CityLab

  • Cities Deserve Better Than These Thomas Heatherwick Gimmicks
    An alien arriving on Earth this month might be forgiven for assuming that Thomas Heatherwick is currently the world’s most beloved urban designer. The British designer/architect/engineer just unveiled his mammoth climbing-frame-cum-corncob Vessel at New York’s Hudson Yards, while just a few minutes up the Hudson River, an offshore park Pier 55 (also known as Diller Island) is rising out of the tidal sludge on Heatherwick-designed concrete lily pads. In London, his Coal Drops Yard retail development, which features kissing buildings, opened last October in the formerly warehouse-filled hinterland behind Kings Cross Station. Further afield, Heatherwick Studios repurposed a grain silo as an art gallery in Cape Town in 2017 and is co-designing something that looks like a titanic xylophone in Shanghai.This high-profile intercontinental spread has made Heatherwick all but ubiquitous. It has also earned him a heavy dose of suspicion mixed with contempt, both from critics and the public. His name is often used as something of a synonym for everything that’s wrong with contemporary urban design. The New York Times has dubbed him the “billionaire whisperer” for his dossier of flashy corporate projects; the Guardian called him a “Pied Piper” who has managed to beguile extra-wealthy patrons. Some of his projects have been dubbed “Truman Show Nightmares.” Even the generally, pro-development, pro-business conservative media has started coming for Heatherwick’s projects as bellwethers pointing to exactly where our cities are going awry. But why?Because, frankly, many of Heatherwick’s projects stink. Time and again, his designs crop up in urban ensembles that look as if the dystopian world of Orwell’s 1984 had been given a kooky Wes Anderson makeover. It’s not aesthetics that are the inherent problem, however. The issue is that the kind of developments that Heatherwick’s structures brand appear playful but are actually loci for a queasy mix of distraction and surveillance, places that promise cheerful hi-jinx but which enforce consumption-driven regimentation on their users. Look at the Vessel (which some wags have already informally renamed “the Shawarma,” thanks to its resemblance to a spinning meatloaf-cone). Here’s a fun $200 million tower of staircases that invites visitors to clamber—but only under ludicrously strict conditions and control. Like many of his projects, it’s essentially a gaudy monument to being only ever-so-slightly free.Or take Heatherwick’s most notorious project to date, London’s now-cancelled Garden Bridge. In its initial renderings it looked charming: a breezy, shady flower meadow strung incongruously but delightfully across the River Thames. But soon, the cracks started to show. The bridge would secure public funding from Transport for London as piece of infrastructure, but offer no needed improvement to pedestrian circulation, all the while banning bikes and closing in the evening for corporate event hire. Visitors would have their cellphones tracked; such typical public-park pleasures as music or picnics would be banned. Making this experience yet bitterer was a strong suspicion that the project was rigged in Heatherwick’s favor by then-mayor Boris Johnson. Having already lumbered London with a stifling, claustrophobic double-decker bus designed by Heatherwick, Johnson and the ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Tuesday, March 19, 2019By Feargus O'Sullivan
    4 hours ago
  • CityLab Daily: What If the IRS Helped Pay Your Rent?
    What We’re FollowingCheck enclosed: Last year, Senators Cory Booker and Kamala Harris each floated legislation to provide tax relief to American households struggling to pay for housing. With the Democratic lawmakers running in a crowded 2020 presidential race, they’re planning to revive that push. This time around, it could also include something bigger, a potential sea change for housing assistance and tax policy: Aides tell CityLab’s Kriston Capps that the new proposals may offer rent-burdened households monthly help from the IRS.The bills are still in progress, but the idea is to establish a tax credit, paid each month, that could cover some portion of rent that goes beyond 30 percent of a household’s earnings. While it looks like Harris and Booker will try different ways to do that, their dueling bills “reflect the idea that the American housing crisis will be a 2020 election issue,” Kriston writes. Read his story today on CityLab: Cory Booker and Kamala Harris Want a Monthly IRS Tax Credit for RentAndrew SmallMore on CityLab Why Wayne Messam Wants to Go From Florida Mayor to POTUS While fighting to enact stricter gun control locally, the mayor of Miramar, Florida, is launching a 2020 campaign built on addressing student loan debt and climate change. Sarah Holder The Inequality of America’s Parks and Green Space New research finds that income, education, and race are correlated with access to green space across and within U.S. metro areas. Richard Florida I Tried to Outrun D.C.'s Streetcar Streetcars without dedicated lanes tend to be on the slow side. But beating this much-maligned public transportation mode on foot wasn’t as easy as it looks. Linda Poon In Need of Housing, Barcelona Fines Landlords for Long-Vacant Buildings The massive fines levied against the investment funds have been interpreted as a “declaration of war” from Mayor Ada Colau, who wants more affordable housing. Feargus O'Sullivan Reading Bauhaus: 7 Books to Mark a Modernist Milestone A roundup of reads for fans of Walter Gropius, Mies van der Rohe, Marcel Breuer, and other big names of the Bauhaus art and design movement. Mark Byrnes and Amanda Kolson Hurley Power On Madison McVeigh/CityLabBatteries power so much of our daily lives, from the laptops in our backpacks to the electric scooters on the street. But batteries—big ones—have increasingly shown up in homes and offices, and they could help replace expensive, dirty power plants with renewable energy like solar and wind. In the not-so-distant future, could these energy storage packs be a key to building sustainable cities?In the fourth episode of CityLab’s Technopolis podcast, hosts Molly Turner and Jim Kapsis consider how energy storage could change everything about how we turn on the lights and get around town. Check out the latest episode, Is Our Green Future Battery-Powered Cities?Listen and subscribe to Technopolis: Apple Podcasts / Stitcher / Google PlayWhat ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Tuesday, March 19, 2019By Andrew Small
    8 hours ago
  • Cory Booker and Kamala Harris Want a Monthly IRS Tax Credit for Rent
    Two 2020 presidential hopefuls plan to introduce bills that may incorporate a novel feature to address the lack of affordable housing: a tax refund that would be paid out monthly instead of annually.Senators Cory Booker and Kamala Harris both wrote legislation last year to help out rent-burdened households, and the Democratic lawmakers are buffing new versions of those bills for another push this session. According to aides, the new proposals could boast an unprecedented form of help for housing—a monthly rent check from the IRS. Either bill would represent a sea change for housing assistance and tax policy, especially if they reshape how credits and refunds work.The dueling bills from declared White House hopefuls reflect the idea that the American housing crisis will be a 2020 election issue. The rent is way too damned high for far too many households in the U.S.: More than one-third of households nationwide pay more than 30 percent of their earnings toward the rent, the definition of rent burden. Some 7 million households are severely rent burdened, meaning they pay more than 50 percent of their income on rent. This burden falls hardest on extremely low-income households, since they must compete with households higher up the poverty ladder for the vanishingly small share of affordable apartments available.Currently, there’s nothing like a monthly tax credit in the tax code. The IRS doesn’t issue any payment to taxpayers on a monthly basis, according to Elaine Maag, principal research associate at the Urban Institute and Tax Policy Center. Providing housing aid through a tax credit offers attractive advantages, but also defining drawbacks. The success of this particular approach, if it ever makes it into law, will depend on the scope of the program—the bigger, the better.“Would it be easy? No,” Maag says. “Would [the IRS] have to change and modernize? Yes.”Details of Harris and Booker’s bills are bound to change as they’re revised for re-release, especially if the senators decide to shake up how the rental tax credits work, as both are considering, according to aides. But here’s how they currently would work:Harris’s Rent Relief Act of 2018 floated a tax credit to make housing more affordable for both low- and middle-income households. Her bill establishes a sliding scale for the percentage of excess rent that a taxpayer could claim. A rent-burdened household making $25,000 per year, for example, would be eligible to claim 100 percent of the excess rent (the share higher than 30 percent) as a credit. Rent relief isn’t limited to low-income families: In many areas, households making up to $100,000 would be eligible for some credit.The sliding scale in Senator Kamala Harris’s Rent Relief Act shows how much of a household’s excess rent can be claimed in the tax credit. (Rent Relief Act of 2018)Consider how a family in Baltimore might fare under Harris's plan. HUD’s fair market rent in that metro area for 2019 works out to be $1,342 for a two-bedroom unit. A household earning about $53,680 after taxes and paying ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Tuesday, March 19, 2019By Kriston Capps
    8 hours ago
  • Is Our Green Future Battery-Powered Cities?
