• The Barcelona Terror Attack: What We Know
    Updated: 2017-08-17 At least 13 people are believed to have been killed and 90 or more are injured in what police and the Spanish media are describing as a terrorist attack in Barcelona’s main pedestrian street this Thursday afternoon.According to La Vanguardia, around 5 p.m. a white van rammed through the central area of Las Ramblas, the historic pedestrian district, finally crashing into a newsstand, leaving a trail of injured people.Police have recommended people stay indoors, and Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau has activated an emergency plan to support victims. The Catalan government has said that two people have been arrested in connection with the attack.   "Our Home Affairs minister will continue to give information regarding the incident and the investigation. So far there have been 2 arrests" — Catalan Government (@catalangov) August 17, 2017Las Ramblas is the heart of the touristic life of Barcelona: A diagonal street that crosses the grid of the city’s center, it connects some of the milestones of the city, starting in the Placa de Catalunya—a main square and transportation hub—and ending in the Columbus monument next to the Mediterranean coast. Tourists and locals use it to stroll to places like La Boquería, the famous food market of Barcelona; El Liceu, the opera house; and the Palace Güell, one architect Antoni Gaudí’s major works.Witnesses describe seeing the van weaving through crowds at high speeds in the center of Las Ramblas before crashing into a newsstand near La Boquería.(Social Media/Reuters)Thursday’s violence echoes recent incidents in London, New York, and Charlottesville, in which drivers used vehicles as weapons in targeting spaces that are built to attract pedestrians. Barcelona is renowned as a beacon of walking-friendly street design. In an effort to control pollution and restore access to public space, Colau has been implementing a plan of car-free “superblocks,” areas where only service vehicles are permitted, diverting vehicle traffic to surrounding streets and allowing pedestrians and cyclists to predominate.Las Ramblas, which has been a magnet for strollers for more than two centuries and boasts a pavement mosaic designed by Joan Miro, is adjacent to some of the first superblocks. Other world cities have expressed admiration and interest in emulating the Barcelona traffic plan.We will continue to update this post with additional information. ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Thursday, August 17, 2017By Juan Pablo Garnham
    53 mins ago
  • The Kushner Rent Gouging Lawsuit Highlights A Bigger Problem
    On Tuesday, a class action lawsuit was filed against Jared Kushner’s family’s real estate company, alleging that it has been skirting local rent stabilization laws, by overcharging rent to 90 percent of the tenants at 89 Hicks Street in Brooklyn.This is not the first time the Kushner’s real estate practices have come under scrutiny. This lawsuit adds to the mounting evidence—from New York, New Jersey, and even as far as Baltimore—that, much like his father-in-law, Donald Trump, Kushner is a rule-breaking landlord. But apart from that, it also raises important questions about the strength of New York City’s rent laws and how strictly they’re enforced.Consider how Kushner’s alleged violations were uncovered in this case. A nonprofit organization that investigates and sues scofflaw landlords checked Kushner’s publicly available property tax filings. The investigators at Housing Rights Initiative (HRI) found a discrepancy in the documents that was right there for the government to see: He reported that only 10 percent of the units were rent stabilized in 2014, when the company acquired the building. The law required the entire 48-unit building be registered as such.“[The government] should have been looking at this data,” says Aaron Carr, HRI’s founder and executive director. “What makes it so heinous is the sheer number of improper market rate leases that were handed out or provided to the tenants when they bought this building,” With the help of law firm Newman Ferrera, his organization sued on behalf of some of these tenants. A Kushner Companies spokesman told The New York Times that it is reviewing the lawsuit.June 2014 property tax statement in which Kushner Companies registered 5 out of 48 units as rent stabilized. (Courtesy of HRI)According to Carr, it’s not just this one building that’s the problem. Rent discrepancies appear in around 50 properties in the Kushner Companies real estate portfolio. “These things happen in a pattern,” he says. “The rent stabilization count across their portfolio has been precipitously on the decline.”Upwards of 800,000 units in the city are subject to limited increases in rent. While some have criticized these laws, many housing advocates argue that they help protect vulnerable tenants from eviction and keep them out of poverty.Every year, landlords are supposed to register the status and rents for each unit with the Division of Housing & Community Renewal (DHCR), the state agency that regulates rent limits. This information is protected under the state’s privacy laws, although tenants can access their landlords’ rental history upon request. When he examined the rental history for 89 Hicks Street, Carr found that Kushner Companies hadn’t registered any apartments with the DHCR since 2014:Kushner Companies didn’t register its apartments at 89 Hicks Street with the state regulator for three years. (HRI)To Carr, this missing data points to the bigger problem in the system: That the regulatory apparatus is not working well. “[It] speaks to the dire lack of enforcement in New York City, which is exacerbating our affordable housing crisis.”DHCR maintains that its Tenant Protection Unit proactively monitors the ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Thursday, August 17, 2017By Tanvi Misra
    3 hours ago
  • The New York That Belonged to the City
    Cities change. The neighborhoods we fall in love with as natives and newcomers can metamorphose slowly, or overnight. Those who can stick around shoulder the loss and move on, hardened to the next wave of inevitable transformation.But if the latest tide of urban change seems different—too glassy, too uniform, too corporate to be natural; more like a siege than a shift—you’re not alone. In Vanishing New York: How a Great City Lost Its Soul (Dey Street Books, $28.99), author Jeremiah Moss nails a valuable argument: New York City’s current state of “hyper-gentrification,” as he calls it, is no passive turn of the free market, but the culmination of a calculated takeover by elites decades in the making.Since 2007, the pseudonymous Moss has eulogized the disappearance of the people’s New York on his popular blog. Mom-and-pop diners, sagging-shelf book shops, leather bars, punk lairs, workhorse clinics and filthy SROs: Moss (recently unveiled as Griffin Hansbury, a social worker and psychoanalyst) has long borne witness to these spaces, lovingly and crankily chronicling their demise as rent hikes and development schemes put condos, chain stores, and corporate banks in their place.Spinning his digital jeremiad into paper, Moss charts the waves of gentrification that turned an iconoclastic Manhattan into plasticine playground. Where immigrants, minorities, radicals, queers, runaways, and everyday workers once built an island of tolerance, grit, and creative verve, Moss shows that tourists, college bros, and the superrich now occupy a bland-ified fortress of consumption.  There is much embitterment, snark, and rhapsodizing about egg-creams to satisfy the downtown romantic here. Hansbury is also a poet by training, and through Moss, his humanist odes to bygone businesses can move a reader to tears. (Of an owner running his hand along his doomed cafe’s countertop, Moss writes: “He was caressing it—for the ten thousandth time, for the last time—lovingly and compassionately, with his whole palm, the way you’d stroke the neck of a good horse whose time has come, helping to ease it to death.”)But the book is much more than a nostalgia trip. Moving across the boroughs, Moss traces the racist, money-hungry “real estate magnates, financiers, planners, and politicians” who sent immigrants packing and kept down minorities in the twentieth century. Apart from the ghastly deeds of Robert Moses and his ilk, Moss tells of lesser-known power plays, such as the 1970s housing commissioner Roger Starr’s influential notion of “planned shrinkage” and an earlier city policy that intentionally deprived poor communities of firefighting services.Widespread, purpose-built gentrification began in earnest in the 1980s, with Mayor Ed Koch’s business-friendly “renewal” policies driving out low-rent pickle shops, tenements, and dive bars. Deviants, bohemians, and the very poor were squeezed further by Rudy Giuliani’s crackdowns on jaywalkers, strip joints, and street vendors—on top of his demolishing squats and armoring NYPD officers with military-grade equipment.But for Moss, it was Michael Bloomberg who served hyper-gentrification’s kiss of death to the vulnerable post-9/11 city. This book delivers an unflinching indictment of the growth-above-all ethos the billionaire mayor fashioned in New York and ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Thursday, August 17, 2017By Laura Bliss
    5 hours ago
  • Which Ones Will Fall Next?
    The clash in Charlottesville surrounding the removal of Robert E. Lee’s statue in Emancipation Park has ignited a rebellion in cities. Nationwide this week, several mayors and governors have waded into the debate over the removal of these emblems of the Lost Cause.The movement echoes the aftermath of the 2015 shooting in the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, which led to the removal of the Confederate flag on the South Carolina capitol grounds. At that time, several cities experienced protests over the ubiquitous symbols of the Confederacy scattered all across the United States. But last weekend's events, combined with President Trump’s statements about white supremacists, have accelerated city efforts to get these monuments out of the public eye, following the example set in New Orleans by Mayor Mitch Landrieu in April.Just this week, we've seen a (shoddily made) Confederate soldier statue easily toppled by protesters in Durham, North Carolina, followed by a proposal from the state’s governor, Roy Cooper, to remove all of the state's Confederate monuments. Baltimore quietly trucked off its four statues in the wee hours Wednesday, with Annapolis and Frederick right behind. The Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles returned a Confederate marker to its owners. In Gainesville, Florida, a Confederate statue called “Old Joe” was relocated from the city’s downtown to a private cemetery (via the terms of an agreement reached in May after two years of debate).Opposition to Confederate monuments has even borrowed from the tactical urbanist playbook: A resourceful protester in Phoenix turned the city’s Confederate Memorial into a Civil War “Participation Trophy.” Whoever did this, we love you forever #ParticipationTrophy #AZagainstHate — ProgressNow Arizona (@ProgressNowAZ) August 16, 2017However, a national effort to thoroughly de-CSA the USA faces some daunting numbers: As of August 2016, statues make up only about half of Southern Poverty Law Center's list of at least 1,503 symbols of the Confederacy maintained by public funds. President Trump has made it very clear where he stands on the issue.But one thing is clear: Some of these monuments are coming down, fast. Which ones? Here’s a nationwide roundup of some of the most significant Confederate memorials facing removal today after the Charlottesville tragedy.(Steve Helber/AP)Richmond, Virginia The former capital of the Confederate States of America might also prove the toughest line to break for anti-CSA activists. On Monument Avenue, a grassy mall separates eastbound and westbound traffic in the city with statues of Civil War generals Robert E. Lee, J.E.B. Stuart, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, as well as CSA president Jefferson Davis and Confederate naval commander Matthew Fontaine Maury.Those Confederate statues were all erected between 1890 and 1929, during the height of the Jim Crow era, and today, they loom large as symbols of racial inequality over a city that is about 50 percent African American and 40 percent white. In 1995, a statue of African-American tennis player Arthur Ashe was added.In June, Mayor Levar Stoney appointed a ten-person commission to study the Confederate memorials. Before the events at Charlottesville, hundreds of people ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Thursday, August 17, 2017By Andrew Small
    5 hours ago
  • Atlanta’s Planning Department Makeover
