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.
After 12 years of Depression and 4 years of a very bloody World War II, America was in the mood for a new way of living, with new buildings on freshly developed parcels on the edges of cities. The cities needed paint, tuck pointing and much more, but the new subdivisions caught the nation's imagination along with heavy government subsidy and regulatory support. The Federal Housing Administration and its various derivatives like Fannie Mae were pumping mortgage money into single-family housing.
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.