Wednesday, November 9

Candy Chang - Before I Die Brooklyn

Before I Die - Brooklyn from charis poon on Vimeo.
Shake Shack used Candy Chang's Before I Die toolkit to turn the construction walls around their new location in Brooklyn into a point of interest and activity.

Located at the corner of Fulton Street Mall and Adams Street.

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Hadoken by Nullsleep

Park Dispute Dating Back to the Moses Days

            An East Side co-op released its ownership claim of a 10,000 square foot piece of land overlooking the East River, last Tuesday, finally ending a 10 year dispute with the city.
            In the agreement, the apartment building owner has agreed to share the $2 million cost of building a public park on this piece of land, located between 56th and 57th streets.
Photo by Google Images
             This site has been in dispute between the co-op owners and the parks department ever since the city tried to claim a portion of the land for public use, ten years prior.
            In a joint statement announced on Tuesday, the Sutton Place South Corporation and the city have decided to contribute $1 million each to the park’s construction.  The park is said to connect two existing community parks on the ends of 56th and 57th street.
            “Every square foot of parkland is precious, particularly on the Upper East Side,” said Adrian Benepe, commissioner of the parks department, told New York Times. “I’d say, in the long run, it’s worth the protracted negotiation.”
            Dating back 70 years, the yard has a history of its own.  In 1939, the city was planning to build part of the Franklin D Roosevelt Drive in this location.  However the city promised to build a park over the FDR Drive’s roof so that the residents in this area would not have to be disturbed by the constant drone of passing cars.
            The Sutton Place South Corporation since had been renting that patch of land for a dollar a year until the lease expired in 1990.  In an effort to keep the status of the real estate quiet, however, the co-op swore potential buyers into secrecy.  Eventually the city tried to take control of the space and in 2007 the co-op dropped a lawsuit on the city, arguing against the amount of land in which the city was entitled.
            “This has been something very special to the building for a great deal of time,” said Lucy Lamphere, president of the Sutton Place South Corporation, told the Times. “However, it became clear that something needed to happen.”
            Now, under this new agreement, the co-op is planning on releasing its ownership of the part of deck that’s closest to the East River.  In return, the city is releasing its claim on the section of deck closest to Sutton Place South’s apartment building, leaving them less than 4,000 square feet.
            The city plans on using this newly acquired land for a park, mostly intended for quiet leisure, hoping to start construction within the next year.

Upended Elephant in Union Square Raises Confusion

Photo Credit: images © marlborough gallery, new york, courtesy of galerie bruno bischofberger, zurich

There is a huge bronze elephant doing a trunk stand on the east side of Union Square, across from Beth Israel and the Au Bon Pain. It was set up in September of 2011 and will “act as a bridge from uptown to downtown” the Union Square Partnership site insists. The elephant is one of 54 temporary art pieces set up throughout the 5 boroughs of New York City. The instillations vary on size and form, some cost very little money to build and other's much more to put into fruition.

Art in the Parks is a government program that decides what art is put up when, and for how long. Temporary art pieces range from about 3 to 6 months. The Program was organized in 1967 in an attempt to "set [art] under the light of day where they intrude upon our daily walks and errands" according to the Art in the Parks website. Many places in the city have temporary instillations. The city gives no funding for the projects so the artists must come up with money to set up and take down the works. Though various grants and awards can be arranged for the artists. Manual labor is not provided by the New York City government.

Commissioner of Parks and Recreation, Adrien Benepe or a representative looks over the proposals that are sent in continuously. He decides how sustainable, durable and safe the art will be on the street. Community boards are called in to accept the proposal, “it’s just part of the procedure,” says Jennifer Lantzas, the Public Art Coordinator for the Parks and Recreation Program

Lantzas is trying to build the art out and immerse it into less lucrative boroughs. "Everyone wants Central Park" she says, "but we try to work with the artists to find a different location. Too much art in Central Park would not have been Olmstead’s vision," she adds. Lantzas hopes that locations will change with the help of the Clare Weiss Emerging Artists Award, introduced this year in honor of the late Clare Weiss who was the Public Art Coordinator until her death in 2010.

