The Minneapolitan Urban Studies Nerd, Now In New York City
The day before Hurricane Sandy made landfall I did a bit of research. Walking down Lexington, I took note of what people were buying. I went into stores to survey what types of products were sold out and listened to people’s theories about what type of damage the impending storm would do. Reactions ran the gamut from casual dismissal to extreme apprehension. I fell in the middle. Growing up in Minnesota exposed me to some very severe storms, but this was my first hurricane.
I admittedly filled up every bottle in my house with water the night before, stocked up on canned soup and invested in some candles. Luckily, my neighborhood suffered not much more than trees and power lines down and I did not need my inventory of supplies. But many other people in the region were not as lucky.
Breezy Point, Queens not only suffered immense flooding, but a massive fire that destroyed many homes.
In lower Manhattan a ConEdison sub-station exploded, leaving thousands in the dark. All seven subway tunnels flooded and the city is limping along, hopefully with some limited subway service beginning today. Obviously, this is just a small example of the damage done by Hurricane Sandy and many other cities in the region have suffered a great deal.
Though many staunchly (I personally feel the proper word is ignorantly) deny climate change, extreme weather and the damage it does to infrastructure will never stop. Going forward, thought needs to be put into planning for resiliency.
Wether or not the climate change scale has tipped too far I don’t personally know, I am not a climate scientist. I do know that changing our habits is one way that we can attempt to tip the scale back and make our cities and environment more resilient and robust.
Klaus Jacob, a geo-physicist researcher at Columbia University told Public Radio International that,
“While we had one wakeup call last year under the name of Irene, we got away with less than we will most likely incur from Sandy. The question is, “How many wakeup calls do we need in order to get out of our snoozing, sleeping, dreaming warning attitude?” We have to get into action. We have to set priorities and spend money. For every one dollar invested in protection, you get a return of four dollars of not-incurred losses.”
To put it mildly, I’ve been busy. But what this means is that I have been participating in many very interesting events in New York. This city is full of them - even if that means a simple walk down the street.
No doubt you have seen or heard about this San Fransisco based day of street reclamation and this year I was finally able to participate. Park(ing) Day seeks to demonstrate exactly how much space is devoted to cars typically through transforming a parking space into a public space.
Park(ing) Day began in 2005 when Rebar redesigned a metered parking space into a public park, kicking off the international conversation about who exactly the streets are for; be it cars, pedestrians, bicycles, skateboards, wheelchairs or dog sleds. And how large is a typical parking space? Bigger than you realize - in North America a parallel parking space is usually at least twenty feet long and nine feet wide. That’s quite a bit of storage space for a big hunk of metal in my opinion.
Some classmates and I set up our Park(ing) Day space on Lexington and 68th street on the Upper East Side of Manhattan where there is little public space or seating. We made benches from repurposed shipping pallets and invited passers by to write down what they wish there was more (or less) of in the neighborhood. We also had a huge bag of found objects that doubled as a fantasy planning charrette. Many people stopped to ask us what we were doing and participated. I met a few really interesting people and had a great time. Even the blog Inhabitat stopped by and added us to their Park(ing) Day 2012 story.