There are a lot of sources of inspiration behind this site but here are three:
1. Jane Jacobs: “…please look closely at real cities. While you are looking, you might as well also listen, linger and think about what you see.”
In “The Death and Life of Great American Cities”, first published in 1961, Jane Jacobs describes factors that make city environments a success or a failure. Her ideas are based on close observation.
A lot of her ingredients of a successful city apply to Astoria today. Among them are: the need for diverse functions operating alongside each other (workplaces, accommodation, leisure, education etc.), which ensures the streets are used by different people at different times throughout the day; short blocks; and a high concentration of people.
Oh and one more wonderful sentence in her book (there are many): “When we deal with cities we are dealing with life at its most complex and intense.”
2. National Geographic’s Genographic Project: “The Astoria section of Queens, New York, is one of the most ethnically diverse communities on Earth.”
Spencer Wells is a researcher with National Geographic and IBM’s Genographic Project. The project is collecting genetic markers from people all over the world, to tell the story of human migration since early humans left Africa about 60,000 years ago. He wondered if “it would be possible to sample all the major lineages on Earth on a single street.” In 2008, he collected DNA samples from people at the 30th Ave street fair in Astoria. He found traces for all the genetic markers except one.
3. Emily Bell: “…Of the web not just on the web”
“Of the web not just on the web” is how Emily Bell, former editor of the Guardian Unlimited, described that paper’s approach to online journalism. I have adopted that phrase to reflect how 30thAve.org is an active website. It is intended to be a conversation between the street itself, the wider world, and back to the street itself.
Emily Bell, like me, is now an Englishwoman in New York, where she is the first Director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism.