercial strip near Flatbush and Church Avenues. Discount shops soon dominated the area, and scores of shuttered businesses became graffiti-strewn emblems of decline. Over the past 30 years, however, Flatbush’s renissance has been spearheaded by the Flatbush Development Corporation. The group has been working with locals to improve their community and their lives. Through its youth, housing, immigration, economic development and community improvement programs, FDC is helping make Flatbush a vibrant, diverse and healthy community by capitalizing on its existing assets. A well-designed social space in the heart of Flatbush could build on this work and facilitate higher frequencies of interaction.
The interest in green space in Flatbush, meanwhile, has been especially strong since the release of PlaNYC in 2007. The plan was developed to prepare for one million more residents by strengthening the economy, combating climate change, and enhancing the quality of life for all New Yorkers. The FDC has responded directly to PlaNYC through Imagine Flatbush 2030, meant to bridge the gap between PlaNYC’s sustainability goals and consensus-driven, community-based planning. Sustainable Flatbush is another non-profit that brings neighbors together to mobilize, educate, and advocate for sustainable living in Flatbush and beyond. They’ve developed such programing as the Church Avenue communal garden as well as Greening Flatbush 2011.
There is clearly existing energy around using green projects to increase the social fabric in Flatbush. With proper design attention, a ‘green and social center’ could be developed to further add to the fabric of a smarter and healthier neighborhood.
Interested in taking on the challenge of creating a verdant neighborhood hub for Flatbush? Click here to register for the By the City / For the City design competition today! Entries are due by midnight (EST) on Sunday, July 31st, 2011. We can’t wait to see what you come up with!
We’ve all been there: exhausted, hot, annoyed, and just looking for a seat! With over eight million people calling New York City home, finding a place to sit outside of parks and playgrounds can be a bigger challenge than one might imagine. Megan in Clinton Hill wishes there were places to sit in public space besides in parks: free, public resting spots on every block for a coffee, lunch, and conversation. Ultimately, she wants the city to be “more free and open to all! Not limited to only people who eat at outdoor cafes, etc.”
In order to ensure more seating, new options for public space must be explored. Of the 305 square miles that New York City occupies, 27% is dedicated to open space and recreation: public parks, playgrounds, nature preserves, cemeteries, amusement areas, beaches, stadiums and golf courses. Open spaces serve specific functions (recreation, relaxation, etc.), but the introduction of new elements to streets is changing the way that we understand New York’s public realm. One day, we may include streets and sidewalks in the count of public open space.
In 2008, the New York City Department of Transportation released World Class Streets, a report that presents new policies for the function and design of streets in New York. Cases such as the transformative plan for Broadway are setting precedent in the reclamation of major streets for pedestrian use, ensuring new social, economic, cultural as well as seating opportunities. The plan seeks to pedestrianize a large swath of Broadway in Midtown Manhattan. The intended goals are to improve motor vehicle traffic flow, enhance safety and provide more and better public space to pedestrians. Within this new public space, more potential space is secured for seating and relaxation.
To take matters further, IfUD Fellow Linda Pollak wants to see some kind of seating that does not require maintenance. That’s a serious challenge! How do designers come up with maintenance-free public seating that could be easily installed in streets and sidewalks? Such a solution could directly help to create more inclusive public spaces, as well as address environmental and economic concerns, as cleaning fluids and maintenance can be two negative expenditures the city may want to avoid. Also, seating opportunities could directly address one resident’s desire for adding beautiful color to their neighborhoods! New public spaces deserve new seating that is fun, smart, and creative, as well as sustainable.
Got a great idea for incorporating more seating into New York’s frenetic streetscapes? Click here to register for the By the City / For the City design competition today! Entries are due by midnight (EST) on Sunday, July 31st, 2011. We can’t wait to see what you come up with!
Several years ago, New York pedestrianized Times Square. In 2009, Broadway was closed to traffic between 42nd and 47th streets as part of the DOT’s “Green Light for Midtown” pilot project. The plaza-ization of Times Square included the initial installation of chairs and tables and painting of the pavement, while IfUD Fellow Craig Dykers’ firm Snøhetta works on a more permanent re-design. The DOT reported that the steps they had taken for the project were a success on multiple fronts, improving traffic, safety, and pedestrian satisfaction.
