Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Wall Street Journal Advertises for George W. Bush

This drawing by the WSJ depicting George W. Bush is interesting. It sort of makes him look like Gregory Peck.

This seems, from an advertising ponit of view, as a form of product enhancement.

Bloomberg Didn't Love the High Line from the Start?

I wasn't aware that Mike didn't support the High Line from the very start...Apparently, Burden helped convince him...?

December 29, 2004

An Aesthetic Watchdog in the City Planning Office

She is loath to go into detail, but Amanda M. Burden is clearly not crazy about the design for a Jets stadium on the Far West Side of Manhattan. As director of the City Planning Department, she has built her reputation on concern for aesthetics: how a building looks, how it relates to the street, how it serves the people who use its public spaces. The proposed $1.4 billion stadium, a colossal complex with blinking images on its facade, has been faulted by critics for its visual noise and the way it would block views of the Hudson.

Yet much is riding on the proposal. For one thing, it is a pet project of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and his deputy mayor, Daniel L. Doctoroff, who say it would advance New York's bid for the 2012 Olympics.

And Ms. Burden is a good soldier. In a recent interview, she would go only so far as to say the stadium could be "even better."

"We've been pushing the Jets very, very hard to improve the design - I am very intent on doing that," she said. "It should be an exciting experience."

Such is the balancing act for the city planning director as she strives to raise the bar for new architecture in New York. Yet Ms. Burden is making a significant impact, architects and planning experts say. She has not only repeatedly sent architects back to the drawing board, but also spurred commercial development in once-dormant neighborhoods like downtown Brooklyn and Long Island City, Queens; sought to preserve the character of others like the Throgs Neck section of the Bronx through zoning changes; and improved plazas and parks by backing the current renovation of Columbus Circle, for example, or by proposing new design guidelines for all privately owned public spaces.

"I believe that by raising expectations, higher standards will become the norm," she said in an interview at her office.

Compared with a Robert Moses, the think-big public works czar who imposed a sweeping vision on highways and parks across the city from the 1930's to the 60's, Ms. Burden might be considered an aesthetic watchdog. "She is the design conscience of New York," said Robert Yaro, president of the Regional Plan Association, an influential private research agency that opposes the stadium. "We just haven't had this design sensibility in City Hall - maybe ever. You're seeing that in the quality of public and private design, whether it's an office building in Midtown or the Brooklyn waterfront."

Historically, the City Planning Department has focused more on responding to developers' proposals than on trying to mold them. The last time the city took an aggressive role in architecture was in the 1960's, when the heady social ideals of urban planning drew many architects to public service in the Lindsay administration.

"It's hard because New York doesn't believe in planning," said Hugh Hardy, a prominent architect. "The plan was the grid - and to make money by increasing density."

In devising urban design master plans, Ms. Burden has set enforceable guidelines like those for Hudson Yards that mandate retail spaces with a sense of continuity and transparency, ample sidewalk widths, trees along the street, adequate tower setbacks and limits on tower widths. Without Ms. Burden, there might be no High Line project, its supporters say, a plan for a 22-block elevated garden stretching from the downtown meatpacking district to 34th Street on Manhattan's West Side. Friends of the High Line, a nonprofit group, says that Ms. Burden made a compelling case for the project to Mayor Bloomberg, who initially opposed it, and fostered the design competition that attracted top-flight architects, including the winners, Diller, Scofidio & Renfro.

Other prominent commissions awarded through Ms. Burden's influence include Richard Rogers's new East River waterfront in Lower Manhattan - which calls for better access, amenities and open space - and the transformation of Staten Island's Fresh Kills landfill into 2,200 acres of new park and recreation. Ms. Burden is overseeing the master planning process for both.

Some might assume that Ms. Burden coasted into office because of her social connections: she is a stepdaughter of the CBS founder William S. Paley, the former wife of media moguls (Carter Burden, then Steve Ross) and the companion of Charlie Rose, the talk show host, with whom she is frequently photographed at glamorous events.

But she was hardly a shoo-in: she had supported Mark Green, Mr. Bloomberg's opponent, in the mayoral race, and Mr. Doctoroff wanted Alexander Garvin, then chief planner for the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation.

Yet she had earned her credentials, overseeing the planning of Battery Park City for 10 years, starting in 1983, while pursuing her master's degree in urban planning at Columbia University.

