“’Youth,’ according to Oscar Wilde, ‘is wasted on the young.’ While this old adage remains today, it is this panel’s contention that, with proper nurture, youth has the potential to be a powerful force. Youth is, after all, a vast global neighborhood replete with its own government, social networks, and modes of learning. Youth’s problems emerge from the unstoppable shadow of the world it enters. Youth as Untapped Capital is the subject of this panel, where mentors and innovators discuss the incredible capacity of today’s youth as innovators for change.” — from IDEAS CITY, a four day exploration of the future of cities, held in Lower Manhattan from May 1 – 4, 2013, organized by the New Museum.
CITY ATLAS was glad to participate in the IDEAS CITY StreetFest this year with our Share Your City tattoo project. We also took the opportunity to attend several of the conference panels held at Cooper Union’s Great Hall, which we will cover in these pages, beginning today with the IDEAS CITY panel on youth at a time of rapid transformation.
Dennis Scholl of the Knight Foundation moderated the panel, which explored how organizations can access the energy and capabilities of young people in cities everywhere. Four panelists were invited to present their work: Naomi Hirabayashi of DoSomething.org, visual artist Barry McGee, visual artist Carlos Motta, and Ellin O’Leary of Youth Radio.
DoSomething.org is a platform that allows young people to participate in social activism without needing “money, a car, or an adult”. There are pre-defined campaigns with action items that people can participate in, or people can create their own. Naomi talked about the great success of their programs in mobilizing youth to act on diverse issues, from homelessness to texting while driving. She showed how DoSomething.org taps into the unique and advantageous position young people have over an adult authority figure when educating other young people.
Barry McGee’s interests are in “youthful activities and things that are slightly agitating”, mainly in the form of street art. He sees graffiti as a venue for self-expression in public spaces, contrasting it with large print advertisements: “A tag isn’t selling anything but yourself…[just] your beautiful name.” He also talked about how kids in San Francisco are subverting authority by tagging using the free anti-graffiti paint intended for painting over graffiti. McGee showed us how youth are persistent in making their mark “in the landscape of things”.
Carlos Motta’s presentation focused on his documentation of queer youth activism, in particular, activism that lies outside of mainstream politics. The national focus on gay rights mainly involves the institutions of marriage, military, and the prison industrial complex. Motta is interested in radical activism that works outside of this space. In his research, Motta has interviewed Queerocracy, a group that has worked on AIDS funding and criminalization based on HIV status, and Felipe Baeza, an undocumented U.S. resident and queer activist, who focuses on the rights of undocumented residents, especially their right to an education.
Ellin O’Leary spoke about her organization, Youth Radio, which gives low-income youth the resources to produce radio shows, videos, music, and other forms of digital media. This allows young people to share their experiences with a wider audience, via a channel they have complete control over. She also talked about the integration of Youth Radio into the Oakland community. Young participants at the organization helped transform the exterior of the building into a memorial to Oscar Grant. They also helped start Art Murmur, a night street festival centered on the arts. Allowing the youth to start their own initiatives at the organization has helped the program to be accepted by the community.
Dennis Scholl started off the panel discussion by asking how we can get youth ‘onto the board.’ At this statement, a man jumped up from the audience and launched into a spoken word performance about the importance of education and the negative impact that will be caused by budget cuts for many school systems. He also remarked on the fact that many important life lessons are missing from the school curriculum; for example, money and physical appearance aren’t everything. The panelists looked on, surprised and interested. At the conclusion of the performance, Dennis revealed that we had experienced a “Random Act of Culture number 1,245”. The performer was Jamarr Hall, a member of the Philly Youth Poetry Movement, and Dennis had invited him to the panel.
During the subsequent Q&A, the speakers touched on the themes of empowering youth, self-organizing, and the digital revolution. Speakers commented on the importance of giving youth choices and options as a way to empower them. Carlos mentioned youth activists in South Korea, who were able to self-organize and find safe places to meet. The speakers also discussed the digital revolution and the benefits and challenges that come with any change. Social media and SMS gives youth a way to self-organize and communicate quickly but at the same time, there are some groups that are marginalized on these platforms.
The first audience member that spoke gave a critique rather than a question. He challenged the entire premise of the panel, remarking that youth did not want to be on “the board” with the panelists, and they were more interested in making their own board. He told the panel that instead of trying to solve society’s problems, “you need to focus on the obstacles you present…We’re worried about you. We don’t trust you.” He also pointed out that there were very few young people at the panel.
The panelists did not reply.
More questions followed from the audience, from educators and adults who work with young, low-income people, about how to allow kids to be freer and unrestricted and how to get low-income students interested in participating in community service.
But none of the ensuing discussion was as interesting as the challenge from that first audience member. The interaction left me thinking, what was the purpose of a panel about youth put on by adults for adults? Are people co-opting the talents and enthusiasm of young people for their own purposes or empowering them? Teens today face a world undergoing rapid change, and young people’s opinions on critical issues don’t yet match up with the scale of the issues themselves. Every step that helps young people engage more fully cannot be valued highly enough, and maybe they should be making their own board.
The New York Times “Energy for Tomorrow” conference opened with a keynote speech by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who stressed the need for cities to act now to build a more sustainable future. To the audience at the ticketed event and over live stream, he described an urban future where, by 2050, 75 percent of the world’s population will be living in cities. Historically, cities have encouraged freedom and the formation of knowledge, and Bloomberg linked this to the progress on sustainability that cities, as opposed to the federal government, are making. He touted his own personal involvement with the Sierra Club’s campaign to retire one-third of the nation’s 500 coal fired power plants by 2020; so far 144 have been closed. Bloomberg chalked up some of this success to the expansion of natural gas and said he is “in favor of fracking, but not in our watershed… we all have to make decisions–there’s no free lunch.”
Mayor Bloomberg laid out his guidelines for how New York City has moved its sustainability goals forward and how other major cities can achieve their aims:
- Develop a plan with ambitious, achievable, measurable goals such as PlaNYC 2030. He especially emphasized the need for metrics to calculate the impact of sustainability. Scientists and policy makers can argue about the impact of climate change but as long as your metrics are sound no one can argue with your conclusions, he stated.
- City governments need innovation, creativity, support, and strength to push policies through because they are not always popular at first. In other words, it is important to use private sector skills and resources to achieve your goals, too. Bloomberg offered an example of New York’s latest public-private partnership: the Food Waste Challenge, where over 100 restaurants will be diverting their food waste to compost. “The program will help meet the City’s PlaNYC goals to divert 75 percent of all solid waste from landfills by 2030 and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Food waste comprises one-third of the city’s more than 20,000 tons of daily refuse and restaurants account for 70 percent of commercial food waste. Participating restaurants have pledged to reduce 50 percent of the food waste they send to landfills through composting and other waste prevention strategies” according to the press release from the Mayor’s office. Bloomberg also described a new public-private partnership to expand the community garden network by allowing gardening organizations to use nine acres of under-utilized city land.
