Tag Archives: Manhattan

Urban Scenes on the Silver Screen

Film shoot

My first visit to New York City was a disorienting experience. Manhattan is so thoroughly filmed and documented that you can’t help but feel you know the place through TV and movies alone. Turning the corner onto the former set of a film brings to mind the classic optical illusion My Wife and My Mother-in-Law, in which you can perceive a young lady or an old woman in the same illustration, but never both at once. Here’s the restaurant from Seinfeld. Here are the alien spaceships from Men In Black. Here’s that corner of Central Park from Home Alone. And here’s the foot of the Manhattan Bridge, which I can’t place but I’m positive I’ve seen somewhere before. And on top of all that, the actual geography of Manhattan — the way all these disparate scenes and settings fit together — was never quite what I expected. Continue reading

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The City in 3D

Maps may be the closest thing to a universal language of urban space, allowing people with diverse experiences to share a common understanding of space, but it’s almost impossible to avoid flattening out an already unappreciated dimension of urban experience: height (and depth).

We humans aren’t great at talking about the third dimension. We’ve never been very good at getting off the ground and our vocabulary for elevation is poorly developed. A novelist can paint a picture with words and a musician can evoke a feeling with sound, but the third dimension is more like smell: we all know it very personally but have difficulty sharing that understanding with others or even describing it to ourselves. We all know how being above or below, ascending or descending affects our lives personally, but except in the most extreme cases, we have to keep it to ourselves. Continue reading

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POPS Quiz: Evaluating NYC’s “Public” Spaces

180 Fifth Avenue

By Minna Ninova

An urban area as densely built and crowded as Manhattan can be an exhausting place to live or work. Finding a place to rest, relax and catch your breath is essential for staying sane, which is one reason the borough’s public spaces are so highly valued. It’s also one of the reasons the city’s zoning code allows for the creation of so-called Privately Owned Public Spaces or POPS – plazas, arcades, sidewalk widenings, open air concourses, covered pedestrian spaces, and through block arcades – that are provided and maintained by a developer for public use, in exchange for additional floor area. Since their introduction in 1961, the standards governing the city’s POPS have evolved to require a variety of amenities, from simple seating to lighting, accessibility and aesthetic value. Continue reading

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Giants Fans Transform My Neighborhood

Self-selected assemblies on public rights-of-way—streets, sidewalks, on-ramps, off-ramps, etc.—are as varied as that which brings them together. A political rally is a world apart from an outdoor concert. And no one would want to confuse a protest with a parade. But they all have one thing in common and that is an overriding passion. Emotions—ecstasy, frustration, anger, persistence, celebration, or disaffection—are overt and often very raw. A living room or local pub are too small to contain this level of passion. The world—or at least thousands of brethren—must see and hear this intensity of expression in order for it to be processed successfully.

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New York to Shut the Beep Up

Coming home from a run on Manhattan’s West Side Highway, I noticed a bold sign: “Don’t Honk, $350 Penalty.” I’m not sure that the sign, mounted above cross walk lights, is visible to drivers but they’re certainly getting the message through other channels—the Taxi and Limousine Commission chief David Yassky sent a message to 13,000 cab drivers to reinforce the city’s noise code which states that “the use of vehicle horns is illegal, except as a warning in situations of imminent danger.” This notice, plus a warning about the stiff fine, caught the media’s attention. Continue reading

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Cutting Back to Grow Stronger

In gardening, it’s called pruning. In business, it’s called ‘unfortunate, but necessary’. The practice of cutting back weaker elements so that precious resources can be focused on elements that stand a better chance of thriving is well understood and, especially in recessionary times, commonly implemented. But I’ve never seen it applied to cities – until now.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing’s plan to demolish 3,000 houses in the city centre this year, and up to 10,000 soon, is radical and well-intentioned. The city’s population has shrunk to under one million – less than half of that in its halcyon days. But it’s the sprawl of it that’s truly astounding: You could fit San Francisco and Boston within Detroit’s borders, and still have room left for Manhattan.

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