    Listen and subscribe to Technopolis: Apple Podcasts / Stitcher / Google Play / SpotifyBatteries power many aspects of our daily lives, from the the laptops in our backpacks to the electric scooters rolling some urban-dwellers to work. But batteries—big ones—are also increasingly showing up in our homes and offices, powering buildings, and even replacing expensive power plants on the grid. In the not-so-distant future, could those energy storage packs be a key to climate sustainability and change the way we consume energy, too?We game it all out on the fourth episode of Technopolis, the new podcast from CityLab about how technology is remaking, disrupting, and sometimes overrunning our cities.Batteries can store power from renewables like solar and wind so they keep our buildings running even when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow. So it’s no surprise that utilities in sun-soaked places like Arizona, Hawaii, California, and Puerto Rico have all announced major increases in battery deployments for the next several years. And as extreme weather events intensify, coastal cities like Houston, New Orleans, and San Juan, might come to rely on big batteries to keep the lights on in homes, hospitals, schools, and fire stations.A future of battery-powered cities is not guaranteed. Most of the world’s utilities still rely heavily on polluting energy technologies and legacy centralized grids. Their monopoly status can make them slow to change without the right regulatory incentives in place. Lithium ion, which is the dominant battery technology, is also burdened by some serious geopolitical and human rights concerns. And lithium has real technological limitations, too.  Ever hear of “range anxiety” in the context of battery-powered electric vehicles? That anxiety comes from the fact that batteries are still limited in how long they can store energy.But Bill Gates and many other prominent investors are pouring billions of dollars into new battery technologies that may eventually replace lithium ion with cheaper, longer-lasting, and less geopolitically fraught alternatives.There’s another limitation: Batteries today could only store a tiny percent of the electricity produced globally on any given day. But installations had a record year in 2018. Tesla has stated publicly that it intends to double battery deployments in 2019. And traditional big energy companies are also getting into the game, with Shell buying German battery company Sonnen earlier this year.So what might our battery-powered cities look and feel like?  On episode 4 of Technopolis, we talk with John Zahurancik, the COO of Fluence Energy, who deployed some of the world’s first utility-scale batteries; and Rushad Nanavatty of the Rocky Mountain Institute, a nonprofit working with cities and countries globally to help them to transition to a clean-energy future. And we hear a revealing anecdote from Dan Neil, auto columnist for the Wall Street Journal and a battery believer with carbon remorse.Will batteries power our cities toward their climate goals or, like so many other green technologies before them, will their hype run out of juice?Listen and subscribe to Technopolis: Apple Podcasts / Stitcher / Google Play ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Tuesday, March 19, 2019By Molly Turner
    10 hours ago
  • The Inequality of America’s Parks and Green Space
    America has grown increasingly unequal, with deepening fissures across and within cities by income, education, and race. And those divides are reflected in our access to parks and green space.That’s the big takeaway of a study conducted by a team of researchers at the University of British Columbia and published earlier this year in the journal Landscape and Urban Planning. The study takes a deep dive into how access to parks and green space varies by class, education, race, and other key variables.The researchers examine 10 U.S. metro areas: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Seattle, Phoenix, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Portland, and St. Louis. (These 10 metros were chosen to reflect a range of sizes, densities, types of green space and vegetation, and region of the country.) And they zero in on three major types of green space: green areas (or mixed vegetation), trees (or woody vegetation), and parks.They use state-of-the-art spatial analytic techniques to carefully isolate key variables while controlling for various factors. The study analyzes green space at the census block and census tract levels, using images of urban vegetation cover available from the satellite images of the U.S. National Agriculture Imagery Program (NAIP), and of parks using GIS information from Esri’s USA Parks map. It compares the distribution of green space to characteristics such as income, education, race, age, and density, based on data from the Census’s American Community Survey.What it finds is that access to green space reflects broader class and racial divides. The biggest lines of cleavage are income and higher education (which the study measures as the share of college graduates), both of which are positively and significantly associated with access to green space.Conversely, the share of adults who did not graduate from high school is negatively associated with access to green space. This class divide is more salient for access to trees and green space (wooded and mixed vegetation) that it is for parks. This is likely because more affluent people can purchase access to lots on, or adjacent to, such green space. That said, education and income also play a role in access to parks, albeit less so than for trees and green space.Race is a factor, too, though not quite as significant as income and education. Shares of Latino and African-American residents are negatively associated with access to green space, with the correlations being stronger for Latinos. Meanwhile, the share of white residents is positively associated with access to green space.Density plays a curious role. It is positively associated with parks, and negatively associated with both trees and green space (wooded and mixed vegetation). This may simply be because parks tend to be built in denser areas with less private green space, while wooded and mixed vegetation is much more common and accessible in outlying suburban areas.Interestingly, two metros—Jacksonville and St. Louis—are outliers on some of these trends. In both cities, less educated and Latino residents had better access to trees or green areas.The study authors also find that the underlying geography ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Tuesday, March 19, 2019By Richard Florida
    13 hours ago
  • Why Wayne Messam Wants to Go From Florida Mayor to POTUS
    Wayne Messam, the mayor of Miramar, Florida, rarely shies away from confrontation. After the Parkland, Florida, school shooting in 2018, he and several other Florida mayors sought to enforce stronger local gun restrictions. But they were stalled by strict state preemption measures, which mandate that even proposing to ban gun use on city-owned property can get local officials fined and fired by the governor. Following the lead of Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who defended his city’s gun control restrictions in 2017, Messam and the other mayors advocating for municipal-level firearm measures sued the state. If successful, Miramar could declare public buildings, such as the city’s new 5,000-seat amphitheater, gun-free.And now, as Messam continues the battle for more local control over gun regulations, he’s joining a growing group of Democratic mayors and former mayors who are running for the highest office in the country: POTUS. Messam launched an exploratory committee last week, after telling Buzzfeed, “If a mayor from South Bend can do it, then why not a mayor from Miramar?”That South Bend, Indiana-mayor is Pete Buttigieg, who’s risen to prominence fast—scoring a CNN town hall at SXSW; a Guardian book review calling his autobiography Shortest Way Home the best since Obama’s; and a spot on the Democratic presidential debate stage. Messam hasn’t published his autobiography yet, but he laughs when people tell him he’s a long shot. A local construction business owner whose immigrant father was a sugarcane cutter in Jamaica, he already overcame the odds when he beat a 16-year incumbent to become Miramar’s first African-American mayor in 2015. In the four days after announcing his intent to run, he’s received donations from people in 17 states, with the average donation under $50, a spokesperson for his campaign said.CityLab caught up with Messam to talk gun control, the “Operation Varsity Blues” college admissions scandal, and what city politics can teach a leader about running a country.Citylab: What got you into politics at the city level in the first place?Wayne Messam: Ever since a young age, I've always been in a leadership position. I was my senior class president [in high school]. When I played football as a starting wide receiver at Florida State University my senior year, I was student government vice president for 40,000 students. So I've always been, not necessarily politically engaged, but I've always been a leader amongst my peers.When I started my business [Messam Construction] here in south Florida, in wanting to learn more about our local government, one step led to another. In 2011, I decided to run for city commissioner. I jumped in the race right before qualifying ended, and was a long shot to win. Still, I actually won the election by 30-plus votes. I got right to work as the city commissioner, and then decided to run for mayor in 2015, becoming the first African-American mayor of our very diverse city.I've always just wanted to be connected to people. I see myself as a problem solver, and I think my business ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Tuesday, March 19, 2019By Sarah Holder
    13 hours ago
  • Local Ideas on Economic Inequality: Watch the CityLab Live Stream
    As economic inequality becomes an increasingly prominent global issue and political talking point, it is local communities that bear the burden of its impact, and that are piloting some of the most interesting new models for economic inclusivity. Follow along with CityLab’s event in Washington, D.C. as we confront some key questions about our economic futures. All times are in eastern time.8:30am – Welcome RemarksNicole Flatow, Editor, CityLab Brandee McHale, President, Citi Foundation 8:40am - Economic Development in the Age of Amazon: The New York City StoryBrad Lander, City Councilman for New York City Nicole Flatow, Editor, CityLab 9:15am - Suburban Poverty and Services* produced by our underwriter, Citi FoundationMarla Bilonick, Executive Director, Latino Economic Development Center Maria Gomez, President and CEO, Mary’s Center Moderator: Brandee McHale, President, Citi Foundation 9:30am - Reform in the New SuburbiaAh, suburbia: white-picket-fenced realm of white-bread people and cookie-cutter housing. That’s the stereotype that persists in how many of us think about the places surrounding cities. But it's very far from the diverse, dynamic suburbia of today. The conversation about poverty, race, and class is no longer just about urban areas. As issues like affordable housing, transit access, and educational equity have moved to the suburbs, so, too, has momentum to address them. How are suburban communities leading the way? And in the wake of a midterm election in which the suburbs were the new swing states, how will the suburbs assert their interests on the national stage?Luiz Aragon, Development Commissioner for New Rochelle, NY Natali Fani-González, Montgomery County (MD) Planning Board Commissioner Ed McMahon, Senior Resident Fellow, Urban Land Institute Moderator: Amanda Kolson Hurley, CityLab Senior Editor; author of the forthcoming book Radical Suburbs: Experimental Living on the Fringes of the American City 10:25am – Future of Work* produced by our underwriter, Citi FoundationElizabeth Lindsey, Executive Director, Byte Back Ashley Johnson, Co-Founder and Co-CEO, The Literacy Lab Emcee: Brandee McHale, President, Citi Foundation 10:40am – Protecting the Vulnerable Workers of the FutureFrom a changing retail landscape, to the rise of the app-based gig economy, prospects for the United States' most vulnerable workers are shifting, and cities are at the forefront of instituting reforms. We'll look at first-of-their-kind laws that could serve as national models, from a minimum wage law for ride-hailing, to new protections for freelance and domestic workers. And we'll ask the question: What do low-wage workers of the future really need? And how can the cities of the future support them?Irene Jor, New York Director with the National Domestic Workers Alliance Brad Lander, City Councilman for New York City Julia Ticona, Assistant Professor at the University of Pennsylvania Annenberg School for Communication; author of a forthcoming book on digital technologies and the labor market Moderator: Sarah Holder, CityLab Staff Writer 11:35am - Closing remarksNicole Flatow, Editor, CityLab 11:40am - Networking Reception*This session is produced by our underwriter, Citi Foundation, and not by CityLab’s editorial Staff ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Tuesday, March 19, 2019By CityLab
    14 hours ago
  • Think You’re Faster Than the D.C. Streetcar? Think Again.
