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Mummy Dance Party at Bryant Park

via one of our new favorite sites: Urban Prankster

Improv Everywhere is a group that we have mentioned before, and it is a driving force behind the flash-mob movement. In one of their latest variations on the flash-mob the folks at Improv Everywhere have started The Mp3 Experiments, wherein they post an Mp3 online for participants to download and listen too simultaneously.  The most recent of these was Experiment 7 that started in the retail stores surrounding Times Square and culminated with a Mummy Dance Party at Bryant Park.

Edited by Keith Haskel / music by Tyler Walker

The New New York City Taxi

In 2007 the Taxi and Limousine Commission of New York City brought together a group of stakeholders involved in the taxi industry in New York City. Including; taxi drivers, owner and passengers and the goal was simple, create a set of goals for the future of the taxi in New York City. A project that was aptly named “The Taxi of Tomorrow.” In 2009 the Taxi and Limousine commission issued a request for proposals to the automobile industry to design the next official taxi for the city. At present the primary vehicle in the city’s fleet is the Ford Crown Victoria. The Crown Victoria was officially discontinued by the Ford Motor Company this past spring (S) and this presents an opportunity for the city to change to a vehicle designed specifically for use as a Taxi, and through this change come up with a Taxi that is both iconic and more environmentally friendly.

The City of New York has already attempted to legislate that the city’s taxi fleet must be entirely electric or hybrid by 2012, but an federal judge overturned the legislation attempt after a suit by the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade, which represented the owners of 29 fleets that control 3,500 yellow cabs, about a quarter of the fleet — said that the hybrid vehicles, which are more fuel-efficient, were not designed to withstand the heavy wear and tear that cabs must endure. S An interesting factoid about Taxis in New York City and in fact most of the rest of the world is that none of the 16 different vehicle models in the city’s 13,200 strong fleet were originally designed to be used as a taxi. All of the vehicles have been specially outfitted to be used as a taxi which will usually drive about 70,000 miles per year and see its back doors slammed around 21,000 times in the course of a year. S

“Although the city has long set standards for our taxis, we have never before worked with the auto industry to design a taxicab especially for  New York City — that is, until now,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

The Taxi and Limousine Commission has culled three semi finalists from the competition; Karsan, Nissan, and Ford. Its a lucrative contract for whoever wins since “the TLC intends to select the best proposal and award an exclusive contract to sell and service taxicabs in New York for the next decade.” Take a look at the concept images and tell both us and the Taxi and Limousine Commission which one you prefer! What is in it for you? Well the prize is worth free cab rides for a year so you could be a winner!

Standard Exhibitionism

It hasn’t been in the news much lately the standard hotel in New York that straddles The High Line, is relatively infamous.  It captured a lot of attention last summer after opening with its sexually charged advertising campaign.  An early promotional advertisement declared “We’ll put up with your banging if you put up with ours,” and the Hotel’s Facebook page stated the situation a bit more clearly.

“We encourage you to exercise your inner exhibitionist. Please share your intimate, and explicit photos with us — those floor to ceiling windows aren’t just for the views . . .”

Whether you agree with the strategy or not you can’t deny that it was effective.  The campaign and its results generated a lot of press last summer.  Some positive and some negative.

The Standard Hotel New York.


“We saw a naked girl jumping up and down on a trampoline right in front of the window,” said Shannon Brickner, who works at a boutique on West 13th Street.

“From the street, I saw a man and a woman. Everyone was looking up at them.

“They were facing outwards, and I could see their backsides pressed up against the window. I thought it was a photo shoot or porn.”

Complained a waitress at the Brass Monkey, “It’s a free porn show.

“You hear the cheering, then you look up and see naked people. You get some people that don’t realize. Then you get the real exhibitionists.”

Some unhappy passers-by were disgusted, too. “Recently, I saw a man masturbating in one of the windows,” said one person who asked not to be identified. “That’s when it left the funny side and moved to the gross, dark side.” S.

Not everyone was surprised, some see it as par for the course for an edgy neighbourhood.

Grandparent Gwen Barrett said “That kind of stuff here is anticipated,”
Still, “I definitely wouldn’t want to bring my grandkids here,” she added.