    Public notices about tree removal or zoning ordinances rarely catch the attention of the average person walking by them. That’s no longer the case in Atlanta.Fed up with the cluttered and uninspiring signage coming out of his office, Tim Keane, Commissioner of Atlanta’s Department of Planning, decided to make a change.Keane hired the Atlanta-based branding firm Matchstic to give the entire department a makeover. The firm was tasked with updating everything from the department’s name (formerly known as the Department of Planning and Community Development) to its official seal and signage.“To me, when you saw the signs that we had before, what they said to you as residents was, ‘We don’t care a lot about this,’” Keane tells CityLab. “They’re hard to read, they kind of screamed, ‘This is a bureaucracy, good luck!’” he adds.An example of one of Atlanta’s previous public notice signs. (Matchstic)The previous signage system “appeared to be designed by lawyers,” says Blake Howard, the project’s creative director. “The language was hard to understand, jumping off the page at the same time. It wasn’t very visually appealing.”The ethos of the rebranding is “To Be Clear is To Be Kind.”“If we want to be kind to the public,” Howard says, “we want them to be able to understand what the purpose of the sign is.”An example of a new public notice sign in Atlanta. (Matchstic)Matchstic focused on establishing a hierarchy of information. Though much of the text itself couldn’t be altered for legal reasons, the creative team prioritized the most pertinent information with large fonts and scrapped what they could. Most noticeably, each sign has a single letter that features prominently depending on its purpose. For example, signs for tree removals or appeals have a large, bold ‘T’ while those for bike share stations have a ‘B.’ Details about the project, such as the date and location of a review meeting, are in a significantly smaller font.“We want people… to clearly understand what type of sign it is so they know what’s happening in their neighborhood, or near their place of work, or in their community,” says Howard. He sees design as a crucial element of shaping and broadcasting a city’s voice, and hopes that other departments in Atlanta soon follow suit.Though Keane says the Department of Planning will always want to collaborate with the private sector, he has recently created the Atlanta City Studio: an in-house design studio that will oversee all elements of design within the department. Keane hopes it will show residents that the city is committed to excellence.“We can’t go to the private sector and say, ‘We want you to be exceptional,’ if we aren’t doing that,” he says. “We need to show that we’re thinking about these things [and] investing in quality.”Feedback on the rebranding, according to Keane, has been overwhelmingly positive. “I’ve heard from residents of the city that they see [the signs] and smile,” he says. “We had one commenter say, ‘It makes me feel good about Atlanta.’” ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Thursday, August 17, 2017By Teresa Mathew
    6 hours ago
  • Lab Report: Pittsburgh Replaces ‘March on Google’ with ‘Prayer for Peace’
    Alt plans: A city-led “Prayer for Pittsburgh, Prayer for Peace” event will take place Friday, Mayor Bill Peduto announced, supplanting plans for a “March on Google” demonstration that, post-Charlottesville, had stoked fears of violence and associations with hate groups. Organizers of the March on Google have now postponed plans for demonstrations in Pittsburgh and eight other cities this weekend, The Pittsbugh Post-Gazette reports: March organizers portrayed their plans as a pro-free-speech response to corporate behavior at Google, including the recent firing of James Damore. The company let him go after he wrote a memo widely viewed as sexist and anti-diversity. In declaring Wednesday that the protests were postponed, a march organizer alleged that left-wing extremists had made credible “terrorist threats” against the effort. His online announcement did not present any evidence. Why DOJ Loves Miami: Visiting Miami yesterday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions praised the city for its “full compliance” with federal immigration enforcement while lambasting Chicago—which sued the Justice Department just over a week ago—for its defiance. (New York Times)Fact check: The Washington Post gives President Trump “four Pinocchios” for his claim Tuesday that his administration is “doing far more than anybody’s done with respect to inner cities,” first tackling the problem of the phrase “inner cities” to begin with, then analyzing how proposed budgets for housing, education, and jobs would in fact hurt urban areas.Where are the women urbanists? Curbed’s Alissa Walker assesses the recent rise of “self-aware gentrifiers” from the angle of gender, questioning why men are driving the conversation on why cities change.Signal-free streets: As cities around the world experiment with stripping streets of traffic lights, stop signs, and other conventional barriers, The Guardian presents videos of such intersections that some experts say prove increased safety and sociability for all users—not “pure traffic chaos.”Nightlife trends: Washington, D.C. has experienced a “nightlife boom” in recent years, going from about 800 bars, restaurants, and nightclubs in 2008 to just under 1,300 in 2016. Looking closely at the numbers, though, Greater Greater Washington sees that many of these new businesses are short-lived, while a spike in closures last year could signal the end of the boom.Protecting newborns: In an effort to reduce racial disparities in infant mortalities, Baltimore, New York, Tampa, and Chicago are now enlisting “doulas” to assist expectant mothers—a model that’s attracting interest from other city health departments. (Stateline)The urban lens: #flashbackfriday to walking around the streets of Akihabara in Tokyo 🗻 A post shared by 🔹Michael Alwill (@michaelalwill) on Aug 11, 2017 at 1:06pm PDT Share your city scenes on Instagram using #citylabontheground ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Thursday, August 17, 2017By Katie Pearce
    7 hours ago
  • Grenfell Was No Ordinary Accident
    By the time the sun rose, Grenfell Tower was already a blackened shell. The fire had begun as the city slept on June 14, when a faulty refrigerator exploded in a flat on the fourth floor. Within minutes, it had spread out of control, sweeping up the building’s exterior and invading the corridors before any alarm could be raised.As 200 firefighters descended on North Kensington to battle the inferno, witnesses report seeing their neighbors hanging from windows to escape the smoke. At least two are thought to have jumped from the 23rd floor. One mother wrapped her four-year-old in a blanket and dropped her from a ninth-floor window; she was caught by a bystander. Photos taken at 4 a.m. show the entire 70-meter-high tower engulfed in flames.Two months have now passed since the horrifying Grenfell fire. At the time of this writing, the death toll stands at 80, but authorities say the true figure is almost certainly higher and may never be known. Most of the bodies are too badly incinerated to be identified. In the aftermath, the leader of the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea council resigned in disgrace. Amid ongoing speculation that the fire was exacerbated by flammable cladding installed during a recent renovation, the British Prime Minister Theresa May announced an official inquiry to determine whether criminal charges should be brought against culpable parties.In the meantime, each passing week seems to bring some new unsavory twist in the tale, some extension to the allegory of the fire as emblematic of national dysfunction and shame. The future for the neighbors and family of the missing remains uncertain, as demands for recompense and quick justice run up against the grinding bureaucracy of a painstaking investigation. The fallout from London’s worst fire disaster since the Blitz looks set to run and run.But Grenfell is more than a story of negligence—a tragic coalescence of a dozen discrete moments of hubris and greed. It is also an awful fable of our time. Pundits often describe it as a “Hurricane Katrina moment,” a catastrophe that exposes a rich country’s contempt for its poor. “The charred remains of Grenfell Tower have become a shocking symbol of inequality at the heart of the capital itself,” the New York Times declared in a story on London's atomization earlier this week. “They have changed the national narrative.” Grenfell has become a grisly metaphor for all that is squalid about the British capital, unfettered free-market capitalism, and society at large.For those looking on from abroad, it may not be immediately apparent why the fire became so instantly charged with political import. London, to the outsider, has long appeared a paragon of functioning multiculturalism. However, in order to understand how this impression was shattered by that night in June, it is necessary to understand what Grenfell was, and how it came to be.Remaking the cityLondon was never supposed to be like this. At the end of the First World War, as servicemen returned to Britain from the continent ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Thursday, August 17, 2017By Henry Wismayer
    10 hours ago
  • What To Do With Baltimore’s Empty Confederate Statue Plinths?
    Baltimore suddenly has a surfeit of empty sculptural plinths. Overnight, Mayor Catherine Pugh and a fleet of trucks removed four Confederate monuments with a quickness not seen since the Colts skipped town. While other cities fret over what to do with Lost Cause memorials that are increasingly targets of ire and vandalism, Baltimore appears to have put the issue to rest.With the statues gone, only opportunity remains. What can the city do with those empty (and now graffiti-covered) pedestal plinths? Baltimore could do worse than to take a page from London’s Trafalgar Square.Back in the day, statues were planned for each of the four corners of Trafalgar Square, but the money ran dry in the mid-19th century. Today, pigeons have their choice of British generals Henry Havelock and Charles James Napier or an equestrian of King George IV for stooping. Absent is a statue of King William IV, which the city never got around to installing. For more than 150 years, the plinth on the northwest corner sat incomplete.Today it is home to the world’s greatest placeholder. The Fourth Plinth, a program conceived by the Royal Society of Arts in the 1990s, invites contemporary artists to figure out something new to do with the spot every year. It launched in 1999, with Mark Wallinger’s imperious Ecce Homo, a life-sized figure of Christ wearing a crown of barbed wire.Katharina Fritsch’s 15-foot-tall “Hahn/Cock” sculpture on London’s Fourth Plinth in July 2013. (Andy Rain/AP)A few iterations later, the city decided to run with the program, which is now operated by the Mayor of London’s culture office. Eight different Fourth Plinth proposals have been realized since 2005, from the comically surreal (Yinka Shonibare’s Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle, a recreation of HMS Victory in a corked glass bottle) to the conceptually tilted (Antony Gormley’s One & Other, in which members of the public were invited onto the plinth to do or say pretty much whatever they wanted for one hour).Up since last September: David Shrigley’s Really Good, a big bronze thumbs-up, which appeared just in time to congratulate everybody for the great work on the #Brexit vote.Now Baltimore’s got four empty plinths, each one of which could serve as an empty stage for the city’s artists. Not that they’re waiting for an invitation: One artist erected a giant papier-mâché sculpture of a pregnant woman made from old copies of the Baltimore City Paper in opposition to the Confederate memorial in Wyman Park Dell well before the rally in Charlottesville. Bystanders help artist Pablo Machioli erect Madre Luz where Lee and Jackson once were. #baltimore #bmore #madreluz — Stephanie Podue (@Contemplatrice) August 16, 2017Four simultaneous contemporary-art programs could be overkill. It might be asking too much of the Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts to operate a First, Second, Third, and Fourth Plinth. But in the meantime, while the city figures out what’s what with these empty pedestals, giving them over to chance, creativity, and inspiration would be a welcome change of pace. ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Thursday, August 17, 2017By Kriston Capps
    10 hours ago
  • Your City’s ‘Ghost Signs’ Have Stories to Tell
    When the side of a 111-year-old brick building lit up in Winnipeg, Canada, on a recent night in July, a crowd of about 50 people looked up to see a newly vivid message that had been there all along: “Porter & Co., crockery, china, glassware, lamps, silverware, cutlery.” A few moments later, the words faded and a new message appeared: “The Home of Milady Chocolates.” This late-night light show was a seance of sorts, and Craig Winslow was the medium.Winslow revives ghost signs, those faded hand-painted ads left to weather on the sides of old buildings in cities around the world. He doesn’t repaint the old signs; instead, he brings them back to life through light. By digging deep into historical archives, he finds what these advertisements looked like when they were fresh, digitally reconstructing them and projecting them over the faded remnants that hang there today. Many ads have several layers, so he animates each of them, briefly recalling images of a city's forgotten past for the sake of nostalgia and conversation in the community.“The giddy, nerdy version of me is just crazy to think I’m this mad scientist opening portals in walls to what things actually used to look like,” says Winslow, an experiential designer from Portland, Oregon. He calls his digital recreations “Light Capsules.” A “Light Capsule” from Portland, Maine (Courtesy of Craig Winslow)Ghost signs have a special place in any city. Hand-painted signs were a popular form of advertising between the 1880s and the 1950s, before ads could be inexpensively mass produced, installed, and replaced. Their remnants offer a lens into a neighborhood’s past, reminding viewers about elements of commerce and life at certain points in history. They acquaint us with the type of businesses that once lined the streets, and offer glimpses of products and services that were important at the time of the sign's painting, such as fur coats, canned hams, or the ubiquitous Coca-Cola.“What I love, as simple as they are, is just these old worn ads that actually become a catalyst to get people excited about the local history around them,” Winslow says.That’s how his work caught the eye of Matt Cohen, a Winnipeg-based ghost sign expert. Winnipeg has more than 150 ghost signs, especially concentrated in the historic Exchange District, a 20-block area with buildings built between 1880 and 1913. At one time, Winnipeg was known as “Chicago of the North” and was an important center for grain, finance, and manufacturing. Because of this, the Exchange District is a Canadian National Historic Site, a designation that protects the ghost signs.Cohen invited Winslow to recreate five of the city’s signs. On the evening of July 29, the Light Capsules brought those messages from the past back to life.Craig Winslow (Photo by Jon Duenas)“I thought it was a neat way of blending the physical and digital and exploring these in a new way that is unlike anything people have seen before,” Cohen says.The idea to revive ghost signs came to Winslow two years ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Thursday, August 17, 2017By Matthew Kruchak
