Almost all libraries are important public places, but some are just more amazing than others—and all should strive to be as nice as this. Whenever I am in the area & have some work to do, I love spending time at the Jefferson Market Library. Designed by a partner of the famed architect Calvert Vaux, and built atop the site of the eponymous market, the structure was originally built as a courthouse in 1877. The court was so busy it was the site of the US's first night court. In 1945, the courts moved out, and the building was almost torn down, until it was handed to the New York Public Library in 1961 as an adaptive reuse project. 1961 was also the same year Jane Jacobs' Death and Life was published. Coincidence? I think not! 😂 Today the building still stands as a vital community structure, open and available to all, and a wonderful place to work, read, or even just have a restful & quiet moment. Cities need more spaces like it. #urbanism #UrbanPlanning #UrbanDesign #cityplanning #publicspace #library #nypl #HistoricPreservation #AdaptiveReuse #urbanhistory #greenwichvillage
Having a loved one in the hospital is hard and awful. But I have to say, a view like this helps both of us!
On Sunday, June 24, 2018, I found myself on my way to San Francisco, for a week of urban exploration, research, and—yes—vacation. A few weeks before my trip however, I had gotten some frustrating news: the day after I arrived, the Twin Peaks tunnel—a major part of the city's light rail/subway infrastructure—was closing for a two month long reconstruction and refurbishment. This was a minor inconvenience, to be sure—even though I wasn't staying somewhere I needed to use the tunnel, no one wants to experience a city's major transit disruption. But more than that, I am a self-avowed transit nerd, and for all of my love of San Francisco, I had never found the opportunity to ride this part of its transit system in all my adult trips to the city. No problem, I figured: since my flight was scheduled to arrive in the late afternoon/early evening, I would have a brief window to check out the tunnel before it closed. It would be a long and hectic day, to be sure—especially since that Sunday would also be the last night of San Francisco Pride—but I wasn't about to let that stop me. Little did I know just how brief my window would be, however. Four and a half hours of mechanical delays and ATC issues at JFK meant I didn't step onto the terminal carpet in SFO until 7pm, and didn't get checked into my Airbnb until a little after 8. It was a late Sunday evening, I was exhausted, but with a little bit of help, I was determined, and made my way through the city. Finally, at around 9:30PM Pacific Time—12:30AM my time—and after working my way through boisterous Pride crowds at both Church and Castro stations, I made it through to West Portal, mere hours before the tunnel’s closure! (Continued...)
So, after spending a week in San Francisco, I have to say that—and I'm sure locals will disagree 😉—I found its bus system to be both exemplary and a joy to use. Transit that quickly connects all types of places, and that is easy & pleasant to use, is vital for good urbanism, and the city's network does that in spades. The network has a preponderance of high-frequency lines (which are clearly labeled as such on maps), making the system easier to navigate. All buses announce stops, making riding far less anxiety inducing. There are bus lanes at many choke points, making lines faster. And all door boarding is amazingly freeing: just board, tap, and go! Obviously, it is not perfect. Headways tend to grow too large too early in the night, leading to long waits. The city's rapid lines are a joke—they don't begin to approach Bus Rapid Transit, and are instead just frequent lines with less stops. Some of the equipment is quite old, albeit still very functional. Crowding can be an issue at times. And some bus stops are a joke—they are just painted stripes on utility poles, a usability nightmare. But still, the system connects the city in amazing ways, and as such, is well-used by all segments of society—a rarity when it comes to buses. To this observer, San Francisco's transit culture has always been relatively heavily bus-focused, but with the network as it stands now, it is easy to see why: it connects places quickly and easily. While the system is far from perfect, I think San Francisco offers a number of lessons for other cities to follow. It demonstrates the power a small number of changes can make on the usability of the regular city bus. Also, how could anyone not *love* the sound that a trolleybus—an electric bus powered by overhead wires, super useful for hilly routes—makes!? Sounds like a slot car! 😁 #urbanism #urbanplanning #urbandesign #cityplanning #transit #transportation #bus #buses #sanfrancisco #muni #trolleybus #citysounds
A little San Francisco #urbanism touch I love: street names at every corner are imprinted into the concrete. It's a small but wonderful thing that really improves wayfinding & locational awareness, the kind of thing you almost don't notice until you realize you always know the streets you are crossing without looking for a sign. #urbanism #urbanplanning #urbandesign #cityplanning #sanfrancisco #walking #pedestrianpov
Infrastructure not only helps make a city run, but if you are a nerd like me, is fascinating in its own right. Unfortunately however, because it is often underground, it is also all to easy too overlook - that is, until it breaks. It's relatively rare to get as clear a three-dimensional picture of the rats nest of pipes and cables beneath our feet as you do here, underneath Worth Street in Manhattan's Foley Square. It helps you envision the giant, complex networks that enable so much of urban living. Also, this is the location of the abandoned Worth Street station from New York's first subway line. Closed when the platforms at nearby Brooklyn Bridge were extended northwards, most of the station still exists underneath the street here. Sadly, none of it is visible in this picture... #urbanism #urbandesign #urbanplanning #cityplanning #electricity #sewer #watermain #infrastructure #pipes #wires #underground #foleysquare #worthstreet #subway
