The Blue-Collar Heroes of the Inland Empire

inland-empire.jpg

The late comedian Rodney Dangerfield (nee Jacob Cohen), whose signature complaint was that he “can't get no respect,” would have fit right in, in the Inland Empire. The vast expanse east of greater Los Angeles has long been castigated as a sprawling, environmental trash heap by planners and pundits, and its largely blue-collar denizens denigrated by some coast-dwellers, including in Orange County, who fret about “909s” – a reference to the IE's area code – crowding their beaches.  read more »

What is a City For?

singapore-city-report-cover.png

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 »

Where Working-Age Americans Are Moving

bigstock-Unemployed-Woman-5876023_0.jpg

Barrels of ink and money have been devoted to predictions of where Americans will migrate, particularly younger ones. If you listen to big developer front groups such as the Urban Land Institute or pundits like Richard Florida, you would believe that smart companies that want to improve their chances of cadging skilled workers should head to such places as downtown Chicago, Manhattan and San Francisco, leaving their suburban office parks deserted like relics of a bygone era.  read more »

The Evolving Urban Form: Greater New York Expands

manhattan-59th-st.JPG

The term “Greater New York” was applied, unofficially, to the 1898 consolidation that produced the present city of New York, which brought together the present five boroughs (counties). The term “Greater” did not stick, at least for the city. When consolidated, much of the city of New York was agricultural. As time went on, the term "Greater" came to apply to virtually any large city and its environs, not just New York and implied a metropolitan area or an urban area extending beyond city limits.  read more »

Suburban Corporate Wasteland

suburbs-broad.jpg

I was a guest on the show “Where We Live” on WNPR radio in Connecticut this week. The theme was “Suburban Corporate Wasteland” – the increasing numbers of white elephant office campuses in suburbs. Apparently Connecticut has several of these and some buildings are actually being demolished because there’s no demand for them.

The entire program is worth a listen, particularly if you are someone trying to figure out how to redevelop one of these things. Several local officials join to talk about efforts to do that in their towns. If you want to just hear Yours Truly, I’m on for about 10 minutes starting at 38:30. Follow this link to listen to the show.  read more »

Downsizing the American Dream

dream.jpg

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 »

Derailing Europe's Bike Trains

Bike storage; Leiden Train Sta, Netherlands.jpg

In a fit of what now appears to have been madness, over the last ten days I attempted to live the life of a small plastic figure in an architect’s model community. I wheeled my bike through railroad stations, and took eco-friendly cycle lanes. The goal was to use only a combination of trains and my bicycle to attend a series of meetings in France, Belgium, and the Netherlands.  read more »

Suburban End Games

suburbs-bigstock.jpg

Are America’s suburbs facing end times? That’s what a host of recent authors would have you believe.  The declaration comes in variety of guises, from Alan Ehrenhalt’s The Great Inversion (2012), to “the peaking of sprawl” pronounced by urban planner  Christopher Leinberger to, most recently, to Leigh Gallagher’s The End of Suburbs(2013).  Suburbs and sprawl have joined the ranks of “history” and “nature” as fixtures of our lives that teeter on the verge of demise—if we’re to lend credence to this latest clamor from journalists, planners, and academics.   read more »

Rural Character in America’s Metropolitan Areas

rural-metropolitan.JPG

Looking at a map of the metropolitan areas of the United States, it would be easy to get the impression that “urban sprawl” had consumed most of the nation. Indeed, as Figure 1 indicates, one could drive from Santa Rosa, north of San Francisco to the Arizona-New Mexico border without ever leaving a metropolitan area. This more than 1,000 mile trip (1,600 kilometers) would take nearly 15 hours, according to Google Maps. New Jersey is shown as all-metropolitan, as well as Delaware. But looks can be deceiving.  read more »

The Private Business of Public Art

Cedar of Lebanon by Jacob Harmeling.jpg

Like many cities coming out of the downturn, Orlando is jonesing for a recovery. To promote a sense of new prosperity, City Hall leaders recently added eight works of art to its downtown core, amidst much fanfare. Before we start whistling “Happy Days Are Here Again,” however, we would do well to examine the circumstances of this renewed interest in public art. Its surprising return was trumpeted as a new way to enrich the city and benefit its residents; many, including this author, applauded the effort. This has certainly happened. But has the result been a barrier, as much as a connection, to its citizenry?  read more »