    10 hours ago
  • Severe Housing Needs May Return to Foreclosure-Crisis Levels
    A new report released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development this month shows that the number of American households facing worst-case housing scenarios is returning to the record crisis levels seen during the foreclosure crisis.The 2017 report on Worst-Case Housing Needs finds that 8.3 million households suffered extreme housing conditions in 2015, an increase of more than 580,000 households over 2013. HUD defines “worst-case housing needs” as very low–income households who do not receive government aid for housing and who pay more than one-half of their income toward rent or live in unsafe conditions (or both). CityLab’s Tanvi Misra plotted out where the worst-off families are living today.  The country reached peak worst-case housing conditions in 2011, when the number of most-vulnerable families climbed to a record 8.48 million. America is not far off from that figure—and one of the Trump administration’s budget priorities could easily put us over the top.The $6.8 billion in cuts to HUD funding that the Trump administration proposed in its fiscal year 2018 budget would eliminate whole categories of housing aid for millions of families, including rental housing vouchers (Section 8) for more than 250,000 households. Absent some emergency intervention, the cuts to vouchers alone could thrust many thousand of families into crisis and homelessness.Representative David Price, the ranking member on the U.S. House Appropriation Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development condemned the Trump administration’s planned budget cuts in light of HUD’s findings. The North Carolina Democrat says that the report “offers further evidence of the affordable housing crisis facing our country—and the Trump Administration’s failure to take it seriously, let alone to address it.”Yet the Trump administration’s budget goes further: The president’s budget proposal eliminates the national Housing Trust Fund, a national program designed specifically to provide housing aid to America’s lowest-income households. As Price notes, this figure includes a staggering 2.9 million families with children, many of whom are living in unsafe, substandard housing.The Housing Trust Fund’s novelty lies in how it’s funded. It’s not a taxpayer-subsidized program; instead, a fraction of sales through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (4.2 basis points, or 0.042 percent) gets set aside for the Housing Trust Fund. In 2016, its first fully operational year, the fund distributed $174 million to housing agencies all around the country. With a buoyant economy, that figure climbed to $219 million for 2017.The thinnest silver lining to soaring home prices nationwide—up 6.2 percent in the second quarter of 2017—is that the purse for the national Housing Trust Fund grows accordingly. With rents rising, the number of families who depend on these stop-gap safety-net funds are bound to eclipse record levels. “Yet the Trump/Carson budget proposal for HUD foolishly zeroes out funding for the national Housing Trust Fund and other programs created to fix this exact problem,” Price says.That’s why Congress needs to take a close look at the budget cuts that President Trump has planned for housing and other social programs. The Housing Trust Fund, in particular, is ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Wednesday, August 16, 2017By Kriston Capps
    1 day ago
  • Trump’s Infrastructure Plan Only Has One ‘Side’
    Most observers won’t remember the original purpose of Donald Trump’s press conference on Tuesday afternoon. That’s because the President spent most of his 23-minute appearance with reporters digging his heels into his first reaction to the deadly violence in Charlottesville this past weekend, defending the white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and KKK members who marched and terrorized anti-fascist protesters there. “I think there is blame on both sides,” he told reporters from the lobby of his gilded Manhattan tower. Things went much further downhill from there.But the ostensible reason for Trump’s appearance was to talk about infrastructure projects—specifically, speeding them up. The conference began with a typical stunt: Standing amid cabinet officials Elaine Chao, Steven Mnuchin, and Mick Mulvaney, Trump unfurled a “long, beautiful chart” purporting to show a 17-year environmental permitting process for an unnamed highway project. He then announced an executive order chopping that process down to as little as two years. The order also calls for “one lead agency” to be responsible for every major project subject to federal review. Additionally, it rolls back a widely admired flood standard that required new federal constructions to account for climate change’s effect on storms and flooding.   “We're going to get infrastructure built quickly, inexpensively, relatively speaking and the permitting process will go very, very quickly,” Trump said. “No longer will we accept a broken system that benefits consultants and lobbyists at the expense of hard-working Americans.”There is bipartisan agreement that environmental permitting can be unnecessarily arduous. It is complicated even in normal circumstances, and drawn-out decisions can waste tax dollars. In this way they can benefit “consultants” more than the ecosystems they are supposed to protect. President Obama passed his own orders aimed to streamline the process for economically sensitive projects. President George W. Bush initiated a large-scale review of (some would say attack on) the National Environmental Policy Act.But if protecting taxpayers was the real aim of Trump’s order, the floodplain regulation would not come anywhere near it. It is a measure of common sense, designed to prevent wasteful government spending. Federal agencies have long required that their own construction projects avoid building in flood-prone areas so that tax dollars are not lost, every year, to storms. With sea levels rising and storms worsening, the regulation that Trump called to eliminate Tuesday—which was created by the Obama administration in 2015—required federal projects that could not help but be situated in low-lying areas to take additional mitigations in response to the flood-exacerbating effects of climate change.To roll back that policy flies in the face of climate science and the common-sense recommendations of flood control engineers. It is to fling tax dollars into the rising tide.Trump’s infrastructure plan remains largely conceptual, given that no legislation has emerged from the administration fleshing out its details. But if there is a core philosophy behind the ideas the White House has offered on infrastructure—in draft budgets and fact sheets—it is this: Profit-minded, private interests should guide federal investment.To add up to Trump’s long-promised $1 trillion in ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Wednesday, August 16, 2017By Laura Bliss
    1 day ago
  • Homemaking While Homeless
    The term “domesticity” often invokes something created by middle-class women—a white picket fence archetype associated with “family values” and steeped in imagery of 1950s suburbia. Susan Fraiman, a professor of English at the University of Virginia, troubles this normative idea in her recent book, Extreme Domesticity: A View from the Margins. In it, Fraiman uses novels, women’s magazines and advice manuals, ethnographies, and first-person accounts to explore versions of home created by “outsiders” to the norm, including those who are working class, queer, trans, immigrant, and homeless.CityLab caught up with Fraiman to learn about these versions of home and the assumptions they call into question.Your work challenges the notion of domesticity as only applicable to stable, bourgeois situations. Can you say more about this notion and why we might wish to challenge it? Normative ideas about domesticity lead us to overlook the dynamism, complexity, and diversity of domestic life. Conservatives celebrate the conventional, postcard version of home, while progressives generally criticize it. Yet both groups tend to assume that household concerns and routines are trivial, repetitious, unskilled, and not particularly interesting. The work of maintaining a household is scarcely recognized as work—which is why it’s either poorly paid or not paid at all. Likewise, the people who do this work (almost always female) are viewed condescendingly not only as unskilled, but also as passive and unthinking.A major goal of my book is to push back against this negative stereotype. However, my point is not to glamorize housework or deny its oppressive aspects, much less to discourage women from involvement in the public sphere. My work supports and supplements feminist critiques of women’s confinement within the home.I would also distance myself from what some have touted as the “new domesticity”—a return to labor-intensive, artisanal housewifery, in opposition to modern, high-tech culture. What I do share with this perspective is an appreciation for the hard work, competencies, and creativity involved in keeping house and caring for others, whatever your gender is and whether or not you take a DIY approach.Your book has a chapter on homeless domesticity, which some might consider an oxymoron. But your research suggests that domesticity is still created—perhaps even highlighted—when people are homeless or insecurely housed. The chapter looks at several first-person accounts, one documentary film, and numerous studies by ethnographers or journalists. One community was located under the bridges of downtown Los Angeles, another beneath the streets of Manhattan in abandoned train tunnels, and a third in a shelter near Washington, D.C. In every case, being insecurely housed did not mean the absence of domestic concerns but, on the contrary, an ongoing need to improvise aspects of home that most of us take for granted. How can I find a safe, dry place to sleep? Does my kid have cereal for breakfast? Where can I take a shower? How can I carve out a modicum of privacy and coziness in a public place? Domesticity for the homeless is never entirely missing, though it may certainly be shattered, ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Wednesday, August 16, 2017By Mimi Kirk
    1 day ago
  • Why Black Teachers Matter
    Ashley McCall was teaching her third grade students about American voting rights last year when one of them asked a question she couldn’t answer: How do older people of color process the evolution of the right to vote?McCall, a black teacher whose student body is mostly of color, asked her own grandparents to do a video conference with the class. They fielded students’ vibrant inquiries about having lived in the south during the civil rights era.“It was awesome,” says McCall.McCall says her identity has been crucial for her students at César E. Chávez Multicultural Academic Center on the south side of Chicago.“Having teachers of color allows students to see people who look like them in positions of influence,” she says. “Students believe they can assume their own roles of authority.”McCall’s perception is backed by new academic research. A recent study published by the Institute of Labor Economics found that if a low-income black male student in third, fourth, or fifth grade has a black teacher, he is 39 percent less likely to drop out of high school. And if a low-income black male or female student of the same age has a black teacher (especially of the same gender), they are more likely to plan to attend a four-year college. Females were 19 percent more likely to express this intent, while males were 29 percent more likely. The benefit came from having just one black teacher; having two or more black teachers did not alter the results.Yet teachers of color are a relative rarity. The National Education Association has found that while students of color make up almost half of the public school population, teachers of color comprise only 16 percent of all teachers. Black teachers are also more likely to be clustered in high-need, economically disadvantaged urban schools.The question becomes, then, how do we hire more black teachers, and get them to the right places?When the new research on black teachers was first released, it provoked some controversy over this question. Seth Gershenson, a co-author of the study and professor of public policy at American University, says that he and his co-authors fielded a number of incredulous messages on social media asking whether they were advocating for resegregation.Some have interpreted the study’s results as proof that integration is not an effective tool to address the achievement gap between black and white students. Rafiq Kalam Id-Din, co-founder of the Ember Charter School for Mindful Education in Brooklyn, says that the research confirms that putting black and brown students with wealthy white peers and teachers doesn’t bring about better academic outcomes for them.“Integration doesn’t address the roots of the problem,” he says, noting that white teachers and administrators fail to appropriately consider and account for the culture and life experiences of children of color. “Black teachers are far more apt to do this instructionally.” As such, Ember’s staff, which teaches a student body that is majority of color, is 95 percent black and Latino.But Gershenson and his colleagues emphasize that segregating ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Wednesday, August 16, 2017By Mimi Kirk
    1 day ago
  • The Repercussions of the Black Teacher Shortage
