Author Archives: Shannon Ayala

About Shannon Ayala

Shannon is an avid reporter of the city's environmental politics. He loves seeing indie movies. And he lives by the Bronx River in lower Westchester County.

Across from Edgar Allen Poe’s cottage, talent flourishes in a high-end community center

A res­i­dent of the mid­sec­tion of the Bronx walks into the one-room vis­i­tors cen­ter at Poe Park, looks around at the near-emp­ty space and says, Can I offer my tal­ent here?

This is how it hap­pens at the Poe Park Vis­i­tors Cen­ter, a nar­row out­fit with a mod­ern design fac­ing the poet’s his­toric, goth­ic cot­tage in his name­sake park. Since this qui­et facil­i­ty opened in May 2012, a flur­ry of neigh­bors have offered up their skills for free.


Clas­si­cal music per­for­mances, comic book art exhibits, yoga class­es, non­fic­tion sto­ry-telling work­shops, and oth­er work has arisen out of the­se sim­ple walk-ins.

I think the ambi­ence here kind of brings that out more,” said Lucy Apon­te, who over­sees the cen­ter. “Peo­ple see it’s a cre­ative place, you know? It seems to be draw­ing a lot of cre­ative peo­ple. That’s what’s hap­pen­ing.”

Activ­i­ty at the cen­ter had a slow start, with the space not open­ing until about two years after con­struc­tion fin­ished, and with a short­age of fund­ing to staff it full-time before the Parks Depart­ment took it over. While com­mu­ni­ty groups strug­gled to fig­ure out how to breathe life into it, life hap­pened.

But that phe­nom­e­non was seen as a spring­board. One of the center’s design­ers has jumped back in this sum­mer with a low-tech wall instal­la­tion designed to esca­late this trend.

Image courtesy of VisionArc

Image cour­tesy of Vision­Arc

We’re try­ing to encour­age even more activ­i­ty,” said Lan­don Brown, Direc­tor of Vision Arc, a branch of Toshiko Mori Archi­tect, which the Mayor’s Office com­mis­sioned to design the cen­ter.

Vision Arc’s bureau­crat­ic sound­ing “Com­mu­ni­ty Map­ping Ini­tia­tive” is akin to a bul­let­in board. Instead of pins, though, it allows vis­i­tors to write their own skills, sug­ges­tions or neigh­bor­hood needs on paper cir­cles and stick the writ­ing on the wall.

Vis­i­tors added to the wall, “I want to learn more Eng­lish and prac­tice my pro­nun­ci­a­tion,” “want to give a pas­ta class,” sug­ges­tions for Citibike in the Bronx — and the ideas kept com­ing.

Brown says the wall is not to just bring in ideas for the space but ideas for the com­mu­ni­ty at large.

A big shift that’s hap­pen­ing right now in the design com­mu­ni­ty and cer­tain­ly beyond is ask­ing what is the role of design in address­ing sys­temic chal­lenges.”

Here are some exam­ples of the turnout, pro­vid­ed by Lan­don Brown.

We Need More… 

(Social Ser­vices) “A fathers sup­port pro­gram for fathers that are bring­ing up their kids alone”

I Reg­u­lar­ly Use 

(Food & Nutri­tion) “Green Mar­ket at the New York Botan­i­cal Gar­den”

I want to Learn…

(Skills Train­ing) “To prac­tice my pro­nun­ci­a­tion”

(Health & Well­ness)

CPR Train­ing & First Aid,” “Deep Breath­ing, Tai Chi, Yoga”

I Have Skills In…

(Skills Train­ing) “Math tutor­ing”

I Can Provide…

(Arts & Cul­ture) “…teach­ing Man­ga car­toon work­shops to intro­duce Japan­ese youth cul­ture,” “Craft restora­tion of fur­ni­ture…”

The Com­mu­ni­ty Map­ping Ini­tia­tive at Poe Park is part of a wave of com­mu­ni­ty col­lab­o­ra­tive plat­forms, which is part of a broad­er trend called ‘the shar­ing econ­o­my.’ Our​Goods​.org and Trade School, both found­ed in NYC, and Yerdle, found­ed in San Fran­cis­co, are online projects with sim­i­lar goals of open­ing new path­ways from one user to the next, and Change by Us is like a com­mu­ni­ty bul­let­in board for NYC, for cre­at­ing par­tic­i­pa­to­ry projects.