- “Be a thief.” In other words, steal the best ideas from around the world, such as bike share, and use them to improve your own city.
In regards to Hurricane Sandy, the Mayor urged immediate action and said “climate change may or may not have caused Hurricane Sandy” but there is no question it was intensified by warming waters and higher seas. He stated the necessity of New York City re-engineering its energy infrastructure, and expanding its green infrastructure. More policy recommendations related to Hurricane Sandy will be announced in the forthcoming Mayor’s Report, due at the end of May.
Mayor Bloomberg concluded his remarks by urging cities to be at the forefront of environmental change, and cautioning city leaders not to walk away from an extensive environmental agenda. Sustainable environmental choices are good for the economy, he said, and that is how they should be sold to concerned constituents. He advised leaders to focus on the short-term, and not to worry about the world fifty years from now because we have plenty of reasons to act now to improve the world.
Mayors’ Panel: How do we Reinvent our Cities for the Third Industrial Revolution?
The city of 2025 could be crisis-ridden if the world doesn’t create more sustainable models of urban development. Research says that our cities will continue to expand and increase in population, while their populations will bring rising consumption and emissions. Alongside these huge challenges, there are also opportunities for businesses: electric vehicles, new low-carbon means of cooling, and energy efficient buildings. We ask a group of mayors to outline an urban planning strategy for 2025.
Moderator Bill Keller opened the panel discussion by asking each mayor or former mayor to give a general overview of sustainability initiatives they had pursued in their cities.
Jaime Lerner, the former mayor of Curitiba, Brazil, spoke about developing their Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, and called cars “the cigarette of the future.” Stephanie Miner, the mayor of Syracuse, New York, described the need to integrate sustainability into every decision made by the city agencies and the importance of keeping a “big picture” view.
Enrique Peñalosa, the former mayor of Bogota, Colombia, described Bogota’s BRT system, and their famous bicycle highways: a 60 kilometer long, 15 meter wide network that runs throughout the city exclusively for cyclists. Peñalosa emphasized the equity component of sustainability when it comes to decisions about distributing road space between cars, bikes, pedestrians, and mass transit.
Finally, Greg Stanton, the mayor of Phoenix, Arizona, spoke about initiatives to address the large amount of vacant land in Phoenix; a whopping 43 percent of the land within the city is vacant. One of the largest vacant parcels is being turned into an urban garden with help from the International Refugee Committee. Stanton’s goals for this and other sustainability projects are to be “positive and replicable” and he emphasized the need to “integrate sustainable thinking in our entire culture.”
How do you sustain programs in the face of changing politics, economics, migration, and other urban problems?
Lerner cautioned leaders to “not project tragedy” and to invest one’s energy in changing the current paradigm. He advocated a system of mobility that combines all modes of transport, using smaller cars, and using incentives to encourage bus use.
Miner encouraged starting with small benchmarks to prove that sustainability initiatives can work, and then moving on to a larger, comprehensive plan because other people get too overwhelmed with the changes.
In contrast, Peñalosa advocated for a more comprehensive approach because “in the end people like it even if they don’t at first.” He again emphasized equity concerns and the importance of involving all parts of the city in decision making for each neighborhood. He believed that buses should have priority road space and whatever is left should be divided up for cars, pedestrians, and bicycles. He cited an example of one day a year when Bogota is a car-free city, and everyone still gets to work using public transit. He called public transit riders “heroes.” Finally, he discussed bike lanes and said they “need to be more than a cute architectural feature and should be a right like a sidewalk.”
Greg Stanton questioned the “sustainability of sustainability” on the federal stage, and mentioned its importance on the city level, especially to young people. He said that young people want to move to cities where long-term sustainability is part of the comprehensive plan, and therefore pursuing sustainability initiatives on the local level is good for the economy.
What are the major obstacles to implementing sustainability policies?
“Everyone in the city has to understand the idea or scenario that you are proposing” said Lerner. He equated small projects to “urban acupuncture,” which are small projects that provide a jolt of energy for the whole process of planning. He also said it is the city’s responsibility to be more effective since that is where most of the world’s population resides. He cited three basic things that everyone can do: use less cars, separate our garbage, and live closer to work or bring work closer to us.
Miner said that the biggest obstacle is that all policy decisions are made in a bureaucracy that has designed cities for cars and not for green infrastructure. She described the challenges as “constantly going uphill to fight the battle” to bring sustainability into the governmental thought process. Miner also said she would welcome the state and federal government to partner with Syracuse, but that they cannot wait for them to do so.
Stanton echoed Miner’s attitude towards the federal government when he said “we wrote off the federal government a long time ago.” He believes that cities are on their own and are going to have to lead without state or federal backing. As the mayor of a city in a very conservative state it is even more important to be a leader on sustainability issues since it is not a priority on the state level, Stanton said.
How do you propose funding these sustainability ideas?
The two American mayors, Miner and Stanton, advocated using tax breaks as leverage and public-private partnerships to fund sustainability projects. In Syracuse, tax breaks are only given to developers that use LEED standards. Stanton touted the public-private partnership example of Solar Phoenix 2, the most successful home solar company in the U.S. He also emphasized pursuing projects that ultimately save cities money, such as recycling and bike share programs.
Peñalosa talked about the problems associated with rising land costs that force people into slums or far from the city, which forces them to be dependent on cars for transportation. He advocated for government intervention to buy land because “cities must grow in the right places.” Lerner succinctly stated his funding strategy: “cut one zero off and you have creativity, cut two off and you have sustainability.”
Jeremy Irons discusses his film “Trashed” with New York Times columnist Andrew Revkin
The documentary feature film “Trashed” highlights solutions to the pressing environmental problems facing us all. Academy Award-winning actor Jeremy Irons has teamed up with British filmmaker Candida Brady to record the devastating effect that pollution has had on some of the world’s most beautiful destinations.
Jeremy Irons passionately discussed wanting to use the medium of film to educate and raise awareness about a “curable subject.” He offered several policy recommendations: stop incinerating trash, compost food wastes, and reduce packaging. He encouraged New Yorkers to aim for zero waste—San Francisco recycles 80 percent of their wastes, while New York is around a measly 15 percent. Irons instructed consumers to never use plastic bags (which take around 500 years to decompose), and to remove excessive packaging from items they purchase in the store to send a message to manufacturers to reduce packaging.