    Ashley McCall was teaching her third grade students about American voting rights last year when one of them asked a question she couldn’t answer: How do older people of color process the evolution of the right to vote?McCall, a black teacher whose student body is mostly of color, asked her own grandparents to do a video conference with the class. They fielded students’ vibrant inquiries about having lived in the south during the civil rights era.“It was awesome,” says McCall.McCall says her identity has been crucial for her students at César E. Chávez Multicultural Academic Center on the south side of Chicago.“Having teachers of color allows students to see people who look like them in positions of influence,” she says. “Students believe they can assume their own roles of authority.”McCall’s perception is backed by new academic research. A recent study published by the Institute of Labor Economics found that if a low-income black male student in third, fourth, or fifth grade has a black teacher, he is 39 percent less likely to drop out of high school. And if a low-income black male or female student of the same age has a black teacher (especially of the same gender), they are more likely to plan to attend a four-year college. Females were 19 percent more likely to express this intent, while males were 29 percent more likely. The benefit came from having just one black teacher; having two or more black teachers did not alter the results.Yet teachers of color are a relative rarity. The National Education Association has found that while students of color make up almost half of the public school population, teachers of color comprise only 16 percent of all teachers. Black teachers are also more likely to be clustered in high-need, economically disadvantaged urban schools.The question becomes, then, how do we hire more black teachers, and get them to the right places?When the new research on black teachers was first released, it provoked some controversy over this question. Seth Gershenson, a co-author of the study and professor of public policy at American University, says that he and his co-authors fielded a number of incredulous messages on social media asking whether they were advocating for resegregation.Some have interpreted the study’s results as proof that integration is not an effective tool to address the achievement gap between black and white students. Rafiq Kalam Id-Din, co-founder of the Ember Charter School for Mindful Education in Brooklyn, says that the research confirms that putting black and brown students with wealthy white peers and teachers doesn’t bring about better academic outcomes for them.“Integration doesn’t address the roots of the problem,” he says, noting that white teachers and administrators fail to appropriately consider and account for the culture and life experiences of children of color. “Black teachers are far more apt to do this instructionally.” As such, Ember’s staff, which teaches a student body that is majority of color, is 95 percent black and Latino.But Gershenson and his colleagues emphasize that segregating ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Wednesday, August 16, 2017By Mimi Kirk
    1 day ago
  • How Baltimore Removed Its Confederate Monuments Overnight
    Early this morning, a small crowd of joggers stood at the polished granite base of a statue that wasn’t there, a monument to the women of the Confederacy.It had been in the middle of a small park across from Johns Hopkins University since 1916. Last night a crew of contractors dispatched by the city pulled it up and trucked it away, along with two other Jim Crow-era memorials and a statue of Roger B. Taney, the Maryland-born Chief Justice who authored the 1857 Dred Scott decision. The elaborate operation went off without a hitch overnight. Most Baltimoreans woke up to the news that a long-simmering controversy over the racially inflammatory artifacts was simply over.The joggers were greeted by a Baltimore Sun reporter, who’d been dispatched before dawn. The mood was cautiously jubilant. They snapped photos of each other. “It’s a small victory,” one said. “But let freedom ring.”   Maryland may have been a Union state, but the Civil War allegiances of Baltimore citizens teetered between North and South.  The city has multiple Confederate monuments, thanks to the efforts of monied 19th and 20th century leaders with Southern sympathies. (Here’s a terrifically detailed timeline, from local preservationist Eli Pousson, that assembles the complete saga of how they got here.) After years of debate and deliberation among city leaders, preservationists, historians, and activists about what to do with the city’s trove of CSA-themed statuary, the move by Mayor Catherine Pugh to remove all four of them at once overnight offered a sudden and unambiguous resolution.The operation began just before midnight and was over before the sun came up. The mayor and several journalists looked on as a team of workers, surrounded by police, used a crane to wrest the largest of the monuments—twin equestrian statues of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson that have stood in Wyman Park, steps from the Baltimore Museum of Art, since 1948—from their base at about 3 a.m. Baltimore mayor Cathy Pugh steps out of SUV to watch as crane prepares to lift Confederate monument in dead of night. — Alec MacGillis (@AlecMacGillis) August 16, 2017The Lee-Jackson memorial had been squarely in the crosshairs of local activists for many years. Back in September, a commission recommended moving two of the four controversial monuments, and Mayor Pugh pledged on Monday to remove all CSA-themed monuments. After a debate that night, the City Council upped the ante, passing a resolution in favor of total CSA statue “deconstruction.”After a crowd in Durham, North Carolina, successfully toppled a statue on Monday, the activist collective Baltimore Bloc announced on Twitter yesterday that they planned on marshaling a crowd to take matters into their own hands at 6 p.m. Wednesday evening. But the city beat them to the punch. By morning, the two generals and their horses were gone, and a knot of TV news teams surrounded the graffiti-decorated base. Nearby, an anti-racist statue called Mother Light raised a defiant fist at the vacant plinth.  The Lee-Jackson Memorial in Baltimore, minus Lee and ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Wednesday, August 16, 2017By David Dudley
    1 day ago
  • Vote for CityLab at the SXSW Cities Summit
    There’s an exciting new addition coming to next year’s South by Southwest: a two-day summit that’s all about cities.“As the world grows increasingly complex, cities have emerged as innovators, testing and developing new solutions to problems ranging from climate change, migration, automation, and more,” SXSW’s Ari Roth wrote in a statement announcing the Cities Summit. (CityLab is a media sponsor of the event.)This is what we obsess over day in and day out—and it’s why we want to bring our ideas to the SXSW stage on March 12 and 13. To make that happen, we need your help.CityLab staffers have proposed seven panels that we think are important parts of any conversation about the urban environment. Below, you’ll find our pitches. Check them out and vote for your favorite—or all of them, if you want—by August 25. These public votes are combined with input from SXSW’s advisory board and staff to make the final schedule. (As a heads up, you’ll need to make an account with SXSW in order to vote.)***“Inclusive Cities and The Wisdom of the Crowd”Congested roads and delayed trains are not just a matter of convenience, the lack of accessible public transport cuts people off from economic opportunities. Mobility on demand is offering a chance to give people more control over when and how they want to travel. By harnessing IoT-technology and big data, supply is matched with demand in real-time. When less strain is put on any single point in the system, cities can focus on improving services, in particular in previously underserved areas. Features CityLab staff writer Laura Bliss. VOTE HERE.***“Superheroes and the City”The NYC that gave rise to the most beloved superheroes in the Golden Age of comic books is transformed. Hell's Kitchen, where Daredevil fought gangsters and criminals, is now home to the High Line. Gotham isn't Gothic anymore. This panel brings together urban journalists (and comic-book fans) with celebrated comic-book authors, who will look at how once-gritty cities of comic-book lore look more and more like futuristic Metropolis—and how those changes are reflected in comic books and films. Features CityLab staff writer Kriston Capps. VOTE HERE.***“What Happened to Our Chocolate Cities?”A look at gentrification in our cities, historical context of the Great Migration and current examples of industries/concepts/infrastructure that are grappling with the changing makeup in our cities and the challenge of improving a neighborhood without driving out the people who made it what it is. Features CityLab staff writer Brentin Mock. VOTE HERE.***“Redefining Sanctuary Cities”As Jeff Sessions has rolled out his law-and-order missions to curb immigration and stop violent crime, he has increasingly suggested that the two go hand-in-hand — a phenomenon known as “crimmigration.” In this environment, cities and advocates are seeking to define - and redefine - what it means to be a sanctuary city. Should cities that dub themselves "sanctuaries" protect immigrants and nonimmigrants alike, particularly people of color, through criminal justice and surveillance reform? Features CityLab staff writers Tanvi Misra and Brentin Mock. VOTE HERE.***“How Cities Can ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Wednesday, August 16, 2017By CityLab
    1 day ago
  • The Smells, Sounds, and Tastes of Future Cities
    In the future, cities will be larger, denser, and possibly striding on huge mechanical legs. But they could also be awash in a bath of unexpected scents like tropical flowers and artificial grape, popping with cuisines made spicier by climate change, and so overwhelmed with artificial light they glare like a “strip mall in outer space.”Those are possible realities dreamed up by Emily Schlickman and Anya Domlesky, associates at the international landscape architecture and urban design firm SWA. The duo, who helm SWA’s new innovation lab XL in the Bay Area, became interested in forecasting the shifting sensorial experiences of urban enclaves after learning that California’s iconic daily fog has cloaked the city for fewer hours since 1901. “Fog is such an iconic part of the Bay Area, and the idea it could dramatically decrease in the future could really impact how we experience and sense the city,” says Schlickman.Schlickman and Domlesky have investigated how what we hear, eat, feel, see, and smell could change under global warming, zoning quirks, and ever-advancing technology. Their hunt has taken them from New York to Houston to Shanghai, and is now culminating in a fascinating exhibit called “Urban Sensorium,” opening August 30 at San Francisco’s SPUR. The show will include artifacts from their travels, such as dried Chinese peppers and a chunk of noise-dampening highway. At its heart are five maps showing how certain neighborhoods might offer vastly different sense-experiences in the next 10 to 20 years.“One of the elements that appeals the most to me is that the exhibition succinctly and efficiently analyzes how a singular element may change the future of a city—how quiet pavement could shape Los Angeles and the implications that might have, for example—but that those analyses also leave the door open for potentially different results,” says Noah Christman, the public programming manager at SPUR who's producing the show. “I like to think that the exhibition is essentially gazing into a crystal ball that’s showing us one of many possible futures.”Here are three maps the urban sense-o-nauts have produced. Others include one about San Francisco’s warming weather possibly spreading drought but increasing tourism, and another postulating how the spread of LED street lighting could make New York a safer but more sleep-deprived environment.Houston could be fragrant(Emily Schlickman/Anya Domlesky)Houston is heating up rapidly, with average summer temperatures expected to swell from 91 degrees to 97 degrees by the end of the century. Because a warmer climate means the air holds more water, the city is also experiencing frequent run-ins with rain bombs: instances of extreme rain have risen 167 percent in the last seven decades.That makes a perfect environment for tropical plants to thrive. Domlesky and Schlickman followed their noses around Houston searching for pleasant, often-invasive species locals might expect to smell more of soon. They detected the delicately lemon-tinged note of honeysuckle, the “green-and-dry scent profile” of the Persian silk tree, and kudzu blossoms with odors nearly “identical to artificial grape flavoring.”While local gardeners often try to keep ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Wednesday, August 16, 2017By John Metcalfe
    1 day ago
  • Lab Report: The Drug That’s Fueling Cities’ Opioid Crisis
    The fentanyl scourge: In 25 of the nation’s largest urban areas, overdose deaths from fentanyl—the manmade narcotic that’s about 50 times stronger than heroin—increased nearly 600 percent from 2014 to 2016, according to a Washington Post analysis that shows New York City, Chicago, and areas in Pennsylvania have seen the largest spikes. The Post reports on the problem in Philadelphia: “If anything can be likened to a weapon of mass destruction in what it can do to a community, it’s fentanyl,” said Michael Ferguson, the special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s New England division. “It’s manufactured death.” ... Philadelphia’s Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said the city is averaging 100 overdose deaths per month in 2017, noting that fentanyl “has thrown gasoline onto a fire that was already raging.” “This is a health crisis that’s worse than we’ve ever seen,” Farley said. “This will kill more people than the AIDS epidemic. You’d have to go back to the influenza pandemic of 1918 if you even wanted to start making comparisons.” Nearly bankrupt: Despite its unusually high property taxes, Connecticut’s capital city of Hartford is now teetering on the edge of bankruptcy—a stark symbol, The New York Times writes, of “the gulf between the affluent enclaves that drive Connecticut’s wealth and its larger cities that have long grappled with high crime, underperforming schools and unsure financial footing.”Death of the bus: It’s not only the 2008 recession that caused declining ridership on city buses—across the country, by 13 percent over the last decade—but also the stigmatization of a transit form that’s viewed as inferior. (The Week, Wall Street Journal for subscribers)An eye on Portland’s highways: Why is Portland’s proposal to widen three freeways a story of national importance? City Observatory argues that the city’s history as a bellwether of forward-thinking transportation and environmental policies creates high stakes for any “giant step backwards.”Too many tourists: Venice and Barcelona have been in the spotlight this summer as victims of “overtourism” that breeds problems for local residents. Noting similar issues in New York City, Iceland, and Amsterdam, Skift suggests more responsibility from governments—and the travel companies that carry and host the tourists.The urban lens: Manila terminal's signature orange cranes #TodayAtWork A post shared by Kelvin (@kelvintagnipez) on Aug 14, 2017 at 2:48am PDT Share your city scenes on Instagram using #citylabontheground ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Wednesday, August 16, 2017By Katie Pearce