The elephant, entitled, 'Gran Elefandret' was constructed in 2008. It stands at 26 feet and weighs about 1/2 ton. This will be the second world class public art instillation in Union Square, a huge change from the regular exhibits in both Central Park and along the Park Avenue Mall.

The Spanish artist, Miquel Barcelo, was born in 1957 and separates his time between Barcelona, Paris and... The sculpture has travelled from Avignon, France and will be teetering in its position until late May. However, there are many complaints already, on the art site, 'Designer Boom,' several people have commented that the sculpture is a copy of another sculpture by the artist Daniel Firman whose piece Wursa at 18,00km from Earth resembles Barcelo's piece. “This is a Daniel Firman piece” one of the comments below says, “how can they allow it??” Another comment simply says “horrendous.”

Lantzas encourages controversy, “that’s the fantastic thing about the project.” She says. “There are people who like them and there are people who don’t.”

Enrique Penalosa: Hope for an Urban Future

Enrique Peñalosa Londoño, at fifty-seven years old, the “Man of Plan,” is an award-winning journalist, an international consultant on urban policy and transportation, an avid biker, and the former mayor of Bogotá.  He also has a suggestion or two for New York City.

Credit: El Espectador
“We underestimate the power of dreams. The most difficult thing is to dream and to create a collective dream or a shared vision. I think it’s time to take a great risk suddenly and to do something new, to do the new New York.”

A charismatic and agile fifty-seven year old Colombian-American, Peñalosa ran his first three out of four mayoral elections entirely on foot, on a bike, or on a bus.

Peñalosa attended Duke University, studying economics and history, before receiving his Masters and Doctorate degrees in Management and Public Administration from the Institut International D' Administration Publique in Paris. From 1986 to 1990, Peñalosa served as economic advisor to then-President of Colombia, Virgilio Barco. In 1990, with neither political experience nor official support, he ran for the Colombian Congress. Elected with 22,000 votes, he only remained in office for one year due to reform measures that closed the Colombian Government.
Credit: StreetsBlog

           That year, Peñalosa decided to run for Mayor of Bogotá using the same campaign strategy as his Congressional win. Again, without the backings of any other officials, he went door-to-door, person-to-person, on foot, a bike, or on public transportation. After two unsuccessful bids, he was finally elected in 1997.

During his three years in office, Peñalosa built 52 new schools, refurbished 150 others, and increased student enrollment by 34 percent. He created or improved 1200 parks, established 13 libraries, built 100 nurseries, provided water service to 100% of Bogotá households, bought undeveloped land around the city for future developments in affordable housing and greenways, built 300 km of bikeways, and created the world’s longest pedestrian street, which measures at 10.5 miles.  Such comprehensive and expedited improvements had not been seen in developed cities such as New York since the age of Robert Moses, let alone in developing ones like Bogotá.

Penálosa sees New York as the perfect city for improvements. Densely populated and with a relatively flat terrain, he envisions Broadway being closed off to vehicles, and 42nd street being a pedestrian-only walkway for tourists.
“Here in Manhattan, there could be at least a few cross-town bicycle ways. We cannot continue to deceive ourselves thinking that to paint a little line on a road is a bikeway,” Penálosa stated in an interview with StreetFilms, “ A bicycle way which is not safe for an eight year old is not a bicycle way. Hopefully the city can do a whole network of very well protected, physically protected bicycle ways all across Manhattan.”
Peñalosa believes that New York, as well as many other developed cities, put the select few who own motor vehicles first. They are given a higher quality of life and great strides need to be taken in meeting the needs of those without cars. To him, accommodating motorists first and foremost is undemocratic.

In a December 2009 interview with Business Standard, while discussing the new BRT system in Ahmedabad, India, Peñalosa claimed that affluential first-world cities like New York needed to re-evaluate how public transportation is viewed.