The controversy over what takes place in front of The Standards windows raise questions of decency, control, and responsibility.  A City Counciler has gone on the attack declaring that “The alleged actions of The Standard are unacceptable.” Of course what exactly is the hotel to do?  Sure the Hotel can tone down the advertising that invites people to stand naked in front of the windows, but people have been going to hotels and stripping down in front of the windows for long time, even before The Standard opened.  It’s just that most don’t happen to have a public park / viewing deck right below.  It isn’t really possible to legislate that people must close their blinds when they plan have a nude romp inside their own homes, so we can’t really do it for hotels either.  Whatever your position on the nude antics that take place in the windows it certainly keeps the city interesting!

Babel Tales: Peter Funch’s look at life at street level.

Peter Funch is a Danish Photojournalist who resides in New York city. One of his recent works is the series ‘BABEL TALES’ which is a sometimes gritty, at other times whimsical look at urban inhabitants. Using composite photography he catches; a bride on her way down the street, a frenzy of tourists at times square, or a pimp daddy on his way home his photos offer an intriguing look at what happens on street level. Here at Urban Neighbourhood we bring you a selection of his works, but highly recommend you go to his own gallery to see the complete collection.

Babel Tales as a series of works that focus on human relations (or the lack thereof) in big cities. Peter Funch’s project is a junction between documentary photography and manipulated photography. Through repetition and juxtaposition he zooms in on human similarities and collective behavior and ends up creating a strange poetic and detailed picture of our presence both as individuals and community in the public sphere.

Jesper Elg, V1 Gallery, Copenhagen

Where Construction Stalls The Iceberg Rises.

Woods Bagot architects have come up with an innovative and better yet, inexpensive way to a number of the approximately 100 stalled construction sites scattered around Manhattan.  As the recent economic downturn demonstrated when times get tough,  cranes and construction tend to slow down, or stop entirely. When this happens the construction sight turns into a boarded up hole in the neighbourhood. Architect Jeffery Holmes calls them “Urban-life killers,” but what is a city to do with these sites? Enter Icebergs by Woods Bagot.

In Woods Bagot’s own words:

Across New York City, the dilapidated blue boards covering stalled construction sites are a constant reminder of troubled times and a blight on the urban landscape. Enter Icebergs NYC.

With this innovative concept, Woods Bagot has stepped up to address a community issue – simultaneously solving a problem and creating an opportunity. Representing fresh thinking about the intersection of use, function and design, Icebergs NYC embraces the financial and temporal realities of our current times. Big in volume and light on resources, like their namesakes, these 100% recyclable structures have been designed to turn stalled construction sites into  unique, multi-purpose spaces.

Icebergs NYC provides an iconic venue for a variety of functions, while creating a revenue stream on an otherwise dormant site. Designed for quick assembly and disassembly, the modular structures are constructed of a steel frame topped by inflated pillows of ETFE to create a dynamic, memorable form. Transportable in a single shipping container, Icebergs can quickly be set adrift to sites in cities around the world.

In collaboration with Arup, Design on Earth, Pentagram, and AECOM Economics.

The structure is a modular  steel frame wrapped with a polycarbonate base and architects favourite new material ethylene-tetrafluoroethylene, or ETFE.

Neighbourhood News August 24th

Of windy cities, neighbourhood development and construction gone wrong.

Blair Kamin talks fusing modern with traditional: An expansion Done Right.

In the Toronto Star Christopher Hume gets excited about a waterfront proposal.

Do you prefer the edgy or the grand, and where do you want your cultural institutions? its A Tale of Two Downtowns.

Don’t you just want to hug a designer? How Designers Banded Together to Remake New York’s Libraries.

What could possibly go wrong with a government contract? Find out in the tale of Government Square!


The Urban Umbrella

Another young south Korean, Young-Hwan Choi has come up with an innovative and winning proposal for protecting pedestrians on our city streets. The last one involved plasma lasers and other high tech futurism, but this one is rather remarkable in its simplicity and immediate practicality.

Most people don’t really think of them but the wood and metal rod pedestrian sheds that protect pedestrians as we walk past construction sites are yet another part of the city. In New York contractors are legally required to keep the sidewalks clear and pedestrians safe. Most of the time these sheds are dark and unpleasant to walk through.

The city of New York wanted to do something about this so they sponsored a design competition to see who could build it better. Young-Hwan Choi built it better and now has $10,000 and a comitment from the city of New York to build a mock up and potentially take it into production.

“I tried to think, ‘What is wrong with this scaffolding?’ It’s complicated. I thought the structure should be simplified.” S


One Bryant Park

“The goal was to create the greenest building we possibly could, so people are watching carefully, gee how did the Bank of America decide to spend the money to do a seriously green building?”

