• After the Storm, a Flood of Data
    More than a week after Hurricane Florence made landfall, many roads in the Carolinas remain inundated. Receding floodwaters have left behind a trail of destruction (and dead fish) on major highways, and hundreds of roads and bridges are heavily damaged or impassable because of fallen trees and power lines. And more flooding is expected as rain-swollen rivers in South Carolina crest. As of Friday, more than 840 roads in North and South Carolina remained closed.For drivers used to relying on GPS navigation apps, it can be dangerously fluid situation, since road conditions can change too fast for official government maps of road closures to keep up. Following complaints on social media of evacuees who followed a third-party navigation app and ended up in a flooded street, the North Carolina Department of Transportation warned motorists not to trust GPS navigation apps like Waze last week. Ali: Waze and other travel apps are great but they are unable to keep up with the #FlorenceNC road closings. It is not safe now to trust them with your life. This storm, this flooding, these road closings are worse than Matthew, and they'll get even worse. Please stay safe! — NCDOT (@NCDOT) September 17, 2018At the peak of the hurricane’s heavy rains, NCDOT admits it had trouble keeping up with updating road closures—more than a thousand had to be updated by hand in just a few days. By the time this information was sent to third-party apps and finally updated on their end, it was too late was some. “After the storm had gone, we were getting hundreds of road closures at a time across the state,” said Steve Abbott, communications supervisor at NCOT, on Thursday. “We weren’t able to keep up, so then [the apps] weren’t able to keep up with us.” GPS navigation systems aren’t able to keep up with the changing road closures and are directing people onto roads that are confirmed closed and/or flooded. If you are in a safe place, stay put. Call 511 for updates. Check our website for more helpful info: — NCDOT (@NCDOT) September 17, 2018The storm proved to be a test of the powers, and limits, of mapping technology. “Whenever there’s a major event like this, the city or state always know the major roadways that are affected, but they don’t always know the minor ones,” said Andrew Stauffer, head of civic engagement technology at Esri, a Redlands, California-based firm that provides digital mapping services to government agencies. Esri’s Disaster Response Program is currently working across 33 cities to help monitor how people are getting around post-Florence, from road closures to contraflow traffic to mandatory evacuation zones.But during natural disasters, most residents rely on mobile phones, where Esri’s detailed but slow-loading ArcGIS Map can’t reach the people who need it the most. So little over two years ago, Esri entered into a partnership with Waze, the Google-owned navigation software company, to prioritize direct communication with residents via real-time updates and push notifications.After a municipal government ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Monday, September 24, 2018By Claire Tran
    20 hours ago
  • CityLab Daily: Why Affordable Housing Isn’t More Affordable
    Keep up with the most pressing, interesting, and important city stories of the day. Sign up for the CityLab Daily newsletter here.***What We’re FollowingWho’s counting: Affordable housing isn’t cheap to build. It’s no surprise that it costs more to build where land prices are higher, but there’s another factor that inflates the costs: local regulations. When homeowners and neighborhoods fight to slow or stop development, it makes low-income developments harder and more expensive to build. But we don’t know how much.Since 2010, the federal government has helped finance some 50,000 affordable units every year through the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program. As CityLab’s Kriston Capps reports, when the Government Accountability Office released a long-awaited report last week about the effectiveness of the program, it didn’t attempt to gauge the effect that regulatory burdens had on building more units. Without that data, it’s still tough to answer an important question: How much does NIMBYism cost?Andrew SmallMore on CityLab Delving Into the Nocturnal City of the Synanthrope Audio tours invite New Yorkers to explore the nighttime lives of the animals whose habitat they share. Allison C. Meier Mapping Where Environmental Justice Is Most Threatened in the Carolinas Eight places have long been vulnerable—and without them, we may not have the language, knowledge, and tools to fight environmental injustice in the age of climate change. Brentin Mock The Parks Where Kids (and Their Parents) Walk and Read at the Same Time Some libraries are getting young kids reading by taking the books outside. Linda Poon The Fight for LGBT Rights Has Moved to the Suburbs Many Americans still associate LGBTQ life with urban “gayborhoods.” But the Masterpiece Cakeshop case highlights how sexual diversity in suburbia is growing. Clayton Howard After Maria, an ‘Earthship’ Rises in Puerto Rico In western Puerto Rico, families and volunteers are building a low-tech, resilient haven out of earth, tires, and trash. Jayme Gershen Giving an Underrepresented Community and City a Place in Literature There There author Tommy Orange discusses his experience telling stories about Oakland and Native Americans, and why cities should be seen as part of the natural environment. Gracie McKenzie What We’re ReadingThe secret life of teen scooter outlaws (The Verge)Why mayors and urban leaders could have a bigger impact on the 2018 election (Curbed)Are landlords telling the truth? New York City doesn’t always check. This guy does. (New York Times)What happens to police departments that collect more fines? They solve fewer crimes. (Washington Post)Podcast alert: “The City” launches today, starting in Chicago (USA Today)Tell your friends about the CityLab Daily! Forward this newsletter to someone who loves cities and encourage them to subscribe. Send your own comments, feedback, and tips to ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Monday, September 24, 2018By Andrew Small
    21 hours ago
  • Delving Into the Nocturnal City of the Synanthrope
    Cities are built as human habitats, but of course, we’re not the only animals living in them. Among the many species alongside us are those known as synanthropes—from the Greek syn, “with,” and anthropos, “human”—who have adapted to live in close proximity to us. We mostly view them as pests: pigeons, raccoons, and rats. Yet appreciating their survival in our built environment can in turn reveal our impact on ecology, and how what we construct for ourselves—whether it be a landscape or convenient trash cans—can be of vital importance to them.On an August evening in Manhattan, after a rain that left the sidewalks gleaming, I was one of about 20 people who departed in staggered groups from the southeast corner of Central Park and entered the darkness of its paths. Back in the 19th century, the park’s trees were meticulously planted, its glacial rocks blasted to smooth lawns, and its lake created where once there was a swamp. Although designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux aimed to bring the pastoral into New York City for the improvement of human life, Central Park is now a refuge for wildlife, too.Armed with flashlights and headphones, we were guided by a 35-minute audio tour that highlighted one of those synanthropes, the raccoon. Called “The Washing Bear”—a reference to how raccoons seem to wash their food in water (but are really getting their highly sensitive hands wet so they can examine the food)—the audio tour is the latest in a series of immersive audio experiences from the Synanthrope Preserve, a collaboration between two New York-based creators—interdisciplinary artist Gal Nissim and experience designer Jessica Scott-Dutcher. (While the launch of “The Washing Bear” brought people out collectively, it’s free to download and listen to any time.)A bird’s nest built into the architecture of Bethesda Terrace in Central Park. (Roy Rochlin)“We wanted to shift perspectives about urban nature and around animals that share our habitat,” Nissim told me. “We were mainly interested in these synanthropic animals and the animals that people tend to not like very much. We were wondering how we could open this up as a wider discussion and maybe show their side of the story.” For each sound walk, Nissim and Scott-Dutcher extensively investigate these urban animals, learning from park rangers, researchers, and the animals’ local fans.Although many urbanites detest these creatures, other humans form relationships with them. Nissim and Scott-Dutcher’s first tour, a pigeon walk in Washington Square Park, ends with a man who feeds the birds almost every day. Likewise, in Central Park, they encountered someone so familiar with the raccoons that he had names for individuals, such as “Yoda” for a particularly old animal.“I think that it’s really easy to just stick [raccoons] as ‘trash pandas,’ but they do have this complex shadow world that happens parallel to ours, with their own social structures and interests that we influence, but are completely independent,” said Scott-Dutcher. Indeed, on “The Washing Bear,” Scott-Dutcher describes raccoons as “our little shadows.”Scott-Dutcher’s voice, along with ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Monday, September 24, 2018By Allison C. Meier
    1 day ago
  • The Parks Where Kids (and Their Parents) Walk and Read at the Same Time
