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Archive for September, 2015

Where Every Street is Named 60th

Kevin Walsh has a useful primer on the enigmatic pattern to Queens street numbering at Forgotten NY, and how it becomes all Sorcerer’s Apprentice in one section of Maspeth.

The 1920s decision to number almost every street in Queens is a great early example of a 20th-century planning initiative where ambition outstrips logic. I mean, if the various neighborhoods of Queens had simply been allowed to retain the street names that they’d had as the towns and cities that once composed the western portion of Queens County, Long Island, then their character would have been better preserved over the years; and people would have been no more lost in Queens than they are today. Moreover, new streets could have been added to these locales with their own unique names, deepening the character of these places.

Instead, we have this:

So communities, some of which date from the time of New Amsterdam, are robbed of an important part of their history to create a system that adds almost no logic or clarity to the layout of the modern city. The irony is that the one potential benefit of this grand attempt to ensure that no two places in the borough would share the same address might have been the establishment of a unified post office for the borough. Yet Queens remains the only New York City borough without a unified post office. So, for example, people there still have their mail addressed to Long Island City, Flushing, Jamaica, or Far Rockaway, rather than, simply, Queens, New York. The legacy of the old towns survives; just not in very many meaningful street names.

I’m inclined to think that a lot of these old street names will be recovered soon, especially in historic town centers, as real estate values increase and sellers want to highlight examples of local history and character.

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Up Next: Self-Healing Concrete

Emily Matchar at Smithsonian.com has an article on the state of the art of self-healing concrete. The concept:

Inspired by the human body, Jonkers [the inventor], who works at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, created self-healing concrete. He embeds the concrete with capsules of limestone-producing bacteria, either Bacillus pseudofirmus or Sporosarcina pasteurii, along with calcium lactate. When the concrete cracks, air and moisture trigger the bacteria to begin munching on the calcium lactate. They convert the calcium lactate to calcite, an ingredient in limestone, thus sealing off the cracks.

The article notes that the embedded bacteria can remain dormant in the material for more than 200 years. The current high price — about $40 per square meter — means that the material will likely be reserved for use in special situations, for the time being, such as underground and underwater structures. Meanwhile, Nwakibe Kanu at HAKSblog provides a somewhat broader survey of self-healing materials. He writes:

Other self-healing materials have built-in microcapsules filled with a glue-like chemical that can repair damage. If the material cracks, the capsules break, exposing the healing agent and sealing the crack. It is possible that such a mix will be viable on a large scale within the next five years.

This is all pretty awesome.

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