MLewyn's blog

Against "Community Character"

In an interesting article entitled "The Case for Listening to NIMBYs", Kaid Benfield mentions "that municipal planners would benefit by being more sensitive to building types that fit well with existing neighborhood character."  He writes that pro-infill planners should encourage such infill to be consistent with the character of the existing neighborhood.  Of course, he has a point: if a landowner wants to add housing units to a neighborhood, everyone is happier if those housing uni

The Onion Or San Francisco Chronicle? Hard To Tell The Difference

Today's headline: "S.F. Called Model For Affordable Housing."

Really? The same San Francisco where the average house is worth over $800,000 (about eleven times the median household income)?  At first glance, the story seems at least as insane as any of the comedy stories on the Onion.

Where Republicans Carried The City Vote

Today's New York Times has an interesting graphic showing the precinct-by-precinct vote in this year's Presidential election.  Although Republican nominee Mitt Romney did very poorly in Manhattan and in most of New York City, he carried numerous outer borough precincts. 

Smart Growth In Not-So-Dumb Places

Not long ago, Brigham Young's law review published a provocative article entitled "Smart Growth in Dumb Places."  The basic theory of the article is that building near the water is dangerous, and where downtowns are near the water, infill development is thus dangerous.

What I Am Thankful For

Since today is Thanksgiving, I thought I would post about what I am thankful for (instead of complaining as usual about what I am not thankful for):

I am thankful that in the year 2012, urbanism is, in some ways, winning over sprawl: (some) cities are being repopulated, transit ridership is rising, and "urban" is no longer a dirty word in popular culture to the extent that it was a decade or two ago.

I am thankful that I live in a revitalized city (New York) rather than a city that is still declining.

Nonsense about Nixon and Reagan

A recent article in the New Republic has the reassuring (to me) headline: "Republicans Can't Afford to Ignore Cities Anymore."  I'm certainly all for Republicans not ignoring cities, but there was a passage in the article that made me want to bang my head against the nearest brick wall. 

The Real Swing Voters

My sense is that the conventional political wisdom is that urban voters are Democrats, rural voters are Republicans and suburbanites are in the middle.

The News From Sprawl Is Not Good

Given the widespread public transit closings in the 48 hours before Hurricane Sandy, it could be argued that one advantage of a car-centric society is that cars enable quick evacuation (assuming that people aren't stuck in traffic).

Taller Buildings = More Storm Safety (Up to a Point)

Hurricane Sandy is over (at least as far as we New Yorkers are concerned) and commentators are already beginning to discuss its meaning for urbanism-- for example, whether coastal cities like New York may have to do more to protect their citizens.  

But one area in which New York City has an advantage over suburbs and less compact cities is its ample supply of multi-story buildings.  Why does that matter?  Because in this storm, the most dangerous indoor spaces were basements and single-family homes.  

Sprawl and Obesity, Part 2

After yesterday's post on obesity in New York, I thought I would do some more research comparing obesity in cities and suburbs, focusing on central cities that (a) were coterminous with their counties (so I could find obesity statistics for cities alone) and (b) were sufficiently transit-oriented and compact that city residents might be more physically active than suburbanites.   The results were mixed.