New York City

Single yellow tulip in red tulip bed, Park Avenue, New York City

red_tulips_yellow_parkavenue_median_spring
たくさんの赤色のチューリップのあいだに、黄色のチューリップが一つ咲いています。ニューヨークのパークアベニューで。

Visiting New York City the last week of April, everything was in bloom, and tulips seem especially popular this year. I love how on Park Avenue the beds of red tulips have random yellow tulips breaking the conformity.

Iconic New York City human landscapes

ニューヨークの人類風景は珍しくて古いです。いつもうるさくて攻撃的なのに、さまざまな人たちがいて、それぞれのスタイルがあります。86番ストリートとレキシントン通りの地下鉄のホームと歩道の果物売りです。

I took both of these photos on 86th Street near Lexington. This sidewalk fruit stand, an elderly customer and her home health aide, seems very iconic of New York City in the summer.

Below on the subway platform, I like how well put together the ladies in early summer, before the heat and humidity take their toll. The contrast between their careful appearances and the decades of subway grime is also very New York City.

Iconic New York City public spaces

ニューヨークのハイラインという新しい公園もセントラルパークも象徴的な公共空間です。自然と都市の関係がうまくできていて、気分がいいです。1934年から1980年まで使われていた電車の高架線路を公園にしたのが、ハイラインです。

On a recent trip to New York City, I took my film camera to some iconic parks. Above is the reservoir in Central Park, a place for exercise, leisure, and path between Upper East Side and Upper West Side.

Below is the High Line, a more recent park created from a dis-used elevated train line west of Chelsea. I love how in both environments, you can enjoy nature and feel connected to an urban landscape.

Valued by US preppies, hosta seems ignored in Tokyo

ホスタはアジアの植物だけど、アメリカではもっと人気。アメリカ人にとって、ホスタは上品な輸入品の高価な気分があります。東京の中では、あまりそう見えないですが。育てやすいし、素敵だと思います。

Although hosta is an Asian plant, it’s more popular in America. For Americans, hostal is a very elegant import and expensive feeling. I associate it with upper class neighborhoods in New York City and elsewhere in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. You hardly see it in Tokyo. It’s easy to grow and very attractive I think.

Tokyo Tower is a rare landmark

東京タワーは東京の数少ないランドマークの一つです。ニューヨークやパリと全然違います。東京には終わりもなければ、中心もありません。川からの有名な景色もなくて、他の都市にあるように超高層ビルが並ぶ景色もありません。東京タワーは昭和のレトロモダンです。

Few buildings in Tokyo are as iconic as Tokyo Tower. In a mega-city that sprawls as far as Japan’s second largest city, Yokohama, Tokyo lacks a single center, a recognizable river, or a conventional view of its skyscrapers, unlike NYC’s Hudson River or Central Park views.

I like how the top photo’s framing of Tokyo Tower mixes auto traffic with mature trees and a shrine entrance gate in a nostalgic ode to the 1950s. The lower photo shows its reflection at night in an office mid-rise.

Poppies growing in a crack in the sidewalk

I saw these beautiful poppies growing in the crack of a sidewalk. It reminded me of the first image that I took for Tokyo Green Space two years ago, of pansies growing in a sidewalk crack. I am still struck by the ingenuity and generosity of Tokyo’s unheralded urban gardeners. They are beautifying an environment that is often ugly, overbuilt and poorly planned.

The poppies make me think of the pansies photo. I recently received an interesting request by email asking for permission to include that original photo in a book about urban design and climate change that Alexandros Washburn, Chief Urban Designer of the  City of New York, is writing.

I am continually amazed by the importance of observing small details and the power of the internet to connect people who are distant by location, profession, and circumstance. It is both humbling and inspiring.

Coyotes in Manhattan

Coyotes have recently been spotted in New York’s Central Park, and at Columbia University. It’s funny to see these reports while I am reading Marie Winn’s charming book about urban wildlife called Central Park in the Dark, in which she chronicles her and other amateur naturalists’ obsessions with city bats, birds, moths, mice and other creatures. Her website includes “latest news”: http://www.mariewinn.com/marieblog/.

Clip-on retrofit of cities

Vanessa Keith has a provocative article about urban reforestation. Rather than focus on new buildings, a small percentage of any city, Keith proposes rebuilding through a “clip-on” to existing urban structures and infrastructures. Keith considers roofs, walls, and highways as valuable surfaces that increase by factors of two (for in-fill structures) or six (for free standing structures) the total surface area of a city.

Her clip-on ideas include green roofs, roof ponds, vertical gardening, waterfalls for cooling and power generation, wind bands, and more urban trees. I like how she connects urban solutions with rural deforestation, and considers government incentives and the potential role of large developers and community groups in creating a demonstration block in New York City.

NYC takes steps to allow urban beekeeping

Just read in PSFK that New York City has taken the first step to allow urban beekeeping. I was surprised to learn that the ban on bees in the city also includes crocodiles, lions and pit vipers. And that this ban was introduced little more than ten years ago by Mayor Rudy Giuliani, with a $2,000 fine.

It is also interesting that the original report is from the Discovery Channel website, providing the surprise of a major cable network discussing the importance of bees for pollinating food and their decline due to pesticides, climate change, and other “man-made impacts.” In any case, it’s great to see urban beekeeping going mainstream.

US Interlude

New York City window garden

I recently returned to Tokyo from a trip to the US that included a formal meeting with my fellowship sponsor and visits to San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington DC, and New York.

In the US, urban ecology initiatives seem particularly strong at the municipal government and individual levels. In the photo above, I spotted an amazing formal garden extending on one side of second floor apartment. Perhaps the plants are kept small to preserve light and views from inside.

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