A Free(ish) Day with the Funday Genie

View Funday with Genie in a larger mapI have been living in New York City since 2004…sort of. I know the city…sort of. When the NYC Big Apps competition announced that the Funday Genie app, a custom guide generator, won the Investor’s Choice Award, I was curious…sort of. Like many New Yorkers, I am skeptical of anyone or anything that can tell me where to find something new to do in the city. Joe Foxton’s application claims to be able to plan the perfect free day in the city. Enter the date, times, food options, and then the user chooses a family, off beat, or popular category. From there the app uses an algorithm to pick the best places, including route and times, for the day. Does it work? Sort of. The genie is currently a web-based application. A mobile version is in the works. It lead me to the International Center for Photography, A performance art piece involving half-naked women, a media museum closed for a private event, and lunch at an over-priced bowling alley. But, like so much in the city, compromise and luck make it all better. Instead of the bowling alley, the route took me into the middle of New York’s dollar pizza wars. The Paley Center was closed, but Sacre Bleu was an all new experience. Along the way, I found oil derricks on a Manhattan corner, a fire truck parked in a cage, and the most beautiful day to visit Bryant Park’s lawn. The Genie needs to work out a few kinks, including the idea of free (the ICP costs $12 to enter). But, try it once, go with the flow, and it will be the perfect funday…sort...

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Big Ideas and Big Design at the DDC

View DDC Public Buildings in a larger map In front of it lies Gantry State Park and its sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline. To the right, one of Long Island City’s towering luxury-condo buildings casts a shadow deep past its borders. Behind it, more towers. One, two, three within view and a fourth in the early stages of life. To the left, the famous “Long Island” sign marking the old ferry crossing. The corner of Center Boulevard and 47th Road has some impressive neighbors. But, right now, it is just an empty dirt lot, surrounded by chain link, with a construction trailer in the corner. When the architects and engineers of the Department of Design and Construction finish with the vacant lot, a marvel of steel and glass will house the Queens West Library. For a department charged mostly with the building the city’s roads and sewers, the library will mark another public building with a design-heavy aesthetic despite the constraint of a municipal budget. (click to see a more detailed map of the buildings featured in the slideshow) “New York City’s government is newly supportive and trying to create something lasting,” said Olaf Schmidt, senior associate for Steven Holl Architects. “There is a renewed interest to create public buildings that are architecturally important.” In 2006, Mayor Bloomberg launched an initiative to drive the design of public buildings upwards. Mixed with a depressed construction market, this atmosphere allowed the DDC to hire firms like Steven Holl. According to Schmidt, the housing bubble lead to the availability of better architects, while construction prices fell. Despite a shrinking budget, the DDC managed to pursue projects that have won accolades throughout the design community. Since citizens cannot hire the DDC, the department works for other city agencies, leading to a variety of challenges. When the New York Public library renovated the St. Agnes branch, the DDC worked under a tight $7 million budget to bring the 104 year-old building into the modern age. According to the branch manager, Yolounda Bennett- Reid, the DDC created a feeling of space and openness, making the first floor a child room, a unique characteristic to one of the older buildings. But even the more daring designs will not please everyone. “It’s nice, it’s open. Could be a little more umph, a little more pizazz,” said Tammy Granowski, an area...

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Christmas Arrives at Rockefeller

Nancy Keller’s 74-foot Norway Spruce arrived at Rockefeller Center Plaza on Nov. 11. The 210-ton tree will become the 79th Christmas tree to stand over the skating plaza. In March, the head gardener for the plaza spotted the spruce on Keller’s property in Mifflinville, PA. The tree travelled overnight by tractor trailer and a crane was used to lift into its stand. On Nov. 30, thousands of lights and a Swarovski-made crystal star will be lit at the annual lighting ceremony in the plaza. Song: Last Christmas by the Eaters Last Christmas (Eaters) / CC BY-NC-SA...

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Death of a Postman

Legislation to help the United States Postal Service overcome budget shortfalls was introduced to the Senate on Wednesday. In an era of rapidly advancing technology, the post office remains a relic of a past generation. Today, communication often travels at the speed of light through the bevy of mobile devices available. However, a staunch group of supporters still back the need for the post office in American life. Below are four audio pieces taken from one-on-one interviews, street interviews, and sound bites courtesy of the USPS. -John E. Potter, the Postmaster General, speaks about the need for change at the post office. John E. Potter by kevinjreilly -Steve Hutkins founded savethepostoffice.com in an effort to stop post office closings. Steve Hutkins by kevinjreilly -New Yorker’s express explain how often and when they use the post office. New York’s Postal Opinions by kevinjreilly -Sounds of typing. Email and other electronic communication has taken the place of the hand-written letter. Ambient typing by...

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Thousands March to Save Ta-Tas

Thousands March to Save Ta-Tas

The 2011 American Cancer Society Making Strides walk kicked off its Central Park event this morning. Thousands of people, including cancer survivors and supporters, walked a five-mile route to raise awareness and money for breast cancer research. “I walked for all of the survivors in support of them and how brave these women are,” said Lauren Penza, 31, one of more than 400 participants from the Lenox Hill Radiology team. “Five miles is nothing compared to what these people have gone through.” [Show as slideshow]   According to the National Cancer Institute, breast cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women. This year alone, doctors diagnosed more than 230,000 new cases, including 2140 men. As part of several walks throughout the country, the Central park walk began at 930a.m. Participants, many clad in pink, the official color of breast cancer awareness movement, strolled along a winding route starting at the 72nd Street band shell. So far, the Central Park Making Strides raised more than $1.6 million. Volunteers manned direction posts, shouting words of encouragement as walkers passed. Bottles of water, donated by food-retailer Stop and Shop, were distributed along the route, as well as a snack bag, filled with pretzels, granola bars, and natural juice at the finish line. Cancer survivors wore pink sashes, with “Survivor” printed on it, that were handed out at before the start of the race. “I conquered it,” said Ernesta Coleman, 48, who is still undergoing treatment....

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