Data Scientist Finds That Downtown Footpaths Impede Social Distancing
This online data visualization map shows the prevalence of streets in Lower Manhattan deemed too narrow for effective distancing from passersby.
Although Lower Manhattan is among the communities least affected by the pandemic coronavirus anywhere in the five boroughs, it faces one increased risk that most other neighborhoods do not. A new analysis shows that narrow sidewalk widths in the square mile below Chambers Street make it especially difficult to practice social distancing here.
Meli Harvey, a senior computational designer at Sidewalk Labs — an urban innovation organization owned by Google, which aims to improve civic infrastructure through technological solutions — has completed an inventory of sidewalk widths throughout the five boroughs.
“It started a few weeks ago, when I was walking around Boreum Hill, where I live,” Ms. Harvey recalls, “and noticed that it was tough to walk while avoiding people. The width of the sidewalks make it necessary to move into the street. And suddenly, I made the connection between sidewalk widths and social distancing. I have also worked in the Financial District, so I immediately thought of that area and its narrow sidewalks, too.”
Ms. Harvey began tabulating sidewalk widths a few years ago, “when I was an adjunct professor at Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. I was studying the prevalence of piles of garbage on sidewalks in different neighborhoods, and their impact on local quality of life. I realized that this was worse in communities where sidewalks are particularly narrow.”
This led her to focus, in part, on Lower Manhattan, where much of the street grid was laid out in the 1600 and 1700s, when it was designed to accommodate single lanes of traffic, consisting of horse-drawn carriages.
Although the City does not maintain comprehensive measurements on sidewalk widths, it does have a complete set of maps, based on finely detailed aerial photographs. From these, Ms. Harvey was able to create a database of sidewalk outlines, and develop an algorithm that allowed her to infer widths.
While this may sound relatively straightforward, “there are many places, such as parks and plazas, or locations where the streets curve, that make it complex,” she notes. In the end, she settled on an approach that, “found the center line in each of these polygons, measured back to edge of sidewalk, and then doubled that distance.” This yielded the first full catalog of sidewalk widths throughout New York City.
Ms. Harvey set that project aside, and moved onto other research, until, “the pandemic hit and the way we use public space as New Yorkers was suddenly turned upside down,” she recalls.
Using the sidewalk dataset she had compiled when gauging the impact of piles of garbage on streets, Ms. Harvey created a visualization map, in which wide sidewalks are colored in blue (for ample space) and green (for adequate space), while narrower footpaths are shaded orange, yellow and red — for areas ranging from difficult to impossible. (This map can be viewed online at: www.SidewalkWidths.nyc)
The conclusion: “Lower Manhattan has many streets that are too narrow to practice social distancing,” she says. Indeed, more than 100 local blocks are shaded red in the online map she created. “And given the local population density, this become even harder,” she adds.
“The number of people on the streets is more complex than just residential population density,” she avers, “because during a quarantine, this also varies based on profile of population.”
“But this is nonetheless a cautionary note,” she continues. “Even for an area where the virus infection rate is relatively low, you still hav e a pretty extreme situation in Lower Manhattan. Knowing this can contribute to solutions like street closures, in areas where it’s appropriate.”
“Sidewalk widths are one of the factors to take into account, among many, in making these determinations,” she adds, noting that, “whenever you have to make complex decisions, the more data you have available, the better.”
In working on this research, Ms. Harvey says, “I was looking for something I could do that would contribute to the discussion. I wanted to create a tool that would be helpful. Open data is really important to me, and giving citizens the ability to utilize public data sources and hold government accountable is very valuable.”
An April Intervention
The Hunter and the Hunted, Along with a Haunted Onlooker
Isaiah Berlin famously observed that, “the fox knows many little things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” A Lower Manhattan resident thought of this on a Saturday afternoon in mid-April, when Downtown was locked down, but he ventured outside — desperate for fresh air, seeking signs of life — and was confronted by this tableaux in the Battery. The raptor perched on the park bench knew one big thing: that he was too large to get beneath the seat, where his lunch awaited. And the squirrel below knew one little thing: that he was safe as long as he stayed where he was.
Downtown Hotel Business May Be an Enduring Casualty of Pandemic
Re: The BroadsheetDAILY April 23 Hostel Intentions
Too many hotels downtown, great! That could allow some of the hotel structures to be converted to lower income housing!
Let’s house our minimum wage workers, now known as ESSENTIAL Workers, nearer to their jobs. Relieve them from commuting for hours each day to reach their workplaces! Mayor DeBlasio, please get on this.
