Growing Safer Trees


Dominique Browning provides tips:

As a rule, in this day and age, large trees shouldn’t be hanging over a house, unless you don’t mind living dangerously. Trees near a house are okay, so long as they have lots of space for their roots. But all too often we’re squeezing trees into lousy spaces, especially trees on the strips next to sidewalks in cities and towns alike, or the trees growing out of rocky outcroppings, whose roots are compromised.

What usually makes these trees vulnerable is poor drainage. The ground gets very wet, water doesn’t drain properly because there’s nowhere for it to go, and then the trees lose their footing, so to speak. Up and over they go. Tree roots are surprisingly shallow. If you go look closely at an overturned tree, you’ll be amazed at how little root system there is for such a big creature. Especially if the roots have been constricted by substructure concrete for roadbeds. Trees need to spread their roots to be more stable.

(A car crushed by a tree following Hurricane Sandy on October 30, 2012 in the Financial District of New York, United States. By Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Inundated Art

Jerry Saltz walks through Chelsea and reports that "a huge part of the New York art world has suffered a colossal blow":

Widespread devastation was in painful evidence in scores and scores of ground floor galleries between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues. Almost every ground floor gallery had been inundated with four or more feet of water. All of the many basement storage facilities were flooded. Computers and desk equipment were wiped out. Reams and reams of irretrievable historical material stored in notebooks and gallery files were washed away, destroyed. Sculptures, crates, furniture, and paintings floated inside water-filled galleries, ramming walls and other works of art. Whole shows were destroyed.

Many of the businesses may not recover:

I asked dealers if they had insurance. Most have it for the work. Some have it for flood damage. Most don't have any insurance other than on the art. This could spell the end of many galleries small and large.

Many ridicule Chelsea galleries as flesh-eating pariahs. I think they're part of our life blood, the collective organism that in many ways makes New York one of the most thriving centers for art on earth. These ridiculed and reviled galleries are places you can go for free, run by strange people with visions who want to help artists by showing and selling their work. It's become an international pastime to attack these galleries simply for being what they are: large and commercial. I love them. All. More than ever.

Hyperallergic is tracking the damage to studios and galleries acrosss the city here, here and here. ArtInfo profiles the devastation in Greenpoint, Brooklyn here.

The Marathon Must Go On? Ctd

A reader writes:

I seem to be in a very small minority here but I think canceling the NYC marathon was a stupid idea. Or, more accurately, people wanting to cancel the marathon (you included) are misinformed and mal-intentioned. It's hard to blame Bloomberg and the people who put the marathon on since the growing protests more or less forced their hands.

The marathon brings a $340 million dollar economic boost to the area. Considering that this storm is estimated to cost us $50 billion $, I think it's quite shortsighted to turn that down. Some of the biggest beneficiaries from this marathon windfall are restaurants, which are some of the hardest hit businesses from the storm. The marathon pays the city $1.6 million to put on the marathon. Will this telethon that is on right now even raise that much?

Logistically, the marathon is doable. We have 35,000 police officers. Having 500-1000 of them spend six hours directing traffic to reap a nice economic boom for the area is not a misapplication of resources. Furthermore, these resources (water, generators, volunteers, hotel rooms) are not zero-sum.  Cancelling the marathon is not going to make them magically help with the recovery. Those generators that were to power the finish line area weren't pulled away from powering homes in Staten Island.

Traffic could be an issue but most of the subway system will be back up by Sunday. The buses are all back. The ferry is back. The city is getting back to normal. The city makes this marathon work each year in regards to emergency vehicles. Not that emergency vehicles are even a huge issue at the moment – the storm was almost a week ago and it's not like there are a lot of urgent medical issues.

Some people say it's "too soon". When is it not too soon? There [was a Knicks game last night] at Madison Square Garden. How is that not inappropriate at this time? It's also drawing away resources (police, food, etc). Why are we allowing this to go on? Staten Island was hard hit but the Staten Island Mall is open. How is waiting in line at the Apple store for an iPad Mini not more "disrespectful" than running a marathon?

I can understand the frustration, especially in Staten Island. One reader pointed out the anger at the police gathering for the marathon but ignoring looters a few miles away. This is an issue but it's a logistic issue. Furthermore, this issue would exist without the marathon. The NYPD has more than enough officers (35,000, as mentioned above) – it's just a matter of making sure they get where they need to be. That is the issue, not the marathon.

