A 75.4 Block Marathon in Brooklyn

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Andy Newman and Barnaby, his basset hound with a trace of beagle, set out on a marathon walk around his block in Brooklyn. He was never more than 416 feet from home “a feat that has never been attempted in the history of extreme sport.”  Barnaby made it through the first 22 laps. Newman devised this adventure during a routine outing to accommodate Barnaby’s ‘call of nature’. He timed it for the day after New York’s 2009 marathon of 40,000 people running, walking or wheeling their way through five boroughs.

Newman’s marathon was a frame by frame contemplation of the static and active aspects of his neighborhood.  What he discovered that marathon day were the stuff of small “L” life:

  • Remembering neighbor’s names, reflecting on their homes, on long surviving businesses alongside new ones, on a rocking Pentecostal church, on and on as he went.
  • The gentle tap of construction hammers on a new building louder as he approached, dimmer after passing by
  • A young girl walking her dog while reading a book
  • People who simply stare out from their homes
  • An ice cream lady 100 feet from his house
  • A box of books open to takers, gradually diminishing
  • A suspicious man, a woman nursing a beer, a hipster in headphones
  • The number of steps from his house to the intersections
  • That a newly opened spa could do a pedicure on lap 50 – “digging 18 miles of road from under his toenails.”

 For the last lap, Newman roused Barnaby from a deep sleep to join him.  Halfway around the ultimate block, Newman met a man walking his dachshunds and he announced completion of the 75 block effort.  The man’s response: “And he still won’t go?”

Adapted from:   http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/01/nyregion/01marathon.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

A Pedestrian Plaza in New York City

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In Brooklyn, the No. 3 subway line ends at New Lots Avenue, where passengers descend from the elevated tracks to what used to be a nasty intersection, trafficked by prostitutes, drug dealers — “You name it,” as Eddie Di Benedetto, the owner of Caterina’s Pizzeria, put it the other day.

Not long ago, a coalition of local merchants and community leaders turned to the New York City Department of Transportation, which runs a program to make traffic circles, triangles and streets into pedestrian plazas. The department brought in some potted trees and chairs, closed off a short street and voilà, what had been a problem became a boon. Since the plaza opened last summer, crime has plummeted, Mr. Di Benedetto told me, crediting the local police precinct. He heads the New Lots Avenue Triangle Merchants Association.

“People use the place all the time now, meaning the area is watched and safe,” he said. “I’ve had my pizzeria since 1971, so I can tell you, this is a renaissance.”  

 

From: “A Street Corner Serenade for the Public Plaza” by Michael Kimmelman, New York Times, June 2, 2013.

Read more:   http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/02/arts/design/a-prescription-for-plazas-and-public-spaces.html?_r=0