InstaBlog: Islands of Urbanity in Jersey City

Author's note: Warning—this is a blog-style post based on a social media post. Beware typos and poorly elucidated thoughts. For more polish, perhaps try an article!

Walking down Montgomery Street away from the waterfront and deeper into Jersey City reveals a strange environment: islands of urbanity floating in a sea of roads and parking lots.

In this part of the city, the buildings vary tremendously in age. A block of late 19th Century buildings is surrounded on all sides by modern luxury apartment towers, and behind lies 60s, 70s, and 80s Modernist buildings, each surrounded by a parking lot and empty, fenced off greenery. Normally, varied building ages are something to be celebrated, but here, it feels almost as if a bomb—the bomb of urban renewal—has gone off, carving out giant empty spaces and giant roads while leaving behind fragments of an old neighborhood.

Which is not to say that there haven’t been valiant attempts to rebuild urbanity here, however. Bus stops and bike lanes are clearly demarcated on the pavement, which is very welcome, even if the bike lanes themselves aren't protected. The old buildings have their wonderful varied fronts, and the towers built in the last 15 years or so all have retail on their ground floors, even if it is limited and oversized.

It isn't enough, however, to counteract the giant vistas across empty parking lots and the blank faces of Modernist buildings. Useless open spaces are far worse than no open space; they make everything feel cold and distant. There are people on the street, but fewer than the density of the neighborhood would suggest: this isn’t an overly pleasant place to be. Modernist urbanism was truly awful for those on the ground: it may have looked spectacular viewed from above, but it was fundamentally designed for cars, and as a walker, it shows. The small touches help improve the streetscape, but not quite by enough. There is the spark of real urbanity here; it just needs more physical support to bring it out.

Based on an Instagram post.
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InstaBlog: Exchange Place, Jersey City

Author's note: Warning—this is a blog-style post based on a social media post. Beware typos and poorly elucidated thoughts. For more polish, perhaps try an article!

Over the past few decades, Jersey City has exploded, sprouting towers far into the air which, especially from a distance, rival those of lower Manhattan. Once you are on the ground, though, it becomes clear that things are quite a bit uglier.

InstaBlog Collection: Avenue U Walk

Author's Notes: This post combines many more images & stories! Make sure to click read more!
Also: Warning—these are blog-style posts originally from social media. Beware typos and poorly elucidated thoughts. For more polish, perhaps try an article!

Avenue U, Gravesend

Last October, I decided to walk along Avenue U in Brooklyn, starting from the F station in Gravesend*. Walking down from the elevated platform with the crowd, I couldn't help but notice the makeup of the commuters: a surprising amount were the traditional Brooklyn & Long Island stereotype—middle aged, middle class whites, speaking in the (remains) of their famous accent. Once a huge percentage of the population, I had thought almost all had either moved to the suburbs, retired, or been priced out of the city. Nice to see that even in modern Brooklyn, there’s still some space for what has to be a shrinking but historically important community.

Upcoming Excerpt: Nervi's George Washington Bridge Bus Station

It's been a long while since I've done this! A quick peek at the writing I've been doing on the urbanism of the refurbished George Washington Bridge Bus Station:

If the construction of the [Trans-Manhattan Expressway] below had not already done enough to divide the neighborhood, Nervi's [George Washington Bridge Bus Station] would go a long way towards finishing the job. Amongst urbanists and architecture critics, it has become a bit of a trope to liken 20th Century urban structures to walls, but few such structures earn that description quite as literally as the ground-level of Nervi's station.
-Excerpt from an upcoming article.

See other Upcoming Excerpts & Thoughts

InstaBlog Collection: Cortleyou Rd, Coney Island Avenue, & Midwood

Author's Notes: This post combines many more images & stories! Make sure to click read more!
Also: Warning—these are blog-style posts originally from social media. Beware typos and poorly elucidated thoughts. For more polish, perhaps try an article!

Cortleyou Rd. & Ditmas Park

A look at the bustling urbanism, attractive architecture, and all-around beautiful streetscape of Cortleyou Road, one of the main streets of Ditmas Park, Brooklyn.

InstaBlog: Turnstyle Market at Columbus Circle

Author's note: Warning—this is a blog-style post based on a social media post. Beware typos and poorly elucidated thoughts. For more polish, perhaps try an article!

