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'1000 Steps' to Map Sustainability, Neighborhood Issues Along Broadway

By Alan Neuhauser | February 27, 2013 8:49am

MIDTOWN — It's one of the busiest streets in the world, but Broadway will soon be a place for quiet reflection of art.

The installation "1,000 Steps," designed by Mary Miss in collaboration with City as Living Laboratory, will place  20 "hubs" along the 14-mile length of Broadway, from 240th St. Van Cortlandt Park in The Bronx to Bowling Green in Lower Manhattan.

They're geared toward making Broadway "the new 'green corridor' in New York City" with circular mirrors, colorful placards and painted plazas offering windows into how the nation's most populous city consumes wind, water, energy and other natural resources.

Most stations will pair convex mirrors with colorful placards, each printed with facts and diagrams about city infrastructure and how the Big Apple uses land, energy and water, how it disposes of waste and how it affects air quality.

The signs' messages, bolstered by research conducted by more than 200 college students and scientists, will face away from the sidewalk and toward the mirrors, forcing readers to lean close to read the messages and, in so doing, see their reflections as buses, cars and pedestrians bustle behind them.

"People can see themselves in the context of the city," Miss said, as she presented the exhibition to Community Board 5's Transportation Committee Monday night.

Other stations will trace bright outlines around manhole covers, curbs and sewer grates, name the types of trees planted along Broadway's medians, or even create "an abstract Stonehenge, where you're looking out to focus on water or energy," Miss described.

Some might leave the street untouched, and instead rely merely on a smart-phone application Miss plans to develop with collaborators.

The goal, she said, is to build "a walkable diagram" that will "make sustainability more personal, visual and tangible" and "map the issues along the Broadway corridor, whether it's flooding off Bowling Green…or all the way up to 214th Street where it's the issue of infrastructure," she said.

A test hub was installed at 137th Street in September 2011 during Urban Design Week. Miss and and City as Living Laboratory said they hope to install the full project, estimated to cost $2 to $5 million, by Spring 2014.