July 1, 2019

Berlin is imposing a five-year rent freeze—Could it work in New York City?

In June, New York State rolled out a slate of proposals to protect renters. Among other changes, the new legislation closes several loopholes that have permitted owners to legally spike rents following renovations—a tactic that has been successfully used to deregulate more than 150,000 units over the past two decades. In essence, under the new legislation, owners will no longer be able to deregulate rent-regulated apartments at all. While the new legislation is certainly good news for many renters, for the tens of thousands of New Yorkers who now already live in unregulated apartments, the current legislation doesn’t fix their current woes. But could a five-year rent freeze help? It may sound impossible, but this is precisely what Berlin—once an oasis of inexpensive rents—has just approved as a way to put the brakes on rising rental prices.
Could this work in NYC?
April 8, 2019

Roppongi Hills: The Tokyo neighborhood that provided inspiration for Hudson Yards

Now that Hudson Yards has finally moved from construction site to New York City’s newest neighborhood, it may appear to be a made-in-New York City development. In actual fact, Hudson Yards took its blueprint from a similar neighborhood in Tokyo known as Roppongi Hills, which broke ground in the 1990s and officially opened in 2003. While there are a few notable differences—you won’t find any rice paddies on the roofs of Hudson Yards’ new buildings, for one—the similarities are striking. But in many respects, this is no surprise—New York- and London-based architectural firm, KPF, played a hand in the design of both developments.
Comparing Roppongi Hills and Hudson Yards
July 5, 2017

Pavegen opens world’s first ‘smart street’ to generate electricity from footsteps

UK-based technology company Pavegen built a sidewalk in London made up of kinetic pavement that turns pedestrians' footsteps into energy. The 107-square-foot display on “Bird Street” harnesses and converts the power of footsteps into electricity that supplies energy for lights and bird sounds (h/t inhabitat). Walkers can connect via Bluetooth to an app on their phones to see how many joules of energy they’ve generated. Plus, the company partnered with local businesses that then will reward users with discounts and vouchers for their footsteps.
Learn more about the sustainable sidewalks
September 26, 2016

Could Bjarke Ingels’ floating shipping containers work for student housing in NYC?

When college students arrive to the big city they often bring with them dreams of glamorous apartments, but they soon get hit the reality of a cramped dorm room covered by student loans or an awkward apartment shared with several strangers. Over in Denmark, where 40,000 beds are needed to accommodate an exploding student population, Kim Loudrup realized the enormity of the student housing shortage (inventory and affordability) and partnered with the country's prodigal son Bjarke Ingels on a new, sustainable student housing design made from floating shipping containers. Called Urban Rigger, they hope this modular idea can extend to other waterfront cities and even solve other housing problems like the refugee crisis.
Could this idea take off here?
July 19, 2016

New Self-Driving Bus in Amsterdam Makes the MTA’s Transit Plan Look Dated

While New York City is patting itself on the back for pushing through a subway design that offers eight more inches of door space and an open-gangway format, over in the Netherlands, folks are celebrating the Future Bus, a self-driving bus created by Mercedes-Benz. Per The Verge, the Future Bus has just completed a 20 kilometer (roughly 12.5 miles) drive that took it from Amsterdam's Schipol Airport to the town of Haarlem (fun side note: Harlem the nabe takes its name from this municipality) along a route that included a number of tight bends, tunnels, and traffic lights.
more on this technology here
June 1, 2016

POLL: Could China’s Street-Straddling Bus System Work in New York?

At the 19th annual Beijing International High-Tech Expo, China flexed some of its public transportation prowess by debuting a model of a proposed bus system that would hover over vehicular road traffic, straddling existing highways. Dubbed the "Transit Elevated Bus," the radical idea has been kicked around for several years, but now the WSJ reports that China will be building a trial run of the system in its Hibei province later this year. While here in the U.S., we are still scavenging for mass transit dollars and desperately trying to convince politicians that adding more lanes to highways does not actually relieve congestion, China may literally leap above and beyond U.S transport planning if these "air buses" come to fruition. The engineers claim each bus could hold more than 1,200 commuters at a time and travel up to 40 miles per hour. Additionally, construction would be one-fifth the cost of a subway line and could be completed in a single year.
Should we consider a similar plan for NYC?
May 10, 2016

