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#7: Ten percent of all city space shall be open land where you can "touch the dirt"
September 26, 2007 7:26 PM   Subscribe

"First we kill the architects..." Photographer Danny Lyon [1, 2, 3, 4] offers ten suggestions for New York City. Suggestion #6: "Leave the World Trade Center excavation exactly as it is and use the space as a freshwater pond planted with pink, white, and yellow lilies..." His essay is only one of many from names you'll recognize in a book called Block by Block: Jane Jacobs and the Future of New York. An associated exhibition opened yesterday [museum, NYT review]. Is New York City moving in the right direction? Is your city? [via]

Footnotes:
* It might also be interesting to see what others think about the direction of NYC. (Though only eleven people had expressed their opinion as of this posting.)
* Background on Lyon's suggestion #7: he titled a collection of Polaroids of his children I Like to Eat Right on the Dirt.
posted by salvia (19 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Is New York City moving in the right direction?

That depends on whether you believe in global warming. As a supporter of Al Gore, and believer in global warming, I'm going to have to say "Yes".
posted by gandledorf at 7:35 PM on September 26, 2007


The article has some talk of use of open space in NYC, made by clearing banks (which I don't especially oppose). But didn't I read that Detroit, MI has lots of open space already in areas suffering (benefiting?) from decades of non-inhabitance? Similar climates, seems like a pilot project in Detroit would be interesting.
posted by telstar at 8:33 PM on September 26, 2007


I propose Gene Kaufman as the architect most in need of life redeployment. The site is flash-ridden, go to 'commercial', and click the tiny images for his vision of a brick-shtick hell's kitchen

And it's all real--these things are rising like weeds all through the midtown west side. It's like a one-man urban blight.

Or google his name (partner- Chang) for fun stories of ... well, you don't make an omelet without carpeting the kitchen with lots of smashed eggs.
posted by hexatron at 9:07 PM on September 26, 2007


telstar: Will the Last Perosn to Leave Detroit Please Turn Out the Lights?

If they flood the "Bathtub", they'll have to waterproof the PATH trains. Just sayin'.

Is New York City moving in the right direction?

Up? Up is good.
posted by dhartung at 9:39 PM on September 26, 2007


bring the predators back to port authority, that's all i ask for. white slavery has got a bad rap...
posted by geos at 9:41 PM on September 26, 2007


NYC has enough mosquitoes, thanks.
posted by hermitosis at 9:48 PM on September 26, 2007


Honestly.

Dirt is outside of the city. You can go touch it whenever. Let a city be a city. There aren't so many that you can't get away from them. Let people in cities enjoy them for being cities, and go live somewhere that is not.
posted by setanor at 11:19 PM on September 26, 2007


The idea of letting the site of the World Trade Center be an open pond... that's far more worthwhile than the turd they're going to build there.
posted by From Bklyn at 12:09 AM on September 27, 2007


NYC, post-911, is doomed. It's increasingly a combination of the cost-of-living inflation of San Francisco, the kitsch of Orlando, and the institutional inertia of Philadelphia. Almost everything else about it remains, briefly, heartbreakingly beautiful. But it's doomed. I'm sad.
posted by gum at 1:02 AM on September 27, 2007


The idea of letting the site of the World Trade Center be an open pond...

Is great but people who want to make billions of dollars on the site won't let it happen.

I would fix transport, starting with Manhattan:
  • High-speed trains that skip the immediate outlying areas and take people directly from Manhattan to widely spaced stops that start, say, somewhere past the 287. Base the monthly fare on your income: people riding the wormhole in to fancy jobs in the city would subsidize the cleaners in their office buildings.
  • No private cars in Manhattan unless you live in Manhattan, and then you've got to be driving something small, light, quiet, clean, incapable of going faster than 30 or 40 mph, and not costing more than half of the average schoolteacher's annual income. (Discourage conspicuous consumption or raise teacher pay.) If you own a gas-burner for long distances, you have to keep it in a garage somewhere else and get to it in your dinky city car.
  • Reserve certain routes for cars just cutting across Manhattan to other places. Use congestion charges to discourage unnecessary transits and rake in lots of dough for Manhattanite street parties.
  • With fewer and smaller cars on the streets, you can put a bicycle path on every street or turn certain entire streets into bike highways. Cops on bikes will insert sticks into the spokes of bicyclists who do not obey traffic rules or use handlebar bells appropriately.
Then start working on the other boroughs.
posted by pracowity at 1:05 AM on September 27, 2007


pracowity: I'm with you up to the point where you give folks living in Manhattan toy cars. This is not reasonable. Either they can bring their ordinary car in, or they need no car in town, at all. Personally, I favor the latter solution. Make some provision to make sure folks can move goods around town as needed, without outrageous expense.