Sometimes, you just have to admit you were wrong. . For the past few years, I've watched this hotel—a Holiday Inn—being built in the Garment District, at 39th & 8th Ave. The developers clearly received a height bonus for including a public plaza, one of New York City's many so-called privately-owned public places (or POPS). POPS have a sad history: not only have they more often than not been dead, lifeless afterthoughts, but developers had an *incentive* to make them that way—after all, they had no desire for non-tenants to hang out on *their* property. Given that history and this space, which is tightly tucked between two buildings, I was fairly sure it was going to be a failure. As late as 2016, it looked like the plaza was going to be a lightless, empty disaster, a space devoid of people where no one wanted to be. I was even ready to take pictures of the legally mandated Public Space signs and snark about how only the best public spaces require signs to inform you of their nature. Well, I'm glad to admit that I was totally wrong. The Garment District is a region almost devoid of public space, and this one is almost always full of a variety of people doing different things, including simply enjoying the city. There are many reasons it has worked: it is a relatively humanistic design with plenty of seating and plants, it is often bustling with hotel guests which in turn makes it more comfortable & interesting for other people to use, and it is not overly policed (in my experience, no one who isn't overtly begging is asked to leave). Whatever the exact reasons however, this space is working, and it has turned into a great addition to a neighborhood that desperately needed one. In other words, sometimes it is a good thing to be wrong. #urbanism #urbanplanning #urbandesign #cityplanning #streetscape #publicspace #publicspaces #pops #privatelyownedpublicspace #garmentdistrict #instablog #park #spacesforpeople
Spring has finally sprung in New York, and that means it's time for baseball, softball, and views! (Well, actually, today is more like summer—ah, New York weather, straight from Winter to Summer—but that's besides the point.) Anyway, I recently took a trip on a beautiful day to the beautifully redone Bush Terminal Piers Parks in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, and oh my, is it a gorgeous place. You can not only see the entire harbor, but it makes it feel cozy. Natural touches mix with industrial decay, and great views. And of course, there are people, including these softballs teams, whose constant chanting at one another was amazing. Such a great place to play ball. Hopefully I'll do a more complete write up on the park sometime soon! Until then, I think I’ll just share some of better photos W #urbanism #urbanplanning #urbandesign #cityplanning #parkdesign #newyork #sunsetpark #brooklyn #skyline #softball #baseball #park #parks #waterfont #bushterminal #bushterminalpiers #bushterminalpierspark
Looking out at the a Manhattan skyline, a NYC Ferry dock, and the sunset from Long Island City. . No big observations today; I'm already *way* behind on sharing my pictures here—this is from January. 😅 Damn my proclivity to want to write and share my thoughts & observations! 😂 Going forward, however, you may notice a jump in the quality of my urban photographs. I finally invested in a nicer, compact camera—something that's a good jump in quality from a phone but that I can still carry stealthily & easily. Also, quality zoom without carrying 100lbs of lenses. 😉 Hope you enjoy! #urbanism #urbanplanning #skyline #newyork #manhattan #nycferry #longislandcity #waterfront #sunset #newcamera #showingoff
I ended my walk through downtown Jersey City in its waterfront warehouse district, which forms a literal and metaphorical bridge between old and new Jersey City. Once, these warehouses served the massive railroads that moved people and goods via ferry to and from New York and the rest of the country. Today, they are the only part of that old world that still exists, sitting between the historic downtown and its newly-built Houston on the Hudson counterpart. Like so many aging urban warehouse districts, Jersey City is trying hard to convert these buildings into galleries and artists’ studios. An artists’ district itself is not a terrible plan, although far from an original one. But it seems that the city’s plan, rather than to try and attract actual artist class, is to jump to the chic end-product; to skip the gradual money of unslumming and speed right to the cataclysmic money of redevelopment, to use Jane Jacob's terms. It is a deeply limited approach. Warehouse neighborhoods already lack texture and life, and skipping to the homogenization of wealth—no matter how cultured that wealth might be—isn't necessarily a great path for developing a truly urban environment, even if you ignore questions of equity. However, perhaps I am only this cynical because the neighborhood is so clearly in pieces. Many blocks feel cold and empty, with decaying streets and blank walls, only to be punctuated with the occasional window into a high-class, high-cost world, highlighting the artificiality and consumerist nature of the development. It’s certainly hard to consider this entirely a bad thing—there is no one to displace from decaying warehouses—but it seems to preclude the creation of fine-grained, functional urbanism. You can't have an instant city where you just need to add people—cities are far more complicated than that. Continued...