400-Bed Designer Dorm Headed for Williamsburg

When you spend your student years living in an architect-designed former car radio button factory in the ultra-hip Berlin neighborhood of Kreuzberg, face it, you’re just going to be a little spoiled for everything else. And it should come as no surprise that, thanks to a developer specializing in student living, students in de facto hipster sister city Williamsburg will be getting a similar opportunity to live in architectural bliss rather than institutional semi-squalor. New York City-based real estate development company Macro Sea piloted the design-friendly dorm—outfitted with found furniture and slatted ladder-style stairs–in Berlin's Kreuzberg district last year. FastCompany quotes company principal David Belt: "Most people build student housing and they want to build it as cheaply as possible and the furniture to be as rugged as possible, because they think that students will wreck it." Diverging from this idea, Belt's company "sought to create an environment that treats students as savvy global citizens rather than wards of an institution."
Student housing or co-living for adults, what's the difference?
April 29, 2016

Don’t Look Up: Would Traffic Signals in the Pavement Protect NYC Phone Gazers?

We've already seen the creation of texting lanes for smartphone addicts (in Antwerp, Belgium and Chongqing, China) so pedestrians don't have to be stuck behind someone hunting for the perfect emoji. Recently the German city of Augsburg has taken the step of actually installing traffic lights in the pavement so text-walkers could be made aware of when it's unsafe to walk–by which we mean they're about to walk into the path of a 50-ton train. The idea came about after a 15-year-old girl was fatally hit by an oncoming tram while wearing headphones and looking down at her smartphone. As reported in The Telegraph, the lights look like ordinary road markers, but flat to the ground. Bavarian public-works/transportation provider Stadtwerke Augsburg has installed the experimental earthbound traffic signals in two rail stations. The LED lights blink green when it's safe to walk and red when a train is approaching. They're visible from a distance, so they might even give pedestrians some lead time to realize an intersection is up ahead.
Find out more
December 3, 2015

‘Open Gangway’ Subway Trains Getting a Trial Run in NYC

Despite the improved service that the MTA has been promising, most New Yorkers still find themselves crammed into subway cars like floundering sardines. But a newfangled, more spacious train could increase capacity by 8-10 percent. Second Avenue Sagas explores part of the MTA's 2015-2019 capital plan, released earlier this fall, that calls for the purchase of "10 open-gangway prototype cars with the $52.4 million expenditure allocated for 2016." This type of train, basically one long subway car with no doors in between, is popular all over the world, in most cities in China and Japan, in Berlin, Paris, and London, to name a few. It's not known yet when exactly they'll make their debut, how they'll be designed, or on what subway line they'll run, but of course the new idea comes with some concerns.
More details this way
November 5, 2015

Should NYC Employ Liverpool’s Fast Walking Lanes?

We already have express buses and subways, so why not fast track NYC's most widely used mode of transportation–walking. New Yorkers have long been known for their speedy strides, but with our population growing and texting addicts clogging up sidewalks, it's becoming increasingly difficult to get around slowpokes. Which is exactly why Liverpool just debuted Britain's first-ever fast pedestrian lane, "following research that claims 47% of the nation finds slow walking the most annoying aspect of high-street shopping," reports the Independent.
October 2, 2015

Should NYC Implement This Umbrella-Share Program for Surprise Downpours?

When you forget your umbrella on a day like today, your best option (other than trying to find a Duane Reade and getting soaked in the process) is to buy one of those $5 models on the corner, which will likely break at the first gust of wind. To make life easier for forgetful types, and for those sneak-attack downpours, a Canadian startup has set up an umbrella-share program in Vancouver called UmbraCity that allows users to borrow and return umbrellas at fully automated kiosks.
Could this umbrella sharing program take off in New York?
June 23, 2015

Could the Empire State Building Have Been Built with Wood?

