There is one unifying theme running throughout what’s been happening recently around us: Do It Yourself. While the federal government has been reimbursing the state and local government for repairs of storm-damaged public works, residents have been largely left to their own devices regarding demolition, mold remediation, and repair. Yes, the volunteers and non-profits have been picking up some of the slack, but basically no direct government help has been available. By and large, Sandy victims still have to hire contractors and provide their own building materials to rebuild their homes. Improvisation is common, and problems remain.
As rebuilding continues, priorities change, and people start thinking about a more distant future. Here in Midland Beach, SIMS is partnering with Occupy Sandy and the New York City Resilience Network to create an urban planning group that will help the neighborhood figure out what it wants to do in the long term. Lacking government action, many of the changes are likely to follow the Tactical Urbanism framework – simple, quick actions that do not require long deliberations or major funding commitments, and can be easy to undo if they are not needed.
Want an example of a simple action that can improve people’s lives? Here’s something YOU can do. If you ever take the bus on Staten Island, you’ve probably used MTA BusTime – the automated way to tell when the next bus is coming. If you haven’t, you may be one those people without access to a cell phone or a nearby computer, which means it can be impossible for you to use BusTime. But since many bus stops are on commercial streets near stores, a Do It Yourself BusTime screen can be the solution to this problem!
It’s simple – talk to a local merchant near a bus stop you frequent. Ask them if they have Internet access and can invest in a computer setup to show BusTime data for the local bus stop. They can even use the screen to show advertising together with bus information and attract new customers to their business!
This is a real, simple change, an interaction that will make the world a little better place. It will make some people a little bit more confident about knowing where their bus is, and perhaps a little less likely to drive their cars – a win-win for all involved.