    1 day ago
  • The States Trying to Pass Laws Protecting Drivers Who Hit Protesters
    Florida State Senator George Gainer wants to make one thing clear: His bill was never a license to assault demonstrators. While the bill he sponsored in February, S.B. 1096, would have granted civil immunity to drivers who strike protesters with their vehicles, the fatal assault in Charlottesville on Saturday is not what he had in mind.“It had nothing to do with what was going on in Virginia,” Gainer says. “Our bill would not have prevented that, and it certainly would not have condoned it.”That bill died in May. But similar bills in four other states (North Carolina, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Texas) are still on the table, and the bill in North Carolina even passed the House. While their Republican sponsors are walking back some of these proposals in light of the attack in Charlottesville, others are still insisting that they serve drivers and protesters alike.All of these bills would accomplish roughly the same thing: If a driver strikes a demonstrator on a road or freeway, and the demonstrator doesn’t have a permit to be there, the driver cannot be held liable for any injuries—even death. That’s immunity to civil liability only. Criminal liability would still apply in an intentional vehicular assault or terror attack like the one in Charlottesville.These bills largely followed sprung from the Black Lives Matter demonstrations of last year, several of which featured scenes of protesters occupying highways around the country. The same tactic has been employed in demonstrations to oppose the election and inauguration of President Donald Trump.That context may have changed after Charlottesville. In North Carolina, The News & Observer reports that the Senate will not take up H.B. 330 after all, and that even if it did, Governor Roy Cooper, a Democrat, would veto it. Still, that didn’t stop North Carolina State House Rep. Justin Burr from issuing a blistering defense of his bill."It is intellectually dishonest and a gross mischaracterization to portray North Carolina House Bill 330 as a protection measure for the act of violence that occurred in Charlottesville this past weekend,” Burr said in a statement on Monday. “Any individual who committed a deliberate or willful act, such as what happened this weekend in Charlottesville, would face appropriately severe criminal and civil liabilities.”But the bills all raise similar questions: In the absence of compelling video evidence, how would law enforcement determine whether a driver who struck a protester did so accidentally or intentionally? For example, the Tennessee bill says that civil immunity will be applied to any driver “who is exercising due care.” (Tennessee lawmakers did not return a request for comment.) The failed Florida bill went further, putting the burden of proof on pedestrians to show that injury or death was intentional.In that sense, these driver-immunity laws resemble the so-called “stand your ground” laws that many of these same states all share. For both kinds of laws, the burden of proof falls on the person who has suffered the casualty. And race, inevitably, is a determinative factor in establishing ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Wednesday, August 16, 2017By Kriston Capps
    1 day ago
  • New York City Will Try Congestion Pricing Again
    For the first time in years, congestion pricing might have real political traction in an American city.New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has come out in support of the idea as a solution for New York City, with its thickening traffic and dire need for transit funding. “Congestion pricing is an idea whose time has come,” Cuomo told the New York Times on Monday.London, Stockholm, and Singapore have made huge strides in easing traffic by charging small fees to road users in their urban cores at peak hours. But no U.S. city has taken the plunge. Long viewed as political non-starter, especially after a well-supported proposal in New York City ran aground in 2008, congestion pricing has been something of a pipe dream for U.S. transportation wonks, the only viable treatment for urban traffic no politician dares to prescribe, for fear of angering drivers. So support from a governor like Cuomo, who can be an effective political dealmaker when he wants to be, is a big deal.What can New York learn from the last time it tried to pass such a scheme?Create transit alternatives Between 2007 and 2008, then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg and a specially appointed state commission pushed to create an $8 fee for inbound car trips into the Manhattan core between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. on weekdays. It was projected to produce $491 million annually for transit improvements, cut driving time spent in standstill traffic by 30 percent, and slash emissions.Crucially, the plan also included a transit build-out. Expanded local and express bus and subway service was called for, in order to prove transit as a viable alternative for an even greater share of commuters and show the congestion fees weren’t meant to be punitive. With the MTA, the city secured $354 million in federal funds for these improvements, contingent on the passage of the plan. But the plan got blocked in the state legislature—more on that in a moment—and the improvements didn’t come to fruition.These days, it’s going to be harder to convince New York City car commuters who balk at congestion fees that great transit alternatives exist. On-time performance on the subways is tanking, and the buses are even worse.But a congestion pricing system would be another motivation—and better yet, a means—to make swift, meaningful improvements to transit. Architected by the famed New York City traffic engineer Sam “Gridlock” Schwartz, a revised version of the Bloomberg congestion pricing plan called Move NY spotlights buses especially, calling to roll back service cuts made in 2010, add express bus options to affected outer boroughs, and speed up plans to run bus rapid transit lines across the city. Move NY projects the plan would generate $1.5 billion in net revenue, to help re-fill MTA’s dried-up coffers.Whatever Governor Cuomo’s plan includes, says Jon Orcutt, communications and advocacy director at the transportation think-tank TransitCenter, it’s an opportunity to bring surface rides in particular up to speed. Besides better buses, that could also mean city regulations that incentivize shared ride services and discourage ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Wednesday, August 16, 2017By Laura Bliss
    1 day ago
  • Can Craft Breweries Transform America’s Post-Industrial Neighborhoods?
    I enjoy living in Canada for many reasons, but one downside has been my distance from my home country’s craft beer revival. Since Canada’s outmoded liquor laws prevent much of the good stuff from flowing across the border, I’m reduced to hauling cases back to Toronto from Michigan, where my wife’s family live.While Canada has experienced a craft beer boom of its own, it’s impossible to compete with the sheer variety of brews being produced in America these days. Between 1985 and 2010, the number of craft breweries in the United States jumped from 27 to 1,754. Even more remarkably, between 2010 and 2015, the number of craft breweries has more than doubled, to 4,225.A new study in The Professional Geographer tells the story of this trend, and explains its transformative impact on cities and neighborhoods across the country. As it turns out, the craft beer revolution, like many other urban economic phenomena, is highly clustered. The good news is that many of these clusters are taking shape in places that have been subject to disinvestment and deindustrialization.Craft breweries find it beneficial to locate near one another so they can sell each other excess grain and hops, share equipment, and even train one another’s staff. The smallest breweries, in particular, garner large proportions of their revenue from their taprooms. Locating in a thriving brewery district can drive up foot traffic and attract beer tourists.The study takes a deep dive into the locations of craft breweries or micro-breweries and brew pubs in ten cities: Austin, Charlotte, Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis, New York, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle. Of these ten cities, seven can be said to have distinct brewery districts. Using a Ripley’s K analysis, which is an equation for measuring the clustering of point data, the researchers found, “the strongest predictor of whether a craft brewery opened in a neighborhood was the presence of an already existing brewery in that neighborhood.”The spatial distribution of craft breweries and brew pubs in ten cities (Nilsson et. al)However, the study finds that brewpubs and microbreweries sometimes locate in distinct neighborhood types. This is because brewpubs are allowed to locate in restaurant and retail districts, while craft breweries are often restricted to industrial districts. This kind of separation is the case in four of the ten cities: New York, Portland and San Diego, and to a lesser extent in Austin. In six of the ten cities microbreweries and brewpubs cluster together.The most successful and concentrated brewery districts include Portland’s Pearl District, Charlotte’s NoDa, and Denver’s RiNo. Real estate concocted monikers aside, these neighborhoods owe at least part of their recent revival to microbreweries. Brewers and brewpubs work in concert with cafes, restaurants, and arts spaces to turn former industrial districts into 24 hour neighborhoods. NoDa, for instance, was a former textile manufacturing hub that languished in the seventies and eighties, and is now being revived largely through brewing. Denver’s RiNo, a former warehouse district by the railyards, now boasts nine breweries, 27 galleries, ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Tuesday, August 15, 2017By Richard Florida
    2 days ago
  • Meet the 26-Year-Old Mayor Taking On Jeff Sessions
    In the years after the Great Recession, Stockton, California, became the poster-child of financial ruin. The mid-sized city was crushed by the housing collapse, and made national headlines for the resulting high foreclosure rates, drastic municipal cuts, record violent crime, and finally, bankruptcy. For these reasons and others, it has featured at the very top of Forbes’ annual “most miserable cities” list more than once.Now, as it begins its ascent out of that depression, Stockton is in the news again. It’s among four cities singled out by the Department of Justice to conduct strict immigration enforcement in exchange for crime fighting help. In a statement accompanying his letter, Attorney General Jeff Sessions warns: “The Department of Justice is committed to supporting our law enforcement at every level, and that’s why we're asking 'sanctuary' jurisdictions to stop making their jobs harder.” Stockton has declined that request. Its first African American mayor Michael Tubbs—a 26-year-old Stockton native who won with 70 percent of the votes—has big plans for the city. And they don’t include having the police enforce immigration law on the streets.CityLab spoke with Mayor Tubbs about his response to the DOJ and his strategy to remake and rebrand Stockton. The highlights of the conversation are below.What is the response you're considering sending the DOJ? Our response is that violent crime remains a priority for us. We understand the need for partnerships from state, federal, and local agencies to get ahead of our violent crime problem. But because we don't operate the jails, I think almost everything in that letter didn't pertain to us as a jurisdiction. So we are arguing that we still qualify for the [program] and hope that the process is fair and equitable.Is Stockton a sanctuary city?Our policies are consistent with many sanctuary cities in that our police department doesn't stop, detain, or arrest anyone solely on suspected immigration status. The difference is that we don't operate the jails or detention facilities, so we're not able to make pronouncements of policies in that realm.Is that policy of not checking immigration status in the field going to remain intact, despite AG Sessions’ threat?Absolutely. When you look at Stockton, 35 percent of our population is foreign-born. So it's not just some marginal group, it's our city. We are a city of immigrants. To keep Stockton safe—and to be as great as we can be—we need participation from everyone.We've been doing a lot of work over the past several years building community trust because that helps keep our community safe. When people feel afraid, when people feel like they can't trust, when people feel like they are targeted, then you see calls for service go down, you see civic participation go down, and you see all the bad things go up.I read local reports that some residents want Stockton to sue the government, following the footsteps of San Francisco and Chicago. Is that in the cards at all?It seems a little premature at this point, because we haven't lost any ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Tuesday, August 15, 2017By Tanvi Misra
    2 days ago
  • Why Are Teen Pregnancy Programs Getting Cut?
    The teen birth rate in the U.S. is at a record low: Since 1991, it’s declined by 67 percent. A large chunk of that drop occurred in the last 6 years, when the Obama Administration’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program began.Now, in its second round of grants, the TPP Program (not to be confused with the trade agreement) is currently funding 84 communities across the country. Between 2010 and 2016, the years during which TPP funds started flowing, the national rate plunged 41 percent.But that may soon be changing: When these organizations received their annual funding award letters in early June, one crucial number had changed: The date on which their funding would stop coming. Where before their grants had promised five years of funding, from 2015 to 2019, the letters stated that the money would stop by July of 2018, cutting the program two years short.  “We have seen a decline in teen birth over the past five-plus years, which is amazing, but it’s also not a coincidence,” says Beth Marshall, the associate director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Adolescent Health. “We’ve seen a decline in teen birth because we’ve also seen increases in education and access to contraception.”Even after the recent rate declines, teen pregnancy in the U.S. remains far more common than in most other developed nations. One in four teenage girls in the U.S. will become pregnant at least once by the age of 20—twice the rate of Canada, for example.Lawmakers and public health advocates have voiced dismay about the cuts to TPP. A group of Democratic lawmakers—37 senators and 149 representatives—have written to Health and Human Services secretary Tom Price, asking for an explanation. The nonprofit Big Cities Health Coalition—a forum for leaders of America’s largest metropolitan health departments—sent a letter to Price, appealing this decision. The group emphasized a key concern with the early end to the program—the cuts will make it more difficult for researchers to obtain the evidence-based results that measure the effectiveness of individual programs: Researchers will be unable to analyze data they have spent years collecting, and it will be incredibly difficult to draw any conclusions about what pieces of these programs work best and which are less effective at preventing unwanted teen pregnancy. In a press call last week, Patty Hayes, the director of public health in Seattle and King County, credited the TPP program with helping her city bring its teen pregnancy numbers down. “When you take a look at the teen birth rate in Seattle and King County, it has fallen by 55 percent since 2008 due to our focused attention on this problem,” she said.Seattle and King County use FLASH, a comprehensive sexual education program that is taught in every school district in King County, and as well as many other school districts nationwide. But, like many promising programs, FLASH has not yet had the opportunity to be evaluated—to discover how many students are delaying sex, or opting to use contraception, as a result of its ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Tuesday, August 15, 2017By Alastair Boone
    2 days ago
  • Can a City Be Compassionate?
    Greg Fischer, the mayor of Louisville, Kentucky, has garnered national attention for his pledge to make Louisville a “compassionate city.” The campaign dates back to 2011, and while it may seem like a lofty or nebulous goal, the program involves a series of practical efforts to work compassion into every aspect of the city’s design. Louisville has worked with the University of Virginia to institute the Compassionate Schools Project, an $11 billion initiative that introduces a curriculum focused on health, mindfulness, and welfare into 25 elementary schools. The city also encourages residents to take compassion into their own hands: Over 180,000 people participated in the city’s most recent Give a Day week of service, and residents join clusters to discuss issues like healthcare and education under an umbrella organization called Compassion Louisville.On Monday, as the nation’s mayors grappled with the aftermath of the violence in Charlottesville on Saturday, CityLab spoke to the mayor about the meaning of removing Confederate monuments, why Louisville isn’t a sanctuary city, and how to thread compassion into urban America.What does it mean to you for a city to be compassionate?I define compassion as respect for each and every citizen so that their human potential is flourishing. It’s integrating compassion and equity into everything we do. Compassion is an action word for us, it’s not just, Oh I feel for you. Leaders should be reminding us of these human values, and you can see how that’s missing from our dialogue.You’re not going to be great if you don’t have all these practices going on. We’re a large, pluralistic, diverse city—like we are as a country. That’s not going to change. We’re going to be a majority country of color in 2040. It’s amazing what we do already as a country with all this strife going. Imagine what we could do in one where people embraced inclusion.Are there specific infrastructure projects or initiatives you think city government needs to take, or are you expecting the compassion to come from citizens through avenues like volunteering?Equity is a lens that we look at all of our decisions through, whether it be education, income, or healthcare. We were the first city in the country to open a center for health equity. Most people’s health outcomes are related to where they’re born. How do you address those social determinants of health so that they don’t become an issue? It becomes paramount when you try to reduce violence in the community. We’re launching an initiative called the Louisville Promise. It’s the largest investment made in the last 50 years into West Louisville, which is traditionally a lower income part of our city. Its goal is to remove every obstacle from someone to get a college degree, either a two-year or four-year degree. We start with early care and pre-K, so that child does not show up three years behind an advantaged peer. When they come to the end of high school, there is a tuition scholarship available to everyone. [No other city] ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Tuesday, August 15, 2017By Teresa Mathew
    2 days ago
  • Lab Report: Cities Move to Eradicate Confederate Symbols
    Tumbling down: In the aftermath of Charlottesville’s violence, as white nationalists and pro-Confederate groups announce more rallies and speaking events, several cities are accelerating the removal of their Confederate memorials. In addition to protestors toppling a statue in Durham, The Los Angeles Times reports: In Atlanta, protesters spray-painted a statue of a Confederate soldier and broke off a piece. Dozens of people gathered in Nashville and hundreds more in San Antonio to protest local monuments. The gatherings followed formal announcements in at least five cities that monuments would be taken down. In Boston, three headliners have dropped out of a far-right rally planned for this weekend after Mayor Martin Walsh and other leaders have made it clear that hate groups are not welcome. (Boston Globe) Stepping in: California has become the first state to sue the Trump administration over its sanctuary cities policy, joining San Francisco and Chicago in fighting against a new Justice Department policy denying grants to jurisdictions that fail to provide the feds access to local jails. (Politico)High-Line-ification: As cities clamor to emulate the New York City icon on their own industrial spaces, a chorus of detractors is also growing against high-cost projects that bring segregation, gentrification, and Disney-style tourism. Reflecting on the failure of London’s Garden Bridge project, The Guardian suggests more focus on locals, more crowdfunding, and creative site choices.Say what?: You know those unreadable Public Notice signs? Atlanta is doing away with them as part of a broad rebranding of its Department of City Planning (motto: “To Be Clear is to Be Kind”) that focuses on clean typography, colorful applications, and sharply designed notices. (Fast Co.Design)Right-sizing NYC tolls: As New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo appears to warm to the idea of congestion pricing in New York City, Streetsblog argues that the latest toll reform plan from Move NY eases past concerns by distributing costs fairly between all of the city’s boroughs.The urban lens: Old #bricks in the #asphalt, #moonah. #citylab #citylabontheground A post shared by Olivia Bowman (@livbgood) on Aug 14, 2017 at 4:24pm PDT Share your city on Instagram with #citylabontheground ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Tuesday, August 15, 2017By Katie Pearce
    2 days ago
  • What Makes a ‘Resilient’ City? For Tulsa’s Chief Resilience Officer, It’s People
    In planning circles, “resilience” often refers to the ability of urban systems to bounce back from environmental shock. On that front, Tulsa, Oklahoma, has its work cut out, ensuring utilities and emergency services have the resources to withstand 130-mph tornadoes whipping through the city.But to DeVon Douglass, Tulsa’s Chief Resilience Officer, resilience is ultimately about the strength of citizens themselves—a tenacity, she says, that starts with individuals and spans out to society.Appointed by Mayor GT Bynum in December 2016, and funded by the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities network, Douglass brings experience as a lawyer and policy analyst to the task of developing a multi-pronged resilience strategy for the Oklahoma metro, zeroing in equity gaps in Tulsa’s schools, transportation systems, and the economy.We spoke to Douglass at the Urban Resilience Summit in New York City in July about the work she’s got ahead of her. What was your definition of resilience coming into this job?When I first started, I had this idea of youth resilience, because of my previous work with marginalized youth in New Jersey. I was thinking of children who are called dropouts, and the difference between a kid who stays in school and those who don’t. What is inside a child that, despite the fact that they have an abusive father, a distant mother, and murders going on on their block, keeps them from pushing to the end of high school and getting to college?That’s their internal resilience, and that’s where my first understanding of the word came from. I think it’s transferrable to urban environments, to large communities, to our entire city.How do you transfer a quality inside the individual to the scope of an entire city?Well, this is more my conceptual framework. We often talk about systems, but we forget that people make up systems and policies, and the policies reflect us as human beings. I think it’s useful to think about how we as human beings can withstand trauma individually to think about the whole city.Can you give me a concrete example?Our schools have suffered a lot recently. They are in a state of crisis as state funding for them has plummeted. Our state funding formula is odd to begin with, to say the least—we’ve had the lowest teacher salary and more cuts to public education than any state in the union since 2008. Across the state, we’re cutting programs, moving to four-day school weeks, taking away stuff these babies need.I think we need a two-pronged approach with resiliency [in schools]: more funding to raise money for them, but also rethinking schools so we can get people excited about them again. I’d like to make schools places where families can get wraparound public services, and where parents and grandparents can come and get new skills. So [like people themselves], there are external changes and internal factors that come into play. Paris has done work around making schools neighborhood centers, anchors in a community—I have found that very inspiring.Transportation is another example of a challenge ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Tuesday, August 15, 2017By Laura Bliss
    2 days ago
  • Charlottesville Needs To Rename This Park
    Late in June, the city of Charlottesville issued a request for proposals for redesigning Justice Park and Emancipation Park—formerly known as Jackson Park and Lee Park, and named for the two Confederate generals. As the fatal white supremacist rally in the city over the weekend demonstrated, what these spaces stand for is a subject of bloody debate.The “Unite the Right” rally was ostensibly organized to protest the city’s plan to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee from what is now Emancipation Park. The blood shed nearby when James Fields allegedly drove his car into counter-protesters, injuring more than a dozen and killing a 32-year-old woman named Heather Heyer, has given new and unintended meaning to the grounds where the rally was staged. This may be the most urgent landscape brief since the memorials commemorating the attacks of September 11, 2001.Right-wing extremists are engaged in an active campaign to ensure that the legacy of white supremacy is supported officially by cities throughout the former Confederacy (and even beyond its borders). Charlottesville has an opportunity to use its parks to define its character—to make the kind of declaration that white supremacists are trying to make on the city’s behalf. Now, instead of commemorating Lee—a general who fought to keep millions of Virginians in bondage—Emancipation Park serves as a de facto memorial to Heyer. That is a decision the city could make official, if it takes advantage of an existing plan to rethink its parks in order to commit to a full-throated objection to fascism, bigotry, and violence.The design objectives under the current design brief are twofold: The city wants to use Justice Park to host a memorial to the slave population of Charlottesville. Its plans for Emancipation Park are less clear. The RFP calls for design schemes for the park “both inclusive and independent of the statue of Robert E. Lee.” One year ago, the city convened a Blue Ribbon Commission on Race, Memorials, and Public Spaces and resolved in accordance with that group’s findings to do something about its parks. The RFP does not appear to reflect the decision by the Charlottesville City Council in February to remove the statue. (The city did not immediately return a request for comment.)“The [Blue Ribbon Commission]’s Final Report acknowledged that far too often Charlottesville’s public spaces and histories have ignored, silenced or suppressed African American history, as well as the legacy of white supremacy and the unimaginable harms done under that cause,” the brief reads. “The public spaces of Charlottesville’s Historic North Downtown and Court Square Districts contain the Robert E. Lee statue in Emancipation Park, the Stonewall Jackson statue in Justice Park, the slave auction block and the Reconstruction era’s Freedman’s Bureau.”The city mentions a new memorial planned for Montgomery, Alabama, as an example of what it has in mind for its rethink of Justice and Emancipation Parks. There, the Equal Justice Initiative seeks to balance one of Montgomery’s biggest oversights: the glaring absence of any markers or other memorials to the ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Tuesday, August 15, 2017By Kriston Capps
    2 days ago
  • How Do You Measure the Value of a Historic Site?
