Monday, November 23, 2009

Creating a plan for the Heart of Orange

I have been participating in a team that is developing a plan for the center of Orange, NJ, an area we nicknamed the "Heart of Orange." When I was growing up in Orange, that area was divided into an east side ghetto for black people and a west side ghetto for Italians, each equipped with a Y and a housing project. When I was a teenager, the building of Interstate 280 added a north/south divide, cutting off the more working class north side from the wealthier south. The "Heart of Orange" addresses these divides, posing the question, "Can we create ONE ORANGE?" At the end of March, Michel Cantal-Dupart came to consult with us. Cantal-Dupart, who is chair of the department of urbanism and the environment at the National Conservatory of Arts and Trades in Paris, France, pointed out the ways in which both the railroad and the highway cut the city, neither injury to the urban tissue treated in the elegant manner that would create unity in the city. Furthermore, the train, the city's trump card for the 21st century, was treated as a stepchild. He pointed to the dismal lot that greets people arriving from New York and Newark and asked us, "Is this a welcome?" Shamefacedly we all had to admit it was not. "Organize a day," he urged, "and clean the litter. Plant trees. Play music from all the world. In no time at all, this will be such a beautiful urban center that people will have a new image of Orange. They will say what a great place to go for fun!" As we worked on the Heart of Orange plan, Cantal-Dupart's words rang in our ears, reminding us to think forward into the 21st century, as we clean up of the messes left by history. We'd appreciate comments on the Heart of Orange plan. It can be found at the University of Orange website.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

When sidewalks rule

In Northern New Jersey, this Halloween was sensational, thanks to its being on a Saturday and having warm weather. People were outside all day, ohhing over princesses and ahhing over superdogs. In Jersey City, where I live, people sat on the stoops with bowls of candy for passing sprites. Crowds in costumes congregated in the small front yards. I took granddaughter Lily to Hoboken where she went trick-or-treating. The usually difficult streets were impassable, clogged in the afternoon with small batmen and in the evening with slutty nurses. Lily rushed home to weigh her candy and was thrilled to have 8 pounds of the stuff. One of her classmates--an even more aggressive hunter-gatherer--ended up with 25 pounds of candy. Lily said, "People in Hoboken are so rich they just put out bowls of candy and we all took a lot." The pleasure of this was insane, and eclipsed all the Halloweens she'd observed to date. In the milling and giving and smiling and admiring, the cities I passed through--Englewood, Hoboken and Jersey City--celebrated with great style the urbanists' holiday, the day when sidewalks rule.