Cities

Big urban parks sprouting across the U.S.

Four major cities are poised to create urban parks several times bigger than New York’s iconic Central Park, itself a not-at-all-shabby 843 acres. In Orange County, Calif., a portion of a former air station will become a 1,347-acre park; in Memphis, a 4,500-acre former prison farm has been snatched from developers by a conservation easement; Atlanta is trying to add enough parkland to attach nearly every neighborhood to green space; and a Staten Island landfill will become a giant park with amenities to attract bikers, boaters, and fishers. (No word on whether the Staten Island park will maintain the unsettling …

Sidewalks are sexy!

and other things I learned at Hahvahd

I just spent a couple of days at a journalists’ forum at Harvard whose topic was climate change and cities. The basic premise being that — as our Mayor Nickels and his climate-fighting compatriots well know — cities contribute a hell of a lot of carbon to the world, but are also in the best position to slow our handbasket voyage. Over the two days (which could easily have been two weeks), we heard from planners and architects working in places like New York, New Orleans, D.C., Phoenix, London, Latin America, and Seattle, as well as from smart-growth advocates and …

Green buildings wise up

Linking green buildings and the smart grid will spawn a green energy ecosystem

A new energy ecosystem is emerging that connects smart, green buildings with a smart, green grid to optimize energy flows. Since commercial and industrial buildings represent around 40 percent of U.S. energy use, and homes another 30 percent, this represents the most significant opportunity for energy efficiency and mass-scale renewable generation. But creating this new green energy ecosystem means linking what are today heavily "stovepiped" separate systems within buildings and between buildings and the grid. It also means expanding the definition of green buildings to include the digital smarts that connect diverse systems. The Green Intelligent Buildings Conference in Baltimore on April 2-3 focused on ways to cut through "stovepipes" and build those new linkages. "We need to find ways to make the grid smarter, to make buildings smarter, and to have these smarts communicate with each other," keynoter Jeffrey Harris of the Alliance to Save Energy told attendees. This will require new technologies and partnerships that cross traditional boundaries, said the ASE vice president for programs. "We need not just utilities but private industry to be involved." One key area where new partnerships are needed is within the building industry itself, between green builders and building intelligence providers.

Curbside treecycling

High-end use for urban trees saves landfill space

A company in North Carolina is making some good things from urban trees which have to be cut down for one reason or another: high-end lumber from what was once considered good only for firewood or mulch. They process 15,000 to 20,000 board feet a year of local urban lumber from private land for use in homes, sheds, barns, farms, or woodworking projects. It's estimated that 2 million board feet of lumber is wasted annually in the local landfills in the Charlotte metro area due to storms, land clearing, maintenance, or disease. I'm sure much the same can be said for other cities. Anyone doing good things with unwanted wood in your neighborhood?

Fashion before function

The automotive equivalent of high heels

Was looking for an electric vehicle and this came up. Seriously -- six batteries? And a suicide trunk? Part of me kind of wants it.

State Farm pulls bike-bashing ad

Remember that stupid ad from State Farm, where the natty professional laments that gas prices have gotten so high he’s been forced — gasp — to ride a bike to work? Oh, the humiliation. Well, apparently the hubbub about the ad got so heated that it made its way back to State Farm. In response, they have pulled the ad. Streetsblog has the details, and deserves credit for generating the kind of blowback that might make the next big corporation think twice before disparaging transportation alternatives. And of course State Farm deserves some credit as well — despite the ad …

WTF?

They’re submerging subway cars to make artificial reefs?! Nobody tells me anything.

Machiavelli meets the Big Apple

Ten reasons NYC’s congestion pricing plan went belly up

Photo: Tom Twigg Albany strikes again: congestion pricing -- the smartest urban-transportation idea since the subway -- has been buried by the professional morticians of the New York State legislature, led by Chief Ghoul Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. As previously reported, the pricing plan, proposed a year ago by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and subsequently improved by a 17-member state-mandated commission, would have charged an $8 entry fee on cars driven into Manhattan's central business district (CBD) during 6 a.m. - 6 p.m. on weekdays. Benefits included an annual $500 million revenue stream for mass transit (sufficient to bond at least $5 billion in capital improvements), a solid if unspectacular drop in traffic gridlock and pollution, and, perhaps most significantly, a first step toward knocking the automobile off its privileged perch atop the New York street pyramid. Not to mention establishing the principle that safeguarding "the commons" -- our air, water and public space -- requires that we exact from ourselves a commensurate price for uses that damage or deplete it. Congestion pricing was backed by an unusually broad coalition of labor, business, enviros (the full spectrum from EJ to Big Green) and civic associations. Yet neither this broad-spectrum support nor the plan's extraordinary vetting over the past 12 months deterred legislators from both parties from citing "unanswered questions" and assailing bogus inequities. Calling today "a sad day for New Yorkers and New York City" and noting federal support for congestion pricing, Mayor Bloomberg blasted the legislature, stating that, "Even Washington, which most Americans agree is completely dysfunctional, is more willing to try new approaches to longstanding problems than our elected officials in the State Assembly." With so much going for it, what killed the plan? There will be time later for sober postmortems, but for now, here's my shoot-from-the-hip Top 10 list of what felled congestion pricing in NYC:

New York City’s congestion pricing plan …

… is dead.

Welcome to the new Grist. Tell us what you think, or if it's your first time learn about us. Grist is celebrating 15 years. ×