And although her elegant black suits and demeanor are not what you might ordinarily expect to find under the fluorescent lights at public hearings, she appears to be holding her own, even in politically charged projects like rebuilding ground zero.

"She's been a strong advocate for a large amount of public space - ensuring that it is integrated within the site but also with the Lower Manhattan community," said Kevin M. Rampe, the president of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. At the same time, Ms. Burden is fiercely discreet, those who have worked with her say. On the stadium, for example, she has made a point of keeping her differences with Mr. Doctoroff under wraps.

In person, Ms. Burden is similarly opaque: expansive about her projects but circumspect about personal matters or interdepartmental dynamics.

Ms. Burden also serves as chairwoman of the City Planning Commission, the department's policymaking body, through which she sets design standards.

"Good architecture is good economic development," she said.

Historically, developers have chafed at being saddled with prominent architects, because architects can slow the building process with design concerns. But these days, they often have little choice.

"Developers now go to better architects because they know excellence is required," said Frederic Schwartz, a Manhattan architect.

John E. Zuccotti, co-chairman of the Brookfield Properties Corporation, the largest downtown landlord, said Ms. Burden's design agenda occasionally made waves because it slowed or complicated the building process.

"It sometimes annoys people because the City Planning Department is not supposed to focus on architecture," said Mr. Zuccotti, himself a former Planning Commission chairman. "It's sometimes not the most efficient approach, but she has her role. Only time will tell whether she pushes it too far."

By many accounts, she has been careful not to push it too far with Mr. Doctoroff, who as deputy mayor for economic development is a booster for timely construction. Mr. Doctoroff said he and Ms. Burden had clashed "from time to time" on such matters but added that the disagreements were "nothing terribly dramatic."

"She clearly pushes people," he said, "but I think in ways that most have found helpful."

"Sure it costs more," Mr. Doctoroff said of the design process. "It's more difficult when you hire a famous architect; you have sometimes less control over your project. You're dealing with people who have a real desire to put art into buildings, and that complicates the building process."

Ms. Burden also makes a point of sounding out neighborhoods about development projects, like asking Harlem residents about their hopes for 125th Street. "The community is not going to buy in unless it reflects their culture," she said.

Being heard on development projects doesn't mean residents are happy about them. The Greenpoint Waterfront Association for Parks and Planning, an advocacy group for North Brooklyn, has yet to support plans for the Greenpoint-Williamsburg waterfront, a residential and park project. The group argues that the plan fails to guarantee affordable housing and enough new parks and open space.

At the same time, the community advocates say, they do not fault Ms. Burden. "Amanda is doing her job," said Joseph Vance, a co-chairman of the association. "She doesn't control the purse strings. She can only do what she can do."

Members of Community Board 4, which covers the Far West Side, oppose the Jets stadium but say Ms. Burden is not to blame. "Amanda clearly has a commitment to community input into land-use planning, and that is a refreshing change from prior administrations," said Anna Hayes Levin, a vice chairwoman of the community board. "But she has a boss who is determined to make this plan work and therefore has her hands tied."

Ms. Burden defends the project. "This is for long-term growth - and that's just 10 percent growth over the next 30 or 40 years," she said. "We think that's the right thing to do."

She said she had already made a difference in the project, proposing parks on four sides and insisting on retail and active public uses to create more sidewalk vitality.

"You can measure the health of the city in the vitality of the street life," Ms. Burden said. "That's true in Bayside, Tottenville or on Madison Avenue. That's what people focus on - what's right in front of them."

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Trump's Predecessor: Sol Goldman

This historic home is being destoyed via "demolition by neglect" by the property owner, Sol Golman's estate. I walk past this home everyday, and it's even more a tragedy because it's intentional. It's like walking to work and seeing a kid beaten up every day by bullies. You have to step in and stop it. In this case, the preservationists finally took that step, for the good of all of us.

December 28, 2004

Court Steps in to Try to Save a City Landmark on the Brink

If there is a three-dimensional, bricks-and-mortar definition of forlorn, it is the abandoned Samuel Tredwell Skidmore House, which has stood at 37 East Fourth Street since 1845 - ever more tenuously in recent years.

On the verge of catastrophic deterioration, the three-and-a-half-story Greek Revival-style house may have been saved by a ruling last week in which a State Supreme Court justice said that the owner must restore it to a state of "good repair." And keep it that way.

