Today, we profile Untapped Cities contributor Jeff Reuben who has written about the Secrets of Brooklyn Heights, the reopening of High Bridge and discovered the hidden history Harlem’s townhouses.
What’s your “day job”?
I’m a planner at a consulting firm. I work on environmental impact statements and land use applications in NYC. I was the project manager for the EIS for the High Line and West Chelsea Rezoning and I’ve worked on several projects in the area since. So, I’ve had a front row seat at the redevelopment of that whole area of the City since about 2003.
What’s your favorite Untapped spot in your city?
This changes regularly, but right now it’s the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, just north of Broad Channel in Queens. It’s pretty cool that you can take a subway ride and a short walk and be in a nature preserve with hiking paths and all sorts of plant and animal life.
Favorite piece you’ve written for Untapped:
The piece I wrote about the High Bridge Water Tower is special because it’s in Washington Heights, not too far from where I live. The reopening of the High Bridge is great for this part of New York City and if the Water Tower reopens with access to the top that would be the icing on the cake. I loved taking the photos and the researching about the history of the High Bridge and its Water Tower.
What’s the most memorable thing that happened while writing for Untapped Cities?
The way I discovered the Lafayette Theater Townhouses, an infill, neo-traditional development in Harlem. I was walking through the area on my way to the 4/5/6 125th Street subway station and saw two of these townhouses and took a photo because they looked nice. Later I became curious, and after some digging on the web, discovered they were part of a City affordable housing project in the early 2000s, but they had never received much publicity. So, I was glad, through Untapped Cities, to give a little more attention to them.
What’s your favorite Untapped place you’ve visited while traveling? Where do you want to visit next?
Recently, I visited the UK and went to a few nature-in-the-city types of places. One is the London Wetland Centre, a former reservoir area that has been converted into wetlands with some walking trails. I love cities for their density and built environments, but we also need green oases in the City and that’s a good example.
I used to live in Chicago and I visit regularly, but I’m looking forward to going back soon and seeing the 606 Trail, which is Chicago’s new High Line type open space.
What’s your favorite obscure fact about your city?
New York is full of obscure, wonderful facts, like Chelsea Market being the birthplace of the Oreo. That’s why Untapped Cities is a lot of fun. Here’s another one: Bronx Community College’s campus used to be an NYU campus and is also home to the Hall of Fame of Great Americans (designed by Stanford White). It’s definitely not your typical American community college campus. And that’s why that neighborhood is called University Heights.
Craziest thing you’ve ever done?
A couple relay running events, Ragnar New York and the Bourbon Chase in Kentucky. Each are team events, 12 people collectively run about 200 miles in 36 legs, including running in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere. Crazy and a lot of fun.
Best Celebrity Sighting:
I met Johnny Cash when I was about 11 or 12. That was very cool and hard to top.
What are some of your favorite websites?
BBC News for general news; Curbed, Real Deal, and NY YIMBY for NYC real estate news.
Also, I have a photo page on Flickr, which is a nice outlet for my photography hobby/addiction.