Irons also talked about environmental and justice issues related to electronic waste, such as old computers that end up burned in Africa. His solution is for the burden to be on manufacturers to take back old electronics and demolish or reuse them safely. He repeated that industries should have to prove that their products are 100 percent safe rather than consumers demanding this of manufacturers.
He cited environmental and social concerns like beached orca whales whose bodies are completely toxic, children with increased rates of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and allergies, and chemicals being emitted from incinerators of which we don’t know the effects. He connected the dots of excessive consumption and waste to overarching problems with our “throw-away” culture today. Irons decried the “unholy sin” of buying something and then tossing it away, and cautioned that we need to value everything for its quality—from relationships to material objects—and to rethink the attitude towards the way we live.
_On a balmy Friday afternoon, I had the pleasure of hearing two very public minds discuss and debate the state of contemporary America. The participants — Joe Scarborough, the host of Morning Joe on MSNBC, and Jeff Sachs, the outspoken director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute — were affable and smart; one could tell they are close friends. After a brief introduction by each, the conversation was mainly about politics. As a broader solution to our combined climate/energy/resource challenge will be helped or hindered by how our Federal government operates, I listened with keen interest.
Using the example of the US Senate’s recent failure to pass the universal background checks for gun purchasing legislation, despite the fact that over 90% of Americans support it, Sachs and Scarborough examined the extraordinary influence of lobbying and special interest groups in the American political system. Although they hail from opposite sides of the political spectrum, both speakers agreed that the power of these groups is so pervasive that the democratic essence of the American Government has essentially vanished. Throughout the conversation, they advocated for drastic changes from the status-quo, changes that would effect all areas of American life and politics–gun control, health care, fiscal responsibility, media, education, and infrastructure.
Despite the depressing idea that the American Government is too corrupt to function, both men seemed optimistic in the future of the United States. From the conversation as a whole and several interesting follow up questions, I extracted three of the most important themes — ideas that they believe are necessary for the rejuvenation of our country.
1. Decode the incomprehensible
Probably the longest thread in the conversation was about money: taxes, the federal budget, the deficit, the bailout(s), and the 2009 stimulus package. Another long tangent was about America’s healthcare and the passing of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. For both issues, Sachs and Scarborough agreed that the complexity of the budget and of healthcare is so extreme that it is impossible for the layperson to truly understand what is going on or to advocate for him or herself within the system.
The biggest impediment to reform is the fact that most of our problems are made to be so vast and complex as to be incomprehensible to anyone but the experts. Oftentimes, the data itself is made available under a banner of governmental transparency, but that doesn’t mean any of that data is easy for anyone to understand. This does not have to be the case. If these systems are exposed, their machinations made transparent, and the information made readily understandable, the average American would be able to gain a greater understanding of how his government works, would have a voice in how these systems function, and would be able to immediately object if something looks questionable.
The future of America does not lie only in transparency, which in many cases we already have, but in transparency coupled with information education — allowing every citizen the opportunity to understand how his or her government works and giving him the ability to hold it accountable.
2. Embrace Social Media as a mode of Political Empowerment
Although the name of the event was “America’s Future,” most of the discussion was about the state of contemporary America. Fortunately, towards the end, an audience member asked how an average citizen, realizing the corruptive lobbying groups currently embedded in Washington, should go about changing it. Now, with Occupy Wallstreet, the Arab Spring, and Barack Obama’s remarkable grassroots campaign still fresh in our national conscious, I might sound like a broken record on this one. But, as Sachs and Scarborough both attested, social media is the newest and most effective tool of political empowerment.
With the growing realization that a candidates’ platform and speeches are written by national strategists, their elections bought by corporations, and, once they’ve made it to Washington, their votes cast by lobbying groups, it is extremely necessary that a new crop of politicians are brought to the capital. Sachs and Scarborough praised social media as a platform for aspiring and inspired politicians to project their voice to a larger community, to form enthusiastic grassroots campaigns, and to take that momentum all the way to Washington. Only with the influx of these new, community-minded politicians will the entrenched lobbying groups have to retreat.
This point also builds on the above point. New media has the potential to allow for everyone to gain understanding of how our government works and at the same time allow for everyone to have a voice in that process. In the future, everyone will be a politician but no one will need to be political.
3. Use Common Sense to Find Common Ground
The most wonderful part of the conversation was the fact that although these two men stand on very different sides of the political spectrum, Joe Scarborough being a proud conservative and Jeffrey Sachs a vocal liberal, they managed to agree on the fundamentals of all the topics they discussed. Whether it was gun control, the stimulus, or education, they managed to agree on some basic steps that could be taken to fix the problems that plague our country.
I left the talk optimistic that in increasingly polarized America there is something we can all agree on, or at the very least, agree to disagree upon — it just takes a little common sense and the willingness to do the right thing. We can no longer afford division. We can only hope that an increasingly vocal and informed public will begin to hold their government accountable for the change they want to see in the country.
On Saturday, May 4 and Sunday, May 5, thousands of New Yorkers will come together for Jane’s Walk NYC – a weekend series of 100+ FREE guided walks (and bike rides!) throughout New York’s five boroughs. Registration is NOT required. Whether you choose to stroll through neighborhoods you love or discover new neighborhoods you’ve never visited, you’ll enjoy this international program created to commemorate the life and legacy of urbanist Jane Jacobs. Scroll down to view the walk schedule. For more information: http://mas.org/programs/janeswalknyc/
- The deadline to submit a walk is Friday, April 26th at 6:00 PM.
- Walk leader information sessions will be held in the MAS offices on Thursday, April 11 at 6:00 PM and Monday, April 15 at 1:00 PM. To RSVP for a session, email firstname.lastname@example.org with your preferred date.
- You may choose to start your walk at 9:00 AM, 12:00 PM, 3:00 PM, 6:00 PM or 9:00 PM.
- Leaders are strongly encouraged to lead their walks twice over the course of the weekend.
- Your walk must be at least 30 minutes.
- Plan to arrive a few minutes early for your walk at the designed meeting location.
- Meeting places can be located using Google Maps, and the MTA Trip Planner is helpful for transit information.
- All Jane’s Walks NYC will proceed rain or shine.
- Check your walk listings before departing on Saturday and Sunday in case there are any last-minute changes.
- Join multiple walks in one day and throughout the weekend.