    People know the Statue of Liberty for her towering stature. They know her for the torch she bears and for the spiked crown atop her head. But have you seen her right foot?That’s the question author Dave Eggers poses in his recent book Her Right Foot. He reveals that it’s lifted slightly, as if she’s headed somewhere. Then he poses another question without as clear an answer: Where is she headed?To find out, San Francisco wants you to take a stroll along the Chrissy Field promenade near the Golden Gate Bridge. There, pages of Egger’s book have been printed on wooden stakes and planted along a half-mile trail as part of a project called StoryWalk. Three other StoryWalk projects can be found along the city’s popular hiking trails. They’re installed by the nonprofit Parks Conservancy in collaboration with the San Francisco Public Library and the National Park Service, and as the name suggests, the idea is to get kids—and adults—active while immersing them in a good book.It used to be one or the other—either sharpen your kids’ brain during the summer by hunkering down with them at the local library or tire them out at the nearby park. Now, some libraries have taken on the task of achieving both at once.“We’ve had parents who’ve said, 'My kids hate to read but they love to run around,’” said Kate Bickert, senior director of engagement and new initiatives at the Parks Conservancy. “And then other parents who've said, ‘My kids will totally sit in their rooms all day and look at their book, and they don’t ever want to go outside.'”A page from Dave Eggers’s Her Right Foot is planted against the backdrop of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. (Vivien Thorp/Parks Conservancy)San Francisco is one of dozens of cities that have replicated a program started in the small town of Montpelier, Vermont, more than 10 years ago. Anne Ferguson was a chronic disease specialist in 2007 and initially, she was looking for something to get adults up and moving. “I realized if I did something active for the children, then maybe the parents would become involved,” she said. “But I noticed that the kids would be active but the parents would be standing around.”So she came up with StoryWalk, aiming the initiative at children under seven years old so that their parents would have to accompany them as they move from page to page. The added bonus is encouraging early literacy, which Ferguson said not only prepares young kids for school but also helps connect families.A family walks by the Coastal Trail at Lands End in San Francisco, where StoryWalk has been installed.  (Vivien Thorp/Parks Conservancy)It was also something inexpensive. With a $250 grant from the Vermont Humanities Council that year, she planted her first project at a nearby park using laminated pages from David Ezra Stein’s book, Leaves—about a bear’s first autumn. She would then receive a $4,000 grant from the insurance company Blue Cross Blue Shield to take her project ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Monday, September 24, 2018By Linda Poon
    1 day ago
  • Navigator: Cities in Fiction
    Experiences with place are sometimes so subjective, so complicated, that they can be hard to explain. But a good fiction writer can take the reader along for a visit.So this week, instead of the usual round-up of articles and essays from CityLab and beyond, we’re bringing you some short and long pieces of fiction that explore themes of geography. This list is by no means comprehensive, culled from recommendations by folks on staff and Twitter, but we think you’ll like ‘em. If you’ve got your own, send them in! We might include some in the next edition of this newsletter.For now, happy reading!Fiction on CityLab:CityLab’s Gracie McKenzie spoke with Tommy Orange, the author of There There. The title of his novel references a famous quote by Gertrude Stein describing changes in her hometown of Oakland, which is also Orange’s hometown: … one of the first things that struck me about that Gertrude Stein quote, more so than the modern-day experiences of gentrification: The idea of having a place that is yours—land that you have a relationship to—then being removed and what that does to you, as a Native experience. Read the rest of the interview here.  (Historical Picture Archive/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)Fiction from elsewhere:Short fiction online:  “You haven’t understood Kashmir until you’ve tasted her tea.” (Guernica) ¤ ”’What do you know about what really happens around here, mamita? You live here, but you’re from another world.’” (Electric Lit) ¤ “I forgot books I had loved and lyrics to Farsi songs, and started to dream about having my own apartment in a big city.” (Guernica) ¤ “It was as if, on the first morning of that holiday in Florence, Cecilia simply woke up inside the wrong skin.” (The New Yorker) ¤ ”Bangkok that year became a graveyard of office towers and housing projects. I had taken to skipping classes.” (Catapult) ¤ “Just me and these walls. A sliding door keeping me from the rain. Sink/toilet. This mattress that tries to hug me at night.” (Oblong) ¤ “There are mirrors everywhere in this city.” (3:AM Magazine)Books: In Alexia Arthurs’ How To Love A Jamaican,“geography may forge a people’s destiny, but it also shapes individual human beings in concert with a whole set of personal characteristics.” (The Atlantic) ¤ “Everyone in [Tanwi Nandani Islam’s] Bright Lines aches for some kind of home they've never been to.” (NPR) ¤ Halsey Street by Naima Coster “chronicles all the ways the machinery of gentrification gets jammed by unruly human lives.” (The Paris Review) ¤ In Florida, Lauren Groff “is pursuing a psychogeography of Florida, exploring both a state in the union and a state of mind…” (The New Yorker) ¤ Richard McGuire’s Here is “a lovely evocation of the spirit of place.” (New York Times) ¤ Archipelago by Monique Roffey “travels to new, intoxicating latitudes.” (The Guardian) ¤ picks:In Stephen Markley’s Ohio, four classmates return to their (fictional) hometown of New Canaan, Ohio, a decade after high school. Though New Canaan is small, it has suffered from ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Friday, September 21, 2018By Tanvi Misra
    4 days ago
  • Giving an Underrepresented Community and City a Place in Literature
    Tommy Orange’s novel There There jumps through time and among the voices of 12 narrators, but its sense of place is constant and intentional. From the first chapter, you’re dropped into Oakland, California, biking from the Coliseum BART station to “Deep East Oakland, off Seventy-Third, across from where the Eastmont Mall used to be, until things got so bad there they turned it into a police station.” Over the course of the novel, the characters’ stories weave together, until they are all in one building for an emotional, chaotic powwow in the Oakland Coliseum.“I love Oakland and Oakland is my home,” Orange told CityLab over the phone from Angels Camp, California, where he lives now. “It’s not very well presented in novels. I don’t even know if I could name one, where somebody from Oakland wrote a novel about [it].” (Michael Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue “has more of a Berkeley feel to it,” he says.)Another experience that’s underrepresented in literature is that of urban Native Americans. Orange, who worked in Oakland’s Native community for a decade before writing There There, told The New York Times earlier this year that he wanted his characters to “struggle in the way that I struggled, and the way that I see other Native people struggle, with identity and with authenticity.”The book’s title comes from a much-debated passage in Gertrude Stein’s Everybody’s Biography, in which she wrote, upon visiting the site of her childhood home in Oakland and finding it different than she remembered: “There is no there there.” Since its release in June, There There has made The New York Times bestseller list, and Orange is working on a new novel, about what happens after the Big Oakland Powwow. He spoke to CityLab about writing about his home, and being displaced from it; why he thinks about cities as a part of the environment; and the importance of reckoning with American history. The conversation has been edited for clarity and length.***Gertrude Stein’s passage refers to how much Oakland had changed since her youth. The characters in your book are dealing with later iterations of similar, more rapid changes. How have you seen the city change?It’s changed in waves. It was one way when I was a kid, and there was this first wave of gentrification that wasn’t as extreme as the second one, when I was living in West Oakland.We moved away in 2014, for financial reasons and for other reasons. And eventually, when we decided we wanted to move back, we couldn’t afford it. We can now, and we might be doing it next summer. But the difference between 2014 and 2018 was a lot more extreme.There was not only a change in who you see, but also countless more storefronts where places that would not have been able to thrive were now booming with business. It’s not all terrible. There’s like three bookstores in downtown Oakland where there was none before. But it’s sad when people who have grown up in a place ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Friday, September 21, 2018By Gracie McKenzie
    4 days ago
  • Why Affordable Housing Isn’t More Affordable
    The low-slung apartment buildings that line the streets of Houston, Fort Worth, and other Lone Star cities are some of the cheapest affordable housing projects to build anywhere. Two-story jobbers in Texas cost a whole lot less to build with housing tax credits than affordable mid-rises in California or New England. Where land prices are higher, it’s more expensive to build affordable housing.These are a few of the not-exactly-earth-shattering conclusions of a long-awaited report on the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program, the country’s main engine for generating new affordable housing. Released this week by the Government Accountability Office, the report finds that these housing tax credits, or LIHTCs, have financed some 50,000 affordable units every year since 2010. On average, affordable rental units built with tax credits in Texas cost two-and-a-half times less ($126,000) than the average in California ($326,000).The GAO report, the third in a series on housing tax credits, reveals the ratio that affordable housing developers pay toward hard costs versus soft costs and price differentials from sea to shining sea. But it’s missing some key data about bedrock costs for affordable housing. And what the federal government can’t yet say about housing credits is revealing.For example, the GAO report declines to say whether housing built with low-income housing credits (financed with tax credits) costs more to build than market-rate housing. Surely that’s something that Senator Chuck Grassley hoped to learn when he dialed up this