Building A Better Sidewalk

Subway grates and sidewalk beds

Recently in Scientific American, Better Sidewalks Could Bring Improved Public Health:
A new report recommends 43 public health changes that can make big improvements in overcoming preventable diseases. “To arrive at their recommendations, researchers reviewed more than a thousand studies of public health. Their findings are in the American Heart Association journal, Circulation. [Dariush Mozaffarian et al., Population Approaches to Improve Diet, Physical Activity and Smoking Habits.]  Some surprisingly simple suggestions could be easiest to institute. (For instance) try improving sidewalks and visual appeal of neighborhoods to make people want to walk, bike, or run more often.”

Around the corner from my Brooklyn apartment, policy makers have put the sidewalk recommendation into action. For quite awhile now, like maybe two years, the NYC Department of Design and Construction have been working on the Eastern Parkway Reconstruction Project from Washington Avenue at the Brooklyn Museum to Grand Army Plaza. They installed water mains and sewer replacements and now they are finishing up the pavement, curbs, sidewalks, bike path, catch basins, pedestrian ramps, green spaces, street lighting, and traffic signals. The job is nearly finished.

And so, this is a public health project in action, a benefit of city living, not so “surprisingly simple,” but easier than beating down each individual to change. I, for one, need no encouragement to use the sidewalks and bike path.

Your thoughts: Does your town have good sidewalks?

Little Green Algae Saves the Day

Truth be told, it’s going outside that gets me to exercise at all. I’m dependent on the beauty of nature. The gym is not for me. On most days, I walk outside in the gardens and parks and on the sidewalks because I don’t own a car. I made a Prospect Park Pinterest page to post some of the photos I take in Brooklyn’s Botanic Garden and Prospect Park with my crappy phone. This week I am gaga about the pond scum – algae – growing on the water in the ancient artificial pond in The Vale of Cashmere. The Vale is aptly described as “a strangely forsaken forest idyll in Prospect Park” in this photo essay. The lush formal garden is sunk into a glacial kettle where the wildlife live and play.

I ♥ Pond Scum

Pond scum – algae – are as much animal as plant. They contain chlorophyll and other plant pigments, but they don’t have stems, roots, or leaves. They have a true nucleus (plant cells do not) enclosed in a cell membrane with lots of DNA functions going on inside.

Someday, algae could save the world. Scientists are growing algae that convert sugars into hydrocarbon fuel to replace oil, plus algae can convert sugars into fat that, compared to traditional fats, has a healthier nutrient composition, a smooth mouth-feel and a rich taste that makes it perfect for baked goods. This new, sustainable fat works as a partial substitute for butter, eggs and even meat and growing it takes up so little space. We already eat algae as carrageenan, Irish moss seaweed, in ice cream, soy milk, and beer. Craig Venter, algae geneticist and entrepreneur, tells Scientific American, “Algae is a farming problem: growing, harvesting, extracting. It’s a work in progress, and we’re working hard.”

Pond scum saves the world! How great is that?

Your thoughts: Are you an algae fan?

October Snow in Prospect Park

I’ve been told many times, “I could never live in New York City always being surrounded by people.”  They don’t believe it’s possible to enjoy nature in (relative) seclusion here. But, to prove it, I took pictures in Prospect Park yesterday after the snow storm. My route was Grand Army Plaza to Long Meadow, the Ravine, and then across and out by the Bandshell at 9th Street and Prospect Park West. The leaves on the trees survived well and the air smelled so sweet. (I took the photos with an iPhone 3G, I say with some embarrassment. Oh well, I’m not a material girl.)