The Pedestrianization of Times Square and the Naked Cowboy

Times Square is an iconic location in the City of  New York. In planner speak a place like this is often called a magnet, attactions like these generate activity and draw in people. They call them attractions for a reason. One of Times Square’s more notable citizens is Robert John Burck, more popularly known as the Naked Cowboy, an American Busker with a signature style of wearing only his hat, cowboy boots, a pair of tighty whiteys and a strategically placed guitar. As his main patch is times square the Naked Cowboy and the multitudes of photo’s of him scattered across the Internet as a backdrop to the change taking place in Times Square.

Naked cowboy times squarenaked cowboy per closure

You see up until recently Times Square, while known as an attraction for people, was predominantly a space for cars.  However with the induction of New York’s Fearless new Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, and the changes that have come with her, Times Square is now a different place.  Janette has mentioned that she is taking part of her inspiration for the pedestrianization of Times Square from the Strøget, a car free zone in the center of Copenhagen. In Copenhagen it has turned that part of the city into the longest pedestrian shopping area in Europe and now a very genteel (tax generating) part of the city.

naked cowboy traffic island pre closure

In a brilliant stroke of decisive action the commissionar has decided not to bother waiting for fancy paving stones, and public squares. The first move was made with traffic cones, paint, and cheap patio furnature. The swift take over gives the plaza and exicting feel, pedestrians get an immeadiate payoff from the enjoyment of  being able to use the space and the local buisness owners might even get a taste for the effect of the increased foot traffic. There is no inbetween period when the space isn’t for cars or pedestrains fenced off and waiting for the fancy work to be done making the plaza a permanent installation, everyone can experience the kind of place Times Square can become right now. Instant gratification.

naked-cowboy- when there were cars

The many photo’s of the Naked Cowboy in Times Square show the kind of place it was, and now photos are arriving that show the kind of place it has become, and the kind of place it can be. At the moment the lawn chairs and traffic cones represent an irreverent and almost adolecent kind of Times Square. A Times Square that you assume would have a Naked Cowboy. It is an invigorating transition before it eventually grows up into a more genteel and tidy space.

(Photo: Damon Winter/The New York Times/Redux)

(Photo: Damon Winter/The New York Times/Redux)

Neighbourhood News: June 9th

Unpaved Paradise and Get Rid of that Parking Lot

Design by Field Operations and Diller Scofidio +

Design by Field Operations and Diller Scofidio +

New York Magazine


The High Line’s levitating parkland has been so long and so rapturously anticipated that the nine-block segment that opens this week can hardly compete with its own story. The tale is a triumph of urban salvage. A pair of young preservationists falls in love with a weedy, ironbound rail bed threading its way above the streets of West Chelsea and the meatpacking district. Owners of the lots it crosses want to tear it down. Finally, through the miracle of persuasion, the elevated railway is converted from eyesore to amenity. But wait: There’s the real-estate subplot! Developers use the little park to leverage their most wild-eyed ambitions. City officials rewrite the zoning, values climb, and architects arrive from the far corners of the realm.

At this point we find ourselves with two distinct High Lines. One is a quiet passeggiata of deliberately rough design, the other a larger district of new art and fresh development. A year ago, the condos popping up along Tenth Avenue were a visible expression of consumer confidence. Cocky buyers were spending $2,000 for each square foot of as-yet-nonexistent floor space and a hundred times that much for a patch of colored canvas with which to adorn their future walls. (The world has changed; the apartments keep on coming, whether they’re wanted or not, and who knows if anyone will be buying art to furnish them?) Read More

The Real Deal

Times Square Goes From Pavement To Park

(Source:ratherbebiking on Flickr)ratherbebiking

(Source: ratherbebiking on Flickr)

In those humble, semi-comical lawn chairs that are newly strewn across Broadway at the intersection of Times Square, you are witnessing the future of New York City and, indeed, the future of the city itself as a human institution

As of last week, the Bloomberg administration made good on its promise to close Broadway down, at least provisionally, from 42nd to 47th streets (and also from 33rd to 35th streets). In part the pilot project is intended to relieve congestion by redirecting vehicular traffic to Sixth and Seventh avenues. (The mayor has yet to decide whether the pedestrian mall will be permanent.)