Per your article on the hotel glut: Has anyone thought with the looming possibility of empty hotels being built the city might convert them to affordable rental units?
Downtown is in desperate need of new units for young families already priced out of the current NY rental market. Why not create the next Sty Town downtown?
photo: Penny Tarrant
Swaps & Trades
Respectable Employment Lost and Found
Stuyvesant HS graduate
available for SHSAT tutoring. $40/hr. Zoom or in-person
Educational Coordinator National Lighthouse Museum
The current COVID-19 pandemic has brought life as we know it in New York City to a grinding halt with the onset of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s “New York State on PAUSE” executive order of March 22nd, 2020.
With schools and non-essential businesses closed, New Yorkers find themselves in a quasi-quarantine state, as they are encouraged by public officials to stay home, maintain social distance, avoid using public transportation, and venture outside only for short trips of absolute necessity.
If they are among the unfortunate who find themselves ill, they are subject to more stringent forms of quarantine, either self-isolation for periods of fourteen days or more in their homes, or in separate wards in our local hospitals where they are denied the comfort of visits from family and friends. A general threat to public health of this magnitude may not reside in the memories of New Yorkers during their own lifetimes, yet the threat of infectious disease, and strict quarantine measures are not new to this city’s history.
Here at the National Lighthouse Museum, New York’s historical implementation of quarantine to prevent the spread of infectious disease is part of the heritage of our site. The grounds of the General Depot of the United States Lighthouse Service occupy land that once housed the largest quarantine facility in the United States: The Maritime Hospital of New York, known simply as, the Quarantine.
Rate of Increase for Confirmed Infections Among Downtown Residents Tapers Off
Lower Manhattan’s eight zip codes are the site of 585 confirmed cases of coronavirus, up from 529 cases on April 17, which represents an increase of approximately 10.5 percent in one week.
A total of 585 residents of Lower Manhattan (among 1,530 who have been tested) are confirmed to have been infected by the pandemic coronavirus, according to statistics released by the City’s Department of Health. According to the DOH data, the local infection rates (outlined out by zip code) break down as follows: To read more…
Downtown Hotel Business May Be an Enduring Casualty of Pandemic
The Conrad Hotel is being used to house healthcare workers battling the pandemic coronavirus.
As local travel and tourism have ground to a halt in the wake of the pandemic coronavirus, one Downtown business sector is undergoing what may be a permanent transformation. By any reasonable yardstick, the hotel business in Lower Manhattan has been drastically overbuilt — the result of nearly two decades of giddy speculation, by developers.
Today, there are 37 hotels operating in the square mile below Chambers Street, offering more than 7,900 rooms, according to the 2019 Lower Manhattan Real Estate Year in Review, a report from the Downtown Alliance.
how to care for your pet during the COVID-19 Pandemic
It’s Like Deja Vu All Over Again
Facing Budget Deficit, City Hall Has Plans for BPCA Funds
The administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio will be drawing on nearly $10 million in funds from the Battery Park City Authority to help close the budget cap created by the economic slowdown that has arisen from the pandemic coronavirus.
Three weeks ago, we launched the Taste of Tribeca Community Fund.
Since then you have given us over $60,000 and with this we have purchased over 4,800 meals from 10 Taste of Tribeca restaurants for delivery to 11 New York City hospitals, plus FDNY Ladder 8, FDNY Engine 7, the NYPD 1st Precinct, and NYC Department of Sanitation Manhattan District 1.
You have helped to keep these restaurants in business, and in turn the restaurant teams have been doing some of the most important cooking and meal service of their careers, for the healthcare workers on the front lines against Covid-19.
The importance of your contribution cannot be emphasized enough. As another organization doing similar work has put it, we are not merely sending care packages as a thank you to the healthcare workers. We are providing them with basic nourishment, which they have no time to buy on their own, and in some areas no one even from whom to buy them.
And in our little corner of the city, we have restaurants willing and able to serve and for whom our large orders are essential to the continued operation of their business.
We are now down to our last few thousand dollars, which, at our current pace, will last us another few days to a week. We would love to keep going until at least May 15, so please consider donating again if you can, and share our mission with your families, friends and colleagues. Your continued generosity and support will directly benefit our restaurants, our neighborhood, and the healthcare heroes in our great city.
Thank you from all of us at Taste of Tribeca!
If you can help us, we would appreciate it.
Here is our most recent campaign update sent to donors, plus our GoFundMe and Instagram feed. Our current meal count is over 5,000.