           “In the 20th century, we made cities for cars. In the 21st century, we need to make it for people,” he stated, “The people will have to understand that public transport is not only for the poor but for the rich as well.”
In documentary titled “Bogotá Change,” the rapid and radical transformation of a city once called the world’s “most dangerous, violent, and corrupt,” is seen as largely a result of Peñalosa’s unorthodox methods. According to the film, in ten years time, the violence-infested capital of Colombia became a model city under Peñalosa’s charismatic leadership, unique strategies, and philosophy of urban planning.

Credit: StreetsBlog
New York City parallels Bogotá in some ways. It has experienced a recent decrease in criminal activity. It also claims a large income disparity, a dense population, unsafe conditions for bikers, and a puzzling traffic problem. Informal vendors or “hawkers” are commonplace on Canal Street in Chinatown. In Bogotá, these peddlers have been relocated away from occupation the streets.

Like Moses in his heyday, Peñalosa made great improvements in city parks as well as construction of new ones.  Many of the city’s main streets and avenues were entirely renovated. But with the changes came controversy. By elevating the concrete slabs and installing placed bollards, he made it impossible for cars to park on sidewalks. He began construction on the TransMilenio, a rapid transit bus system that allows for acceleration by buses on designated roads, which now has 114 stations and counting, and services 1.5 million people. An increased tax on gasoline for vehicles has generates revenue for the bus system.

The aristocratic sectors of the city view him as a socialist and an idealist. His idea to turn the Bogotá Country Club into a public park was quickly turned down.

Other radical changes include his introduction of the Pico y Placa traffic mitigation policy, which restricts vehicles with license plates ending in certain digits from traveling the streets during certain times. As of July 2011, four digits are restricted each day between 6 AM and 8 PM, forcing drivers to take public transportation, carpool, or bike during those hours. The traffic congestion has since been reduced by forty percent.

          “I was almost impeached by the car-owning upper classes,” Peñalosa remembered, “but it was popular with everyone else.”
Unpopular enough for Peñalosa to lose the 2007 Mayoral Election, in which he received only 28.15% of the votes.

In 2009, he was elected President of the Board of Directors of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, New York-based group promoting sustainable transportation in the developing world. Many hope that his presence and leadership in New York urban planning grows, despite his desires to return to Bogotá as a Green Party Candidate for Mayor.
“Economics, urban planning, ecology are only the means. Happiness is the goal,” Peñalosa says, “We have a word in Spanish, ganas, which means a burning desire. I have ganas about public life.”

From the Frozen Food Aisle to Fifth Avenue: Canadian Retail Chain Joe Fresh Opens in New York City

Joe Fresh, the Canadian retail chain whose designs initially sold in supermarkets, opened its first store in New York City on 5th avenue this past week. This marks another career milestone for Joe Fresh founder and Creative Director, Joseph Mimran, who is also the genius behind Club Manaco, another brand who made the journey over the border. Mimran is insistent that at Joe Fresh, "price is paramount." The entire collection is priced from $2 to $159, with many items between $12 and $29. 
Joe Fresh founder Joseph Mimran and Elle Creative
 Director Joe Zee
The idea of Joe Fresh came to fruition back in 2006, when Mimran was approached to design a chic and affordable apparel line for Canadian supermarket chain Loblaws. In a Q & A session at the store opening, Mimran told Elle Magazine's Creative Director Joe Zee (and former employee of Mimran's at Club Monoco), about taking on this challenge. Successfully bringing fashion to the unglamorous grocery aisles seemed to an impossible feat to many. "My friends said I was nuts" Mimran explains. "That I would lend my name they said I was doubly nuts." However, Joe Fresh flourished as a stylish and reasonably-priced clothing line and quickly won over consumers. Since its launch in Spring of 2006, Joe Fresh has opened its own stand-alone stores and is available at over 300 locations across Canada. 

"We want to become a fabric of the city" Mimran explains on the brand's move to Manhattan. In addition to the Flat Iron location, five Joe Fresh locations will open across New York City. This includes the U.S flagship store which will open next Spring, as a second location on Fifth Avenue near The New York Public Library and Bryant Park. Mimran jokes "We've gone from the frozen food aisle to Fifth Avenue."