Read more about Poe Park in the New York Times, and about the design via archi­tect Toshiko Mori.





Life cycle of an NYC soot cloud

One of the lesser rec­og­nized envi­ron­men­tal feats of the Bloomberg admin­is­tra­tion will be the phase-out of heav­i­ly pol­lut­ing heat­ing oils.

The black smoke seen pour­ing off build­ings is an old-fash­ioned sight. Only New York City requires a cer­tain sludgy, or unre­fined heat­ing oil. Nine thou­sand buildings–just one per­cent of stock–emit more soot or par­tic­u­late mat­ter than all the exhaust from cars or trucks on the city streets.

So those real­ly dark soot clouds you see pour­ing off build­ings some­times, con­tribute to the over­all par­tic­u­late mat­ter that the city attrib­ut­es to more than 3,000 deaths annu­al­ly. The Mayor’s PlaNYC 2030 air qual­i­ty chap­ter puts the impact at 2,000 hos­pi­tal admis­sions and 6,000 emer­gen­cy depart­ment vis­its for asth­ma.

One year ago this mon­th the NYC Clean Heat pro­gram, an effort with the Envi­ron­men­tal Defense Fund, went into full swing as a new law required build­ings to switch to clean­er burn­ing boil­ers if not to steam or gas. In April, the team announced it reached its goal of reduc­ing half the pol­lu­tion from heat­ing oil by the end of this year.

NYC's Clean Heat program with Environmental Defense Fund is on its way to convert 9,000 buildings to burn cleaner heating oil, or to steam or gas

NYC’s Clean Heat pro­gram with Envi­ron­men­tal Defense Fund is on its way to con­vert 9,000 build­ings to burn clean­er heat­ing oil, or to steam or gas

Man­hat­tan saw 759 con­ver­sions, the most of all bor­oughs, but con­tin­ues to house 3,011 build­ings with tox­ic unre­fined heat­ing oil. The Bronx had the sec­ond most build­ings to con­vert, but switched 421 and still has 1,689 to go. Staten Island only had ten build­ings to con­vert and has one left.

The pro­gram trig­gered protest from anti-frack­ing activists who see the pro­gram as too nat­u­ral-gas friend­ly.

As of Feb­ru­ary, most heat con­ver­sions involved hook­ing up to Con Ed gas lines instead of refined oil. In Feb­ru­ary, 353 con­vert­ed to low sul­fur No. 2 oil; 921 switched to gas; five switched to steam and the remain­ing (at least 350 but could be more) con­vert­ed to a No. 4 (a mix of 2 and 6) accord­ing to EDF.Oil, Gas, Steam

Times Up! takes over Williamsburg lot as first garden

please spec­i­fy cor­rect url

Times Up! took over a vacant lot on South 5th Street in Williams­burg, just across the street from its South 6th Street head­quar­ters and in plain view of the Williams­burg Bridge.

We just walked in,” said Ben­jam­in Shep­ard, an orga­niz­er with the city’s grass­roots envi­ron­men­tal group.

Com­mu­ni­ty gar­dens are a big part of the group’s his­to­ry. At the end of the late ‘90s Giu­liani peri­od, Times Up! took part in orga­niz­ing direct actions to pre­serve hun­dreds of com­mu­ni­ty gar­dens that sud­den­ly went on the mar­ket. At that point, twen­ty-year-old leas­es given to gar­den­ers in the 1970s, when guer­ril­la gar­den­ers took over aban­doned lots, had expired. To save the gar­dens from an admin­is­tra­tion set on turn­ing the spaces over to devel­op­ers, activists, from Times Up! and else­where, used var­i­ous tac­tics includ­ing wear­ing flow­er head dress­es and chain­ing them­selves to gar­dens.

But in its twen­ty-five years of action, Times Up! has nev­er had its own com­mu­ni­ty gar­den.

Times Up! has been about pub­lic space, defend­ing pub­lic space for a long, long time,” said Shep­ard. “And cre­at­ing a gar­den is just anoth­er step in that process.”

Gothamist report­ed that the city plans on leas­ing the lot out for an afford­able hous­ing project in the near future. Hence the name of the gar­den, “Noth­ing Yet Com­mu­ni­ty Gar­den.”