- Ask questions and offer insights–Jane’s Walk works best when there is a friendly dialogue throughout. Introduce yourself to other walkers, volunteers and hosts. Be curious! Everyone hosting a Jane’s Walk is a volunteer and passionate about the city we love.
- Follow the action and join the conversation on Twitter using #janeswalknyc. Also, be sure to take pictures and upload them to our Flickr group, and share your photos and thoughts on our Facebook page.
- Wear sensible shoes and dress appropriately for the weather. Jane’s Walks vary–some are just one building’s interior; while some are a solid two hours and 40 blocks long.
- Bring friends and family to enjoy this special weekend!
- Please Note: Walk details are subject to change
When a New York City broker recently sold a condo in the opulent One57 building for $6.5 million to a Chinese woman, he expected her to move in immediately. However, when he asked what she was looking for, she said it was not for her but for her daughter, who would be attending school in the city, either at Columbia or NYU. When he asked how old her daughter was, she replied: “Well, she’s 2.”
While this purchase may seem surprising and exorbitant, it merely reflects a change in purchasing trends for new luxury developments in New York City. The same broker, speaking with a Chinese News Agency, said that more than 25% of his business now comes from that country. Buildings like One57 are attracting rich investors from all over the world, from places like Russia, South Korea, and China, international businessmen who can easily shell out several million dollars for a brand new condo. An illuminating piece from Atlantic Cities explains why this is a negative trend for New York.
When these investors purchase living space in New York, or in comparable North American cities like Vancouver, they are doing so primarily for the value of the investment and only secondarily for habitation. This results in apartments and condos that lay vacant for a large portion of the year. While the few residents that do maintain consistent residency end up with relaxation and quiet, most complain that the experience of living in an empty building is lonely.
This trend is not new and, save for a brief respite during the recession, shows no signs of slowing down. When the New York Times published this article earlier this year, the real estate blog Curbed responded sarcastically because they found the article’s conclusion to be so incredibly obvious. Their headline: “Shocker: Rich People Buy NYC Homes And Don’t Live In Them.”
This is bad news for the activity on city streets. Although a neighborhood might be championed as incredibly dense statistically, if all of its towers are empty, it might not be quite as dense as previously championed. Falling density means decreased street activity, less support for local businesses and restaurants, and a shrinking sense of community. While this trend–a product of relentless capitalism and gentrification–cannot be stopped, hopefully these non-resident owners will soon come to realize the effect of their absence on their neighbors.
[This trend may include exclusive low rise neighborhoods in New York and other cities, like Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, where earlier lively streets provided a model of urbanism for Jane Jacobs, and London’s Belgravia (as noted in the NYT). The BBC has also been following the phenomenon of wealth and mobility in a series of reports called Wealth without Borders.]
We offer a new survey to City Atlas readers to help guide policy-making in New York City. As described by the survey designers:
“Study on: Impacts of extreme weather events on different social groups in New York City - Please participate in an opportunity to inform policy making in your city.
The following link takes you to an online questionnaire that lasts between 20 to 30 minutes, depending on answers that you give throughout the questionnaire.
Thank you for contributing to our important study ‘Impacts of extreme weather events on different social groups in New York City’ developed by The Center for Research on Environmental Decisions (CRED), Earth Institute, Columbia University.
The importance of this research has never been more evident given recent events with Hurricane Sandy and its impacts on New York and surrounding areas. However, we are not only investigating impacts of storms, but also other extreme weather events such as heat waves.
Extreme weather events impact different socioeconomic groups in different ways. Our project seeks to understand specifically how different income groups experience weather events such as heat waves and strong rainstorms.
We will happily share the results of the survey once it is completed and fully analyzed, which will roughly take until the end of the year. The study analyzes individual experiences and burden of impacts of strong rainstorms and heat waves, compares experiences across the 5 borough area, and suggests most efficient adaptation options in different parts of NYC.
We thank you very much again for your support in this important initiative!
Dr. Diana Reckien.
Prof. David Krantz, Director, Center for Research on Environmental Decisions, Earth Institute, Columbia University.”
Note on the survey from participants at City Atlas: we found on average it took about 15 – 20 minutes to complete, and provided an interesting opportunity for reflection on recent events, their aftermath, and the future in the city.
Your Voice Is Needed!
NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) will hold a Public Design Workshop for the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway on Wednesday, March 20, 2013.
DOT will be hosting its third public input session for the DUMBO and Vinegar Hill reconstruction project to accommodate the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway. At previous public input sessions, neighborhood residents brought up concerns about reconstruction of Belgian block roadways to accommodate bicyclists. At this meeting, DOT will present revised concepts for further public input on cobble reconstruction and the design of the Pearl Street Triangle Plaza.
Brooklyn Greenway Initiative’s view is that the City should not reconstruct any streets without making them accessible to bikes. Cobblestone streets were laid during the carriage age. They can be reconstructed in ways that honor their history, while still serving all of the tax payers today who are paying for them.
What is your view? Please attend this important meeting and express it.
When: Wednesday, March 20, 2013 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Where: NYU-Poly Incubator, 20 Jay Street, Suite 312, Brooklyn
The Greenpoint Benefit Projects Program is hosting public meeting to announce the next step of the environmental benefits project funding that came from the Exxon settlement for Greenpoint Brooklyn. Get updated on the program’s progress, meet the general administrator and weigh in on the types of environmental projects you want to see funded in Greenpoint.
FOOD WILL BE PROVIDED
For further information contact Laura Truettner at email@example.com
Documents related to the Program can be found at the Greenpoint Library or at
What’s in the Water? is the latest issue of Making Policy Public, a series of fold-out posters that use graphic design to explore and explain public policy.
Join CUP on Wednesday, February 13th, for a conversation with Barry Estabrook, an award-winning writer on issues of food safety and justice, and Al Appleton, a Senior Fellow at the Cooper Union Institute for Sustainable Design, on the risks fracking poses to the city’s food, health, and drinking water.
Attendees will also receive a free copy of the What’s in the Water? poster.
What’s in the Water? debut presentation
Wednesday, February 13, 7 pm
The Cooper Union
41 Cooper Square, Lower Level
on Third Avenue (btwn 6th & 7th streets)
N/R to 8th Street, 6 to Astor Place
Free and open to the public.
RSVP here by Monday, February 11, at 5 pm.
Streetfilms is reintroducing their Jim-Henson-designed, child-friendly urban planning mascot: Zozo, the purple livable streets hero. As described on meetzozo.com, “Zozo makes friends wherever he goes. Zozo loves to talk to people about walking, biking, using transit and making a better, happier city. As New York becomes more livable, the more Zozos will come back to join him.” (Yipes!)