In Mimran's eyes, fashion is international and transcends boundaries and Joe Fresh will continue to expand internationally. "I see world domination, I always have" he said. "Its my nature."

Joe Fresh has found a particular place in the market for everyday casual and weekend wear, straddling the line between fashion and basics. Developing a signature in its bright color palate, Mimran referred to the influence derived from the fresh harvests of the supermarket "Actually, the notion of 'fresh' is what created our color palette," Mimran explained. "We wanted everything we sold to look really appetizing."

Zee made sure to ask Mimran the inevitable question of how to keep quality up and prices affordable. In terms of keeping the balance, "There are secrets when it comes to sourcing" Mimran says."Editing is our secret sauce."

Despite the economic climate, I have no doubts that Joe Fresh will join the ranks of  other affordable fashion chains, such as Uniqlo and H&M. Having conjured up the perfect recipe for "fast fashion", Mimran's Joe Fresh brand will provide New Yorkers another welcomed option for basic and of-the-moment styles that wont break the bank. 

Tuesday, November 8

Giving Up and Going Home

Even professional athletes are cutting back to save money.

Waiting for the end of the NBA’s lockout, New York Knicks guard Andy Rautins moved back to his childhood home outside of Syracuse, New York.

According to a study done by Twentysomething Inc.,
%85 of college graduates move back in with their parents.
This %85 now includes Andy Rautins.
In the 2010 NBA Draft, Rautins, 25, was selected 38th overall by the Knicks. He signed a two-year, $1.38 million deal. This past season, he made over $600,000, not bad for a recent college grad. But, with the uncertainty of the labor situation, Rautins came to the conclusion that living in Manhattan was just getting too expensive for his million-dollar budget, and decided to spend a little bit of time with mom and dad.

The labor situation is threatening to ruin the NBA’s season. First, the entire preseason was cancelled, with hope that an agreement could be reached before the regular season began. However, the players and owners have not been able to come to an agreement. Federal mediators have been summoned to the meetings multiple, many of which have been held in New York City.

NBA Commissioner David Stern has set Wednesday, November 9th as the latest deadline for an agreement to be reached. This seems unlikely to be executed, however, with the NBA Players’ Association declining the most recent offer from the owners. The agreement called for a 50-50 split of all revenues, a deal that many players, including Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, have been ready to accept.

Bryant’s teammate, Derek Fisher, is the Players’ Association president. “The current offer on the table from the NBA is one that we cannot accept,” Fisher said in a statement after the latest negotiation. The NBAPA isn’t as unified as they once were, though, with over 50 players looking into the legality of decertifying the Players’ Union in order for basketball to be played this year.

With the threat of the entire season being cancelled, it is important to question how many fans the NBA could potentially lose, when they are already behind in terms of American popularity when compared to Major League Baseball and the NFL.

Cyclist Deaths Put NYPD Under Fire

Transportation Alternatives Director Paul Steely White (middle)
and Mathieu Lefevre's family (right) at the press conference
on October 26th. (photo: BikeNYC)
Recent concerns about cyclist safety in Williamsburg were proven justifiable on the evening of October 18th, when another life was cut short on two wheels. 30-year-old local artist Mathieu Lefevre was riding on the corner of Morgan Avenue and Meserole Street when he was fatally struck my a flatbed truck. According to the NYPD, Lefevre was biking next to the truck when it turned right and ran over him. The driver of the truck initially fled the scene - it is unclear whether he was aware of the collision or not - but his identity was discovered two days later when the truck was found unattended a block away from the scene of the accident.

The NYPD’s ultimate decision to not press charges against the driver came as a shock to the victim’s family, who held a press conference on October 26th outside the NYPD headquarters. “We want to know what happened to our son, and the police are not telling us anything,” the victim’s mother, Erika Lefevre said. Paul Steely White, the director of Transportation Alternatives, also spoke at the gathering and expressed concerns towards the police department’s way of handling cyclist accidents. The official statement which NYPD released about October 18’s accident offered a grim conclusion: “There was no criminality involved. That’s why they call it an accident.”

