What is a City For?


The attached report is derived from a speech given last spring in Singapore at the Singapore University of Technology and Design. The notion here is to lay out a new, more humanistic urban future, not one shaped primarily by large developers, speculators and transient global workers. Singapore was a particularly difficult case to look at since it has no room to spread out, something we still have in much of the rest of the world. Yet the city has been very innovative in the development of open space, and its public housing agency, the Housing Development Board, has worked hard to accommodate the needs of families.  read more »

Downsizing the American Dream


At this time of year, with Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas, there's a tendency to look back at our lives and those of our families. We should be thankful for the blessings of living in an America where small dreams could be fulfilled.

For many, this promise has been epitomized by owning a house, with a touch of green in the back and a taste of private paradise. Those most grateful for this opportunity were my mother's generation, which grew up in the Great Depression. In her life, she was able to make the move from the tenements of Brownsville, Brooklyn, first to the garden apartments of Coney Island and Sheepshead Bay, and, eventually, to a mass-produced suburban house on Long Island.  read more »

China Failing its Families


China's recent decision to reverse – at least in part – its policy limiting most couples to one child marks a watershed in thinking about demographics. Yet, this reversal of the 30-year policy may prove unavailing due to reasons – notably dense urbanization and high property prices – that work against people having more children.

China already faces a demographic crisis unprecedented for a still-poor country. By 2050, China will have 60 million fewer people under 15 years of age, while the over-65 population grows by 190 million, approximately the population of Pakistan, the world's sixth-most populous country. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that China's population will peak in 2026, and then will age faster than any country besides Japan; most of the world's decline in children and workers ages 15-19 over the next two decades will take place in China.  read more »

Manufacturing, Exports, and the R&D X-Factor

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A recent visit by President Obama to an Ohio steel mill underscored his promise to create 1 million manufacturing jobs. On the same day, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker announced her department’s commitment to exports, saying “Trade must become a bigger part of the DNA of our economy.”  read more »

Affordable Housing in Suburbia


Like many older suburbs in high priced regions, Long Island faces two great crises: a loss of younger residents and a lack of affordable housing for the local workforce, including those employed as nurses, teachers and other professionals.  read more »

Are Special Service Districts a Boon or a Bane?


America’s cities have been under fiscal pressure for an extended period of time. To cope with this, and better manage assets, they’ve increasingly turned to various forms of special purpose districts or entities for service delivery. Traditional independent service districts such as sewer districts or transit districts were often designed to circumvent bonding limits or to deliver services regionally, so were larger in scale. These newer service districts are much smaller in scope. They consist of two basic components:  read more »

High Speed Rail Decision: Victory for Rule of Law


California Judge Michael Kenny has barred state bond funding for the California high speed rail system, finding that “the state's High-Speed Rail Authority failed to follow voter-approved requirements designed to prevent reckless spending on the $68 billion project.” These protections had been an important in securing voter approval of a $10 billion bond issue in 2008. Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters suggested that without the protections in Proposition 1A, the measure “probably would have failed” to obtain voter approval.  read more »

Silicon Valley is No Model for America


Its image further enhanced by the recent IPO of Twitter, Silicon Valley now stands in many minds as the cutting edge of the American future. Some, on both right and left, believe that the Valley's geeks should reform the nation, and the government, in their image.  read more »

The Revolt Against Urban Gentry


The imminent departure of New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and his replacement by leftist Bill DeBlasio, represents an urban uprising against the Bloombergian  “luxury city” and the growing income inequality it represents. Bloomberg epitomized an approach that sought to cater  to the rich—most prominently Wall Street—as a means to both finance development growth and collect enough shekels to pay for services needed by the poor.  read more »

Los Angeles: Will The City Of The Future Make It There?

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When I arrived in Los Angeles almost 40 years ago, there was a palpable sense that here, for better or worse, lay the future of America, and even the world. Los Angeles dominated so many areas — film, international trade, fashion, manufacturing, aerospace — that its ascendency seemed assured. Even in terms of the urban form, L.A.’s car-dominated, multipolar configuration was being imitated almost everywhere; it was becoming, as one writer noted, “the original in the Xerox” machine.  read more »