investigation. Another recent report on housing credits—by the National Council of State Housing Agencies—managed to conclude that the costs run about the same. But the GAO maintains that they couldn't obtain the necessary data.Federal bean-counters will be the first to admit: What they don’t know about housing credits hampers the government’s ability to evaluate how well the programs work or identify areas for improvement. There isn’t any single agency responsible for administering the LIHTC program, and in the past, GAO has recommended the Departments of Treasury and Housing and Urban Development. (The latest report punts on this question; maybe HUD and Treasury don’t want the job.) This is all to say that the GAO wants better data, and more of it, before drawing any broader conclusions about housing tax credits.That shouldn’t stop the federal government from noting what might be a huge cost-driver for affordable housing: local government.Local regulations—including those that result from homeowner and neighborhood efforts to slow or stop development—may be a critical cost for low-income housing developers. As the GAO report shows (and just as you might expect), affordable housing is costliest to build in places where it’s expensive to build housing, period. Projects in urban areas cost more to build, although high costs can be mitigated in part by building up and out. The government has numbers for these costs, but not necessarily every explanation for what drives them.The study covers new affordable rental housing built between 2011 and 2015, a period corresponding with both the economic recovery and a national affordable housing crunch. Affordable units built ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Friday, September 21, 2018By Kriston Capps
    4 days ago
  • The Black Communities That Have Fought for Their Right to Exist in the Carolinas
    For more coverage of environmental justice in the Carolinas, see “Mapping Where Environmental Justice is Most Threatened in the Carolinas.”There has been much deserved panic about the thousands of pigs and open-air waste lagoons in the path of Hurricane Florence, mostly in North Carolina. While the state is still waiting for floodwaters to recede so that farmers can assess the damage, the North Carolina Pork Council has reported that one of the waste lagoons that breached since Florence made landfall is in Duplin County (pictured below). (NC Pork Council)Duplin County is the same county that happens to be at the center of litigation involving hundreds of African-American residents and the hundreds more hog farms located in their vicinity. Civil rights attorneys sued Smithfield Farms, and its hog-production division Murphy-Brown, in 2015 for their failure to properly regulate and control the toxic odorous emissions coming from those farms and lagoons, which Smithfield owns. A recent study found that communities in southeastern North Carolina, where Duplin County is located and where animal feeding operations are concentrated, “had higher ... infant mortality, mortality due to anemia, kidney disease, tuberculosis, septicemia” along with the lowest life expectancy levels in the state.The black residents who live close to these operations have for decades endured headaches, nausea, and vomiting spells as the smells from the hog-waste lagoons travel to their homes, many of which are less than a mile away. Black families there have caught gusts of the actual pig manure from farmers spraying it on their fields as fertilizer as well.There are currently 26 lawsuits that have been filed against the pig farms for this, and so far, courts have sided with the black families in the first three of them. The latest verdict in August resulted in a federal jury awarding $473.5 million to six black families living near one of the farms. The prior two lawsuits resulted in awards of $50 million and $25 million to separate groups of plaintiffs.The state and the pork/farm lobby have not responded kindly: “From the beginning, the lawsuits have been nothing more than a money grab by a big litigation machine. Plaintiffs’ original lawyers promised potential plaintiffs a big payday,” reads a statement from Smithfield.  The pork and farm industries successfully lobbied state lawmakers to pass legislation that not only limits the punitive damages from these lawsuits, but also limits when lawsuits like this can be filed at all against the agricultural industry in the future. On top of that, black Duplin community members say they’ve had to fend off harassment and intimidation from the farmers and the pork companies backing them.“For the first time in three decades, we’ve had contract growers confronting people in our community and we’ve never had that before,” said Naeema Muhammad, co-director of the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network. “As a result of [the multi-million punitive damage awards], the industry got pissed off and went into all-out war on our communities, posting signs saying ‘Stop complaining or put down the bacon,’ and ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Friday, September 21, 2018By Brentin Mock
    4 days ago
  • Mapping Where Environmental Justice is Most Threatened in the Carolinas
    For more coverage of environmental justice in the Carolinas and Hurricane Florence, see The Black Communities That Have Fought for Their Right to Exist in the Carolinas.”When it comes to the environmental justice movement in the U.S., few states can lay claim to as many origin sites, case studies, and defining landmarks as North and South Carolina. The historical narratives of African Americans across both urban and rural landscapes in these two states constitute much of the canon of the environmental justice movement.These communities and cities not only have endured racism of both the policy-driven and violence-driven variety, but many of them are also located deep in the most defenseless zones of the Carolina floodplains, or in regions that are inundated with toxic pollution sources: large industrial animal feeding operations, open-air lagoons where volumes of animal waste are kept, storage facilities for coal-ash waste, landfills and other massive garbage disposal stations.The guaranteed upheaval of climate change puts these communities in even more precarious positions. There are many communities of color that fit this description. Below is a list of eight of those places whose existences are threatened under the weight of environmental disasters past, present, and into the future:(David Montgomery/Citylab)Wilmington, North Carolina: African Americans have been fighting for their right to exist in the port city going back to at least the Wilmington Insurrection of 1898, when white authorities stripped away black people’s rights to vote and hold office through deadly force. This despite the role of African Americans in building most of the city’s major landmarks. In 1971, racial tensions over the lack of protection for African Americans in the face of hostile desegregation efforts led to a riot and the false arrests of several black activists who’d become known as the “Wilmington Ten.” One of those activists, Ben Chavis, would later become a pivotal figure in the birth of the modern environmental justice movement. Wilmington is usually one of the first cities hit by hurricanes off the Atlantic coast, and its environmental risks are increased by its proximity to hog farms, nuclear reactors, and coal-ash ponds—one of which has already spilled over due to Florence.Princeville, North Carolina: Founded by formerly enslaved black people after the Civil War, and one of the first cities in the country chartered by African Americans, this city was originally known as Freedom Hill. Because of its location in one of the deepest floodplains of the state, along the Tar River, it has withstood numerous major hurricanes and floods, each one making it more difficult to recover from. In 2016, Hurricane Matthew reportedly slashed Princeville’s population of 2,000 in half, and even more residents are vowing to leave after Florence. The exodus could be owed not just to the hurricanes, but to the state’s unwillingness to accept the science around rising seas, favoring more coastal development instead, which left places like Princeville more exposed to impending devastation.Royal Oak, North Carolina: Another place founded by formerly enslaved African Americans, Royal Oak sits today in perhaps ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Friday, September 21, 2018By Brentin Mock
    4 days ago
  • CityLab Daily: When a Hospital Plays Housing Developer
    What We’re FollowingHouse calls: About a decade ago, Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, embarked on a project to treat a different kind of patient: the neighborhood. In 2008, the hospital came looking for tax incentives to improve its roads, sidewalks, and parking. The city agreed, with a condition: It required the hospital put money into stabilizing the nearby Southern Orchards neighborhood by fixing up its housing.That eventually got the hospital into the real estate development business itself. What began as holding up its end of a tax deal became an investment in 272 single-family homes and dozens of rental units around the South Side. As an emerging body of medical research shows, neighborhoods and housing can determine health, and this program stands out for its emphasis on low-income tenants and mitigating the possible side effects of displacement. Today, CityLab’s Laura Bliss reports on what happens when a hospital plays housing developer.—Andrew SmallMore on CityLab Judged in the Court of Public Support Participants and graduation, instead of defendants and parole. Since April, Redmond, Washington’s, new community court has focused on assistance rather than punishment. Hallie Golden The Global Mass Transit Revolution A new report confirms that the U.S. lags behind the rest of the world in mass transit. Richard Florida Like Uber, but for Cartographers Streetcred, a blockchain-powered open-source mapping startup, will pay you to map. (And then give the data away for free.) Laura Bliss Why Hurricanes Hit Immigrants Hardest A new report details the challenges that Houston’s immigrant population faced after Harvey—and offers a glimpse of what might await residents of the Carolinas after Florence. Tanvi Misra Worry Less About Crumbling Roads, More About Crumbling Libraries America’s social infrastructure is falling apart, and it’s hurting democracy. Eric Klinenberg The Curse of America’s Illogical School-Day Schedule It starts too early for teens’ sleep patterns, and ends too early for working parents. Does the country have to be stuck with it? Joe Pinsker Park YourselfA parklet in downtown Washington, D.C. (Kriston Capps)If you notice some pop-up parklets around town today, that’s because it’s Park(ing) Day, the placemaking event where cities let residents turn parking spaces into miniature parks. The annual tradition started in San Francisco back in 2005, and last year CityLab detailed the history of how the urbanist holiday took off around the world. One of the originators of the idea describes the installations as “as the gateway drug for urban transformation.” Of course, parking is a hot topic in urbanism, but it’s remarkable how these little parklets are just the right size for sharing photos on social media. In fact, if you snap a parklet pic today, tag @citylab and check our Instagram story later today for a roundup of the festivities in cities around the ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Friday, September 21, 2018By Andrew Small
