Welcome to the latest installment in the weekly New York State of Mind Amoeblog from the Big Apple where - following some unbearably hot and humid weather just a few weeks ago - temperatures have been most pleasant for this past week. In fact a few nights ago, when temps dropped to the (gasp) 50's, many New Yorkers were complaining that it was "too cold" (a rarity in the summertime here). But while temps may have dropped, according to a new NYU report released this week, New York City rents have been steadily climbing with the current median rent / percentage share of monthly income going just to rent clocking in at 32.5% with the current rent in New York City averaging at a little over $3,000 a month. But despite these statistics about the high cost of rent and the reputation that NYC holds as being a most expensive place to live or spend time in, it should be stressed that New York City can also simultaneously be one of the cheapest / most affordable places to be (especially in the summer) with oodles of bargains, and free stuff, and good deals to chose from. Case in point is the CitiBike program that was reviewed here in this column a month ago by guest Amoeblogger Jason Snyder not long after the program had gotten underway. Since then the affordable ($100 a year for unlimited usage) bike share program has grown in popularity and, despite the wave of protests and negative response it endured before it even started, has proven the naysayers wrong and shown itself to be a most successful project.
Statistics show that over one million trips were taken in the first 49 days since the program launched with approximately combined 4 million miles cycled by members to date. Those members, folks like myself who registered for the full one year period (you can also purchase one day/ 24 hour passes at $10 a pop), have grown substantially with a growth of membership by over 280% since the system launched back on May 27th. Since then the call center staff (who are there 24/7 to answer any queries) and the support team who come out and fix and replace damaged bikes have been doing an outstanding job. And as word-of-mouth among New Yorkers on what great a system it is spreads the new membership figures continue to grow which is both is a good thing and a bad thing. The bad part is that if it continues this growth spurt there may not be enough bikes to fill the demand. But for now it is perfect offering a wonderful healthy way to both explore New York City and to get to far reaching places that subways and buses don't reach. For more info on the New York City CitiBike share program.
A place to bike or stroll through is the Summer Streets program that begins its new season run this weekend when, for three Saturdays in a row this month, Lafayette Street into Park Avenue - from Brooklyn Bridge up to 72nd Street - will be closed to cars and open to foot and bicycle traffic only. Now in its sixth year this annual summer event makes wonderful use of one of NYC's greatest resources - its streets. Adding up to approx seven miles of open streets, including five rest stops along the way plus, there's plenty to see/do at the free Summer Streets celebration. The best part of this year's event will be the seven-block-long art installation in the Park Avenue Tunnel - usually bustling with noisy gas emitting vehicles - that will be open to pedestrians for the first time in history. From 7am to 1pm each Saturday the 1,400 foot long Park Avenue Tunnel, which runs from East 33rd to East 40th Streets, will be transformed into Voice Tunnel which will be an interactive light and sound installation by Mexican-Canadian artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer. Voice Tunnel will feature 300 theatrical spotlights that will become glimmering arches of light along the tunnel’s walls and ceiling. According to the organizers "Participants will be able to influence the intensity of each light by speaking into a special intercom at the tunnel’s center which records their voice and loops it. Louder speech will increase the lights’ brightness proportionally, creating a Morse-like code of flashes throughout the tunnel. The individual voices will be heard as pedestrians walk through the tunnel, on 150 loudspeakers, one beside each light arch and synchronized with it." Check out the accompanying map of Summer Streets which happens this Saturday (August 10th) and the following two Saturdays (Aug 17th and 24th). More info here.
Lots of events going on in the week ahead in NYC (most free too) including the big Dominican Day Parade down Sixth Avenue on Sunday 10am to 1pm. On Saturday at 3pm is the free four hour 40th year anniversary of hip-hop with (founding father) Kool Herc and a slew of iconic guests at Summerstage in Central Park. The following day Sunday August 11th, which is the actual birthday date, will be a follow event (also produced by Summerstage) at Long Island City graffiti mecca 5Pointz with Kool Herc and others from 5pm to 7pm. It is also free. I will report in detail on these events in the coming week here on the Amoeblog. Through the end of this week (Sunday August 11th) music, dance, and spoken word all collide at the Lincoln Center For The Performing Arts for the ongoing fun and free Lincoln Center Out of Doors summer program. Tonight at 730pm salsa star and actor Rubén Blades performs at the Damrosch Park Bandshell. On Friday Aug 9th at 6:30pm Hungry March Band will bring "edgy steam-punk underground circus accompanied by raucous brass anarchists" celebrating Gemini & Scorpio's tenth anniversary at the Josie Robertson Plaza. And on Saturday at 6pm American rock n roll roots fans will enjoy the all star The Rockin' Rockabilly Revue with James Burton, Charlie Gracie, Sleepy LaBeef, Johnny Powers, and Gene Summers. That one is at Damrosch Park Bandshell. There's plenty more shows scheduled too. More info.
On Friday this week Queens by the beach will be the place to be when CreativeTime present their second annual Artist Sandcastle Competition at a post-Sandy Rockaway Beach in Queens at 86th Street. The all day event is free and open to the public with the sandcastle building starting at 2pm and judging at 5pm. More info on flyer left and online here.
It's still a couple of weeks away (August 24/25) to this year's Afro Punk Fest but some new names have just been added to what promises to be the best year yet in the unique music festival with a 2013 lineup that will include Living Colour, The White Mandingos, Pyyramids, Questlove, Saul Williams, The Coup, Mykki Blanco, K-OS, Big Freedia, and many more. Will do a more detailed run-down in the coming weeks here. Meantime get tickets and additional info on this must-attend event here.