Summer Panhandling Strategies

Image by Ed Yourdon. Click on image for license and information.

Image by Ed Yourdon. Click on image for license and information.

My office moved a few blocks south earlier this year, which puts me in the Flower District and means that I have a fifteen minute walk from Penn Station. As the summer months wane, the obstacle course of tourists and panhandlers grows more complicated. In this regard, New York City is like any summer town: an influx of visitors during the warmer months means an increase in profitable opportunities in many contexts. It's a pattern that you can readily observe in some of the smaller towns on the eastern tip of Long Island and in other small town vacation destinations. In a metropolis like New York City (and this applies throughout the boroughs), it might be harder to catch because the hustle and bustle never quite slows to sleepiness as it does in "proper" summer towns, but the ebb and flow is there: as the number of tourists and vacationers increase, so too does the number of panhandlers. Continue Reading »

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The Smell Next Door

Oct 12 2010 Published by under Community

Truffles from Mont-Ventoux. Shared by Poppy on Wikipedia.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the ways a smell can help trigger a memory. Yesterday, I saw this article in the New York Times about a smell that's driving people away. It seems that residents in one luxury condo building are coping with a smell of a different sort: truffles.

The problem started after Urbani Truffles--an Italian truffle company--purchased a retail condo in the building and began using it to store boxes of the high-end mushroom. While truffles may be wonderful when served over your favorite dish, they're actually quite pungent. And it's creating a problem for folks who want to rent or sell--or just live--in the building.

The story reminds us of how personal smells can really be. Real estate agents, who are professionals at marketing undesirable spaces, are having a hard time masking this particular odor:

One [agent's] clients sold his 12th-floor penthouse in Gramercy Park after a bakery moved in and he couldn’t tolerate the odor of onion bagels. (Another family, she noted, bought a TriBeCa loft over a spice shop because they found the smell of curry comforting.)

Maybe the building needs to start marketing to truffles aficionados.

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Smarter Traffic Solutions–But Will They Work in the City?

Oct 06 2010 Published by under [Science in Society], Transit

Hey, Drivers, is there a traffic light you know you have to make? You know the one--it takes ages for the light to change from red to green, and the green light is only what feels like a few seconds long. Well, what if there was a smarter traffic light? What if it could sense the traffic flow, and change to match the volume of cars on the road? According to ScienceNews, researchers from the Santa Fe Institute are working on just this particular solution (see original working paper here.) It sounds like the end of road rage, but will it work in New York City?

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Customer With Child

Sep 15 2010 Published by under [Humanities&Social Science], Community

My local supermarket has the required handicapped parking spaces in front of the store, but it also has “Customer With Child” parking, a convenience that has lately been the source of a few parking lot disagreements. Patrons of the store don’t seem to be quite so clear on what the sign means. Is it for customers with young children only? Are expectant mothers allowed to use those spots? What about patrons who leave their children in the car while they run in for “just one thing”? And patrons who merely pull in to stop there while another passenger runs in?

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Change in a New York Minute

Rendering of updated NYC skyline. Credit: Beyer Blinder Belle Architects.

So there's been some fuss recently over proposed new additions to the New York City skyline. A developer has set his sights on 15 Penn Plaza, which has upset the owners of the Empire State Building. One of them, Anthony Malkin, is particularly upset by the plans:

"Would a tower be allowed next to The Eiffel Tower or Big Ben’s clock tower? Just as the world will never tolerate a drilling rig next to The Statue of Liberty, why should governmental bonuses and waivers be granted to allow a structure as tall and bulky at 15 Penn Plaza to be built 900 feet away from New York City’s iconic Landmark and beacon?"

He has also said that the proposed building will "ruin" the skyline and it will be a "black eye."

Hah.

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Smells From the Past: The Fulton Fish Market

Aug 12 2010 Published by under [Humanities&Social Science], Community, History, Landscapes

This post was chosen as an Editor's Selection for ResearchBlogging.orgIt's been a very hot summer here in New York City. And the city smells. It's more than the smell of baking asphalt, exhaust fumes, and lack of deodorant—these smells are around all year. The heat has awakened older smells.

Around midday, if you happen to stroll down by the South Street Seaport you can pick up on the smell of fish in the air. If you can manage to follow your nose—which really isn't all that hard to do—it will lead you right to the old site of the Fulton Fish Market. It has been closed since 2005, but if you close your eyes while you stand outside the gates of the old market building you can smell the day's catch and just hear the bustle of fishmongers at their trade.

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Evaluating the Power of Social Cues in Public Encounters

Are we losing our sense of social appropriateness? Or are transgressions more exaggerated now that we interact more frequently in the digital space where important social cues tend to be missing? Read on below the jump for an ethnographic account of my my run-in with an older man who just needed someone to talk to.

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Meeting Montauk: The Summer Trade [MTK 1]

Aug 03 2010 Published by under [Humanities&Social Science]

Let's leave the city today and head east--to the point where the sun rises. We're going to stand on what feels like the edge of the world, away from the skyscrapers and the horns of impatient cab drivers. We're going to Montauk, a small fishing hamlet and tourist destination set well away from the hustle and bustle of the everyday.

Summer visitors stroll by shops on a sunny day.

It's a  Saturday morning in July and the hamlet is just beginning to stir. The sun comes up early here--after all, we're at the eastern most point in New York State. Still, it's Saturday morning during the summer months and the folks who are up are mostly armed with fishing gear. Fishing has long been a part of life here at the very edge of East Hampton, but we'll follow the fishermen to the marina and out to sea another day. We'll leave them to chase the monsters who populate the waters nearby. Let's cast our eyes back on the slowly waking village. We're interested in those who are passing through--those who will come: the day-trippers, the weekenders, these sorts of  transients. At the moment, the staff at MTK Cafe and The Gigshack are prepping: There are no clouds in the sky, the day promises to be bright and welcoming, and soon Route 27 will be filled with cars bringing the summer trade.

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Statuesque in City Hall Park

Jun 09 2010 Published by under [Humanities&Social Science]

A new art exhibit has gone on display in City Hall Park. Statuesque features art from six international artists. The show is meant to encourage a re-imagining of the classic form of statues by melding sculpture with beauty and elegance of this now historic style. The show will run through December and is a perfect accompaniment to lunch in the park. Images of the pieces can be viewed after the jump.

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Urban Archaeology in Action

Jun 08 2010 Published by under [Humanities&Social Science], [Science in Society]

I recently learned about a wall that was uncovered near City Hall. It may date to the 18th-century, and in fact may be connected to the First Almshouse—a poorhouse that stood on this site from 1735 to 1797. It's also a great opportunity for the public to see archaeology in action!

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