Tag Archives: urban planning

Atlanta’s Cityhood Movement Might Be Out of Control

Last November, the city of Stockbridge, a small municipality about 20 miles south of Atlanta, elected its first black mayor: Anthony Ford, a retired, decorated U.S. Army Colonel. Not only that, but several other African Americans were elected, making this the first time in its history that Stockbridge would be governed by an all-black city council and mayor.

Five months later, the state passed two bills allowing one of Stockbridge’s wealthiest communities, Eagle’s Landing, to break off to form its own city. That moving schedule might appear racist on its face, especially since it was initiated by a woman named Vikki Consiglio who happens to be white. Consiglio has pointed out, though, that the new city of Eagle’s Landing, if formed, would be a Read the rest

August Wilson’s Enduring Drama on Urban Renewal

By the time urban renewal arrived in Pittsburgh’s Hill District, Memphis Lee’s diner was already done for. The jukebox didn’t work. The daily meatloaf special was almost never actually available. A local hang-about named Wolf made more money running numbers at the diner than Memphis did selling beans and cornbread.

Still, Memphis refused to be pushed out. It didn’t matter that Risa hardly ever bothered to cook the chicken, since nobody ever showed up to order any. Memphis demands that the city give him what he feels is his due—though the city might say it owed him nothing.

This is the intimate scale of urban renewal captured in August Wilson’s Two Trains Running. The play, which opened in April at Washington, D.C.’s Arena Stage, is … Read the rest

Why New York City Stopped Building Subways

In the first decades of the 20th century, New York City experienced an unprecedented infrastructure boom. Iconic bridges, opulent railway terminals, and much of what was then the world’s largest underground and rapid transit network were constructed in just 20 years. Indeed, that subway system grew from a single line in 1904 to a network hundreds of miles long by the 1920s. It spread rapidly into undeveloped land across upper Manhattan and the outer boroughs, bringing a wave of apartment houses alongside.

Then it stopped. Since December 16, 1940, New York has not opened another new subway line, aside from a handful of small extensions and connections. Unlike most other great cities, New York’s rapid transit system remains frozen in time: Commuters on their iPhones are … Read the rest

Life in ‘The Hub’

The Hub is a crowded, segregated, and ethnically varied Bronx shopping district on East 149th Street and Third Ave. There are few better places than this crossroads, located in the poorest congressional district in the U.S., to document the evolution of urban poverty.

The surrounding pre-Great Depression buildings, with their Art Deco and Renaissance Revival styles, speak of better times and provide formal unity to this crossroads. Renderings for a planned green oasis meant to soften the chaos of the intersection surfaced in 2013, but Roberto Clemente Plaza remains unfinished, adding greatly to the congestion of the area.

(Camilo José Vergara)

The Hub is heavily surveilled, with hundreds of video cameras, security guards, and policemen visible inside their cars. When needed, large numbers of policemen … Read the rest

Is Housing Inequality the Main Driver of Economic Inequality?

Economic inequality is one of the most significant issues facing cities and entire nations today. But a mounting body of research suggests that housing inequality may well be the biggest contributor to our economic divides.

Thomas Piketty’s influential book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, put economic inequality—and specifically, wealth inequality—front and center in the global conversation. But research by Matthew Rognlie found that housing inequality (that is, how much more expensive some houses are than others) is the key factor in rising wealth.

Rognlie’s research documented that the share of wealth or capital income derived from housing has grown significantly since around 1950, and substantially more than for other forms of capital. In other words, those uber-expensive penthouses, luxury townhomes, and other real estate holdings … Read the rest

CityLab Daily: Meet the PHIMBYs

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What We’re Following

Backyard brawl: As California debates a sweeping bill that would overhaul housing regulations, the expected battle lines emerged quickly: the NIMBYs oppose it, the YIMBYs favor it.

Now meet the PHIMBYs, which stands for “Public Housing in My Backyard.” They’re a loose alliance of socialist activists, tenants’ rights boosters, and affordable housing advocates—and they’ve emerged to also oppose the bill, SB 827. They’re concerned that it will unleash market-rate development, and won’t improve housing for low-income people. CityLab’s Benjamin Schneider examines how the collision of the three groups, each with its own vision for the backyard, has created a Read the rest

The ‘Fight Club of Cycling’ Makes Parking Garages Cool Again

By 8 o’clock on a chilly Wednesday evening, the streets of Crystal City are fairly quiet. Most workers in the Northern Virginia neighborhood have cleared out in the after-hours, and the most raucous noise of the night is the howling wind. That is, until you go underground.

Unbeknownst to the few at street level, there’s a crowd gathering in a parking garage below an unremarkable office building. Inside, giant speakers blast rock music. Cow bells ring. There’s whooping and hollering, there’s pie and beer—and there are bikes everywhere. Well, bikes, unicycles, scooters… pretty much anything with wheels that’s powered by humans and isn’t a car. They’ll spend the next half-hour whizzing around a makeshift track that spans two floors.

This is the “Anything Goes” race, and … Read the rest

The Art of Boostin’ from High-End Fashion Stores

There were cliques of black youth in the 1980s who were tomb raiders in urban jungles like New York, D.C., and Detroit. These were groups of black teenagers who were their own kind of urban anthropologists, ransacking high-end retail stores for Gucci belts and pocketbooks.

They were a bunch of Lara Crofts and Indiana Joneses invading otherwise off-limits terrains in fashion districts from Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue to Detroit’s Livernois Ave, seeking exotic items like Fendi sunglasses, to swipe off counters, and then, taking off through an obstacle course of security detectors and mall cops.

Once they made it back to their home bases, they told the stories to their peers of how they claimed their prizes, flaunting their unpaid-for wares all the while. They were … Read the rest

Meet the PHIMBYs

If you’re familiar with CityLab, you know your NIMBYs—the homeowners who say “Not In My Backyard” whenever anyone proposes constructing new housing in high-opportunity areas.

And you’ve probably met their adversaries in the “Yes In My Backyard” movement. Typically younger (and media-savvier) than their foes, YIMBYs have quite successfully framed their activism for more housing production at all income levels in opposition to NIMBY pleas for the preservation of abundant parking and “neighborhood character.”

The two sides are now facing off nationwide, but nowhere more fiercely than in California, where residents are debating SB 827, a pending, YIMBY-backed bill that would allow the production of dense housing in all areas within close proximity to frequent public transit. The bill is aimed at increasing … Read the rest

Can We Make Green Roofs More Biodiverse?

Every time Kelly Ksiazek-Mikenas scrambled onto a new green roof, it was hard to tell exactly where she was. The city below was definitely Berlin or Neubrandenburg, but the expanse of scraggly greens ahead of her looked a lot like the green roofs in Chicago, her home.

The only difference was that the German green roofs were much older than anything found in the United States: three to nine times older. Which is why the Northwestern University Ph.D. student in plant biology spent her summer there a few years ago.

The ability of plants to absorb and evaporate storm water, reduce a building’s energy use, and clean up some air pollution makes green roofs effective as a sustainable-building technique. They also just look nice. Germany began … Read the rest