Saturday, June 29, 2013

Does Santa Claus still Live in Chelsea?

So I'm walking down 24th Street to see how the Citybench in front of the Hampton's Inn is doing.  The bench is fine but the garden is now covered by a sidewalk shed. Then I walk down the street as I pass Zen Bicycles I am looking at a Tandem bike with a green sign, $2200, reduced to $800. Then Macky,  one of the stores salespeople comes out to take the bike inside the store,  as he takes the bike in I hear an amazing story.

Guy comes into the store to buy a tandem bicycle,  but it's not for himself,  it's to be an anonymous  gift to a couple in East Harlem, one of whom is blind. Seems someone stole their tandem bike.

I'm not sure if Santa still lives in Chelsea but if he doesn't he sure as heck comes to visit from time to time.

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — An Upper East Side couple was stunned to find that a tandem bike that they rely on for transportation was stolen. The bare stoop outside of their East Harlem apartment is now a painful reminder of the crime perpetrated by a heartless thief.
“It was like being kicked in the stomach,” Alexandra Catherine told CBS 2′s Don Champion on Thursday.
Catherine said she stepped outside on Wednesday morning to find that her cherished tandem bike had been stolen.
“It’s like you built something so beautiful and someone comes along and smashes it to pieces,” she said.
It wasn’t the two seater’s charm or it’s green color that made the bike so important; instead it was the experience of riding the bike with her blind husband that Catherine loved so much.
Charles Catherine has been dealing with a serious eye disease for his entire life. Two years ago, shortly after marrying Alexandra, his condition worsened.
Riding the tandem bike in Central Park gave the couple hope. read more

Friday, June 28, 2013

Muhlenberg Library offers More seating to Patrons

A few weeks ago I was in Chelsea's  Muhlenberg Library and noticed that finding  seating in the adult area was  getting pretty tight.


Looking at this map, it 's easy to see why,  most of the libraries in the middle of Manhattan are on the east side.

Also 2 book retailer superstores, which acted as defacto reading rooms (the barnes and Nonel on 6th @21st, and the Borders at 7th and 33rd) recently closed down. So the Muhlenberg branch with its very limited adult seating capacity(30 people)  has to serve a rather large and increasing in size area reading population.

According to Muhlenberg head librarian Ashley Curran, library patrons brought up the need of extra seating to her and she found a solution for it by shifting and consolidating the collection so as to add room for additional seating.

Here is shown the  front book stacks were taken out and replaced by 2  new tables and chairs.

Now here's an interesting coincidence,  beyond the recent addition of more seating indoors, more seating outdoors at the library has also recently been installed. A few weeks ago as part of the New York City Department of Transportation's  Citybench program a new sidewalk bench was installed in front of the library. This has created a place to rest for people like the woman below who has knee problems

 and it has also created a defacto  outdoor reading room for patrons.

Going from defacto to authorized: Idea 1
Most people passing the Muhlenberg Citybench think it's just for sitting.  I was thinking, what about adding a sign to let people know that the bench is also meant for reading and wi-fi access. This  will increase its use as an outdoor reading room.

If the city will allow the placing of a sign(below) on the bench, or the library outer wall, it will make more obvious that this spot can be used as an outdoors reading room

Proposed Muhlenberg Public Library Graphic

Update: Due to impending construction under the vault in front of the Muhlenberg, the bench has been temporarily removed

Going from defacto to authorized: Idea 2
 Currently you have to  check your reading material out from the library before you can read it outside or  bring your own reading material to the "reading room". More reading convenience may be possible by following the example of some other institutions...

Here's a Reading cafe from a library in Australia,  the book cart is very moveable.

There's a small cart with an eclectic collection of books for sale outdoors at  Chelsea's Revolutionary Books, and a bench is also in front of the store .

And here's the Bryant Park Outdoor Reading Room with moveable racks  offering books, magazines and newspapers to people sitting outdoors in Bryant Park.

Stocking the Outdoor Reading Room 
Take a Book Leave a Book

If we can actually get NYPL to agree to a movable cart for the bench, the next question becomes how to stock it.