Just to the south, at the intersection of Broadway, 6th Avenue, and 34th Street, Herald Square sees a comparable amount of daily pedestrian traffic—according to the 34th Street Partnership, about 75,000 pedestrians pass through Herald Square every hour during peak times—and slightly more vehicle traffic. Penn Station is the busiest transportation hub in America, shuttling more than 640,000 commuters through its doors each day. This is an overwhelming density of movement, and the results can be unpleasant, with the neighborhood sometimes difficult and even dangerous to navigate.
It is reasonable to want to be able to “walk safely and comfortably [in the area around Penn Station], not be forced to walk in the street, and access the train and subway stations in a more friendly environment,” as Ryan asked through By the City / For the City. David in Brooklyn would have Herald Square “turned into a pedestrian walkway,” and another suggested leveling Madison Square Garden, located atop the train station, to make way for “a truly large public gathering space for demonstrations and celebrations.” Leni in the West Village wants to transform exterior spaces around Penn Station with inspiring light forms so that people could “feel a sense of belonging.”
Large, open plazas are rare in Manhattan, as is recreational space attached to transportation hubs. Rethinking the area around Penn Station and Herald Square is an opportunity to prioritize pedestrians and create an inviting, pleasant space. This would improve pedestrian safety and, simply and certainly, make Herald Square more enjoyable.
Have a great idea for re-designing Herald Square? Click here to register for the By the City / For the City design competition today! Entries are due by midnight (EST) on Sunday, July 31st, 2011. We can’t wait to see what you come up with!
The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, located at the mouth of upper New York Bay, connects Brooklyn and Staten Island and serves as a major link in the interstate highway system, providing the shortest route between the middle Atlantic states and Long Island. The earliest plan for a crossing at the narrows came in the form of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad’s 1888 proposal to build a tunnel extending the Staten Island North Shore line into Brooklyn. Financial constraints and delays in the approval process prevented this project.
It wasn’t until 1946, when the New York City Tunnel Authority was absorbed into the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority—then chaired by a legendary and controversial master builder Robert Moses—that the narrows crossing proposal was reappraised. Moses’ plan, which called for a bridge instead of an underwater crossing, was quickly approved by state legislature, and the bridge opened in 1964 as the world’s longest suspension span. The original plans called for a bike-pedestrian path on either side of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge (similar to what exists on the George Washington Bridge), but this component was scrapped by Moses, an ardent advocate for auto-centric cities, in favor of maximizing space for motorized transit.
The bridge remains accessible only to cars and buses—a situation that several New Yorkers spoke out about this By the City/For the City. One resident wants to see a more efficient use of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, allowing for walking, biking, and transit. Cat in Bushwick asked for one of the 6 lanes on the double-decker Verrazano Bridge to be converted into a pedestrian walkway/ bike lane. Lee in Castleton Corners thinks that the MTA should run a new subway line from Brooklyn over the Verrazano Bridge into Staten Island.
In 1994, civic and environmental groups launched efforts to construct walkways for pedestrians and bicycles on the bridge. The proposal received support from the Neighborhood Open Space Coalition, a Brooklyn-based environmental advocacy group, and Transportation Alternatives, a bicycle advocacy group. In 1997, the Transportation Division of the NYC Department of City Planning drafted a feasibility plan for pedestrian/cyclist access. Adding walking, cycling, and even mass transit uses to this bridge could greatly increase accessibility and connectivity for residents of Staten Island, Brooklyn, and all of New York, while ensuring a less carbon-intensive future for the city.
Think you’re up to the challenge of improving access to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge? Click here to register for the By the City / For the City design competition today! Entries are due by midnight (EST) on Sunday, July 31st, 2011. We can’t wait to see what you come up with!
The Gowanus Canal (aka the Lavender Lake) was once an industrial hub for the city, even serving as one of the primary transportation routes for the Brownstone used to construct much of Brooklyn’s iconic housing stock. Unfortunately, the canal was built without the lock systems that would have allowed flushing and the water quickly degenerated. Today the Gowanus is an infamously odiferous barrier separating Carroll Gardens and Park Slope. Recently the EPA went over the city’s head to declare the canal one of its Superfund sites, opening the floodgates for funding to dredge and reclaim the waterway. Recent studies, however, measure the polluted sediment to be at least 80 feet deep, rendering prevalent cleaning methods ineffective and indicating that the process will be long and arduous without a clear result.
