Main

February 11, 2017

Park-poor, low-income communities of color, forgotten in the shadows ?

As American downtowns repopulate and densify, green space is at more and more of a premium. Very few open lots that could be turned into parks remain around urban cores; often, land that becomes available holds remnants of the industrial past. That's why so many of these "adaptive reuse" projects--with sleek aesthetics that often highlight, rather than hide, the old highway/flood channel/railway--are getting built.

Meanwhile, city governments rarely have room in their budgets, or even imaginations, to redevelop those tracts on their own. It's largely up to private funders to bankroll these projects--and it's mostly private individuals who dream them up. From an investor standpoint, the High Line's stunning successes make these projects no-brainers to back: Green space draws new businesses and dwellings. There's big redevelopment money to be made. So they partner with city governments, hungry for a heftier tax base, to do it.

But these obsolete bits of infrastructure generally have people living near them, and often, they are park-poor, low-income communities of color, forgotten in the shadows of that very strip of concrete or steel. This is true for many of the 17 projects involved in the High Line Network. Planners and designers--who are usually white--may try to engage residents in dialogue; often, they fail.

January 25, 2015

Art with ideas

The most provocative example of the dissonant group show is "Thanks to Apple, Amazon and the Mall" at Klaus von Nichtssagend Gallery (54 Ludlow Street, through Feb. 8), which expands our sense of the gallery's activities by celebrating the line of artists' e-books it started publishing in 2013. All nine of the writers, artists and filmmakers who created them are represented in this highly diverse presentation. The series has been edited by Brian Droitcour, a freelance critic and an editor at Art in America who also helped organize the show.

The works here include the erotic haiku of the artist duo known as Body by Body, rendered in big black letters on the wall, and the ephemera that Lance Wakeling collected while making his film "Field Visits for Chelsea Manning." Heightening the show's none-too-sanguine outlook, these include a Rubik's Cube produced by the National Security Agency and a brochure about the history of Leavenworth, Kan., home of the federal prison where Ms. Manning, convicted of releasing classified documents on WikiLeaks, currently resides.

Another standout in the show at von Nichtssagend is James Duesing's "End of Code," a droll, 15-minute computer animation in which fantastical semihuman creatures deliver deadpan non sequiturs, wisecracks and aphorisms while deciphering the code that controls both traffic lights and society. Whatever the future may bring, it seems to say, it is likely to be disorderly, but it could also be very funny.

February 12, 2014

Order coffee in 3000 words or less

It felt like being hungry, I suppose, in a place where being hungry is shameful, and where one has no money and everyone else is full. It felt, at least sometimes, difficult and embarrassing and important to conceal. Being foreign didn't help. I kept botching the ballgame of language: fumbling my catches, bungling my throws. Most days, I went for coffee in the same place, a glass-fronted café full of tiny tables, populated almost exclusively by people gazing into the glowing clamshells of their laptops. Each time, the same thing happened. I ordered the nearest thing to filter on the menu: a medium urn brew, which was written in large chalk letters on the board. Each time, without fail, the barista looked blankly up and asked me to repeat myself. I might have found it funny in England, or irritating, or I might not have noticed it all, but that spring it worked under my skin, depositing little grains of anxiety and shame.

-- Aeon's Olivia Laing

April 2, 2011

Nabewise beautiful


The Meat Packing District, SoHo, NoLiTa, and East Village are beautiful, according to NabeWise; see also NYC and SoHo pages.

Move on downtown.