The Skidmore House is an official city landmark. But a very active imagination is needed to conjure the days when Skidmore, a prominent businessman and lay leader of Trinity Church, would have been greeted at the two great Ionic columns flanking the front door by his wife, Angelina, their eight children and a nurse, Mary Ann Banks, who proudly claimed to have shook hands with George Washington.

Though the columns are still there, the eye is more likely to fall first on the boarded-up windows, the crumbling brownstone, the cracking brickwork and the "R.O." warning - Roof Open - that has been painted on the facade at the second floor, below an X-filled square that tells firefighters that there are hazardous conditions inside.

This sorry state is no accident, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission has charged, but rather a result of deliberate "demolition by neglect" by the owner, identified as the estate of Sol Goldman.

Mr. Goldman, once the largest private landlord in New York City, died in 1987, leaving behind a real estate empire.

"We tried for years to get them to do the right thing by this building, but the owners refused," the commission chairman, Robert B. Tierney, said in a statement. "After it became clear to us that they had no intention of taking care of this historically significant building, we sued."

On Dec. 20, the commission won a ruling from Justice Walter B. Tolub of State Supreme Court, who ordered the owner to "permanently repair and restore the exterior of the Skidmore House to a state of 'good repair.' "

Owners of individual landmarks or properties in historic districts have long been required by law to maintain building elements in "good repair" against deterioration, decay or damage. But city officials said the Skidmore House case was the first in which the landmarks commission sued to compel compliance.

"This isn't creating new law," said Paula Van Meter, senior counsel in the administrative law division of the Law Department, who represented the landmarks commission in the case. "It's simply enforcement of the law in a formally litigated context."

"We're not looking for more litigation on these matters," she said. "We're hoping the success of this litigation will encourage owners to work cooperatively with us."

To the extent that the case sets a precedent, John Weiss, the deputy counsel to the landmarks commission, said it would apply to owners who "irresponsibly neglect a landmark so it falls into disrepair and then don't voluntarily repair the building," despite efforts by the commission to work with them.

"Of course, we're not going to be litigating against people who don't paint their shutters," he said.

It is unclear whether the Goldman estate will appeal the decision. Telephone and e-mail messages left last week for David Rosenberg, identified by the city as a lawyer for the owner, were not answered. His office said yesterday that he would be away until the new year.

The owner contended that it had fulfilled an obligation to maintain the building in the state of repair that existed at the time of its landmark designation in 1970. But Justice Tolub disagreed. "The evidence is clear," he wrote in his decision, "that defendants have allowed the facade of the Skidmore House to deteriorate."

Justice Tolub noted that as early as 1995, an inspection of the exterior disclosed that the building was open to the elements. In 2002, the roof collapsed. It was repaired about a year ago, Mr. Weiss said, and new rafters, joists and plywood floor planks were also installed.

In the longer term, the Atlantic Development Group has leased the Skidmore House and an adjacent property at the corner of the Bowery from the Goldman estate. It plans to restore the landmark as part of a larger project.

What makes the decay of the Skidmore House so striking is the existence just 75 feet away, at 29 East Fourth Street, of the Merchant's House Museum, an exquisitely maintained landmark that was built in 1832 and occupied three years later by Seabury Tredwell, Skidmore's cousin once removed, and his large family.

Margaret Halsey Gardiner, the executive director of the Merchant's House Museum, says she has watched despairingly as the neighboring Skidmore House fell apart. Occasionally, she got inside.

In the early 1990's, she said, the house was still "manageably reparable" and possessed a remarkable number of 19th-century features: shutters, doorjambs, doorknobs, floorboards, a stairway balustrade with newel post and a lantern in the front hall.

With each passing year and each fire and each wall collapse, she said, more of these elements vanished, some carted off by workers, some appropriated by neighbors.

The heartbreaking final straw, Ms. Gardiner said, was the disappearance five or six months ago of the original bell pull at the front door. It still said "Skidmore," 123 years after Samuel Tredwell Skidmore died in that house.

" 'Skidmore,' " she marveled. " 'Skidmore!' There it was.

"I should have stolen it myself."

