Incentive Zoning


The Ocean Howell interview linked in Monday’s post reminded me of this bit from 2009’s Deathbowl to Downtown documentary — which apparently is $65 for a DVD copy on Amazon now and unavailable to stream anywhere?

Update: Stream it on Vimeo for two bucks.

Both the Howell interview and this bit discuss how cities will give developers a zoning pass / tax breaks on additional floors if they furnish the ground level of their property with a public plaza. The irony is that the plazas are often restricted to people who want to sit and eat lunch, i.e. a rather limited idea of what the “public” is. Nearly every piece of our European coverage has whined about how this is inconsistent with any Euro city we’ve visited, so I’ll spare you the recurring “America sucks for skateboarding” speech. There’s a lot of good early nineties Financial District and midtown footage in this segment, and by the looks of it, they were still busts then ;)

People gave Deathbowl a bit of a hard time when it came out — “the narration was heavy handed,” “the 90s were too focused on Zoo York,” etc. — but skateboarders will dig anywhere to complain. When I got the DVD in 2010, I was a month into nursing probably the closest you could sprain an ankle without needing medical attention. I finished watching it at maybe 2 A.M (on a school night!), yet still got the urge to grab a cruiser, and skate over the 59th Street Bridge to go up and down little hills on the westside til the sun started to come up. Can’t say a proper skate video has relayed that unshakeable “I really need to go skate”-feeling the same way since.

It was fun rewatching it to find this clip, you should give it a whirl.

Need something to do tonight?

Deathbowl to Downtown Screening at the Ace Hotel

Most people reserve Sunday evenings for staring at TV screens (unless, you know, you actually skateboard), but the Sunday primetime grid is usually empty in the summer and basketball season is over. So if you’re looking for something to do tonight, and haven’t seen Deathbowl to Downtown yet, they’re screening it over at the Ace Hotel on 29th Street and Broadway. (N train to 28th Street and walk up one block, or B, D, F, M, N, R, Q, W to Herald Square and walk down five blocks.) Happy hour from 8 to 9 P.M. The documentary itself starts at 9 and runs for about 80-90 minutes.

We can nitpick about omissions and stuff being glossed over all we want, but when it comes down to it, it’s amazing that something like this was actually thought of, and executed so well. Hell, even twelve-hour Ken Burns documentaries leave things out, and Deathbowl does a great job with what details it chose to dwell upon in its eighty-minute runtime. If you have any interest in skateboarding history, or even the cultural history of New York, and you haven’t seen it, you probably should.

Trailer here. Ryan Hickey Deathbowl outtakes at the bottom of this post.