Caron Atlas: Arts Can Be a Critical Component of Disaster Relief

On last week’s podcast on Art Works, Caron Atlas discussed her work organizing programming for Hurricane Sandy evacuees at the Armory shelter in Brooklyn.

Working with New York City council member Brad Lander, Caron and volunteers created an autonomous space called the Wellness Center, which became the living room of the shelter. There, residents could refresh themselves through religious services, meditation, massages and, most particularly, cultural programming. The residents could listen to music or paint, listen to stories, or tell their own. The range of activities was astounding, as were the participating artists. Caron commented,

Artists from around the city were so generous. They were just like wanting so badly to get involved and to use their skills and talents as they got involved. So we had everything from, classical music quartets and a group from Carnegie Hall who came because Carnegie Hall was closed. We had people from the Philharmonic. We had people from Broadway. And we had jazz quartets and storytellers and Big Apple Circus and we had the New York Writers Collaborative. And I think what I learned also was what kind of artists made sense in that setting, because it isn’t every art. I mean, some artists could just come and play beautiful music and that was wonderful. And I think people so appreciated, you know — you’d be listening and there would be the cello playing and it would be gorgeous. And we’d have people from the emergency workers say, “You know, I couldn’t come over, but we just heard it and it was so comforting.” So we’d have that, but then we had people really early on who did participatory workshops or music circles or writing where people could start to make sense of what happened to them. We kind of thought of ourselves as the living room of the shelter because it was the one place with chairs. I mean one thing we found out is that the arts community is really resourceful.

Please listen to the amazing, complete podcast.

Janette Sadik-Khan: The Benefits of a Well-Designed City

In an article on Bloomberg Businessweek, NYC DOT Janette Sadik-Khan argues that cities need to change to be successful in this day and age. “If you were a company and you didn’t change the way you did business for 50 years, you probably wouldn’t be around,” Sadik-Khan points out.

Moreover, cities and their political leaders need to look at “our streets as valuable public places, and we need to make it easier and safer for people to walk around and bike.” Sadik-Khan elaborates:

Design can tell you to take your business elsewhere, or it can tell you this is a vital, active retail space. When we pedestrianized 42nd to 47th Street, we saw an 11 percent increase in foot traffic. Now Times Square is one of the top 10 retail locations on the planet, which wasn’t the case before we made that intervention. Good streets are good business.

Sadik-Khan rightfully believes that it is important for cities to have a vision if they wish to be successful and competitive in today’s world, and “there has to be political leadership that allows the table setting to be done a little differently.”

Please read the full article for more information.

San Francisco’s Privately Owned Public Spaces

For an interesting discussion on privately owned public spaces in San Francisco, check out the article by John King, the San Francisco Chronicle’s urban design critic, entitled “Privately Owned Public Space: Guidance Needed.”

In the article, King discusses how simple remedies to San Francisco’s current building plan would “increase awareness of good spaces and focus resources more effectively.” Currently, the provision of privately owned public spaces is governed by the city’s 1985 downtown plan, which requires 1 square foot of public space per 50 square feet of office space or hotels. However, due to the nature of the downtown area, many of the privately owned public spaces recently built have been located within or on top of buildings. As a result, many do not know that these spaces exist.

Unlike New York City, where the planning code requires large and visible signs of a specific height and size that state “OPEN TO PUBLIC,” the San Francisco 1985 plan simply declares that when public spaces are located within or on top of buildings, “their availability should be marked visibly at street level.” These vague guidelines allow for small signs to be placed at locations where passersby will likely miss them.

King states that, as a new wave of downtown development begins to gain momentum in San Francisco, planners and decision makers need to make a worthy program better, and the first challenge will be simply to make sure that people know that these public spaces exist.

Please read the full article for more information on some of San Francisco’s privately owned public spaces and what else should be done to improve the city’s 1985 downtown plan.

Van Alen Books and BZP Event

Thank you to everyone who made the event at Van Alen Books so successful. Here is an assortment of photos taken by some of the Van Alen staff.

The event gears up!

The event gears up!

Contributor and editor

Contributor Arthur Eisenburg and editor Lynne Elizabeth

Moses Gates

Moses Gates

Guests at the event

Guests at the event

Quilian Riano

Quilian Riano

The group

The group

The group again

The group again

Lynne and Arthur

Lynne and Arthur

Audience

Audience

Mid-discussion

Mid-discussion

Van Alen Bookstore

Van Alen Bookstore

Group discussions

Group discussions

View from outside I

View from outside I

View from outside II

View from outside II

Janette Sadik-Khan and David Burney Open Enhanced Pedestrian Space in Brooklyn!

On Friday, January 18, 2013, New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and Department of Design and Construction Commissioner David Burney, along with other city officials, announced the opening of the newly reconstructed Willoughby Plaza in Downtown Brooklyn, providing 14,000 square-feet of pedestrian space, enhanced greenery, public seating, and other amenities to the neighborhood’s many residents and visitors.

From the NYC DOT’s official media release:

The reopened pedestrian space, featuring new planted areas, additional trees tables and other seating areas, is the first of the DOT Plaza Program’s plaza spaces built with temporary materials to be completely redesigned and rebuilt as part of a capital construction project, including extension of concrete sidewalks, underground utility work and new tree plantings…

“With a down payment of just a few planters, seating and some shade, Willoughby Plaza became the anchor of a retail and dining destination, showing once again that better streets mean better business,” said Commissioner Sadik-Khan. “Now with a top-to-bottom redesign, this plaza is a model for neighborhoods across the boroughs that are transforming underused roadbed into permanent public spaces designed, supported and maintained by the community.”

Downtown Brooklyn Partnership President Tucker Reed, also attending the opening, stated,

“Public spaces help enliven neighborhoods and draw communities together, and the revitalized Willoughby Plaza is the latest example.”

For more information, read the full media release.

Ron Shiffman earns the APA Planning Pioneer Award

Ronald Shiffman, FAICP, Hon. AIA, full professor at Pratt Institute’s Programs for Sustainable Planning and Development and cofounder of the Pratt Center for Community Development is being honored with the 2013 Planning Pioneer Award from the American Planning Association. This prestigious award is presented to leaders of the profession who have made personal and direct innovations in American planning and have significantly and positively redirected planning practice, education, or theory with long-term results.

Ron Shiffman is the lead editor for Beyond Zuccotti Park and contributing author to What We See: Advancing the Observations of Jane Jacobs. He has an extensive history in the fields of community development, urban planning and design, architecture, and sustainable development. He has provided program and organizational development assistance to community-based groups in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods. Well known for many projects, including founding one of the US’s first university design centers—Pratt Institute Center for Community and Environmental Development—he is more than deserving of this award.

Congratulations to Professor Shiffman for earning APA’s highest honor! For more information click here.

The 2013 National Planning Awards jury was chaired by Ann C. Bagley, FAICP. Members of the jury were Gov. Parris N. Glendening, Letitia A. Gomez, AICP, Charles C. Graves III, AICP, Regina Gray, John R. Gosling, AICP, Mayor Ron Littlefield, AICP, Lynn M. Ross, AICP, and Chase W. Rynd.

Call for Proposals for Beyond Resilience: Actions for a Just Metropolis — 2013 Conference

Join Planners Network, Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility, and New Village Press for a June 2013 conference — Beyond Resilience: Actions for A Just Metropolis. This conference will be held in New York City, June 6-8, 2013. We are welcoming proposals from participants.

How can activists, academics, and professionals promote alternative, more sustainable, and just ways of preserving and developing the metropolis? What lessons have been learned? What role can progressive planners play?

We invite proposals for community-based workshops, discussions, speakers, and plenaries. Preferred topics include: socially just disaster preparedness and response; environmental justice; cross-sector alliances and organizing; meaningful and equitable employment; climate change; racial, class, and gender justice in planning and zoning policies; waterfront planning; housing justice including affordable housing and quality public housing; gentrification and displacement; redefining/reexamining urban security; transportation justice; water security; and food security.

Please be as specific as possible about who will participate in your proposed session, panel, or workshop and what you expect to accomplish. Limit your submission to 250 words and attach as a separate word document. Include “2013 Conference” in the subject line of the e-mail and send to: PN2013@plannersnetwork.org

To learn more about this year’s conference and past conferences, visit A Just Metropolis.

“Future Cities” an essay by Peter Marcuse

An essay by Peter Marcuse has been featured on Sustainable Cities Collective website. The essay, “Future Cities: Re-imagining the City Critically”, is a look into what a future utopian city would look like. The essay prompts the reader to imagine a city where the essentially unnecessary is removed. What Marcuse delves into is the image of a city that is based on freely doing the necessary. He asks

…if a city could be fashioned for the purposes of the enjoyment of life, rather than for the purposes of the unwelcome but necessary activities involved in earning a living, what would that city be like?

This is the first installment of his essay. The second will be posted tomorrow, January 4, 2013. To read the complete essay, please click here.

Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Architecture Honors Michael Pyatok

Michael Pyatok, head of Pyatok Architects located in Oakland, California and contributor to Beyond Zuccotti Park, has been honored with the Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Architecture. Pyatok has received the award in the category of making a significant contribution to the quality of public architecture while working in the private sector.Pyatok and Pyatok Architects has focused on elevating the quality of design in affordable and low-income housing. An early advocate for density, mixed uses, and proximity to transit and services in low-income communities, Pyatok developed site planning and design strategies to create “cozy communities,” or intimate groupings of neighbors that foster social cohesion among at-risk households.

He is the co-author of the now standard Good Neighbors: Affordable Family Housing. Today, he and his staff have designed more than 35,000 dwellings in hundreds of projects around the US. He has also designed more than 5,000 affordable homes for low-income communities in Malaysia and the Philippines. In addition to the Thomas Jefferson Award, Pyatok has received many other awards in design, leadership and social responsibility.

Congratulations to Michael and Pyatok Architects!

For more information on the award and Pyatok, click here. For more information on Pyatok and Pyatok Architects, please click here.