Today is labor day although we are going to work. We decided to take a detour to the office through Central Park and have breakfast in the park. We brought coffee in a thermos and our round challah bread as it will be the Jewish holiday soon. The streets were very quiet, hardly any cars and the park was full of New Yorkers relaxing and enjoying the quiet city.
We got to the park at 9 o’clock, maybe that is why there weren’t so many people ….. actually there were many dogs with their owners tagging along. We passed some of the popular tourist destinations and finally got to our favorite spot… the boat pond. For us the park is an amazing thing, they talk about it being the back yard for urban New Yorkers but it is actually our very own urban space. We can imagine ourselves in a cafe, quietly watching the world go by. There is also just enough of a garden so that we can debate what the flowers are.
The lakes and ponds in Central Park are actually man made but look very natural, except this one. It is a formal framed regular shape. Our cafe is located just in front of the lake all although we hardly use it as a cafe. You can sit on any of these chairs without ordering food. We like this atmosphere because it is like the cafes on the streets but you can enjoy it without spending anything.
These photos were taken last weekend when we were invited to a roof terrace on a high-rise in Manhattan. You can see a lot of roofs that are utilized as terraces in Manhattan when you use the Google satellite view but pedestrians cannot find these roof terraces they are so high up. They are privately owned or they are shared roof space for the building dwellers. Even so this amazing roof top environment is quit rare. Luckily at one time there was a zoning requirement that buildings step back to allow light down to the street level, and many exterior roof areas were created. That is not the case today, but on the older buildings you can see the overflowing greenery.
Do so many roof gardens mean that New Yorker’s love plant life and nature so much? Central Park and the many planted public squares are not enough? Moreover, New York also has many green courts and back gardens in the rear of the buildings. Actually they are invisible from streets and the hidden courts quite often have surprisingly large trees living there.
The green belt on the top is the street, on the bottom is the rear portion of the lots. The zoning code generates this continuous rear garden for every building. 上側の緑のベルトは通りの街路樹。下側は住宅の裏庭。建物を境界線から一定距離して建てる法規なので、各戸の裏庭が寄り集まって、意図せずに大きなベルトになる。
The space beyond the property line is visible from the street as this is a cemetery. 建物の代わりに墓地になっているので、ここでも隣との境界の付近の空間がよく見える。
Quite often the small streets in Manhattan are covered with a canopy of large trees, which almost form a tunnel. People living on the streets seem to love this atmosphere, none asks to trim them. After the Sandy storm a lot of trees were torn down and blocked the street, but not a single tree was thinned to reduce the future damage from falling trees and branches. They seem to understand it is common sense that humans need an environment with trees and plants to make the city more livable and desirable to inhabit. In Tokyo they know that greenery can create a better atmosphere but they do not often use their roof spaces or plant large trees on the street. Why? Is it because the people of New York have a fantasy or nostalgia for the European landscape that does not exist in Tokyo?
The Arakawa River runs in the northern part of Tokyo. It used to flood every time a storm hit Tokyo; its name means Raging River. All of the rivers in Japan have been objects to tame not something to integrate into the urban landscape. People cannot find a place for them in their image of city living. The Thames in London and the Seine in Paris have been linked to people’s daily life and contributed to the urban structure and cultural development.
A chain of golf courses and ball parks are dotted along the edge of the Arakawa River, I understand that sports fans go every weekend to enjoy it. Today we were surprised that there were many people enjoying the space particularly bike riders; zipping past on the upper bank with drop handles, in spandex outfits and special bike shoes, semi pro… Where did they come from? This is not a location that you can come to by foot from the center of the city and quite a good distance by bike. Once you get on this green belt you can go for miles and miles comfortably without any disturbance but to get to it you need to brace yourself to go through unkind traffic with the thousands of intersections and traffic signals along the way. There are no bike paths in Tokyo, how then to connect to this space?
Evey map of Tokyo shows the huge area of the river and if you added up all of the urban green spaces, the parks and temple grounds the area of the river banks would be larger, but people’s image of Tokyo does not include a river. It is isolated and segregated from urban life. But if we had bike lanes to get here? Even spontaneous riders looking for a leisurely ride will come not only the semi-pros. Cars cannot park here, by foot it is not easy, by bus or train is ridiculous but by bike it is perfect. You can link your daily life to the view of the wide open sky, water and nature. Tokyo is a city which needs dedicated bike lanes, a route connecting its green spaces. It would drastically change Tokyo life.
