How often do you think about the tens of thousands of garbage cans on our NYC sidewalks and subway stations, parks and pedestrian plazas? Pretty much never, right? Except when they’re overflowing with trash because of some nearby festival or parade or whatever, and then you say “gross” and go about your day? And what about those other ubiquitous street structures, NYC payphones? Hahahahaha, I know. Even less! Who still uses those (talk about gross!), except advertisers, as billboards?
Well, fortunately for us, there are plenty of industrial designers, urban planners, and city officials giving a great deal of thought to these integral–and often, or at least potentially, extremely useful–parts of the NYC streetscape. And because this IS, after all, the greatest city in the world, where constant change is part of our core character, the results of their efforts might actually be innovative, and improve the daily lives of NYC residents. Or, at least, that’s the direction we seem to heading, with two bits of news last week about the future of the payphones, and trash cans, on New York City streets.
Reinvent Payphones Design Challenge Received a Number of Great Entries
Last December the city announced its Reinvent Payphones Design Challenge, an open call for ideas on how to re-make NYC’s 11,000 existing payphones into something that far more people would actually use (the ad revenue from these sites is substantial, so no way are they just going to tear them down). After sorting through the 125 submissions, Mayor Bloomberg and his panel of entrepreneurs and tech-industry judges announced the five finalists earlier this month, and a sixth, “Popular Choice” winner (voted via Facebook), was crowned last week.
There’s Beacon (above), for example, which combines community and emergency information with that all-important, high-impact advertising capability in a nifty, narrow, 12-foot tower.
There’s also Windchimes (below), which won Best Community Impact, and functions as a crowd-sourced weather station of sorts. Personally, it reminds me of a voting booth, but that’s something else that needs an overhaul.
And there’s Smart Sidewalks (top), which offers communication, sustainability, and wayfinding squeezed into a 6-inch wide interactive strip that folds up from the sidewalk. Who knows what will become of all this, but I’m looking forward to seeing at least one of these futuristic payphone prototypes on the streets in the coming year.
“BigBelly” Solar-powered Bins: Trash Compacting and Recycling
Disposing of NYC’s trash is obviously a massive, enormously expensive undertaking on a daily basis, but last week Mayor Bloomberg and the Times Square Alliance unveiled what could be the wave of the future, when 30 “BigBelly” solar-powered recycling bins were placed throughout the always-mobbed Times Square pedestrian plazas. Times Square attracts a half million visitors each day, who leave behind 15,300 pounds of garbage–or about 900 bags worth–so the automatic, solar-powered compacting that goes on within these bins will go a long way toward lightening the load.
Plus, the BigBelly bins are monitored remotely, lessening the chance of overflow. Though these bins (or similar) have been somewhat haphazardly scattered throughout the city for a few years now, Bloomberg announced that the Times Square initiative was just the beginning of the City’s plan to place 1,000 new recycling bins on streets in all five boroughs by the end of 2013. The ultimate goal is to double NYC’s total recycling rate from 15% today to 30% by 2017. Cleaner AND greener! Go NYC!