    4 days ago
  • When a Hospital Plays Housing Developer
    Growing up on the South Side of Columbus, Ohio, in the 1970s, Carol Smith didn’t think much about the nearby children’s hospital, except when she went to see the doctor. Though the institution sat a few blocks from her family’s house in the Southern Orchards neighborhood, the people inside the stately brick building seldom interacted with blue-collar families living around it.”It was just kind of an island,” said Smith, now a 55-year-old auditor for the city school district. “There wasn’t outreach or anything like that.”That’s changed. About a decade ago, Nationwide Children’s Hospital embarked on a project to transform the adjacent area. The medical institution pumped investments into housing improvements in the surrounding community as part of an audacious effort to create a healthier environment for residents. The idea, as a recent article in Pediatrics journal explained, was in part an effort to treat a “neighborhood as a patient”—improve the overall public-health profile of the community by reducing the stressors of a high-poverty environment.So far, Nationwide Children’s experimental cure for a sick neighborhood seems to be working—housing values are ticking up, the vacancy rate is down, and several other indicators are showing positive results. But as gentrification pressures mount on the downtown-adjacent neighborhood, some locals worry that the most vulnerable among them—and most at risk for health problems—won’t be able to stick around for the full course of treatment.***Urban hospitals have been major players in community redevelopment since community redevelopment was conceived in the 20th century. These are anchor institutions with big footprints, lots of employees, and vast amounts of economic leverage to throw around. The “urban renewal” projects of the 1960s, in which local authorities used eminent domain to raze entire neighborhoods—usually brown, black, and poor—to make way for massive new constructions frequently featured large hospitals. They displaced thousands of households, and left traumatizing scars. Today, 20 percent of the country’s 1,250 large, nonprofit hospitals are located in high-poverty neighborhoods in urban cores, according to a 2015 report by the Institute for Competitive Inner Cities, partly a vestige of this past.That wasn’t quite the story of Nationwide, which started life in 1892 as Columbus Children’s Hospital. But the fraught legacy of urban renewal is part of the story in Southern Orchards, a neighborhood that today counts about 4,300 residents, about a quarter of them children. A interstate rammed through the middle of the community in the 1950s and 1960s, demolishing homes, forcing relocations, and cutting off many remaining families from nearby jobs downtown. The highway marked the beginning of decades of decline: Between the loss of manufacturing jobs and the crack epidemic, about half of the population of majority-black Southern Orchards vanished between 1970 and 2009. Abandonment and blight became a familiar sight; gang activity and drug sales flourished.After moving away for a time in the 1990s, Smith returned to take care of her mom at the height of the foreclosure crisis in 2008. The rate of vacant properties in her neighborhood peaked at over 31 percent. The child ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Friday, September 21, 2018By Laura Bliss
    4 days ago
  • Judged in the Court of Public Support
    Last Wednesday, in front of the prosecutor, defense attorneys, and a gallery peppered with people, Judge Lisa Paglisotti greeted Brittany Mistelske, a 24 year old appearing in her court as a result of a misdemeanor charge.After a quick hello, Judge Paglisotti addressed the fact that Mistelske hadn’t shown up to court the week before. But rather than punishing her or even reprimanding her, the judge told her earnestly that she was worried about her.“Sorry, I know I missed the last time,” says Mistelske.“No, I’m glad to see you,” says Judge Paglisotti.If this doesn’t sound like a typical judicial exchange, it’s because this is not a traditional court. All of its proceedings take place in a meeting room in the Redmond Library; defendants are called “court participants;” and when someone successfully completes a court-mandated program, it’s called graduation, and often comes with a certificate and cupcakes.This is the King County Community Court in Redmond, Washington, an alternative and collaborative approach to the justice system.Launched in April, the court takes place every Wednesday afternoon for about two hours. It includes all of the traditional players (judge, prosecutor, defense attorneys), but instead of a trial that focuses on guilt and punishment for those found guilty of low-level offenses, it focuses on problem-solving.Before opting for community court, a potential participant observes a session of community court and can choose the court rather than a traditional trial. King County staff assessors then meet with the participant to figure out what hardships could be contributing to their criminal activity. The assessor makes a recommendation to the prosecutor and defense attorney about the most beneficial course of programs. If the prosecutor, defense attorney, and participant agree,  they all present the plan to the judge on a Wednesday for final approval.Usually a program is a mixture of services as well as community service, and a requirement is that the participant attend Wednesday court sessions to check in with the judge. The process typically takes 10 to 12 weeks, and if they do everything, their case will be dismissed.Krista Alexander became a community court participant in June, after she was caught trying to steal food from a grocery store, because she said she couldn’t afford to buy it. The 34-year-old said she has a seizure disorder and anxiety, but has managed to complete 10 hours of community service at a local shelter and attend counseling sessions and doctors’ appointments. She is on track to graduate at the beginning of October.“It’s been like a seatbelt or your mom holding your hand across the street,” Alexander said. “It’s just that extra little something that I’ve needed right now.”But perhaps the court’s greatest asset is its accompanying resource room. Every week, a large group of volunteers descend on the library to help facilitate everything from services that address mental health, domestic violence, and substance use, to legal and employment assistance, whether they are court mandated or not. The room is designed to make it as easy as possible for court participants, or ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Friday, September 21, 2018By Hallie Golden
    4 days ago
  • Why Hurricanes Hit Immigrants Hardest
    Allison. Rita. Katrina. Ike. After each storm, Eduardo and his fellow workers showed up. They hauled off soggy furniture, demolished flood-damaged homes, and helped put disaster-struck cities in Texas and Louisiana back together, piece by piece.Eduardo, 63, came to the U.S. from Mexico in 2001 to find work—he wanted to be able to afford an education for his two children back in Mexico City. (Because of his immigration status, CityLab has changed his name.) He settled in Houston and found plenty of jobs doing manual labor in this booming metro. Last year, when Hurricane Harvey brought his town to its knees, he saw a chance to help again.Day laborers like Eduardo are often called “second responders”—workers who’re recruited by homeowners, private businesses, and contractors to remove debris, clean, and rebuild after disasters. These workers—many of whom, like Eduardo, are undocumented—offer their services despite the fears about the Trump administration's crackdown on legal and undocumented immigrants.While they’re wary of immigration authorities in this era of heightened enforcement, that never stopped them. “The people I’ve had to work with in recovery projects—I don’t think they were showing fear,” Eduardo said in Spanish. “We talked about how things are scary, but what we show is that we want to help people recover from the storm. We were not scared of the storm, or the police, or ICE.”Immigrants like Eduardo have played a central role in fueling Houston’s recent growth—and they’ve also been a big part of its recovery after Harvey, according to a new report by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), a non-partisan D.C.-based think tank. Immigrants are concentrated in Harris County and rapidly growing in the suburbs surrounding it. They also make up a majority share of workers in the construction industry in Houston. Around a quarter of these workers are undocumented (although other estimates peg the undocumented share close to half).A worker in downtown Houston after Hurricane Harvey in September 2017. (David J. Phillip/AP)And yet, this segment of the population has also borne the brunt of the storm’s wrath: The Houston-area immigrant community suffered more economic damage and received less aid, compared to their non-immigrant neighbors. Some of that disparity was driven by fears and uncertainty created by the Trump administration’s crackdown on legal and illegal immigration. For North Carolina towns devastated by Hurricane Florence—where immigrants have increasingly settled in the last few decades—the report serves as a warning of the threat that may lie ahead.The MPI report focuses on the Houston metro area, which experienced population growth second only to Dallas between 2016 and 2017. That same year, the city passed a demographic milestone, with the Latino population surpassing the non-Hispanic white population for the first time. Professionals, low-wage workers, international students—immigrants of all stripes and legal statuses have moved to the area in recent years, attracted by job opportunities and relatively low cost of living. As of 2017, 1.6 million immigrants call the area home; around a third are undocumented.These communities are particularly vulnerable to natural disasters, and it’s ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Thursday, September 20, 2018By Tanvi Misra
