New Urbanism and the other half of the city?
I have been reading literature on New Urbanism for nearly four years now and I am also a student of Sociology which has set me on a collision course to combine the two subjects into one question, how can New Urbanism solve some of the universal problems that come with large groups of people in one area? While I enjoy seeing the benefits N.U. has in contrast to suburban development, I believe it can do so much more, to fix the problems that the typical suburbs do not always face, the problems of crime, drugs, and fear.
A few weeks ago, I attended a community planning meeting in the Rundberg area of Austin, Texas. While Austin is a relatively peaceful city, Rundberg is arguably the most dangerous section of the city. It is a suburbanized area with a large proportion of apartment renters and is cut in half by the I-35 Interstate. To get a sense of the scope of the problems in the neighborhood, a survey of those participating in the planning of the community reported that 97.1% of those surveyed believed that criminal activity is a problem with the area. The types of crime cited were prostitution, drug dealing, robbery, auto theft, etc, problems one does not typically think of with American suburbs in mind.
While it is easy to look at an affluent gated community and criticize them for their separatist nature caused from walling themselves off, but how does one argue to a neighborhood of fenced apartments in a sea of fear and crime to become more community oriented? In one interview I had with at the community meeting, I asked a woman if she walked to any places in the neighborhood. She pointed to me on the map handouts where she lived, and the park she wished she could walk to with her children. Between her house and the park was one main street marked in red, for being a high area of drug dealing and crime. After I told her I was a proponent of New Urbanism and that we value communities that are walkable, and interconnected, she asked me how one is supposed to walk a gauntlet of drugs and crime just to get to the park, I didn't really have an answer for her.
So there is my question that I would like to discuss. I believe it IS possible that New Urbanism can solve a major problem like crime and an overwhelming distrust and fear of one's neighbors, but how? I think it is a question that should be perhaps addressed at CNU XV, the booming metropolis is not always affluence and glamor, there is another half to the city, a half that we sometimes forget, or believe its problems are too difficult to tackle.
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