Urban Greening Ideas Are Infectious, Union Square Park Case In Point

The image to the left is surely evocative for different people in different ways. I cannot see it without flashbacks to what that same spot looked and smelled and sounded like in 1987. It was a peculiar moment in time; I’ll leave it at that. This rendering reaches me just after seeing images of Penn Station’s recent renovation, which itself got me thinking about unique solutions to different kinds of urban challenges. In that case the interior was the thing. For cities where there is too much built space and traffic, greening of arteries is the thing. Also coincidental was last week’s news about the plan for the neighborhood where our sons attended school during the 2003-2004 academic year, which reaffirms my sense that good ideas are infectious.

Those news from New York and from Paris transported me to a very different urban space where we lived and worked for seven years. The image above and the title screen to the right both serve well to evoke an idea that was generated in one of India’s best preserved colonial harbor neighborhoods. Just prior to opening this property in that neighborhood we hosted four young creative professionals from Europe and the USA, two authors and two architects. One of the architects had recently completed work on our then-favorite model of urban re-utilization.
I stood with him on a rooftop overlooking the spice-trading on the street where our hotel was under construction. We had a breezy conversation about how this space might be made more accessible, and I commented on this neighborhood needing an urban design that, like the repurposing of two crumbling spice warehouses into our hotel would be respectful of history while not a slave to it. And the next day he disappeared, as guests do, but the idea is still out there, gestating, and in my hazy memory looks something like this image below.

“Envisioning Union Square’s Vibrant North Plaza” – Watercolor by Guido Hartray

Not the specifics, of course. But this dream-like watercolor rendering of Union Square Park’s future layout is a perfect reminder of that rooftop conversation about how Mattacherry might one day be a more effective version of its already awesome self. Carolyn McShea has posted this research note about the Union Square initiative on the website of Marvel Architects:

A Guiding Vision for Union Square and 14th Street

Union Square is famous for its rich activist history, successful Business Improvement District (BID) and 24/7 residential-commercial community that is also home to some of the city’s iconic buildings that have reached National Historic Landmark status. 14th Street is considered as a commercial corridor for New Yorkers and key cross-town thoroughfare. Continue reading

New York City Food Heritage


In a photo from 1945, Broadway and 42nd Street in Manhattan in front of the Horn & Hardart Automat. Credit Andreas Feininger/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

This Travel section interview–Best Eating in New York? A Food Historian Has Some Advice By JOHN L. DORMAN–in the New York Times catches our attention:

9780199397020 When the food writer Andrew F. Smith had an idea for a new book on New York City, he went for an intriguing angle. “We preserve the homes of people who were born here and later became famous, and we preserve all sorts of artwork,” he said, “but people don’t think about preserving a city’s food heritage, which was something that was missing in New York.”

His idea resulted in the book “Savoring Gotham: A Food Lover’s Companion to New York City,” which he edited. The topics range from the culinary history of the Lower East Side to the emergence of Automats, Continue reading

Weed-whacking Goats in New York City

Photo © babygoatsandfriends.com

Goats are fun creatures, providers of milk, cheese, and meat, and also simply petting experiences. Apparently, they can even be rented out as lawn-mowing weed controllers, eating unruly plants where pesticides would otherwise be used. And certain parks in New York City are getting goats on contract to meet that need, as Olga Oksman reports for The Guardian:

Overexcited children and reporters mill around the fence enclosing part of the Prospect Park woodlands. “Daddy, daddy, look!” one eager little boy yells. Everyone is craning their necks, raising their cameras to get a shot. The latest celebrities to grace Brooklyn are a group of eight weed-eating goats, and they are taking up residency through the end of the summer.

Later this week, Prospect Park has arranged a wine and cheese reception so the public can formally meet the goats, which range from Nubian to Angora and Pygmy breeds. Tickets have already sold out.

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The High Line

Notice where the railway used to enter the building

The High Line railway was originally designed to bring shipments straight from the Hudson to manufacturing warehouses in Manhattan. The train cars could run packages from wharves to upper-level floors of these industrial buildings without having to obstruct street traffic or be carried up several stories manually (freight elevators weren’t a common sight in the 1930s, whether for safety, efficiency, or invention reasons I don’t know).

In 1980 the High Line trains stopped running, and construction of the new park design started in 2006 (after seven years of planning). The first section opened to the public in 2009, and the second section in 2011.

I first heard of the High Line Park this summer, while doing some browsing about the city online. I was immediately struck by the ingenuity of converting what had once been industrial space Continue reading