Author: ignacio Contreras
Ignacio Contreras- Infrastructure and Transportation
| April 20, 2010 | 8:11 am | 4/20/2010 | Comments closed

This week’s readings from Edward Soja, Mike Davis and Kenneth Jackson, discuss the different kind of perception the Los Angeles area brings to them. Edward Soja, a professor of geography at the University of California, shows pride in the many military and economical hubs that are present within a sixty-mile circle, with its epicenter being Los Angeles. Mike Davis deems that the modern Los Angeles has created a virtual wall segregating the poor from the rich. Kenneth Jackson, finally, looks disapprovingly at the automobile culture of America, and cites the Los Angeles area as the best example of how the culture evolved the area.

Edward Soja created a sixty-mile circle, encircling the downtown Los Angeles area. He points out that within that circle, many important military bases that present that have served to drive forward the Los Angeles economy. He calls the Los Angeles area as the “premier industrial growth pole of the twentieth century,” taking note that no one thinks of Los Angeles as an industrial center, because of its association with oil, oranges and films. He takes exceptional pride of the downtown area of Los Angeles, full of history, significance and diversity.

Mike Davis sought to show the insecurities of rich people living in the Los Angeles area were both subtle and displaying. From the signs from Los Angeles’ Westside that say “Armed Response!” on neighborhood lawns, we can see how these people seek to protect their properties and communities, such as the “obsession with physical security systems.” But he also suggests that architecture, the planning of buildings and developments have segregated the city by further dividing the poor and rich. The “death of what might be called the ‘Olmstedian vision’ of public space” is what brings about this separation or in other words open, public space. The free beaches, luxurious parks and “cruising ships” were replaced with malls, art centers and gourmet strips. The problems of street violence fond in South-central Los Angeles are thus self-contained in strict boundaries. The vision of having a place to relax from the everyday city-life conflicts is being eroded slowly, according to Davis.

Kenneth Jackson explains how the automobile culture has transformed America over the course of the decades, and its influence over suburban America. The histories of the garage, drive-ins, driveways, motels, interstate system and gasoline stations are all tied in with the American love for cars. The Los Angeles area to him seemed ideal to represent the overall product that resulted from the automobile culture. He mourns the idea that commercial centers replaced the mom and pops stores in the corners, how high schools now needed parking lots to accommodate students who now drive to school, and ensuing drive-in society as seen in fast food restaurants. He states that the area does not have commutation focus as in New York or Chicago, but that it is made up of a conglomerate of suburbs. He calls the region a centerless city.

The different perspectives the three writers have taken on Los Angeles or the greater Lower California region are greatly different. The readings from Mike Davis and Kenneth Jackson seemed to have a notion of regret in which they wished things could have played out differently. For example, Mike Davis states how, “The universal and ineluctable consequence of this crusade to secure the city is the destruction of accessible public space.” It seems that the appeal of the automobile culture has faded away, as noted in the eyes of Kenneth Jackson, who show us that the number of gasoline stations has decreased, and that many commercial structures are now obsolete as of 1985. It is in no doubt that the automobile developed the landscape of the infrastructures in the Lower California region (the motels, commercial centers, the garages, driveways, etc). But it seems that the movement to move away from that culture is beginning with Kenneth Jackson and Mike Davis.

Community Voices #3- Transportation and Energy
| April 15, 2010 | 9:01 am | Community Voices #3: Urban Agriculture/Hunger | Comments closed

On April 6, two grassroots organization presented the promise for a greater New York by improving two very outdated aspects of New York City life, transportation and energy. The two groups are Transportation Alternatives, represented by Wiley Norvell, and Solar One, represented by Chris Neidl.

The goal of the Transportation Alternatives was, as its mission statement states, “to reclaim New York City’s streets from the automobile and to advocate bicycling, walking and public transit, as the best transportation alternatives.” The organization was founded in 1973, influenced by the work of Jane Jacobs, who helped save Greenwich Village and Lower Manhattan from the Lower Manhattan Expressway project that was proposed by Robert Moses. Mr. Norvell spoke about the great importance of walking and bicycling, and how New York City’s streets were slowly eroded over the years to give preference to automobiles. Park Avenue was a great example, which showed how in the 1920s there was ample sitting and walking space in the middle of the street.