Streetfilms, an organization that produces short films about transportation around the world, is now bringing Zozo back to where he once belonged. Although originally designed and developed last year, the project–which includes a series of vignettes, coloring pages, and teaching curriculum–never gained a large following because it’s creator, the Livable Streets Education project, is no longer operating. The 10 Zozo vignettes are meant to teach children about the importance of street safety, as well as the benefits of walking, cycling, and using public transportation. And, although meant for children, these videos will make everyone laugh.
To help Streetfilms spread the word about Zozo, watch their videos on Vimeo, print out coloring book pages at the project’s website, meetzozo.com, and talk to your kids and your friends about the project. Streetfilms also documented the creation of Zozo project in their short documentary “The Search for the Zozo.” Check it out!
It’s worth noting that NYC has a unique history of civic-minded Henson creatures, as can be seen in this photo of the late Mayor Ed Koch and the muppet Gonzo at a press conference. (The mayor remarked, “If he can also balance a budget, I’ll hire him.”)
“On this tour with architectural historian Anthony W. Robins, we will ride the rails from the Battery to Midtown, and consider the three major phases of subway design: the original 1904 IRT, the Dual Contracts extensions of the ‘teens and the modernistic Independent Line that opened in 1932, with a peek at a ’70s redesign by Philip Johnson. Bring an unlimited MetroCard or one with at least three fares. Don’t miss the tour that CBS called one of the five best art walks in New York! $20 / $15 Members.”
Why is design a good skill for young people?
Anne Frederick:Design is very interdisciplinary by nature. You can connect design into almost any curriculum. In the elementary school we connect to science, art, social studies…design allows you to connect what you are learning to very tangible activities. That becomes empowering for students because they get to actually see their efforts lead to tangible changes. They are building things, planting things…which then actually become a part of their local built environment.
That process is particularly rewarding for students who have a hard time pulling it together in the classroom. Some students are a different kind of learner. Design allows for the different learning styles to be celebrated and exercised…we see our students keep coming back to learn and they get engaged more and more.
Hester Street Collaborative usually works with underserved communities, and brings the techniques and processes of design and community advocacy.
How do you define an “underserved community?”
Anne Frederick: For us, “underserved communities” are communities that might not have a say otherwise in the development of their neighborhood. We take our cues from the people that make up a place. We always partner with groups that are doing organizing work and have a membership, or really have their ear to the ground. These are communities that might be facing issues of displacements, lack of affordable housing — people who have identified themselves as needing the resources of a design studio.
We really look toward the social justice and community-based organizations around the city, who have already identified a need, and we see if the types of resources and services we provide can help. If there is some way we can work together, we then collaboratively shape that scope of work together.
How did the collaborative get started?
Anne Frederick: Hester Street Collaborative was started by myself and the two partners of Leroy Street Studio, where I used to work as an architect. When we moved our offices down to the Lower East Side, we felt that there was an opportunity to create a practice that related to the neighborhood in a meaningful way. It also happened that when we moved downtown, 9/11 occurred, slowing down the whole business and giving us an opportunity to rethink ourselves. It had been an interest of the partners and myself to do something grounded to the community prior to 9/11, but that event really gave us a moment to move in new directions.
We started by developing design education programs with public schools. I had a particular interest in working with young people. Since I had been already teaching in other design-related education programs, which happened to be located across the street from a middle school, we thought, “Why not just walk across the street!”
We started out by founding Ground Up, which is our Design Education program with [public school] MS131. We kicked everything off by thinking about how students could impact spaces, either in their school campuses or community. We started this within a small little sculpture garden in front of the school.
From there we grew into more design education work, as well as working with small community-based organizations on larger open space projects around the neighborhood, and then more recently citywide.
So, you started as a group engaged in projects local to the Lower East Side; are there are any plans to widen your scope?
Anne Frederick: When we started, it was really important to acknowledge the place that we are located. Since the Lower East Side is such a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood, we really wanted to be aware of the impact having a studio in this neighborhood had on accelerating that gentrification in whatever way it does. So it was important to start out with the idea that the [community] needs are here first.
The past ten years we have really focused locally, even though our mission is truly citywide. We have started here, but through word of mouth and with the help of our partners, [we almost always work collaboratively with other organizations on each project] have received the opportunity to work in other neighborhoods.
Right now we feel we are at a moment where we feel we can continue to contribute to our neighborhood, but begin to serve more communities. We are thinking about how some of the tools and expertise of designers can aid social justice movements not just near us, but throughout the city.
So the project development and design process is guided by teaming up with community organizations, rather than proposing design plans from a location far removed.
Anne Frederick: Exactly, that is very important to us.
What is the usual process for making the type of public space projects Hester Street Collaborative develops?
Anne Frederick: Usually it starts with some stakeholders — organizations or individuals — who have identified a need for something.
I’ll use the East River Waterfront as an example — there was a coalition of organizations who are imbedded in that neighborhood, and who wanted to have a say in the development of the [local] waterfront.
They were concerned that the further development of the waterfront would accelerate the gentrification of the area, and place additional pressure on the constituencies who are already being squeezed out. This group had already identified needs, and just by being based in the neighborhood and having relationships with the organizations in the coalition, HSC started to have conversations with the organization to see if they needed help with the community organizing process for envisioning and visualizing the waterfront.
Usually the work evolves from a group or coalition, who expresses interest about a public or open space issue and we will partner with them. Those partnerships can be very long term, because these projects just don’t happen overnight. Projects of this nature can happen over many years and decades.
Does HSC work with grassroots organizations [bottom up] in addition to city-based agencies [top down]?
Anne Frederick: Yes, we work with city agencies a lot. Often we are working to be a bridge between the more grassroots groups and city agencies. For example we have been working on a project titled People Make Parks for several years with Partnerships for Park. The project is attempt to make the parks capital process more transparent and easier to engage with. For groups who want to have a role in how their parks are redesigned, People Make Parks provides a road map for that process.
Do you ever face any resistance from the communities you engage with?
Anne Frederick: Working with lots of people is never easy. Democracy is not a neat and tidy process. Part of the interesting part of collaboration is allowing different opinions and concerns to arise, and work themselves out. We don’t advocate for one view or the other but be try to develop a broad platform where participation can happen. Not everyone is always going to be happy, but that is the nature of the beast.
So HSC is broken down into education programs, advocacy, and community design. What kinds of projects and activities fall under those categories?