    To get a glimpse of Singapore’s past, take a stroll down Tiong Bahru, the nation’s oldest housing estate. Built in the 1930s, it’s still home to both Singapore’s first wet market and last remaining World War II air raid shelter. Today, it’s one of the few neighborhoods where high-rises haven’t completely taken over the skyline, though the signs of gentrification—posh cafes, Western-themed restaurants, and trendy boutiques—have disrupted the historic fabric of the neighborhood.Tiong Bahru is an example of the tension between historic preservation and economic development on the small island of 5 million people. Today, Singapore is the epitome of modernity: the gleaming towers, the multi-color lights illuminating the night sky, and the radical architecture that other cities can only dream of. And the landscape is constantly changing to meet new demands, so much so that there’s barely room for the older buildings.Old cemeteries are dug up and national libraries and theaters are torn down to make way for highway projects and new apartments—all in the name of progress. “We can still remember the things we did as kids, but there's no physical substance that we can anchor those memories to,” says Siew Ann Cheong, a complexity scientist at the Nanyang Technical University.Indeed, Singapore’s government has never really been enthusiastic about historic preservation, and any efforts to hold on to the physical relics of the nation’s past often become mired in political disputes. As my colleague Mimi Kirk reported in June, even the fate of the estate belonging to the late founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew—himself an outspoken critic of preservation—is embroiled in a bitter and politically charged family feud.Lost in those debates are the more constructive conversations over the actual cultural value of a site, and whether it’s worth preserving to the people of Singapore. But Cheong and his colleague, historian Andrea Nanetti, think they have found a scientific approach to assessing cultural value. Their method is rooted in complex theory, the study of systems comprising several interacting parts and whose behavior is hard to predict and, therefore, control. They call their approach SHIFT—Sustainable Heritage Impact Factor Theory—and they believe it can give cultural value its due role in often-messy debates over preservation and redevelopment.Cultural value is arguably a subjective matter, but imagine that a value of a park or a marketplace can be measured through human experiences. Cheong and Nanetti say politicians and urban planners often focus too much on physical space. But heritage should be thought of as a complex system involving new and old residents—the “agents”—interacting with each other, the landscape, and the surrounding landmarks. As they describe in a paper detailing their theory, heritage is also an ever-evolving network: This complex network evolves with time, as old agents are removed and new agents are added. Existing links between agents can also be removed, and new links added. As these social changes are happening, we can also have the removal of old landmarks and the addition of new landmarks The researchers argue that urban planners ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Tuesday, August 15, 2017By Linda Poon
    2 days ago
  • Durham Protesters Topple Confederate Statue
    Protesters in Durham are not having it.On Monday evening, dozens convened on Main Street and with laughable ease, lassoed down a 15-foot tall Bronze statue of a confederate soldier that’s been standing in front of Old Durham County Courthouse since 1924. Protesters in Durham, North Carolina, toppled a statue representing a Confederate soldier — CNN (@CNN) August 15, 2017 Before and after pictures of the confederate monument outside the old Durham County courthouse. — Derrick Lewis (@DerrickQLewis) August 15, 2017The purpose of the “emergency” protest in Durham, organized by anti-racist and anti-fascist groups, was to show solidarity with Charlottesville, Virginia—a city sprinkled with symbols of the confederacy—where Neo-Nazis and white supremacist groups descended over the weekend for a “Unite The Right” demonstration. Violence erupted between attendees—(many of whom were armed with guns)—and counter-protesters. And an Ohio man named James A. Fields Jr. has been charged for ramming his car into a crowd in Charlottesville, killing one woman and injuring many.According to the The News & Observer, the organizers of the Durham protest want to topple this—and all other confederate monuments—so that “no more innocent people have to be killed.”The call to tear down monuments that glorify the confederacy are getting louder as they spread from city to city. In New Orleans, Mayor Mitch Landrieu recently ordered three to be taken down, because they were originally erected “to send a strong message to all who walked in their shadows about who was still in charge in this city,” he said. The statue of Robert E. Lee in Emancipation Park, which was thronged by white nationalists this weekend, is also due to be removed. A North Carolina law, signed by former Governor Pat McCrory, makes it harder for local governments to remove historical monuments in the state. But from today’s events in Durham, it seems that the future of these structures is on shaky grounds nonetheless. ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Monday, August 14, 2017By Tanvi Misra
    3 days ago
  • Averting the Next Charlottesville
    A growing list of mayors have sent out statements condemning the racism that drove the “Unite the Right” white supremacist rally into violence and death in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend.“We want to send a firm, united message that hate and violence have absolutely no place in our public square,” said U.S. Conference of Mayors CEO & Executive Director Tom Cochran in a press statement. “We urge every leader, at every level of government, to be firm that in the year 2017, there is no place in America for the kinds of display we are seeing in Charlottesville, nor the violence that has resulted because of it."Several other mayors made statements using the same language of America being “no place for” racism and bigotry, including southern mayors from Alexandria, Virginia; Knoxville, Tennessee; and Mobile, Alabama.Yet the Charlottesville rally was neither the first nor last of its kind, and many of these same cities will inevitably become the site for some of those future rallies. In fact, forthcoming “hate” rallies are already being planned in Boston, Virginia, and another nationwide anti-Muslim rally is also slated for September.“Charlottesville was first. Boston is next,” said Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal, president of the Boston-based Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice. A rally is planned in the downtown Boston Common area this Saturday under the banners of white nationalism and “uniting the Right.” Boston Mayor Marty Walsh has sent a message of “we don’t want you” to the organizers of that rally, yet there seems little he can do to stop it from happening.   “If these back-to-back rallies are any indication this threat is metastasizing,” said Espinoza-Madrigal.The question for cities is: If there really is no place for assemblies based on racial bigotry in America, in 2017, then what are they going to do about such rallies planned in the weeks and months ahead?Monument removal?The cities that have monuments to Confederate and white supremacist figures will have the toughest time answering that question. For decades city leaders and historic commissions have said these monuments are only about “heritage” and history, not hate, but the rally just seen in Charlottesville tests that theory.Confederate monument rallies are nothing new, but we can trace the modern era to 2015 when southern cities began talking and acting seriously about removing the Confederate rebel battle flags that flew above government buildings for decades. That period coincided, or likely caused Dylann Storm Roof to gun down nine African Americans inside “Mother Emanuel” African Methodist Episcopal Church, a historic black church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. The church sits just a block from a towering statue of war secretary John C. Calhoun, a staunch defender of slavery in the 19th century.Roof’s “manifesto” on why he felt he needed to carry out that massacre carried a similar message to the one chanted by neo-Nazis and neo-Confederates in Charlottesville over the weekend and in May: A feeling that white people were being “replaced.” This weekend’s riots may have come to an end, but the ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Monday, August 14, 2017By Brentin Mock
    3 days ago
  • Killing Machine
    If you wanted a car that could hurt people, you can do a lot worse than a Dodge Challenger. Blunt of prow, two tons, often wildly overpowered, it’s a model that has a well-deserved reputation for vehicular mayhem even when operated by drivers who weren’t actively trying to kill and injure others.So when the first images emerged of the vehicle that plowed into a crowd of anti-fascist protesters in downtown Charlottesville on Saturday, I thought, Yep, that makes sense. The photos are remarkable: the silver-grey muscle car bearing down on a knot of people, then a terrifying shot of bodies flying over the vehicle. In videos of the incident, you see the car collide with the rear of a Toyota, then reverse away across the city’s brick-paved pedestrian mall, with front-end damage that seems to accentuate the car’s natural scowl.The Challenger is among the most retrograde of machines, a scrupulously literal homage to the brand’s 1970 model, except bulked up. You can drive one off the dealer lot with more than 800 horsepower, an absurd figure for a civilian-operated vehicle.That wasn’t exactly the car in Charlottesville—James A. Fields Jr. of Maumee, Ohio, was driving a 2010 model with a base V6. His hood scoops and stripes were just for show: The car makes a mere 250 horsepower and, as Edmunds noted in a road test, can be outraced by a Honda minivan. Still, that was sufficiently lethal. A 32-year old woman, Heather Heyer, was killed in the attack, which may be classified as a hate crime. Many others have serious injuries; Fields has been charged with second-degree murder, among other counts of malice.The use of vehicles as weapons of political terror is cribbed right from the Al-Qaida playbook, and it’s a tactic that has become familiar in recent European attacks by jihadists driving big, anonymous commercial vans. But there’s a kind of awful logic in seeing a huge American muscle car as the killing machine of choice for the Nazis and white supremacists that besieged Charlottesville. The Dodge Challenger—even more so than its two rivals, the Ford Mustang and Chevy Camaro—is a kind of mechanical embodiment of Making America Great Again, a dinosaur car utterly shameless in its evocation of a never-was national past. “It’s a rolling relic of a time that’s slowly vanishing before our eyes,” as Jalopnik’s William Clavey recently concluded in a terrific review of a 2017 model. In a passage that effectively captures the essential screw-you qualities embedded into this particular model, Clavey effectively describes how the machine’s personality manifested in his driving style: Suddenly, I had become the douchebag. I was revving the shit out of its engine the moment I’d encounter a Prius or a Leaf, blipping the throttle when approaching intersections just to spawn a reaction. People despised me. Planet Earth wanted me gone. And I didn’t give one flying fuck. To be clear, brands don’t always bear responsibility for the ideologies that adopt their products. (Though Dodge might want to ease off ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Monday, August 14, 2017By David Dudley
    3 days ago
  • Lab Report: Charlottesville Mayor Rises as Anti-Trump Voice
    After Charlottesville: Following the violence in the Virginia college town Saturday from a white supremacy rally, vigils and rallies of solidarity took place across the country in cities from Los Angeles to Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, The Washington Post tracks Charlottesville Mayor Michael Signer’s rise as a vocal critic of President Donald Trump: For Signer, Trump’s repeated failure to “condone, denounce, silence, put to bed” the white supremacist voices that invoked his name during the campaign and after he won the White House is why Charlottesville was besieged with violence on Saturday. The president’s statement after the violence, which fell short of directly calling out extremist groups—even after a car allegedly driven by a Nazi sympathizer plowed into counterprotesters—is another example of that, Signer said. “When you dance with the devil, the devil changes you,” the mayor said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” quoting an old saying. See also: Despite witnessing the controversy spurred by removal of Confederate symbols in Charlottesville, the mayor of Lexington, Kentucky is moving forward with plans to move Confederate monuments from a city courthouse that’s undergoing a $30 million renovation. (Washington Post) When higher salaries don’t matter: Low-skilled workers are avoiding and moving out of cities like Boston, New York, and San Francisco, according to a new report which shows that high housing costs negate the higher salaries that come in these prosperous cities. (Quartz)Rise of the gondola: Cities across the country are exploring gondolas as a commuting alternative—including three proposals now in New York state—but the projects face skepticism from both elected officials and the riding public. (New York Times)Cashing in on pot: As relaxed recreational marijuana laws hit California, several small, financially strapped cities in southeast Los Angeles County and elsewhere are seizing new business opportunities—despite resistance from some residents. (Los Angeles Times)What happened to Japantown?: Though thousands of Japanese-Americans were resettled in Chicago from World War II incarceration camps, the government pressure to assimilate into white society made the city’s unofficial “Japantown” a short-lived affair. (WBEZ)The urban lens: Eyes from urbana mural fest #eyes #mural #guatemala #centrohistorico #centrohisterico #mycolorfulguatemala #perhapsyouneedalittleguatemala #therealguatemala #theglobalgrid #citylabontheground #citiesforpeople #puchicaurbanismo #vsco #urbanscene #exploratuciudadgt A post shared by David Fernando Rosales (@davidrosalesb) on Aug 14, 2017 at 1:56am PDT Show us your city on Instagram using #citylabontheground ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Monday, August 14, 2017By Katie Pearce
