Things tagged city:

How can we save our beloved mom-and-pop shops from gentrification?

SARAH GOODYEAR in the NY Daily News with a pretty level headed look at “gentrification”:

In New York, a proposal that would require landlords to offer 10-year leases and submit to binding arbitration when negotiating rents has been stuck in committee for 30 years. Some lawmakers, citing a retail “crisis” sweeping the city, are making a new push to consider some variation on that idea. In Seattle, Councilmember Kshama Sawant, a socialist, has developed a proposal for commercial rent stabilization, although it, too, is not yet scheduled for a vote.

Such legislation is anathema to free-market advocates, who argue that government has no business interfering in the ability of landlords to charge whatever prices they want. They say that residential rent control has distorted the housing market already, and the last thing cities need is even the faintest hint of commercial rent control or subsidy. They dismiss the whole idea as one based on misguided nostalgia.

“The main reason Duane Reades and Walgreens are there is because people purchase there,” Steven Spinola, then-president of the Real Estate Board of New York, told The Villager newspaper last year, in advance of a forum the paper hosted on the issue. “This is a free market. It’s not something that should be negotiated.”

The conclusion gets to the crux of the matter, though people don’t want to believe it, cities change, and if you don’t like it, your only choice is to move on …



The Life and Death of Amazon Is the Life and Death of Seattle

Charles Mudede in the Stranger:

All that we see happening around us today (the growth, the rise in home values, the increasing flows of foreign capital) was present in and pressed hard upon our city’s past. What has changed is just the scale. There has been no structural transformation that’s dislocated the past from the present. And without a profound transformation at the level of the base, which would mean a radical experiment with a kind of city we have never known or lived in, we are stuck with either a dying Dayton or a thriving 206.



Why boring cities make for stressed citizens

A little slow and obvious, but something I have noticed myself about cities I like …

Colin Ellard in Aeon:

Why would anyone think it a good idea to build a large, featureless building at ground level? What motivates a developer to erect an endless stretch of suburban housing where each individual unit is identical and, in the language of information theory, low in entropy?



Romanian city offers free rides to people reading on the bus

Only for a week, why not always?

“I believe that it’s better to promote reading by rewarding those who read, instead of criticising the ones who don’t,” said Miron on arts website Bored Panda this week.



Who Runs the Streets of New Orleans?

David Amsden in The New York Times:

On the morning of Sunday, March 29, Sidney Torres was sipping an espresso in the kitchen of his mansion on the edge of the French Quarter when a jarring notification lit up his iPad and two iPhones. Pimps fighting with drug dealers and johns. Man has gun. Hurry. The message came from a neighbor 10 blocks away, on St. Louis Street, and was sent through a venture Torres started four days earlier: a private police patrol that could be summoned via mobile app.



How Buildings Learn - Stewart Brand



We don’t trust drinking fountains anymore, and that’s bad for our health

Kendra Pierre-Louis in The Washington Post:

Fountains were once a revered feature of urban life, a celebration of the tremendous technological and political capital it takes to provide clean drinking water to a community. Today, they’re in crisis. Though no one tracks the number of public fountains nationally, researchers say they’re fading from America’s parks, schools and stadiums. “Water fountains have been disappearing from public spaces throughout the country over the last few decades,” lamented Nancy Stoner, an administrator in the Environmental Protection Agency’s water office. Water scholar Peter Gleick writes that they’ve become “an anachronism, or even a liability.” Jim Salzman, author of “Drinking Water: A History,” says they’re “going the way of pay phones.”



How 77 Metro Agencies Design the Letter 'M' for Their Transit Logo

Eric Jaffe at CityLab:

Mass transit agencies around the world face the same conundrum: How to make what amounts to four straight lines distinctive.




An Atlas of Upward Mobility Shows Paths Out of Poverty

The New York Times:

In the wake of the Los Angeles riots more than 20 years ago, Congress created an anti-poverty experiment called Moving to Opportunity. It gave vouchers to help poor families move to better neighborhoods and awarded them on a random basis, so researchers could study the effects.

The results were deeply disappointing. Parents who received the vouchers did not seem to earn more in later years than otherwise similar adults, and children did not seem to do better in school. The program’s apparent failure has haunted social scientists and policy makers, making poverty seem all the more intractable.

Now, however, a large new study is about to overturn the findings of Moving to Opportunity. Based on the earnings records of millions of families that moved with children, it finds that poor children who grow up in some cities and towns have sharply better odds of escaping poverty than similar poor children elsewhere.



Photographic Notes From Underground

The art director-turned-photographer Nick Frank has spent the last five years traveling the world by subway, spending his Sunday mornings documenting the stations he has seen rather than the cities that hold them.




Lee Kuan Yew - Commander of his stage

There was no vainglory in the title of the first volume of Lee Kuan Yew’s memoirs: “The Singapore Story”. Few leaders have so embodied and dominated their countries: Fidel Castro, perhaps, and Kim Il Sung, in their day. But both of those signally failed to match Mr Lee’s achievement in propelling Singapore “From Third World to First” (as the second volume is called). Moreover, he managed it against far worse odds: no space, beyond a crowded little island; no natural resources; and, as an island of polyglot immigrants, not much shared history.



How can we build skyscrapers without throwing cities into shadow?

Something I’ve been thinking about for a while. One solution:

There are around 250 tall towers currently planned for London’s skyline. From afar, they’ll probably look great. But unless they’re planned carefully, they’ll start throwing shadows across ever-growing swathes of London.

