New York City Launches Blockchain Initiatives

(Credit: Flickr)

New York City is jumping on the blockchain bandwagon. The city’s official economic development corporation, NYCEDC, announced Monday that it is launching a Blockchain Resource Center and a public blockchain competition for an app that helps improve public services.

“The BigApps blockchain competition and the Blockchain Resource Center are great opportunities for NYC’s tech talent to explore the economic potential and job opportunities associated with this emerging technology. Thank you to the EDC and all our partners for working to open the door to new resources for NYC’s tech community to continue to innovate,” said Council Member Peter Koo, Chair of the Committee on Technology, in the statement.

“Blockchain” refers to any open, distributed ledger that can record transactions but is secure against unauthorized modification. It’s most often referred to in the context of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, which use a blockchain to track transactions. But blockchain applications go much further than cryptocurrency.

As Maria Bustillos, the editor of a forthcoming blockchain-based magazine (yes, really), wrote: “Whenever people need to know whether or not something happened — someone depositing money in a bank account, changing the title of a house, or voting in an election — we set up institutions to guarantee that it happened.…Blockchain technology can be used to make those guarantees automatically, by distributing a shared, verified public record to as many people as are interested in seeing that record.” Blockchain could, Bustillos speculated, help enable more civil comments on news stories, free from intrusions by trolls. Meanwhile, companies like FedEx are experimenting with blockchain technology to track high-value cargo.

Next City reported last month on a proposal to put zoning and development on the blockchain, in which community members are given “tokens” to make them eligible for certain types of housing. Next City has also reported on the city of Berkeley’s efforts to sell municipal bonds using blockchain technology. Delaware is piloting a blockchain-based corporate registry, and Illinois tested six blockchain-based pilots last year, including a blockchain-based birth certificate.

The New York resource center will be a physical space where entrepreneurs in the blockchain sphere can network and launch new ideas. Its NYC location is still TBA, but the NYCEDC said it is currently scouting locations close to financial, media and real estate areas in the city.

The center will be a place to “have an honest conversation about how (to) create a regulatory environment in New York City that is focused on consumer protections but also focused on spurring innovation,” Ryan Birchmeier, an NYCEDC spokesman, told Government Technology. NYCEDC is also hoping to take a look at the regulations surrounding blockchain, Government Technology writes.

The city today released an RFP looking for a qualified individual, organization or company to run the 2018 blockchain apps competition for the NYC BigApps Competition, held annually. In the RFP, the city said it was “interested in proposals that address how to educate the public sector about blockchain, identify and design blockchain-focused challenge statements that address public sector challenges, and expand the reach and impact of the program by drawing in new participants and partners.”

The initiatives were announced during “Blockchain Week NYC, which runs through May 17. Also of note was a city-sponsored hackathon over the weekend that challenged engineers to apply the blockchain to tracking fresh food from farm to warehouse to consumers, “especially those in our underserved neighborhoods,” NYCEDC said.


1960s Royston Summer North Several modernist property in London SE3

1960s Royston Summer North Several modernist property in London SE3

1960s Royston Summer North Several modernist property in London SE3
1960s Royston Summer North Several modernist property in London SE3

I do love the work of this particular architect, so always good to see a new one coming up for sale. This time it’s a 1960s Royston Summer North Several modernist property in London SE3.

1960s Royston Summer North Several modernist property in London SE3
1960s Royston Summer North Several modernist property in London SE3

As you probably know, Royston Summers is perhaps best known for those amazing lakeside properties in Esher, Surrey, which have featured numerous times on these pages. But this group of houses are also very desirable too. We featured one to let a while back (which may well have been this one, as it looks rather familiar inside) and one came up for sale back in 2015. So not regulars on the market and always popular when they do. The latter made it into our top 30 modernist London finds.

1960s Royston Summer North Several modernist property in London SE3
1960s Royston Summer North Several modernist property in London SE3

But let’s focus on the one here, which is one unit from from the award winning North Several development from the late 1960s, which sits next to the open greenery of Blackheath.

1960s Royston Summer North Several modernist property in London SE3
1960s Royston Summer North Several modernist property in London SE3

This is one of seven distinctive modernist houses within that development, said to have been built ‘to the highest of standards’ for its original group of owners and designed to take full advantage of the nearby heath. The one for sale here was originally owned by noted playwright and novelist Michael Frayn, should you be interested.

