The City’s Big Next Industry: The City
(Disclosure: I have worked with or sought work from every entity in this column, and I’m friendly with most of the principals. So I must mean what I say.)
With shirtsleeve temperatures and trenchfuls of rain, autumn in New York this year gets me thinking about autumn in New York in 2040. Architects and civil servants I admire are nudging landlords and regulators to prepare for that season, when storms will send river swells up the sides of buildings and floods will factor into families’ plans the way snow does now.
But these forecasts have yet to resonate widely in the marketplace. Evidence suggests people still would rather express their green bonafides by purchasing handcrafted cheese or driving a car that runs on electricity (which often runs on coal). I have learned from developer Jonathan Rose’s Garrison Institute that people reliably tune out messages of foreboding. Most every culture tells a flood legend, but the drift of the legend is always that the flood happened way back before we had to worry about anything.
People do respond, though, to images of beauty and messages of potential.
So if you look at the MoMA’s “Rising Currents” show from last year, wherein architectural teams imagined ways to reorient New York in future decades so that the swollen harbor becomes a center of transportation, you can start imagining a growth industry in teaching the skills that make the city more malleable.
Now you can start seeing eddies of growth along these lines. These skills can grow within children, who can study art and science with a skew toward urban bridges and levees and other systems. They can grow within college and graduate students, like the ones I advise in Pratt Institute’s Environmental Systems Management program. And they can grow within hard-to-employ people who can quickly master landscape restoration and enhancement — or, put another way, clearing bogs and planting trees.
Architectural appreciation can ripen into this kind of industry. On the recent OpenHouseNewYork weekend, a popular stop in a once-maritime Brooklyn neighborhood guided kids through the exercise of drawing what they saw from the sidewalk and then constructing a skyline or floor plan from the drawings. (Linda Miller, a resourceful publicist, put me and my family on the RSVP list for this event, but others like it go on throughout the year at the Kentler International Drawing Space.)
Locavore culture can feed this industry, as premium prices support growth among nonprofit commercial kitchens run by groups like Whedco in the Bronx.
And every level of schooling, from daycare to doctorates, can use the city as a text and classroom.
I’ve left links out because, as I say, I either work for or want to work for almost all the operations I’ve mentioned and I want readers to find them on their own. That’s a challenge in itself, because our information overload tends to blur worthwhile responses to climate change with greenwash.
And that can’t last. When you think all day about sea level rise and storm surges, you can start feeling like a fish out of water in 2011 New York City. Turn a corner and a convenience store is restocking petroleum-based-plastic-wrapped sugar smacks. Cross a street and a utility crew is using 20th Century tools to patch the subway. Blog triumphally about the inevitable turn toward an engagement with the landscape, and wonder how to turn your ideas into currency.
Well, I actually know the answer to that last conundrum — it’s to go out into the city and teach people how to change parts of it that don’t work. More on that in my next column.
Follow us on twitter@thefastertimes
- 1 Brooklyn Man Now Living Entirely Off Own Beard Garden
- 2 “Cra Cra” Now Official Diagnosis in New DSM (DSM-5)
- 3 OfficeMax Marketing Director Struggling to Make Staplers ‘Sexy’ and ‘Conversational’
- 4 First Openly Straight Figure Skater Comes Forward
- 5 Area Man Tailors Life To Be More Relevant To His Hulu Advertisements
- 6 Fan Banging Furiously on Glass Could Be the Difference in Hockey Playoffs
- 7 Survey: 88% of Eagles Fans Too Drunk To Spell Nnamdi Asomugha Last Season
- 8 Attorney Actually Starting to Believe Own Bullshit
- 9 Homeless Guy Woos Silicon Valley VCs with Low-Tech Crowdfunding Strartup
- 10 Local Mom Won’t Stop Being First Person to Like Every Goddamn Thing Son Posts to Facebook