1. An bill that would replace New Jersey’s court-mandated patchwork of inclusionary zoning programs with a more uniform 10% affordable housing mandate has left advanced through its Assembly committee after passing the NJ Senate, though Chris Christie promised to veto it.
2. Last month I reported that Obama’s deficit commission may recommend paring back the mortgage-interest tax deduction. Well, the official plan is now out, and – good news! – it looks like completely doing away with the deduction is on the table.
3. The New Yorker reports on a Cooper Union exhibit that models what the area around the proposed Lower Manhattan Expressway connecting the Holland Tunnel to the Williamsburg Bridge would have looked like if Jane Jacobs had lost and Robert Moses had won.
4. Even with $100 million in cash and hundreds of millions in tax-exempt bonds, Bronx Parking, which operates Yankee Stadium’s perennially under-used parking garage, still can’t turn a profit.
Benjamin Hemric saysNovember 12, 2010 at 4:57 am
FOUR “MYTHS” ABOUT THE LOWER MANHATTAN EXPRESSWAY
Thanks for the link to Goldberger review of the exhibit of Paul Rudolph’s plan for the Lower Manhattan Expressway. I hope to visit the exhibit (I’m a big fan of Paul Rudolph’s) but probably wouldn’t have found out about it without your link.
I’d like to point out, however, what seem to me to be some “mistakes” in both the post above and in Goldberger’s review. Don’t have time right now to explain these ideas fully — but hope to eventually incorporate them into some articles that I’m working one. (So this is comment is kind of a teaser comment!)
1) Over the years, there were a number of different plans for the Lower Manhattan Expressway, but this Rudolph plan (commissioned by the Ford Foundation) is the least “official” one of all, so it seems to me, and was probably the least likely to be built. (It’s really just some architect’s elaborate “dream” / doodle, albeit one by a world class architect and one funded by a big money, ivory tower think tank.)
If I remember correctly (from some research I was doing a little while back), the two plans that were the real plans were 1) a conventional elevated expressway and 2) a somewhat unconventional depressed open-cut expressway.
2) Although I agree that the Lower Manhattan Expressway was an AWFUL idea, I think it’s a mindless gross exageration to say that it would have destroyed SoHo, etc. (It wouldn’t even have destroyed very many cast-iron buildings.)
3) I also think it’s highly unlikely that SoHo would not have developed as it did had the Lower Manhattan Expressway been built. It just wouldn’t have been quite as nice. (I say this, by the way, as a 40-year resident of SoHo.)
4) While there were a number of reasons that Jane Jacobs was opposed to the expressway, one of the major ones was that she felt that the expressway just didn’t make sense from a traffic / transportation standpoint. And she was right on the money, in this regard.
Thurs., 11/11/10, 11:55 p.m.
Benjamin Hemric saysNovember 14, 2010 at 11:52 pm
SOME CORRECTIONS (TO MY PREVIOUS POST) AND SOME ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS
1) First off, I should have titled my previous post something like, “Alternatives to Four Myths About the Lower Manhattan Expressway,” as the four iterms that I listed weren’t myths themselves, but rather my alternatives to them. (But I hope people got the idea anyway).
2) I went to visit the exhibit yesterday (again, thanks for pointing it out), and the Paul Rudolph plan is far, far worse than I imagined it to be. It’s about as preposterous a detailed plan as I’ve ever seen (I’ve only seen a sketch or two of Le Corbusier’s plan for Paris), and in no way whatsover, as far as I can tell, is it the least bit of an improvement over the two “official” schemes for the expressway that I am aware of (i.e., one of them an elevated expressway, the other an open cut depressed expressway). While I agree that the Moses’s original plan and its various iterations were bad ideas, Rudolph’s plans are actually far worse. (I still am a fan of some of Paul Rudolph’s individual buildings and apartments, though — even though some of these may also be “crazy.”)
Here’s some of the awfulness of the Rudolph “plan” — a “plan” which seems to be a good example of a tail wagging the dog (in other words, the plan is there to look “cool” rather than to actually solve problems of transportation and urban living).
a) The Rudolph plan destroys just as much of SoHo, if not more, than the two major “official” plans. (Although it should be quickly mentioned that the original plan did not destroy all that much of SoHo in the first place — see my previous post regarding myths surrounding the Lower Manhattan Expressway.) The official plans lop off the southern end of the blocks between Spring and Broome. The Rudloph “plan” destroys the buildings in the middle of the blocks instead.
b) In order to “mitigate” the effects of the expressay, the Rudloph “plan” mostly tries to hide the expressway by destroying much of the rest of Lower Manhattan and replacing it with monstrous tower-in-the-park type structures (although Rudolph denies that this is what they are) that have no relationship to the surrounding city — plus who in the world would want to live / work in such structures and who would want to build them?
c) Rudloph’s “plan” for the highway seems to be dictated by the artistic needs of his drawings and models rather than any attempt to actuallly solve transportation problems. In other words, his “plan” appears to make traffic worse rather than better.