    5 days ago
  • Hurricane Kids: What We Know About Young Storm Victims
    The catastrophe that followed Hurricane Maria’s landfall in Puerto Rico, on September 20, 2017, affected all of Puerto Rico’s 3.3 million citizens.Everyone lost power for weeks. Half of all Puerto Ricans went without electricity until Thanksgiving. Thirty-five percent celebrated Christmas in the dark. Several thousand would not see their power restored until August 2018.Hurricane Maria’s death toll of 2,975 ranks it among the deadliest natural disasters in United States history.Among the survivors of the storm, one group has proved especially vulnerable: Puerto Rico’s children.The children of disastersAn estimated 657,000 people under the age of 18 lived in Puerto Rico when Hurricane Maria hit. All experienced the intensity of the storm and its disruptive aftermath.Research shows that children exposed to disaster may go on to suffer a host of problems, including emotional disturbance, increased stress, behavioral problems, academic troubles, and greater risk of illness.It’s been 13 years since Hurricane Katrina slammed the U.S. Gulf Coast, killing 1,800 people and leaving behind a chaotic and dangerous disaster zone. Over 1 million people were forced to flee their homes. Evacuees scattered across the United States, from Dallas to New York.We met hundreds of young Katrina victims while conducting research for the 2015 book Children of Katrina, co-authored with disaster researcher Lori Peek. The book followed a group of children between the ages of three and 18, primarily from New Orleans, for seven years.Their stories offer critical lessons about how Maria’s youngest survivors can be better supported through the trauma of the hurricane and its aftermath.What Katrina taught usVery few children simply “bounced back” after Hurricane Katrina. After the initial period of post-storm disruption and struggle, children tended to follow one of three paths.Some eventually found stability. They had strong family ties, reliable housing, good health, regular school attendance, supportive friendships, and engaging extracurricular activities.Other young storm victims entered what we called a “fluctuating trajectory” after Katrina. They experienced both stability and turbulence—sometimes at the same time.For example, kids might be healthy and well housed. But, if they were living far from home—and, sometimes, from a parent—they might be distressed and getting into trouble in their new school. The ups and downs lasted for months or years.These kids didn’t recover smoothly from Katrina. But they didn’t completely break down, either.Some children never rebounded after the storm.Many in this group started out in unstable settings: They came from poor, often tenuously housed families. These vulnerable children already faced difficult futures.Katrina accelerated, intensified, and solidified their challenges, triggering a downward spiral that remained serious even a decade after the storm.After perilous evacuations from the flood zone, some children landed in unfamiliar cities. There, they struggled to make friends or even experienced hostility at schools hosting high numbers of Katrina refugees.Other children were left homeless by Katrina. Their diets were unhealthy and unsteady. They became depressed.Kids in this group lost years of schooling or dropped out entirely.Schools are key to successDisasters threaten kids’ ability to grow and thrive. They depend on adults and communities to help them ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Thursday, September 20, 2018By Alice Fothergill
    5 days ago
  • CityLab Daily: The Speedy Rise of Slow AVs
    Keep up with the most pressing, interesting, and important city stories of the day. Sign up for the CityLab Daily newsletter here.***What We’re FollowingAuto pilots: If you’re eager for self-driving cars to take over the road, you might be growing impatient. But there are promising advancements in autonomous shuttles—if you’re just willing to slow down a bit.Cities and companies have been testing low-speed AVs (we’re talking 10 to 35 miles per hour) in pilots across the country. Early projects in Detroit; Las Vegas; and Arlington, Texas; show the potential AVs have for last-mile trips that are often too small for mass transit (Axios). Meanwhile, self-driving shuttles have arrived in Columbus (WaPo) and will soon come to Babcock Ranch, Florida (Curbed) as part of broader smart city projects that we’ve detailed previously on CityLab (here and here). The Knight Foundation also just invested $5.25 million in studying how AV technology can help public transit in five cities (Smart Cities Dive).The Verge writes that compared to their self-driving car cousins, these autonomous vehicles are slow and boring—and that’s a good thing. In addition to testing an emerging technology more safely, these pilots in downtowns, college campuses, and small communities could have the added benefit of bringing road speeds down. It might not be the car of your dreams, but maybe it could help make our streets a little calmer.Readers, tomorrow is Park(ing) Day. If you’re making a parklet or just visiting one, we’d love to what it looks like. Send pics and tell us all about them at and we could feature it in tomorrow’s newsletter!—Andrew SmallMore on CityLab Why Is the Homebuilding Industry Stuck in the 1940s? Embrace pre-fabricated, adaptable homes! Growing inequity, out-of-reach housing prices, and the speed of innovation in energy efficiency and technology demand it. Avi Friedman A Short Guide to Tulsa’s New $465 Million Park If Volcanoville and Charlie’s Water Mountain aren’t enough for you, what about a boating pond and a skate park? Nicole Javorsky The Toxic Legacy of Urban Industry A new book explores the unseen hazards left behind in post-industrial American cities. Dwyer Gunn Mexico City’s $150 Million Rebrand Faces Growing Pains Last week, incoming mayor Claudia Sheinbaum Pardo announced a competition to redesign the city’s young logo. The backlash has been swift. Annette Lin British People Feel Locked Out of London Britons who live outside the capital consider it too expensive and crowded for them to live there, a new report finds. Feargus O'Sullivan Keep the ChangeThe latest Census numbers on poverty and income had some good news: the national poverty level ticked down to its lowest point since 2006, to 12.3 percent. Brookings’ Metropolitan Policy Program finds that cities made up a larger share of that overall reduction in poverty in this most recent year, accounting ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Thursday, September 20, 2018By Andrew Small
    5 days ago
  • After Maria, an ‘Earthship’ Rises in Puerto Rico
    A few years ago, Lauralina Melendez returned to her native Puerto Rico with her Venezuelan husband, Mario Atunez, and their two kids. They’d been living in San Francisco, and decided they wanted to connect to Melendez’s culture and live closer to nature.So they moved to Aguadilla, on the west coast of the island. The family was settling into life there when last year’s hurricane season began. During Hurricane Maria, they took shelter with a friend who had a concrete house in their town. Downed trees and power lines prevented them from making it back to their house for more than a week after the storm, and they returned to find part of their roof had caved in.Atunez and Melendez helped neighbors recover from the devastation and took in animals that were running wild in their neighborhood. Another couple, Paola Cimadevilla and Derrick Hernandez, came to them after their house had been destroyed, and they took them in as well. Melendez and Atunez then shared their dream with Hernandez and Cimadevilla: to build Earthships in Puerto Rico.The Puerto Rico Earthship under construction. (Jayme Gershen)Earthships are simple homes made out of natural and recycled materials: packed dirt, tires, and glass bottles and other items that are commonly seen as trash. They were developed nearly 50 years ago by Michael Reynolds as a sustainable alternative to traditional buildings. Thick-walled and low to the ground, Earthships harvest and recycle their own water and, if they incorporate renewable energy sources, can be independent of the electricity grid, which makes them more resilient during and after a natural disaster.The two couples contacted Reynolds’s Earthship Biotecture organization near Taos, New Mexico. They were surprised when they received a response inviting them to New Mexico to learn how to build Earthships and develop a project for Puerto Rico.When Atunez and Melendez got back, they asked Noemi and Carlos Chaparro about building an Earthship on land they owned in Aguada, Puerto Rico. The Chaparros agreed, seeing it as a way to bring the community together.Noemi Chaparro with her son Oryon. The Earthship is being built on the Chaparro family’s land. (Jayme Gershen)Over the past year, hundreds of local and international volunteers have joined these three families to build Villa Bonuco, Puerto Rico’s first Earthship. (The project’s official name is Earthship PR at Tainasoy Apiario.) Villa Bonuco will be made up of five geodesic domes connected by water catchment systems, forming a pentagon with an edible-garden courtyard in the center. It will be an education center where Puerto Ricans and others can learn about Earthships as an alternative to the infrastructure that proved vulnerable during Hurricane Maria.The Earthship will have five geodesic domes surrounding a courtyard, and will serve as an education center. Hundreds of volunteers have helped out with the first two phases of construction. (Jayme Gershen)The non-recycled materials needed to build the structure will cost about $80,000 in total. They include rebar, cement, and tools, as well as the water and solar systems that will be integrated into ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Thursday, September 20, 2018By Jayme Gershen