Mr. Norvell spoke about how they hold public petitions to send to local government officials to gain sidewalk space in major streets, on an inch-by-inch method. He emphasized his role in attending community boards to try to influence local leaders to approve safety measures to protect bicyclists and pedestrians. One major example shown was the transformation of 8th Avenue, and how the physical separation of bicyclists and pedestrians enabled automobiles to move more efficiently. It also saw an increase in bicycling and decrease in crashes. Mr. Norvell presented ideas to similarly make physical changes on 1st and 2nd Avenues to allow for buses to move beyond the turtle-like speed they move at today.

The Transportation Alternatives also tries to promote cycling by holding closing major streets in the city, and opening them for cycling. Park Avenue is closed every August for three Saturdays to vehicular traffic to allow for people to cycle. They stated that approximately 100,000 cyclists ventured through Park Avenue in the three Saturdays combined.

Solar One advocated the Empire State Renewable Energy Payment Project, as presented by Chris Neidl. He demonstrated how New York has a long legacy in energy, starting with the steamship, the building of the Erie Canal, the subway, incandescent lighting, power plants, power grids and its venture in hydroelectricity from Niagara. Mr. Neidl explained how New York State wants 30% of power to come from renewable sources by 2015, but noticed how the incentive to venture into renewable energies is not there. Therefore, his organization is trying to advocate for the Renewable Energy Payments, or REPs, REPs allow people to own market-ready renewable power and sell it to utilities for a period, usually by means of a 20-year contract in order to secure the investment. The utility will pass the cost on to consumers by a modest rate increase that is offset by the decrease in fuel importation. REPs also will decrease over time as clean energy technologies become cheaper, which is designed to encourage investment today, rather than in a few years. This will help adopt renewable energies much quicker.

Mr. Neidl provided us with the example of Germany, arguably the greenest country in the world, who has implemented REPs as the core of their green movement. Germany employs nearly 300,000 people as a result of REPs and has led to less than a 5% average rate increase. The benefits of REPs is that it is very rapid in cleaning the environment, gives power to the people in that they are in control of their energy source, and it is a low-risk investment because it offers low interest rates for loans which provides for better financing.

I found that both representatives were very passionate about their work and in what they and their organizations believe. I thought that they made very good points about the benefits about their ideas, and how difficult it is to present their ideas to their respective audiences. It seems that people who are willing to devote their lives to present ideas that will help everyday city life are able make a positive difference to make the city appealing and a world-wide leader. Both presenters made it aware that important city-based reforms in transportation and energy are vital in keeping New York’s status as an important world city, which I found to be true.

Sunnyside, Queens
| March 22, 2010 | 11:33 pm | Project Abstract, Workshops | Comments closed

Group Members: Ignacio Contreras, Mariya Dvoretskaya, Kate Sioson

View Sunnyside in a larger map

Our group will be focusing on the neighborhood of Sunnyside in Queens. Sunnyside has been a vibrant community for a long time, with immigrants coming from all over the world. More specifically though, our group would like to see further development of the Sunnyside yards. The MTA is currently working on their Long Island Railroad East Side Access project, which would run through Sunnyside Yards. We would envision seeing affordable housing, parks and open spaces being built there in order to attract more people to live in the area. We will conduct reseach that will seek to find out the demographics of the area so that we can cater to their needs when we develop the railyard. We seek to improve the quality of life through our planning and development of the neighborhood, so as to create a sunny, pleasant community in which people would desire to live in.

| February 15, 2010 | 8:07 pm | Introductions | Comments closed

Hello. My name is Ignacio Contreras. I am majoring in History although I am pre-med and aspiring to be a doctor someday. I was born in Brooklyn, though i was raised in Elmhurst, Queens. I have a passion for reading wikipedia articles, watching the History Channel, NatGeo, and Sportscenter. I also love playing and watching soccer and baseball. I enjoy reading about cities, people, countries (all on wikipedia of course) and relish in the idea that New York is able to bring all of that into one city.

I also love napoleons