The police department’s dismissive attitude towards the cyclist death is not a unique occurence; since August, four bikers have been killed in Williamsburg but no charges have been pressed in any of the cases. On August 3rd, 29-year-old Robert Doyle was hit by a truck on Metropolitan Ave when he was trying to pass it on his bike. On August 30th, Erica Abbott, also 29, was riding on Bushwick Ave when she hit a pile of construction debris, fell off her bike and was run over by a car. On September 2nd, 24-year-old Nicolas Djandji was fatally struck by an SUV while cycling on Roebling Street. According to investigations, Djandji ran a red light - according to witnesses, however, if Djandji ran a red light then the driver must have too. The drivers were not charged in any of the cases. At the Lefevre press conference on October 26, Transportation Alternatives called driver negligence and NYPD ignorance an epidemic. “The NYPD has consistently failed to file charges against drivers for their lethal behavior,” the director said.

Memorial for Erica Abbott in Brooklyn (photo:

Erika Lefevre’s fight for justice for his son has not received a response from authorities so far, but she is not alone in her battle. Transportation Alternatives are approaching the subject fiercely, and a statement released shortly after Mathieu Lefevre’s death showed a plea for change: “The NYPD's blame the victim attitude reveals their disheartening acceptance of traffic violence,” the statement read. TA encourages cycling New Yorkers to take action and contact Police Commissioner Ray Kelly directly with a letter they provide on their website. “Commissioner Kelly, more people are killed in traffic than murdered by guns in New York City,” the letter says and asks Kelly to add more resources to the Accident Investigation Squad and commit to a goal of less - preferably none - cyclist and pedestrian deaths in New York City. NYPD and Commissioner Kelly’s office refused to comment.

A Way to Make A Living: Operate a Green Cart

Mohammad Ali Ashraf with his Green Cart and van.
At five o’clock in the morning, a yellow van pulls up at 96th street between Lexington and Park Avenue. Mohammad Ali Ashraf then proceeds to set up his Green Cart by unloading boxes full of pomegranates, persimmons, and oranges. 

In 2008, in an effort to increase accessibility of fresh produce to the boroughs, Mayor Bloomberg signed Local Law 9, establishing 350 Green Carts permits each for Brooklyn and the Bronx, 150 permits for Manhattan, 100 for Queens, and 50 for Staten Island. Ashraf is one of 1,000 Green Cart operators in New York City. A Green Cart is one that can only sell raw fruits and vegetables, such as whole apples, bananas, carrots and berries.

According to the New York City Administrative Code, there are 4,100 mobile food cart permits in New York City and as many as 2,500 people on the waiting list for permits. More than half of the carts sell foods such as hot dogs, roasted nuts, and kebabs, while less than 10% of carts sell fruits and vegetables.
The produce from Ashraf's Green Cart comes from a
provider in Huntspoint, Bronx.

On the border between the Upper East Side and East Harlem, Ashraf’s Green Cart sits right across the street from an Associated Supermarket. According to Ashraf, he doesn’t feel that supermarkets threaten his business because “people come to me for just one or two things.” His customers are mostly those who work at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine nearby.

Originally from Bangladesh, Ashraf arrived in New York in 1995 and worked in a candy and newsstand. He lives with his wife, two sons, and a daughter in a one-bedroom apartment in the Bronx. He makes about $80 to $90 a day, and works from five in the morning till eight thirty at night. His wife works as a cashier from time to time. “I don’t work in December or February because it is too cold,” he said. During those two months, Ashraf is unemployed.

Although Ashraf did not disclose as to whether or not his cart receives financial assistance, Green Carts are different from any old cart that sell fruits and vegetables in that operators can get reduced-interest rate loans from ACCION USA. According to the NYC Green Cart website, vendors can get loans amounting to $5000, at interest rates of 6.99-9.99%.

Ashraf has been at the same location selling fruits and vegetables for three years. When asked what job he would rather have, he smiled and said, “When I find a better job than this one, I'll switch.”

Sunday, November 6

The Triborough Sugar Bowl

Click me. Zoom button recommended!

