New York’s Solar Power Industry Faces Setbacks, and Other News

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A series of setbacks is making New York’s solar power industry economically unviable.

Though New York has divested from coal and prioritized resilience in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, the city has recently become more dependent on fossil fuels. The nuclear plant that provided most of the city’s zero-carbon electricity recently shut down and plans to build a transmission line to carry hydropower down the Hudson River have floundered. Though solar power once proved promising, a state program that once financed solar panel installation on rooftops throughout the city will run out of money before the end of the summer because a loophole permitted fossil fuel infrastructure to use up a major chunk of the funds. The city’s fire department also advanced new codes that would drastically reduce the amount of roof space available for solar equipment. 

A 40-story apartment tower threatens to cast shadows over Brooklyn’s Botanical Gardens.

As New York’s Department of City Planning plots to establish an affordable housing scheme in Crown Heights, protestors and environmental advocates counter the plan by citing its negative effects on nearby green space. Located 200 feet away from the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, 960 Franklin Avenue is estimated to reduce the gardens’ daily sunlight exposure by four hours during its growing season. Municipal Art Society president Elizabeth Goldstein says “the darkness cast would be so vast in fact that the nearby Jackie Robinson Playground would experience year-round shadow impact.” Proponents of the project note that it would generate an unprecedented supply of permanently affordable housing in the area.

Stefano Boeri completes a new entryway at the historic Roman landmark Domus Aurea.

In a masterful example of integrating a contemporary intervention into a historic structure, Milan-based studio Stefano Boeri Architetti has completed a new entrance kiosk and pedestrian walkway inside Rome’s Domus Aurea palace. Constructed by Emperor Nero after the great fire in 64 AD, the structure still stands as one of Rome’s most important historic sites. Though the Domus Aurea’s excavated passages, vaults, and hundreds of rooms have been closed to the public for much of the past several decades despite regular restoration, the new entrance will offer an opportunity for visitors to see the Octagonal Room, where an exhibition dedicated to the Renaissance artist Raphael is now open. “The project of a new entrance to the Domus Aurea and of a pedestrian walkway to access the Octagonal Room represented an extraordinary opportunity to bring back to the attention of the city one of the most evocative realities of history and Roman architecture,” says Boeri, “allowing each visitor to descend directly into the heart of Nero’s Domus.”

Following a year of pandemic interruptions, restoration work on Notre Dame has kicked off.

France’s preparation for the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics is punctuated by the reopening date of the Notre Dame Cathedral as restoration work kicks off. Following a turbulent year of pandemic interruptions and safety checks, the timber debris from the 2019 fire has been removed while new scaffolding and stabilizers have been set up; restoration work is slated to begin later this year. Harvesting more than 1,000 oak trees in France, the remodelling of the cathedral’s damaged roof and spire will begin in fall 2022. In honor of the landmark’s revival, the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C is building one of the roof trusses using medieval techniques as “a gesture of global solidarity honouring the importance of cultural heritage.”

An affordable housing project made of shipping containers takes shape in Los Angeles.

As California continues to grapple with an unprecedented homelessness crisis that’s slated to get worse during the pandemic, a modular affordable housing project is taking shape in Chinatown, Los Angeles. Originally intended to house a Men’s Central Jail, the site was rehabilitated to host the Hilda L. Solis Care First Village: a 60,500-square-foot campus that sports 232 single-occupant units across six buildings, an administrative building for communal services, and a dog park. Designed by a team led by Tim Ballard, the $57 million facility is built by stacking repurposed shipping containers—a go-to choice for modular design due to their abundance, ease of transport, low costs, and low environmental footprint. The design team finished the project in a quick five months; normally, a project of this scale would take upward of two years. 

St. Simon’s Church, the third oldest in Glasgow, gets devastated by an overnight blaze.

The St. Simon’s Church in Partick Cross has fallen victim to a mysterious fire that devastated the historic site and caused the masonry structure’s roof to collapse overnight on July 28. As the community mourns the loss of the 163-year-old church, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Glasgow says “the destruction of St Simon’s church by fire will be a blow to people far beyond the west end of Glasgow. Though small in size, St Simon’s was well-frequented and was the spiritual home of the Polish community in the west of Scotland who had established a shrine there.” It’s the latest in a string of fires that has earned Glasgow the name “Tinderbox City”—the most notable example in recent memory saw the Glasgow School of Art erupt in flames in 2014 and once again four years later when restoration work was nearing completion. 

Today’s attractive distractions:

The squid’s biology may help scientists untangle mysteries of the nervous system.

A striking pink concrete skatepark stands out within Mexico’s Chihuahuan Desert.

JR brings a spellbinding trompe-l’oeil to the facade of Rome’s Palazzo Farnese.

Relive the joy and excitement of attending an elementary school book fair.

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