Anne Frederick: For the education programs – we work in public schools, with elementary, middle, and high school students all in the LES community. We are really committed to have that longer term community engagement here, [Lower East Side] so we can have a more in depth experience with individual students rather than serving thousands of students. One of the goals of the design education programs is to impact the youth that we are working with. We feel that the best way to do that is through sustained engagement. For example, the elementary school we have been working with, we have been building an outdoor classroom (school garden) since 2004. Every year, each group of students who participates, adds another layer to it. Sometimes we work with the same students from grades 2 through 5.
Thats awesome! You get to see some of your students grow up and witness the development of their education.
Anne Frederick: Yes, its a great process.
What falls under “community design,” and “advocacy”?
Anne Frederick: In regards to our community design, we work with organizations and constituency groups in the neighborhood, and providing resources of planners, artists and designers to impact the community space. Like I said, often those are very long-term projects. For example, we have been working on the Allen and Pike Street corridors since 2004, and we coordinate community participation, to initiating the the capital process and developing an ongoing series of public art and design interventions at the site, as a way to continue to draw attention to that space, and envision what it could be.
Often there’s a fluidity between our educational programs, advocacy, and community design because our students will contribute to the art installation. Each area of our organization is not distinct from the others, but all are working together to empower communities to impact change of community public spaces. We sort of address the issues we care about through these different ways.
For us, advocacy is about working with our partners to try and bring about the change they want to see in their communities. So we work with with elected officials and city agencies to channel community concerns and aspirations.
How do you feel that this sort of process helps to build social connections between community members?
Anne Frederick: Our work tends to be very hands on, fun, and playful. So providing opportunities for individuals to participate in a fun interactive way, is a much less intimidating format than going to a town hall meeting and having to stand up in front of a lot of people and voice your concern. We try to take the process and meet people where they are at, to insure their ongoing participation.
How does Hester Street Collaborative envision a more sustainable city?
Anne Frederick: Having engaged, invested citizens that have a clear and transparent ability to effect change in their neighborhood. [That] allows for more people to invest more effort in the place where they live. If you think your thoughts and actions matter, you are going to be more of a steward of your environment — that, for me, is sustainability.
About Hester Street Collaborative:
Hester Street Collaborative’s (HSC) mission is to empower residents of underserved communities by providing them with the tools and resources necessary to have a direct impact on shaping their built environment. We do this through a hands-on approach that combines design, education, and advocacy. HSC seeks to create more equitable, sustainable, and vibrant neighborhoods where community voices lead the way in improving their environment and neglected public spaces.
HSC was founded in 2002 by the architecture firm Leroy Street Studio (LSS). The East New York Urban Youth Corp, a nonprofit group specializing in building rehab and community outreach, approached LSS to work on an affordable housing project and Community Center. As a result, the LSS partners/HSC co-founders designed and built a series of playful interventions for the courtyards, as well as a lobby with local sculptors and tile makers, and future tenants. The lobby design replaced standard tiles with mosaics and hand carved clay tiles, and installed ferro-cement planters in the courtyard. The transformation was dramatic, and the project led to the formation of Hester Street Collaborative.
About Anne Frederick:
As the founding director of HSC, Anne has worked to develop a community design-build practice that responds to the needs of under-resourced NYC communities. Her unique approach to community design integrates education and youth development programming with participatory art, architecture, and planning strategies. This approach is rooted in partnership and collaboration with various community based organizations, schools and local residents. Prior to founding HSC, Anne worked as an architect at Leroy Street Studio Architecture and as a design educator at Parsons School of Design and the New York Foundation for Architecture. Anne graduated from Parsons School of Design and The New School for Social Research in 1998, and has represented the work of HSC at various conferences, lectures and exhibitions.
Photos: Jessica Bruah
An update on the volunteer effort in the New York City area.
The people most in need in areas like the Rockaways (which faces dropping temperatures and another, smaller storm tomorrow night) are likely to be the poorest residents and the elderly, residents that were unable to relocate to relatives or friend’s houses inland.
Occupy Sandy: Their twitter feed provides an up-to-the minute list of activities and opportunities. A friend and I delivered blankets to their St. Jacobi Church location in Sunset Park, Brooklyn yesterday, and I can report that their volunteer relief operation looks effective and well-organized. Having said that, the miles of affected beachfront and waterfront housing around the city has created an enormous need not yet met by city services. If you’d like to help, Occupy Sandy is a place to start, and there are several other groups that have repurposed themselves to help in the effort and are worth scanning too, to get a more complete picture.
iVolunteer is a group whose main mission is to connect volunteers with Holocaust survivors. They’ve joined the relief effort to help homebound elderly people stranded in high rises in Far Rockaway, where power has not be restored yet. For info on their activities and how to connect, go here. They are affiliated with a parallel effort to reach the Rockaways, Sandy Help, which was written up in the NYT during the first week of response.
Food Trucks: Hot food is important and is going to get more important. JetBlue has been sponsoring the NYC Food Trucks response since the storm, and now trucks seem to be circulating through most of the affected areas. The initiative is on its second IndieGogo campaign, and you can support it here.
Information from the city: Food, blanket and water distribution locations in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island, along with the addresses for overnight shelters.
Douglas Rushkoff: on the illusion of self-sufficiency, the aftermath of the storm, and the election.
A year ago, I attended an exhibition at MoMA called “Talk to Me: Design and the Communication between People and Objects.” One project in the exhibit, Mayo Nissen’s City Tickets, left an indelible mark on me. Mayo Nissen’s proposal was to readapt parking ticket machines to “City Tickets kiosks.” The City Tickets kiosks would allow citizens to report on urban problems–a pothole, graffiti, or an awkward junction, for instance–and to suggest local improvements: benches for sitting on, or perhaps a weekly market.
The way City Tickets kiosks would work is simple. The kiosks would generate short forms, printed as standard-format receipts. Each receipt would display a hyperlocal map on the reverse side, indicating the exact location of the problem, or suggestion. Perhaps the most elusive aspect of this design is that the kiosks would enable citizens to mail this information, free of charge, where it would be processed and routed to the correct department for an efficient response. The reports would then be entered into a public database, allowing citizens to track their reported problem or suggestion in the system, including the projected date of completion.
The rationale behind City Tickets is to create direct communication between local authorities and citizens, which is usually hindered by bureaucracy. While the City Tickets kiosk remains an unrealized idea, two mobile applications, SeeClickFix and Love Clean Streets, have been developed under the same premise. Applying a similar concept, these two mobile applications translate the physical infrastructure of the City Ticket Kiosk to a digital format.