Turnstyle is a new shopping center, food hall, and—dare I say it—public space built into New York's Columbus Circle-59th Street Subway station.

InstaBlog: The Miller Elevated Highway

Author's note: Trying something new! Welcome to my InstaBlog, a chance for me to feature some of my more in-depth Instagram posts on the site. Be warned: this is a blog-style post based on a social media post, so beware typos and poorly elucidated thoughts. For more polish, perhaps try an article!

At the north edge of Riverside Park South, you find the last remaining section of the old West Side Highway, aka the Miller Elevated Highway.

The Newly Renovated George Washington Bridge Bus Terminal—Brief Thoughts (Draft)

Author's note: This is a draft/outline of a more thoughtful piece coming soon! Keep your eyes peeled!

Some background: originally opened in 1963 as part of the Trans-Manhattan Expressway, the newly renovated George Washington Bridge Bus Station is a significant fixture in New York City's regional transportation. The original bare-bones terminal was closed in its entirety in 2013, with plans for a 2015 reopening. It didn’t reopen until 2017.

Now, there are many ways to judge the physical shape of a transit facility. Is it comfortable? Safe? Attractive? Easy to use? Does it promote urbanism and/or provide public space? Does it support the community? Help the local streetscape? Etc, etc...

Well, good news and bad news. The good news is that, on the inside, the new terminal is relatively comfortable, attractive, and easy at, at least on the upper, bus-boarding level. It has a pleasant enough waiting room, clear signage, restrooms, seats, and ticket machines (is two enough, however?). It has gorgeous views, and feels very open, taking tremendous advantage of its location next to the bridge and Pier Luigi Nervi's architecture. Even the boarding area is nice, with clear signs helping people get where they want to go.

For all that, however, it is bare-bones. The waiting room offers seats... and nothing else. A wonderful opportunity to mix some retail and community space for (and, in turn, taking advantage of) travelers has been missed. I'm also not quite sure the space and facilities are significant enough for the amount of travelers (although on that I admit I could be wrong).

The rest of the structure, however? The lower levels will be a cramped, sterile shopping mall. If the one current tenant—Marshalls—is any indication, there will be no local businesses inside. Worse, the interior mall space doesn't interface with the street at all. It is a structure which will do next to nothing for the community or its urban fabric.

The worst is the exterior. The terminal is over an expressway, is surrounded by far-too-busy roads, and is composed of dehumanizing, bare concrete which soars over the street. It’s street interface is terrible. And nothing has been done blank, dehumanizing sides of the structure, something which should have been job one.

I don't want to be entirely negative: as a transportation space, it is pleasant enough, and hopefully it will encourage more to use its buses to travel between New Jersey and New York. However, as has been the case with almost every structure the Port Authority has ever built, no effort has been made to craft an important, urban space, the type of space such nodes should be.

And that's just sad.

Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook.

NYC Ferry: South Brooklyn, Day One

Ride along with The Fox and the City on the first day of service on NYC Ferry's new South Brooklyn line — June 1st, 2017.

I wasn't sure what to expect from Mayor De Blasio's signature ferry service. While it was great it was going to cost the same as a subway ride, wouldn't it be much slower, and hence much less useful than other methods of public transit?

Well, I'm glad to admit that I was wrong! It is a tremendous ride: quick, comfortable, and beautiful. If you live near one of its stops, it is a method of transportation that just draws you in—one you just want to ride. We'll see how it fairs when the weather gets poorer, or in a storm, but for now, it is a *tremendous* addition to New York City's transportation arsenal.

Come along and ride the HB102 (catchy name, huh? Temporary only!) on the first day of service on the South Brooklyn line! Starting with a tour of Wall St. / Pier 11 and the boat, we then travel to DUMBO, Atlantic Avenue, Redhook, Sunset Park, and finally Bay Ridge. It is a gorgeous trip, and it couldn't have been a more beautiful day to experience it!

Hope you enjoy!

A Quick Tour of the Second Avenue Subway

Something a little different: a quick tour of the first phase of the newly opened Second Avenue Subway. It's just some quick footage I slapped together from a recent visit to the line. Not a proper, fancy tour by any means, just a look at the general layout of the stations, their designs and features, and how deep they are relative to the street. I hope it gives a sense of the spaces. Enjoy!

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