When the LowLine Exhibit opened in September, we brought you the first look at this exciting project. Now, Vice has interviewed Lowline founders James Ramsay and Dan Barasch about their concept for the world’s first underground park, what they envision, and how they hope to accomplish it. New York City is known for its abundance of parks that are open so city goers are free to take a stroll, sit and people watch, or get some fresh air. However, The Delancey Underground is a project that takes the combined elements of city and park to a whole new level, as it is an initiative to build the first underground park in an abandoned trolley terminal in the New York City subway system. The park, also named the Lowline, is headed by project founders Dan Barasch and James Ramsey, who have devised technology that uses collectors and fiber optic wire to funnel sunlight from outside, shining natural daylight down on the park and allowing enough light in for plants to thrive.
Barasch and Ramsey have raised $150,000 through Kickstarter so far, some of which went to launching a full-size exhibition near the proposed site. The founders hope that combining the Kickstarter funds with donations, grant money, public money and revenue from some shops inside the space will help cover construction and maintenance. The Lowline has been proposed to Lower East Side alliances, the Parks department and the local community board, which have endorsed the project. The only one left to get on board is the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which owns the terminal. Although MTA hasn’t committed to a particular proposal yet, it is focused on gathering “creative entities to look towards doing revenue generating projects” for the abandoned station. Although the future of the station is not set in stone, Barasch and Ramsey are determined to bring the Lowline to life, which would transform the Lower East Side and the way everyone thinks about parks. See here for more information. Get in touch with the author @chelspineda.
Everything starts with an idea. A story, a joke, a hairstyle, what you’re going to have for dinner — all of these things come about from a small thought that pops up in one’s head. Now think of the small ideas that have gone a little ways longer — a voyage Columbus took in 1492, an Occupy movement, an “I Have A Dream” speech, even a man landing on the moon. Whether it’s a small detail or a life-changing decision, everything starts with asking “What if?” and that’s what was emphasized when I spoke with Lee-Sean Huang, a strategist and designer for a company that creates impactful movements that always begin with a little thing called an idea.
Since 2009, Purpose has been a business whose goal is to engage millions of people who care about various social, political, or environmental problems and take action to solve those problems in collaboration with brands or other organizations. This pro-progressive social impact company will either incubate their own movements or work with brands or non-profit organizations to engage in their existing constituencies. One of their earliest movements was a collaboration with the Livestrong Foundation, where they sold millions of wristbands that raised money for cancer. From there, Purpose thought about how they could make the project more interactive and participatory so people could take more action besides buying items. Purpose is all about giving citizens of the world more options for active advocacy and creating communities around that.
Purpose has gone on to work with other foundations, corporate brands, and existing non-profits. For their campaigns, the company practices organizational, communicational and brand strategies, and then combines these methods to execute campaigns through visual, technological, user interface, and user experience designs. The product of all this is a campaign that makes its way around the world through apps, websites, e-mails and more.
Purpose founded the campaign, unPAC, to bring people together and demand that politicians “Represent Us,” the majority.
Like other non-profits, Purpose focuses on real world change while using attention-grabbing campaigns and utilizing technological tools, but what really differentiates this company from other charities and organizations is their trans-disciplinary approach to their movements. People at Purpose come from different backgrounds, from individuals who have worked on the Obama campaign, government workers and entrepreneurs, to creative designers, non-profit activists and people who are experienced with traditional strategy consulting. “It’s a combination of all of these people sitting together in the same room and learning to speak the same language, but also disagreeing on approaches and watching the magic happen by bringing together these different viewpoints and approaches to things,” said Huang.
Purpose now has a staff of over 70 employees since its NYC establishment in 2009.
One of the most effective strategies in getting a Purpose campaign growing is a conceptual tool that they call a commitment curve. Huang explained that Purpose starts people out with low-barrier asks such as reading an e-mail, following Purpose on Twitter, or signing a petition, and then builds them up to high-barrier asks, which may include calling a senator or convening a house party where an individual calls other people’s attention to the issue. While there are many well-meaning groups that give long laundry lists of options of what one can do to help, Purpose has seen from behavioral psychology that if you give someone many options all at once, they get paralyzed with choice. “So we tell stories in easily digestible bits that rank people up this commitment curve over time,” says Huang. “It builds people’s identities and shares identities as part of these movements.”