The SeeClickFix application, available worldwide, allows citizens to report on urban problems to their local government via their mobile phone or the website. Citizens submit a description, image, and the exact location of the problem, and local authorities are responsible for responding to it. While the issue is in the process of being addressed, citizens can stay informed of its progress. An additional feature of the app is that it is predicated on community interaction–citizens can vote on, comment on, vote to fix, or update issues already reported by their neighbors.
Love Clean Streets, an application available to users in London, similarly allows users to report environmental crime issues via their mobile app, or the website. A short video advertising the app claims that citizens can report the issue in less than 40 seconds. The local authority is responsible for dealing with the report and the user can review the progress of it.
The real, and still untapped, potential of these two applications is impressive. They provide a new opportunity to mobilize vast numbers of citizens to become engaged in their local communities, thereby fostering a sense of empowerment among citizens. Furthermore, a transparent system that holds government accountable for their actions reaffirms citizens’ confidence in government. While still relatively new, the introduction of these two applications may be the start of a new movement in participatory urban planning.
Photos: Mayo Nissen
I picked one up shopping this morning, writer Ian Frazier has been driven mad by seeing them in trees, and soon they may be banned in NYC, if our resident surfer organization has its way. As a step towards protecting the oceans, changing our habits about plastic bags is perhaps part of phase one.
5 Gyres, an organization dedicated to cleaning the world’s oceans of plastic, is coming to the Breslin (at the Ace Hotel) in Manhattan on Thursday, in conjunction with Surfriders NYC, in a benefit for their 1400 mile bike ride to push for legislation banning plastic bags.
San Francisco got the ball rolling in 2007 by banning large retailers from using plastic bags, and as of October 1 this year, the City on the Bay requires stores to also charge for paper bags, as a way to encourage shoppers to bring reusable totes with them. That will be behavior change on a large scale, and a good marker for the many major and minor shifts that we’ll need to make on a planet with 7 billion people, which also values its oceans.
Even better, as described in the New York Times, reusable totes are likely to become a new way for New Yorkers to be noticed:
“In Santa Monica, Calif., where a 10-cent charge for paper and a ban on plastic bags went into effect last year, the reusable bag culture has exploded, said Josephine Miller, an environmental program analyst with the city…People want to be seen with the coolest, hippest reusable bag, she said, adding, ‘Businesses are putting logos on reusable bags.’”
More about the movement to ban plastic, via WPIX.
A site explaining the progress of plastic bag legislation around the country.
Photo: Longboat Key News
Media artist Dietmar Offenhuber has used data generated by two years of 311 complaints to create an interactive map of New Yorkers’ most common complaints. (h/t to Curbed and Atlantic Cities.)
The 311 line is New York City’s dedicated government information service line, through which residents can access program information and also submit complaints and requests. Offenhuber divided the complaints into three types: litter (blue), graffiti (red), and noise (green), and as the map’s key indicates, areas of overlapping complaint can be identified by intermediate colors. (As elegant as it is for design purposes, displaying just three types of complaint probably misses the full spectrum of likely 311 calls.)
Complaints are mapped onto a block-by-block grid of the city, creating a colorful diagram of each area’s most frequent problem. Beyond simply being a beautiful rendering of civic frustration, the map can be used as an education tool to highlight neighborhood-specific concerns. For example, high-traffic Manhattan appears in green, as noise complaints are the most common in the borough. The Bronx and much of Queens seem to suffer primarily from graffiti problems, and Staten Island and much of Brooklyn are bothered by litter. The map also allows viewers to zoom in, revealing hidden idiosyncrasies. For example, some major streets in Harlem share the problem of litter; Chinatown too suffers from serious graffiti issues. You can even zoom in to see what problems are plaguing your block and neighborhood.
Image: Dietmar Offenhuber
Mary Miss: Broadway: 1000 Steps is a project that I started working on about two years ago. The idea developed through a sequence of encounters. I was invited to the New York Department of City Planning to talk about a larger framework that I’ve been developing over the last few years, called “City as Living Laboratory,” which is about how cities could recognize the role that artists could have in making sustainability tangible.
I’d been working on an earlier project in Indianapolis, where I looked at the corridor of the White River, and tried to get people to take note of the river. Afterwards, when I spoke at City Planning, they were really excited by this approach. Amanda Burden, who is director of of the department, said, “Mary, you should really think of doing something in New York”– and I said to her, “It’s too hard to do anything in New York.”
But I was tempted by the idea. So, thinking about it, I felt like looking at a different kind of corridor. It seemed that the corridor of Broadway, the iconic boulevard of New York City would be a really interesting focus.
I started to imagine that corridor as a place to come to see new ideas about the city that artists or designers could implement — whether it was some way of making composting interesting to people, or a new kind of park, or showing where urban farming could happen along the way. Or, if there’s a LEED-certified building, how do people know it’s there? Or if there’s a green roof, how do you know there’s a green roof there?
I thought if artists, over a period of time, could incrementally work on this corridor, people could begin to see the city not just as the home of Wall Street, not just a 19th or 20th century place, but really a city that’s looking to the future. I also thought it would really be an interesting way to get the initiatives of the city’s PlaNYC down at the street level so that people could have access and begin to understand issues that were being talked about between city departments. How do you get the support of citizens?
Mary Miss: Yeah, it goes through all kinds of neighborhoods, it’s the iconic corridor of the city, it’s historically the oldest corridor of the city–it was a Native American trail to start with–it’s the ridgeline through a good deal of the city where the water runs off in opposite directions on either side. Everybody’s heard of Broadway, and every borough in New York City has a Broadway in it. So once we finish with this one we can go to all the boroughs [laughs].
Mary Miss: Our goal is to do it in the spring of 2013. We’d love to have it happen then, but we’re in the process of fundraising and it will depend on how our fundraising goes, so we’ll see what emerges.
Mary Miss: It would probably be over a month’s period of time. We have five primary sites along the corridor and then there would be sub-sites that might be only virtually engaged in some way. We couldn’t do them all at once, but we would move from site to site.
Mary Miss: Yes.
Mary Miss: I think that my idea has always been to get this visceral, physical, emotional engagement. A lot of the projects that I did took quite a lot of money to build, they weren’t this kind of acupuncture-like approach. And I think I’m reformulating how I work in the environment. I’d say in the past my projects have always been about trying to engage people with a place and looking at it and understanding it. But as I’ve drilled down over the years doing projects, I’ve wanted to give more information.