    5 days ago
  • The Global Mass Transit Revolution
    The world is building mass transit networks faster than ever before, and ridership is increasing to match. But the United States continues to lag behind both Asia and Europe in mass transit. New York is the only North American city to rank among the global top-ten busiest transit systems.That’s according to a new report published by UITP, the International Association of Public Transport, which takes a close look at mass transit systems in 182 cities across the world. It defines transit systems or “metro networks” as “high capacity urban rail systems, running on an exclusive right-of-way” that hold at least 100 passengers per train.Urban mass transit systems have exploded in recent decades as the world’s population has rapidly urbanized. The graph below, from the report, charts the growth in the number of transit systems since the earliest systems, created in the late nineteenth century. There was a surge in the opening of new transit systems in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, but there was an even bigger surge in the past decade. From 2000 to 2009, 30 new systems opened; from 2010 to 2019, 45 new systems are predicted to open, 33 of those in the Asia-Pacific region alone.Metro System Opening (Per Decade) 1860 — 2017© UITPWorldwide, mass transit carried 53 billion passengers in 2017—an increase of roughly 9 billion passengers since 2012, with most of that growth occurring in Asia, and the Middle East-North Africa region. Asian transit systems carry more than 26 billion passengers a year; European lines carry more than 10 billion passengers; Latin America nearly 6 billion and North America (U.S. and Canada) just 3.7 billion. Metro networks are most utilized in Eurasia, with the average inhabitant taking 117 trips last year, although simultaneously, Eurasia is the only region to see a decline in trips per capita.Global Ridership Evolution (in Millions)© UITPMetro Networks Worldwide 2017© UITPAmong the world’s cities, Tokyo has the most used system with 3.46 billion trips, followed by those in Moscow, Shanghai, and Beijing. New York City is the only U.S. city with a transit system that numbers among the world’s ten busiest; many other U.S. cities saw their transit ridership decline in the past six years. Paris, the last leading European city, dropped off the list in 2015 and was replaced by New Delhi.Top 10 Busiest Transit Systems (Annual Ridership in Billions)Ranking City Ridership 1 Tokyo 3.46 2 Moscow 2.37 3 Shanghai 2.04 4 Beijing 1.99 5 Seoul 1.89 6 New York City 1.81 7 New Delhi 1.79 8 Guangzhou 1.73 9 Mexico City 1.68 10 Hong Kong 1.60 Across the world, there are nearly 650 transit lines served by more than 11,000 stations and covering nearly 14,000 kilometers. Just between 2015 and 2017, roughly 1,900 kilometers of new track was put into service. Most went towards already existing metro systems, but about 30 percent went to brand new lines in China, India, and Iran.Metro Construction Models Per Region© UITPInterestingly, most transit systems across the world are dominated by underground subway systems: ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Thursday, September 20, 2018By Richard Florida
    5 days ago
  • Life In East New York’s Sprawling Transit Hub
    Editor’s note: This is the final installment of Camilo José Vergara’s Crossroads project. Previous stories covered Newark’s “Four Corners,” the Bronx’s “Hub” and its corner of Southern Boulevard and Westchester Avenue, Harlem’s 125th and Lexington, and Bed-Stuy’s Fulton and Nostrand.In the heart of Brooklyn, Broadway Junction stands as the third-busiest station in the borough—a transfer point for six connected subway lines and buses that line up along Van Sinderen Avenue outside the station’s only exit. A short walk to a spooky underground passage leads to the nearby East New York Avenue Station of the Long Island Railroad. Sections of this station date back to the 19th century and one can still see the remains of the trackways once used by the Fulton Street elevated that closed in 1956. Tunnel under the Long Island Railroad Station, East New York, Atlantic Ave. at Van Sinderen, Brooklyn, 2012. (Camilo José Vergara)Much of the station’s character derives from its impressive size, maze-like layout, relative isolation, and a design that contains little regard for conventional beauty. Few people actually live in the area immediately surrounding this busy transportation hub. The population who use the station is overwhelmingly black and latinx, but a stream of white people—primarily young—transfer trains there on their way to and from JFK airport. In the station’s corridors, several women sell churros.Entrance to Broadway Junction subway station, Brooklyn, 2018. (Camilo José Vergara)From the outside, the facility reveals its evolution as a large, old, complex, and confusing facility which supports the train tracks and connects the subway lines. The latest effort to modernize the station can be seen in the corridors decorated with stained-glass windows and covered with green and rust colored corrugated iron that link the elevated lines with those underground. The soundtrack of the station is the rumbling and creaking of passing trains and the loudspeakers announcing the next arrivals. From the L train platform one can see, eight miles away, the sun setting on World Trade Center One. Street Level, Broadway Junction Subway Station, Brooklyn, 2017. (Camilo José Vergara)Near this large, century-old iron structure, stores sell grave markers to the area cemeteries and several motor-vehicle repair shops do business. Some remaining cobblestones of old Conway Street are still visible. The largest nearby facilities are the East New York Subway Yard across the street with protective fences topped by concertina wire, and the High School for Safety and Law with its windows sealed for security.Upper Level, Broadway Junction Subway Station, Brooklyn, 2017. (Camilo José Vergara)Walking out of the station can be disorienting as you face strange iron structures that serve the L, J, M, and Z trains. Inside the station people move in waves along stairs and corridors as they transfer to their trains. Waiting for the trains to take them home, travelers stand silhouetted against the light, making them resemble sculptural groups.Broadway Junction subway entrance, Van Sinderen Ave. at Fulton St., Brooklyn, 2017. (Camilo José Vergara)The station has its own transit police precinct and a rare working bathroom open ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Thursday, September 20, 2018By Camilo José Vergara
    5 days ago
  • British People Feel Locked Out of London
    For generations, many people living outside the world’s major urban centers have dreamed of moving to the city and making it big. In Britain today, however, that dream may be dying.The Centre for London, an urban think tank, recently surveyed U.K. residents who live outside the capital city about their attitudes toward London. One revealing question asked respondents to what extent they thought living and working in London was a “realistic option” for people like them. The answers were pretty stark. Only 3 percent of respondents thought it was “very realistic” that they could live in London, and just 12 percent more thought it was “fairly” realistic. By contrast, 78 percent thought it was unrealistic. If London thinks of itself as a land of opportunity, it’s clear that this view is not shared by other people in the country it governs.Tantalizingly, the report does not explicitly spell out why so few non-Londoners feel the city is not an option for them. Its other questions do nonetheless provide some pointers and rule out a few myths along the way.For a start, it seems London isn’t quite as disliked as it might fear. Neither the place nor its people get terrible ratings. A majority—56 percent—said they were proud of the capital, while 77 percent thought the city contributed either “a lot” or “a fair amount” to the country’s economy. And while a substantial 29 percent of respondents thought Londoners were arrogant, a larger 41 percent chose the more positive-leaning adjective “diverse” to describe Londoners.The report also suggests that attitudes were softer and more positive among people who knew the city better. People who visited London at least once a year were 7 percent less likely to call its residents arrogant, 7 percent more likely to find them friendly, and 10 percent more likely to describe them as normal. Then again, it’s also possible that the more negative views among less frequent visitors could reflect people who came once, felt they got the measure of the place, and vowed not to return.Some grounds for resenting the city did emerge elsewhere in the survey. While a large majority felt that the city benefited the national economy as a whole, most people didn’t see London’s economy contributing much, if anything, to the specific region they lived in. Even in Southern England, a region served by an overspill of businesses from the capital, 54 percent of people thought London’s economy contributed little or nothing at all to their local area. In other regions, the percentage that thought London contributed little or nothing was much higher, ranging between 71 and 78 percent.One might assume that sentiment could provide an incentive for people to move, to head to Britain’s biggest city in hope of grabbing their own slice of the pie. So why do so many think it’s not an option? The likely—arguably obvious—reason lies elsewhere in the survey. Asked to choose an adjective to describe the city, 47 percent opted for “expensive.” Shortly following it at 43 ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Thursday, September 20, 2018By Feargus O'Sullivan