One of Purpose’s most successful projects is a two-year-old movement called All Out, which currently has over a million members coming together to build a world where everyone can embrace each other no matter their sexuality. This campaign sprouted from an idea of helping to prevent a lesbian woman in the U.K. from getting deported to Uganda where she would have faced the death penalty for being gay. The attention that Purpose gave to this movement resulted in the U.K. changing its policies and not expelling this woman from their country. Meu Rio is another growing movement started by an idea Purpose had, which focuses on bridging the gap between public opinion on what the people of Rio de Janeiro want for their city and what has actually been happening in the city’s leadership. Presently, the movement has gotten a lot of attention from the media and politicians in Rio, which has encouraged Purpose to take this model of Meu Rio and apply it to benefit other cities in Europe, South America and Asia in order to build an international network of cities where people can build new interfaces for civic engagement. Purpose has created and helped build many popular movements, including Global Zero, The Rules, and GetUp!, all of which are still growing and making differences in the world.
Just like anything else, these campaigns all start with an idea. There can be greatly beneficial results and changes towards the end, and a whole complex process in between, but as Huang reiterated about these social movements, “It really starts with that germ of an idea of asking ‘What if?’”
Take a picture, delete, retake, upload, edit, post to a social media website, then done. In this modern day of digital photography and instant access, it’s easy for anyone to share pictures with the public world via cyberspace. But, rewind back to the 1970s — 1980s when instant photography meant pointing and shooting with a Polaroid camera, and then having your photos develop right in front of you in a matter of minutes. No deleting and retaking, no cropping, no filtering. Just a raw, unedited moment captured and developed onto a material that you can hold in your hands and not just look at on a computer screen. Up until 2008, when it was announced that the company’s production would cease, Polaroid had been popular for its products that allowed people to capture these moments in the intimate form of analog photography.
I recently had the opportunity to talk with Josie Keefe, the store manager and exhibition coordinator of the New York space of The Impossible Project. The Impossible Project is a mission designed to save Polaroid film and the era of analog from being extinct. In 2008, photographer Florian Kaps learned that Polaroid was shutting down production of the instant film format and decided to step in as a last minute effort to save the project. Kaps and others involved in The Impossible Project were able to buy all of the machinery and existing stock and manufacturing capabilities. However, it was an uphill battle as many of the materials used to make Polaroid film no longer existed and some of the chemical companies the business used shut down soon after the Polaroid company came to an end. The name of the project came from these struggles and the doubt many people had. It was believed that it would be impossible to produce the film without some of Polaroid’s materials and there would not be enough demand for the products to really keep the project going. Yet, The Impossible Project was able to hire several of the old Polaroid scientists to help revive the project, which has been going strong for two and a half years now.
On the 5th floor of 425 Broadway in SoHo is the New York City space for The Impossible Project, which doubles as both office space for the project and a flagship store, which is the only store in the U.S. that has the full range of The Impossible Project products. As soon as you step into the space, you get the nostalgic vibe that only Polaroid photos produce. Plastered on the walls are giant copies of pictures shot with Impossible film while the doors are decorated with dozens of old Polaroid-style photos of customers, store employees and other documented moments. The project has been producing film since March 2010, starting with making black & white film, then proceeding to create through the full range of color for Polaroid 600 and SX-70 cameras. The store carries all Impossible Project photos and accessories, sells refurbished vintage Polaroid cameras, and supplies everything a person needs to start shooting Impossible film.
The NYC space works to not only give a resource to the community where people can come together and celebrate analog photography and Impossible film, but it also serves as a place to learn how to use it and to connect with other people who have the same interests. The space holds photo critique nights, workshops on shooting Impossible film, artist talks, and exhibitions. In fact, I was able to experience an Impossible exhibition first hand — Tretorn x Impossible Present James Joiner. On October 19, the Impossible Project hosted an exhibition opening for photographer James Joiner, who had photographed using Impossible film for this past summer’s Newport Folk Festival and for Swedish shoe brand Tretorn’s lookbook this season. The exhibition was also part of the CMJ Music Marathon, featuring the bands, Matrimony, Air Traffic Controller, and David Ellsworth & the Great Lakes. When I asked photographer James Joiner why he primarily shoots with Impossible film, he replied, “It’s the actual visceral experience of taking that picture and seeing it come out and watching it develop. It’s more of an experience than just a quick click or Instagramming somebody”¦There’s a sense of instant nostalgia in it that gives you that warm, fuzzy feeling.”
