When I read Robert Caro's The Power Broker (a biography of New York road-builder Robert Moses), one story that didn't quite make sense is Caro's discussion of the Henry Hudson Bridge. Caro writes that Caro's routing of this bridge caused "the destruction of Manhattan's priceless last forest" in Inwood Hill Park. But I visited the park yesterday afternoon, and it didn't look at all "destroyed" to me. Inwood Hill Park is still one of the jewels of Manhattan's park system, full of primeval-looking forest.
Monday night and Tuesday, observant Jews all over the world will be fasting for Tisha'b'Av, a day dedicated to remembering pretty much every major disaster befalling Jews over the past twenty centuries or so, or at least a few of the major ones- especially the destruction of the Jewish Temples by foreign invaders (Babylonians in 586 BC, Romans 656 years later). What does this have to do with urbanism?
One dispute in the literature about sprawl and obesity is whether the impact of sprawl is significant compared to the impact of social class. It could be argued that obesity is primarily a function of poverty and lack of education, rather than of automobile dependency.
In a recent article entitled "Gentrifying Into the Shelters", the New York Times blamed homelessness on middle-class New Yorkers who dare to move into the city's poorer neighborhoods.
Normally, sidewalks in residential areas are surrounded by short planting strips with grass and (sometimes) street trees. But in Seattle recently I saw something interesting: a planting strip that I would guess is twice the size of a typical one. I thought the king-size strip was a very nice touch in two ways. First, it narrows the street and calms traffic. Second, it beautifies the street.
Before attending the Livable Cities conference in Portland, I am visiting Seattle for a few days. As in Salt Lake City, there are some things I like and some I don't.
Seattle seems to have an extensive bus system. Ideally, a bus system would give riders a way to pay without having to fumble for dollar bills and quarters- New York's metro card system comes to mind.
Seattle has such a system; however, to get a metrocard you have to pay a $5 start-up fee- not exactly a tempting option for visitors and occasional users.
The conventional zoning wisdom is that all structures in a neighborhood should have the same density, in order to preserve "neighborhood character." So even in mixed-use urban areas, this sort of zoning leads to a kind of monoculture: high-rises attract high-rises, low-rises attract low-rises.
A recent blog post commenting on the growth of suburban poverty has the headline: "As Cities Prosper, Poor Move to Suburbs." The headline seems to imply a simple story: poor people priced out of the city are moving to suburbs. (In fairness, the story itself is much less simplistic). But it seems to me that there are a variety of other possible explanations for the growth in suburban poverty:
I got into an argument on Twitter about how widespread car ownership was in NYC's outer boroughs, which in turn caused me to go to city-data.com to answer the question: how do you measure how many people own cars, anyhow? The City Data website has data not just for cities and counties, but for individual neighborhoods within a city. In particular, the site gives data for household size and for the number of cars per household.