info 04.16.12

The Sidewalks
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Dealing with the city, and not so long ago, simply meant shaking your fist at the impossibilities of living here. Now, it's more likely to evoke fresh bike lanes, pedestrian zones, a stroll on a formerly abandoned railroad track—pipe dreams turned concrete, concrete turned into parks.

Cemusa is the street furniture company that got the bus shelters and newsstands contract from the City in 2005. The consensus (to the extent that New York can reach consensus on anything) is that the bus stops in particular have been a great success. Sure, they're advertising delivery devices. They're also models of clean design and clear presentation of information.

Along the same lines, we're looking forward to seeing fewer of the dark, dangerous old sidewalk scaffolds, aka sheds, and see more of Young-Hwan Choi and Agencie Group's elegant, even uplifting design, which includes light filters and LED lighting. Attractive scaffolds with no protruding, chest-level, malevolent hardware (that may or may not be wrapped in gaffer's tape)? What is happening to this city!

It isn't always the citywide improvements that can have a real impact on your neighborhood, your daily route, and even your mood. You may only have a hazy awareness of New York's BIDs (Business Improvement Districts), though at their most effective, they can improve the safety, sanitation, and vibe of their bailiwick. They can sweat the small stuff. And sometimes the angel is in the details.

Along Steinway Street are replicas of the 1964 World's Fair Benches, made of recycled materials:

The Myrtle Avenue BID made the most of their tree guards, combining function with a public art project.

Columbus Avenue is planning a re-think of the area outside I.S. 44 between 76th and 77th Streets:

Even something as seemingly minor as a garbage can with a larger capacity than the standard issue can make a difference in a neighborhood's cleanliness. Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez helped Sunset Park acquire 102 of them.

Some of the larger BIDs have really transformed the urban landscape. 34th Street Partnership has done silk-purse stuff by creating a pedestrian zone, adding kiosks and restrooms, benches, planters, and signage.

The Flatiron 23rd Street Partnership added new public plazas by Madison Square Park in 2008 and all the street furniture trimmings to what is now indisputably one of the most vibrant parts of New York.

One other group we'd like to call your attention to: desigNYC, a nonprofit that matches designers with communities facing specific issues—and facilitates a design collaboration to solve problems. Or, as they put it, "Improving the lives of New Yorkers through the power of good design."

New York City

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