Friday, November 30, 2012
Charlie Chaplin, auto-tuned - "Let Us Unite"
*** Full transcript of the Speech ***
I'm sorry but I don't want to be an emperor. That's not my business.
I don't want to rule or conquer anyone.
I should like to help everyone if possible: Jew, gentile, black man, white.
We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that.
We want to live by each other's happiness, not by each other's misery.
We don't want to hate and despise one another.
In this world there's room for everyone and the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone.
The way of life can be free and beautiful but we have lost the way.
Greed has poisoned men's souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed.
We have developed speed but we have shut ourselves in.
Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want.
Our knowledge has made us cynical, our cleverness, hard and unkind.
We think too much and feel too little.
More than machinery we need humanity.
More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness.
Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost.
The aeroplane and the radio have brought us closer together.
The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in man, cries out for universal brotherhood, for the unity of us all.
Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world, millions of despairing men, women, and little children, victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people.
To those who can hear me I say, "Do not despair."
The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed, the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress.
The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people.
And so long as men die, liberty will never perish.
Soldiers, don't give yourselves to brutes, men who despise you, enslave you, who regiment your lives, tell you what to do, what to think, and what to feel, who drill you, diet you, treat you like cattle, use you as cannon fodder.
Don't give yourselves to these unnatural men, machine men with machine minds and machine hearts.
You are not machines, you are not cattle, you are men!
You have the love of humanity in your hearts.
You don't hate. Only the unloved hate, the unloved and the unnatural.
Soldiers, don't fight for slavery, fight for liberty!
In the 17th chapter of St Luke it is written, "The Kingdom of God is within man. Not one man nor a group of men, but in all men. In you!"
You, the people, have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create happiness.
You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure.
Then in the name of democracy, let us use that power.
Let us all unite! Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give youth a future and old age a security.
By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power.
But they lie! They do not fulfil that promise. They never will!
Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people.
Now let us fight to fulfil that promise!
Let us fight to free the world, to do away with national barriers, to do away with greed, with hate and intolerance.
Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men's happiness.
Soldiers, in the name of democracy, let us all unite!
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
A CEO, a Tea Party Member, and a Union Official Walk Into a Bar
The CEO sees 100 bottles of beer on the wall, and takes 99 of them.
Then he turns to the Tea Party member and says, "The union guy is trying to steal your bottle of beer."
Sunday, November 25, 2012
Don't Cry For Me Large And SoBe (Will your home be underwater?)
TODAY'S New York Times has maps of American cities with an interactive slider that shows what would happen with 0, 5, 12 and 25 feet of sea level rise. The map above shows the effect of 12 feet of sea level rise in Miami - 2 feet less than the surge New York City had during Frankenstorm Sandy.
My 2¢: places like New York City that have money, density and infrastructure worth saving will be able to do a lot with things like levees (low tech, virtually failproof) and a sea gate across the Verrazano Narrows. Because a lot of New York is elevated and the city has a harbor that can be protected, there is much that can be done, although places like the backside of Staten Island and Far Rockaway may have no future—something we haven't yet wrapped our minds around.
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
The Shanghaiing of New York
UPDATED NOTES: SHoP, with new partner Vishaan Chakrabarti, has made an interesting proposal for a promenade on Park Avenue, exactly the type of reexamination of NYC streets that the Bloomberg administration started and that needs to continue under the next mayor. It's a clever use of turn lanes, but turn lanes are a sub-urban road element that have no place in a dense urban midtown where fewer than 10% of the workers arrive by car.
The administration was right to fight for a Manhattan congestion zone, citing studies that these high-volume traffic corridors are bad for the health of those who live and work on them. Since Albany won't allow that, an alternative is to slow down roads, which will discourage rather than encourage driving. Until recently, New York had almost no turn lanes. Until we brought sub-urban road standards to the city, all avenues were two-way, with significantly wider sidewalks. Reverting to those standards would reduce traffic in the city. And nothing would do more to reduce pedestrian fatalities than to lower speed limites to 25 mph.
Eighty per cent of Manhattanites don't own cars. Most tourists come without cars. All but a handful of Manhattan's streets should be low-speed streets. Sub-urban style arterials like Third Avenue that encourage suburbanites to drive in and out of the city are out of place, unhealty, and dangerours for pedestrians. For Upper East Siders, Third Avenue is a neighborhood shopping and dining street, not an arterial.
Last but not least, Richard Florida has clearly shown that what the Creative Class at Google wants is NOT glass towers, but the mid-rise streets of Silicon Alley.