Back in March, an Austrian architecture firm announced plans to build the world's tallest wooden skyscraper in Vienna, noting that by using this material instead of concrete, they'd save 3,086 tons of CO2 emissions. The news launched a lot of musings from the architecture community on the benefits of wood construction versus steel or concrete. A new story, originally published on ArchDaily by Patrick Kunkel, takes a look at whether or not the Empire State Building could have been built with timber. Michael Green has teamed up with Finnish forestry company Metsä Wood and Equilibrium Consulting to redesign the Empire State Building with wood as the main material. The project is part of Metsä Wood’s “Plan B” program, which explores what it would be like for iconic buildings to be made of timber. Their work shows that not only can wood be used to produce enormous structures in a dense urban context, but also that timber towers can fit into an urban setting and even mimic recognizable buildings despite differences in material.
Read the rest here
June 17, 2015

Let’s Introduce Text Walking Lanes for Smartphone Addicts

You've seen them. You've tried to get around them. You're probably one of them. In a world where there are more mobile phones than people, it's become commonplace to find folks paying more attention to what's on their phones than what's in front of them on the street. These so-called "text-walkers" are often a nuisance to other pedestrians as well as a danger to themselves (and their precious phones). A smart solution to this problem has appeared on the sidewalks of Antwerp, Belgium in the form of  "text walking lanes." These lanes, marked by simple white lines painted onto the sidewalk, designate a separate walking space for people who use their phones while walking.
More on text-walking lanes
May 1, 2015

Public Shaming: New Campaign Uses DNA to Recreate the Faces of Litterbugs

We've all seen those folks who callously toss their garbage into the street when there's a trashcan just ten steps away. While most of us usually remain hush and pick up the slack, there's a group out there that's fed up with litter and they most certainly aren't afraid to point fingers. As part of a campaign developed by Ogilvy to help clean the streets of Hong Kong, activists including Hong Kong Cleanup, Ecozine, and The Nature Conservancy joined forces to give a face—or literally, faces—to the problem plaguing cities worldwide.
find out more about this genius campaign here
May 1, 2015

VIDEO: Watch a 57-Story Skyscraper Go Up in Just 19 Days

While New York City developers have been laser-focused on bringing us the world's tallest residential towers, the Chinese are in pursuit of another marker: building them the fastest. A 57-story skyscraper was recently completed in Changsha, Hunan Province in just 19 working days, erected at an incredible rate of three floors a day. Called "Mini Sky City," the construction is an assembly of 2,736 glass-and-steel modules fabricated off-site over the course of roughly five months. Though the tower may have come quickly, the offerings within don't fall short: the new high-rise boasts 19 atriums, office space for 4,000 people, 800 apartments, and is reportedly earthquake-resistant.
Watch the incredible video here
March 24, 2015

Smart Street Furniture Responds to the Needs of the Blind, Elderly and More

Bullet trains, self-driving cars, autonomous people-moving pods, windowless jets with panoramic views of what's outside—transportation is without question rapidly evolving, but at the more basic level, infrastructure remains relatively unchanged in most major cities. The design of street lamps, crosswalks and other street furniture is generally a one-size-fits-all game that follows the needs of the average user, but the reality is that it takes far longer for an elderly woman to make her way across a busy intersection than it does a teen. Enter UK designers Ross Atkin and Jonathan Scott of RAA who have developed a system of “responsive street furniture” that adapts to the needs of the people using them. This means if you need more light, the street lamps will adjust. More time to cross? Done. Need to rest? A seat will unlock. And when a blind person walks past a streetlight, the post will read out the name of the store in front to help them orient themselves. So how does it work?
More about the high tech street furniture here
March 16, 2015

‘No-Shadow’ Skyscraper Could Solve the Problem of Towers Blocking the Sun

It's been one of the biggest criticisms of all of New York's new supertall towers–their shadow-casting, sun-blocking tendencies and the fact that there's nothing in place to regulate this. But a new skyscraper proposed for London may solve this urban dilemma. Architects at the London-based firm NBBJ digitally designed a pair of towers that are precisely aligned with curved and angled facades that act like mirrors to reflect down toward the street. According to the National Post, "In theory, one of the towers would reflect sunlight into the shadow of its sister tower, reducing the area of shade caused by the project as a whole."
More details ahead
March 9, 2015

What if NYC Offered Subway Riders Free E-Books?

Here's a cool idea we'd love to see implemented in Manhattan: A free e-library for folks who ride the subway. Earlier this year, Beijing subway operator Beijing MTR rolled out a new digital library that would allow its underground commuters to download a book, at no cost, by simply scanning a QR code inside a train car. As you may have guessed, the initiative is looking to get citizens to spend more time reading over mindlessly watching videos or playing games.
More on the new program

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