MLewyn's blog

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.

Sprawl and Obesity: NYC as a case study

The City Data web page contains, among other things, county-by-county statistics on obesity.   Because each New York borough is a county, I thought that looking at New York might be more informative than looking at other metro areas where a county can include a wide range of cities and suburbs.

Manhattan (New York County) is especially instructive.  In Manhattan, the obesity rate is only 15.4 percent- well below the state average of 23.8 percent.

Is New York really cheaper than Miami?

The Center for Neighborhood Technology recently issued a report suggesting that compact cities with high housing costs (such as New York or San Francisco) might actually be less expensive than otherwise cheaper but car-dependent areas such as South Florida and Southern California.  As provocative as this report is, it seems at first glance to be the opposite of my own personal experience: I am definitely saving less in New York than I was in Jacksonville.  How come?

Sprawl and Postwar Growth

I just read the "Curbside Chat" booklet on the Strong Towns blog and found one observation that surprised me.  The booklet notes that after World War II, there was some public concern about the possibility of another Great Depression, "but another 'spatial fix' prevented that from happening... Only through the deployment of resources in bulding this new living arrangement was the United States able to sustain the demand needed to stabilize prices and grow the economy."   In other words, midcentury sprawl kept the economy afloat.

Downtown Revival: Where It Happened, Where It Didn't

The Census Bureau recently issued a report on population patterns in metropolitan areas.   Most of the report is about metro-wide population patterns generally, as opposed to urban cores.  However, page 27 of the report caught my eye.  This table refers to "Percentage Change in Population in Metropolitan Statistical Areas by Distance From City Hall and Population Size Category: 2000 to 2010."  In other words, it allows us to see whether intown areas are growing, rather than having to rely on the

Let LA be LA (And New York, And Cleveland...)

I recently read a blog post asserting that Los Angeles must be a suburban city, because "what makes LA LA is that people do want to live in a suburban environment."    Since I don't live in Los Angeles (and have never been tempted to move there) perhaps this is none of my business.

Nonsense About The City

As I was reviewing the Planetizen web page, I noticed a bizarre headline: "Are Cities Driving Us Crazy?" I then clicked the link, finding a story in Nature magazine: "Stress and the City".  The article suggests that the stress of city life is a "breeding ground for psychosis."

And the evidence for this is, um, um... well, nothing.

The (Not Quite So) Suburban Jewish Holiday

I have written about the uneasy relationship between Judaism and suburbanization: low density makes it difficult for Jews to live within walking distance of synagogues and generally makes it difficult to create a cohesive community.   

Compact Cities Have Fewer Car Deaths

When traffic engineers widen roads and build new roads, they often cite "safety" as an argument.  Under this theory, the widest, straightest, fastest roads are the safest.  If this were true, car-oriented cities dominated by such roads would be safer than more compact, transit-oriented cities.  Right?  Wrong.