Archive for June, 2013

lesecology_002webThe collatoral damage of the technology revolution happens before and after use. The manufacturing of a phone or computer involves a complex mix of toxic materials, sweatshop labor and non-renewable/non-recyclable/non-reusable resources. The troubles may only get sensed when it’s time to retire a product. There once were two options – hope that city services find a way to responsibly discard the item, or establish a personal archive of technology in an area storage unit.  

Now there’s a third option. Lower East Side Ecology Center‘s electronic waste recycling is a unique and innovative program that allows residents to dispose of working and non-working electronics in an environmentally responsible way. People can bring unwanted electronics to e-waste collection events that take place in neighborhoods throughout the city, or drop off items at the Gowanus Brooklyn location.

The electronics warehouse will utilize some reclaimed wood from Sawkill Lumber, connecting materials that were once centuries apart. 



photo copyThe joke is that some people treat their pets better than humans. That looks to be what’s happening at this posh Chelsea ‘Pet Hotel’. But sadly here a love of animals comes at a much larger expense – destruction of tropical Rainforests for building applications such as this exterior cladding. The designers may not have realized the tragic irony. Or the woods may be FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified, a debated standard when it comes to tropical wood species.  

photo copy 2Annie Proulx’s  “Rough Deeds” (New Yorker mag, June ’13) takes us to the heart of early 1700’s logging in the Northeast. The short story centers on a Frenchman named Duquet who amasses vast timber tracts (20,000 acres at 12¢/acre) during the era. While he and an associate are surveying the territory, they come across a crew of men cutting down their towering White Pines. One of the poachers meets the gruesome fate of Duquet’s ax through his skul. An owl witness’ the scene – a signal that the deed will later be repaid. Proulx’s Colonial backwoods noir brings the old growth forests alive.



Ada Louise Huxtable (March 14, 1921 – January 7, 2013) began her career at the Museum of Modern Art (curatorial assistant for Architecture and Design 1946-50) before becoming the first architectural critic of the New York Times (1963-82). She wrote over ten books and was considered a central figure in creating the New York City Landmark Preservation Commission in 1965. In 1970, she won the Pulitzer Prize for architectural criticism. 

A love of both historic and modern architecture, and the city that swirled around it, helped her to understand how the built environment can elevate our public and private lives. She responded in criticism that was hard hitting and humor filled, scholarly and street smart, advocating for the best standards that each successive era could attain. What would the city look  like without the remarkable work of Ada Louis Huxtable and others, keeping the delicate tension of old and new alive? More historic ruins hauled to the landfill and far less of the architectural marvels that have been built in modern times. 

Her academic training was in architectural history and one of her early books, “Classic New York: Georgian Gentility to Greek Elegance”, helped to inspire research and a landmark campaign that began in 2002. A few years ago, I had an opportunity to meet with Ada Louise Huxtable to discuss the 1832 Greek revival warehouse at 211 Pearl Street and the designer of it’s architectural type, Ithiel Town (1784-1844). Even at ninety, her critics edge and poise showed little signs of being dismantled. (photo: NY Times).

miked_bklynThe New York Times featured the transformation of a Cobble Hill townhouse by Beastie Boy Mike D. Reclaimed woods were used sparingly, but nonetheless rocked. Mike D also is helping to reclaim the Rockaways after the hurricane disaster, jump starting a food truck that put out over 19,000 meals to hard hit residents. The project rolls on, with food truck job training to area residents. Donations can be made at Rockaway Plate Lunch. photos: NY times 

pier57_001Salvaged scaffolding planks (6/4 x 9″ x 10′) are made from a mix of Hemlock, Spruce and Fir. The reclaimed material here, sourced at the Henry David Thoreau School in Queens, was part of a design for the Pier 57 art installation.   


Ben McGrath at the New Yorker mag covered post-Sandy salvage work at Rockaway Beach in the Talk of the Town section- June 7th issue. It’s a whimsical exchange with Bo Bricklemeyer (FEMA), Rion LoBrutto (NYC Office of Emergency Management) and Jordan Smith (NYC Parks Dept.) at a remote backwoods site, where a mile of the boardwalks tropical timbers and decking are now stored. Sawkill along with associated Armster Reclaimed Lumber Co. were contracted to dismantling some hazardous sections of elevated boardwalk near comfort stations and to pick through the debris piles at Riis Park – the temporary and sprawling dump area for hurricane refuse. Sawkill doesn’t appear in the text – only the drawing – where burly workers tote 150 lb tropical timbers.