Monday, December 27, 2004

EVA Ad on Times Page Doesn't Fly

This banner on the right-hand side of the Times advertising home page is by EVA Airlines, a Taiwan aircarrier. This ad is not animated--this is the only image for it. They expect you to click on this. I had to click on this it was SO bad so that I could find out whom to critique. It's EXPENSIVE to put a banner on a Times sub-section home page, and I would have to imagine the click through rate for this ad could be much better if they better communicated what they are offering.

My recommendations:
1) Simplify the message; there are too many images overlapping each other
2) Choose a message: let me know why I should click on this banner, such as "I can fly to Taiwan on EVA" or EVA is offering a sale on flights to Asia. Currently, they say "Booking, Buying, and Extra Mileage Bonuses!" Of course there is booking and buying online, otherwise, there wouldn't be a point of haivng a web site. So, that info is useless. Extra mileage? What do I care about that if I don't even know where they fly? I would recommend a brand awareness campaign. The message is: if you want to fly Asia, EVA is the best for it. EVA needs to be in big letters, not in small print like it is at the bottom.
3) The colors for EVA appear to be green and red; they should emphasize those colors and "brand the banner" so that at least if the visitor to the Times doesn't click on the banner, they take with them the brand experience. They also use orange...even on their site, it's hard to tell what their official colors are.

Please Judge Us by Our Cover

This is an interesting graphic spread from AdBusters magazine. It shows the front and back covers of some trusted news sources...

The front in essence says one thing, the back cover another.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

I Disagree with AdBuster's Article on Terrorism

i disagree with this piece from AdBusters (December) by Ziauddin Sardar. I think it's the equivalent of blaming the beaten wife for her abuse...saying she deservers it. She doesn't, and the innocent, non-violent people of the U.S. do not deserve in any way to be violently attacked by others, under any terms.

i think publishing this in thought provoking, in the sense that I being to understand how whacked and beyond reconcilliation AdBusters is.


Most terrorists have mundane, apparently peaceful lives, but are just as cruel as those who behead for an internet audience. They are you and me, ordinary people consuming much too much, leading an unsustainable lifestyle, committing cultural genocide on the vast majority of humanity, plundering non-western economies in the name of free trade, and imposing our lifestyle and morality on the rest of humanity. Yes, terrorists r (also) us!

Of course, there is a difference between ‘their’ terrorism and ‘our’ terrorism. They often have a legitimate grievance; they engage in conscious terrorism because they see themselves as powerless against powerful governments that have inflicted real injustice on them. We are motivated by greed, a sense of superiority and an unshakable belief in our right to dominate the world. They kill indiscriminately. We kill en masse. Their nefarious deeds get the attention of the global media. Our terrorist activities are invisible, shrouded in pious rhetoric about “freedom and democracy,” embedded in our way of life, integrated into our system of thought and way of looking at the world. They know they are guilty. We have an innate belief in our innocence. They kill in hundreds and thousands; we kill in millions.

Of the 4.4 billion people living in the developing countries, nearly three fifths lack access to sewers, a third to clean water, a quarter to housing, and a fifth to health care of any kind. Every day 800 million people go hungry. A baby born today in Botswana has a life expectancy of 39.

This is not the product of some fluke of history, or natural disasters, or mismanagement by tinpot dictators or lack of initiative by the wretched of the Earth. These people are the direct victims of our consciously-planned policies and actions. We deny government aid and our markets to African peanut farmers but give billions of dollars in subsidies to American peanut farmers and ensure they can sell their products all over the globe. We subsidize every cow in the European Union by $2.50 a day and force the vast majority of peasants in Africa and Asia off their land to live on less than $1 a day.

We also kill cultures, destroy traditional communities in the name of development, turn rainforests into deserts to satisfy our craving for hamburgers. Ten languages fall silent every year. Entire cultures, lifestyles and different ways of being human are disappearing as a direct result of the cultural terrorism we perpetuate.

In return, we gloat. America constitutes three percent of world’s population but consumes 25 percent of its energy and produces 30 percent of its pollution. The three richest Americans have assets exceeding the combined gross domestic products of the 48 least-developed countries. Americans spend $8 billion on cosmetics, almost as much on pet food, and $10 billion a year on pornography – more than the estimated total needed to provide clean water, safe sewers and basic health care to the world’s poor.

This, then, is the world that the West has created over the past two centuries and America has shaped during the last few decades. In this world, inequalities, exploitation and imperialism are not just part of the system – they are the System.