DRAFT NOTES for future use about the Bloomberg administration's determination to drastically upzone Midtown Manhattan. I've voted for Mayor Bloomberg three times, who''s been a good mayor. There are, however, three areas where I disagree with his administration:
- The idea that catering to what financiers and the super-rich want is usually best for the city
- The belief that promoting mega-development by mega-developers is usually best for the future of the city
- The belief that promoting an alliance of mega-developers and Starchitects is best for the future of the city
An SOM / MAS Proposal for Grand Central
SLOWLY, the citizens of New York are catching on that during the Bloomberg administration's time in office, life in the city has become much harder for many who are not part of the 1%, or at least selling them services. Part of this Super Luxury World are the anti-urban mega-developments designed by Starchitects, and the anti-urban and unsustainable Platinum LEED glass towers built by mega-developers with $90 million pied-a-terres that cast shadows on the rest of us.
Before this global economy rose, there was a time when it seemed the new glass towers arriving in New York were changing the look of parts of the city into Houston-on-Hudson. It's often been said about their dumb shapes that they looked like they were never taken out of the boxes they were shipped in, and their mechanically repetitive facades had all the visual interest of graph paper. The boring and unimaginative designs clashed with New York's tradition of great stone towers with dramatic tops and pedestrian-friendly bases. We were told we needed these "Class A" towers (i.e., with very large floorplates and sealed windows) in order to succeed as a modern city (because Houston and Wichita are more modern than New York).
During the Bloomberg administration, architectural fashion changed. The minimal three-dimensional relief that gave some of the old Class A elevations a slight play of light and shadow for a little visual interest was abandoned for flush building skins that made the buildings look shrink-wrapped (not a good thing). The city encouraged developers to hire Starchitects for "avant garde" twists and turns in the massing, and then gave the developers substantial height bonuses for complying (examples, Atlantic Yards and One57). Win Win for Starchitects and the developers, Lose Lose for the city and its citizens. The combination of mammoth size, bad streetscape and Starchitecture makes it seem more like New Shanghai-Dubai than Houston-on-Hudson.
Shanghai and Dubai are two of the most visible of the twenty or so cities around the world that are playing musical chairs in a competition to be world financial centers. What's rarely discussed is that for some cities this will turn out to be a Ponzi Scheme. Yes, banks want large clear-span trading rooms, but there are a limited number of institutions that need enormous trading floors. What the very large floors give most corporate tenants is cheaper space per square foot, although many of the workers suffer from a lack of daylight. The chief executives and their bonuses benefit more than the rest of the employees.
Even less discussed is how much the bases and the buik of the these buildings diminish their physical surroundings. We are supposed to think they're wonderful:
Design is, frankly, part of a long term strategy for New York City to compete on the global stage. Great design, innovative, challenging design, keeps a city young, and vibrant and compelling, It shows that a city importantly is open to change, entrepreneurial thinking and creative engagement. Density, diversity, tolerance and aspiration are all quintessential New York City qualities, that are translated through the language of city design, and are key to attracting city investment.
That's well said, with all the right touchstones. The problem is that it somehow equates the interests of plutocrats and global capitalism with progressive thought and economic and social mobility. These are the same interests that almost bankrupted the country in 2008 and had to be bailed out, and the same interests that control many of the votes in our House of Representatives. And we know now from books like Plutocrats that social and economic mobility in America have gone way down during the last decade, because of the way the top one-tenth of the 1% (.01% of America) have consolidated their wealth and power.
The buildings they construct around the world wherever they land their private jets are unsustainable and bad for the public realm. Burden talks about them as objects, and their designers think of them as sculptural objects. While the first role of an urban building is to make the urban fabric and to make a good public realm, the space between the buildings (aka "the street"). Streets where people want to be are one of the primary reasons we live in New York.
Periodically, articles will list the most popular streets in New York. Invariably, these are never streets with glass buildings or even Modern architecture. When I was a kid, the streets of Midtown Manhattan were primarily lined with a number of masonry, mid-rise buildings per block. Many have been replaced by large glass buildings that fill the entire end of the blocks along the avenues and then some. They have made midtown a less comfortable and less interesting place to walk. The drastic upzoning the Bloomberg administration is trying to push through before the Mayor's term ends will make it worse. No one enjoys walking at the base of the Bank of America tower on Sixth Avenue.
Richard Florida has documented that the Creative Class is attracted to a very different cityscape. In New York they want to work in districts like Silicon Alley, with with mid-rise loft and masonry buildings, where the sidewalks have more sunlight and fewer people.The twin towers in the image above are the opposite of what they want.
At least as important is New York's historic role as a place where artists and bohemians could afford to live. They contributed immeasurably to the cultural life of the city. Cities need diversity, and benefit enormously from people who create culture, not just consume it.