1960s Royston Summer North Several modernist property in London SE3
1960s Royston Summer North Several modernist property in London SE3

The glass, concrete and brick construction, along with the open-plan living spaces are obviously of their era. But the design has really some full circle, with these kind of light, open spaces being very desirable in the 21st century too. If only today’s new builds has the same look and feel.

1960s Royston Summer North Several modernist property in London SE3
1960s Royston Summer North Several modernist property in London SE3

The house, which is at the end of the main terrace, is arranged over three floors, with floor to ceiling windows framing some wonderful view of the heath plus Canary Wharf and Greenwich Park beyond. As you might have guessed, it has also been renovated but ‘without compromising the architect’s original design aesthetic’.

1960s Royston Summer North Several modernist property in London SE3
1960s Royston Summer North Several modernist property in London SE3

That’s a fair point too. Yes, this is a modern home, but there is so much detail from its 1960s past still in place, from the staircase and windows through to the wood finishes on the walls and the built-in units. It is a dream of a place.

1960s Royston Summer North Several modernist property in London SE3
1960s Royston Summer North Several modernist property in London SE3

Once inside, you will see a dual-aspect / L-shaped main living on the first floor, making the most of the views. Currently it is broken down into a large seating area with open fire, a reading area with a built-in desk unit, and a dining area with access to a balcony overlooking the communal gardens. A kitchen is just off here, complete with the original mottled-glass breakfast bar.

1960s Royston Summer North Several modernist property in London SE3
1960s Royston Summer North Several modernist property in London SE3

The top floor has two double bedrooms and the main bathroom. The master bedroom ‘spans the width of the house’ and again has views of the heath. One half of the room is a dressing area with built-in dressing table and original vintage wardrobes that match the panelled walls. The bedroom at the front also spans the width of the house and is currently used as a study and sitting room / snug space.

1960s Royston Summer North Several modernist property in London SE3
1960s Royston Summer North Several modernist property in London SE3

The house has two entrances – the main entrance into the ‘spacious’ lobby area featuring the eye-catching maple staircase, and the other directly into a ‘tranquil’ garden room which looks out onto a statue by Gerda Rubinstein called ‘Party Girl’. The entrance lobby also leads to the second bathroom and integrated garage with utility.

1960s Royston Summer North Several modernist property in London SE3
1960s Royston Summer North Several modernist property in London SE3

Finally, there is off-street parking for two cars ‘discreetly positioned’ in front of the house.

This is on the market right now for £1,750,000 if it catches your eye.

Images and details courtesy of The Modern House. For more details and to make an enquiry, please visit the website.

1960s Royston Summer North Several modernist property in London SE3
1960s Royston Summer North Several modernist property in London SE3
1960s Royston Summer North Several modernist property in London SE3
1960s Royston Summer North Several modernist property in London SE3
1960s Royston Summer North Several modernist property in London SE3
1960s Royston Summer North Several modernist property in London SE3

The post 1960s Royston Summer North Several modernist property in London SE3 appeared first on WowHaus.


Small apartment redesigned like an ‘urban beach house’

A compact apartment in an traditional building near Barcelona's waterfront is transformed into an airy, modern home.

roberto benavidez turns religious monsters into colorful piñatas

benavidez has taken these monsters out of context and transformed them into beautiful 3-dimensional sculptures.

The post roberto benavidez turns religious monsters into colorful piñatas appeared first on designboom | architecture & design magazine.


studio MK27’s versatile pavilion can serve as a store, a gallery, or even a temporary residence

the building’s envelope is made from two different materials: translucent polycarbonate in the upper half and a white metal plate below.

The post studio MK27’s versatile pavilion can serve as a store, a gallery, or even a temporary residence appeared first on designboom | architecture & design magazine.


Technology is rewriting the rules of engagement, and not in the way you’d think

To an increasing degree, museums, exhibitions and cultural events are using immersive technologies to draw visitors into highly engaging experiences.

Seattle Passes Big-Business ‘Head Tax’ to Finance Affordable Housing

A homeless camp in Seattle. 

In a unanimous decision, Seattle’s city council has voted to tax large businesses to help address the city’s homelessness crisis.

Starting next year, for-profit companies that gross $20 million or more will pay $275 per employee, the Seattle Times reports. The tax is expected to raise $47 million per year, monies earmarked for building affordable housing and funding emergency shelters.

“We have community members who are dying,” Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda said before the 9-0 vote, the Times reports. “They are dying on our streets today because there is not enough shelter.”

