Sunday, May 25, 2008
My Favorite Wiener Dogs
Of course I can't forget their mother, the Empress Guinness.
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Location, Location, Location: It's The Location, Stupid!
A GALLON OF SUPER costs more than $4 in many places, and that hurts when your truck or SUV gets 8 miles to the gallon. People who "drove to price" the last few decades (i.e., moved farther and farther from their jobs in order to get a bigger house they could afford) are hurting, and it is exurban house prices that are falling the fastest. At the same time, prices in many urban neighborhoods are holding steady and sometimes even rising, while mass transit ridership all over the country is up 15%.
Links to follow.
The Boston Herald Supports the New Spartans
After the jump, a story in the Boston Herald that presents a violent sociopath consumed by a lifetime hatred for a sports team and its fans as a victim and reasonable man.
[emphasis added by me]
It’s an even lower blow than when A-Rod swatted the ball out of Bronson Arroyo’s glove. [says what is supposed to be a news article]
In a new bid to see just how low the Evil Empire can go, a Yankees fan sued a member of Red Sox [team stats] Nation for injuries sustained to his hand while he was punching said Sox fan in a bar fight.
Are you sitting down? A California jury last week ordered Bay State native David Sanborn to pay $25,297 for his role in the West Coast Red Sox-Yankees brawl.
“Typical Yankees fan. You sucker punch me, and then because my tooth goes into your hand, you sue me?” Sanborn, 40, fumed in an interview with the Herald. “It just goes to show what a Yankees fan is like. They’re greedy.”
[But when you get farther along in the story, you discover that the Sox fan started the fight. And that after hearing the evidence, the court ruled against the Sox fan.]
That’s not quite how Yankees backer Mario Melendez tells it.
The Golden State dust-up took place at the Grand Avenue Bar & Grill in Carlsbad, Calif., one afternoon back in 2006, when Sanborn was cheering on the Sox vs. Tampa Bay, and Melendez was rooting for the Yanks over the Cleveland Indians. Yankees slugger Jason Giambi hit a home run, and when Melendez cheered, he says, Sanborn told him to “Sit your fat ass down, Jeter.”
The confrontation escalated, and Melendez claimed he punched Sanborn in self-defense after the 6-foot-1-inch man lifted him in the air. “I thought he was going to bodyslam me, so I hit him in the mouth and I broke his teeth,” Melendez said. The New York native didn’t realize how badly his hand was hurt until he went to the doctor.
“I’m a musician and I depend on my hands to make a living,” said Melendez, a professional bongo player whose phone message identifies him as “The No. 1 Yankee Fan in the World.” He sued, and the jury awarded him $15,297 for medical costs and $10,000 in punitive damages last week.
Now Sanborn is outraged he’s going to have to pay No. 1 off.
“As a guy from Boston, if you get in a fight, you move on. You don’t go suing someone. It’s ridiculous,” said Sanborn, a Gloucester native, said he grew up hating the Yankees.
“I’ll always hate them. I hate them to this day and I’ll probably hate them when I’m 6 feet under,” Sanborn said. He admits the fight was stupid, but suggests there were extenuating circumstances.
“No one wants to hear a Yankees fan cheering,” Sanborn said.
The brawl is yet another violent episode in the long-standing Red Sox-Yankees rivalry. A Yankees fan was charged with running down and killing a Red Sox fan with a car outside a New Hampshire bar last week.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Quote of the Day
One of these days I'll get around to making the case that today's highbrow-architecture scene is well understood as something akin to the high-end women's-fashion world. Both fields specialize in the creation of brittle, hysterical whimsies that are sometimes amusing in snobbish and absurd ways. Little harm is done when such productions are fodder for the pages of Vogue, and when they're understood to serve fantasy purposes. But what kind of person would impose high-strung, soon-to-fall- out-of-fashion craziness on our public realm?
The Best Way To Develop Atlantic Yards & Hudson Yards
RICHARD BRODSKY and I have been saying the same thing: why aren't more people listening to our words of wisdom?
The Atlantic Yards and Hudson Yards sites are being developed in the wrong way: instead of selling them to mega-developers like Forest City Ratner and Tishman Speyer (who are both having trouble coming up with the cash), we should develop them the way New York was traditionally developed. That means platting the streets and blocks, and selling lots on those blocks. No eminent domain would be involved.
If the New York City Planning Department decides the highest and best use for the land being sold is rowhouses, they can sell lots sized and coded for rowhouses. If they want office towers or apartment buildings, they can sell lots sized and coded for those. Obviously a modern office building requires a larger lot than a rowhouse, and its lower floors should be coded for retail. If the market changes, the lot sizes can be changed if the codes are properly done.
