Go to my new website to learn more about my new book, Slackonomics, to be published June 30, 2008.
UPDATE! www.slackonomics.com is live!
I’ve been woefully negligent here on Polis. But UnBeige, a design-oriented blog on MediaBistro, has an update about what’s been happening in my life… To see the original post (with the weirdly distorted picture below), click here. I probably won’t revive Polis anytime soon, as I’ll be concentrating on developing a website for my book Slackonomics.
I just noticed that one of the oldest and more important buildings in the East Village is up for sale. The Deutsches Dispensary, which up until very recently was the Stuyvesant Polyclinic, is under construction to become a temporary location site for a TV pilot called “Blue Blood,” a police drama. After that, who knows? I hate to say it, but it would probably be a cool boutique hotel…
The old Dispensary stands next to the slightly shorter and more narrow Freie Bibliotehek, the very first building ever erected in the United States specifically as a library. Both were designed by William Schickel and completed in 1884. The terra cotta facades are decorated with owls, globes and portraits of famous Germans (this used to be Little Deutschland).
These building details are hidden behind the tree in the pic above (click either one to enlarge):
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.
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):
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.
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.
For a Metropolis piece I wrote about Chicago in 2004, click here (PDF): metropolis-final.pdf
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.