When was the last time you found yourself on a city street, empty water bottle or given-up-on crossword in hand? Being the conscientious New Yorker you are, no doubt you looked around for a recycling bin to deposit your refuse in. Odds are, you didn't find any nearby, as the city—so often held up as a green beacon—is woefully lacking in recycling receptacles. That could change soon, with the passage of a package of recycling-related legislation that was unveiled just before Earth Day last month. Since the launch of a public recycling pilot program in 2007, there are now 300 bins scattered across the city. The council hopes to double that number within three years of the legislation's passage and increase it to 1,000 within a decade. But the city has a long way to go, considering there are more than 25,000 "corner baskets" located in the five boroughs. Today, Council Speaker Christine Quinn and some of her greener colleagues took a trip up to Astoria to check up on the recycling bins there as part of the pilot program and urge New Yorkers to lobby for more of them. “Next time you walk through your local park or down a major commercial strip, take a quick glance into one of the public waste baskets," Quinn said in a statemtn. "I guarantee you it will be brimming with newspapers, magazines, plastic bottles, and soda cans—all of which can and should be recycled. As we head into summer and New Yorkers and tourists spend more time outdoors at our world-famous public attractions, this bill will give them the to opportunity to pitch in and recycle, and make our city an even cleaner and greener place.” While the council's initial efforts may seem meager, an official said that they would be conspicuously located in high-traffic locations, such as parks and major thoroughfares, allowing a limited number of cans to meet a considerable amount of the city's recycling needs. Also, the council continues to negotiate with the Department of Sanitation, meaning there could be more bins on the way. Given that another piece of the recycling legislation is the capacity to finally recycle paint, certain hazard waste, and plastic beyond those items labeled 1 and 2—now including takeout containers and juice bottles—it seems like this is the least, though certainly not the most, the city could do.
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Friend of AN and Slought Foundation executive director Aaron Levy sends the following dispatch from his "Repurpose!" event from last weekend: When the Into the Open exhibition moved in to the National Constitution Center and the Slought Foundation in Philadelphia in July after stints in New York and before that Venice, where it was last year’s Biennale entry (curated by myself, Andrew Sturm, and AN founding editor William Menking), we decided we wanted to do some community outreach in the spirit of the civic activism promoted by the architects and designers in the exhibition. And so, with the help of the National Constitution Center, the Slought Foundation, and the Community Design Collaborative, we presented “Repurpose!,” a one-day community workshop and design competition highlighting the creative possibilities of urban revitalization in the Mantua neighborhood in West Philadelphia. The photos you see on this page were all taken during the Repurpose event, during which we built a canopy of rope and recycled plastic bottles with people from the neighborhood. The design was based on the geometry of common laundry lines and provided shade and festivity for the day's events. We collected over 1500 plastic bottles for the canopy from business owners in the neighborhood, nearby churches, the National Constitution Center, and the Philadelphia Phillies stadium, and it is in this sense that we like to think of the bottles as representing Philadelphia itself The canopy project was a collaboration between architects Srdjan Jovanovic Weiss (Normal Architecture Office), Brian Phillips (Interface Studio Architects), and Lindsay Bremner of Temple University. Repurpose took place on a vacant lot at 611-627 N. 40th Street. The number of such abandoned lots in Philadelphia is estimated to exceed 30,000, while the number of abandoned houses exceeds 50,000. The lot we used for Repurpose is currently slated to become Jannie’s Place, the site of new affordable housing units named after Philadelphia City Council member Jannie L. Blackwell, who spoke at the event along with Gloria Guard, president of the People’s Emergency Center Community Development Corporation, an outreach group serving West Philadelphia that co-sponsored the event. Over the course of the day, we learned that a crowd of 10,000 people had gathered here in 1965 to hear Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. hail the growing Civil Rights movements across the country. A video of that speech from the Scribe Video Center was screened later in the day. Earlier that morning we also participated in a community workshop titled "What is affordable housing?" led by Rosten Woo and Christine Gaspar of the Center for Urban Pedagogy in Brooklyn. Throughout the course of the day we distributed over 70 recycling bins to the neighborhood, in collaboration with the City of Philadelphia's Office of Sustainability. As part of the day's events, we also placed a 1500-pound block of crushed plastic bottles, courtesy of Blue Mountain Recycling, in front of the People's Emergency Center’s Rowan House headquarters, to show the community what happens to their recyclables after it is picked up from the curb and deposited at the sorting facility. While the structure that Srdjan, Brian and Lindsay devised was obviously a physical one, we also like to think of it as a social structure, in that it brought together for the first time we can remember in Philadelphia a remarkable collaboration of non-profits, city agencies, architects and individuals. We hope that the project leads to more like-minded initiatives to literally "repurpose" vacant lots throughout the city, and in so doing to re-imagine Philadelphia's future.