This is the 6th year they have held summer streets and it is now called a “yearly” event. This is our 6th annual ride around Grand Central Station on a route that is normally reserved for cars only. It is an amazing view, one that I will never get tired of. It is great to ride, walk or jog on Park Avenue without cars. This being New York there are actually bicycle traffic jams. This year I was collecting signatures for a petition to add more bike lanes in Manhattan and as I made my way down Park Avenue at 7:30 （the hardy joggers were up and running even though it was raining.） As the day wore on (unfolded) and the weather got better more and more people came out to enjoy the streets. There are lots of activities and many volunteers to make this event happen and work so well but -New Yorkers seem to take it for granted now that they will get to take over this 10km route on Saturdays every August.
The route goes straight up towards Park Ave. from the Brooklyn bridge- so interesting how the street changes as you work your way north. It is almost a forbidden pleasure inhabit these spaces as the motorists do and see the city from the point of view of a car. Soon in New York City we will have a speed limit of 40km (25 miles) per hour for all motorists-everywhere as part of our new mayors vision of zero program from traffic accidents, so maybe the motorists will decide that it is just as fast and way more fun to ride a bicycle?
This plaza in Mid Town is open to public as we posted last winter. The site belongs to a private building or a corporation but it is available to the public. You can walk through the block and enjoy the space. Instead of building on this site it provides much-needed space for the public. The site owner can obtain additional volume for the building, more than the regular limit. The thick Plexiglas cylinder is inserted into a cascade to make a tunnel. You can see the water splash and make waves on the glass. You feel like you are passing into a waterfall. The chairs provided at the plaza are solid cast aluminum, not cheesy. This design looks like they allowed an ample budget for the project. Although is it just us who feel this space is too cold? It is too dark because of the shadows created by the adjacent tall buildings? In the summer it is a nice relief, but….
The sound of the water helps to drown out the traffic noise and this mid block walkway connects up to the others in the block to make 6 1/2 avenue….just for pedestrians. As they add more connections each block is different, and over time the connections have become more elaborate and this one incorporates an outdoor seating area.
Several years ago we rode past this beach on the bike lane that follows the north shore of Jamaica bay, a long way by bike but only a 40 minute drive from Manhattan. I have been to this beach at Plum Beach to monitor the mating of Horse Shoe Crabs. The crabs come out to do their thing at high tide on the full moon.
This beach-Plum Beach was hit by the super storm, but it does not look so much different to me, although when you look out across the bay you see Breezy Point, where many of the homes were damaged by fire or the storm surge. This study of the crabs is done by the Audubon society; the crab eggs are an important food source for shore birds in the marine ecosystem. It was a good night to count crabs, the last time high tide was much earlier in the evening so we got to see more of the crabs, but not so romantic (except for the bugs).
Our job was to take a sampling of how many males and females were in our quadrant of the bay, every 18 meters of shore line the white frame is placed in the water and you count how many crabs of each sex are located within that square. Our 2 teams counted about 200 crabs in our squares along 1 kilometer of shore imagine how many on the whole beach! This night the ratio of males to females was about 8 to 1, if only it was like that for women in NYC. By the way, how to tell a male from a female? The females are buried in the sand and are much bigger, the males are roaming around, but they are not shy; they seem to like our boots almost as much as the female crabs. Probably they detect the turbulent flow when the wave rolls back on the slope on the shore around any object sitting on the sand.
We finished at midnight and headed back to Manhattan, so wonderful to think this wild life and quiet nature are so close to the big city. Moon light over Jamaica bay
We are having an unusually cold and snowy winter in NY this year. It is a serious problem for someone who has bad circulation. It takes an hour to recover before starting to work in the office after a 20 minute bike ride. Some people say winter used to be like this and often even colder in New York. Every 2 weeks a snow storm comes and drops a lot of snow, so that the snow on the streets is never completely removed, particularly on the bike lanes. But surprisingly there are still a lot of the public rental bikes-“citibikes” being used in this snow. During the last snow storm some universities closed because of the snow but 3,000 people rode a “citibike”…One problem is that you cannot dock the bike because sometimes the locking system freezes up, or the seat won’t adjust, or the dock is full of ice….
Snow in the car lanes is melted away by the car traffic, but in the bike lanes it stays because riding on snow is too dangerous and the bikes are too light to disperse the snow, so you end up riding in the car lane. The brave, or desperate food delivery people are still out there, trying to find a place to ride to deliver that food to all those New Yorkers who never cook, but the bike lanes are not functioning. Some people dump snow in the bike lanes because they’re not used. This results is a bad circulation. Do we need to wait for the spring?