But more vitally, it is a recognition of how cities are evolving on our post-industrial planet. For the first time in history, urban-ness has become its own reward. People come to cities not for their careers, but for the sheer pleasure of urban experience. And though it is well known that New York was the first city to enter the modern age, it is no less true that it is the first city to have entered the post-industrial age. Read More

The Oldest Subway Tunnel in the World

Photo by adam (Citynoise)

Photo by adam (Citynoise)

How often do you think about the layers of the city? Just this evening on my way home from work I was thinking about how the sidewalks and the pavement that I was walking on were likely only a couple generations old, it really wasn’t that long ago that our cities were paved with dirt when you consider the scale of history. So what’s under all this pavement, what do you get when you peel back a couple layers of tar and asphalt? In some cases you find things that have long been forgotten, well I suppose that in most cases you are going to find things that have been forgotten. For those of you who are into abandonments, we bring this post from Citynoise.org about the Atlantic Avenue Tunnel.

The Atlantic Avenue Tunnel is officially the world’s oldest subway tunnel, built in 1844 by the cut-and-cover method under a City of Brooklyn Street. It is a half-mile long and accommodated two standard gauge tracks. The tunnel was built in only seven months, using only hand tools and primitive (by today’s standards) equipment. It was built to provide grade separation for early Long Island Rail Road trains that lacked brakes good enough to operate on city streets, and to eliminate vehicular and pedestrian traffic conflicts and delays. This route allowed through trains to travel quickly between Brooklyn and Boston (via ferry service to Connecticut).

The tunnel was supposedly filled in 1861 in a fraud scheme that apparently just sealed off the ends. Bob Diamond rediscovered the long forgotten Atlantic Avenue Tunnel in 1980. The Brooklyn Historic Railway Association (BHRA) was formed in 1982 to restore the historic tunnel. BHRA successfully filed and received designation for the tunnel on the National Register of Historic Places.

Oldest Subway Tunnel in the World – Brooklyn, NY : citynoise.org.

Photo by adam (citynoise)

Photo by adam (citynoise)

The Standard’s Lap Dance for The High Line


Its been a while since we did an architectural feature, lately we’ve been focusing more on public projects, and sustainable initiatives but this project re-piqued my interest as its connected to an urban regeneration project (The High Line) that I have been following for almost a year and a half now.  For any of you who are unaware The High Line is an urban renewal project in New York City that has taken the old elevated freight rail line that runs down the lower west side between 34th street and Gansevoort Street in the West Village, and at the moment most significantly through the meat packing district (MePa) that is sandwiched between the West Village and Chelsae.  The project will turn this former freight line that has been unused since 1980 into an elevated parkway in the style of the Promenade Plantee’ in Paris.

Hotelier Andre Balazs, owner of the Chateau Marmont and The Standard chain of hotels will soon be officially opening The Standard New York on a lot that would have been considered ‘problematic’ before The High Line conversion, but is now considered plum due to its immediate proximity. Which could be understating it a little, The High Line cuts across Balazs’ lot diagonally.

“For the first time I had a hard time imagining what the hotel should look like,” Balazssays. “I usually renovate older buildings, and this was ground-up construction. Add to that the matter of the High Line and it was a unique challenge.” S


As such the Hotel is suspended above The High Line on concrete pilotis, which suspend the hotel 56 feet above ground level and 30 feet above the track. This caused one real estate blogto mention that the Hotel is in a ‘perpetual lapdance’ with The High Line. The design is a bit of a progression through time periods. Overall the building looks a lot like a Le Corbusier, built in the International style. The building is two concrete framed glass walls bushed together at a slight angle. It evokes an open book standing on its end.

“If you had to look at this project from an urban-planning perspective,” says Balazs, “it gets more modern, in terms of building type and décor, the higher you get. The ground floor relates to early in the last century, the time of the High Line. The hotel floors, in the tower, are midcentury—I was looking at Eero Saarinen, Mies van der Rohe, and Arne Jacobsen, who had designed an amazing hotel in Stockholm in the 50s.” S

While many of us plebes would be unable to stay in the hotel once it has had its grand opening the hotel is currently open(ish) as the website states. Some of the rooms are open even though the construction isn’t finished a a pretty affordable rate. Check out the the hotel chain’s website for rates.


One of the things that I find most exciting about these developments is that they prove that things that once were considered eyesores and only worthy of being torn down can be re-purposedinto serious assets.  The park is considered one of the most innovative and influential urban-renewal projects of our time. With an imaginativeapproach to city planning, and some creative reuse of existing infrastructure,  we can come up with some truly stellar results.

