InstaBlog: A Humble Rock

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!

Seen while walking on New York's Lower East Side: a rock.

All too often, we can get lost in the complexities of urbanism: inequality, over- (and under-) investment, aging infrastructure, the climate, the complex interplay of urban design and human behavior, the list goes on and on and on.

All of which makes it very easy to miss this humble rock. I know I almost walked past without a second glance. But stop, pause, and examine all the things that this rock allows (with credit and apologies to William H. Whyte): sitting, tying shoes, pausing for conversation, eating lunch, public art (the quality of which your mileage may vary), and so on and so on.

The rock doesn't turn anyone away. It is weatherproof (at least on the human scale!). It is inexpensive. It is unobtrusive. Put simply: it is amazing. And yet, I would hazard a bet that most who pass it don't notice that it exists—even when they use it.

Maybe every street could use a rock.

Based on an Instagram post.
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Upcoming Excerpts: Suburbanism & How Transit Shapes Experience

As is often the case, I've bitten off something probably far too involved and long to write. But it is progressing nicely, and to paraphrase Apocalypse Now, someday, it's gonna be done. But for now, two excerpts for the new year.

In the broadest of strokes, this was a worldview which fundamentally conceived of the city as a dirty, congested, and miasmic place—a site of both physical and moral decay. By the postwar era of urban renewal, the 19th Century industrial city had come to be seen as a particularly harmful relic: outdated, decaying, and in dire need of replacement. In fact, in the minds of many experts and political leaders, the combination of aging buildings, incompatible land uses, and "disreputable" people and their activities was seen as a literal form of cancer: an infectious, growing "blight" which threatened to kill the urban organism unless it was quickly excised. Undergirding these beliefs was the deep faith of early- to mid-Twentieth Century America in the necessary inevitability of progress. Technological innovation, it seemed obvious, when combined with rational, technocratic planning, would necessarily lead to ever more healthy and prosperous places.
Put simply, transportation facilities often lie at the experiential heart of everyday urban existence. They are some of the most important spaces through which we experience any given city. They shape not only how we interact with urban space, but also our psychological understandings of its shape, its size, and its character.
-Upcoming excerpts

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InstaBlog: "The Apartments"

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!

These buildings, metonymically known as "The Apartments," are locally infamous to New York drivers. Located above the Trans Manhattan Expressway (I-95) on the approach to the George Washington Bridge, they are a perfect visual marker to mark the pace of the interminable traffic to and from New Jersey.

InstaBlog Photos: Ridiculously Photogenic City Is Ridiculously Photogenic

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!
#1: Looking south along Church Street into the Noe Valley, while waiting for the inbound J Church

Earlier this year I was in San Francisco, and while I normally like to focus on something a bit more intellectual, sometimes a place is just so gorgeous that all I can do is sit back and enjoy the aesthetics. Hope this series melts your urbanist heart like it melts mine!

Many more below!

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InstaBlog: San Francisco's Twin Peaks Tunnel Shutdown, Transit History, & an Urban Adventure

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!



On Sunday, June 24, 2018, I found myself on my way to San Francisco, for a week of urban exploration, research, and—yes—vacation. A few weeks before my trip however, I had gotten some frustrating news: the day after I arrived, the Twin Peaks tunnel—a major part of the city's light rail/subway infrastructure—was closing for a two month long reconstruction and refurbishment. This was a minor inconvenience, to be sure—even though I wasn't staying somewhere I needed to use the tunnel, no one wants to experience a city's major transit disruption. But more than that, I am a self-avowed transit nerd, and for all of my love of San Francisco, I had never found the opportunity to ride this part of its transit system in all my adult trips to the city.

InstaBlog: San Francisco's Bus System

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!

So, after spending a week in San Francisco, I have to say that—and I'm sure locals will disagree—I found its bus system to be both exemplary and a joy to use.

InstaBlog: Sometimes, you just have to admit you were wrong.

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!

Sometimes, you just have to admit you were wrong.

For the past few years, I've watched this hotel—a Holiday Inn—being built in the Garment District, at 39th & 8th Ave. The developers clearly received a height bonus for including a public plaza, one of New York City's many so-called privately-owned public places (or POPS). POPS have a sad history: not only have they more often than not been dead, lifeless afterthoughts, but developers had an incentive to make them that way—after all, they had no desire for non-tenants to hang out on their property.

InstaBlog Collection: Jersey City

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!

Exchange Place

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: Snowy Binghamton, NY

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!

Something different: this past Friday, I was returning from a family member's funeral in upstate New York when I got stuck in the midst of the major storm hitting the East Coast. In the Catskills, that meant snow, and when I say stuck, I mean it literally. I was trapped on I-81 miles behind an accident that shut the entire road for over 2 1/2 hours before having to back off the highway. Fun times (see the last image for that)! After a white-knuckle drive on snow-covered back roads, I got back to the city of Binghamton, New York to spend the night.

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.

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