New Yorkers outpace Sandy in tree count

Woman takes tree homeTrees are going up faster than storms are tak­ing them down in New York City.

Dozens of peo­ple lined up in a park­ing lot between some indus­tri­al build­ings and the Gowanus Canal in Brook­lyn on a recent sun­ny Sat­ur­day morn­ing to pick up stick-fig­ure-sized Red­bud trees about four feet tall. More than half of the 100 trees ready to go were picked up with­in the first 45 min­utes of a two-hour stretch, said Sophie Plitt, Forestry Coor­di­na­tor of New York Restora­tion Project.

About once a week in the spring and fall, the NYRP – in con­junc­tion with the city – goes to dif­fer­ent neigh­bor­hoods and gives away trees for free. (See our cov­er­age of this year’s free tree announce­ment for upcom­ing give­away dates and loca­tions.)

Four treesThe last three tree give­aways of 2012 were can­celed after Hur­ri­cane Sandy. The storm knocked down more than 10,000 trees, said Tara Kier­nan, a spokes­wom­an for the Parks Depart­ment. That’s fif­teen times as many tree casu­alties than after 2011’s Hur­ri­cane Irene, which took down about 650 trees.

But since 2007, about 662,000 trees have tak­en root, or an aver­age of more than 100,000 a year. This growth is a result of the “Mil­lion­TreesNYC” pro­gram, a PlaNYC part­ner­ship between the city and NYRP.

All in all, I would not say [Sandy] is a sig­nif­i­cant set-back for Mil­lion­TreesNYC,” said Mike Mitchell, NYRP com­mu­ni­ty ini­tia­tives man­ager.

Tree loss was fac­tored in at the begin­ning,” he not­ed, “whether it be from storms, mechan­i­cal dam­age, soils salt­ed from peo­ple clear­ing snow from their side­walk, peo­ple pour­ing con­crete or lay­ing bricks around the base of a tree, etc.”

The new replace the casu­alties. Old­er trees are more vul­ner­a­ble to storms because they have more leafs, said Mitchell. “Because young trees have less canopy,” he added, “their branch­es are more sup­ple, and they have sig­nif­i­cant­ly less leaf sur­face area to be blown like a sail.”

How­ev­er, accord­ing to Kier­nan, the lit­tle guys have more than just youth going for them. “Thanks to new plant­i­ng meth­ods we’ve imple­ment­ed and care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion given to species selec­tion and plant­i­ng loca­tions,” she said, “our new­ly plant­ed trees have been less sus­cep­ti­ble to storm dam­age.”

In 2011, the New York Times citied stud­ies that said 7 to 11 per­cent of new­ly plant­ed trees die with­in two years. How­ev­er, almost all the trees felled by storms were lat­er report­ed by the New York Observer to be old trees that pre­date the Mil­lion­TreesNYC pro­gram.

Pri­or to Mil­lion­TreesNYC, the city plant­ed 10,000 trees every year–about the same num­ber knocked by Sandy.

The city’s win­ning bat­tle to add to the esti­mat­ed five mil­lion trees across the bor­oughs can be attrib­ut­ed to the thou­sands of New York­ers who line up to pick up the bark and do the plant­i­ng inde­pen­dent­ly at home. Only New York City res­i­dents are allowed to take the trees and the rules lim­it each house­hold to a tree, Plitt said.

The bor­oughs with the high­est turnouts at tree give­aways are Queens, Brook­lyn and Staten Island, said Mitchell. “A lot of the time this has to do with the fact there are few­er house­holds with green space in the areas we do tree give­aways in the Bronx and Man­hat­tan,” he not­ed.

The focus of Mil­lion­TreesNYC, which start­ed with a tree plant­ed on Teller Avenue in the Bronx,  has been in neigh­bor­hoods with a scarci­ty of trees. The Parks Depart­ment focus­es on plant­i­ng trees in pub­lic spaces such as side­walks and parks.

From the NYRP site in Gowanus, Forestry Coor­di­na­tor Sophie Plitt speaks about East­ern Red­buds and the expe­ri­ence of giv­ing trees:

please spec­i­fy cor­rect url

Pho­tos and video: Shan­non Ayala

Rockaway surfers launch solar renaissance 2.0

view from yoga studio window

View from Yoga on the Rocks, neigh­bor­ing a surf shop on Beach 92nd Street.