A number of people submitted ideas to By the City / For the City for using the canal to re-link the surrounding neighborhoods. Jim from South Brooklyn would have the canal “delisted as a navigable waterway.” The Gowanus’s current classification—an archaic designation as a tall-mast shipping route—means that boats and barges must be able to navigate the entire canal, resulting in the drawbridges and the unusually-high elevation of the Gowanus Expressway and the Smith/9th St subway station. By delisting the canal, the city could reduce the heights of these structures and lessen the visual barrier effect that they create. People could also still canoe under deactivated drawbridges.
Kenneth suggested greenroofing the Gowanus. While the execution is drastically different, the motivation behind this idea echos Jim’s: renewing the urban landscape and expanding accessible habitat. Raymond from Bensonhurst, meanwhile, hopes that “neighborhoods can be more connected in Gowanus, Brooklyn by a green park/riverwalk w/ bike paths and pedestrian walkways that can also help prevent toxic water runoff into the polluted Gowanus Canal.” If the canal was, in fact, delisted as a navigable waterway, green connections such as planted bridges could be used to create pleasant connections between neighborhoods.
The focus of these ideas is on seizing the opportunity to transform the Gowanus from barrier to bridge. There is plenty of industrial space begging to be repurposed and vacant space to be used. One resident hopes for a “new public building combining spaces for design and the arts with environmental R&D” at the presently vacant space near the Smith/9th St station. Rethinking connectivity issues connected to the canal could make neighborhoods along the Gowanus neighborhood more attractive, accessible, and navigable (for pedestrians), making it a more viable site for economic development. Greenspace could help mediate runoff to the canal, and creating new public spaces could invigorate residents and give the neighborhood a contemporary functionality. Motherless Brooklyn author Jonathan Lethem once dubbed the Gowanus the “armpit of Brooklyn;” smart design could integrate a host of improvements and go a long way towards elevating the neighborhood away from such a dubious status.
Think you’re up to the challenge of re-connecting neighborhoods along the Gowanus? Click here to register for the By the City / For the City design competition today! Entries are due by midnight (EST) on Sunday, July 31st, 2011. We can’t wait to see what you come up with!
Perched on a hill, invoking the feeling of an old country town, sits the historic Steinway Mansion of Astoria, Queens. Originally founded as a recreational and resort destination for Manhattan’s wealthy, Astoria has experienced significant change in subsequent years, but the Steinway Mansion remains as a relic of a forgotten age. The Steinway family, German immigrants who originally started manufacturing pianos in Manhattan, later moved operations out to a 400-acre site in northern Astoria where they built not only the spacious Steinway Piano Factory, but an entire factory town with a library, church, kindergarten, worker housing, and a public trolley line.
In an attempt to preserve the legacy of the Steinway family Christina in Ridgewood, Queens wants to see, “The Steinway Mansion become a museum and community center,” an idea echoed by Astoria resident Michael Woo. Adaptive re-use of the structure could allow local residents opportunities for recreation and engagement, and could also serve to reconnect the neighborhood to an important piece of its history. The family contributed greatly to the development of Astoria, but their mansion is now hidden away from daily life in the area, as its surroundings have been developed with industrial warehouses.
And that daily life is rich! Astoria has become a diverse and dynamic neighborhood, exemplary of contemporary Queens. This change has come about as interest in the area has risen sharply is the last few years due to Astoria’s convenient commute times to Manhattan, affordable housing (82% is rental), as well as the area’s mix of a distinct urban feel with spacious, green amenities. Dinning and nightlife options are picking up in the area as more and more new residents continue to flood the neighborhood. Once known as a hub of Greek life, Astoria is now home to immigrants from around the world.
The challenge for designers is to capitalize on an isolated but historic Italianate Villa, restoring and preserving the building while also reconnecting and restoring it as an important cultural site within its neighborhood. Unfortunately, this opportunity could be lost, as the fate of the mansion hangs in the balance after the death of its long-time owner earlier this year. Now, contenders such as the Greater Astoria Historical Society as well as the city government are looking into acquiring the property, but due to long standing financial hardships many are having a hard time coming up with the $2.5 million dollar asking price. While the economic crisis took its toll, development is still booming in Astoria. Hopefully, these high times for the neighborhood can ensure that the Steinway Mansion is preserved as an important link to the neighborhood’s past, while utilizing it more effectively in the future.
Got a great idea for how to re-use the old Steinway Mansion? Click here to register for the By the City / For the City design competition today! Entries are due by midnight (EST) on Sunday, July 31st, 2011. We can’t wait to see what you come up with!