Thursday, February 8, 2007

The Charrette I Missed

Urban planner Andrés Duany, one of the leaders of the New Urbanism movement and lead author of Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream, has been leading a charrette at the Newburgh waterfront for the past week. The developer granted the right to revitalize the former industrial zone, Leyland Alliance, called in their superstar to get some ideas in front of the public.

The other morning as I waited for the ferry around 7 am, I strolled over to Charrette HQ at the Yellow Bird gallery. Peering through the plate-glass windows, I could see half-eaten bags of pretzels, partially-finished cups of coffee, and everywhere large-scale sketches, mechanical drawings, CAD renderings, aerial photos marked with china pencils. Everything was half-finished — like an alien abduction at the Urban Planners Club — but the freeze-frame of frenzied activity had its own dynamic energy.

It fires the imagination, of course. Trains in downtowns! Pedestrian malls! Bike lanes! Mixed zoning! Integrated affordable housing! Green spaces! There it was! On the other side of the glass!

I was locked out, the ferry that takes me to New York crushing its way over the ice at my back.

They tried — public sessions were scheduled for 7-9pm a couple of nights — but my usual ferry arrives at 7:45, and exhaustion or the need to get home prevents civic participation.

Last night, as the return leg of my first round-trip bus ride passed the gallery, I caught a quick flash of a speaker at the front of the room, earnest listeners in a ring, desk lamps creating small circles of light…imagination, drive, money and forethought in action. I shuttled past on my own circuit, engaged in a different city.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm interning for LeylandAlliance, the company that will be developing the Newburgh waterfront. I go to Tufts University for engineering and architecture. Do you live in Newburgh? You're writing is incredible; we need more people like you to move to downtown Newburgh, to help move the area in the right direction.