The tax was vehemently protested by Amazon (which could pay up to $10 million per year), Starbucks, and other large Seattle companies. It is a compromise down from the originally proposed “head tax” of $500 per employee, which Mayor Jenny Durkan said she would veto.

During the head tax negotiations, Amazon paused work on an office tower that was supposed to house 7,000 new Amazon employees. (Adding those employees would cost the company, which reported a net income of $1.6 billion in its most recent quarterly earnings report, about $1.9 million a year.) After the head tax vote yesterday, Amazon said it would resume work on the office tower, but might sublease it to other companies rather than occupying it itself.

“We are disappointed by today’s City Council decision to introduce a tax on jobs,” spokesman Drew Herdener said in a statement, printed in part by the Seattle Times.

“While we have resumed construction planning for Block 18, we remain very apprehensive about the future created by the council’s hostile approach and rhetoric toward larger businesses, which forces us to question our growth here.”

Washington State has no income tax, which is enshrined in state law. (An attempt to tax the rich in Seattle was struck down by a King County Superior Court judge last year.) As such, the state has the most regressive tax system in the country, with low-income residents paying a larger share of their income than wealthier residents. As Next City has reported in the past, Seattle is the only city in the country to have one of the top five highest tax burdens for people earning $25,000 or less while also having one of the lowest tax burdens for people earning more than $150,000.

Seattle-King County also has the country’s third-largest homeless population. Last year, the Times reported, one in 16 Seattle public-school students was found to be homeless, and another count recorded 11,600 homeless people in the county. The city declared a homelessness state of emergency in 2015.

The housing crisis is exacerbated by soaring apartment rents, which have risen 57 percent in the past six years, and high home prices (the median home price in Seattle is around $720,000). The city’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda says Seattle needs to add 50,000 housing units over the next decade, 20,000 of which should be affordable.

In late December 2017, the city promised $100 million toward affordable housing, funded by bonds, the city’s incentive zoning program, and the city’s $290-million housing levy, which voters approved in 2016. The new tax could help build another 591 units of low-income housing over five years.


ymage works reinterprets famous paintings as realistic peopleless environments

're-ymagined' is an art project that digitally renders the reality of artists' environment before they started to draw. it reinterprets light, textures, strokes, and patterns of famous works of art.

The post ymage works reinterprets famous paintings as realistic peopleless environments appeared first on designboom | architecture & design magazine.


Flint’s Neighborhood-Led Approach to Reducing Crime

A July 2016 block party organized by the University Avenue Corridor Coaltion, in Flint. (Credit: University Avenue Corridor Coaltion)

The “broken windows” theory came into the urbanist lexicon when former NYC Police Commissioner Bill Bratton popularized the “enforcement first” policing approach to minor offenses like vandalism and turnstile skipping in the 1990s. The thinking was to address the smaller, “broken windows” low-level crimes right away, thus discouraging more serious offenses.

But that theory has come under criticism over the years, with detractors saying the approach only addresses part of a larger socio-economic condition that requires a more holistic approach to deal with inequities. And the evidence has been clear: people of color are disproportionately targeted by police under the approach.

Looking at high vacancy rates, violent crime and poverty in Flint, Mich., a group of residents, community workers, business owners and university officials came together to take a different tack. Instead of police patrolling around, ticketing folks for minor infractions, the group implemented what’s become known as the “busy streets” theory. It’s a theory reflective of work from researchers like Patrick Sharkey, who are only now shedding light on the role of community members in reducing crime through local initiative.

Following a three-day-long workshop in 2012, the University Avenue Corridor Coalition formed to to fix up a three mile section of University Avenue, a stretch that spans through the city’s Carriage Town and central neighborhoods. The mostly volunteer group rolled up their sleeves, starting small with neighborhood cleanup days, planting flowers, mowing lawns, repairing park benches.

The coalition now counts more than more than 80 individuals, block clubs, local businesses, local government departments and Kettering University. The “busy streets” has now been studied and proven to have a lasting impact on the community.

“When you take care of the little things, people notice,” says Dr. Robert McMahan, president of Kettering University. “And they see others taking pride in their place and that is contagious.”

The results have been clear: less crime and more business.

A five-year study, recently published by the coalition, shows that between 2012 and 2017, there was a 78 percent drop in blight; a 54 percent decrease in assaults; 83 percent fewer robberies; 76 percent decrease in burglary; and a 36 percent drop in vandalism. Funding for coalition efforts include $2 million in grants, coming mostly from the U.S. Department of Justice.