Some surfers are car­ry­ing more than their boards to the Rock­aways – they’re bring­ing solar pow­er to help strength­en the storm-bat­tered penin­su­la again­st the sea.

The first line of defense for the city is Rock­away Beach,” said Wal­ter Mey­er of Pow­er Rock­aways Resilience, a non­prof­it group that formed after Sandy to install solar pan­els for free in the Queens com­mu­ni­ty.

Dave Gibbs leads solar edu workshop

David Gibbs talks about solar at a work­shop host­ed by the Rock­aways Water­front Alliance

The group, start­ed by surfers with strong con­nec­tions to the Rock­aways, led a solar edu­ca­tion work­shop host­ed by the Rock­away Water­front Alliance in Feb­ru­ary. As the Rock­aways rebuild, solar ener­gy advo­cates are float­ing a vision of using the sun to pow­er what the storm near­ly destroyed.

One of the dozens of res­i­dents in atten­dance asked where in a house or build­ing would a solar bat­tery go. When pre­sen­ter David Gibbs said the bat­tery usu­al­ly goes in the base­ment, the crowd gasped, remem­ber­ing the flood­ing Sandy caused in late Octo­ber. But he added it could just as eas­i­ly go in the attic or else­where.

Dave Gibbs at workshopYou have to rethink how you live. You have to rethink how you build,” Gibbs said.

Long­time Rock­away res­i­dents Jer­ry and Mau­reen Wal­sh left the meet­ing enthu­si­as­tic about intro­duc­ing solar pow­er to their seaside com­mu­ni­ty. “Rock­away could be a pilot (pro­gram),” Jer­ry Wal­sh said.

The Resilience start­ed as a fundrais­ing cam­paign to provide solar ener­gy to relief efforts after the storm. Sev­er­al groups offered solar exper­tise dur­ing the cri­sis, set­ting up tem­po­rary pan­els on trail­ers to provide light­ing and charge small appli­ances. But it was surfers, with a unique bond to the penin­su­la, who set out to estab­lish a per­ma­nent mis­sion there.

In the days after the storm, the Rock­away Surf Club con­vert­ed from a cul­tur­al hub into a relief cen­ter. Mey­er and Jen­nifer Bol­stad – his wife and col­league in land­scape archi­tec­ture – came from Brook­lyn to help.

It was more of a per­son­al thing,” said Mey­er, who lived in the Rock­aways on and off for the past decade and vis­it­ed near­ly every week­end.

Mey­er asked if Gibbs could bring solar sta­tions to the penin­su­la. Gibbs soon arrived with solar bat­ter­ies and pan­els that were just “lying around,” and two solar lanterns orig­i­nal­ly ear­marked for Africa. Peo­ple lined up to charge phones at solar sta­tions on Beach 90th Street.

The Pow­er Rock­aways Resilience, which bills itself as “plan­ners and engi­neers who surf Rock­away Reach,” raised $30,000 on Indiegogo​.com. A per­ma­nent solar pan­el was attached atop the surf club with­in a mon­th after Sandy hit. Group mem­bers con­nect­ed the pan­el to the cir­cuit box for just enough pow­er for some lights and some out­lets. “It oper­at­ed as if the build­ing was up and run­ning,” Jen­nifer Bol­stad said. “It was pret­ty much their only life­line.”

About a dozen relief sites in the area used solar pow­er, and all the solar orga­ni­za­tions unit­ed as Solar Sandy. By March, solar use was down 80 per­cent com­pared to the peak need peri­od in the days after the storm, Mey­er said.

Lena Roca and Gibbs at empty Yoga on the Rocks

Lena Roca and Gibbs at emp­ty Yoga on the Rocks

Lena Roca, who runs Yoga on the Rocks, is among the first ben­e­fi­cia­ries of the cam­paign to bring solar pow­er to the Rock­aways. She opened her Beach 92nd Street stu­dio two weeks before the storm rav­aged her busi­ness, sweep­ing her back­up gas gen­er­a­tor out to sea. “The first thing I thought to do was to go to the surf club because that’s like a com­mu­ni­ty orga­ni­za­tion already,” said Roca, a surfer.

Even with­out elec­tric­i­ty, she reopened her stu­dio as a relax­ation cen­ter where peo­ple could get mas­sages and drink tea. With­in two weeks, Pow­er Rock­aways Resilience set up the yoga stu­dio with solar pan­els on trucks out­side. The pan­els have been returned to lenders since.

