Floral furnishings, art practice, magic moments and glitter cocktail


Some magic moments this week:

1. Coming home to flowers.

On Tuesday I came home and found these gorgeous purple flowers on top of my boyfriend's bike. It was a nice surprise and later this week my and Jeremy went to Da Hing flower shop and got some plants to decorate our new apartment. 

 Plants at Da Hing Flower Shop

Plants at Da Hing Flower Shop


2. Leon Golub at the Met Breuer.

Met up for a meeting at the Met Breuer and got to spend time seeing amazing work by Leon Golub. 


3. Art practice time. 

I started an embroidery class this week at the Textile Arts Center.  I also started a writing prompt exercise with my boyfriend. 

 Bruno Smith

Bruno Smith


4. Art gallery wandering in the Lower East Side.

5. Pasta in Little Italy. No photo because we ate it too fast. 


6. The surprise glitter cocktail from Nitecap.


7. Looking up under the bridge in DUMBO.


8. Walking and talking with two ladies I met at the Grand station when the F was not running back to Manhattan. 

Mini Walking Audit of the Blocks around my Neighborhood

For my ULI Health Leaders Network program, I had to perform a mini audit of the blocks around my neighborhood. I thought it would be interesting to share as my post for this week. I am using criteria from the Building Healthy Places Toolkit by ULI


I recently moved to the Lower East Side in Manhattan, New York City and performed a mini walking audit of the four blocks around my house. I may have gone more than a few blocks in some directions as the blocks in lower Manhattan are much smaller than upper Manhattan and it is easy to walk further than you may have intended.

The Lower East Side has a population of 80,855 people and is relatively diverse, being 20.3% White, 24.8% Hispanic, 8% Black, 43.8% Asian, and 3% mixed or other, according to the US Census. To the North is the East Village, to the West Little Italy and Chinatown, and to the Southwest is the Financial District. When walking around, there is a lovely mix of people from various ethnic, linguistic, and socio-economic backgrounds.

 Empty retail on Delancey Street

Empty retail on Delancey Street

1. Incorporate a mix of land uses

I live in a coop unit with retail on the first floor. The surrounding blocks around my building also have retail on the first floor which creates a wide range of services and goods available in a very small radius from my home. Directly beneath my building is a ramen shop, a bike shop, a bar, and a psychic. The services in my building alone demonstrate the variety of retail that is available in my neighborhood and may encourage more activity at the street level than a neighborhood without first floor retail.

Attorney Street in LES.JPG

There are also schools, cultural institutions, small pocket parks, and the Williamsburg bridge in the surrounding blocks, enabling a true mix of land uses.


While there is a good variety of land use and types of businesses, there are also quite a few vacant storefronts. One recommendation is to fill the vacant storefronts. In the few blocks around my building I came across a handful of vacant storefronts which created gaping holes in an otherwise fun walk around the block(s). Some had signs on them indicating that they were available to rent, but others just looked forgotten. I fear that the price of land and/or the size of the space, being rather large in some retail spaces, may prohibit new businesses from coming into the neighborhood. Until these empty retail spaces are filled and activated with buzzing businesses, the block will continue to feel a little bit empty.


2. Design well-connected street networks at the human scale.

3. Provide sidewalks and enticing pedestrian-oriented streetscapes.

There are some areas around my building where the streets are clearly marked and the streets are well-connected, and other areas where there isn’t a clear connection to another street or where vehicles dominate the street, making it hard to cross or gather.


I recommend repainting existing sidewalks and street signage, and also creating more inviting areas for pedestrians to take a rest or gather on the street. In areas where it is feasible, I recommend actually widening the sidewalk to create more space for pedestrians. I also recommend filling the vacant retail so that there is more of a reason to walk streets that may be more void of retail options.



4. Provide infrastructure to support biking.

There is a bike trail that comes off the Williamsburg bridge and provides a great path through the neighborhood, however it is not well marked and the paint is fainting.


