It’s absurd to think that rebuilding the nations roads and bridges and water systems, not to mention investing in broadband and mass transit, couldn’t return more than 2.4 percent over time. In fact, the decision is more obvious even than that: if we put those investments off, we’ll still have to make them later, when borrowing costs will be higher and bridges and roads that need to be repaired now are so dilapidated that they need to be fully rebuilt.
Bike Lane Video of the Day! Mayor Arturos Zuokas is very upset with cars parking and blocking bike lanes. Here’s his promo video, which is awesome.
The mayor of Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius, was sick of cars parking in no parking zones and bike lanes. Ticketing the cars—often luxury vehicles, no less—seemed to have little effect. So Mayor Arturos Zuorokas has taken matters into his own hands. According to this video, you now park illegally in Vilnius at your own risk.
(Dearest Kateoplis, I swear we posted simultaneously!)
Dead Horse Bay sits at the western edge of a marshland once dotted by more than two dozen horse-rendering plants, fish oil factories and garbage incinerators. From the 1850’s until the 1930’s, the carcasses of dead horses and other animals from New York City streets were used to manufacture glue, fertilizer and other products at the site. The chopped-up, boiled bones were later dumped into the water. The squalid bay, then accessible only by boat, was reviled for the putrid fumes that hung overhead.” As the car industry grew, horse and buggies — thus horse carcasses — became scarce, and by the 1920s, there was only one rendering plant left.
It was during this era, around the turn of the century, that the marsh of Dead Horse Bay’s began to be used as a landfill. Filled with trash by the 1930s, the trash heap was capped, only to have the cap burst in the 1950s and the trash spew forth onto the beach. Since then garbage has been leaking continually onto the beach and into the ocean from Dead Horse Bay. (F.Y.I.)
Tear-jerker of the day: On communities closing thousands of libraries across the country - "I’m not a Director, I’m no President, I’m just a 14-year-old from Scarborough." She proposes that the poor pay more taxes since the rich don’t need the libraries.
In which John discusses the absolute insanity of front yards. Turf grass is the biggest irrigated crop in the US; we irrigate grass almost exclusively with drinkable water; also, you will be surprised to learn that grass is INEDIBLE. Plus, I dislike mowing the lawn when it is 115 outside.
Lots of people (particularly people who work in the lawn business) will note that turf grass is a carbon sink (particularly if you mow the lawn frequently). This is true, but there are far more efficient carbon sinks that don’t require so much water. ”
This one really got me today. The loss of Hamidi matters to the field of city planning because, internationally, it sheds light on how Middle Eastern cities typically plan for their future - they don’t. Anyone who attempts to implement a vision for stability, human health and education, and economic development is quickly evicted from power.
I think Jill captures the ‘sentiment of hope’ in her interview, which I hope you take the time to watch here, or below. Hamidi clearly cares about helping the people of Kabul. He just wants to do the right thing. (So does the incredible Jill). Now, juxtapose these human acts against his assassination, here, and you’ll see how challenging instilling “hope” really is in the Middle East.
Hope is continually crushed. Leadership is persistently lost. And I cannot see how it will ever change. Ever. There will never be a Middle Eastern period of enlightenment, and that’s why they’ll never catch up or develop. They need an introspective enlightenment…
I know a courageous city planner, Michael Crane, who contracts with cities in the Sunni Triangle, Iraq. I say ‘courageous’ because he’s been almost killed in assassination attempts. This past spring, in Boston, I invited him to speak on one of my conference panels for the American Planning Association’s International Division, of which I’m a board member. Our panel topic was Challenges of International Planning.
Crane told a story that had everyone in the room the edges of their seats. He’d been working in a 5 story office building in Tikrit with other city officials. Assassins stormed the building in the middle of the day and killed over 30 people. They walked in, went floor-by-floor, and shot everyone on sight until they found the guy they were looking for - a low level, though visionary, city planner who was appointed by the mayor. After this man was shot dead, they got into their trucks and drove away. It was hours before “help” arrived in the form of locals and a smattering of troops.
After telling his story in near tears, he took a deep breath and wrapped up his talk. Focusing on his audience, he concluded by saying that, in the Middle East, the concept of city planning and economic development is completely lost once you enter Iraq. It’s a non-existent enumberance that, when implemented, turns out backwards.
Everything in war-torn, Middle Eastern cities, therefore, is a day-to-day hodge-podge of just fixing things. There are no computers and electricity is random. It’s inhumanely hot. Files and records are lost, and what are kept are impossible to decipher or enforce. Employees, if they show up, steal and bribe. There are no true building codes, environmental regulations, land use laws, or property rights (as we know them). The water is filthy. It’s just a chaotic mess of fixing things - a road gets bombed, the planners work with troops to fix it. A hotel “falls down” from cheap materials, the planners work with new construction crews to build another, equally shoddy building.
I gather that holding all this together is this rich milieu of culturally guided, benevolent anarchy. It’s a system of trust and feud, favors and family. You get things done on a daily basis, not a generational one.
