Sunday, June 22, 2008

Internet, meet Mia

My baby niece Mia Vivian Schwarzfeld the first day in the Age Of The Exersaucer.

I'm not sure I've ever seen anyone that happy. My friend Lauren (not to be confused with Mia's mom Lauren) observed on viewing this photo that we spend the rest of our lives trying to reclaim this level of happiness. It got me thinking: is there an Exersaucer for adults? If so, I worry that it's probably illegal or at least taken best in moderation.

Rockaways spec development

I just ran a long piece in City Limits on spec development in the Rockaways, Queens. It came from a basic observation: blocks of new homes were rotting away and everyone is seethingly angry at city government for somehow letting it get that way.

It's a long complex story of with no easily identifiable bad guys - including city government. The closest thing to a villain are the spec developers, who would be better described as reckless rather than malicious. Mostly just people trying to make a quick buck but failing miserably.

A sad story of a place that has always been left behind.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The antidote to eminent domain

An 86 year-old woman lived in this Seattle cottage -- once a working class neighborhood, then a rotted-out junkyard, now a chunk from a future Trader Joes -- until she died last week. The neighborhood literally gentrified around her. I like how her old buick stretches the length of the house -- about enough room for the future chutney aisle.

From the Seattle Times

Our beloved filthy streets

I was recently riding the DC metro. Easy, user-friendly, acoustically-sensible... and astonishingly clean. You can't not notice the smell that's deafiningly not there.

I was horrified.

Where are the smears, the splotches, the steamy liver-and-onion stench? Where are all the black globby splotches on the floors?

The experience got me somewhat obsessed with NYC's splotchy sidewalks. I asked around, and the answer: gum. It's all gum. Us New Yorkers are apparently chronic gum litterers.

The Times ran a story on the phenomenon a couple years back. Some highlights:
  • It takes a wad of gum 24 hours to turn from pink/green/blue to dark black.
  • Shapes differ mostly because you stretched the wad out when you got gum on your shoe.
  • Because of the composition of cement, there's really no easy way to clean it up. It requires a special solvent and some serious, back-breaking scraping. Unsurprisingly, some clever entrepreneurs have taken up the cause.
  • For decades, city officials have bemoaned our sticky streets but never really had a coherent response.
  • The problem is less pronounced in more touristed and affluent areas. Street cleaners employed by business improvement districts, such as Downtown Alliance or Times Square Alliance, pick the sticky fight. As do the Doe Fund's employees. Because sidewalks belong to property owners, and because the city has bigger fish to fry, Sanitation workers pretty much look past the blemish.

All of this apparently has DC feeling a little bit haughty -- but I'm guessing most of us would take New York, gum-warts and all.