Big Brother is Watching, but don’t worry it is for your own good.

Big Brother Is Watching, but its for your own good!

Big Brother Is Watching, but its for your own good!

The Future of defence in New York City is taking shape, and it looks a lot like 1984, or the UK for that matter.  Part of the plan is for over 3000 security camera’s to keep a watchful eye on things.  While social libertarians most likely are not impressed with the increasing presence of security features in our day to day lives, New York is also not interested in being hit, again. The 1.7 square miles below Canal Street boasts the New York Stock Exchange, the American Stock Exchange, the Federal Reserve Bank, City Hall, and four major bridges and tunnels. An attack at any of these locations would most likely kill hundreds, and shake up the world financial markets even more. Not to mention cost the city a lot of money.

Plans are in place for an upgrade of the subway surveillance systems, electronic licence plate readers, that are both stationary at a number of access points to the island and mounted on police cruisers. It will also be possible for the city to block off a number of streets, with massive vehicle barriers embedded in the streets that can be raised within moments by a command from the city’s counter terrorism bureau.

Of course on a counter point a number of vehicle barriers have also been removed as they have been deemed pretty much useless, or at worst counter terrorism experts have concluded that a poorly anchored planter, struck hard enough by explosive force or a speeding vehicle could become, to use police jargon, “weaponized”: it could shatter into deadly shards or go flying. s

The whole thing is both frightening and reassuring at the same time.  What interests me most, is what do people who live in New York think about all the security.  When I do a google search for security opinions most of it is all official, or companies who sell security services, I have had a surprisingly hard time coming up with a personal opinion from a New Yorker, so I if anyone reading Urban Neighbourhood is a New Yorker with an opinion on this, please comment, or if you now of a blog or two with a New Yorker’s opinion on the security initiative please point me the right way.

via NYC Panopticon Plans Take Shape | Danger Room from Wired.com

The High Line and Elevated Parkways

In New York City an organisation called “Friends of the High Line” are in the process of converting a previously abandoned freight viaduct that runs along the lower west side of Manhattan from a ‘lost space’ to a new elevated park reserved for pedestrians. The idea is not new, there is currently another elevated park in Paris called The Promenade Plantée. The project is designed to increase the available parkland in the city by turning what some have considered a blight into a unique advantage, looking through some past entries about this online it is clear that there was much debate and a serious push to have the whole structure removed. Link I for one am happy that the friends of the high line have been successful in getting the go ahead to convert the structure to an urban promenade. Unique parks and themaintenance of structures of historical significance is a big plus to me.

Structures like this begin to make us relate to the city in further levels, most people are only used to considering a city from the ground level, sure we have subways and underground structures, and sky walks in some urban areas but most don’t really consider them when thinking of the strata of an area. Subways are underground and you don’t really see anything so its easy to have no awareness of the city that you pass through on your way between your usual stations and sky walks tend to insulate us from the city by being too much like the interior of the buildings they connect. Elevated walkways like thePromenade and the future high line allow us to experience the city from above while still being in contact with its sights and smells, I have a feeling that once completed this project will become a valued part of the neighbourhoods it connects.

The High line has a specific vision;

Friends of the High Line believes the historic High Line rail structure offers New Yorkers the opportunity to create a one-of-a-kind recreational amenity: a grand, public promenade that can be enjoyed by all residents and visitors in New York City. When the High Line is converted to public open space, you will be able to rise up from the streets and step into a place apart, tranquil and green. You will see the Hudson River, the Manhattan skyline, and secret gardens inside city blocks as you’ve never seen them before. You will move between Penn Station and the Hudson River Park, from the convention center to the Gansevoort Market Historic District, without meeting a car or truck. The High Line will be a promenade—a linear public place where you will see and be seen. You will sense New York’s industrial past in the rivets and girders. You will perceive the future unrolling before you in an artfully designed environment of unprecedented innovation. It will be yours—public in the truest sense of the word. Public dollars helped build it in the 1930s. Public legislation empowers us to make it a place anyone can visit. It will be proof New York City no longer casts aside its priceless transportation infrastructure but instead creates bold new uses for these monuments to human power and ambition. source

There is a great collection of pictures of the high line in its current state here

There are three other projects in the works for structures like these; the Bloomingdale Trail in Chicago and on old Reading Viaduct elevated rail in the Callowhill section of Philadelphia Pennsylvania

Link List