Who remembers Iggy, the 40-foot iguana formerly of the Lone Star Cafe on Lower 5th Avenue and subsequently perched atop Pier 25 by Bob Wade and Bob Townley in the 1980s? For some years now, Iggy has resided at the Fort Worth Texas Zoo reptile exhibit. The charismatic iguana was recently seen practicing social distancing.
EYES TO THE SKY
April 20 – May 3, 2020
Not to be missed: International Dark Sky Week programs reach us at home.
Now in progress, International Dark Sky Week:
The International Dark-Sky Association invites us — with a special nod to homebound families — to engage with dynamic authors, educators, artists, and scientists from around the world. The distinguished presenters are excited to share their passion for astronomy, our cultural connection to the stars, life in the dark, and how we can work together to protect the night.
Governor Cuomo has issued an executive order requiring all people in New York to wear masks or face coverings in public, including when taking public or private transportation or riding in for-hire vehicles.
More information: coronavirus.health.ny.gov/home or call 1-888-364-3065.All non-essential workers must continue to work from home and schools will be closed through May 15th, and everyone is required to maintain a 6-foot distance from others in public photo courtesy: BPCA
‘As Sick as I’ve Ever Been in My Life’
One Survivor’s First-Person Account of Grappling with the Coronavirus
(Editor’s Note: This narrative was supplied to the Broadsheet by a Battery Park City resident who has asked to remain anonymous.)
When I first heard about this, back in late January or early February, I wasn’t sure how it was different from a more serious version of seasonal flu, because the narrative was familiar — starting in Asia, and coming from some kind of animal population. The one difference I remember noting was that this sounded much more contagious.
After that, I didn’t think much more about it for several weeks, other than to frame it as a kind of “second” flu season. But near the end of February, the beginning of March, my perception changed, along with everybody else’s. This was clearly different, because of how it had jumped to humans, and how aggressively it was spreading.
As business activity ground to a halt in March due to the pandemic coronavirus, the market for apartments in Lower Manhattan experienced something akin to a heart attack during the first quarter on this year, according to analyses from two real estate data firms.
A pair of reports from Platinum Properties, a brokerage firm headquartered in the Financial District, documents the carnage in Battery Park City and the Financial District. The first notes that the median price for condominiums sold in Battery Park City dropped from $1.515 million in the first quarter of 2019 to $1.005 million in the same period this year. That represents a 33.7 percent decline in 12 months, and a 14 percent decline just since the last quarter of 2019, when the median price was $1.168 million. To read more…
Doing Good, Even When Not Doing Well
A Local Business Struggles to Survive, By Helping Those Less Fortunate
In happier times: Karen Barwick (right) and her staff, at Tribeca’s Boomerang Toys
Karen Barwick, the proprietress of Boomerang Toys in Tribeca, which has been a fixture in the lives of generations of Lower Manhattan kids, is leading a push to bring a smile to the faces of homeless children, who are quarantined in shelters, while also helping small businesses.
“We have teamed up with several other neighborhood toy stores that are struggling, because of being locked down,” she explains, “and partnered with Homeless Services United” (HSU) — a coalition of nearly sixty non-profit agencies serving homeless families. By browsing www.BoomerangToys.com, and clicking on the Donate button, users can purchase a toy that will be delivered to a shelter by the HSU’S existing distribution network, which already parcels out clothing and food. To read more…
Facing Adversity, One Community Leader Tries to Lead By Example
In the days following September 11, 2001, Bob Townley called the community together at the basketball court at the intersection of Canal Street and Avenue of the Americas.
Bob Townley, the founder and executive director of Manhattan Youth, reflects, “I’ve been through this before — twice, actually.” He is referring to a pair of previous cataclysms that seemed to threaten the viability of the Lower Manhattan community he serves, as well as the organization he leads.
The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the inundation of Hurricane Sandy, 11 years later, both wrecked the neighborhood. And both raised questions about whether Manhattan Youth, which provides services to thousands of school children, families, and seniors, could remain viable. So the ongoing crisis related to the pandemic coronavirus is not without precedent for him.
New Amsterdam Market returns in virtual format, as a service to the growing community of purveyors, distributors, producers and other small businesses who are creating regional, sustainable, regenerative, healthful, and equitable food systems.
A pair of peregrin falcons are back in Lower Manhattan, high above 55 Water Street. Click to watch a live camera as they care for their clutch of eggs that are expected to hatch in the coming weeks.
Virtual Events Available to All
Developing Stories: Native Photographers in the Field
National Museum of the American Indian
Developing Stories: Native Photographers in the Field is a pair of sequential photo essays created by Native photojournalists Russel Albert Daniels and Tailyr Irvine in collaboration with the National Museum of the American Indian. The work of both photographers springs from the same desires—to break down stereotypes of Native peoples and to portray stories that show the diversity and complexity of their contemporary lives.