So one local architecture firm is offering a solution. Using computer modelling, they’ve figured out a design which would reduce the shadows cast by two theoretical towers by as much as 60 per cent.



Built on Sand: Singapore and the New State of Risk

Joshua Comaroff in Harvard Design Magazine:

In June 2014, drivers crossing the causeway between Singapore and Johor, Malaysia, began to notice something strange. A slender sandbar, which had long stood in the middle of the narrow straits, had started to grow, and was slowly inching toward Singapore. Construction vehicles had arrived, and small barges passed continuously, dumping load after load of sand into the water. Newspapers soon reported that this expanding mound was to become the site of Forest City, a 2,000-hectare high-rise housing development jutting out from the Malaysian port of Tanjung Pelepas. As this privately funded project crept toward Singapore’s national border, the security state doubtlessly felt violated. In response, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong requested that the Malaysian government halt work on the project, and threatened to file a complaint with the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in Hamburg.

Forest City and its backstory are emblematic of an emerging issue of a transnational order. Less obvious than the increased capital flows across territories is the flow of territory itself. That is, land. Or, more accurately, sand.



A Most Violent Year | NYC, 1981

A24 and A MOST VIOLENT YEAR present NYC, 1981. An original short documentary featuring stories from one of the most dangerous years on record for New York City.



Hong Kong | ontheroofs


During the last one and a half years, we have visited Hong Kong several times. We have been to so many places and now I have to admit that Hong Kong is a place where I would like to live. A year and a half ago, after visiting Singapore, I assumed that it was the real paradise, but I was mistaking.



The Social Laboratory

In October 2002, Peter Ho, the permanent secretary of defense for the tiny island city-state of Singapore, paid a visit to the offices of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the U.S. Defense Department’s R&D outfit best known for developing the M16 rifle, stealth aircraft technology, and the Internet. Ho didn’t want to talk about military hardware. Rather, he had made the daylong plane trip to meet with retired Navy Rear Adm. John Poindexter, one of DARPA’s then-senior program directors and a former national security advisor to President Ronald Reagan. Ho had heard that Poindexter was running a novel experiment to harness enormous amounts of electronic information and analyze it for patterns of suspicious activity – mainly potential terrorist attacks.



How to Think Like the Dutch in a Post-Sandy World

In December 2012, Shaun Donovan, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, was on vacation in Berlin when he decided to detour to the Netherlands. He wanted to get a firsthand sense of the famed Dutch approach to water management. Hurricane Sandy struck six weeks before, and in the aftermath, President Obama asked him to lead a task force, whose objective was not just to rebuild but also to radically rethink the region’s infrastructure in light of climate change.

In the Netherlands, a man named Henk Ovink offered to be Donovan’s guide. Ovink was the director of the office of Spatial Planning and Water Management, meaning, essentially, that it was his job to keep the famously waterlogged country dry. As he learned about various Dutch innovations, Donovan was struck by the fact that Ovink looked at water as much in cultural as in engineering terms, which was a function of the centuries-old need of the Dutch to act together for protection.



How to Build a Perfect Refugee Camp


From the outside, the temporary shelter for Syrian civilians in Kilis, Turkey, doesn’t look like an inviting place to live. It looks like a prison. All around are olive groves, but here, Turkey suddenly runs out. A metal archway announces the customs gate to Syria. To its right stands what is more formally known as the Republic of Turkey Prime Ministry Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency’s Kilis Oncupinar Accommodation Facility. High gates bar entry, and barbed wire tops the walls. Police officers and private security mill about.

Many of the world’s displaced live in conditions striking for their wretchedness, but what is startling about Kilis is how little it resembles the refugee camp of our imagination. It is orderly, incongruously so. Residents scan a card with their fingerprints for entry, before they pass through metal detectors and run whatever items they’re carrying through an X-ray machine. Inside, it’s stark: 2,053 identical containers spread out in neat rows. No tents. None of the smells — rotting garbage, raw sewage — usually associated with human crush and lack of infrastructure.



Why Aren’t Cities Taller?

Robin Hanson in Overcoming Bias:

Urban economics studies the spatial distribution of activity. In most urban econ models, the reason that cities aren’t taller is that, per square meter of useable space, taller buildings cost more to physically make. (Supporting quotes below.) According to this usual theory, buildings only get taller when something else compensates for these costs, like a scarce ocean view, or higher status or land prices.

Knowing this, and wondering how tall future cities might get, I went looking for data on just how fast building cost rises with height. And I was surprised to learn: within most of the usual range, taller buildings cost less per square meter to build. For example, for office buildings across 26 US cities, 11-20 stories tend to be cheaper than 5-10 stories, which are cheaper than 2-4 stories (quote below)



Close Quarters on the High Line

Steven Kurutz in the NYT:

Visitors to the High Line often marvel at the panorama the elevated park affords: open-sky views across the Hudson River, an unbroken sightline up 10th Avenue to Midtown and beyond. But in recent months, in a section of the High Line around 23rd Street, a more intimate, domestic cityscape has emerged.

Where the park widens to form a seating area with bleachers and a lush lawn, several apartment buildings rise up and enclose the space on either side. Three are newly constructed glass and steel towers that just began filling with residents, and the most prominent of them, the architect Neil M. Denari’s sleek HL23, is so close it’s as if parkgoers could walk right into one of the multimillion-dollar apartments.