Although The Impossible Project is pro-analog, that doesn’t mean that they are anti-digital. “We just think there’s room for both,” said Keefe. “As we move forward, we’re really picking the best technologies that have existed across the decade. So we think the Polaroid film format is one of those technologies that should continue and should live on because of its such high quality images.”
When the employees of The Impossible Project are not testing out new film, teaching people how to use their cameras, or getting the word out about the project, they are busy hosting events just like the James Joiner exhibition. On November 8, they will be holding an exhibition for celebrated Hollywood and music photographer E.J. Camp, who has been using Polaroid for decades. There will be a December exhibition showcasing a collaboration with Shut Skateboards, who have manufactured skateboards that have Impossible images on them, and The Impossible Project has also been involved with Time Zero, a documentary about the demise of the Polaroid plan and how The Impossible Project stepped in to revive the film. There’s something for everyone at The Impossible Project, whether you’re familiar with instant photography or not. As Keefe encourages, “Dig out your old camera out of your grandfather’s attic. We’re always here and we’re always happy to help.”
Get in touch with the author @chelspineda.
New York City is known for its collection of unique street art strewn across old buildings, subway walls, and even cracked sidewalks. While these colorful murals and graffiti art are always aesthetically engaging and forever up to personal interpretation, it’s the small pieces of street art that have a much bigger purpose.
Artist Jan Vormann fills in cracks of buildings with Legos (Photo by Kerry Payne)
With hundreds of thousands of buildings in New York City, it’s safe to say that the upkeep of these structures can take a little while (okay, a long while) to maintain. The many cracks and holes in the sides of buildings can be eyesores to passersby and even when the city does fix them up, it doesn’t exactly produce the most exciting difference.
However, over a span of two weeks back in March of 2010, German artist, Jan Vormann, along with a band of volunteers, swept through New York and filled in some of these crevices with a classic childhood toy — Legos. The whimsical one above in Chelsea captured by Untapped Cities photographer Kerry Payne is one of our favorites, with the fallen pieces a reminder that even Lego interventions are only temporary.
One of the most popular Lego fixtures is in a wall at Penn Station.
Vormann’s Lego fixtures were a part of his Dispatchwork project, which aimed to seal fissures in broken walls all over the world. According to the Berlin native, he inserted the colorful Plastic Construction Bricks (PCBs) to complete the material compilation in urban constructing and to also add color to the urban greyscales. Although many of the Lego patches in NYC have been removed, there are still known fixtures in walls surrounding Bryant and Central Parks, in a post office entrance in the West Village, on the corner of 32nd Street and Seventh Avenue, and in the wall of a fast food restaurant across from Penn Station.
The term dead drop is defined as “a prearranged secret spot where one espionage agent leaves a message or material for another agent to pick up.” While I’m not sure how many 007’s there are in New York, I can tell you that there are dead drops scattered around the city for the public to use. Back in October 2010, Aram Bartholl started inserting USB ports into the walls of buildings so that anyone could hook their laptop up to it and share whatever files are left on it. The Dead Drops project was created to be an anonymous, offline, peer-to-peer file-sharing network for strangers to communicate in a public manner
New York City’s dead drop spots include:
Recently, Bartholl has added a new DVD Dead Drop at the Museum of Moving Image in Astoria. If you insert a blank DVD into the slot in the museum’s outside wall, it will burn onto it a digital art exhibition, collection of media, or other featured content curated on a monthly cycle by Bartholl or other various artists.
“Remember to look both ways before crossing the street!” was always a saying that was ingrained into our minds as little kids by our parents and teachers. However, in a fast-paced city with people constantly rushing while on their smartphones or iPods, it’s easy to disregard the golden rule of crossing the street. This is why Pentagram’s Michael Bierut worked with the New York City Department of Transportation to create the Look! campaign, which uses the simple symbol of the word “LOOK!” to remind pedestrians to be mindful of oncoming traffic before crossing the street. Bierut and his team plastered the five-character graphic on crosswalks as a signal, knowing that many people often glance down when crossing. And with 57 percent of last year’s traffic fatalities being people on foot, the pavement graphic could only help to lessen this number.