As for positive development, the corridor saw $50 million in investment over that same time frame, including the reopening of the neighborhood’s historic Atwood Stadium, an 11,000-seat venue that Kettering took ownership of in 2013 and revitalized; the closure of a party store once a hotspot for crime that was redeveloped as a sandwich shop; and across the street, an empty lot once a popular area for drinking in public is now University Square, a park space that hosts events, food truck rallies and family-friendly activities.

Researchers from the University of Michigan’s Prevention Research Center of Michigan and the Centers for Disease Control-funded Youth Violence Prevention Center compared neighborhoods experiencing similar issues and found that places where community members maintained empty lots had nearly 40 percent fewer assaults and violent crimes than untouched vacant lots.

In Flint, coalition members believe the success of the approach has as much to do with community members feeling a sense of ownership of improving the area as it does with the collaborative, somewhat informal nature of the coalition’s efforts. Dallas Gatlin, executive director of the Carriage Town Ministries, a founding member group of the coalition, says there are no bylaws, no officers or bureaucracy that might otherwise get in the way of progress.

“The joy of seeing things get done, that things are getting done, is the fuel behind the growth. It’s not being bogged down by administrative involvement,” Gatlin says.

Carriage Town Ministries, a 130-bed shelter for men, women and children, asks that the people it serves perform community service in the neighborhood. Each morning, five days a week, 15 people are assigned cleanup duties in the neighborhood. The nonprofit’s objective goes beyond beautifying the area, focusing also on helping the people involved develop skills that could be applicable in the workforce, Gatlin says.

On top of regular neighborhood cleanups, Carriage Town members have restored five abandoned houses, which are now part of the organization’s campus. There’s a garden where folks can learn the basics of planting and harvesting crops, as well as fostering healthy cooking and eating habits. University Square is maintained by Carriage Town Ministries residents.

Gatlin, who previously worked for 30 years for General Motors, says there was a time when Flint had the highest household income per capita in the country for people under age 35, thanks to plentiful jobs in manufacturing. But as is common in other Rust Belt cities like Detroit just 60 miles to the south, the reality today is vastly different. The median income today for Flint residents is less than $26,000, with more than half of its families with children living in poverty. The city lost more than a quarter of its population since 1990s, leaving behind empty houses (one in five homes are vacant). Flint has the second-highest homicide rate in cities with populations under 100,000, trailing another post-industrial Rust Belt city, Gary, Ind.

While Flint and other post-industrial towns may never go back to the way things were, Gatlin and others are hopeful that efforts like those led by the coalition will help redefine the city’s future.

“I will probably be long gone before Flint becomes the fully vibrant college town that it will become someday, but people have to lay the groundwork now,” Gatlin says.


What Taking Aim at Segregation Looks Like In Chicago

The Chicago Theater. (Photo by Oscar Perry Abello)

In the fall of 2016, the entire board and staff of the Field Foundation underwent racial justice training, and the foundation asked nonprofit community groups to review its own grantmaking processes. Founded in 1940, the foundation invests in justice, art, and community leadership in Chicago.

Angelique Power, who became president of the Field Foundation two years ago, says it was “scary and critical” to have that kind of training in the boardroom. The board is “the spine of the organization,” she says, and it was important to bring an understanding of Chicago’s structural racism into the center of the group’s work.

“In Chicago there is a nexus of poverty and trauma and divestment, and it aligns with a designed inequity,” Power says.

A new report challenges the entire region — from governments to corporations, philanthropies, civic organizations, and individuals — to adopt a “racial equity framework” aimed at overturning racial and economic disparities in every sector of society. Released today from the Metropolitan Planning Council, a Chicago think tank, “Our Equitable Future: A Roadmap for the Chicago Region” details around two dozen policy proposals that the city could pursue to promote racial equity in economic development, job access, housing and neighborhoods, education, and criminal justice.

Our Equitable Future is a follow up to “The Cost of Segregation,” a report released last year by the same organization. That report contained many grim facts, like how the Chicago region had the fifth highest level of racial and economic segregation in the U.S. as of 2010. Or, if the level of African American-white segregation in the region could be reduced to the national median, the typical African American resident would earn nearly $3,000 more per year in income; there would have been 229 fewer murders in 2016; and some 83,000 more residents would have bachelor’s degrees.