I recommend repainting all the bike lanes and upgrading signage so it is more clear where a biker should go. I also recommend adding more bicycle parking and even bike storage to encourage more locals to use their bikes. For example, I live in a fourth floor walk up and have a bike. I would be more encouraged to use it if I had safe bike storage at the street level where I could keep my bike and also if there were more places where I could lock it if I am using it to run errands.


5. Design visible and enticing stairs to encourage everyday use.

6. Install stair prompts and signage.

There are not any outdoor or visible stairs in my neighborhood, but many of the buildings do not have elevators and thus force stair usage if one is to get above the first floor. There are a few retail spaces that are below grade and have a few steps to their basement space, but this actually deters potential customers and isn’t particularly helpful to one’s daily health.  

The benefits of this are that the neighborhood is easier to get around for those in wheelchairs because there aren’t any stairs.


7. Provide high-quality spaces for multi-generational play and recreation.

8. Build play spaces for children.

There are a few schools with playgrounds and basketball courts in the blocks around my building, but none look like they are open to the general public nor seem to encourage any multi-generational play or recreation.


I recommend that the recreational spaces are opened up to the public when not in use by the schools and that there is also some public funding provided for multi-generational programming. Something like a shuffleboard court with some organized games could encourage this kind of physical activity and be accessible to people of various ages and socio-economic backgrounds.


9. Accommodate a grocery store

10. Host a farmers market

There is one bodega a few blocks from my house, but it doesn’t have a very large selection of fresh fruits and vegetables. Fortunately, the Essex Street Market is only 4 blocks from my house and has a great selection of produce and other food items. I think there used to be a grocery store a few blocks from my house, but it now looks vacant.


A farmers market including vendors from the Essex Street Market and local cafes and restaurants would be a great way to bring awareness to the existing food options and encourage some social gathering in the streets or buffer areas.


11. Promote healthy food retail

There are a few fast food options in the blocks near my house, including a $0.99 pizza slice spot and an empanada food truck. While I am not thrilled about the Burger King, the pizza spot and empanada stand are actually really great options for someone who is on a budget and needs a high fat food item to fill their stomach. These spots also add to lively street life because people are often lingering in the street waiting for their food or eating with friends.


I recommend mandating that large fast food companies, like Burger King, include low cost, quality food options to their menus as well as find retailers that provide healthy options at an affordable price to fill the empty retail storefronts. This could even be done by setting up a shell space and facilitating a rotating pop-up of vendors to see what would be a good fit.

12. Support on-site gardening and farming

There is one pocket park a few blocks from my house, but it is just a collection of benches that face each other.


Add a gardening plot so there is some greenery and something to do in this plot of land.

13. Enhance access to drinking water

There were no visible areas to get drinking water.


Add drinking fountains and dog water fountains at every block.

14. Ban Smoking

As far as I know, smoking is not banned. However, I think this would be hard to enforce in public space.

15. Use materials and products that support healthy indoor air quality

16. Facilitate proper ventilation and airflow

17. Maximize indoor lighting quality

18. Minimize noise pollution

I could not tell from the walking audit if these things are in place in the buildings near my building, however I do know that my unit has double-paned windows and that has greatly lessened the noise we hear from the street. Implementing this in all buildings would definitely minimize noise pollution for tenants.


19. Increase access to nature

Because it is still winter, I am not sure how many trees are actually in the neighborhood, but it does seem like there are some!


Plant more trees and add planters and other elements that could include greenery to the sidewalks and areas that have wide plaza spaces. Add trees and greenery to the pocket park and give a grant to retail spaces so they could add more greenery to their storefronts.


20. Facilitate social engagement

While there is a vibrant street life, it does seem like most people are going from point A to point B. Strangers do not seem to talk to each other, unless in a retail store or soliciting.


Provide a fund for locals to use to organize their own social gatherings and use criteria that encourages intergenerational and diverse inclusion. Create more spaces where people can gather outside without having to purchase something.


21. Adopt pet-friendly policies

I am not sure how many buildings are pet friendly, but I did not see one area to let a dog relieve herself or get fresh water.


Create an area where dogs could go to the bathroom and also drink fresh water. A mini dog park that is well maintained would be a great goal. It would also provide a space for dog owners to socialize and for those of us who do not have dogs to watch dogs play.