The LOOK! Campaign also includes signs and posters of eyes looking each way, which have appeared on buses, subway entrances, and phone kiosks all around the city. Pentagram has even produced a poster that works off of the classic “Why did the chicken cross the road?” joke, all to remind the public that looking left and right before taking another step could save your life. You can see the LOOK! Campaign ads and graphics all around the city, including near the intersection of Second Avenue and 42nd Street, and the intersection of West End Avenue and 65th Street.
What are some of your favorite street art interventions in New York City and elsewhere?
Images from Google Images
Get in touch with the author @chelspineda
With November quickly approaching, Local Roots NYC is offering a Pop Up Thanksgiving CSA, just in time for New Yorkers to prepare for the national holiday. Local Roots connects New York City with their farms through a CSA-based (Community Supported Agriculture) model of giving members access to fresh produce grown by regional farmers.
Through the Pop Up Thanksgiving CSA, local farms will be able to deliver fresh food to Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan. Pick-up is also available at three locations in Brooklyn and one location in Manhattan’s East Village. In preparation for your big Turkey Day dinner, you will be able to pick from a wide selection of whole turkeys, fresh vegetables, homemade bread, desserts and more. Local Roots NYC is also offering some of its most delicious recipes while CSA participants will even receive a specially made tote bag.
“The Pop Up Thanksgiving CSA is very special to us as it opens up the Local Roots CSA community to all of New York City and beyond our usual neighborhood pick up sites,” said Local Roots NYC founding director Wen-Jay Ying. “Thanksgiving is a time where we share a delicious meal with family and friends, and I feel truly thankful that Local Roots and our CSA farmers are able to be a part of that experience.”
The Pop Up’s vegetables are naturally grown on Rogowski Farm of Pine Island, NY.
Brooklyn pick-up locations are 61 Local in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn Farmacy and Soda Fountain in Carroll Gardens, and Diamond Bar in Greenpoint. For Manhattan, pick-ups can be done at Jimmy’s No. 43 in the East Village. Local Roots NYC is accepting orders up until Friday, October 26 via an online form. Payment is accepted online via Google Wallet or by checks written and sent out to: Local Roots NYC, 101 Warren Street, #3e, Brooklyn, NY, 11201
Find more details about the available locally sourced food, pricing and applications here.
Get in touch with the author @chelspineda.
Jay DiLorenzo (center), President of the Preservation League of NY State with Andrew Berman (left), GVSHP’s Executive Director, in front of the demolished 1861 row house at 178 Bleecker St. Courtesy of the GVSHP blog
On Columbus Day, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation launched its “Save the South Village” video campaign, an effort to preserve the South Village as a historical landmark.
The South Village is known for its rich history, as a place built on Italian-American foundations and a neighborhood serving as home to iconic artists such as Bob Dylan, Allen Ginsberg, and Jimi Hendrix. It is considered the birthplace of modern American theater with the Provincetown Playhouse and is the place of St. Anthony of Padua Church, America’s oldest Italian-American Church.
Because of the South Village’s colorful and significant history, the neighborhood is eligible for the State and National Registers of Historic Places. However, since it is not an official landmark yet, it’s still a place threatened by developers, NYU, and rezoning proposals for Hudson Square. GVSHP worries that the historic character of the South Village is at risk of further deterioration. So much so that the South Village was named one of the seven most significant endangered historic sites in New York State.
GVSHP, along with other New Yorkers, recognizes all that the South Village has to offer New York City. The “Save the South Village” video campaign has asked some of these New Yorkers, from celebrities and community leaders to South Village business owners and long-time residents, to talk about what the South Village means to them, and to urge Mayor Bloomberg and Landmarks Preservation Commission Chair Tierney to finally make the South Village an official landmark.
The campaign started off with a message from actor John Leguizamo, who recalls how the South Village’s artistic history inspired his career.
Get in touch with the author @chelspineda.