    5 days ago
  • Mexico City’s $150 Million Rebrand Faces Growing Pains
    Mexico City has been taken over by a searing fuchsia color—reminiscent of the bougainvillea flowers that tumble over the city’s walls—and a sans serif logo with four letters: CDMX, for Ciudad de México.Since 2016, they have both been part of Mexico City’s place-branding campaign, initiated by former mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera. Last week, incoming mayor Claudia Sheinbaum Pardo announced a competition to redesign the city’s logo. Open to Mexican nationals and all residents of the capital, she invited designers, publicists, and visual artists to submit proposals for a new brand to mark the duration of her government (from 2018 through 2024) for a prize of 150,000 pesos ($8,000 USD).The backlash was swift: In an interview with El Universal, the city’s outgoing Secretary of Tourism, Armando López, argued against changing the CDMX brand, calling it a “legacy” that had helped to attract tourists and economic investment to the capital. According to Irene Muñoz Trujillo, director of Mexico City Tourist Trust, the rollout had cost 2.5 billion pesos (nearly $150 million USD).The CDMX brand had closely been associated with Mancera, a lawyer-turned-politician with Jeff Goldblum-like hair, whose friends often refer to him as “El Doctor” (he has a Ph.D). During his six-year term, which started in 2012, he became interested in the idea of branding to coincide with the city’s changing administrative status and formal name change from Distrito Federal to Ciudad de México. Such an initiative, he figured, would communicate the transformation, increase tourism revenue, and present the city as a world-class place.In 2014, he tasked the city’s Tourism Trust with taking over city branding responsibilities. They contracted an agency, Happy Media, to design the logo. The result was a contemporary design with the CDMX acronym in Gotham, rendered in white against a rainbow palette of orange, pink, blue, green, yellow, and purple. Together, the colors were meant to display the city’s multi-layered identity.That March, the Tourism Trust registered the logo with the Mexican Institute of Industrial Property. The city arranged for the branding to be painted across 30 metro trains and at one of the metro system’s workshops in Coyoacán. Each of the carriages was painted a different hue with CDMX sprayed across the body of the train. It was “colorful and very fun, and it was very CDMX,” says Muñoz. “Estuvo padre,” she says, using the Mexican slang word for “cool.” An Aeroméxico plane even had its fuselage painted with the CDMX logo that summer.But in a twist of fate, while the Tourism Trust launched their tourism campaign deploying the CDMX brand, the Social Communications department—the city government’s public relations arm—decided to adapt the logo for their own use. In February 2015, communications agency Avión compiled a 164-page manual for each of the city’s 22 departments to help standardize the logo’s usage. The brand transformed in the agency’s hands. The font for the official logo was still Gotham, but the manual stipulated the use of Helvetica Neue when applying the CDMX brand to things like posters, images, and business ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Thursday, September 20, 2018By Annette Lin
    5 days ago
  • This Blockchain-Based Startup Wants to Pay You to Map
    Earlier this summer, with little advance notice, Google Maps enacted a substantial price hike for developers that use its services—as much as 1,400 percent for certain search products. Companies that were once able to embed Google’s geographic search tools on their websites more or less for free now had to pay hundreds, if not thousands of dollars of month to keep the service.Small business owners flipped out.“We [would] either like to switch off our website or find another solution,” one hotelier who uses Google Maps on his booking platform told the tech publication Gadgets 360. “We are definitely not going to continue with Google Maps. Our revenue can not absorb the costs.”When it comes to bars, restaurants, businesses, parks, transit stations, and countless other types of address-based destinations you might search for, Google Maps has a virtual monopoly. It stores the largest number of these “points of interest” in the world. Compared to its competitors, the company boasts the most accurate and up-to-date information. Their data goes beyond business names and addresses—anyone who’s used Google Maps’ mobile app has seen opening hours, phone numbers, website links, wheelchair accessibility, and busy times listed there, too.Developers, government agencies, and companies can subscribe to Google’s points-of-interest dataset through online interfaces for $17 to $40 per 1,000 page loads. But as this summer’s episode showed, that’s becoming restrictively expensive, especially for small and medium-sized businesses.Right now, few direct alternatives to Google exist. But a new startup wants to pioneer a different way of creating and distributing place data—by paying you to map. With $1 million in seed funding, Streetcred is building a business model based on the blockchain, where digital tokens called Ether—a Bitcoin-esque cryptocurrency with a fluctuating dollar value—would be paid out to contributors anywhere in the world to populate maps with new points of interest.Think of it as the mapping industry’s move into the gig economy. “We’re hoping that the income can be similar to driving an Uber,” said Randy Meech, the CEO of Streetcred and the former CEO of the now-shuttered open-source mapping firm Mapzen.The service isn’t available yet, as the company is still refining its business model. “We’re creating something that doesn’t exist right now,” Meech said. In the meantime, the company is trying to test the assumption that people will map for pay. Next week, it’s launching an app-based competition called MapNYC, which will ask New Yorkers to fill in a blank map of New York City with all the place data they can, competing for $50,000 worth of Bitcoin prizes.Much as Mapzen pursued open-source mapping platforms as an alternative to Google Maps, Microsoft’s HERE maps, and other private mapping giants, Streetcred’s crowdsourced place data would be available for anyone to use, too. After the data is entered and validated by Streetcred’s network of self-starting mappers, anyone would be able to download and store it for free, be it small businesses, government agencies, local tour guides, insurance companies, or tech behemoths.To pay the mappers, the startup hopes to get ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Wednesday, September 19, 2018By Laura Bliss
    6 days ago
  • A Short Guide to Tulsa’s New $465 Million Park
    On September 8, Tulsa celebrated the grand opening of Gathering Place, a new park beside the Arkansas River near the city’s Maple Ridge neighborhood. The goal behind it, says Executive Park Director Tony Moore, is to bring together Tulsans from all walks of life so they can enjoy a shared experience. That’s not unusual—but Gathering Place is very different from the average public park in its variety of spaces and sheer scale.The first phase of Gathering Place is a huge 66.5 acres. (Once the second and third phases of construction are completed, the park will span 100 acres.) The George Kaiser Family Foundation, joined by other foundations and businesses, covered the $465 million price tag—the largest private donation to a public park in U.S. history. The park’s designers are Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, the landscape architects responsible for Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York City, Maggie Daley Park in Chicago, and other well-known urban public spaces.Many visitors to Gathering Place park off Riverside Drive, then walk through two small gardens to a crescent-shaped path that curves around a large adventure playground and wetlands.A map of the park. (Gathering Place)The park has a five-acre adventure playground for children aged two through 12, with seven different realms targeted for different age groups. Volcanoville was built specifically for toddlers and includes a padded play area with low-level climbing elements in bright colors. Charlie’s Water Mountain has a spray area, mist area, tunnels, dams and streams, and a water lab.The Chapman Adventure Playground. (Shane Bevel)Climbable flowers in the adventure playground. (Shane Bevel)Accessibility was important to the park’s creators. There are 21 points to enter and exit. Long ramps allow children who use wheelchairs to access the lower levels of towers in the playground area, as well as a large elephant structure that has a slide.“The ramps themselves don’t look like your typical accessibility points,” said Jeff Stava, the Gathering Place project lead at George Kaiser Family Foundation. “In fact, the ramps are so long and fun that able-bodied children love to run up them and down them as well. It creates an environment where children with disabilities and able-bodied children coexist in the play experience rather than being segregated.”The “elephant in the room” isn’t a bad thing at Gathering Place. (Shane Bevel)The park also has a sensory garden with a giant spinning boulder, and amplified voice tools that encourage kids to ask questions about the world around them.Gathering Place’s sensory garden. (Shane Bevel)In the middle of the park are a pond and a boathouse. Visitors can check out paddle boats, kayaks, and canoes.A view of Peggy’s Pond with the boathouse in the background. (Shane Bevel)A coffee/ice cream cafe and dining patio offer a range of food options so park-goers can linger over a snack or meal. The park will host festivals throughout the year with vendors serving foods from different cultures.The Adventure Playground picnic area. (Shane Bevel)Closer to the parking lots, Gathering Place features a spacious skate park, designed by California Skateparks. It has ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Wednesday, September 19, 2018By Nicole Javorsky
    6 days ago
  • Why Is the Home Building Industry Stuck in the 1940s?
