Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Among the many reasons that I am passionate about the subject of land use law, these three are among the most important: First, it is historical--studying land uses in our cities, towns, and rural areas gives us a sense of how we lived and how our places have changed over time. Second, it is an essentially visual subject--to see the land and the built environment, whether in person or through pictures, is an important part of thinking about the effects of law and policy. Third, and related to the first two, is that land use tells stories--whether over the course of time or within present-day issues and controversies, land use provides a narrative about how we live with each other in our communities and in society.
That's a long-winded way of leading up to the observation that I really like two websites that I stumbled across recently and want to share with you. Neither is written by a lawyer or a professor, but both involve the efforts of thoughtful and observant people to walk the streets, drive around the region, and post pictures, descriptions, and stories about the land, buildings, neighborhoods, and cities, both past and present.
The first is Scouting NY. Its proprietor is a professional film scout, who describes his endeavor thusly:
I work as a film location scout in New York City. My day is spent combing the streets for interesting and unique locations for feature films. In my travels, I often stumble across some pretty incredible sights, most of which go ignored daily by thousands of New Yorkers in too much of a rush to pay attention.
As it happens, it's my job to pay attention, and I've started this blog to keep a record of what I see.
And we all benefit from that. For an example, the current feature at the top of the blog is a collection of photos and descriptions of an abandoned mental asylum in Rockland County. Creepy and fascinating.
The second website I want to link to is Forgotten NY, run by graphic designer Kevin Walsh. This one seems to be more focused on the city proper and its various neighborhoods. The MO seems to be more about the street-level observation, by talking walks around the various parts of the city and reporting descriptions and photos, and giving us an insight in to the New York of the past through the evidence that still lingers today. The current feature is "A Walk from South Williamsburg to Bedford-Stuyvesant," with copious photos. This site looks like it's been around for about a decade and has a strong readership, but I never came across it until just recently.
These two happen to be about New York. I suspect that there are many more great blogs and websites out there, about New York and also about other places, which seek to illuminate, record, preserve, and tell the stories of our places, run by folks who are passionate about their communities past and present. If you know of or would recommend any similar sites, I'd love to hear about them.