But before the stu­dio goes back on the grid, solar pow­er will light the stu­dio. Roca will share a one-kilo­watt off-grid pho­to­voltaic solar pan­el sys­tem, includ­ing a stor­age bat­tery with a neigh­bor­ing surf shop. It will charge lights and heat, enough for yoga.

Gibbs carries box of off-grid solar equipment to bring to Roca's studio

Gibbs car­ries box of off-grid solar equip­ment to bring to Roca’s stu­dio

Such a set-up costs about $3,500, half the price of a typ­i­cal on-grid 1kw sys­tem. Over time, the sys­tem at Yoga on the Rocks might expand into a more elab­o­rate 4kw bimodal sys­tem. Gibbs calls bimodal the “holy grail” because it could work alongside grid-pow­er and keep run­ning when a storm dis­rupts the grid. Some Rock­away res­i­dents who already had solar installed before Sandy lost pow­er any­way because they were on grid-tied sys­tems with­out back­up.

The Resilience has a unique assort­ment of places lined up for instal­la­tions in the com­ing weeks and months. The group is putting solar up on a tem­po­rary geo­des­ic dome at PS1 MOMA; an old fire­house used as a com­mu­ni­ty cen­ter by the Rock­away Water­front Alliance; and the Veg­gie Island restau­rant where part of Occu­py Sandy’s oper­a­tions took place.

The only con­di­tion for donat­ed solar is that pan­els have to stay in the Rock­aways, said Mey­er. “The hier­ar­chy start­ed with relief places,” he said. “The next hier­ar­chy was busi­ness­es and com­mu­ni­ty cen­ters.”

Look­ing down the road, the vision includes clus­ters expand­ing solar pow­er to low-income hous­ing, and then every­one else, he said.

After drop­ping off the solar equip­ment at Yoga on the Rocks, Gibbs said he was think­ing of mov­ing back to the Rock­aways. Since he does solar projects around the world, it’s help­ful to live near Kennedy Air­port. The oth­er rea­son is for surf­ing. He under­stands why oth­ers want to stay in the neigh­bor­hood.

Down there they’ve nev­er had a major storm like that,” he said. “Now, you’ve got to learn your lessons from it.”

Pho­tos: Shan­non Ayala

Index thumb­nail pho­to: cour­tesy Pow­er Rock­aways Resilience

Why are you going to #ForwardOnClimate?

We were curi­ous to hear why New York­ers were plan­ning to head to the #For­war­dOn­Cli­mate Ral­ly in D.C. this week­end. Here’s what we found out:

The activists in this video also speak of the divest­ment move­ment hap­pen­ing at uni­ver­si­ties city­wide and across the coun­try. The move­ment, made up of stu­dents and fac­ul­ty alike, aims to move uni­ver­si­ties to divest school endow­ments from the fos­sil fuel indus­try.

Koch’s messengers may be today’s food delivery cyclists

Riding wrong way 1

Two cyclists ride oppo­site direc­tions on a one way avenue south of Times Square.

In 1987 May­or Ed Koch tried to ban cyclists from a swath of Mid­town Man­hat­tan. At that time it was bike mes­sen­gers who got the rap in the so-called bike wars. Today, it’s the food deliv­ery cyclists.

The city is not try­ing to ban them from rid­ing any­where. But one fre­quent com­plaint about bike lanes stems from a fear of bicy­clists rid­ing the wrong way and blind­sid­ing a pedes­tri­an.

One rea­son the fear often focus­es on food cyclists is that deliv­ery­men “are a huge pro­por­tion of cyclists on the road,” accord­ing to Lisa Slad­kus of Upper West Side Streets Renais­sance Cam­paign.

Envi­ron­men­tal econ­o­mist and cycling advo­cate Charles Komanoff cre­at­ed a study of bike trends using data from the Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion and else­where. It found that between 1985 and 2011, the num­ber of bike mes­sen­gers in the city dropped from 5000 to 1000, where­as food deliv­ery cyclists rose from 500 to 5000.

That is among 179,000 dai­ly cyclists in New York City in 2011, the study found. The per­cent­age is small, but where­as non­com­mer­cial cyclists take three dai­ly trips, the aver­age food deliv­ery cyclist makes thir­teen deliv­er­ies and twen­ty-two trips dai­ly, the study showed.

