Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Monday, May 29, 2006
Saturday, May 27, 2006
"...it’s a total clusterfuck. Not a total clusterfuck like last year, when no one knew what the Memorial would look like, or even what the final program was; when the deconstruction of 130 Liberty was marred by poor oversight and flawed planning; ... when no progress was being made on the Freedom Tower; when Pataki was a bumbling idiot who couldn’t marshal the forces ... to finalize any site planning; when no one knew how anything was being paid for, but that all the money was definitely running out.
No, now it’s a new kind of clusterfuck, one that -- I was going to cut and paste the above paragraph, for dramatic effect, but even that isn’t worth it. Can we agree once again how unfathomable it is that these people can speak without shame in public? If this were medieval Japan ... wouldn’t they all have committed ritual suicide by now for their failings?"
I wrote an article for the July issue of Planning magazine (a trade publication for professional urban planners) arguing that the utter lack of planning at Ground Zero is the root of all the problems there. But given how milquetoast that publication is, I wasn't able to make the case as strongly as it really needs to be made. Oh well, I'll link to it anyway once it's up on their website.
(I took the above photo from inside the Winter Garden, which overlooks Ground Zero, to accompany the piece.)
Thursday, May 25, 2006
View a short photo essay on flickr of the bucolic 93-acre island that was a military base for 200 years.
Gondolas to Governor's Island: Breathtaking Inanity [Polis]
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Sunday, May 21, 2006
The premise of the book is that not since the Depression era has a generation been so whipsawed by the economy, from McJobs to outsourcing, and two unprecedented back-to-back bubbles (to name just a few issues here), and how all of the cultural trends, lifestyle choices and sociological circumstances of this generation have been dictated by economic insecurity and ultimately by diminshed expectations. The good news? Well, I'm no Ben Bernanke (click here for a hilarious video made by some Columbia Business School students featuring Dean Glenn Hubbard spoofing Mr. Bernanke), but I will argue that it will be up to Generation X (right now, approximately aged 29-41) to bring the economy back from the brink, and that diminished expectations could very well be exactly the right sensibility to pull that off!
So, having said that, I will do my best to keep up with Polis (and of course I'll still be covering real estate for the Times), but I probably won't be quite so active here as I have been in the past. Look for a couple posts a week, plus updated photography. Cheers.
Photo credit: Brenda Ann Kenneally
Saturday, May 20, 2006
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
"Welcome to the East Village, a modern-day real estate anomaly, virtually untouched by the astronomical rents and multiplying mass merchandisers that have afflicted neighborhoods from Harlem to SoHo in recent years."
In addition to the nabe's small spaces, the article attributes the lack of major retail chains in the area to two other factors: low density and a more economically diverse population (which distinguishes it from the West Village, although this point isn't made).
"The population of Community District 3, which encompasses the entire Lower East Side, is 164,000, according to the 2000 Census. By comparison, Community District 8, which comprises the entire Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island, has 217,000 residents. Though the East Village is no longer the blighted slum it was as recently as the 1980s, average income levels lag those of many other Manhattan neighborhoods."
I took the above photo of the artist DeLaVega in front of his gallery/shop on St. Marks Pl. Below: Another quirky small shop on St. Marks, Dumpling Man, which is owned by Lucas Lin.
It's clear to me from reading the piece that Arad agreed to go on the record because he thought he was going to get a positive review. And he mostly does. But even a cursory read reveals that Arad is one arrogant guy. Even the most sympathetic presentation of his side of the story can't hide that fact. Of course, I totally believe him when he says that he's had to fight off any number of dumb ideas. But this guy is out of his league. Period. He had been tauted as the next Maya Lin, but that just goes to show how incredible and unique Maya Lin is. There is no next Maya Lin. Only she could come up with the breathtaking Vietnam Memorial design as well as have the grace and internal fortitude to see it built. No true for Arad, it would seem.
So, we add arrogance on top of the fact that memorial designers were encouraged NOT to follow the design guidelines laid out by the original Libeskind plan (which wasn't really a plan to begin with), and what you have here my friends is a failure to communicate. Big time.
(Photo: Michael O'Neill)
Thursday, May 11, 2006
Michael Arad's original design, which was selected from more than 5,000 entries, put the memorial under ground with water falls and galleries. I haven't studied the design closely, but I can well imagine that the decent into the memorial would be a powerful experience. I can also imagine the benefits of having different levels serving different purposes, the most solemn area being below ground, and more relaxing and serene areas at ground level. No one who is contemplating the horror of this tragedy wants to encounter kids running around acting goofy. But there needs to be room for joyfulness as well as solemnity, and giving those emotions separate levels to take place is one good solution.
Having said that, there is obviously a very serious safety issue that is exacerbated by an underground memorial. As the late Jane Jacobs said, safety comes from eyes on the street. If you're below the street, it's hard to keep an eye on things. And there is the other practical matter of cost. Unquestionably it will be more expensive to have any part of the memorial below ground.
These are all legitimate design issues, and therein lies the rub. While the "planners" of Ground Zero have been focusing on the commercial towers and the shopping mall of the site, the memorial design has been at best an afterthought. So it is only now that we're getting around to having a perfectly reasonable debate about how this should be built -- now that most people have all but disengaged from the whole sordid process.
Monday, May 01, 2006
Click here to see a slide show of the Living With Legends anniversary party.