Of course, rowhouses aren't what should be built on either of the railyard sites, because the infrastructure to build over the yards is too expensive: you need larger buildings to share the expense. And Atlantic Avenue is a wide and important street that should be shaped by taller buildings on both sides of the avenue.
This is the way most of the best parts of New York have developed. The streets and blocks of Manhattan were platted in 1811. The streets and blocks of Brooklyn were platted in 1837. Neighborhoods like the Upper East Side and Park Slope were later made by developers and builders buying lots, often individual lots, and building an assemblage of buildings that gave the neighborhoods their character.
Good superprojects like Rockefeller Center are rare, the exceptions that prove the rule. The norm for these superprojects are the monolithic, boring developments that Robert Moses built in all five boroughs. These are not just the megalithic housing projects that have been such a blight on their neighborhoods and communities, but also the developments like Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village.
Deputy Mayor Doctoroff, now gone, was a friend an ally of the developers like Bruce Ratner who want to build new superprojects. It's rumored he saw himself as a new Robert Moses. But these egotistical displays of macho power are not what have made the neighborhoods. It's time to get back to the time-proven methods that have built the best neighborhoods and communities, building at the scale of the block and the lot.
Robert Moses was wrong. Jane Jacobs was right.
PS: Norman Oder tells me there has long been support for involving multiple developers, including in the Unity Plan. He sent me some links about that from his blog, so I've got to say that the general press either hasn't understood that or for one reason or another hasn't said much on the subject.
Second, there's a matter of scale here that's worth discussing. When someone talks about involving multiple developers, they could mean, for example, that 3 developers would get 2 blocks each. That's still different than the way the city was traditionally developed, or is typically developed today. Most buildings in the city only fill a small portion of the block they're on. For example, look at the two buildings going up near my apartment, the Lucida and the Brompton. The Lucida fills one end of the block that runs between Lexington and Third Avenues and 86th and 85th Streets. The Brompton is on the corner of Third Avenue and 86th Streets. The majority of each block is filled by a range of buildings, with smaller buildings on 85th Street than on the wider avenues and 86th Street, which is as wide as an avenue. If a single building filled those blocks, the effect on the neighborhood would be very different.
In other words, until Le Corbusier, Robert Moses and Urban Removal came along, New York's development was typically by the lot rather than by the block, the superblock or the mega-project. In today's economic environment, it's difficult or impossible to get financing for a large project — when Jerry Speyer can't raise enough financing for the Hudson Yards project, you realize that perhaps no one can. But banks still give loans for individual buildings, of the type that are going up all over Manhattan and Brooklyn.
That says that Atlantic Yards and Hudson Yards are more likely to go ahead by selling lots than by trying to sell the whole project at once. That process is also more likely to produce more money for the MTA, and a better city for all of us.
PPS: Paris and Rockefeller Center used a different model. But why they succeeded when Atlantic Yards fails is another story.
Bloggers of the world, Unite!
THE NEW YORK OBSERVER published today a list of The 100 Most Powerful People in New York Real Estate. The list includes two New York blogger friends, Norman Oder (at number 77) and Lockhart Steele (91).
As much as I like the idea of bloggers running the world, I think we have to say this is a superficial list that leaves out many of the real heavy hitters. Several of the big families of New York real estate, like the Roses, are missing. Financing and construction are grossly undervalued — where's Peter Lehrer? And Frank Gehry is not the most powerful architect in New York real estate. I would guess that would actually be David Childs, but there are several who would come before Gehry, who's only designed one building here.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
Neo-Modernism, Back To The Future Again
IT IS A TRUTH UNIVERSALLY ACKNOWLEDGED, that a young man in a good architecture school, must be designing 1960s-style buildings. That's the impression you get from Dwell, which I read recently in the airport. The issue I read featured sober, straightforward and attractive new houses that all looked like they were built in the 1960s. The only exception was a silly article on the Junior Starchitects MRDV, with quotes like this: "We want to position our work outside of architecture, as a clear piece of sociology and ecology."
More on the Starchitect / Simpler divide here (Post-Katrina housing fits designers' agendas. But can the city live with it?):
No one has yet picked MVRDV's mailbox or its alternative version, which looks suspiciously like a boat upended by Katrina.
Several architects said they were appalled by MVRDV's proposals, which play more to the academy than the needs of displaced residents, and may be uninhabitable.
"That's graphic design, not architecture," Timberlake said. Bingler was more blunt: "When are we going to reach the point when architects say, 'This is unprofessional?' . . . It may even be unethical."
Bingler said his firm, Concordia, had steered clear of trendy concepts. Its design features a peaked roof, but one that slopes in five directions.
A roof "that slopes in five directions" — thank God they got over the trendiness.