    Danny Cleary looked tense as he watched the first prefabricated wall panel rolling off the assembly line in his newly opened factory near Montreal. He asked his production manager to hand him a tape measure. He carefully measured the left side of the panel, then walked around the assembly table and measured the right side and then across. "Quarter of an inch difference. The table needs adjustment,” he said quietly in French.I had met Cleary a few years earlier. He called me after he'd joined his father's midsize construction company and found out about my Grow Home design. "Most of the clients in our area are young, first-time homebuyers who can't afford large homes. Your design will suit them," he explained. His instinct served him well. Our conversation was in the late 1990s: In the following years his firm sold over 400 Grow Homes to become the largest builder in the region.Even for a well-off builder like him, constructing a plant to produce prefabricated homes was a risky venture requiring a large investment. When we met I asked him about the switch."When I visit my building sites and see a bundle of lumber delivered, thrown on the muddy soil, and watch my framers assemble it in a rainy, snowy, or hot summer day, all in the open, I sense there can be better ways to construct," he said. "Building a home in a quality-controlled, sheltered environment makes a lot of sense. I decided I could fabricate my company's own homes for less and manufacture wall panels for other builders as well."Cleary’s attempt at prefabrication is not common in a North American homebuilding industry that is notorious for its conservative attitude. Numerous prefabrication units are built each year, providing ample opportunity for research and innovation, yet construction methods of low-rise, wood-frame homes still fundamentally resemble those of the 1940s.The quality of building products has significantly improved but not the basics of constructing a home. In fact, monetary investment in research and development in the homebuilding industry is minimal compared to that invested in industries like electronic, automotive, or pharmaceutical. The reason? Lack of industry interest, market pull, and failure to address new emerging social circumstances creatively.It has become abundantly clear that current community planning, home design, and construction are facing challenges of philosophy and form. Those past approaches no longer answer today’s demands: Every step of the process needs to be reconsidered. The need for a new outlook is propelled by fundamental environmental, economic, cultural, and social realities, which, at the turn of the 21st century came to affect the rudimentary pillars of building a home.The depletion of non-renewable natural resources, alarming levels of greenhouse gas emissions, and climate change are a few of the environmental challenges that call for a reconsideration of old practices in favor of ones that promote better suitability between buildings and their environments. Concepts that minimize a home’s carbon footprint, such as advanced heating and cooling systems technologies and use of homes that produce as much ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Wednesday, September 19, 2018By Avi Friedman
    6 days ago
  • The Suburban Struggle for LGBTQ Rights
    This summer, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in the most important case involving same-sex marriage since it became legal in all 50 states.On its surface, the Masterpiece Cakeshop case looked like it was a contest about discrimination and the meaning of religious liberty.But the circumstances of the case may actually be more important than the decision.My research on the history of the postwar United States indicates that Americans should also see this conflict as a consequence of the growing sexual diversity of the nation’s suburbs.Suburban migrationThe conflict that led to the case did not just happen in the abstract realm of the law or the court of public opinion. Rather, the conflict happened in a particular place: Lakewood, Colorado, a suburb outside Denver.Since the 1960s, many Americans have associated openly gay life with urban neighborhoods such as San Francisco’s Castro District or Denver’s Capitol Hill neighborhood.But same-sex couples and transgender people are increasingly living outside of these traditional “gayborhoods.” Many of the national battles over lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights have grown out of everyday conflicts between these new suburbanites and their straight-identified neighbors.The movement of openly gay couples away from older cities defied the perceived connection between heterosexual family life and the suburbs that dates at least to the 1940s. The federal government played a particularly important role in defining the suburbs as “family friendly” places after World War II. Officials at the Federal Housing and Veterans’ administrations pushed banks to give mortgages to married men with children and forbade them to lend to Americans they suspected of “sexual deviance.”The 1944 G.I. Bill was the first law in U.S. history to specifically exclude homosexuals from federal benefits, including mortgage assistance.Realtors promised homebuyers a chance to live in safe neighborhoods away from urban vice. During the 1950s and 1960s, planners and builders designed new communities with few bars or other “moral hazards” and which provided ample space for churches.Making suburbia “family friendly”Lakewood is in Jefferson County just west of Denver, and it first incorporated as an independent city in 1969.At the time, local businesses and homeowners worried about attempts by neighboring communities, including Denver, to annex new land. Many middle-class residents of Jefferson County saw themselves as defenders of a particularly suburban way of life that was threatened by annexation from the central city. They identified that lifestyle with low taxes, good schools, racial homogeneity, happy marriages and, above all, the well-being of children.People attracted to others of the same sex have always lived in the suburbs, but discrimination often meant that most openly gay men and lesbians in the 1940s and 1950s had no other option than to live in older cities.In the two decades after World War II, urban centers across the country attracted sizable LGBT communities. Nevertheless, life in cities was not necessarily easy, as police in urban centers like Denver tried to close gay bars and clamp down on LGBT life.This divide between city and suburb started to break down in the 1970s ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Wednesday, September 19, 2018By Clayton Howard
    6 days ago
  • CityLab Daily: Do Businesses Need Rent Control?
    Keep up with the most pressing, interesting, and important city stories of the day. Sign up for the CityLab Daily newsletter here.***What We’re FollowingFront facing: Last month, The New York Times explored a paradox of modern New York City: In “a city teeming with tourism and booming with development,” some 20 percent of storefronts go empty.Do cities need rent control for businesses? New York is ready to tackle that question next month, as a city council committee considers a bill to address storefront vacancy, Crain’s New York reports. The measure would entitle compliant commercial tenants to a 10-year renewal of their lease. But Mayor Bill de Blasio has signaled his skepticism with the bill, which would force landlords into negotiations over their own property.As Oscar Perry Abello writes in Next City, storefront vacancy is a problem that “you can’t go back to not noticing.” The gaps in the streetscape reveal the challenges that mom-and-pop shops face from soaring rent, competition from e-commerce, and gentrification. The question for cities is: What can be done to fix it?CityLab context:How Cities Can Save Small Shops What’s Causing the Retail Meltdown? Vacancy: America’s Other Housing CrisisAndrew SmallMore on CityLab What’s at Stake in Washington’s Heated Battle Over Tipped Workers Does paying tipped workers the minimum wage spell doom for the local restaurant industry, or dignity for its employees? Sarah Holder When Transit Agencies Spy on Riders For months, the Bay Area’s transit agency sent license plate information to federal immigration authorities, violating its own “sanctuary” policy. Tanvi Misra ‘Policing for Profit’ in Philadelphia Comes to an End For decades, the city’s police department confiscated the property and cash of suspects—even those who were never convicted. No more. Brentin Mock Spotted at the Climate Summit: Republican Mayors A smattering of GOP city leaders attended the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco last week: “We have to move away from fossil fuels,” said one. Liz Enochs Mexico City’s Architects of Destruction On the first anniversary of the Mexico City earthquake, an investigation explores how engineers, builders, and politicians failed to follow building codes—with deadly results. Martha Pskowski Terrible Thing to Waste Bridgeport Rental & Oil Services, Bridgeport, New Jersey, 1986 (David Hanson)There are nearly 40,000 EPA-monitored toxic waste sites across the United States; nearly 900 are regulated under the agency’s Superfund program. These heavily contaminated industrial sites leave deep scars on the landscape, which photographer David Hanson documented in the late 1980s. His new book, Waste Land, shows 67 sites together to dramatic effect. Even 30 years later, not much has changed: Most Superfund sites remain dangerously polluted. Take a glimpse of America’s toxic wastelands on CityLab.What We’re ReadingHow connected is your community to elsewhere in America? (New York Times)As Bird scooters take off in Detroit, one guy wants ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Wednesday, September 19, 2018By Andrew Small
    6 days ago