‘Evil terrorists’ perform horrendous acts of carnage by insulating their conscious awareness from the emotional consequences of what they do. We too insulate our consciousness from the repugnant consequences of what we continue to do every day of our mundane lives and the truly hideous world we have created and maintain. For sure, terrorists need to change. But we need to change even more.

The future need not be an extension of the past or the present. It can be shaped, decolonized and made more equitable and just. But to shape a future free from terrorism we must realize that the ‘war on terror’ is not a war at all. It is cultural politics. It is a struggle to create cultural space for other ways of knowing, being and doing. It is a politics of visibility that brings the inhuman consequences of our policies and action into sharper focus. It is personal exertion to live a more sustainable and humane life. It is an attempt to addresses the politics of identity that accompanies neo-liberal globalization. In the end, a terrorism-free future begins with our Selfs.

Ziauddin Sardar is a British writer, broadcaster and cultural critic. His recent books include Why Do People Hate America? and American Terminator: Myths, Movies and Global Power (Disinformation Books).

TV Turnoff Week

is April 25th-May 1

Friday, December 17, 2004

Palestinian Funding

I was not aware that Palestinians recieve the most per capita aid of any group in the world ($300 per person). I know Israel is the largest per capita recipient of aid from the U.S....I think. Odd how both sides are just given more and more money. It's like Don King training two boxers.

December 17, 2004
Donors Consider Large Increase in Aid to Palestinians

WASHINGTON, Dec. 16 - The United States, Europe and Arab countries are considering greatly increasing - maybe even doubling - aid to the Palestinians on condition that they and Israel take certain steps toward reducing their conflict, American and Palestinian officials say.

A four-year package of $6 billion to $8 billion would be forthcoming, they said, if the Palestinian elections set for Jan. 9 occurred successfully and if the new government cracked down on militant groups and Israel lifted scores of roadblocks and checkpoints to ease the transit of goods and people in Palestinian areas.


The World Bank says the package, which would come from the United States, the European Union, Arab states and other donors, would be the largest per person international aid program since World War II.

The Palestinians are already the world's largest per capita recipients of international aid, getting about $1 billion for 3.5 million inhabitants, or nearly $300 per person. The contemplated aid package would increase that amount by 50 to 100 percent.

To support the new Palestinian leaders and send a signal to European and Arab leaders to step up their own aid programs, the United States announced in Oslo that it would add to the $200 million it contributed indirectly to the Palestinians this year by channeling another $20 million directly to the Palestinian Authority.

the MTA is Late

how come FedEx can track millions of packages and the MTA can't track its own trains? When you give FedEx a tracking number, the web site shows by the minute when the package entered and left a connecting city, and yet...

the MTA can't tell me when the next subway train will arrive?

apparently, a package worth $3 is more important than a train carrying 200 people, with each train (there are hundreds) worth about $1 million each. ???

in San Francisco, there are digital clocks on the platforms that tell when the next train will arrive.

Friday, December 10, 2004

MTA Buildings Have Marketing Potential

The F train entrance/building in DUMBO epitomizes bad use of public buildings. Not only is it poorly marked (you can't see the subway sign more than 1 block away), but the space is extremely underutlized. The building is on a corner, and there is no retail prsence. Not a store, a bodega, or even a billboard or poster. Hey, how about a bilboard saying "Subway"! The MTA announce plans today to try to crawl out of debt by developing the commerical potential of these properties.

I would recommend for that location:
- Retail outlets
- Posters and/or bilboards
- A roof top bar--it would be the only one in Brooklyn

December 10, 2004

To Pay Debt, Transit Agency Considers Property Deals

In an effort to raise more than $1 billion, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority wants to sell or lease for commercial use many of its 14,000 properties, including train stations, commuter parking lots and maintenance yards.

City Branding: What Harlem Has in Common with Jacksonville

Today's Times has an article sharing how Jacksonville, FL, in prepartion for hosting the SuperBowl, will launch an ad campaign branding the city. The tagline will be "Jacksonville. Where Florida Begins."

Tha's clever. It is a double entendre, and works geographically as well as philosopically. As I look for ways to help an economic development corporation representing Harlem, I draw inspiration from this tagline. Harlem's could very well be "Harlem. Where New York Begins."

I just wish, like everything else, that I had thought of it first!