    There’s a running joke in Washington, D.C., that you can literally outrun the city’s streetcar.The 2.2-mile H St./Benning line, running along a busy commercial corridor in the city’s northeast quadrant, has evoked mixed reactions from locals since it opened in 2016. Between stories of streetcars getting stuck in traffic and behind improperly parked cars (and at one point rear-ending a Metrobus), some Washingtonians have been skeptical about the reliability and usefulness of the $200 million project.And in a city that ranks 10th for having the most runners in the U.S., according to Strava, it only made sense that assumptions about the streetcar’s speed were put to the test with an actual race. So on a chilly Sunday afternoon in February, I joined a group of some 30 people for the third annual “Running of the Streetcar” race, organized by the local H Street Runners club.“When the club first relaunched a few years ago, it was before the streetcar was even up and running,” said Meryl Winslow, one of the club’s organizers. “We were like, ‘We could probably run faster than it; it’s always catching on fire’.” (During a test run in 2015, a “brief flash fire” indeed ignited atop one of the cars.)The H/Benning Line runs from east-west through D.C.’s busy H Street Corridor. (Google Maps)Despite all the jokes, the performance of the D.C. streetcar has been improving of late, as CityLab reported last year: It carried more than 3,000 passengers per weekday in 2017, increasing ridership by 44 percent month over month from its first year of operation. By December 2018, just two months shy of its third anniversary, it clocked in 3 million riders. D.C. officials plan to expand the line two miles east across the Anacostia River, a plan that’s still in its design phase, according to the local news site Greater Greater Washington.Maybe it’s not fair to pick on streetcars for being slow, since they aren’t meant to be rapid transit. Most modern-era streetcar systems in the U.S. run in mixed traffic, keeping their operating speeds low. In a 2013 report from the Institution for Transportation and Development Policy ranking speeds of a handful of streetcars, buses, and light rail systems (which, unlike most streetcars, have their own dedicated lanes and reach higher speeds), Portland and Seattle’s streetcars come in dead last.A 2015 study from the Mineta Transportation Institute found that streetcar systems from several U.S. cities typically operated at about half the pace of city buses. D.C.’s system came in around the middle of the pack, at an average of 5.7 mph. You’d be hard-pressed to find a rushed D.C. commuter choosing the streetcar over the X2 bus, which runs along the same route and often at greater frequency. (The streetcar’s advantage, however, is that it’s free, compared to a standard $2 bus fare.)So beating the D.C. streetcar on foot certainly seems achievable. According to Google Maps, it typically takes the tram between 17 and 20 minutes to travel from the intersection of Oklahoma Avenue ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Tuesday, March 19, 2019By Linda Poon
    14 hours ago
  • Kamala Harris’s $15 Million Proposal to Fix Local Government Tech
    When Healthcare.gov crashed within two hours of its much-anticipated launch in 2013, it highlighted just how embarrassingly slow the federal government was in bringing its technology up to date. If there was a silver lining, though, it was that the site’s initial failure led to the creation of 18F and the U.S. Digital Service, two tech-savvy agencies that have since helped the government catch up with the times.Now, a bill proposed by Senator Kamala Harris aims to throw a similar lifeline to local governments, whose digital infrastructure often remains painfully inept. “We must do more to empower our state and local governments to tap into the power of technology to provide seamless, cost-effective services for the 21st century,” she said in a statement.The Digital Service Act of 2019, introduced Thursday, would allocate $15 million per year in grants to help states, cities, and Indian tribes establish their own team of tech experts and designers that will “update and rebuild” their digital services and online tools. Officials can apply for two-year grants of between $200,000 and $2.5 million, half of which is required to go toward paying the salaries of that team. The total amount awarded will depend on the size of a jurisdiction’s population.Overseeing the grant distribution will be the U.S. Digital Service, which provides consultation to federal agencies. The agency, according to the bill, would review each applicant’s eligibility based on its ongoing commitment to “modernizing government technology” as well as “a rigorous commitment to digital delivery of government services.” It will also consider whether the government agencies applying for funds have a designated point person, like a chief technology or innovation officer.The state of government technology varies wildly among cities. The more advanced ones have forged ahead to secure the latest smart technology, while others struggle with the most basic services. In many cases, employees still file paper by hand, data remains siloed within various agencies, and programs run on outdated software from as far back as the ‘80s and ‘90s. For some cities, even developing a user-friendly website is a challenge.“Because we haven’t developed as much of the internal capability in government to just do digital things, to use technology in ways that, frankly, the average person uses them—not even programmers—technology actually becomes a barrier,” says Jen Pahlka, the founder and executive director of Code for America, which addresses technology gaps between the public and private sector.Lacking the funding and skilled employees, some cities rely, instead, on buying software and systems from private companies. The process is often long and arduous, not to mention costly, and the end product can be clunky and non-user friendly. In fact, the companies that win government contracts often are not the ones known for modern software development, as Hana Schank and Sara Hudson, two public interest technology fellows at the think tank New America, wrote in the Washington Post last year.While some governments have looked toward working with startups, Jay Nath, CIO of the civic tech nonprofit City Innovate, previously told ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Monday, March 18, 2019By Linda Poon
    1 day ago
  • CityLab Daily: Did Amazon Overpromise?