One rea­son for the uneasy pas­sage of the Colum­bus Avenue bike lane on Feb 6, was that pro­po­nents said pro­tect­ed bike lanes (with bar­ri­ers) reduce cyclist-pedes­tri­an col­li­sions. A Hunter Col­lege study in 2011 found that approx­i­mate­ly a thou­sand hos­pi­tal patients a year are involved in cycling-pedes­tri­an col­li­sions.

This ten­sion comes at a time when the Bloomberg admin­is­tra­tion is count­ing down its final days, and, as the New York Times points out (2.13.13), none of Bloomberg’s poten­tial replace­ments seem as bike-friend­ly as the may­or.

The city has tak­en action specif­i­cal­ly on food deliv­ery cyclists. Though cycling laws have exist­ed for decades, the DOT launched safe­ty cam­paigns for food deliv­ery cyclists last year. Last sum­mer it launched a six-per­son “com­mer­cial cyclist out­reach and enforce­ment unit.” And this year the it will start enforc­ing laws that involve wear­ing reflec­tive vests, ID num­bers on the chest, and of course, rid­ing the right way, off the side­walks, and stop­ping at red lights.

But the New York of May­or Bloomberg and DOT Com­mis­sion­er Sadik-Kahn does not appear like­ly to ever ban cycling any­where. In fact, in writ­ing, part of the Mayor’s PlaNYC 2030 is to “make bicy­cling safer and more con­ve­nient” as part of its “sus­tain­able trans­porta­tion” list.

Koch’s plan to ban cycling on Fifth, Madis­on and Park nev­er mate­ri­al­ized. Mes­sen­gers and sup­port­ers dai­ly protest­ed by rid­ing in Mid­town before it could go through, and the state Supre­me Court killed the plan for what Komanoff, in a his­tor­i­cal essay called a “tech­ni­cal­i­ty”: the city hadn’t pub­lished offi­cial notice on time. The city didn’t both­er try­ing again.

But times have not changed as much as it may seem. In order for the city to expand its bike infra­struc­ture, com­mu­ni­ty boards have to accept pro­pos­als by DOT, which isn’t grant­ed. Food deliv­ery cyclists are one rea­son.

In win­ning over sup­port, the mes­sen­gers may have had an advan­tage that food deliv­ery cyclists don’t. Komanoff said the mes­sen­gers had a way of win­ning over sup­port because of a “cool fac­tor.”

In some way that cool fac­tor kind of coex­ist­ed in the resis­tance and para­noia that was stirred up by the media and was exac­er­bat­ed by the fact that the mes­sen­gers would go fast and would go aggres­sive­ly.”

The mes­sen­gers, many of whom were minori­ties just as the food-deliv­ery cyclists are, were seen as sub-cul­tur­al young peo­ple with a kind of bravado, he said. “They had a whole pride in their bike and what they did. And I think that to some extent that was an impor­tant aspect of the way New York­ers react­ed [to them] in the ‘80s,” he said.

With­out that kind of cul­tur­al aes­thet­ic pro­tec­tion, food deliv­ery cyclists are more vul­ner­a­ble to crit­i­cism, said Komanoff. From the ‘80s into the ‘90s, he said, there were bike mes­sen­ger zines. “It is real­ly hard to imag­ine there ever being a zine about food deliv­ery cycling,” he said. “And I think that that lack of a pos­i­tive cul­ture makes it eas­ier for the aver­age New York­er to write the­se guys off as dif­fer­ent, as alien, as the ‘oth­er.’” Hol­ly­wood con­firms Komanoff’s point: both Kev­in Bacon and Joseph Gor­don-Levitt have starred in films as bike mes­sen­gers.

While there is no hard data dis­tin­guish­ing food deliv­ery cyclists in safe­ty sta­tis­tics, a sin­gle count was done for this piece. On a one-way avenue with a pro­tect­ed bike lane, in a two-block sec­tion of Man­hat­tan, forty-three cyclists were count­ed in thir­ty min­utes around 2 p.m. Food deliv­ery cyclists were iden­ti­fied as those car­ry­ing food deliv­ery bags or wear­ing reflec­tive vests and ID num­bers. Five of 25 food deliv­ery-iden­ti­fied cyclists rode the wrong way. Three of 18 non-food-deliv­ery-iden­ti­fied cyclists rode the wrong way. Some of those may have been mes­sen­gers.

(Cor­rec­tion added: num­ber of mes­sen­gers reduced to 1000, not 100. Thanks to C. Komanoff for catch­ing the typo.)

Healthy behavior dropped after Hurricane Sandy, poll says

An Occupy-Sandy relief table.

An Occu­py Sandy relief table. 

Healthy behav­ior declined in areas most impact­ed by Hur­ri­cane Sandy, accord­ing to a Gallup poll.

Healthy behav­ior in terms of food and exer­cise is known to drop in win­ter months, but the poll found the tri-state area lag­ging behind the nation­al aver­age. With­in the zip-codes most affect­ed by Sandy, healthy eat­ing espe­cial­ly dropped.

In all 47 states out­side of New York, New Jer­sey, and Con­necti­cut, the poll report­ed six per­cent less exer­cise, but 13 per­cent less in the tri-state area. The most affect­ed zip codes in all three states were actu­al­ly high­er on the chart, at a 12 per­cent decline.

But food is where the most dev­as­tat­ed areas–marked by zip codes receiv­ing the most aid from FEMA–stood out among neigh­bor­ing com­mu­ni­ties. The poll said healthy eat­ing declined by only one per­cent in the 47 oth­er states, and by three per­cent in the tri-state area. In the most affect­ed zip codes, healthy eat­ing report­ed­ly declined by sev­en per­cent.

The num­bers, released in a Feb­ru­ary 8 report by Gallup, were tak­en from sur­veys six weeks pri­or and six weeks after the storm, end­ing on Decem­ber 15.

The report spec­u­lat­ed that though prac­ti­cal rea­sons must have con­tribut­ed to it, stress may have also been a fac­tor, if com­pared to typ­i­cal behav­ior after stress­ful events. Smok­ing, cit­ed as an indi­ca­tor of stress, rose from 14 to 17 per­cent in the most impact­ed zip codes.

A 2006 Amer­i­can Psy­cho­log­i­cal Asso­ci­a­tion study cit­ed in the report stat­ed that “Amer­i­cans engage in unhealthy behav­ior such as com­fort eat­ing, poor diet choic­es, smok­ing and inac­tiv­i­ty to help deal with stress.”

The Gallup report also ref­er­enced a dif­fer­ent study that found that exer­cise relieves stress, and sug­gest­ed that what­ev­er peo­ple could do to main­tain a healthy lifestyle is worth­while, even in the­se tough times.

(Image: Michael Flesh­man, Flickr)

Times Square Valentines heart will be made of Sandy-salvaged materials


A giant, glow­ing, red heart — with room inside for curi­ous vis­i­tors and roman­tic cou­ples — will be installed in Times Square for Valentine’s Day. The “Heart­walk,” designed by Brook­lyn-based Situ Stu­dio, is made of mate­ri­als sal­vaged from Hur­ri­cane Sandy, includ­ing wood from the destroyed board­walks of Long Beach, NY, and Sea Girt and Atlantic City, NJ.

In addi­tion to a light­ing con­sul­tant, Situ is work­ing with LED lights, stain­less steel, and a process of remov­ing a thin lay­er of the wood to reveal inte­ri­or tex­ture and hues of red, orange and brown.

The annu­al Times Square Alliance’s Time Square Arts com­pe­ti­tion worked with Design Trust for Pub­lic Space this year to enlist emerg­ing archi­tec­ture and design firms. Eight firms sub­mit­ted ideas for the Valentine’s project.

Heartwalk areal

The Heart­walk will be a reflec­tion of the things that bind the city togeth­er, Bradley Samuel, Situ Stu­dio part­ner said.

This heart is a frame for lovers and a great civic ges­ture com­mem­o­rat­ing the out­pour­ing of sup­port and help in the wake of Sandy,” said Bar­ry Bergdoll, The Philip John­son Chief Cura­tor of Archi­tec­ture and Design, The Muse­um of Mod­ern Art, and jury mem­ber.

Heart­walk is a heart­warm­ing stage on which to pause for a moment in the heart of the world’s busiest intersection—a swell of emo­tions,” Bergdoll added, “that can dia­logue with the TKTS pavil­ion and the great cacoph­o­ny of Times Square.”

 Images: Situ Stu­dio