The best f*@$%!*g news I’ve heard about the Gulf spill all week. And it involves Kevin Costner.
It was treated as an oddball twist in the otherwise wrenching saga of the BP oil spill when Kevin Costner stepped forward to promote a device he said could work wonders in containing the spill’s damage. But as Henry Fountain explains in the New York Times, the gadget in question — an oil-separating centrifuge — marks a major breakthrough in spill cleanup technology. And BP, after trial runs with the device, is ordering 32 more of the Costner-endorsed centrifuges to aid the Gulf cleanup.
The “Waterworld” actor has invested some $20 million and spent the past 15 years in developing the centrifuges. He helped found a manufacturing company, Ocean Therapy Solutions, to advance his brother’s research in spill cleanup technology. In testimony before Congress this month, Costner walked through the device’s operation—explaining how it spins oil-contaminated water at a rapid speed, so as to separate out the oil and capture it in a containment tank:
Another early morning, all the more early because we didn’t stop work till 2AM last night! Today we head off to Grand Isle about three hours away from Venice to visit with Louisiana Wildlife and Fish department. Oil has made its way into the mangroves which means some of our worst fears have been realized. These wetland habitats are some of the most fragile in the world and also some of the most important. 40% of all the wetlands in the lower 48 states exist along the coast of Louisiana and they are directly in the oil’s path. Look at the photos and you will see why once the oil gets into these tight intricate bodies of water, there is no getting it out.
EarthEcho International is a nonprofit 501c3 organization founded in 2000 by siblings Philippe and Alexandra Cousteau in honor of their father Philippe Cousteau Sr., famous son of the legendary explorer Jacques Yves Cousteau. EarthEcho International’s mission is to empower youth to take action that restores and protects our water planet.
Officials at the Environmental Protection Agency are considering whether to bar BP from receiving government contracts, a move that would ultimately cost the company billions in revenue and could end its drilling in federally controlled oil fields.
Over the past 10 years, BP has paid tens of millions of dollars in fines and been implicated in four separate instances of criminal misconduct that could have prompted this far more serious action. Until now, the company’s executives and their lawyers have fended off such a penalty by promising that BP would change its ways.
BP hasn’t yet been able to stop the flow of oil, but it’s been more successful at controlling the information coming out about the Gulf disaster.
McClatchy reported on Tuesday that BP has been withholding the results of  “tests on the extent of workers’ exposure to evaporating oil or from the burning crude over the Gulf.” The data is important to determining whether current conditions are safe for workers in the Gulf, researchers told McClatchy. BP said it’s sharing the data with “legitimate interested parties,” but would not release it publicly:
“Why would one do it? Any parties with a legitimate interest can have access to it,” BP spokesman Toby Odone told McClatchy .
That’s not the only instance in which the company has restricted the media’s access to information.
I drove into New York City this morning for the first time in months. I noticed brand new — and well though-out — bicycle lanes while traveling south on 7th Avenue. New concrete curbing build alongside the lanes keep the car and cyclist separated. There are turning bays at each intersection. New traffic light address the two groups individually.
This is all part of the new 200-Mile Bicycle Network from the New York City Department of Transportation:
In June 2009, the NYC Department of Transportation completed the City’s ambitious goal of building 200 bike-lane miles in all five boroughs in just three years, nearly doubling the citywide on-street bike network while reshaping the city’s streets to make them safer for everyone who uses them.
The Department has also started an ambitious Public Plaza Program in partnership with local not-for-profit organizations:
The NYC Plaza Program will re-invent New York City’s public realm. In New York City, the public right of way comprises 64 square miles of land-that is enough space to fit about 50 Central Parks. The Program will re-claim streets at appropriate locations to make new plazas. Sites will be selected based on the following criteria: Open Space, Community Initiative, Site Context, Organizational & Maintenance Capacity, and Income Eligibility. Eligible not-for-profit organizations can propose new plaza sites for their neighborhoods through a competitive application process. The City will prioritize sites that are in neighborhoods that lack open space, and will look to partner with community groups that commit to operate, maintain, and manage these spaces so they are vibrant pedestrian plazas.
The Guidelines for partnering with the NYC DOT are here.Future plaza development proposals will be accepted, starting in Spring 2010.
Benjamin R. Barber weighs in. In an Op-Ed titled The Art of Public Space published in The Nation, he writes:
The pedestrian piazzas being carved out from vehicular thruways at Times Square and Herald Square in New York City are testimony to the critical need for public space in our cluttered mega-cities. But public space is not merely the passive residue of a decision to ban cars or a tacit invitation to the public to step into the street. It must be actively created and self-consciously sustained against the grain of an architecture built as much for machines as people, more for commercial than common use.
Mr. Barber advocates a greater role for the artist in the design and creation of these spaces and more public investment:
To succeed, public space will demand greater public investment and better understanding of the role artists and the arts play in putting such investment to imaginative uses.
These notions yield two mandates. First, they call for greater public investment in public space and in the arts that help shape such spaces. And second, they call for greater understanding of the role artists and the arts play in putting public investment to imaginative uses.
I remember a professor from one of my Urban Planning classes talking about an urban plaza partly designed by its users. The pedestrian patterns between the different buildings could not be anticipated, so the architects decided to plant a lawn instead of designing walkways etc…
A year later the designers came back to the site. The natural pathways, used by the pedestrians to get from one side of the plaza to the other during the preceding four seasons, were now apparent in the worn grass. The new walkways were installed accordingly. Everybody was happy.
This example of user-inclusive approach to design stayed with me all of these years. It always struck me as a fine example of the primary responsibility of the designer: satisfying the needs and furthering the well-being of the space-user.
The case related by my professor relies on a passive, even organic approach to urban space design. The approach underway in New York City, with its ambitious scope, seeks to involve the community — the end-users of the public spaces — on a larger scale but in a similar determinative fashion.
This ever-evolving city will never be the same as a result of this initiative. And New Yorkers have a great opportunity to leave their footprints in the public spaces of their city for future generations to enjoy.