    What We’re FollowingGrand ole operations: Over the weekend, a $23 million incentives package for Amazon HQ2 cleared its final hurdle as the Arlington County Board in Virginia approved subsidies for the e-commerce giant (WaPo). Meanwhile, Nashville’s Metro Council plans to vote Tuesday on a similar incentive package for the company’s 1-million-square-foot “Operations Center of Excellence.” But Amazon’s plans are facing new scrutiny after the company filed salary data that casts doubt on whether its local hiring will match what it promised.The promise was 5,000 full-time jobs paying an average wage of over $150,000 in Davidson County. A new breakdown of the company’s hiring commitments shows baseline salaries that fall far short of that, a fact that caught labor activists’ attention. “Let’s give Amazon all of the benefit of the doubt—let’s say they’ll pay all employees $50,000 over the median wage,” one activist tells CityLab’s Sarah Holder. “Literally, they’d have to almost triple these wages to reach the number they’ve been promising all along.” Read Sarah’s story: In Nashville, Will Amazon Overpromise and Under-Deliver?Andrew SmallMore on CityLab Unpacking the Power of Privileged Neighborhoods A new study shows that growing up in an affluent community brings “compounding privileges” and higher educational attainment—especially for white residents. Tanvi Misra Atlanta’s Big Transit Vote Is a Referendum on Race As suburban Gwinnett County weighs a MARTA expansion, changing demographics and politics may decide the Georgia capital's transportation future. Laura Bliss Why Berlin Is Giving Women a Discount on Public Transit The German capital is celebrating Equal Pay Day with the Frauenticket, a discounted fare that reflects the gender pay gap. Feargus O'Sullivan The Women of the Bauhaus Walter Gropius’s lofty rhetoric about equality fell short of the essentialist differences that the art school’s founders perceived between the sexes (and imposed on women at the school). Kriston Capps France’s Yellow Vests Are Rebels Without a Cause As weekly protests continue in Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron is still trying to figure out what the “yellow vest” movement wants. It’s not an easy task. Rachel Donadio Give Me a Brake Arnd Wiegmann/ReutersBike-lane foes say the darnedest things. Advocates of enhanced bicycle infrastructure know this all too well. The latest short film by Streetsfilms’ Clarence Eckerson asks advocates at this year’s National Bike Summit outside Washington, D.C., to recount their most ridiculous tales of bike-lane opposition. Enjoy some of these head-scratchers—including the classic If you build a bike lane, the terrorists will win—here: Watch Bike Advocates Vent About the Silliest Anti-Bike Lane ArgumentsWhat We’re ReadingETA: Uber plans to kick off IPO in April (Reuters)Climate change is hastening the decline of destinations, giving rise to “last-chance tourism” (Vox)New York City says electric cars are now the cheapest option for its fleet (Quartz)Why Lyft would prefer you take a scooter (Bloomberg)Google Doodle pays tribute to the inventor of the “tenji block,” ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Monday, March 18, 2019By Andrew Small
    1 day ago
  • To Dismantle Inequality, Focus on ‘Advantaged’ Neighborhoods
    Conventional wisdom says that place matters more for people who live in distressed neighborhoods—places with low median incomes and not a lot of opportunity. That’s why policymakers have traditionally focused on one of two place-based solutions. Community development grants and tax breaks, for example, are aimed at improving conditions by luring investment into disadvantaged areas. Housing voucher programs, meanwhile, are supposed to help low-income families escape distressed neighborhoods and move to ones with higher median incomes and better educational outcomes.But what if our approach to geographical inequality is lopsided? What if we’re overlooking the contribution of so-called advantaged neighborhoods in maintaining status quo?In a new paper published in Sociological Quarterly, Junia Howell, a sociologist at the University of Pittsburgh, argues just that. “As important as investigations into disadvantaged neighborhoods are,” she writes, “the nearly exclusive analytical focus on them has the unintentional consequence of downplaying the role that advantaged neighborhoods play in stratifying educational outcomes.”In this paper, Howell tested what types of neighborhoods had the most influence on their residents by analyzing a trove of data going back a half-century from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID). Administered since 1968 to a representative sample of 5,000 households across the U.S., this is the world’s longest-running longitudinal household survey, and it allowed her to track children in the survey throughout their childhood and into adulthood. She had information on what they did for a living, how much they made, and what block they lived on for each year of the survey. Connecting that with census data allowed her to paint a picture of the neighborhoods they lived in.As researchers have done in the past, she gave these neighborhoods scores based on proportion of residents below poverty line, proportion of black residents, and proportion of female-headed single-family households. The higher these proportions, the more “disadvantaged” the neighborhood.That definition is “in itself problematic,” Howell said, because the lack of opportunity in these places is a symptom of historical treatment and structural problems. But she wanted to use it to be consistent with previous research. (She also looked at other measures of neighborhood disadvantage, like median income and educational attainment, and found similar results.)She then conducted a series of analyses to predict the effect disadvantaged and advantaged neighborhoods have on children’s educational attainment by the time they turned 26. She found that advantaged neighborhoods mattered much more for their residents—the boost they provided was much stronger than the negative effect distressed neighborhoods had on their residents.Put another way, living in advantaged neighborhood would make a substantial difference to educational attainment of a person, compared to another with comparable family and individual profile. But for people living in moderate or very disadvantaged neighborhoods, educational outcome is similar if everything else is similar. So parental education level and income may matter more.Howell concludes in the paper: Findings suggest neighborhood structural effects are asymmetrical. These results suggest that educational inequality is driven by the compounding privileges of the most advantaged residents. That relationship ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Monday, March 18, 2019By Tanvi Misra
    2 days ago
  • Reading Bauhaus: 7 Books to Mark a Modernist Milestone
    If CityLab’s Building Bauhaus series has stoked your appetite to learn even more about history’s most influential art school, you’re in luck: The Bauhaus centennial this year has prompted a flurry of new and reissued books. Below are some suggestions for further reading.The ABC’s of ▲■●: The Bauhaus and Design Theory Edited by Ellen Lupton and J. Abbott Miller Princeton Architectural Press, $29.95A reissue of a book first published in 1991, The ABC’s of ▲■● explores the graphic achievements of the Bauhaus through the lenses of psychoanalysis, geometry, and early-childhood education. The book’s title refers to Wassily Kandinsky’s belief that geometric forms have a universal correspondence with certain colors: The triangle is inherently yellow, the square red, and the circle blue. (Kandinsky even “proved” this via a questionnaire he distributed at the Bauhaus in 1923.)Critical essays draw parallels between these forms and the shapes used in teaching by kindergarten pioneer Friedrich Froebel, discuss Herbert Bayer’s influential Universal typeface, and explore the Modernist ideal of a purely visual language. Edited by two renowned graphic designers, The ABC’s of ▲■● lives up to its subject in its own design, which elegantly integrates copious drawings, photographs, and typographic samples.International Architecture Walter Gropius (1925) Lars Muller Publishers, $45Lars Müller has translated and republished the first of the school’s Bauhausbücher to its exact original design. In the book, school master Gropius takes readers on a photographic tour of the world’s most modern factories, office buildings, and housing complexes. Gropius was eager to see architecture break away from 19th-century traditions. “The master builders in this book embrace the modern world of machines and vehicles and their speed,” he wrote. “They strive for ever more daring design means to create a sense of soaring high and overcoming earth’s inertia.”Gropius: The Man Who Built the Bauhaus Fiona MacCarthy Belknap Press of Harvard University Press; $35In the first full-length biography of Gropius in a generation, Fiona MacCarthy traces his eventful life, from his Berlin childhood and military service in World War I to his brief exile in England and new life in Massachusetts, where he led Harvard’s design school and co-founded what would become the largest architectural practice in the U.S., The Architects Collaborative.MacCarthy, who has authored biographies of William Morris and the poet Byron, finds Gropius to have possessed an “extraordinary charisma” and sees him as a “great survivor” of the upheavals of the 20th century. “Not the least of the myths I have had to contend with in writing his life is the idea that Gropius was doctrinaire and boring,” she writes.  Thanks for the View, Mr. Mies Edited by Danielle Aubert, Lana Cavar, and Natasha Chandani Metropolis Books, $29.95A 2012 book that thoroughly captured every small detail of daily life inside Detroit’s Lafayette Park is being re-released in April, with a revised introduction and new texts that reflect on the changes the neighborhood underwent since the city declared for Chapter 9 bankruptcy in 2013. Mies van der Rohe designed towers and townhomes in what used to be ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Friday, March 15, 2019By Mark Byrnes
    4 days ago
  • The Women of the Bauhaus
    There’s a famous image from the Bauhaus, one that places the school’s design ethos in a tantalizingly familiar setting. It’s the office of Walter Gropius, the director’s original suite at the Weimar Bauhaus, pictured in 1923. His office is a chapel to workplace productivity where light intersects line. It could easily be a contemporary catalog display, an aspirational space just waiting to be shopped. It was even reconstructed in 1999. Walter Gropius’s office is design history within reach.But some of the details of the restoration are off. The abstract textile, a geometric tapestry by Gunta Stölzl, appears to be missing. And the original rug, a weave of square tiles designed by Gertrud Arndt, has been replaced altogether. The new carpet in the restored Gropius room belongs to a different Bauhaus designer, Benita Otte. Bringing another woman to the fore is in keeping with the original design. But it is also a break from the past, since a woman is getting credit for her work.“In the past 20 years, there’s been a lot of really wonderful work that’s been done, looking at the contributions of women in the Bauhaus,” says Alexa Griffith Winton, a design historian and assistant professor at Ryerson University. “We still are struggling with this idea of the lone architect as the creative genius that is the source of all of these ideas.”As the world celebrates the centennial of the school and its contributions to design, the women who shaped the Bauhaus are finding purchase as important makers in their own right. A new book due next month by Elizabeth Otto & Patrick Rössler, Bauhaus Women: A Global Perspective, surveys the work of some 45 women Bauhaus designers, many of them forgotten by other historical texts. And Bauhausfrauen (Bauhaus Women), a new documentary film by Susanne Radelhof, screens next week at the Bauhaus Archive and other locations throughout Germany in coming weeks.Women were integral to the history of the Bauhaus. When Gropius opened the Weimar school in 1919, women (who had just earned both the franchise and fundamental rights in the Weimar constitution) were welcome to attend. Women outnumbered men in the first Bauhaus class (84 to 79) and the school dropped gender-specific tuition rates that charged women a higher fee. “No difference between the beautiful and the strong sex,” Gropius told students in his first speech to the school, according to Ulrike Müller, author of 2009’s Bauhaus Women. “Absolute equality but also absolutely equal obligation to the work of all craftsmen.”Gropius’s lofty rhetoric about equality fell short of the essentialist differences that the Bauhaus founders perceived between the sexes (and imposed on women at the school). Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky associated masculinity with genius and creativity, respectively. Gropius—who believed that women lacked the mental capacity to work in three dimensions—held bizarre convictions about certain forms or concepts as being masculine (the color red, the triangle) or feminine (the color blue, the square).Masters of workshops for printing, metals, sculpture, and above all, architecture, feared the competition that ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Friday, March 15, 2019By Kriston Capps
    4 days ago
  • In Nashville, Will Amazon Overpromise and Under-Deliver?
