‘Science Friday’ Radio Show Investigates How the Bowery Whole Foods and East Houston Reconstruction Project Affect Our Behavior

Posted on: October 19th, 2015 at 5:18 am by
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In case you missed it, the Science Friday radio show produced an intriguing segment last week about the “power of the built environment to affect our bodies, brains, and behavior.” Cognitive neuroscientist Colin Ellard joined host Ira Flatow on a trip through the Lower East Side to determine how our hyperlocal streetscapes affect human physiology.

The show – “Can Science Help Build Happier Cities?” – confirms two main assertions we’ve championed for years: The Chrystie/Whole Foods on the Bowery is ugly as sin and the three-years delayed East Houston reconstruction project creates stress for residents (and businesses).

Upon reaching the Whole Foods, Flatow recorded a lack of excitement at being there, aided by no greenery and frosted windows.  Ellard seconded those thoughts by noting how the architecture was “blank, closed, and not much to see.” He then gauged facial expressions of pedestrians walking in the shadow of this building. As you might expect, the variability of response included miserable, bored, and unhappy emotions.

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Similar vibes were detected when the crew headed east to the median outside Yonah Schimmel’s Knishes, long affected by the neverending roadwork at its doorstep. The takeaway here is that this spot is a “stressful place” and certainly not a place to relax. Only, tell that to the numerous residents and businesses that have had to contend with a mismanaged capital works project that won’t wrap for another year.

But the reporter did find refuge in what he called an unlikely place. The carefully-tended M’Finda Kalunga Garden in Sara D. Roosevelt Park. Here, relaxation and a state of tranquility were relatively easy to come by. “A splash of green in a sea of grey,” in Flatow’s words.

Indeed, this garden truly is a community treasure.

Listen to the full show below:

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