One thought, rather than have the proposed  Muhlenberg Outdoor Reading Room being stocked exclusively by the NYPL, how about it becomes Chelsea's first community book exchange where residents can take and leave items to read?
The Little Free Libraries  concept of Take a book, Leave a book  with over 5000 LFL's installed worldwide show that this mode is a viable way to do this. Little free Libraries do not always come with adjacent seating, here's 2 examples that do.
  a Little Free Library adjacent to a bench.

A Little Free Library  with adjacent chair seating, part of the PEN World Voices Festival in NYC,  designed in conjunction The Architectural League of NY

Pickup Lockers
In addition to stocked  outdoor reading rooms, adding pickup lockers to these rooms, can turn them into satellite  library sites.

-The addition of the defacto Muhlenberg outdoor reading room seating has increased the libraries adult book reading seating capacity by  10%, not bad for an item that cost the city under $400.

-If we can get the NYPL to install a movable reading materials holder placed in front of the Muhlenberg, it will enhance the  usefulness of Chelsea's  new outdoors library  reading room.

 Lately, I've noticed reading has lost its gusto! As virtual realities and games becoming increasingly prevalent, reading and literacy must be redefined as a fun, engaging experience. An aesthetically pleasing, outdoor reading room can begin to accomplish that-. Books for the People

see also  Outdoor Reading Rooms aka Read-Fi Hotspots

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Van Alen Parklet 30 West 23rd Street

On Sept 21,  2012 Van Alen Institute put up a parking day parklet for a day in front of their bookstore

Now in 2013 , the Van Alen Institute has proposed a  seasonal  parklet in front of their bookstore.
It is  the NYC's s first site-specific  parklet that is not in front of a restaurant.

According to their blog, the space is intended to:

We envision this installation as a neighborhood-scale public space that will:
• decrease traffic noise and speed
• offer opportunities for social interaction and individual use
• create a place for office workers to sit and eat lunch, students from the local school to gather, and offer a seat for children, the elderly, or other pedestrians
• encourage and support business activity on our block
• enhance greening on the block
• increase activity and visual interest for pedestrians

Why is Van Alen a great steward for a Street Seat? Van Alen’s mission and connection to design communities, as well as the general public on a local, national, and international scale, makes us an ideal partner for a DOT Street Seat. Our mission is to catalyze design innovation in the public realm, and a Street Seat offers a platform to extend the work we do to enhance our local community.

In addition, we hope to advance the Street Seat program by partnering with DOT to use our installation as a prototype to help pioneer innovative strategies for engaging the public, while reducing operating expenses and simplifying installation for future Street Seat sponsors—and elevate the profile of this exciting city initiative. link

An article in Landscape Architects Magazine said this about parklets...
Some city planners would like to use parklets more assertively. “So far each one has been something in and of itself, but we’re beginning to think about their potential as tools for larger change,” says David Alumbaugh, who directs the department’s City Design Group, which includes the parklets team. He contemplates using a series of parklets as a way to pull people into neighborhoods that otherwise might be avoided by outsiders, or concentrating them in such a way as to form a sort of traffic-calming system: “There might be ways to tie several of these spaces together…. A few years ago, any proposal to do something in the street was met with such resistance. Now that they’re popular, it’s ‘Why not do more?’”   link

 We're all for tying these spaces together. Along with the recent  installation of 10  Citibenches in Midtown South (white dots below) installing more parklets like the Van Alen Parklet  (red pin  below) are a key element in our plan for the creation of an  Age-Friendly Midtown South.  that offers area seniors a place to sit outdoors within a 3 minute walk of anywhere they are in the area. 

On July 11, 2013 the parklet was approved by Community Board 5

Adding adult areas to Children Only Playgrounds

I have talked to adults who unaccompanied by a child have been asked to leave NYC playgrounds. One way to solve this problem is to add adult areas in playgrounds, but this will take away space from the children's playground. Another is to add adult areas on the outside of existing playgrounds.

Adding seating outside of our larger parks is already don, here's a view of this at Central Park

And another out of the park Seating at Madison Square Park

Here's West 77th Street and Columbus Ave,  There is a schoolyard playground here and nothing on the outside except a street for circulation. 


By the addition of seating and plantings the sidewalk was activated and transformed into a sidewalk park.

By doing a similar transformation to NYC playgrounds, it can resolve the issue stated at the beginning of this post.

Additionally the parks dept can create street paklets with active recreation for adults in place of parking in front of playgrounds.

Spring Street Rendering