    3 days ago
  • New York City Guarantees a Lawyer to Every Resident Facing Eviction
    On Friday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into law an act that guarantees legal representation to any low-income resident facing eviction. This is the first law in the nation to establish a right to counsel in housing cases, the culmination of a push by activists and organizers that started in 2014.The law promises legal representation to any resident facing eviction whose income is 200 percent of the federal poverty level or less. The act could transform housing court in New York, where landlords appear with counsel in more than 90 percent of cases. Until 2014, tenants were represented in just 1 to 10 percent of cases.“When you have that kind of imbalance, not occasionally but almost guaranteed in every case, it starts to change the entire way that the court works and the entire way that the justice system works,” says John Pollock, coordinator for the National Coalition of the Civil Right to Counsel. “Cases are disposed of quickly. There’s not really any due process.”Often, tenants have defenses to eviction lawyers would raise that could stop or at least postpone an eviction, such as improper notice or neglected repairs.Fewer illegal evictions also means fewer households experiencing transitional homelessness, a crisis on the rise in America. That means reducing suffering for families but also limiting a substantial burden carried by cities. The coalition predicts an overall savings of $320 million per year, well above the program’s costs.Even in cases where an eviction is warranted, legal representation can make the process less painful and interruptive.“Lawyers do a lot of things for tenants besides just [determining in court] whether or not they’re evicted,” Pollock says. “There’s some tenants who may not be able to stay in their units, but the attorney may be able to keep the eviction off their records. They may be able to find them alternative housing. They may be able to get them into subsidized housing. They can arrange a soft landing in so many ways.”With New York leading the way, several other cities may soon embrace so-called “civil Gideon” laws, namely San Francisco, Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. However, budget plans by the Trump administration could affect how broadly a right to counsel can be embraced in other places.The tenant legal services community has pursued a right to counsel in housing court for decades, says Marika Dias, director of the Tenant Rights Coalition at Legal Services NYC. But that effort became much more aggressive in 2014, when a number of advocacy campaigns, bar associations, unions, and other groups formed The Right to Counsel NYC Coalition. They sought, and won, greater funding for legal representation for tenants.Since 2014, evictions have already declined in New York by 24 percent, and the percentage of tenants who have appeared before housing court with representation has climbed to about 27 percent.“Over the course of the next five years, there will be a phase-in process, so it’s going to take five years to get to the point where all tenants who ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Monday, August 14, 2017By Kriston Capps
    3 days ago
  • Where The Need For Affordable Rentals Is Most Dire
    Since the Great Recession, the demand for affordable and safe rental housing has been skyrocketing, far outpacing the supply. For renters, that means the housing crisis has shown no signs of letting up.A new report prepared by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for Congress adds to this sobering picture of the country’s affordability crisis. It focuses on the sliver of the population with the “worst case needs”—renters who a) make at or below 50 percent of the area median income; b) do not get housing assistance; and c) pay more than half of their income on rent and/or live in physically unsafe or deficient housing.According to HUD’s analysis, this category of renters has seen an 8 percent nationwide growth between 2013 and 2015. The number of such households now stands at 8.3 million—on its way back up to 2011’s peak of 8.5 million after a short decline. A striking 98 percent of these cases were a result of rent burdening.Housing assistance goes a long way in helping very low-income folks navigate this new reality, but according to the report, there’s just not enough to go around. Overall, only a quarter of destitute renters received assistance. Around 43 percent had “worst case needs.” In other words, for each low income renter receiving help from the government, 1.7 went unassisted—left to bear the burden of high rents and unsafe living environments. The remaining 32 percent of the extremely low-income renters were able to navigate the private market without problems.Of course, these nationwide averages obscure significant regional variations in need, based on local economies and housing policy. Using the information in the HUD report, CityLab created the following map. It shows the most populous 15 U.S. metros by their share of low-income renters with “worst case needs.” Miami takes the cake, with Riverside, Phoenix, and Los Angeles metros following close behind. More than half the renter populations in these four metros are in dire need of safe and affordable housing.Not surprisingly: some of the places with the highest need—like Phoenix—also contain the smallest shares of poor renters who currently getting government help. Quite literally, renters are being left by the wayside. ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Monday, August 14, 2017By Tanvi Misra
    3 days ago
  • White Supremacists Are Waging a War Against Public Space
    Details are slowly emerging about the fatal vehicular attack in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday. James Fields, a 20-year-old man, has been charged for the assault, which killed one person, 32-year-old Heather Heyer, and injured 19 others. The attack sparked an immediate political controversy after President Donald Trump declined to specifically condemn white nationalism, instead blaming the violence “on many sides.”The ramifications of the attack are wide ranging—for the increasingly visible white supremacist movement, for the mainstream conservatives that give them safe harbor, for the liberal Virginia college town beset by these torch rallies, and for the victims of racism and bigotry.The attack also threatens public space, an amenity that is both scarce and necessary for democracy. The idea of the public square is under attack. And the extremist alt-right is waging a campaign to shut down the public square, using both violence and intimidation, especially under open-carry laws.Public space as public sphere is a concept that dates back to late 19th century Britain. In 1866, United Kingdom Home Secretary Spencer Walpole banned the Reform League from hosting a universal manhood suffrage rally in London’s Hyde Park. The Reform League fought back, arguing that the park belonged to either the public or the crown. The Home Secretary was neither. When he did not stand down, rioting followed, and on the third day of violence, some 200,000 people knocked down the gates and stormed Hyde Park. Today, a mosaic marks the Hyde Park Railings Affair at the site of the so-called Reformers' Tree, which was burned during the riots; the charred tree served as a notice board and rallying point, a symbol of the right to assembly.“Those rights we take as ‘immemorial,’ such as the right to assemble in and use public space, are not only relatively new, they are always hotly contested and only grudgingly given by those in power,” writes Don Mitchell in The Right to the City: Social Justice and the Fight for Public Space. “Always hotly contested: rights over and to public space are never guaranteed once and for all.”Driving a car into a crowded pedestrian mall is a tactic that the far right adopted from ISIS—and Saturday’s attack was the first such vehicular terror attack in the United States. It seemed as if it were calculated to inflict maximum damage. Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall is one of the most successful pedestrian malls in the country, a core feature of public life in the city. It is one of the few car-free pedestrian malls in America that has lasted for decades.A brief history: Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall was designed by Lawrence Halprin, the landscape architect who made the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, D.C., and Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco, among many other beloved public plazas. The city launched the Downtown Mall project in 1973 as a revitalization effort. With businesses fleeing urban corridors for suburban shopping strips, the city stepped up with a major overture to turn around its downtown’s fortunes. It worked.Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall has been the ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Sunday, August 13, 2017By Kriston Capps
    4 days ago
  • The Positive Power of Preemption
    A recurring narrative today involves the battle between progressive-leaning cities and more conservative state governments, which often step in to preempt local laws on minimum-wage increases, immigration enforcement, environmental protection, and other hot-button issues. From an urbanist perspective, such state preemption efforts are typically framed as attacks on the sovereignty of cities. But is taking power away from city hall fundamentally a bad thing?Americans love local government after all. But local governments face their own set of bad incentives that predictably lead to bad policymaking. Cities are apt to misbehave in many areas that impact the quality of urban life; sometimes, state preemption should be a welcome corrective.The affordable-housing crisis offers an instructive opportunity to witness the positive powers of preemption. When local policymakers try to write a zoning code they are supposed to be looking out for the long-term, aggregate interests of the community. In practice, though, politically active homeowners want to protect the value of their home by any means possible––including regulatory measures. This influence often leads to overly restrictive land-use planning. And, as a result, vulnerable groups regularly get shafted—renters and small business owners, among others—by city planning. The same happens with ride-sharing, home-sharing, and occupational licensing, where politically powerful industry groups can lobby for regulations that serve their interests, at the cost of overall community well-being.This is where the state comes in: State policymakers are often removed from the parochial interests of NIMBY neighborhood groups, local taxi monopolies, and hotel lobbies. They are also judged on the performance of the state as a whole. This means that they can take a broader view on certain issues. Given that local governments are “creatures of the state,” state policymakers can, in a sense, regulate the regulators, determining how local governments can and cannot operate.Thanks in large part to the total domination of local planning by anti-development NIMBY interests, many California cities face a severe housing shortage that is displacing the poor and hurting the U.S. economy. State preemption—with the backing of the burgeoning YIMBY movement—can attempt to address that. Under legislation proposed by State Senator Scott Wiener—which will likely be part of a grand compromise on housing later this month—needed developments in cities that aren’t building enough housing could enjoy a streamlined permitting process. This follows on last year’s state preemption of restrictive local accessory dwelling unit laws, making it easier to turn unused sheds and garages into additional units of housing.State preemption in the realm of land-use regulation isn’t limited to housing affordability issues. More states are preempting the right of cities to zone out solar panels and wind turbines, easing NIMBY-driven restrictions on cheap, renewable energy. Extending state preemption to other areas of planning—including restricting the ability of cities to require parking, mandate large lots, and prohibit multifamily housing—could also go a long way making our cities freer and greener.In Texas, meanwhile, state preemption has provided policymakers with a way to fight local laws restricting the nascent sharing economy. Most infamously, Austin hounded Uber and Lyft ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Sunday, August 13, 2017By Nolan Gray
    4 days ago