    A transparency measure passed last year in Nashville has unlocked new information about Amazon’s plan to build an operations center there, including hints that the company may not fulfill its employee salary promises. The document, which also reveals Amazon’s local hiring projections, offers the clearest look yet at Amazon’s employment plans in an HQ2 city. And as Nashville’s Metro Council prepares to vote on the city’s incentive package on Tuesday, advocates are hoping to use it to push them to defer approval, and organize a public hearing with Amazon.In its November public announcement, Amazon pledged it would build a 1-million square foot “Operations Center of Excellence” in downtown Nashville, investing more than $230 million in the city and hiring 5,000 full-time workers paid “an average wage of over $150,000.” In the more detailed resolution released this week, Amazon reaffirmed those commitments, and for the first time provided a breakdown of what the positions might look like. The majority of the jobs (3,000) are projected to be in business and financial operations, and 40 percent of the total jobs are expected to be held by “residents of Davidson County.”What’s less clear is how much each of these jobs will pay. Amazon reiterated in its resolution that overall, the jobs will have an “average salary of over $150,000.” But instead of including its own specific projected salary ranges, Amazon posted Davidson County’s median annual wage for each category of job, and promised that almost all of Amazon’s Nashville employees will be paid more.The county’s overall median annual wage is $47,110, and Amazon promises that 90 to 95 percent of Amazon jobs will top it. The top Davidson County salary listed goes to those in management jobs, who are paid a median annual wage of $104,830. Amazon is projected to employ 50 of them, and pay them “above” that median. The lowest salaries are projected to go to Amazon’s 400 office and administrative support workers, 90 to 95 percent of whom will also be paid “above” the Davidson County median of $37,540.A screenshot of Amazon’s resolution shows the breakdown of jobs they’re projected to hire for.All of those baseline salaries are a far cry from the $150,000 average salary Amazon promised, notes Ann Barnett, a campaign and community coordinator with the Central Labor Council of Nashville and Middle Tennessee, and an organizer with Stand Up Nashville. “Let’s give Amazon all of the benefit of the doubt—let’s say they’ll pay all employees $50,000 over the median wage,” she said. That average still comes to about $118,000 a year. “Literally, they’d have to almost triple these wages to reach the number they’ve been promising all along.”Amazon declined to comment to CityLab on the record about how these medians would affect its salary decisions.Part of the problem could be that Amazon promised median salaries of $150,000 in all three cities it initially chose to host new campuses, seemingly regardless of local costs of living. And $150,000 goes a lot further in Nashville than it does in ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Friday, March 15, 2019By Sarah Holder
    4 days ago
  • Why Berlin Is Giving Women a Discount on Public Transit
    Women traveling around Berlin on Monday will find that public transit costs them quite a bit less than usual—and quite a bit less than it costs men, too.For one day, March 18, the city’s transit authority BVG is selling a special Frauenticket, a women-only day pass that allows travel anywhere in the city all day for €5.50, instead of the usual €7—a 21 percent reduction on the regular fare. BVG is offering the ticket on March 18th in honor of Germany’s national Equal Pay Day. The discount reflects to the percentage that female German workers are paid less compared to their male counterparts.It could feasibly be argued that the special ticket discriminates against men by obliging them to pay more for the same service. On this subject, however, the BVG is fairly forthright, saying in a press release: It is not our intention that men feel discriminated against by the action. If that happens, we apologize. On the other hand, who apologizes to the women who earn on average 21% less? Most men of Berlin will not only understand this action, but also support it. Especially since this small gesture of solidarity is disproportionate to what women are deprived of income on a yearly basis. BVG also says the Frauenticket will be available to all “who live as women,” whether they are cis or trans.This move comes on the heels of International Women’s Day, on March 8th. This year, a re-unified Berlin celebrated International Women’s Day as a public holiday for the first time, reviving a day off that occurred annually in East Berlin, before the country of which it was capital was dissolved in 1991. It also partly rectified a situation where Berlin has fewer public holidays than other German states.Taken together, these two moves might give the impression that Berlin, and Germany, is a particularly progressive, female-friendly place. The reality, however, is that the country as a whole currently does quite poorly in securing equal opportunities. Germany’s gender pay gap, while broadly similar to that in the U.S., is the third widest in all Europe (behind Estonia and the Czech Republic) and much wider than the gap in Italy, Romania, and Luxembourg, where it has narrowed to less than 5.5 percent.
    Source: CityLabPublished on Friday, March 15, 2019By Feargus O'Sullivan
    4 days ago
  • Atlanta’s Big Transit Vote Is a Referendum on Race
    On March 19, voters in Gwinnett County, to the northeast of Atlanta, will decide on whether to approve a possible rail extension and a lot of better bus routes. If it’s successful, the transit referendum in Georgia’s second-largest county would make history—not only by connecting the sprawling suburban area to Atlanta’s regional transit system for the first time, but also signaling a possible shift in the metro’s divisive racial politics.Some history helps explain why. In the early 1970s, voters in three of the five counties that comprise the Atlanta metro area rejected a 1-cent sales tax to build out the Metropolitan Atlanta Regional Transportation Authority, which had been formed a few years prior. Racist scare tactics and rhetoric played a big role in that rejection. Whites had spent the better part of the 1960s fleeing Atlanta’s integrated city center, leaving a majority black population behind. The persistence of a racist joke from that era—the one about how MARTA stood for “Moving Africans Rapidly Through Atlanta”—still speaks to those tensions.In those votes, “racial concerns trumped everything else,” Kevin M. Kruse, the Princeton historian and author of White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism, told Atlanta magazine in 2012. “The more you think about it, Atlanta’s transportation infrastructure was designed as much to keep people apart as to bring people together.”So while residents of Atlanta proper and the densest parts of DeKalb and Fulton counties got rail and bus service in the 1970s, suburban Clayton, Cobb, and Gwinnett were excluded. They remained that way for decades. In 1990, 70 percent of Gwinnett County voters defeated another proposal to join MARTA, a debate that featured citizens and elected officials airing yet more hideous views on race.If you’re looking for prime examples of how white suburbanites employ the “crime train” narrative to advance the idea that public transportation is a conduit of urban dysfunction, you’ll find plenty here. “That place has a reputation for murder and rape—the wrong people,” one man said at a packed hearing in a high school auditorium, referring to the state capital. “We don’t need ‘em, we don’t want ‘em.”W.J. Dodd, the county commissioner at the time, explained to the Associated Press how his constituents were feeling a few days before the vote: “One of the worst fears is bringing people out of Atlanta, the minorities.”So state and county leaders built out highways instead, creating a mega-region notorious for sprawl, superlatively bad traffic, and terrible air quality. In 1999, Atlanta was the first city in the U.S. punished for its high pollution levels with a denial of federal road funds. That was followed by some meager transit service emerging in the counties, operated by fragmented local agencies. By and large, the MARTA buses and trains of today are underfunded, slow, and infrequent, and don’t reach critical jobs, healthcare centers, and schools in the places that snubbed them so many years ago.But that is beginning to change. Gwinnett County—90 percent white in 1990—is today one of the most diverse ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Friday, March 15, 2019By Laura Bliss
    4 days ago
  • CItyLab Daily: What Fare Is Fair?