Perhaps I'm biased as a runner, but marathons are about hard work and sacrifice as you work towards an end goal. The values that a marathon represents are the values that NYC needs right now. Even more so, the NYC Marathon is about community and pulling together as a unified five-borough city. This is what we need now. We should have gotten up early on Sunday, cheered the runners on as they went by, and then gone and volunteered the rest of the day. Instead, New Yorkers sat at their computers, bitched about it, and inadvertently gave businesses in the area another kick while they were down.

Face Of The Day


A local resident collects sandwiches from a streetside aid distribution center set up by the Christian International Center in the Staten Island borough of New York City on November 2, 2012. Hundreds of thousands of people in Staten Island remain without electricity in areas affected by superstorm Sandy. By John Moore/Getty Images.

Insuring Against Disaster


It's becoming increasingly expensive:

On Oct. 17 the giant German reinsurance company Munich Re issued a prescient report titled Severe Weather in North America. Globally, the rate of extreme weather events is rising, and “nowhere in the world is the rising number of natural catastrophes more evident than in North America.”

From 1980 through 2011, weather disasters caused losses totaling $1.06 trillion. Munich Re found “a nearly quintupled number of weather-related loss events in North America for the past three decades.” By contrast, there was “an increase factor of 4 in Asia, 2.5 in Africa, 2 in Europe, and 1.5 in South America.” Human-caused climate change “is believed to contribute to this trend,” the report said, “though it influences various perils in different ways.”

Sarah Kliff digs in on actuarial forecasting:

Insurers traditionally look back at historical experience to price their premiums. That’s how they justify any premium rate increases to the regulators that approve the prices they charge. That data, however, are becoming less reliable for two reasons. First, there’s the increased frequency of extreme weather events, which you can see charted [above].

Then, there’s also growing population density: If more people live in a small area, and a weather event strikes, that’s more businesses and homeowners likely to file property claims. Taken together, McHale makes the case that these factors are driving up the number of weather-related claims that property insurers pay out. 

The Marathon Must Go On? Ctd


Daniel Gross considers the logistics:

The marathon can?’t work without a fully functioning transit system. On no day in New York is the underground transportation system more vital. Several bridges are essentially closed for the day—the Verrazano-Narrows, the 59th Street Bridge, the Willis Avenue Bridge, and the Madison Avenue Bridge. In many areas of the city, it is impossible to get across certain streets above ground. And the street closures and huge concentrations of people in Manhattan have huge ripple effects. With the region?’s train and subway systems not yet completely operational, getting around will be very difficult for everybody, from? marathon runners and spectators to New Yorkers who have no interest in the race.

A reader writes:

I was happy to see you finally feature Staten Island on your blog. I have a good friend who lives out there and she says the devastation is unbelievable.  She just about started crying when she found out that policemen were getting sent to supervise the marathon, while her own neighborhood is experiencing looting and with no one out patrolling the streets and with people from the area still missing. 

I heard the Red Cross didn't get into Staten Island at all under yesterday, and she said she's personally seen no sign of them.  My friend is okay – she's lucky, with minimal damage and power back on.  But she's worried about her neighbors and I think we should be, too.


The next few days are crucial for Bloomberg, Cuomo, and even Obama to get ahead of this thing. If the marathon goes on and power is still not restored to most/all of NYC, there will be a backlash. People are starting to get pissed. And it's only the beginning. The next few days could be the difference between Sandy becoming another Katrina.

I know a lot of people read your blog. And people that have Obama's ear read your blog. You need to start a movement asking officials to postpone the marathon. Maybe it's too late. But it would be the wise and prudent thing to do.

Above image from Buzzfeed's collection of "21 Pictures Of Staten Island Near The NYC Marathon Starting Line." Earlier backlash here.

Big Government Hurricane Prediction

James Kwak makes the case for it from a cost perspective:

There’s a strong case to be made that hurricane research is one area where a small amount of taxpayer spending has had huge public benefits. That argument is made by Jeff Masters of Weather Underground … [A]s I discussed in a previous post, it is highly likely that more accurate forecasts have saved tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in unnecessary evacuations for each large hurricane.