MLewyn's blog

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.

Conservatives, Liberals and Urbanists

After reading all manner of political posts on Facebook and various listservs, it occurs to me that conservatives and liberals are more alike than they think. Both groups are driven in part by an emotional fear of concentrated power - sometimes sensible, sometimes not.  Conservatives fear being oppressed or cheated by overwhelming, distant political power- for example, the federal government or the United Nations. Liberals and environmentalists fear concentrated corporate power- for example, Wal-Mart.  

Children Have More Freedom In The City

Two phrases you might hear from parents who live in sprawl:

1.  "We moved so our kids could play on the lawn."

2.  "We can't let the kids go outside because there are molesters/crazy drivers everywhere."

I don't see how both these propositions can be true.  If you can't let your children play on the lawn, what's the point in having one?  And as a practical matter, I think #1 is outdated because (in my limited experience with nieces) the children would really rather be inside playing video games anyhow.

Getting Multifamily Right in Forest Hills Gardens

I was walking through Forest Hills Gardens today, and noticed yet another way in which Forest Hills Gardens is superior to a typical steetcar suburb.  In most neighborhoods that have a variety of housing types, smaller residences are quite visibly different from bigger ones, thus maing the smaller houses look out of place.

a nice middle ground

I was reading a book ("A Modern Arcadia" by Susan Klaus) about Forest Hills Gardens (a neighborhood in Queens a few blocks south of my current apartment in northern Forest Hills, designed in the 1910s by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr) and noticed one thing I'd never noticed before: that it creates an interesting middle ground between the curvilinear streets typical of even 1920s suburbs and the urban grid.  North-south streets such as Ascan and Continental Avenues create the bones of a grid, whi