    What We’re FollowingThe price is fright: When mass transit systems experience a decline in ridership, they face a dilemma: If they don’t raise revenue, how can they fund fixes for deteriorating service? And in an age of ubiquitous ride-sharing and cheap gas, what is a bus or subway ride really worth? That’s what New York’s MTA had to grapple with last month when it raised fares amid a potential death spiral for ridership.There’s no such thing as a perfect transit fare, since any increase will push people to choose other, cheaper options. There are ways to strike a balance, though: Consider what residents are able to pay for a ride and how to improve the process of actually paying that fare. But beware of focusing too heavily on one issue—even the best fare won’t make up for sub-par service. Today on CityLab: What’s the Perfect Price for Public Transportation?Andrew SmallMore on CityLab Inside Hudson Yards, Manhattan’s Opulent New Mini-City With super-tall glass towers, a luxury mall, and a ’grammable urban spectacle, Hudson Yards is very much a development of its time. James S. Russell How Density Can Deter Growth in America’s Largest Metros A new report examines why the largest U.S. metros actually face population decline. Richard Florida What the Youth Climate Strikers Want to Change “If the adults are going to screw up our entire future, we have to do something about it,” said one young activist joining the global Youth Climate Strike. Nicole Javorsky Sorry, Houseplants Don’t Really Purify the Air in Your Home The science is clear: Even the most enthusiastic indoor gardeners don’t have enough vegetation to make a difference in air quality. Robinson Meyer To Avoid Climate Disaster, Urban Transportation Must Change—Now Cities have a key role to play in confronting climate change, and it starts with shared mobility—and taking back the streets from the private car. Robin Chase Bauhaus Books Marcel Breuer’s Atlanta-Fulton Central Library is undergoing a facelift. (Cooper Carry)When the Whitney Museum of American Art opened in September 1966, its distinctly Brutalist design made an impression on Carlton Rochell, the director of Atlanta’s public library system. A few years later, Rochell asked architect Marcel Breuer to bring something similar to Atlanta. The result became the legendary Bauhaus architect’s final project: the Atlanta-Fulton Central Library. Last summer, after much debate, the city committed to upgrading Breuer’s building, with an expected reopening in May 2020. CityLab’s Mark Byrnes reports: How Atlanta Got—and Decided to Save—Its Brutalist Central LibraryAnd check out “Building Bauhaus,” our series commemorating the 100th anniversary of the art school that changed the world.What We’re ReadingGovernor Cuomo warns of a 30 percent fare hike if congestion pricing fails (New York Times)Welcome to birdpunk (Audubon)The crash of the Boeing 737 Max is a warning to drivers, too (Slate)House transportation committee’s probe of Trump Organization might ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Friday, March 15, 2019By Andrew Small
    4 days ago
  • To Avoid Climate Disaster, Urban Transportation Must Change, Now
    Today, hundreds of thousands of students from over 100 countries are walking out of their schools to join a Global Climate Strike, part of a wave of youth protests around the world aimed at demanding immediate government response to the climate crisis. “I don’t want your hope,” said Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish student who initiated the movement, in her quiet, eloquent demand at Davos in January. “I want you to act. I want you to act as if you were in a crisis … as if the house were on fire. Because it is.”The demand? That governments acknowledge the crisis, and move with commensurate speed and action.In an urbanizing world, the transportation sector is a major generator of climate-altering gases, contributing as much as 60 percent of a city’s emissions. It’s also a profound influence on the lives of the children who grow up amid fossil-fuel burning behavior: Air pollution from transportation leads to lower birth weights and higher incidence of asthma; traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for American teenagers.To hold warming to a 1.5 degree Celsius rise, as urgently laid out in the most recent IPCC report, we must reduce CO2 emissions by 50 percent by 2030. There are a suite of transportation-related actions that can be taken in cities that could achieve this goal.Two years ago, I convened eight of the world’s largest city and transport NGOs; together, over seven months, we hammered out a vision for resilient, sustainable, and thriving cities and a set of clear principles to guide execution. This framework, the Shared Mobility Principles for Livable Cities, has been adopted by more than two hundred companies and city advisors. If put into practice worldwide, they would not only dramatically reduce emissions in cities, but would also dramatically improve the quality of life for those who live in them. And they could do it without expensive and time-consuming infrastructure investments. Here’s how:How cities spend their moneyRight now, too many transportation investments take us further away from a carbon neutral world, rather than closer. We need to stop investing in new automobile infrastructure and put that money into improving the quality and service of more efficient ways of travel, such as public transit and segregated bike lanes. Not only have these been typically underinvested in, the investments that have been made are not commensurate with the fraction of travel that should be made by these means.It’s also time to recognize how heavily subsidized private automobile travel is—and remove those subsidies. At the local level, that starts with removing free parking, and pricing this limited resource properly. We should unbundle parking spaces from residential and office buildings, and make residents feel the true cost of that not-free parking. We must recognize the price we pay from local car-generated pollution and integrate those costs into actual transport prices.More broadly, we have to speed the electrification of urban transport and prioritize those vehicles that travel the greatest distances with the most people, giving us the biggest ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Friday, March 15, 2019By Robin Chase
    4 days ago
  • Watch Bike Advocates Vent About the Silliest Anti-Bike Lane Arguments
    Why wouldn’t you want a friendly neighborhood bike lane? As advocates of enhanced bicycle infrastructure know all too well, the reasons bike-lane foes give for opposing projects are as numerous and imaginative as a child’s excuses for skipping her homework. The latest short by Clarence Eckerson, tireless auteur of the Streetfilms video series, checks in with activists attending the National Bike Summit outside Washington, D.C., this week. They’re all asked to recall the anti-bike arguments that made them go huh. A sampling of head-scratchers: If you build a bike lane, the terrorists will win! The local fauna will go extinct! We don’t have the money to put paint on the road!Some of these bike-lane battles royale—from Baltimore to Minneapolis—have been covered in more detail by CityLab. Unfortunately for advocates, when other community members set out to kill a bike lane proposal, it often doesn’t matter how ridiculous the chosen anti-cycling myths may be.
