- See more at: http://www.bloggerhow.com/2012/07/implement-twitter-cards-blogger-blogspot.html/#sthash.DO2JBejM.dpuf

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Gentrification Will Be Televised

Some influential writers about cities have been talking about how TV shows contributed to the revitalization of cities. Over and over again, three specific shows seem to be credited with sparking a return to the city: Friends, Seinfeld, and Sex in the City. The thing is, the city has always appeared as the setting for TV shows. When people embrace this narrative that is so factually incorrect, it serves as a window into the way they have perceived the city and approach it in their work to remake it. They are implicitly saying that what counts are places that attract the "creative class," and the experiences of working-class and minority urban residents simply don't matter.

Let's quickly dispel the myth that the city ever actually disappeared as a TV setting. I should note I am not the only person to observe the disconnect between the historical record and the return-to-the-city myth; David King had a blog post not too long ago. There were so many long-running shows, the narrative seems really quite puzzling at first. Here's a quick, partial list of older shows set in cities:
  • The Odd Couple, 1970 - 1975
  • The Mary Tyler Moore Show, 1970 - 1977
  • Sanford and Son, 1972 - 1977
  • The Bob Newhart Show, 1972 - 1978
  • Barney Miller, 1975 - 1982
  • The Jeffersons, 1975 - 1985
  • Laverne & Shirley, 1976 - 1983
  • WKRP in Cincinnati, 1978 - 1982
  • Taxi, 1978 - 1983
  • Diff'rent Strokes, 1978 - 1985
  • Cheers, 1982 - 1993
  • Night Court, 1984 - 1992
  • The Cosby Show, 1984 - 1992
  • Head of the Class, 1986 - 1992
  • Perfect Strangers, 1986 - 1993
  • Full House, 1987 - 1995
  • Family Matters, 1989 - 1997
The shows that supposedly marked the return to the city don't come in until around the time of the end of this list:
  • Seinfeld, 1989 - 1998
  • Friends, 1994 - 2004
  • Sex and the City, 1998 - 2004
Since there were shows set in cities running constantly for decades, what is it about FriendsSeinfeld, and Sex in the City that is driving these perceptions? In a word: gentrification.

Before delving into more explanation, I think it would be helpful to simply watch the intros for Laverne & Shirley and Friends:

These were both shows about young singles living in the city, but the way their youthful characters experience the city has some stark differences. Laverne & Shirley shows its characters at work - in decidedly blue collar jobs. Friends, Seinfeld, and Sex in the City were about the city as a place of privileged leisure for the "creative class."

Monday, February 17, 2014

Dashing through the Snow

Dashing through the snow, climbing icy hills, across the street we go, hoping we don't get killed...

This snow mound in the middle of the crosswalk creates a hazardous condition. It was downright terrifying with our stroller this afternoon!

The thing is, at this specific location, the problem is entirely avoidable. The pedestrian refuge area consists solely of markings; there is no raised concrete island (nor ADA tactile warning strips). The snow plow that cleared the vehicular lanes could have made equally quick work of the crosswalk and pedestrian refuge. The only minor challenge of any type is avoiding the small concrete base for the pedestrian signal light.

Beyond the matter of getting the snow plows to clear out this specific mess, it raises a possibility for the design of pedestrian refuges. Recently, designs have evolved into a cut-through to accommodate ADA, rather than a ramp-up/ramp-down combination. Looking at it during the winter is enough to wonder if it would be ideal to align the accessible pedestrian ramps and ensure they are suitably wide that a small plow could clear the whole thing. The largest challenge that presents itself is the tactile warning plates they way they are currently being installed at many temporary plaza locations. To avoid being stripped off by a plow, it would be critical to ensure they were inset instead of simply overlaid on the pavement.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Sounds of Life

As a lingering effect of the foreclosure crisis, abandoned homes remain a problem in our neighborhood, creating voids on residential blocks. We have been somewhat fortunate that they have gone under during a rather prolonged period, instead of all at once. Some of the earlier homes have been sold, successfully renovated (despite having their interiors stripped), and reinhabited.  The houses that remain vacant, however, are deteriorating eyesores.

Especially during the depths of Winter, these abandoned homes are clamoring for something to interject some activity, if only the faintest reminder of life. These houses need some sign they are being looked after. One of these abandoned houses, which has a close relationship with the street and affects the many pedestrians who walk by all day long, was targeted for an intervention. The installation is titled Sounds of Life.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Conflicted Crosswalks: Gun Hill Road and Webster Avenue

This is the first of a series of posts about crosswalks with conflicts that threaten pedestrians. These are intersections located in neighborhoods that are not living up to their full potential, due in large part to traffic that is hostile to walking. As they exist today, these street corners are not neighborhood places; they are merely the residual space where flows of vehicular traffic collide. Each intersection has its own unique problems, but looking at several cases will help to identify some commonalities. The first intersection we will review is Gun Hill Road and Webster Avenue in The Bronx.

This is an intersection that periodically injures pedestrians, sometimes fatally. Taken as an absolute number, the accidents are on the high side but may not stand out as a priority. However, after considering that the total pedestrian activity is quite low, it becomes apparent that the actual crash rate is particularly high and clearly indicates a problem. (A deeper review would indicate that the unsafe intersection is a major factor in suppressing pedestrian volumes, as people avoid the intersection and trips between the neighborhoods altogether for fear of being hit by a car!) Pedestrians crossing Webster Avenue on either the north or the south side encounters real problems with left-turning vehicles.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Taming Traffic on Mosholu Parkway

Mosholu Parkway is the edge between Norwood and Bedford Park. It is a wonderful greenspace, and it's socially active. Nevertheless, the traffic divides the neighborhoods and is always a source of concern for the residents who cross it. The parkway could become a safer and more enjoyable unifying feature for our neighborhoods if we just tamed the traffic. We can do this by reducing the speed limit and by redesigning the roadway to calm traffic while improving the landscape.

Let's start with the speed limit. While the citywide speed limit in New York City is 30 mph, on Mosholu Parkway it has been increased to 35 mph. I know 5 mph may not sound like much, it makes a huge difference. At faster speeds, it is more likely a driver will hit something, or somebody. That is because their ability to perceive pedestrians is lower, they have less control over the vehicle, and they need more distance to stop. Going 35 instead of 30 mph, a car can take an extra 50 feet to come to a stop.

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The risk of pedestrian injuries and death increases rapidly as speeds exceed 20 mph (that is why advocates are currently campaigning to reduce the citywide limit). A pedestrian hit at 35 mph is about two times as likely to die as a person struck by a vehicle going 30 mph.