This documentary series explores the shared commitment to the mission behind the 9/11 Memorial & Museum. From showing how we create new traditions of tribute, to demonstrating our unique conservation techniques, the short films go beyond the surface to immerse viewers in untold stories of honor and remembrance. Click here to view the series.
Today through April 30
The Stories They Tell
9/11 Memorial and Museum
Family members, survivors, first responders and recovery workers discuss the 9/11 history they are helping to preserve through the material they have shared with the 9/11 Memorial Museum. Click here.
Today through April 30
Battery Dance TV
Offerings include morning warmup/stretching/conditioning exercises, mid-day classes in contemporary dance with afro, ballet and jazz fusion elements, evening classes in varied ballroom styles, plus a daily short video at 4pm by dancers performing in their living rooms.
Today through April 30
Tourist in Your Own Town Videos
The New York Landmarks Conservancy
Now that most of us are staying home, you can take virtual tours of New York City.Visit Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, Alexander Hamilton’s home in Upper Manhattan, the Woolworth Building in Lower Manhattan, the site of the Battle of Brooklyn, the home of one of America’s first female photographers on Staten Island, and Louis Armstrong’s home in Queens. There are 61 sites in all. You’ll be amazed at the discoveries you will make.
Biking through traffic seven years ago at lunch hour in downtown Manhattan compared to the dearth of people and traffic after the Corona virus epidemic is a huge contrast. Footage is sped up, so although it may look a but scary, the ride was totally safe!
Thanks and be well! -Esther R.
Where to Get Care
Lower Manhattan Health Resources for Residents with Concerns
Government officials are asking that people with non-urgent health problems avoid showing up at hospital emergency rooms, which are already overburdened.
Instead, they ask that patients who have concerns consult with their personal physicians. Those in need of non-emergency medical help can also call (or walk into) one of the five Lower Manhattan urgent care clinics that remain open. As of Thursday afternoon, these are:
• CityMD Financial District (24 Broad Street). No appointment necessary. 646-647-1259.
• CityMD Fulton (138 Fulton Street). No appointment necessary. 212-271-4896.
• CityMD Tribeca (87 Chambers Street). No appointment necessary. 347-745-8321.
• NYU Langone at Trinity (111 Broadway). Appointment required. 212-263-9700.
• Mount Sinai Doctors (225 Greenwich Street, fifth floor). No appointment necessary. 212-298-2720.
That noted, anyone experiencing dangerous symptoms (such as trouble breathing or dangerous spikes in body temperature) is encouraged to go to a hospital emergency room.
Two Lower Manhattan healthcare providers are also offering Virtual Visits, in which patients can consult over the phone or video link with a physician or nurse practitioner.
To schedule such a session with NYU Langone, please browse: NYULangone.org, and click on Virtual Urgent Care.
To make an appointment with New York-Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital, please browse NYP.org, and click on Virtual Urgent Care.
Patients enrolled in the World Trade Center Health Program are advised not to cancel or reschedule existing appointments. Clinic staff will be contacting you to make arrangements to convert these sessions into a tele-visits.
All program participants with prescriptions for their certified WTC-related conditions are strongly encouraged to sign up for Optum Home Delivery which allows for 90-day prescription fills and delivers directly to members by mail.
For more information, please call Optum at 855-640–0005, Option 2. For members who prefer to pick up prescriptions at retail pharmacies, the program is waiving early medication refill limits on 30-day prescription maintenance medications. Please call Optum at 855-640–0005, Option 3 for more information.
The World Trade Center Health Program is also covering limited COVID-19 testing for members with certain certified World Trade Center-related conditions that may put them at higher risk of illness from COVID-19. In addition to testing, treatment for COVID-19 is also covered, contingent on certain criteria being met, including that the member was eligible for COVID-19 testing, the treatment is authorized by the program, and the treatment is not experimental. Coverage of COVID-19 treatment costs requires approval by the program’s administrator, on a case-by-case basis.
Meditations in an Emergency
Our Hometown and the Myth of Eternal Return
You tell yourself that you’ve seen this story before, and more than once: edifices falling; waters rising. And you reflect that the worst situations are not those that can’t get any worse. The worst situations are the ones that are going to get worse before they get better. So you hunker down.
You recall the Old Man deciding, a lifetime ago, that since you were too old for fairy tales, you were perhaps old enough for true confessions. To read more…