    Source: CityLabPublished on Friday, March 15, 2019By Laura Bliss
    4 days ago
  • How Atlanta Learned to Love (Or at Least Respect) Marcel Breuer
    One of Marcel Breuer’s finest works, New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art, opened in September 1966. Among the many who were struck by the distinctly Brutalist design was Carlton Rochell, the director of Atlanta’s public library system. A few years later, he would ask the architect to bring something similar to Atlanta—and more essential to that city. Rochell told the Atlanta Journal years later that he believed Breuer, Mies van der Rohe, and Eero Saarinen were the three greatest architects of their time. Before coming to the United States, the Hungarian-born Breuer had been one of the Bauhaus’s greatest students and instructors. He arrived at the art school in 1920 as an 18-year-old and would go on to design and build chairs, tables, storage units, cabinetry, even home interiors for his friends. The school’s director Walter Gropius asked Breuer back as an instructor, and then, after the Bauhaus closed for good, to split an architecture practice in Cambridge, Massachusetts, building mostly private homes. Breuer later moved to New York to start his own practice and, on top of his known ability to design stunning modern homes, developed a reputation for his expert use of concrete as a functional and expressive face for institutions across the U.S. and Europe. He won an AIA Gold Medal, one of the highest honors in U.S. architecture, in 1968. But that same year, he unveiled two different concepts for a skyscraper over the Beaux-Arts (and recently landmarked) Grand Central Terminal in New York. Coming a few years after the demolition of Penn Station, the proposal sparked fierce opposition and won him little support among friends and colleagues in New York. It was eventually struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.He would face no such obstacles replacing downtown Atlanta’s Beaux-Arts Carnegie Library, which could not keep up with the evolving technological needs of a growing population. Breuer and his associate Hamilton Smith, who had also worked on the Whitney, flew down to Atlanta in March 1971 with a model of their library in tow. Rochell loved it, so did then-Mayor Sam Massell. As at the Whitney, a push-and-pull composition of bush-hammered concrete walls and carefully placed window sections that choreographed natural light would make for an unforgettable public landmark, next to Margaret Mitchell Square. In a city that was being reshaped by a gigantic private sector, with mixed-use developments like the Omni Complex and Peachtree Center, Breuer’s design would further the city’s modernity while providing something all Atlantans could enjoy equally.But the project quickly met the reality of city politics. By 1975, it was still pending voter support on a bond measure, which it eventually secured that December. The following summer, designs for the library still hadn’t evolved beyond the facade presented in 1971—an image that the library used to gain support, and later faced criticism for, as it deceptively promoted the project as if it were a fleshed-out design.In 1976, Rochell left his position and Breuer retired from architecture, leaving Smith and a new ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Friday, March 15, 2019By Mark Byrnes
    4 days ago
  • Inside Hudson Yards, Manhattan’s Opulent New Mini-City
    Great, jagged slits of sky separate the skyscrapers that have risen like reflective missile silos at the western edge of Manhattan. Part of the Hudson Yards mega-development, the towers reach up to 1,000 feet, and cast much of a five-acre public plaza at the heart of the development into shadow. Today, Related Companies and Oxford Properties celebrate the grand opening of Hudson Yards. Nearly 9 million square feet (of an eventual 18 million) is completed or coming on line over the next several months, including a 1 million-square-foot mall, the plaza, and five of six towers.Hudson Yards in Fall 2018. The mega-project’s developers say it is the largest private real-estate development in the history of the United States. (Courtesy of Related/Oxford)Back in 2005, a swath of Manhattan’s Far West Side along the Hudson River, characterized by warehouses and rail yards, was rezoned as the Special Hudson Yards District. The 28-acre Related/Oxford parcel—between 10th and 12th avenues and 30th and 34th streets—is the centerpiece of this rezoned area. Much of it sits on new platforms above rail yards with active tracks and tunnels.Instead of seeing these tabula rasa acres as an opportunity to reimagine the possibilities of the 21st-century city, Related and Oxford have created an assemblage where architecture tries to reconcile the human experience with the herculean scale required to accommodate all those square feet. (An earlier version of the tower 15 Hudson Yards was wasp-waisted, which made its 910-foot height almost relatable.)The saving grace of the project, which is estimated to cost upwards of $20 billion, was the Department of City Planning’s requirement that half the site be developed as open space. Landscape architect Thomas Woltz, of the firm Nelson Byrd Woltz, contrasts the polished hard-edged sheen of the towers with curving paths lined by trees and smooth stone sitting walls. The extensive planted areas divide the plaza into almost intimate realms.A master plan of Hudson Yards. The Eastern Yard (above right), which officially opened March 15, includes several skyscrapers; a shopping mall; The Shed, a cultural center; and in the middle, a plaza anchored by Thomas Heatherwick’s “Vessel” of interlocking stairs. (Courtesy of Related/Oxford)The plaza opens generously west, across 13 as-yet-undeveloped acres, to catch the afternoon sun reflecting off the river. Up to 6.2 million additional square feet will rise here, bringing the number of people working in the area as high as 40,000, according to Related. “Vessel,” an urn-shaped interactive sculpture of more than 150 flights of stairs with 80 landings, looms over the plaza. London’s Heatherwick Studio calls it “a three-dimensional public space.” Its construction is elegant, suspended effortlessly in air, with its underside clad in copper-tinted polished stainless steel. It frames views and movement in Instagrammable perfection, and will be a crowd-pleaser as long as no one thinks too hard about its kinship to M.C. Escher’s senseless stairs to nowhere."Vessel," a 150-foot structure of climbable interlocking staircases, is the photogenic focal point of Hudson Yards. (Courtesy of Michael Moran for Related/Oxford)Hudson Yards is built at ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Friday, March 15, 2019By James S. Russell
    4 days ago
  • In Need of Housing, Barcelona Fines Landlords For Long-Vacant Buildings
    For some years now, Barcelona has been making a threat to landlords: If you don’t find tenants for your empty buildings, we will fine you.The tone emerged as the city’s affordable housing crisis deepened, exacerbated in part by the fact that some buildings lie vacant even as housing has become more scarce. This month, however, the city has gone further than ever before to act on its threat, levying fines of €2.8 million ($3.17 million) against two investment funds that each own an unoccupied building in Barcelona’s center.The fines go far beyond what’s previously been levied against landlords, and they’re large enough to be what local media has deemed a “declaration of war” from Mayor Ada Colau. That’s perhaps fair, given that the mayor has referred to the owners of such properties as “vulture funds.”The city’s mission, however, is constructive as well as punitive. It has pumped funds into ensuring that other previously empty homes are converted into affordable housing, and an initiative this month promises to make another 426 formerly empty properties available for social rent. The result could be, if not a war, then certainly a systematic attempt to ensure that its housing market and its neighborhoods work better.The problems the fines are intended to combat began in 2007, when the financial crisis brought an epidemic of foreclosures on homes across Spain. After a nationwide wave of repossessions, banks found themselves the owners of newly vast portfolios of housing whose tenants had been evicted. Put off by the cost of renovations and wary of their potential obligations to rental tenants as landlords, many banks simply left their buildings empty, waiting for the market to bounce back so they could sell them at a higher price, or seeking permission for non-residential uses such as hotels.This approach has been counter-productive, to say the least. Recently there has been a crime wave across Barcelona that is partly powered by buildings being left empty. As repossessed homes have been left without permanent paying tenants, some have degenerated into Narcopisos—“narco-apartments”—which gangs use for the sale and consumption of opioids. This has caused some central areas to become somewhat rundown and unsafe, even as pressure from the tourist industry has made rents in other areas, sometimes right next door, ever higher.Combating this problem is something of a personal mission for the city’s current administration. Mayor Ada Colau’s first public platform was not as an elected politician but as an anti-eviction campaigner, fighting local laws that were especially punitive by international standards to people who had fallen behind on loan repayments. The law the city is using, which gives it scope to fine negligent landlords after two years of leaving a property vacant, has in fact been in place since 2007 (before Colau’s election) but wasn’t implemented until during her tenure. Since then, the scale of fines demanded has been rising dramatically. In 2015, fines of several banks for leaving 12 homes empty were a now modest-sounding €60,000 ($68,000). By 2016, fines on banks of ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Friday, March 15, 2019By Feargus O'Sullivan
    4 days ago
  • How Density Can Deter Growth in America’s Largest Metros