The ring in the images from SOM is an exhibition deck that moves up and down. Building it would be almost as insulting to Grand Central as simply tearing the station down. Strange that this could be approved during the 50th anniversary of the destruction of Penn Station.
London, Tokyo and other metropolises have created central business districts with forests of skyscrapers in recent years, seeking to meet the needs of globe-trotting corporate tenants. But New York’s premier district, the 70-block area around Grand Central Terminal, has lagged, Bloomberg officials say, hampered by zoning rules, decades old, that have limited the height of buildings. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg wants to overhaul these rules so that buildings in Midtown Manhattan can soar as high as those elsewhere.
New York's development community give large donations to New York's political campaigns, and the get lots of power and influence in return. Since Mayor Bloomberg is New York's richest citizen - a politician who uses his own funds to outspend his opponents - before he was elected there was hope in some circles that developers would lose influence during his administration. But it has been a long time since a Mayor has promoted the type of building developers want as strongly as Mayor Bloomberg.
To be clear, there are many factors that have contributed to the great imbalance in incomes we see in New York. Mayor Bloomberg and his policies have obviously not been the cause. But I disagree with many of the things he encourages.
Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else by Chrystia Freeland
V&V: What's Good For Starchitects Is Good For The World
V&V: Glass Schmass & Glass Schmass Redux
V&V: Brought to you by the experts who brought us credit default swaps, the rape of Fannie Mae, the collapse of our economy, interest free bailouts and the mega-bonuses that followed
V&V: Was Dominique Strauss-Kahn Also Raping Our Cities?
V&V: More Signs of the Apocalypse - Paris is the new Dubai
Two of the few places that talk about New York and the .01% are While We Were Sleeping: NYU and the Destruction of New York and Fran Lebowitz's related rant on YouTube.
Saturday, November 17, 2012
What Makes A City Walkable?
JEFF SPECK, former Director of Design at the National Endowment for the Arts (and before that Director of Planning at Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co), has written another book. I saw him speak about it last week in New York, and I've been reading the book the last few days. In a nutshell: It's good. Clear and well written. Here are some reviews @ amazon: http://amzn.to/T79Smd, and here's an interview with the always-good Scott Simon this morning. After the jump, an excerpt from the book.
Excerpt: Walkable City
A GENERAL THEORY OF WALKABILITY
As a city planner, I make plans for new places and I make plans for making old places better. Since the late eighties, I have worked on about seventy-five plans for cities, towns, and villages, new and old. About a third of these have been built or are well under way, which sounds pretty bad, but is actually a decent batting average in this game. This means that I have had my fair share of pleasant surprises as well as many opportunities to learn from my mistakes.
In the middle of this work, I took four years off to lead the design division at the National Endowment for the Arts. In this job, I helped run a program called the Mayors' Institute on City Design, which puts city leaders together with designers for intensive planning sessions. Every two months, somewhere in the United States, we would gather eight mayors and eight designers, lock ourselves in a room for two days, and try to solve each mayor's most pressing city- planning challenge. As might be imagined, working side by side with a couple hundred mayors, one mayor at a time, proved a greater design education than anything I have done before or since.
I specialize in downtowns, and when I am hired to make a downtown plan, I like to move there with my family, preferably for at least a month. There are many reasons to move to a city while you plan it. First, it's more efficient in terms of travel and setting up meetings, something that can become very expensive. Second, it allows you to truly get to know a place, to memorize every building, street, and block. It also gives you the chance to get familiar with the locals over coffee, dinners in people's homes, drinks in neighborhood pubs, and during chance encounters on the street. These nonmeeting meetings are when most of the real intelligence gets collected.
These are all great reasons. But the main reason to spend time in a city is to live the life of a citizen. Shuttling between a hotel and a meeting facility is not what citizens do. They take their kids to school, drop by the dry cleaners, make their way to work, step out for lunch, hit the gym or pick up some groceries, get themselves home, and consider an evening stroll or an after-dinner beer. Friends from out of town drop in on the weekend and get taken out for a night on the main square. These are among the many normal things that nonplanners do, and I try to do them, too.
A couple of years ago, while I was working on a plan for Lowell, Massachusetts, some old high- school friends joined us for dinner on Merrimack Street, the heart of a lovely nineteenth century downtown. Our group consisted of four adults, one toddler in a stroller, and my wife's very pregnant belly. Across the street from our restaurant, we waited for the light to change, lost in conversation. Maybe a minute passed before we saw the push-button signal request. So we pushed it. The conversation advanced for another minute or so. Finally, we gave up and jaywalked. About the same time, a car careened around the corner at perhaps forty-five miles per hour, on a street that had been widened to ease traffic.
