Full Tilt E.Vil. Nostalgia

September 14, 2007

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Don’t miss The New York Times article about the best nabe in the world (still!), the East Village. The article mentions that Abbie Hoffman started the yippie movement in a basement apartment he lived in at 30 St. Marks Pl. I happen to live in one of two basement apartments that still exist at 30 St. Marks. The video (which is also excellent, don’t miss it) indicates that the “basement apartment” is now the Japanese restaurant Go, but I wonder if that’s correct, given that the restaurant is on the ground floor and there are still two basement apartments in the back. Does anyone know for sure which space Abbie Hoffman actually lived in? (I took the above photo in front of the store Trash and Vaudeville several years ago, which is the space where Yoko Ono and other artists held “happenings.”)

There is also a downloadable audio walking tour. Click here for that.


Howl Festival

September 8, 2007

Tompkin Square Park is alive with the Howl Festival. I happened to catch The Little Death NYC featuring Moby this afternoon. The whole park was rocking. Along the outside fence are murals by local artists. Here is one of the more compelling juxtapositions (click to enlarge):

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For a short slideshow of last year’s Howl parade down St. Mark’s Pl. at the end of the festival, click here and scroll down to the sixth item.


A New Era of Civic Virtue?

September 7, 2007

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The Chief Urban Designer for New York City, Alexandros Washburn, has a piece on Metropolis.com arguing that in previous centuries, civic virtue was expressed through architecture, from the Pantheon in Rome to the Farley building in New York. But the current era of civic virtue requires us to better manage the environment.

Nature is the new civic ideal. To invent the urban design language that will express this is a vital part of the mayor’s challenge. It may happen in surprisingly low-tech ways or it may take advantage of our most advanced science. It may build incrementally on tradition or it may seek entirely new forms. The only certainty is that change is in the air, from planting in our parking lots to rediscovering our waterfronts.

Chicago is, of course, way ahead of all other American cities in this regard, but the above picture is a good example of the issues we face here in New York. The largest green roof in the city is on top of Silvercup Studios in Long Island City, which benefited from some government support, but also required considerable private sector investment, most notably by Silvercup and the landscape architecture firm which designed the green roof, Balmori Associates. The firm recently won a design competition to do the landscaping around Gehry’s Bilboa Museum, and in fact, much of Balmori’s work — which is right in keeping with this new era of civic virtue — is not being done in New York City, where the firm is based, but in other international cities where there is a much greater commitment of resources to better managing the urban environment.

Herein lies the rub. A new era of civic virtue of environmental stewardship in cities across the United States (beyond Chicago) will require a serious commitment of government resources on the local, state and national levels. The modern interpretation of civic virtue on the scale of a Pantheon or Farely building requires nothing less.

Read the whole Metropolis article here.

For a Metropolis piece I wrote about Chicago in 2004, click here (PDF): metropolis-final.pdf


US Open

September 5, 2007

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I’ve been going to the US Open since 1990, the year Pete Sampras exploded onto the scene, beating Andre Agassi in what was supposed to be Agassi’s first grand slam title. This was also when Louis Armstrong Stadium was center court, before the monstrous Arthur Ashe stadium opened in 1997. I’ve only ever had seats in the nosebleed section of Ashe, which often provides better views of the Manhattan skyline than the tennis match. So take it from me, you haven’t seen tennis at Ashe until you’ve watched it from a luxury box, which I did last night until about 2:30 in the morning when David Ferrer beat Rafael Nadal. The velocity generated by the power-hitting of these two players just cannot be appreciated until you’ve seen it in person. Ferrer’s unbelievable defense is what ultimately won him the match. The pic above was taken just prior to the opening night matches, which started with Justine Henin and Serena Williams. (I gained a whole new appreciation for Henin’s game last night, who matched Serena’s power shot for shot, in addition to having more variety. Serena mistakenly seemed to think she could just muscle her way through, and ultimately failed because she never constructed points.) Alas, I’ll be back in the nosebleed section on Thursday.


Picnick

September 3, 2007

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The new food kiosk, Picknick, in Battery Park opened today, a beautiful day for a debut in Lower Manhattan. This eco-friendly food station (the seemingly plastic cups are made of cornstarch, among other recyclable items) is complimented by uncrowded tables, providing a great spot to see the harbor, Red Hook,  and the Statue of Liberty.

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Floating City

September 2, 2007

I’m back in New York and I have a little story to share.

While I was in Mesilla, NM (see below), I was of course missing New York, but then not really — the beautiful adobe house I was staying in was huge and lovely, rundown in a charming kind of way, and ever so cheap (you see my point). So every morning, I biked a short distance to a coffee place, The Bean, and one day I noticed a book on one of the side tables, a slim little paperback titled, “Floating City,” which piqued my interest. It turned out to be a book of poems by a woman who had won the Walt Whitman award for new poets. Now, keep in mind I hardly ever read poetry, but I started reading this collection by Anne Pierson Wiese. Turns out she lives in Brooklyn and her poetry so absolutely captures the essence of life in the city — the small moments of beauty and tragedy, how the natural and the built environments can combine to create magic. So I kept this book with me (stole it from The Bean, I must admit), carrying it around in my bag for weeks, pulling it out at times to read a poem and just revel in this woman’s ability to remind me why I love New York so much. Here is one of my favorites:

Composed upon Brooklyn Bridge, July 6, 2003

How the city’s infinite motions seem stilled

in the sun’s horizontal blue gaze–her tips

and contraptions, her manifold upright lips’

lisp of steel and breath on sky, her curved sill

of shoreline, bridged and built as if the mills

of God have been replaced by quicker equipment,

her people heading home; now, before the dip

of the sun spills red, how this equal light wills

me to see the whole as one. For an instant,

her interlocking parts of bedrock and air,

asphalt and wind, metal and flesh, infant

cries of traffic and windows’ crowded state–

all these seem to pause and fuse, a jubilant

pair of mighty lungs with breath upheld in prayer.


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