    Over the past few decades, large cities and metros have captured a disproportionate share of economic growth, while smaller places have seen significant economic decline. But what exactly accounts for such a divergent economic pattern?A new study by economist Jordan Rappaport of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City sees two very basic factors at work: the size and density of cities. On one hand, size (in terms of population and employment) is a huge advantage. Bigger places inexorably grow bigger. And this is especially true for relatively large cities (up to 500,000 people) with plenty of space to grow. For these places, their initially large populations beget faster growth over time.But, on the other hand, density cuts the other way and can slow growth for very large places. This would seem to be at odds with urban theories from Jane Jacobs and others, that view density and clustering as an essential spur to innovation. But Rappaport finds that density generates diseconomies like traffic congestion or expensive housing costs, which limit growth.Rappaport’s study collects data on population and job growth for more than 2,000 American communities, including more than 350 metropolitan areas, 554 micropolitan areas, and 1,300 “non-core” counties.The chart below shows the way that current population shapes future growth. See how the line slopes upward: Population is slow for smaller places at the left side of the graph. More than half of places with populations of less than 25,000 saw decline, as well as more than 40 percent of places with populations of fewer than 50,000.This doesn’t mean that all small places are locked in decline. Rappaport points out that some small cities with unique attributes like natural amenities (mountains, coastlines, and warm weather), colleges and universities, close proximity to major urban centers, or significant oil and natural gas deposits are still growing.Population Growth versus Initial Population, 2000-2017(Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Economic Review)Population growth then speeds up as places get larger. Places with more than 500,000 people have considerably higher rates of population growth. The pattern holds until we get to the very largest places, at the far right of the graph above. Then, we see a dip as population growth slows for the very largest metros, like Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York.Growth versus Initial Population, Medium and Large Metropolitan Areas(Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Economic Review)The graph above zooms into the far right side of the first graph. It demonstrates how not all places with more than 500,000 people are booming. Rustbelt metros like Scranton, Youngstown, Toledo, Dayton, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Detroit have all witnessed stagnation or decline, as seen below the dotted line.This basic pattern has held true for more than half a century. Since 1960, population growth has dipped down for the largest places, as indicated by the blue line. More recently, decline sets in at an even larger population threshold, denoted by the orange line.Historical Population Growth versus Initial Population(Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Economic Review)Rappaport finds that employment ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Friday, March 15, 2019By Richard Florida
    5 days ago
  • What the Youth Climate Strikers Want to Change
    Today, young people are expected to skip school and gather in more than 1,200 cities in 90-plus countries around the world to demand action on climate change. The global Youth Climate Strike movement began with Greta Thunberg, 16, who last summer started protesting alone outside Sweden’s parliament instead of attending school on Fridays. “Until you start focusing on what needs to be done rather than what is politically possible, there is no hope. We can’t solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis,” said Thunberg (who was just nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize) during a speech at the 2018 UN climate conference in Poland.In the U.S., events are planned today in more than 100 cities (see the interactive map below, created by Youth Climate Strike). CityLab spoke with people planning to take part about why they’re striking and the issues they’re most concerned about.Protecting the Amazon rainforest and the Chesapeake Bay (and other ecosystems)Serena Moscarella, 16, of Bethesda, Maryland, will ride the D.C. Metro with schoolmates to the climate rally on Capitol Hill. She is part Brazilian, and when she lived in Brazil for five years, losses in the Amazon rainforest disheartened her. “It really hurt me to see that the government is not taking more action to prevent the Amazon rainforest from being cut down,” she said.Miners walk in a deforested area of the Amazon rainforest. (Nacho Doce/Reuters)After Moscarella moved to the Washington, D.C. area, seeing efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay inspired her to get more involved in protecting the environment. She has been helping with national logistics and fundraising for the Youth Climate Strike movement. “It’s something that makes me feel like I’m making a real change,” she said.Animal welfare and wildlife conservationColleen McKenney, who is 14 and a vegan, is traveling from upstate New York to D.C. because of her concern “for the future of the entire world and ecosystems and [the world’s] species.” But there are other issues she is passionate about—many more—that she rattled off. She wants to fight for: “hunting bans; conservation of animals, land, and plants; sustainable resources and renewable energy; respecting Native American treaties.” And against: “zoos, circuses, the illegal wildlife trade … deforestation, climate change.”The Green New Deal and renewable energyFatima Bucio, 20, of Granite City, Illinois, is co-organizing the climate strike in St. Louis. In addition to voicing her concern for marine and animal life, Bucio spoke about the promise of the Green New Deal for places like Granite City.“Solutions can come from that,” Bucio said, “with people not losing their jobs, so a small town like this won’t become a ghost town.”Beatrice Hill, 13, from Montgomery County, Maryland, will attend the D.C. rally. The issue she’s most passionate about? Renewable energy. Hill suggests “more tax breaks for renewable energy, [and taxing] oil a lot higher, so that renewable energy gets a fair shot in the competition.”When Hill talks about climate change with her friends, she said, “We get mad about it, because within our lifetimes, ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Friday, March 15, 2019By Nicole Javorsky
    5 days ago
  • CityLab Daily: How Did Duke Doom Durham’s Light Rail?
    What We’re FollowingBlue Devils in the details: After two decades, a rail project linking Durham and Chapel Hill, North Carolina, came to a screeching halt. The reason? Duke University wouldn’t sign a cooperative agreement for the $2.7 billion project, and refused further meetings with the region’s transportation authority.Duke’s decision angered local leaders who desperately want light rail. “If, in fact, this was insurmountable, we should not have been going forward and spending tens of millions of dollars in public funding,” said one Durham County official. “It really raises the question of what was the intent all along. Was there no real commitment in the first place?” Today on CityLab: How Did Duke Doom Durham’s Light Rail?Andrew SmallMore on CityLab Who Were Milwaukee’s ‘Sewer Socialist’ Mayors? The city stands apart for electing three socialist mayors, but their work on infrastructure, parks, and housing looks much like what’s expected of mayors today. Linda Poon The Affordable Home Crisis Continues, But Bold New Plans May Help Wyoming fares best; Nevada the worst. No state has an adequate supply of homes for its poorest renters a new National Low Income Housing Coalition report finds. Diane Yentel New York City Looks to Eliminate Hidden Bail Fees As they await statewide action to eliminate cash bail, city council members look to reduce the financial burden on families of incarcerated people. Bryce Covert The Bauhaus in the Age of Frictionless Design The new Kaplan Institute at Chicago’s IIT is a direct descendant of the Bauhaus. It is also, in some ways, everything the Bauhaus was not. Zach Mortice A Modernist Gas Station With a New Purpose How an architecture firm turned a Mies van der Rohe-designed Esso in a remote section of Montreal into the La Station community center. Tracey Lindeman Bauhaus in Tel Aviv International Style architecture balances function, aesthetics and philosophy drawing on Bauhaus tenets. (Ariel Aberg-Riger/CityLab)Little did the Nazis know when they shuttered the Bauhaus that it would inspire the signature style of Tel Aviv.As European Jews fled Nazism, the city needed housing, fast and cheap, that appealed to the people arriving in the “first modern Jewish city.” The answer was the International Style of architecture, which drew on the core tenets of the Bauhaus. Over 4,000 such buildings were erected in the 1930s and ’40s, but it would be decades before Tel Aviv mythologized its Bauhaus past and established it as part of the city’s brand. For CityLab’s Building Bauhaus series, visual storyteller Ariel Aberg-Riger explains how Tel Aviv’s buildings came to be monuments to its history of sanctuary and self-isolation: Unpacking Tel Aviv’s White CityWhat We’re ReadingHow cities preserve their “viewing corridors” (The Guardian)Secretary Chao’s hands-off approach to emerging transportation tech (Curbed)Kamala Harris announces a bill to expand the U.S. Digital Service for state and local governments (Wired)Is Hudson Yards the neighborhood New ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Thursday, March 14, 2019By Andrew Small
    5 days ago
  • There’s No Such Thing as a Perfectly Fair Transit Fare
    According to preliminary figures from 2018, New York City subways and buses experienced the third consecutive year of ridership decline.This thinning transit population in America’s biggest public transit town comes at a really bad time: By 2022, New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority will face a staggering $634 million operating budget gap. As a result, the transit authority is targeting immediate staff reductions, maintenance cuts, and service postponements—which, advocates argue, could worsen the death spiral in which ridership already seems to be caught.That scenario is what fueled indignation among New York City riders and advocates when the MTA board decided last month to raise fares in order to shore up revenue. While the base price of $2.75 per ride won’t change for subways and trains, the board voted to eliminate bonuses for adding money onto MetroCards, and raised weekly passes from $32 to $33. Monthly passes jumped from $121 to $127. (Tolls are also set to rise.) The new fares go into effect April 21.Andrew Albert, an MTA board member and riders’ advocate, argued that the fare increases targeted riders who use the bonuses, which he called the system’s “best customers,” and will hurt economically challenged New Yorkers. “I question doing away with the bonus at a time when ridership is dropping for various reasons,” he said.Mass transit systems nationwide experiencing ridership declines of their own face the same dilemma. If agencies don’t raise revenue, how can they fix their deteriorating service? In an age of ubiquitous ridesharing, cheap gas, and easy car loans, what is a bus or subway ride worth?According to a range of experts, there’s no such thing as a perfect transit fare. But striking a balance between what residents are able to pay—and how they do it—can help get people riding again, rather than keep pushing them off.Equitable fares are flexible faresAlexis Perrotta, a lecturer at the City University of New York at Baruch College who has studied fare policies in transit systems worldwide, said fare policy should be attuned to what people can pay. After all, public transit is supposed to be “public”—driven by social need, rather than market opportunity. In her research in New York, Perrotta came across low-income straphangers who based their weekly outings around whether they could afford a ride to get there, or not. “I was hearing stories about only going to church if they had the unlimited card, and it hasn’t run out by that date,” she said.In that way, Perrotta added, unlimited cards offer the most intrinsic value to those with the least means, who have to map out weekly or monthly expenses, and rely on public transit more than any other demographic. But they’re also the people who are least likely to be able to afford them.For that reason, Perrotta said the MTA’s new fares will disproportionately affect low-income riders—who already inclined to take fewer trips per capita due to cost barriers. This lends importance to New York City’s Fair Fares program, a subsidy program that offers half-priced ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Thursday, March 14, 2019By John Surico
    5 days ago