The resulting near- miss fortunately left no scars, but it will not be forgotten. Stroller jaywalking is a surefire way to feel like a bad parent, especially when it goes awry. The only consolation this time was that I was in a position to do something about it.
As I write these words, I am again on the road with my family, this time in Rome. Now the new baby is in a sling, and the toddler alternates between a stroller and his own two feet, depending on the terrain and his frame of mind. It is interesting to compare our experience in Rome with the one in Lowell, or, more to the point, the experience of walking in most American cities.
Rome, at first glance, seems horribly inhospitable to pedestrians. So many things are wrong. Half the streets are missing sidewalks, most intersections lack crosswalks, pavements are uneven and rutted, handicap ramps are largely absent. H ills are steep and frequent (I hear there are seven). And need I mention the drivers?
Yet here we are among so many other pedestrians — tourists and locals alike — making our way around Trastevere ... on our toes, yes, but enjoying every minute of it. This anarchic obstacle course is somehow a magnet for walkers, recently selected by readers of Lonely Planet travel guides as one of the world's "Top Ten Walking Cities." Romans drive a fraction of the miles that Americans do. A friend of ours who came here to work in the U.S. embassy bought a car when he arrived, out of habit. Now it sits in his courtyard, a target for pigeons.
This tumultuous urban landscape, which fails to meet any conventional American mea sure of "pedestrian friendliness," is a walker's paradise. So what's going on here? Certainly, in competing for foot traffic, Anatole Broyard's "poem pressed into service as a city" began with certain advantages. The Lonely Planet ranking is likely more a function of spectacle than pedestrian comfort. But the same monuments, arranged in a more modern American way, would hardly compete. (Think L as Vegas, with its Walk Score of 54l.) The main thing that makes Rome — and the other winners: Venice, Boston, San Francisco, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Prague, Paris, and New York — so walkable is what we planners call "fabric," the everyday collection of streets, blocks, and buildings that tie the monuments together. Despite its many technical failures, Rome's fabric is superb.
Yet fabric is one of several key aspects of urban design that are missing from the walkability discussion in most places. This is because that discussion has largely been about creating adequate and attractive pedestrian facilities, rather than walkable cities. There is no shortage of literature on this subject and even a fledgling field of "walkability studies" that focuses on impediments to pedestrian access and safety, mostly in the Toronto suburbs. These efforts are helpful, but inadequate. The same goes for urban beautification programs, such as the famous "Five B 's" of the eighties — bricks, banners, bandstands, bollards, and berms — that now grace many an abandoned downtown.
Lots of money and muscle have gone into improving sidewalks, crossing signals, streetlights, and trash cans, but how important are these things, ultimately, in convincing people to walk? If walking was just about creating safe pedestrian zones, then why did more than 150 Main Streets pedestrianized in the sixties and seventies fail almost immediately? Clearly, there is more to walking than just making safe, pretty space for it.
The pedestrian is an extremely fragile species, the canary in the coal mine of urban livability. Under the right conditions, this creature thrives and multiplies. But creating those conditions requires attention to a broad range of criteria, some more easily satisfied than others. Enumerating and understanding these criteria is a project for a lifetime — it has become mine — and is forever a work in progress. It is presumptuous to claim to have figured it out, but since I have spent a lot of time trying, I reckon it is worth communicating what I have learned so far. Since it tries to explain so much, I call this discussion the General Theory of Walkability.
The General Theory of Walkability explains how, to be favored, a walk has to satisfy four main conditions: it must be useful, safe, comfortable, and interesting. Each of these qualities is essential and none alone is sufficient. Useful means that most aspects of daily life are located close at hand and organized in a way that walking serves them well. Safe means that the street has been designed to give pedestrians a fighting chance against being hit by automobiles; they must not only be safe but feel safe, which is even tougher to satisfy. Comfortable means that buildings and landscape shape urban streets into "outdoor living rooms," in contrast to wide- open spaces, which usually fail to attract pedestrians. Interesting means that sidewalks are lined by unique buildings with friendly faces and that signs of humanity abound.
These four conditions are mostly a way of thinking about a series of specific rules that are further organized into what I call the Ten Steps of Walkability. These will be explored later. Together, I believe that they add up to a complete prescription for making our cities more walkable.
But first, we must understand that the walkable city is not just a nice, idealistic notion. Rather, it is a simple, practical-minded solution to a host of complex problems that we face as a society, problems that daily undermine our nation's economic competitiveness, public welfare, and environmental sustainability. For that reason, this book is less a design treatise than an essential call to arms. Why we need walkability so badly is the subject of the next section.
From Walkable City by Jeff Speck. Copyright 2012 by Jeff Speck