The Power Broker: Chapter 32


(photo courtesy:

Mayor William O'Dwyer (Tammany-backed), the 100th mayor of New York City
(photo courtesy:
Cartoon from 1941
(photo courtesy:

The Power Broker: Chapter 31

Chapter 31: Monopoly

Ole Singstad of the New York City Tunnel Authority and chief engineer of the Brookyln-Batter Project
(photo courtesy:

Building the Queens-Midtown Tunnel in 1939, designed by Ole Singstad
(photo courtesy:
Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel as it was partly built in 1944
(photo courtesy:
In 1946, Robert Moses' Triborough Authority swallows the New York Tunnel Authority

The Power Broker: Chapter 30


 A Summer Scene at Batter Park (postcard, 1917): Castle Garden Fort & The New York Aquarium
Castle Clinton, once the site of the New York Aquarium, housed America's first captive Beluga Whale
(info courtesy of:; photo courtesy:

Castle Clinton
George McAneny, traditionalist reformer who fought Moses to save Fort Clinton
(photo courtesy of:
New York Aquarium at Coney Island
(photo courtesy of:

Admissions fee to the New York Aquarium--thanks to Robert Moses
Manhattan entrance to the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel which runs directly under Castle Clinton
(photo courtesy:

Roosevelt Island's Transformation in Pictures

              As the proposed plans for a New York City tech campus on Roosevelt Island were released to the public, the centerpiece seems to be a community blending, environmentally friendly cluster of facilities. 

Photo courtesy of Stanford University
Stanford’s plans call for building a marsh to filter water, extensive use of solar and geothermal power, and recycling water from storm drains.

Photo courtesy of Cornell University
Cornell’s plans include four acres of solar panels, and will generate more energy than it uses. 

The Coler Goldwater Specialty Hospital and Nursing Facility, sitting on the Southern half of Roosevelt Island, is a 2,000 bed hospital which provides medical rehabilitative and long-term care services.  It is the proposed site by both Cornell University and Stanford University to build their new tech campuses.        

The facility is a result of a 1996 merger between Coler Memorial Hospital and Goldwater Memorial Hospital. The hospital is in motion to be completely vacated by 2014, making it ideal in the eyes of both universities vying for the land.

Some of the facilities from the hospital have been around as early as the late 1930s. Roosevelt Island, originally named Welfare Island, has long been home to many who need chronic care. 

South of the hospital sit the ruins of the Renwick Smallpox Hospital, a 100-bed facility that opened in 1856 when the island was known as Blackwell’s Island. Designed by architect James Renwick, Jr., it was built on the Southern tip of the island in order to quarantine patients.

An image of Renwick Smallpox Hospital in the 1930s, courtesy of the Roosevelt Island Historical Society. By the 1950s, like many of the other facilities on the island, Renwick fell into decay. In 1976, it became the only ruin in New York City to earn the designation of Historical Landmark. 

Today, Renwick sits with no roof, no inner walls, almost no floors. The steel framing stands as part of a $4.5 million dollar project to stabilize the decrepit masonry and open it to the public. It will continue to be fenced off despite the Roosevelt Island Campus plans. 

The Roosevelt Island Tramway connects the island to Manhattan. The tram began operation in 1976, and since than has ferried 26 million passengers across the East River.

Directly across the island, on Manhattan, lies the Weill Cornell Medical College, a graduate biomedical studies school of Cornell University, which hopes to leverage the success of its remote Medical College campus to gain favor from the selection committee. 

The Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge, completed in 1909, connects the neighborhood of Long Island City in the borough of Queens with Manhattan, passing over Roosevelt Island.

An advertisement for Riverwalk Condos, one of the newest high rise condos on Roosevelt Island that has angered many of its residents.

A sign above one of Coler-Goldwater’s lab entrances. Many of these buildings will need serious renovations in order to meet the standards set forth by the school’s proposals.

Children and families play inside the Main Street Plaza. One of the biggest complaints by Roosevelt Island Residents has been the lack of recognizable businesses on the island, such as a McDonalds. Both tech campus proposals include plans for a student plaza for food courts and recreation