For instance, I did a project in Des Moines, Iowa, and it was a demonstration wetland; I made a path around a newly restored pond in Des Moines that street water runoff comes into. We replanted the whole edge to help clean the water, and there was infrastructure being installed to help filter the street runoff; I wanted to allow people to see this demonstration wetland in as many ways as possible. So there was a lookout where you could get up high, and kind of sit and watch the birds; there was a walkway that took you through the middle of some tall grasses; there was a trough, that was a cut in the water so you could sit and look at eye level with the water. I was trying to introduce people to a wetland and how it worked. And I did that and it was finished in 1996, and at that time, I thought, “I’d really like people to know what the plants are that we planted here. I would like them to understand more about the runoff and where it’s coming from and the role of wetlands.” So I was wishing I could add this other layer — and I’ve kind of moved on to trying to get that more specific engagement in recent projects.
Mary Miss: It’s been this huge learning curve for me because I don’t claim to be a scientist, I really take the position that ‘I’m Jane Q. Public, and I don’t know anything about these issues and how can I have them revealed to me in a way that’s compelling.’
And so I’ve had endless conversations. My conversations with Eric Sanderson have really been wonderful. You already know that you’re living on the edge of the Hudson River, and an estuary on the other side on the East River, so you have general ideas of the geography of the city. Eric and I visited a number of sites together, and as we walked this corridor I began to see a more complex geography, to understand at 125th Street what was there, the marsh that formed this inlet. Becoming aware of what it has taken to change this place step-by-step, that has really been interesting. That’s one of the things that I really appreciate.
But also my conversations with Bill Solecki [director of the CUNY Institute for Sustainable Cities], and his talking about the importance of getting people to understand all the small steps it takes to make a place. Each move in building a building is a decision, and if people can begin to understand those smaller decisions then they are not so overwhelmed by this effort that we have to make to change our lives. I think that’s the hardest things about climate change: people feel helpless, that it’s something beyond their control. And it helps to kind of break things down so that it seems manageable in some way.
Actually the title of the project figures into that — it seems kind of opaque to some people, what kind of 1000 steps are these? Are these dance steps or what? But it came out of a talk that I heard an ecologist give in Indianapolis. She talked about the thousand small steps it takes to degrade an environment, and the thousand steps it can take to bring it back again. So I really liked that idea and I think that’s what I’m trying to do: parse things out in a way that it seems possible to people to participate in this. Because I don’t think there can be change, I really don’t think we can deal with the challenges we face by just relying on the authorities, the G7 or this or that [group of experts] getting together and deciding. I think to get everybody’s actions to shift, we will need citizens’ engagement.
Mary Miss: I think the thing that really interested me was how you could get people who may not ever go into a science museum or an institution, just somebody walking down the street — that people like that could begin to become aware of things like the infrastructure, the habitat, the ecology, the history of the site and how its been shaped. Become aware of events over time.
It would be whoever is walking down the street; it might be tourists, it might be young people, hopefully. But it’s trying to get those who aren’t typically interested in these ideas. I really have this fantasy, this image, that a community could develop that begins to picture New York in a bigger way. I think at this point people don’t really think about water or where it comes from or where it goes after they’ve used it. I would love that to be part of people’s sense of the landscape of the city. Or thinking about the wind patterns, or the geology. That they had a sense that Broadway is a flight corridor for birds. I don’t think anybody ever thinks of that. I would love to imagine that there’s this shared new sense of the landscape of the city, and with that, a greater interest.
Mary Miss: I’m trying to catch them unawares. Someone came up to me and they were very critical. They said “I saw somebody putting lipstick on in your mirrors,” and I thought that was great, that somebody was going to stop, check themselves out, and guess what, they’re going to see something that they hadn’t necessarily intended to see. I did a small test nearby in a local triangle, in a small park in my neighborhood, and I was watching people. And people would go up and start to look at their hair or something. And you would see that double take as they stopped and saw the reflection of the disk with its content. I think to be able to not only see yourself, but to see the city behind you, puts you in the city; it’s kind of drawing you in and making you part of the place just by the presence of the mirror.
Mary Miss: Well let me describe what’s happening with my earlier project ‘’FLOW: Can You See The River?’ in Indianapolis because I think it’s really interesting. I said when I started out that we were going to do a very modest project, not spectacle, it’s not a big intervention in the landscape. They were very modest, different kinds of mirrors I was using there. But we had about 100 sites in a 6 mile stretch that we were looking at along the river, and what I wanted to feel is that this project could be catalytic, could engage the community so that other things would continue to happen in the future. The project opened in September of 2011.
I was just out in Indianapolis [this summer], and I was invited to come and work with a coalition of about a hundred civic groups, the Lilly pharmaceutical company, and the city. They’re all working together to do a project that makes people more aware of the sub-watersheds that lead to the river. And so in that meeting I said, “What was the role of the project FLOW that I did last year?” and they said, “Well that’s what led to this initiative.” So I was really pleased that it wasn’t just a fantasy on my part, that it was really leading to something else. It was catalytic.
To come back to Broadway, I consider my project to be the initiation of something ongoing. And that people would be engaged at each of the sites. We’re working really hard to contact community groups and different organizations — whether it’s the community board, or a youth market — whoever is around in each particular hub [on the route]. We’re trying to get these groups interested and engaged and we would hope that there would be a way of sustaining an ongoing conversation between them about possibilities of future projects. Is there a possibility to do an urban farm on roofs in your neighborhood? Is there a possibility of doing some other kind of green infrastructure? We’re trying to start a chain reaction on Broadway — one that will turn it into the identifiably ‘green corridor’ where people can go to see the city remaking itself.
Mary Miss is a pioneer in the Land Art movement of contemporary sculpture. Over the course of a career spanning from the late ’60s to the present, she has collaborated with architects, urban planners, and ecologists on a broad range of public projects, including South Cove in Battery Park City (completed in 1987), which created the one of the first public access points for the Hudson River; a temporary memorial around the perimeter of Ground Zero; markers for the predicted flood level of Boulder, Colorado, and an installation focused on water resources in China for the Olympic Park in Beijing.
She has been the subject of exhibitions at the Harvard University Art Museum, The Institute of Contemporary Art in London, Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, and the Des Moines Art Center. Exhibitions include: Decoys, Complexes and Triggers at the Sculpture Center in New York, More Than Minimal: Feminism and Abstraction in the 70’s, Brandeis Museum’s Rose Art Museum, and Century City: Art and Culture in the Modern Metropolis at the Tate Modern.
Mary Miss earned her B.A. degree in 1966 from the University of California at Santa Barbara, and her M.F.A. in 1968 from the Rinehart School of Sculpture, Maryland Art Institute.
Mary Miss interviewed by the Museum of Modern Art.
Top photo: Maureen Drennan
Inset images: Courtesy of Mary Miss/City As Living Laboratory