But there was one particularly grim fact underpinning the whole effort. As Metropolitan Planning Council Vice President Marisa Novara put it, approaching the issue of segregation with a “moral lens” had proven insufficient to addressing the problem. In other words, the fairly broad recognition that communities of color should have the same access to jobs, housing, and public resources as white communities wasn’t doing much to change the fact that, in many cases, communities of color still don’t have equal access.

The first report, Novara says, was an attempt to build “a broader argument about our economic interdependence,” illustrating how segregation is tied to income inequality, violent crime, lost lives, lower property values, and overall regional vitality.

“The remedies and recommendations offered here go far beyond the patterns of where people live,” the new report says. “To disrupt metropolitan Chicago’s legacy of segregation, we focus on the racism and inequity that fueled and continues to fuel it. Fundamentally, segregation and its resulting inequities are by-products of racism — which is why the solutions in this report focus on racial equity and inclusion as the root goal.”

Policy recommendations include:

  • Establishing a graduated real estate transfer tax in the city, which would set a base tax rate of .35 percent for up to $500,000 in taxable value and step up to 3.3 percent for value in excess of $5 million. Under that system, the city could raise more than $100 million in additional revenue while lowering the overall tax liability in some 95 percent of real estate transactions, according to the report.

  • Requiring developers who take advantage of public funding to detail how their proposals will improve public health.

  • Adopting a local earned income tax credit to help working families build wealth.

  • Establishing a capped fare system on transit systems, so that low-income riders who can’t afford the upfront cost of a weekly or monthly pass won’t miss out on the discounts enjoyed by riders who can.

  • Reforming property tax assessments that “has unfairly burdened low-income, minority households via a system that is inaccurate and opaque.”

  • Providing even higher subsidies in Chicago’s Housing Choice Voucher Program to help low-income residents rent properties in more neighborhoods. Chicago’s Housing Choice Voucher Program already provides subsidies based on the local rents within each of the city’s 77 designated neighborhood areas, instead of one average rent across the entire city. The report recommends increasing the maximum rent payment threshold even higher than it is currently.

  • Implementing the recommendations of the Police Accountability Task Force.

Novara says that the recommendations were built on research that began with the economic analyses performed by the Urban Institute in the first report. The research expanded over the last year to include long-form interviews with community leaders in five different neighborhood “typologies.”

The group also took teams of researchers and community stakeholders on trips to Seattle and Atlanta. The Seattle government was a pioneer in focusing on institutional racism, Novara says, while the Atlanta region had dropped 20 places in nationwide segregation rankings during a the period between 1990 and 2010. Chicago could learn from both, Novara says. The project was motivated by questions that the Metropolitan Planning Council didn’t know the answers to — what does segregation cost? what can be done about it? — and the group was “very much in listening mode.”

“I really can’t stress enough the importance of the balance that we tried to strike,” Novara says. “We have a vision for where we’re going with this, but we are incredibly open to what we’re learning along the way.”

The group also tried to make recommendations that balanced potential impact with political feasibility. It left out policy proposals that had high impact potential but little possibility of implementation as well as proposals that would be easy to pass but generate superficial benefits, Novara says.

Still, some of the recommendations could be a heavy lift. Several would require state approval, and one would require Chicago aldermen to give up some control over development in their districts. Under that proposal, aldermen in wards with less than 10 percent affordable housing would be unable to reject or delay certain projects that include at least 10 percent affordable units. The proposal would be a blow to the tradition of aldermanic privilege. But it could help create a smoother path for affordable housing projects, as Novara wrote in a blog post last month.

But the policy proposals alone won’t eradicate segregation even if they’re all adopted, Novara says. She stressed that the most important aspect of the report is its push to put racial equity at the center of the region’s growth.

“We are on that path as an organization,” Novara says of the Metropolitan Planning Council. “We certainly count ourselves as part of the actors in this region that need to shine this light on ourselves and on our own practices and on our own structures.”

Angelique Power.

Since it took aim at racial equity, the Field Foundation has adopted a new model for its grantmaking, which Power explained in a public letter last summer. The new model makes it easier for organizations to apply for grants, and commits the organization to investing 60 percent of its grants in organizations that are, “by, for, and about” serving African, Latinx, Asian, Arab, and Native American communities. The group, which grants around $2 million a year, also began talking with other foundations in the region about its new focus.

“I don’t think that it’s radical to ask that organizations put racial equity at the center of their work,” Power says. “I think, unfortunately, it’s still radical to actually do it.”


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