For example, part of the rationale for the Moses highway (although it wasn’t enough to justify its construction, so it seems to me) was to facilitate north-south traffic that was being “blocked” by heavy east-west traffic. Moses’ solution was to “elevate” the east-west traffic. Rudolph’s “plan” very cavalierly blocks off Varick St. (these days a major southbound roadway) with buildings and cuts off Sixth Avenue (these days a major northboard roadway) for highway exits! Buildings elsewhere in the model similarly cut off exisitng streets in a very cavalier fashion.
d) Only a very small part of Rudolph’s “plan” involves construction over the highway, and this construction is very oddly placed. For some reason, the buildings built over the highway don’t abut existing streets. You can’t for instance, walk down “x” street and go into one of these buildings from the street. For some reason, there is a gap between the street and the building. It appears that one has to go first through the rear yards of nearby buildings in order to then get to pedestrian bridges that would then lead one into these buildings.
While the possiblity exists that this problem and the problem of the cut off streets are just a result of the difficulties of showing his “plan” in a model format, I think this would be a poor excuse. The purpose of a model, so it seems to me, is to show how problems can be solved in the real world. (To show how the wheel meets the road.) If you can’t do it with a model, then you really shouldn’t be doing a model. Or at least there should be other diagrams, etc. that show how you really intend to address such problems. (I’m also skeptical about such an excuse since similarly weird problems seem endemic to this “plan” and are not just limited to the model.)
e) The “plan” makes a big deal about people movers, but the people mover idea is very inconsistenly (and even laughably) portrayed. Where would the people mover take people?; who would use it?; to go where?; etc.
f) Similarly, the plan makes a big deal about a transportation hub — but it’s not even clear how people could use the hub, yet alone who would use it and why.
So basically the Rudloph “plan” is something along the lines of someone saying that they have a “plan” to fight the scourge of cancer — a pill with no side effects that has yet to be developed (the “planner” leaving the difficult particulars to someone else). But here, at least, is an attractive design and color scheme for such a pill that could show what such a pill might look like.
Basically what this “plan” shows me is that if we are going to think about and build highways (a big “if”) we are much better off entrusting them to traffic engineers (with some outside control to see that they aren’t solely dealing with traffic) than to “visionary” architects who are mostly concerned with how “cool” things look in drawings and in models rather than in true problem solving. The Moses’ plan and its successors were giant boondoggles that were, thankfully, never built, but at least they attempted to address some concrete problems, offered some concrete solutions and were constrained by some practical realities. The Rudolph “plan,” on the other hand, seems to be a Rube Goldberg contraption that offers solely “pie-in-the-sky” aesthetic ideas with no real attempt to solve the actual problems at hand.
Does any of this relate to market urbanism? I think it does because, as impractical as this “plan” is, it is an interesting example of the follies of the master planning approach to urbanism and urban beauty and the misplaced faith we place in architects to solve our urban problems. Apparently Rudolph was interested in using the highway infrastructure as an armature for mass produced modular urban development (with his various structures being constructed out of trailer home like modular units). He saw that as being both economic and beautiful.
But there are a number of problems with this approach. One of them is that individual city sites are invariably too idiosyncratic for this kind of mass produced construction (unless one first clears a large site via urban “renewal”). Another problem with this approach is that the kind of beauty that he was searching for is already being produced, but even more economically and more beautifully, so it seems to me via individual builders using the city’s truly useful urban infrastructure (e.g., streets, subways, etc.) — that’s how the beauty of the Manhattan skyline, of Times Square, etc. was created. His master planning approach is thus not only economically impractical and overblown but also oppressively monotonous. The same kind of thing — but even much better — can be done (and has been done) with far more modesty: e.g., the elevated roadway around Grand Central Terminal, the Manhattan approach to the Queensboro Bridge, etc.
Sun., Nov. 14, 2010, 6:55 p.m.
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