It's been my opinion for decades that cars have no business in the Manhattan environment. Build some decent, secure parking structures well out of town, and run good trains in to town. And (If they haven't done it yet) clean up the mess at Jamaica station, and put in some heaters for the switches. No more absurd delays on the LIRR!
posted by Goofyy at 6:21 AM on September 27, 2007


Why a "small car" and not something like a segway?
posted by delmoi at 6:57 AM on September 27, 2007


High-speed trains that skip the immediate outlying areas and take people directly from Manhattan to widely spaced stops that start, say, somewhere past the 287.

Metro North isn't high speed, but it seems to work well enough. The express line goes all the way to Stamford before stopping. Or you can take Acela, which is a bit of an indulgence.
posted by smackfu at 7:15 AM on September 27, 2007


Why a "small car" and not something like a segway?

Sometimes it rains. Sometimes it snows. Sometimes you need to take grandma downtown in the middle of the night in hard-driving sleet. Sometimes, depending on where and when you are traveling, you have good reason to feel insecure standing out in the open air rather than inside an enclosed car. Maybe clean taxis would be enough, but I was thinking that little private cars might be OK if they were small and clean and quiet and didn't go unnecessarily fast for city purposes.

But you could collect annual fees from vehicle-owning locals and give the fees directly to non-vehicle-owning residents, so drivers of anything (including Segways) would have to pay (based on speed and weight) for the privilege of annoying and endangering their pedestrian neighbors.
posted by pracowity at 7:36 AM on September 27, 2007


Y'all don't have City Car Share in NY, huh? (It's a rent-a-car on short notice, pay by the mile, pick up and drop off locations everywhere throughout the city.) It's made a huge difference in San Francisco and the number of my friends that have given up owning a car. Perfect for driving grandma when it's sleeting.
posted by salvia at 7:53 AM on September 27, 2007


NYC, post-911, is doomed. It's increasingly a combination of the cost-of-living inflation of San Francisco, the kitsch of Orlando, and the institutional inertia of Philadelphia. Almost everything else about it remains, briefly, heartbreakingly beautiful. But it's doomed. I'm sad.

In the same state as such moribund cities as Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse, New York continues to prosper. NYC is subject to the same state government as Upstate New York -- same tax burden, same laws, same constraints -- with the added burden of exorbitant real estate prices. (In Buffalo, you can buy a good-sized, completely restored, architecturally significant single-family house in a safe, vibrant, gentrified urban neighborhood for around $200,000. A little bit more money will land you a 3000ft2 McMansion in an affluent suburb like Amherst or Williamsville.)

So, why does NYC prosper while Buffalo, Rochester, Binghampton and the like have languished even during the boom years of the mid-to-late 1990s? NYC has something all those other cities don't have. Critical mass.
posted by elmwood at 8:37 AM on September 27, 2007


I've always said that the solution to Manhattan is to ban on-street parking for privately owned cars and maybe tweak the way taxis are allocated. Turn the existing parking spaces into bike lanes and give traffic signals a Bike-go, car-go staggered system or even MA-style pedestrian shuffle timing.

Trucks could park and deliver more easily, zipcar-type systems could have a parking pass, and privately owned cars would have to spring for a garage. Ideally, this would be combined with good long-term parking lots in the outer boroughs or Jersey and far better infrastructure for getting through Manhattan as described upthread.
posted by Skorgu at 1:14 PM on September 27, 2007


So, Danny has been asked to help design a city... hey, guess what, now you're the architect, and good luck to you, it's not exactly as easy as you try to make it sound with your dirt and lillies. Kings, emperors, well there haven't been very many who really have designed a city, in fact for most of history it was a military question - how about that Baron Haussmann, anyway? There are a few of us, to tell the truth there is the majority of us architects who probably actually care about the quality of the environment we all live in. Anybody can name a few property developers or ego-blowouts who pose under the title, but we know who they are.
Philip Johnson said somewere in an interview that everybody should have to design their own house and have to live in it, that way they would understand just what designing the built environment entails. It is usually a tedious, long, difficult and thankless job, and the typical user just isn't tuned into the small moments where space works right, on a street corner, in a subway, in a workplace, in a low-income flat...
So can we kill somebody else with this gratuitously violent verbiage for a change, maybe inflammatory journalists or politicians or something?
posted by biboch at 2:47 PM on September 27, 2007


So can we kill somebody else with this gratuitously violent verbiage for a change, maybe inflammatory journalists or politicians or something? posted by biboch

Oh, uh. Someone forgot to check if the Alvin Draft was on the chair before sitting down. Does Danny Lyon have to come over remove the lead from your paw so you can become friends?

The article was looking for puppy shapes inside clouds. It was supposed to be charming and cute.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 3:28 PM on September 27, 2007


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