Moving Update: Finding an apartment in LES and our new place!

I recently moved to New York City. I moved in with my boyfriend and we are both still unpacking and getting settled. I've gone through a lot of changes in the last few months and it is really great to get started in a new city, even if things have been a little bit stressful. 

It was hard to find an apartment that we both loved, was a good size, was within our budget, and was in Manhattan, but not impossible! We came out from DC for a long weekend, a Thursday through Sunday, in the middle of January and had our own little House Hunters. Jeremy, my boyfriend, was a little reluctant to go to Upper-anywhere and was more insistent on laundry in building than I was, but other than that we agreed on most things. So instead of passive-aggressive arguments we just had a lot of coffee and overpriced snacks between tours. We had a really tense week after we found our dream apartment -- a 1-bedroom at the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge in the Lower East Side -- but once we got past the pay stub hump, the rental history explanations, and the co-op application, we were able to celebrate with some champagne and start packing. 

Tips for finding an apartment in Manhattan:

  • Ask friends for a broker recommendation. We saw some really crappy apartments with some shady brokers, or rather people who may or may not be brokers that we found on Craigslist. It's not that Craigslist isn't helpful, it is, but going with a reputable broker will make the process a lot easier. You can find an ok apartment without a broker, but we did not and we didn't have time to wait it out. If you are looking for a room in a house/apartment, try something like this Facebook group
  • Have all your paperwork ready to go before you start tours. This includes: 
    • Letters of Reference from past landlords. I suggest getting these before you leave your prior apartment, because it will be annoying to track down your landlord later and these may become time sensitive. We were asked for a letter of reference after we already started the application process and thankfully my last landlord pulled through for us quickly.
    • A lot of cash -- there's the broker's fee, which is usually about 15% of one year's rent, the security deposit, including first and last month's rent, and anything else that might come up, like an application fee. You often will need it in the form of a certified check, which means you should be conscious of where your bank is and when it is open to make sure getting your money doesn't prevent you from getting your dream apartment. You may also have the option of taking the apartment off the market if you pay a deposit, which we did, so you'll want to factor that cost into the cash you will need ready. 
    • Pay stubs. If you are like us and are self-employed, you should have a contract ready that shows ongoing work, or your business's books in order to share. If you have a willing client, have them write you a letter saying the kind of work you can expect as some proof that you get paid regularly. If you don't have any of those things, you might want to have a guarantor ready just in case, with all of their paperwork. Fortunately, we ended up not needing one.
    • Last two years of tax returns.
  • Be patient, but don't hesitate when you find the right place. If it checks all your boxes and you have a really good feeling about a place, you should apply immediately, as apartments go very fast.
  • Be realistic. If you have a budget, stick to it. Brokers are likely going to push it anyway. 
  • View as many as you can. We viewed almost 20 apartments, some that were a little out of our price range or outside of the bounds of our ideal location, but this made us even more confident about our final choice. 

Good luck finding an apartment! 

Here are photos from our place -- I'll update on our decor progress soon, but right now it's time to bust more boxes open and get organized. 

 When you first walk in there is a mini-kitchen area, with a washer and dryer, stove and oven, dishwasher, and microwave. Down the hall is the bathroom and some closet space. 

When you first walk in there is a mini-kitchen area, with a washer and dryer, stove and oven, dishwasher, and microwave. Down the hall is the bathroom and some closet space. 

 Our living room has exposed brick and while it doesn't get a ton of natural light, it is a really cozy space. 

Our living room has exposed brick and while it doesn't get a ton of natural light, it is a really cozy space. 

 The bedroom is the highlight of our apartment. You have an amazing view of the bridge, sky, high rises, and even the Chrysler Building. The double-pane windows keep it pretty quiet for being right next to the bridge. And there is also exposed brick! 

The bedroom is the highlight of our apartment. You have an amazing view of the bridge, sky, high rises, and even the Chrysler Building. The double-pane windows keep it pretty quiet for being right next to the bridge. And there is also exposed brick!