You find bread today, not invest in a bakery for tomorrow. There’s no such thing as “retirement.” Which is fine if it functions well, if there’s support and family and friends to stitch it all together. But, add nasty terrorists to this mix and you get a tattered fabric of hopelessness and horrible death. There’s no hope for the people -the residents and children - when their closest city councils are blown to bits every other week. This was Crane’s blurb for the conference. He went off script for sure:
Michael Crane, AICP, Sr. Project Manager SGI
This presentation will be based on real examples of urban planning in Iraq. It will document personal experiences as planners tried to collect and analyze data, engage the public and politicians, and create new city plans for some of the most ethnically and politically sensitive areas in the country. The audience will learn with the benefit of hindsight to identify and avoid cultural and political pitfalls by hearing from our mistakes. They will also learn of the significant challenges of working in a war zone such as communicating to avoid detection, securing buildings before meetings, and the challenges of working with armed guards.
Benevolent anarchy + functional terrorism equals a reliably desperate community. Nothing can get done, and there’s little reason to hope for a better tomorrow, especially problematic when you have no positive pasts to emulate. It tears my heart. As a result of this formula, city planning in the Middle East is a cobbled together mash-up of corruption, nepotism, short-sightedness, and dangerous engineering (as you can see from the video, some building ‘engineers’ can’t even read). Worse, a military-force response is not the answer, it’s pointless.
This weekend Inhabitat rushed to the opening weekend of Brooklyn’s DeKalb Market, a joint venture between specialty market developers Urban Space and designers Youngwoo and Associates. We’ve been anxiously awaiting the opening of the market, which is built from discarded shipping containers…since March. It has brought together local entrepreneurs into not just a market, but an outdoor community center that showcases Brooklyn’s current economy and culture, while hinting at its heritage as a major manufacturing center and commercial port.
PHOTO: Detroit’s abandoned Central Station (Melanie Stetson Freeman/ The Christian Science Monitor)
The July 25th cover story tackles the tricky restructuring of Detroit, a former industrial gem struggling to regain its footing after nearly five decades of economic decline. Writer Mark Gaurino describes the latest plans from Mayor Dave Bing and others to help revitalize a city in which the overabundance of vacant land is currently its biggest resource.
Part of the Mayor’s plan includes connecting and consolidating neighborhoods separated by abandoned land to create a smaller, more efficient city. This is a lot for a city currently large enough to fit Manhattan, San Francisco and Boston within the 139 square miles inside its borders.
Large swaths of this city look like a ghost town. Blight, resulting from abandoned homes and shuttered factories, is everywhere. Dead zones detach rather than connect neighborhoods from each other, creating a patchwork that the city says makes it too expensive to service. So the mayor has an idea: Draw residents out of marginally populated areas through direct and indirect incentives into a close-knit population core. By razing and repurposing what is left behind, the city might reduce its geographic size and save money by not having to service such far-flung neighborhoods.
One of the challenges to his plan - the city’s 48 unions, which last year cost the city nearly $400 million in healthcare and pension payouts, a figure which remains unsustainable for the struggling city. That amount also leaves Detroit susceptible to being taken over by an emergency financial manager, appointed by the Governor, who is enabled to hire and fire employees, void union contracts, and make changes without the approval of the mayor or city council.
A related business story shares more details of the Mayor’s restructuring plan, which includes demolishing 10,000 vacant and deteriorated homes. That’s nearly one-tenth of the overall 100,718 vacant addresses in the city, which represents 12 percent of the overall city size.
“Photographer Livia Corona — a native of Baja California, Mexico — lives in New York City and Mexico City. She is the recipient of a 2009 John Simon Guggenheim fellowship, awarded for her photography book project Two Million Homes for Mexico.
The project is a long-term study of the surge of mass-scale public housing projects throughout Mexico, exploring their role in the ongoing transformation of the ecological, social, and cultural landscape of the nation and its citizens.”
Media still portrays sexy, sexy wind turbines as ‘pesky.’ Remain oblivious to U.S.’s 5,700 power plants which are incredibly filthy industrial sites, usually located in poor areas of the city. Power plants cause water and air pollution, leave behind contaminated soils, lower property values, are on Super Fund, costs tax payers billions in law suits, and increase health risks. Further, their power lines alone kill tens of thousands of animals annually, and power plants are actually much harder on the eyes then turbines (how about a graphic comparison, LA Times, eh?).
Indeed, turbines harm no one. And the fear mongering is less than pedestrian reporting, it’s bullshit. Stop it.
The elephant in the room is what to do about overpopulation.
For those who care about the environment, the future of human civilization, or both, the Day of 7 Billion should prod us to face and address the risks of continued population growth.
By the sheer scale of our presence and activity we are putting ourselves and all life at risk. No human being has the right to consume forever more than any other. Yet if we could somehow close the global consumption gap, the importance of our numbers would be even more obvious as the limits of natural systems were crossed.
Above: Population growth, historical and projected, 1950-2100
It scarcely lessens the importance of reducing both consumption and inequity to celebrate the fact that population growth can end without policies that restrict births, without coercion of any kind, without judgments on those who choose large families. We are not far from a world in which the number of births roughly balances the number of deaths, based on pregnancies universally welcomed by women and their partners.
Photo: A bicyclist pedals through downtown Los Angeles after the City Council passed a pioneering law to protect cyclists from harassment by motorists that backers described as the toughest of its kind in the nation. Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times